I am now back from my adventures, over my jet lag and excited to share all the experiences from my road trip on New Zealand’s South Island.
Matt and I collaborated with campervan hire company Jucy; I’m looking forward to putting up links to my work for them very soon. We had a Jucy Cabana van, it was small and compact with everything we needed, really great to drive and pretty economical too. It came equipped with snow chains, DVD player and a ‘kitchen’ in the boot that consisted of a gas stove, storage space with crockery and cutlery and a small chiller. It also included a duvet, pillows, linen and towels. All ready to go! Our Cabana didn’t have electric hook up so if you are in New Zealand during the winter months my top tip would be to purchase hot water bottles; they were a lifesaver at night!
Hiring a car or campervan is the best way to see this diverse island; it gives you the freedom to see and do what you want and to create your own adventures. We started out from Christchurch and drove towards Lake Tekapo; I have to admit during the first 2 hours of driving we felt quite underwhelmed by our surroundings, fields and fields of sheep and scenery that reminded us of the UK! That all changed though as we got closer to the mountains. Miles of straight road and snow-capped mountains led us to Lake Tekapo…more about this beautiful place coming up. From Lake Tekapo we drove to Queenstown, then to Te Anau, Milford Sound, back to Queenstown and then onto the west coast where we stopped at Hokitika and finally back to Christchurch.
I thought I would write about my favourite experiences on the South Island, so if you are planning a trip yourself make sure you don’t miss these out on your agenda…
Lake Tekapo was the first place we stopped to camp. The campsite, Lake Tekapo Holiday Park was lovely and our pitch had uninterrupted views of the lake and the mountains. I loved waking up to the beautiful scenery and eating porridge outside in the chilly, fresh air. The colour of the lake is worth a mention, a mesmerising soapy blue; this comes from the minerals left in the water from past glaciers. The small town was a short stroll along the lake and had a convenience store, a few nice coffee shops and a handful of bars and restaurants. Our favourite was Mackenzie’s a nice, cosy bar and restaurant and a great place to escape the cold! This was the first time in our trip that we came across Monteith’s craft beer and cider. We tried a tasting paddle, perfect for sampling a few drinks at once! Lake Tekapo Springs just along from the campsite had three hot pools an ice rink and a tube park. We ice-skated and went tubing, which basically consisted of jumping on a round tube and zooming down the 150-metre snow slope! It was brilliant fun and pretty exhilarating!
A lunch stop by Lake Oahu:
There were so many stunning lakes that we came across on our road trip but Lake Oahu stood out for me. Leaving Lake Tekapo behind we drove past Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook National Park where we had fantastic views of Mount Cook from the road and stumbled across a salmon farm. We stopped to have a look around, fed the salmon and bought a salmon and cream cheese bagel and some sashimi all produced from the farm. We wanted to find a nice spot to enjoy our high country ‘catch’ and that’s when we came across Lake Oahu, it was a bit of a mission off the main road but well worth it. We sat on the edge of the lake enjoying our sashimi surrounded by nothing but mountains, lake and silence. The silence was incredible I don’t think I’ve been anywhere before where there was so much stillness. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are the best and this is a really special memory of mine from the trip.
We booked a boat trip on Milford Sound with Jucy Cruize. It was 1 hour 30 in total, we cruised all the way along to the Tasman Sea, past a beautiful waterfall and incredible scenery. Milford gets around 8-10 meters of rainfall a year and is counted as one of the wettest places in the world, we were extremely lucky the day we went as it was sunny and dry. It is also known for sandflies, we were lucky with that too as there weren’t too many of them around!
