Having never been to the South Island of New Zealand before, we were pretty stoked when our friends Cara and Alex decided to get married in Queenstown. Perfect excuse for a trip across the ditch to NZ! We’d heard that this part of New Zealand was beautiful but nothing had prepared us for just how beautiful and awesome and down right amazing this part of the world is.
Taking the recommendation from a few different people we chose to camper van around the South Island…by far the best way to see the scenery and take in the sights. Here are our top 5 awesome experiences in New Zealand that we loved most about our trip…we cannot wait to go back and explore more of New Zealand!
Swimming with dolphins
This had been a bucket list item for me (Vic) for a really long time so when the awesome Natasha from Black Cat Cruises suggested on our Facebook page that we should swim with the rare Hector’s Dolphins in Akaroa (90 mins south of Christchurch) we put this at the top of our list. We weren’t disappointed! This was an incredible experience and the guys from Black Cat Cruises really looked after us.
We headed out onto Akaroa Harbour at 6.30am, the sun was shining although a little chilly… good job our 5mm wetsuits were keeping us toasty warm! Chris our skipper and Hannah our guide were keeping an eye out for the dolphins, they are the smallest breed of dolphin in the world so that bit takes some skill. In no time we spotted them and stopped the boat to see if they wanted to come and hang out with us.
One of the really cool things about this experience is that the dolphins call the shots, they aren’t lured in with fish or sonar, they simply decide whether they want to come hang out with you or not. And lucky for us they did. We had 45 minutes in the water with these guys and it was amazing!
There are only 7,500 Hector’s dolphins left in the world with around 1,100 living in Akaroa. It’s awesome that trips like this go towards the conservation of these beautiful creatures so if you are planning at trip to New Zealand this is an absolute must! Check out blackcatcruises.co.nz for more info.
A scenic flight over Milford Sound
Sooooo many people had said we needed to put Milford Sound on the list so we got to work finding out what would be the best way to check it out. Trip Advisor helped us out with this one when we came across Air Milford which is ranked #1 of 202 activities to do in Queenstown so this was a no brainer.
Anthony and the guys at Air Milford were awesome and we had picked an epic day for our flight with blue skies and very little wind. Eight of us hopped on the 14-seater plane first thing in the morning and headed off over the mountains in the direction of Milford Sound. Now when we say the views from up here are epic, we mean EPIC! Think Lord of the Rings country, true Middle Earth…you can literally picture Gandalf hanging out at the top of the snow capped mountains!
After 35 minutes we landed in Milford Sound and hopped onto a boat with Southern Discoveries for a different perspective on the water. After a hot brekkie on board we were out onto the top deck to warm up in the sunshine. There were waterfalls galore after the rainfall from the days before and the scenery was just stunning. A pod of Bottle-nosed dolphins started cruising along with us which was awesome and we even saw some seals hanging out on the rocks too. This place is achingly beautiful, you simply must do this if you are heading to the South Island! After an hour or so on the water it was back on the plane for the flight home over the mountains, passing over glacial lakes and rolling hills and safely touching down back in Queenstown.
Big thanks to Meghan our amazing pilot for looking after us. For more info about Air Milford check out their website, airmilford.co.nz.
Cruising around New Zealand
One of the absolute best things about this trip was our house on wheels. Our camper van from Britz allowed us to cruise around this stunner of a country with complete freedom. We didn’t have an itinerary when we arrived in Christchurch, just a few recommendations from friends and the fact that we needed to be in Queenstown for a wedding. Obviously we had our trusty Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand with us for a few pointers too. We could roam free wherever we wanted and it was awesome!
If you are heading to the South Island our recommendation is to get a camper van and cruise around. I would recommend using a company like One sure Insurance if you are looking for van insurance to use on your travels. Different companies offer so many different perks, make sure you read their website to find out! Our next job was to find a campsite. Unfortuantley we chose a camper van without a toilet and shower so we ended up staying on campsite that actually had one. Top 10 Holiday Parks are awesome and they’re everywhere, if you get a membership you can get a 10% discount too! We paid anywhere between $35 and $55 NZD per night for a powered site and access to kitchen and bathroom facilities. Most campsites have wifi access too which is handy.
Freedom camping is permitted in lots of places around New Zealand providing you have self contained bathroom and kitchen facilities on board your camper van. We’ll definitely be getting one of those next time so we can just pull up and set up camp next to a beautiful lake or deserted beach. We had a couple of awesome helpers on our trip. Tourism Radio was an amazing addition to our camper van, great driving tunes and top tips on where to stay and what to do as you drive along. You can also download their New Zealand Travel Guide app for when you’re not driving, so awesome!
In short, we had a heap of fun in our little camper and we were sad to say goodbye to her! More driving trips in a camper van are definitely on the cards for 2015…suggestions welcome!
Adrenalin junkie heaven!
If you love a good adrenalin rush then look no further than Queenstown! A snowboarders haven in the winter this place is alive with energy in summer there are literally hundreds of experiences to get your blood pumping. We picked two of Queenstown’s most famous. Bungy jumping and white water rafting.
This was my first ever time bungy jump and Elaina’s third so she was all over it. I was nowhere near as nervous as I thought I would be and up there standing over the Kawarau River I just took a massive leap of faith (literally!) and went for it…no regrets whatsoever…it was AWESOME! We did our jump with the world famous AJ Hackett at the birthplace of bungy, the Kawarau Bridge. This was the world’s first commercial bungy location and set in stunning scenery it was the perfect place to jump…from the platform 43 metres up! Queenstown is also home to The Nevis bungy, a whopping 134 metres high…one for our next visit for sure.
We also headed out onto the Shotover River with Queenstown Rafting. There had been a heap of rain for two days leading up to us going white water rafting so the river was pumping. Our guide Jack took six of us down the river through heaps of rapids and even a cool naturally formed tunnel. It was the right kind of day for our rafts to flip over but our paddling skills got us through. Awesome fun and highly recommended! There are a bunch of other places you can go rafting all over New Zealand, check out Trip Advisor for some top picks.
Walking…or should we say ‘Tramping’
If you like walking or ‘tramping’ as the Kiwis say then you will love New Zealand! There are literally hundreds of different walks all over the place of varying difficulties and distances. From a quick 60 minute tramp around a lovely glacial lake to four day hikes through the countryside there’s something for everyone.
We got out there and did a few tramps while we were driving around, our favourite was a moderate hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park. This walk was awesome and the glacier was well worth the 4 hour round trip to see it. We also did another couple of tramps on the West Coast up to Fox Glacier and around Lake Matheson where you can see the View of Views where you can see an amazing reflection of the mountains on the lake.
Want a recommendation or two? Check out tramper.co.nz for as much tramping info as you can shake a stick at!
So there you have them, our top 5 awesome experiences in New Zealand. We cannot wait to head back! If you have any awesome recommendations of what we should do next time, comment below.
Want to treat yourself to an awesome hotel experience in Auckland? After staying in several hotels in Auckland we’ve finally found our favourite. Read more here.
Thanks for reading our blog! If you like what we do, connect with us on Instagram and follow our travel adventures!
Just landed back in Sydney but had to share one last pic of Marina Bay Sands…we’ll be back again soon! How could we stay away from this place?! Elaina took so many photos this day as the sky was blue…after the haze everyone was so happy to have a blue sky day! Until next time Singapore! ? #Singapore #marinabaysands #thefreedomtravellers