Driving, Camping & Trekking – South Island, New Zealand

We were very happy that Theres and Walter, Silvia’s parents joined us for three weeks, travelling through the South Island, New Zealand.

Guest Blog Spot by Theres Arnold-Curiger

Please click here for the orginial blog post in German.

After arriving in Singapore for two days, we arrived in sunny but cool Christchurch on the South Island. Pyn and Silvia picked us up at the airport and off we went over the mountains towards Kaikoura. Thanks to our comfortable camping gear, we slept the first night, with the sea and surf in the background, a wonderful start.

New Zealand’s sheep are not a cliché. There are 30 million sheep and only 4.7 million inhabitants. Sheep, cows and deer – everywhere over and over again. The slopes are full of yellow ghosts like bushes, looking great. Typical are the single-lane bridges, there are no motorways and roads wind around the hills.

A “must do” whale watching with a private plane brings us immediately into holiday mood. In a fishing hamlet we enjoyed fine seafood and then finished off with a beer tasting at Pyn’s friends brewery. In the bright Hanmer Springs, we made our first hike on Mt. Isobel (1319 m) in wonderful weather with an impressive view, dinner afterwards tasted all the better.

From Marahau the water taxi took us – on a sightseeing tour to the “Big Apple”, in secluded bays, seals watching – to Totaranui, the starting point for our first Great Walk, the three-day Able Tasman Coast Track. Whoever thinks, such a coastal walk is only flat, is mistaken. It goes up and down in the rainforest and over sandy beaches. The sea is cheesy blue and often we are the only people around. Every now and then the track passed through a bay meaning we had to cross at low tide which was fun. The walk over the shells giving a free foot massage! Unforgettable remains the camping on the sandbank, where we were encouraged to search for mussels.

Along the coast at Fox River we collected a lot of mussels – an excellent dinner mmh! Another highlight was the fireflies in the cave at Punakaiki. Despite the rain, we made a tour of the huge pancakes rock. The town of Greymouth lived up to its name, so we drove straight through. Of course, we were not allowed to miss the world-famous Franz Josef Glacier, which reaches down to 425 m. The hot baths after this hike in the rain went down really well.


Different walks with some seemingly unreal landscapes were just fantastic. After driving along the Wanaka and Hawea-Lake, almost all alone, we ended the day with a delicious meal (butter-tender lamb shoulder) in the best ambience. Some tracks were still closed due to snow, so we tackled the Isthmus Peak, this panoramic view – unbelievable!

An alternative route for the Routeborn track (as it was closed due to bad weather) was the four-day Greenstone track to the same hut. The name was not in vain, we had never seen such green stones anywhere before. The second day of rain, wind and swamp over fallen trees, through ice-cold river, challenged us. In the Kellar Hut we were able to dry things on the stove. In the sun and on good roads we conquered the longest stage over the Mc Kellar Saddle for Cellar Hut. We were about twelve people in the unkempt huts. It was not so far to the car the next day.

After a rest day, an early daylight start and travelling continued from Lumsden to Milford Sound, where it seemed to almost always rain. The highway winds up a long valley, past granite walls and suddenly you are in front of the single-lane Homer Tunnel (built in 1954, 1.2 km long). The sun was shining, the Milford Sound cruise under waterfalls and seeing dolphins and seals in the fjord was really phenomenal!

Then we drove across to the east coast to Dunedin among other things the steepest residential street in the world with 35% gradient. At dusk, we were tracking a colony of small penguins. Further North of the east coast we marvelled in Moreaki the old boulders, big stone balls, the structure reminded us of turtles. Through a fisherman we got to know another delicacy, whitebait are little fishes. These fried together in scrambled eggs were heavenly. On the Banks Peninsula, we collected mussels one last time, strolled through the French-tinged Akaroa before we checked in to Christchurch in a top-rated AirBnB.

Walks through the city reminded us everywhere of the strong earthquake of 2011. There are still many shops in containers. Over 900 buildings were demolished. Everywhere is built, roads rehabilitated, made pretty. With unforgettable experiences we said goodbye to Pyn and Silvia; our perfect tour guides. On our Singapore stopover we met with relatives (Loretzae) and enjoyed a nice dinner before we flew back home.




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