A magic country with unique landscapes at the end of the world – that’s how I would describe New Zealand with a few words.
Together with my best friend we started our journey in Christchurch at the beginning of January, travelled around the south island first and discovered the north island from north to south.
Below you can find my favourite spots on the south island 🌞
Christchurch to Hanmer Springs – a drive through nature:
We travelled north to Hanmer Springs with some short stops along the east coast. You won’t find huge beaches to swim at but beautiful wild ones with black stones and some shells – most of them deserted and peaceful.
You will soon leave the coastal side and find yourself driving up between hills and mountains. It’s a beautiful ride through untouched nature with a lot of viewpoints. From time to time you will drive along the Waiau river. It has an amazing light blue colour and winds its way through the valleys. Waiau is the largest river in the southland region of New Zealand 🏞.
Nelson was one of the highlights on the south island. The little village is directly at the sea, offers spectacular sunsets, a beautiful nature and is the perfect starting point if you want to make a day trip to the Abel Tasman National Park 🌴🌺.
Nelson has it’s own beaches but we found a hidden and relaxing place called Cable Bay.
It’s a beach made of stones, where you won’t find sand or palm trees. You can drive from Nelson to Cable Bay, there is a small car park available – be aware of the sheeps on the street, it’s a curvy and tight way with low visibility. You can also walk up the hill to have a nice overview. The water is cristal clear because of the stones, it’s a refreshing swim in a super quite surrounding (you can only here some sheeps bleating) 🐑.
Franz Josef & its springs:
Our next destination was Franz Josef. As it is a long way from Nelson down to Franz Josef we had to stop in between. Unfortunately we could only find an accommodation in Greymouth – I can’t really recommend to stay there as there is more or less nothing to see and do but it’s quite okay to stay for a night. We had some hard weather struggles (if you wanna know what struggles we had check the news). As it was raining cats and dogs it was nearly impossible to see anything from the West Coast but we were lucky and could explore the Pancake rocks in a more or less rainless hour ☔. It’s a really stunning rock formation and a beautiful walk even if it is foggy and rainy.
After a restless night in Greymouth we had to flee out of the village as the water startet flooding streets and houses. Luckily the situation got better the more we drove south but the rain was still heavy and driving was not that easy ⛈🌬.
Franz Josef itself is a vivid and cool village, surrounded by beautiful mountains. On our arriving day it was cold and still rainy so we decided to check out the Glacier Hot Pools and enjoy some relaxation 💆♀️. Right across the pools is a great Indian restaurant called King Tiger – perfect after the relaxing treatment and really delicious 😋.
On day two the weather was kind to us – much better than expected and perfect for our hike to the glacier. You can park your car at the car park but be there early enough, it’s a small parking area. The hike is about 5,4 km and we had approx. one hour. It’s a very easy walk with nice views, just make sure you have additional clothes as the weather can change rapidly ☀☔.
The weather got better with every hour so we decided to go for some other walks. There is another walk from the car park at Franz Josef called the Roberts Point Track; you are crossing a small lake who is absolutely beautiful (it was even better than the mirror lake), we walked until we reached the Douglas Bridge and decided to return as the walk is quite long and we wanted to see the mirror lake later.
From Franz Josef you have to drive approx. 30 minutes to the mirror lake (whose real name is Lake Matheson). It was disappointing regarding the reflection as it was a bit windy so parts of the water were not reflecting anything. Nevertheless there is a wonderful walk around the lake with some nice spots and beautiful nature to discover 🌳🐾.
We met some girls in Franz Josef who did the same journey as we did but in the opposite direction so they were coming from Wanaka. They gave us a good hint: on your journey from Franz Josef to Wanaka – skip Haast 😄 they booked a night in Haast and they sad it was the badest decision ever.
We were wondering about what’s so bad there and they told us that there is nothing in Haast. We were curious and decided to make a short stop there and pick up some coffee – we had to agree with the girls; there is nothing in Haast except a “supermarket”, a “coffee” and 3 or 4 private buildings. This is probably the most isolated village we’ve ever seen (but according to what I found in the web its surroundings include some great lookouts and national parks (UNESCO)👍).
Unlike Haast, Wanaka is a beautiful little town located at the south end of Lake Wanaka. You will have stunning views over Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea as the State Highway is located between both lakes.
Wanaka has a beautiful esplanade with a lot of small shops, restaurants and coffees. You can swim (it was a bit frosty but nice 🏊♀️) or walk around the lake or just relax in the grass and enjoy ice-cream (check the ones at Patagonia, they are awesome 😍).
Wanaka is also famous for its beautiful lavender farm (we’ve been to this one) and of course for the Wanaka tree.
Queenstown & the Nevis swing:
Queenstown is another nice spot located at Lake Wakatipu with a lot of mountains around the city. It has a lot of stores, a shopping paradise 🛍. There are a lot of hikes you can do and some boat trips as well.
One of the highlights of our journey was the Nevis swing. It’s something I always wanted to do when I first saw it years ago and it was a great experience! If you love adrenaline do it 😙.
A wonderful place 😍 the way through the mountains is already stunning. You can do trips by boat or helicopter. Our boat trip took 2 hours and was well worth it.
Together with beautiful waterfalls and stunning cliffs you can see seals (a lot of them) and dolphins 🐬 .
On our way back to Christchurch we spend a night in a beautiful unknown village called Ophir. I can highly recommend Blacks Hotel, it’s very small but people there are so friendly, it includes breakfast and you have the possibility to relax in their beautiful garden with very special outdoor furniture. This was probably the best stay on our whole journey 😍!
If you’ve been to NZ or have any questions let me know! Otherwise book a flight and discover this amazing country by yourself ✈.