Te Anau Glowworm trip:
Te Anau is a small town in the Fiordland situated on Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. It is a good place to stay the night if you want to break up the journey to Milford Sound. From here Matt and I went on a brilliant trip to the Te Anau glowworm caves, only accessible via a 25 minute boat trip across the lake. Ducking down to enter the cave system we were greeted by the loud sound of rushing water. The cave has 7 km of passages carved out by alpine water, so clean that we got to taste it from the cave! Following the underground stream through 250 metres of the cave past waterfalls we eventually got into a small boat and drifted into the darkness leaving the rush of water behind. All became silent. Floating in the glowworm grotto it became very tranquil and looking up all I could see were the green lights of hundreds of tiny glowworms. No photos were allowed in the caves to allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness and so as not to disturb the glowworms. We booked our trip through Real Journeys who have an office in Te Anau right by the lake. It was a pretty special experience and one I would definitely recommend.
Queenstown is a very cool place indeed. Nestled between all the key ski fields, The Remarkables and Coronet, also relatively nearby are Treble Cone and Cardrona. We unfortunately only got to spend two nights there so didn’t get to do and see everything that we wanted to and there is so much to do! Snowboarding was high on our agenda; we booked a day trip to Cardrona from Queenstown. It was a full day on the snow and lots of fun. In the evenings we enjoyed relaxing in the bars and sampling the local alcohol! My favourite was Monteith’s cider, which I first tried at Lake Tekapo. I love New Zealand’s pub culture it seemed very similar to the UK and very social. One night we ate at The Cow, found on Cow Street. It is slightly hidden away but well worth finding. We stepped inside and were welcomed by a warm cosy atmosphere, and lots of character. An open fire, candlelight and bustling atmosphere made the tiny pub feel very cosy. A tasty simple Italian menu featuring pizza, pasta, one dessert – ice cream sundae and a good wine menu was just what we needed after a day on the snow.
We also ate at Fergburger, which is obligatory if you are in Queenstown and picked up takeaway fish and chips from Aggy’s Shack a small hut by the lake. It has got to be the best fish and chips I’ve had in a long time and that’s coming from a Brit. We also ordered a portion of green-lipped mussels, they were huge! There were all sorts of interesting things to order too such as smoked eel and sea urchin. Definitely worth a visit.
Things we didn’t get time to do in Queenstown included the Skyline Gondola, which goes up to 450 metres above Queenstown to the top of Bob’s Peak. I would loved to have seen the views from there! A jet boat ride on the Shotover River, panning for gold in nearby Arrowtown and wine tasting. With lots of unfinished business we’ll have to go back!
Helicopter trip over the glaciers:
A Helicopter trip over Fox and Franz Josef glacier, past Mount Cook and a snow landing high up on a mountainside was breathtaking! The views of the glaciers from the air were incredible, icy blue in colour and enormous in size. The beauty of these natural wonders blew me away. We flew over mountain ridges and very close to Mount Cook. It was such a surreal experience, I tried not to take too many photos so I could just enjoy the moment and take it all in. I also spotted people at the top of the glacier and walkers huts with red roofs high up on the mountaintops. A helicopter in front of us looked so tiny in perspective to the mountain! We booked this trip with Glacier Helicopters it was 40 minutes in duration, which is the longest one you could do at a cost of around £200 each. Although pricey it was worth every penny!
My Favourite drives:
The Crown Range to Queenstown is an epic route with its zig zagging mountain roads and at 70km above sea level it is the highest route in New Zealand. It must be a pretty hairy drive in the depths of winter! The views of Queenstown, Arrowtown, vineyards, Lake Wakatipu and the mountain ranges are awesome and definitely worth stopping at the various viewpoints for photos.
There is a maximum speed limit on major roads of 100km/h, make sure you stick to this and others as the police are pretty strict at enforcing the speed limits. Always allow yourself longer than planned to get to destinations due to the nature of the roads. For example some have frequent landslides and may only have one lane open, mountain roads can be steep with hairpin bends, or there could be avalanche warnings. Along with factoring in extra time to stop off to take photos and admire views. If there is someone behind you driving a bit faster just pull over, we did this a lot, it made the drives much more enjoyable. But generally the roads are so quiet we often drove for miles and miles and even hours without another car insight.
