From mountains to beaches to alpacas to wine…New Zealand truly has it all!
Check out our trip video and read on to see exactly what we did!
Turns out it gets dark really early in June in New Zealand, so by the time we landed and were done grocery shopping, it was pitch black! We drove to the nearby city of Geraldine and stayed at the Top Ten there. We were pretty hesitant to drive at night but the road to Geraldine was an easy drive.
We woke up so early the next morning (jet lag, man) and walked to breakfast at Central Cafe and the most amazing blueberry pancakes ever! (or I was just starving)
Very excited for his burrito!
After breakfast we headed for Lake Tekapo!
After looking at the lake from ground level we decided we needed a higher view. We did the Mt. John Walkway hike up to the top of the observatory. The hike was pretty tiring but worth it! You can also drive up to the top if you prefer!
The views up here were incredible and the water looked amazing from this view! We also noticed there were hundreds of bunnies up here which was so random to us. Later we found out that NZ has no native mammals and the bunnies were probably brought over on boats. Since there are no native mammals they don’t have very many predators, just birds! Hence the crazy amounts of bunnies!
Afterwords we came back down and stopped the camper at the lake and made PB&J’s on our wilderness provided table and chairs. This set the standard for lunch views in New Zealand! If there’s not water and mountains, I send it back!
Then we headed to Oamaru because we figured we could get there in time to see the penguins come up to their little homes at night.
To see the penguins you go to the reservation desk and pay to get a seat to see the penguins. You can either get the expensive seating or the cheaper seating. We chose the cheaper seating and we were glad we did because the expensive side was packed with people that had gotten there really early. Instead we watched the little penguins jump on shore in our sparsely populated section.
The penguins came on shore in little groups called “rafts” and were really scared of some seals that were in there way. Seeing them scuttle away from the seals was very cute! We were told that those specific seals aren’t a danger to the penguins so I wasn’t worried about them.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures but I thought it was a really fun thing to watch and I was glad we did it!
We had breakfast the next morning at Tees Street. This was the start of Alex’s “Egg’s Benedict Only” diet. Very healthy. I thought the french toast was good but there was a little bit too much going on, probably wouldn’t get it again.
Then we headed to see the Moeraki Boulders!
I was super excited for the boulders until I saw the Alpacas. The alpacas completely stole the show for me! They were so cute and funny!!!
Boulders were still awesome!
Then we drove to a Katiki Point Lighthouse which was a great place to see seals! I almost stepped on one! Basically a furry boulder.
Then we drove to see the Organ Pipes which was a fun hike! I think there would have been a really good view if it hadn’t been so foggy.
Our last stop for the day was Nugget Point which was really pretty to see around dusk. After we parked we ran the short hike to the lighthouse because the sun was setting fast!
We didn’t stay too long because the road to get up here was a little curvy and so driving down at night wasn’t ideal. We drove to Invercargill that night and stayed at Central City.
On our way to Invercargill we pulled over because the stars were out and from southern hemisphere you can look into the center of the milky way galaxy!
In Invercargill we went to Thai Thai for dinner (I bet you can guess what kind of food it was!) I had pad thai and I don’t remember what Al got!
Met a friendly kitty at our campground while unplugging the electric cord!
For breakfast in Invercargill we went to Batch Cafe which was amazing! I got a whole filet of salmon for breakfast with the best scrambled eggs ever!!! And their bread was amazing! Highly suggest! (Crusty bread is life.)
After that we got gas at a gas station for the first time and it was so hard! We could never get our credit card to work at the pump because our credit card doesn’t have a pin on it? I think we could have set one up with our bank before we left the country but I didn’t even know that it was an option!
As one man so clearly put it “leaders of the modern world, but no pin on the credit card *shakes head*”, you are correct friendly New Zealand man. Instead, we just paid inside every time. Of course we hadn’t signed the back of the card and they didn’t like that either! So once we signed the card and took it inside we were good to go. I kind of liked going in anyways, everyone was so nice!
Then we headed for Milford Sound. This drive was so beautiful, like computer background screen beautiful! (High praise!) Eventually we stopped for some PB&J’s along Lake Te Anau at Henry Creek Campsite.
