I’ve done up individual blog posts of the towns I went to on this trip, but here is a more condensed version, of my 2 Weeks Solo Backpacking in South Island New Zealand, including what I think are the highlights of each place. I’ve also added direct links to the individual destination post under each ‘Day’ section, and I highly recommend you to check those out because there’s lots more pictures and description of the places I went!
Below’s a good overview of how I did my itinerary, basically it’s a loop beginning and ending in Christchurch. I definitely have lots of places to cover on my next trip, but these were bascially the ones on my priority list!
(Screengrab from Google Maps.)
Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch, Visit the Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral and Container shopping malls
Morning arrival in Christchurch. I stayed one night in my Airbnb which is located quite near the CBD area, and walking distance to the bus interchange, where I took the bus to Te Anau the next morning. I brought a hardcase luggage with me, so the night was spent packing my necessities into my 50l backpack for the next days! My host had kindly allowed me to store my luggage until I returned, without any holding fees. Super glad for that!
Spent the entire day exploring around the container shopping mall area, as well as the Cardboard cathedral.
Day 2: Onwards to Te Anau, start of backpacking!
Onboard direct InterCity bus to Te Anau. I boarded the bus at Christchurch bus interchange at about 7.45am, had a couple of half hour stops in Omaru and Dunedin, and arrived in Te Anau at 6.30pm in the evening.
Day 3-6: Do the Kepler Track Hike
Begin 4 days 3 nights Kepler Track hike, which starts and ends in Te Anau. The hike is one of NZ’s 9 Great Walks and I chose to do it because it traverses lots of varied sights along the way, and is a multi- day backcountry style hike that I really wanted to try out. And it was much more than what I’d expected and hoped for. It was amazing! If you are looking to do any ‘tramps’ out there, do read up in detail on the physical requirements as well as elevation gain, terrain etc and train well for them.
Read the full post here: http://www.nextplaneout.com/new-zealand/2016/9/14/kepler-track
Day 7-8: Explore Te Anau and visit the Glow worms caves
I stayed 2 nights in Te Anau. Went for day cruise out to Lake Manapouri, and glow worm cave tour at night. The more popular options are Milford sound/ Doubtful sound cruises, which I wished I’d more time for.
Day 9: Explore Queenstown markets, Take a day trip to Arrowtown
Depart for Queenstown via a morning bus service from Tracknet, which took about 2.5hours. Spent the first day exploring Beach street and the numerous outdoor and activity shops around town. Then I boarded a bus to Arrowtown, quaint little town that’s kind of ‘stuck in time’. Really worth the visit! It’s only a half hour bus ride away.
Day 10: Hike up Queenstown hill and take a Scenic helicopter ride
I took a morning hike up to Queenstown Hill, with beautiful views guaranteed! Booked a scenic helicopter ride which landed on The Remarkables. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. Skydiving is also a must-do in Queenstown. NZone is an experienced operator and many people book through them. Also, I booked the Skyline Gondola up to Bob’s Peak. From there, one could also hike up to Ben Lomond for even more spectacular views of Queenstown. Remember to also stuff yourself with Fergburger(try the pork belly version aka Chief Wiggum!)
Day 11: Photograph that wanaka tree, Cycle around Lake Wanaka
Departed for Wanaka today. Upon arrival, I explored around the lake and went to photograph that famous Wanaka Tree with much anticipation!
Then I rented a bike and spent almost the entire afternoon cycling around Lake Wanaka. Absolutely loved it.
Day 12: Hike up Roy’s Peak and take a scenic flight up to Coromandal Peak!
I attempted hiking up to Roy’s Peak(5-6 hrs return), known for really beautiful views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding hills. I gave up mid way, however, and went for a scenic helicopter ride up to the gorgeous Coromandel Peak.
Day 13: Take a day hike in MT Cook, UNBELIEVABLE beauty
Departed for Mt Cook via InterCity bus. I stayed 1 night in Mt Cook and wished I had couple more days to spend there. It’s really beautiful and I was blessed with great sunny weather. But mountain weather is erratic, so I’d recommend staying at least 2 nights just in case Mt Cook goes into hiding on the first! Day hikes to take are the Kea Point Track and Hooker Valley Track (must do!). I did Hooker Valley on the first day, which takes normally about 4 hrs return from the village. It is a super manageable yet rewarding walk!
Read the full post here: http://www.nextplaneout.com/new-zealand/2017/5/2/mt-cook-yha-hooker-valley-kea-point
Day 14: Explore Peaceful Lake Tekapo and join the EARTH & SKY Stargazing tour
Explore the surrounding scenic area. I took a morning hike to Kea Point and went back to do Hooker Valley again as it was really beautiful. In the late noon, I departed for Tekapo via Cook Connection. Had lunch at Kohan (try their salmon sashimi!). So good to be back! I booked the Mt John Night observatory tour which was really amazing. You cannot miss it.
Read the full post here: http://www.nextplaneout.com/new-zealand/2017/5/2/lake-tekapo-kohan-stargazing-mtjohn
Day 15: Spend a day at ASTRO CAFE the Best cafe on Earth
I hiked up to Mt John on foot, up to my favourit-est cafe on Earth, Astro-Cafe, and had breakfast and lunch there. I practically spent the entire day there and randomly hiked around the area. Of course, I finally got to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd on this trip. Do note it’s opening hours during winter/summer seasons.
Day 16: Back to base, Christchurch
Depart for Christchurch via InterCity. Spent a night back in my lovely Airbnb there. My hard case luggage is there, so I repacked everything for departure the next morning. My lovely host made me Tiramisu! So sweet. I love free food!
Day 17: Back to Home!
I don’t have a driver’s license, so I got around by buses, which were really manageable! The buses were mostly full of tourists like myself, which debunks the misconception that one needs to drive in order to explore NZ. The main bus operators are InterCity, Nakedbus, Atomic Shuttles. And to and fro Mt Cook, you can try The Cook Connection.