The drive to Milford Sound is a fantastic one; the road through the Homer tunnel at around 100 kms from Te Anau is pretty interesting; it stretches for 1.2km through the mountain, at a height of 945 meters above sea level. If you are going to visit Milford Sound I really recommend driving yourself, it’s 4.5 hours from Queenstown so a coach trip means a very long day but if you drive yourself you can break the journey up. We drove from Queenstown to Te Anau stayed the night, then got up really early the following morning and drove to Milford Sound. Without stopping it’s 2 hours but allow extra time as there are some spectacular viewpoints and short walks to some beautiful waterfalls. It was worth going there for the epic drive alone! Be sure to fuel up in Te Anau as it is the last place to get fuel on the road to Milford Sound, there is none at Milford either.
Arthur’s Pass was another great drive, we did this last on the way back to Christchurch, stop for a hot drink and cake at Arthur’s Pass village and look out for Kea, these large parrots are very nosy and extremely clever; make sure you watch your food around them as they will do their best to nab anything edible from you!
I had heard so much about the stunning scenery in New Zealand before I went but I was completely blown away by its beauty and ever-changing landscape, from lakes and mountains to coast and tropical rainforest, I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Whatever you choose to do in New Zealand you won’t ever be bored. I did and saw so much on my short trip but there is still so much more I want to see and do out there, I will definitely need to visit again!
If you have already been I’d love to hear about your favourite NZ experiences…
Today is the day that Matt and I are off on a big adventure and I have just come out the other side of what I can only describe as ‘packing hell’!! My bag is finally zipped shut, with me sitting on top of it and I am now ready to fly to Sydney tonight! I have had to master the art of packing for all seasons, which means a bikini, Ugg boots and everything in between! As well as attempting to pack as lightly as possible for three weeks of living in a van. I feel quite proud that I’ve achieved what seemed like almost the impossible when I started this morning!
I can now relax and move onto our very exciting trip, I’m thrilled to announce that Matt and I are collaborating with the lovely people at Jucy, an awesome campervan company for our ‘international roadie’ where we will be spending five days in Australia and then ten on New Zealand’s South Island. We hired a Jucy Van last year in Australia, you can check out our previous adventures here: Planning a road trip on the East Coast of Australia.
We don’t have any firm plans yet but we do have a rough outline of where we want to stop and what we want to see. We are planning everything from surfing, to snowboarding and glacier trekking. I’ve also heard a lot about Fergburger in New Zealand so I’m going to have to try one of those! Skydiving may also be on the agenda too, as long as I can build up enough courage that is!
Our travel plan goes something like this:
23rd August: London – via Singapore – Sydney = 22 hours(!)
25th August: Sydney – Brisbane = Pick up our Jucy van and head to the Sunshine Coast and Glass House Mountains. (5 nights.)
31st August: Drop off our van back in Brisbane and fly to Christchurch.
1st September: Pick up Jucy van in Christchurch. (10 days.)
10th September: Say goodbye to our beloved van and fly back to Sydney.
11th September: Sydney – via Kula Lumper – Bangkok. (2 nights.)
13th Bangkok – London.
As you can see its going to be an action packed few weeks and I can’t wait to get out there, explore, get lost and find cool places!
Follow our adventures here on my blog, Instagram and Twitter. I will also be tweeting and instagramming using #jucyworld.
If anyone has any recommendations for things to see and do on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and South Island NZ, I’d love to hear them. 🙂
As I mentioned in last weeks post Gone Glamping I turned 30 on Thursday! It was a four-day celebration including a meal out with friends and family and a pub lunch the following day. The main event was a stay on The Big Green Bus with Matt and our lovely friends Sam and Graham.