To get into Milford sound you have to drive through a pretty steep and sketchy pass (I was glad I wasn’t driving), but the views were so worth it! Also Kia Parrots!
The Kia Parrot is the world’s only mountainous parrot and is a massive food beggar!
Finally down in the sound!
There was only one place to stay in Milford Sound and this is the closest we came to not being able to find a RV spot. We did notice that there were a lot of people in the parking lot “freedom camping” right along the sound so I think that is what we would have done if we couldn’t stay at the RV park.
We stayed that night at Milford Sound Lodge and it was by far the nicest place we stayed! They had a nice restaurant on site but I didn’t think their dinner menu look very good so we decided to cook in the super nice kitchen they had.
The next morning we had a delicious breakfast at their restaurant.
Walking out at low tide was really fun!
We headed back to the road after that and our next stop was The Chasm. The chasm was an easy hike in and was really cool!
Next up was a long flat hike in Gertude’s Saddle to see the waterfalls! You can hike up to the top of the waterfalls too I think but we didn’t go that far (in an out took us about 3 hours). It was snowy and icy in June so it didn’t seem like a safe idea. Also there was no one else there except us so no one would have even heard us fall to our deaths. Except the two escapee goats we saw.
Once we finished our hike it was time for lunch (PB&J’s of course) and then on to find a walkwire!
We found a great one on the Earl Mountain Track/Mistake Creek trail thanks to our NZ Frenzy book! We didn’t do the full hike, we just hiked for about 15 minutes to the walkwire and then turned around and continued driving.
Very muddy trail in to the walkwire.
I was pretty nervous but it was cool!
Al wasn’t nervous at all. Clearly.
Also note the “Adventure” hat he bought while he was there!
This little bird followed us until we gave him food! Stalker!
When we were done walkwiring and making bird friends we headed to Te Anau for the night. It took us longer than we planned though because some sheep where also on a mission of their own!
We stayed at Te Anau Kiwi Holiday Park for the night which was in walking distance of a bunch of restaurants. The sad part, almost everything was closed! (This was actually pretty common in most of New Zealand, everything closed really early.)
We still found a good place though called La Toscana for italian food.
The next morning we had an amazing breakfast at The Sandfly Cafe. I think this was my favorite restaurant the whole time we were in NZ!
Next stop for us was Queenstown and the Remarkables ski area! Driving up to the Remarkables ski area in the winter in the RV was really hard, the road is very steep and once you get up to the top and with gravel/ice it was very hard for the RV to make it the last 1/4 of a mile. Originally we were going to ski but we were so afraid of getting down safely that we took some pictures and carefully made our way down. We should have taken the bus instead.
Great view from up there though!
Since we had decided against skiing we did the Wye Creek Track instead. At one point the hike forks so we went left and up first.
Then on the way back we went to the right towards the falls.
Next stop Thunder Creek Falls.
Kept heading towards Franz Josef but first stopped for lunch on the side of the road! (Only in NZ!)
Got back on the road after lunch and pulled off at a Tauparikaka Beach Reserve where we were lucky enough to see dolphins at play! We didn’t do the Ship Creek Walk because I didn’t realize it was there but I wish we had! Also the sand flies were horrible here so bring bug spray!
The sandflies were horrible at the reserve so we got back in the car and drove up a little ways and found a good place to watch the sunset at Knight’s Point.
From there we actually headed to Franz Josef and stayed at The Rainforest Retreat. It was nice and landscaped to look like a rainforest, fun! We walked to dinner at Snakebite Brewery which had great atmosphere and good food and of course beer.
After dinner we went to the Franz Josef Glacier Guides’ booking desk to see if we could book a Glacier Hike Tour for the next day. The guy was really nice when he told us that they were all booked for the next day but he said he would take our information and call us if they were able to get enough people for another tour. I really thought that was it and we weren’t going to get to do the tour but then at about 8 am they called and said if we could be there in a hour! We said yes, ate some cereal bars and headed to their base!
This was one of the coolest things I have ever done and I am so happy that we got the opportunity to do it!
Walking underneath the ice was like being in an ice palace on another planet.
After that life changing experience we ate PB&J’s in our van and then headed to see Hokitika Gorge!
