If you’re ever wondering where you should travel next, or want to visit someplace that isn’t too far from home. New Zealand’s South Island should definitely be on your list. This post will take you through everything we did on our trip along with tips that I learned, along the way. We travelled in the middle of June and the weather was still mild enough to camp but a little frosty in the mornings!
DAY 1 - QUEENSTOWN
We arrived in Queenstown at 12:30pm and collected our car/camper van from Trekker Adventures. After buying groceries and then realising the time, we searched for a place to camp. Using CamperMate, we sussed out the first location to bunker down just outside Queenstown at the Twenty Five Mile Stream camping grounds.
DAY 2 - WANAKA, ROYS PEAK
We took the van and headed straight to Wanaka to hike Roys Peak; oh boy! We arrived at the carpark to Roys Peak by 12pm sharp and read that it was a six hour round trip, we thought the sign was lying… it was very honest. Words of warning: be ready.
We packed three muesli bars when we should have had six and just under half a litre of water to share. Bad idea. Regardless, don’t let the hike up dishearten you. After 2 hours of climbing up, you will be over it, but don’t stop, if you did, what a waste! We got back to our car by 5:30pm and spent maybe 40 minutes at the peak taking photos and what not. We headed back to Queenstown that night to get ready for Day 3!
DAY 3 - MILFORD SOUND JOY FLIGHT
We woke up nice and early and headed to our day flight with Glenorchy Air, on their Fly-Cruise-Fly day tour to Milford Sound. We did originally book a Fly-Cruise-Kayak-Fly trip, but due to bad weather we couldn’t do the Kayak. I was a little bummed out about it, but we got our money back really quickly and everyone was so kind and helpful we didn’t mind all that much.
The trip to Milford Sound was really fun, it was a nice way to see the beautiful landscape and enjoy the tour guide/pilot’s commentary. When we arrived to Milford, the jumped on a bus to where the cruise boats were and then journeyed out onto the water with Southern Discoveries. The cruise around the sound was such a whirlwind, we had our cameras out the whole time and really soaked it in, at very the last minute. If anything, next time I’d love to stay in Milford overnight and see the sunrise and enjoy the area more. We arrived back to Queenstown airport and then made our way to Twizel.
DAY 4 - MOUNT COOK , LAKE PUKAKI AND LAKE TEKAPO
We woke up early and made our way to Mount Cook, it was such a foggy morning that driving was really scary. I felt like I was driving in a computer game where the map would load a few meters in front and beside me. When we got out of the fog, we were greeted with the lovely views of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook.
Our main reason for visiting Mount Cook was to walk the Hooker Valley Track, but it was closed due to damage on the path. So, we just wandered around and decided to make the most of the daylight and head to Lake Tekapo where we had lunch at Our Dog Friday. It was a nice place to stop and check out the lake. We considered heading to the Hot Springs, but waited inside with maybe three other couples with no one at the front desk, so we decided to call it a night and headed back to Twizel.
DAY 5 - MANAPOURI
After a chilly night sleep, we left Twizel at around 7am to head south to Manapouri. This was out biggest day of driving, but we were stoked. Driving the Defender was really great and by then, we really got the hang of it. We grabbed coffee and filled up in Omarama and saw there was a cute Hot Springs there, which I made a mental note for next time.
We passed signs to the Clay Cliffs which looked incredible too but didn’t have the $5 cash on us to pop into the entry box and felt bad if we lied (also there was a camera!). So we headed back and took our time driving through Lindis Pass (which was a-mazing, btw). We got the drone out and filmed some beautiful landscapes of that, which was a highlight.
We rolled into Queenstown and headed straight to Fergburger because that’s what everyone does right? We also popped into their bakery (Fergbaker) next door and bought some cream donuts on a friends recommendation (did not disappoint) and then began the next leg to Manapouri.
We made it with about two hours to spare and wandered around our camp ground, Possum Lodge. The sunset over Lake Manapouri was beautiful; soft pinks and purples and mountains that reflected in the lake.
DAY 6 - DOUBTFUL SOUND
Our full day on the lake! We woke up and headed to (ran) to catch our cruise to Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. I suppose because it wasn’t peak season, we got a pretty good deal on this cruise, it was a really big day that included lunch too.
Doubtful Sound was incredible and maybe nicer than Milford Sound. Perhaps because we got to see it for longer, maybe because the trip was longer or there was a smaller group of people onboard. Whatever it was, it grounded me, being on the sound and made me realise just how special it was to be able to experience this stunning piece of New Zealand. Real Journeys also did this moment of silence, which probably cemented my feelings even more. They asked everyone to find a quiet place outside and turned off the engines. Everyone looked up and around at the scenery and actually took it in. You could hear birds and waterfalls; it really was the icing on the cake.
After the cruise, we drove to Lumsden and stayed at the free campsite there. It was so nice, the bathrooms were clean and tidy and you could feel the community of fellow campers who appreciated this free gem.
DAY 7 - SHERWOOD QUEENSTOWN
Leaving Lumsden early, we headed back to Queenstown. We stopped in for our final lunch on the road, pulling into a really nice rest stop and setup the tent to look over Lake Wakatipu. After packing things up, we headed straight to Sherwood Queenstown for our final night. It was incredible. The food. The rooms. The vibe. The wine. The food. Did I mention the food?! Maybe this was all amplified from staying in a rooftop tent but, I honestly can’t fault the Sherwood. We booked in for a Thursday night roast and then checked out their open mic night with poets and live music, it was beautiful.
Waking up, we spent most of the time savouring our last delicious meal at the Sherwood: breakfast. This is one meal you don’t want to miss. I’m still thinking about it. We checked out, dropped our trusty Defender back off and caught a Green Cab back to the airport.