The bus is parked in an idyllic location in private woodland in East Sussex, complete with decking, bench and a fire pit plus a wood fired hot tub. We had planned to light it on my birthday evening and toast marshmallows but unfortunately it rained! (Nevermind, after all this is the British weather in August…it can’t always be sunny!) Reached via its own gated footpath it is very private. Surrounded by peaceful countryside with lots of walks, a pub within strolling distance and Brighton a 20 minute train journey from the nearby town of Lewes, it was all we needed. Gilly and Jed who own the glamping site have some lovely dogs, Mollie, Poppy and Katie. All three popped by the bus to say hi every now and then. The bus is currently relocating, check back for an update on its new location soon.
A lovely welcome of prosecco and chocolate brownies awaited us. Matt and I instantly felt at home in this unique and quirky space, it had such a fantastic light and airy feel to it. I excitedly skipped around the bus exploring every nook and cranny and fell in love with it!
The bus started its life in 1982 (which makes it older than me!) and is now owned by Adam who has lovingly restored and turned it into the most amazing glamping retreat. You can follow the build from start to finish on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. I found out about the bus from this Channel 4 TV series last year and loved the quirkiness of it. I also stayed in the beach hut featured on Amazing Spaces in April for Matt’s birthday. Read about it here: Beach Hut Living. Adam has done an amazing job and kept a lot of the original fixtures and fittings, from the drivers cab, the old seat cushions re-upholstered in a lovely bright green, railings, a stop button, and lots of the original signs. It was strange to think while having a shower or laying in bed about all the people this bus must have transported over its many years in service!
So let me give you a guided tour…The galley kitchen had everything we needed including an oven, fridge, sink and plenty of storage cupboards full of utensils, pots and pans. The area at the front of the bus that would have been used to store luggage has been turned into a cupboard/pantry which was full of not only all the kitchen utensils and crockery you could ever need but also all the essentials like tea, coffee, sugar, oil, pasta and much more.
The lounge area came complete with a log burner, due to the unpredictability of the British weather as I have already mentioned, it rained on and off and was slightly chilly in the morning, so lighting it up first thing just took the edge off until the sun decided to show up. The back seat gave a whole new meaning to sitting at the back of the bus and the window seat above was very comfy. Adam has used some ingenious space-saving ideas such as a wooden cover on the back window, which also doubled up as the table with the legs stored behind the seats. This gave extra room to relax in between meals and also being able to put the ‘table’ over the back window at night made it more private. Behind the stairs sits a very neat wet-room and toilet with ample space to have a good shower.
My favourite area was upstairs at the front of the bus, this ironically was my favourite place to sit when I used to catch the bus to school. Adam has kept two of the original seats and turned this part of the bus into a very comfy corner to relax in. It was the perfect place to sit with a morning cuppa or evening drinks and gaze out across the field and surrounding woodland. I also loved the little touches such as the union jack cushions, collection of books, and the set of draws with all sorts of board games in. Following the corridor round led to two bedrooms big enough to fit double beds in and at the end some very spacious looking bunk beds. I had two cosy nights sleep in the very comfy beds. There was plenty of room for the four of us to leave our bags upstairs on the bus too. I should also mention that the bus has electric and hot water.
I woke up on the morning of my birthday to blueberry pancakes and Sam gave me thirty presents to open! We then drove to Lewes and caught the train to Brighton, had lunch at Plateau and walked on the pier. After a few hours we made our way back to the bus where there were more surprises for me! Cupcakes and champagne followed by an amazing dinner, I have wonderful friends as well as a wonderful husband! After dinner we got the log burner going and played some board games.
We had a fantastic stay in a lovely peaceful location, everything about the bus was perfect, it was immaculately presented and had a lot of thought involved from the décor to the comfort of guests. It was such a brilliant way to celebrate… turning 30 hasn’t been so bad after all, I think this has quite possibly been my best birthday yet!
