My New Zealand Adventure Exploring The South Island


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My New Zealand Adventure Starts On The Cook Strait Ferry

My New Zealand adventure starts with me sitting in the main cabin of the Cook Strait Ferry, which had a looming scent of diesel exhaust. The channel between the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand is named after Captain Cook, who was the first commander to sail between the islands in the late 1700s. Looking at a map of New Zealand’s South Island (yes, I used an actual map and didn’t have the luxury of GPS), I planned the route of my New Zealand adventure to circle around the island so that I ended up in Christchurch, where I would return my campervan and fly back to Auckland to return home.

Sea Lions On The Kaikoura Coast

My first stop on my New Zealand adventure exploring the South Island was in the beach town of Kaikoura. The road snaked along the coastline all the way there. Before I reached Kaikoura, I stopped near what the locals referred to as “Sea Lion Beach.” It was, you guessed it, replete with barking sea lions that bathed in the sun, occasionally getting splashed by the waves that crashed against rocks. My New Zealand guidebook told me to venture up a trail along the stream, which spat out into the ocean because sea lion pups made their way up to the pond about fifteen minutes from the road. I hiked up to the pond, only to discover a small waterfall and seal pup frolicking in the fresh water. I must have watched it for ten minutes, marveling at its ability to naturally flow in the water.

Traveling On A Budget And Avoiding Kaikoura Hotels

I stayed in Kaikoura for the night, attempting to avoid Kaikoura hotels because I was travelling on a budget. Ultimately I decided to splurge a bit, paying $15 to stay at a campervan site where they had an actual kitchen and hot showers. I missed having a real kitchen to cook in, but the hot shower was the real novelty. For most of my New Zealand adventure, I showered in cold showers at the beach, using hoses where I could find them, and sometimes in freshwater streams. Traveling on a budget does not mean one should compromise one’s hygiene; it just means that creativity comes into play.

Getting To Franz Josef Glacier

The next destination of my New Zealand adventure was on the opposite side of the South Island. I traversed the windy roads until I reached a little village not too far from the Franz Josef Glacier. When I drove to the glacier in the morning, there were signs marking where the glacier was in those specific years. The hike, which led to the base of the glacier, was many miles from where the glacier had once reached. The glacier looked sad and dirty, and clearly suffered from the inevitable damages of climate change. When the wind blew through the valley, an extra cold chill coursed through my veins. I did a quick hop, skip and a jump to the neighboring Fox Glacier, which possessed a similar sad yet elegant regality.

A Scenic Pit-Stop On My Way To Queenstown

Speaking of regality, my next stop on my New Zealand adventure was Queenstown, which is a decent haul from those two glaciers. Queenstown is not to be confused with Queensland, Australia. New Zealanders hate that mix-up, almost as much as they hate being called Australians. Just remember that Queenstown is a lot smaller, thus the “town” instead of “land” after the “Queens.” While en route to Queenstown, I pulled over down a small turnout on one shore of Lake Wanaka. The water was a crisp sky blue and was like a mirror that reflected the snow-capped mountains on the opposing shore. It was an unexpected stop that turned out to be one of the best moments of my New Zealand adventure.

Memorable Outdoor Activities At Lake Wanaka

I walked along the stone-covered shore, looking out at the glare on the water. Shortly after, I found some dry wood and made a fire to cook my lunch. I managed to rig a setup, which was comprised of stacked stones and a long piece of driftwood, that allowed me to hang my water kettle on to boil water for my noodle soup. After a bowl of warm noodle soup in me, I decided to take a dip in the glacial lake. Need I say that it was a tad chilly? Although it was cold and I only lasted about a minute in the water, it was wildly refreshing. I lay down on the rocky shore to dry in the sun before I continued on to Queenstown.

Queenstown Activities Transition Me Back to Civilization

Queenstown was one of the only times I visited a larger and highly populated city while on the South Island. I mean I went to Dunedin, where I visited the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, later in the trip, but Queenstown was a pleasant transition back into densely populated civilization from the lonesome on-the-road life I’d been living. I got a couple beers at a pub, ate well at a quaint restaurant, and finally returned to my campervan later in the evening.

A Surprising Milford Sound Cruise And Tour

A few days later, I rose before the sun to race through the mountain pass that leads to Milford Sound. I will say that if you spend money on any outing during a New Zealand adventure on the South Island, spend it on a boat trip through a reputable Milford Sound cruise and tour company. The Sound is a fiord where the Tasman creeps in between the towering mountains, some of which have divine glaciers.

After arriving to the boat dock, I boarded the Milford Sound cruise boat that I booked a tour on and it departed shortly thereafter. The boat crept out into the Sound and I felt like felt as though I was driving in a small jeep through an area filled with nature’s dinosaurs. Each view was more beautiful than the next. Waterfalls cascaded off jagged cliffs, sea lions lounged on sunny rocks, and a few penguins swam in front of the boat. Upon reaching the opening of the fiord and looking out at the ever-expansive Tasman Sea, I immediately knew that the Milford Sound cruise was the highlight of my entire New Zealand adventure. There’s something about feeling dwarfed by the unknown that I find exhilarating, because it means something else is always out there waiting to be discovered.

Lucas Derailya

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Lucas is the Director of Content at Driftr, creating valuable content related to the travel industry and how social media and technology are changing the way people travel today.

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