Then headed to Greymouth for the night!
Then we put our new favorite phrase on the back of our van.
After leaving Greymouth we headed to see Moutukiekie Beach Walk which is only accessed at low tide.
It was drizzly that day but still very beautiful!
Once the tide was all the way out we walked out towards the ocean and saw hundreds of bright orange starfish!
We kept heading toward Nelson and stopped at Pancake Rocks.
Rainbows, the best part about rain 🙂
We drove a little further and stopped at Maruia Falls for a light walk and some pictures.
That night we stayed at a Top Ten Holiday Park in Nelson and used their kitchen to cook dinner, then woke up the next morning and went to breakfast at Melrose Cafe. I thought that I would absolutely love this place, it was the cutest! In reality though it was a bit to fancy for what I prefer. Also, nearly froze to death inside because there heater wasn’t doing anything!
We headed back on the road after that and drove up to Rawhiti Cave. This was a good hike in and was a really cool cave, I was glad we did it even though it was out of the way.
Then we decided we wanted to go wine tasting at Yealand’s Winery but since it wasn’t open yet we went to see a lighthouse first. We couldn’t get to the lighthouse because the road wasn’t open in the winter so we hung out on Marfell’s Beach. It was so relaxing and we found a bunch of really impressive shells that were more pristine than any other shells I’ve seen before.
Around 10 we started our drive back up the coast to Yealand’s and decided to take the scenic route!
At one point google maps had us a crossing through a small stream in the RV. We weren’t going to do it but a nice guy was like “oh you can do it! follow me!” and then led us all the way to Yealand’s on a dirt road because he worked there are had just gone home for lunch! Convenient!
Yealand’s was amazing, it was the best winery we could have gone to, the white wine was excellent so we bought a bottle and some cheese and took it on their self-driving tour around the winery.
The first stop on our tour were farm animals! The pigs were so cute! Look at that little one in the back!
After that we continued on and saw these crazy orange “flowers” called Red Hot Pokers, love em.
We continued our driving tour and got to the ocean, the beautiful pristine perfect ocean!
We could even see the beach that we had been on that morning and all the way across the water we could see the North Island!
And then we met the chickens! The signs didn’t lie, they were super friendly! They keep them on the vineyard to help control the grass and bugs, so they are hard working chickens too!
They also have baby doll sheep on the vineyard that help control the grass but are too short to reach the grapes! This is probably my favorite thing about the vineyard….baby doll sheep!
Saw a picnic table perfect for a wine and cheese and chicken date. (Bonus view of the ocean included.)
Their main building is covered with solar panels that allow them to be more energy efficient at that winery.
All in all this is a super beautiful winery with the amazing goal of being as good to the environment as possible. Could not have chosen a better winery to visit.
Then we headed down to Kaikoura and saw the Ohau point Seal Colony on the way. We couldn’t get out because the parking area was destroyed by an earthquake but we were able to take some pictures while waiting for construction traffic.
We woke up in the morning and decided to try to go whale watching! But first, BREAKY! (aka Breakfast) A lot of the restaurants were closed but we found one called Beach House Cafe. It was good but not great.
We tried to go whale watching but it was way to windy and all the tours were cancelled. Another reason why Al’s “no planning ahead” rule was actually pretty smart.
Once we realized that wasn’t going to happen we headed into Arthur’s pass for some hiking and stargazing.
During the drive I became irreversibly convinced that if we didn’t try a meat pie now, we would die! Or maybe I was just hungry. Either way we got a mushroom and chicken pie that was really yummy!
Al was very skeptical, but he ate over half of our shared one.
The only night we freedom camped was in Arthurs Pass because we weren’t near anything!!
Worth it for the stars!
The next morning we woke up and drove 5 minutes to Castle Hill which is a very cool visit and was in The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe movie!
Next we headed to Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall.
The next day we woke up and decided to give Whale Watching another try and drove back to Kaikoura! Success! We loved it and saw a sperm whale, a humpback whale, and a hoard of dolphins!!! I was in heaven. (See YouTube video at the top for action shots!)
I really wanted to have dinner with a view of the ocean that night so we went to The Pier Hotel. It wasn’t all that impressive and I don’t think I would go back but the view was good!