On the road to Mission Beach in northeastern Australia, a lot of signs appeared indicating that cassowaries lived in the area. I really wanted to see one of these curious creatures but being so timid I knew it might be highly unlikely. Still, I kept my eyes peeled and waited eagerly in anticipation on the drive through the Queensland rainforest just in case I spotted one appearing out of the jungle. Further into the journey more signs popped up stating that there had been a recent sighting in the area, this made me even more excited! The cassowary is a flightless bird, although timid and rarely spotted they can be potentially dangerous. Found in northeastern Australia they can grow up to 1.8 metres in height, have brightly coloured heads with a casque on top and large clawed feet. The only one I saw was at the West Pennant Hills Koala Park in Sydney, I would have loved to have spotted one in the wild. Arriving at my campsite in Mission Beach for the night I explored the beautiful sweeping shoreline, paddled in the warm water and watched the sunset; always on the look out for this rarely seen bird. Retiring to the campsite for dinner and a beer I did a bit of research and discovered that cassowaries had been sighted on the beach at Etty Bay about 40 minutes drive from Mission Beach. So the next day I decided to get up early and move further up the coast. Etty Bay, reached by a small winding road is a beautiful secluded beach surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. With nothing but a small campsite and a café on the foreshore it proved to be a peaceful, idyllic spot for breakfast. I am glad I visited, but there was not a cassowary in sight! I did come across some information on the beach indicating what to do if you come face to face with a cassowary though. The main tip was to get something solid between you and this very large bird, such as a tree! The illustrations on the sign made me laugh; although I was not so sure after reading it how excited I still was about coming across this potentially dangerous prehistoric looking creature. It was time for me to move on to the next stop on my road trip, which was Cairns. Even though I didn’t spot a cassowary I have a lot of respect for this endangered bird; and don’t forget if you ever spot one yourself, find a tree!
For more information on cassowaries take a look at the Cassowary Recovery Team website. It has a lot of information on where to potentially see them, reporting a sighting and what to do if you come across an injured one.
For more ideas on what to do in Australia check out my other posts:
I am heading to Australia in under a month and I am so very excited about it! This will be my first visit down under and I can’t wait to actually be there! My husband Matt and I are flying out from London Heathrow via Bangkok, spending two nights there and then flying on to Sydney. We have a hired a campervan through Jucy rentals and are going to work our way up the east coast, starting from Sydney and ending in Cairns. With the flights and van booked I am now in the process of drawing up a rough itinerary of where we want to stop off and what we want to see and do. I almost love the planning stage as much as I love travelling and going away itself! I love purchasing travel books and researching the destinations I am heading to. Itineraries, list making, research, you name it, I love the build up to a trip away. Not to mention buying books, magazines, toiletries, beachwear, flip-flops etc. Although having said that I need to be pretty good in what I pack as we will be living out of a van. My challenge will be to pack as little as possible…
I would love to hear your recommendations and tips on things to see and do on the east coast, as well as any advice on camping spots. Please let me know 🙂
I love spending time with my husband Matt down on the South West coast of England in our campervan. We quite often go to North Devon and stay in campsites around Croyde and Woolacombe, our favourite being Incledon Farm campsite. It’s a working farm with chickens roaming freely and the farm cat prowling around. With two small fields for camping it is never overcrowded and always peaceful. Situated in the sleepy village of Georgeham with just a shop and two pubs all within walking distance, it’s exactly what we love! A ten minute drive and you’re at the beaches ready for a surf. Saunton Sands is my favourite place to surf, the sand dunes behind the beach stretch for miles and create an impressive backdrop. With such a long stretch of water it is easy to spread out and have the waves all to yourself. The last time we were there, although small the waves were clean and perfectly formed. Putsboroughis another great surfing spot, the views are unbeatable from the car park which looks straight onto the beach, you can walk all the way along the shoreline to Woolacombe from here too. Our days of campervan living would go something like this…a big breakfast cooked alfresco, then to the beach for surfing and sunbathing, followed by a post surf cider or two at the Red Barn in Woolacombe. Ending the day back at the campsite with a barbecue, and an early night ready to do it all again the next day….Perfect!
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