New Zealand Campervan Road Trip Part III: South Island

After a couple of nights stay at Franz Josef Glacier, it was sad to think we were already over halfway through our road trip across New Zealand.

We still had a lot of exciting activities lined up for the coming week, so carry on reading to see what we got up to! This post is actually part 3 of 3, so make sure you’ve caught up with what we got up to across the other parts of New Zealand!

New Zealand Part 1: North Island

New Zealand Part 1: North Island

New Zealand had a lot to live up. Spoiler alert: It smashed it. Catch all our photos and info on the places we visited in the North Island!

New Zealand Part 2: South Island

New Zealand Part 2: South Island

We've always said how much we've wanted to explore the South Island of New Zealand. Imagine our excitement levels when we were finally making our way there... and then when we took a Helicopter flight over the Southern Alps!

Watch the vlog

As usual, we vlogged our entire trip which you can watch below from Joe’s YouTube channel! Make sure you subscribe to get the latest updates as they’re published!

Haast Blue Pools

From Franz Josef, we carried on southwards through the South Island towards Haast and we came across a great stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a waterfall that’s over 90m high!

A bit further along the route and another great place we stopped at was the Blue Pools, where we literally saw the bluest water we’ve ever see! This wasn’t like the blue water at Hokitika Gorge, this was clear blue water.

I actually don’t know why the water is the colour it is, but I felt like it was one of the those moments where you realise that this is the type of thing you’ll only ever see in New Zealand.

Haast Blue Pools
Haast Blue Pools

Once we were done getting attacked by sandflies, we carried on to Wanaka, where we were staying for the night. I would highly recommend bringing some insect/fly repellent by the way, especially if you’re going to be going on walks near the water.

We set up camp and plugged into power at Lake Outlet Holiday Park, which has amazing views of the Lake Wanaka.

Queenstown

Our drive to Queenstown through Arrowtown was beautiful, with all the Autumnal colours of the trees. I highly recommend driving around Arrowtown with the warm yellow and green trees around May, it was like experiencing 100% pure Autumn.

Wanaka/Queenstown
Arrowtown

We stayed at Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park, which had some of the friendliest staff across any of the campsites we’d stayed at over the 3 weeks we spent in New Zealand. They made us feel really accommodated at the park and gave us great advice on where to go in the town.

Queenstown itself is only a 5-10 minute drive from the campsite, though I wouldn’t really say it’s walkable, as there are no pavements and the road is quite treacherous. Luckily, the campsite offer a free shuttle ride which came in super handy, as we didn’t want to pack everything up every time we wanted to drive around town in Manu, our Mighty campervan.

One of the main attractions in Queenstown is the Gondola and Luge, which was super fun! It’s probably best during the warmer months (September-March), with more people out and about to race with, but we had a great time even in the rain! The views from the Skyline Gondola and Luge building are amazing — you can oversee the whole town, the lake and the mountains.

Skyline Gondola and Luge Queenstown
Skyline Gondola and Luge Queenstown

After riding the luge, we got hunger pains pretty bad. So what else do you do when you’re in Queenstown but eat a meaty burger! We’d heard some good reviews from a couple of friends along with all the hype on Instagram about where to eat in Queenstown and Fergburger always came up!

Queenstown
Queenstown
Queenstown

I do have to say, it wasn’t anything that special to go by, If I’m honest. If you want a hefty, meaty burger with a good selection of toppings then it’s the place to go. But maybe we’ve just been spoilt for choice with amazing burger places in London that it didn’t really jump out as being all that amazing.

Joe actually spotted one of his oldest friends from back home who was walking past, mid-Ferg-mouthful, which was quite a coincidence! It was great knowing someone living in Queenstown and one of the first pieces of advice we heard was that Devil Burger is actually way better than Fergburger in terms of meat quality; so we’d probably hit there next time instead!

Queenstown

Activities in Queenstown

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Queenstown is the place to be. You can do pretty much anything extreme, from bungee jumping, to skiing, to boat rafting. The Shotover Jet is definitely once activity I would highly recommend. Essentially, it’s an ultimate jet boat speeding through ridiculously narrow canyons!

While we were waiting to get on, Ed Sheeran was in the boat before us! Looking back at some of the footage for our blog and vlogs, it turns out we actually have a picture of Ed having the time of his life!

The boat trip was such an unforgettable experience and we’d love to do it all again! It’s one of the activities that should definitely be booked when you go to Queenstown. If you watched the vlog up top, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about!

Flex Image
Flex Image

Another thing to try out, is the Onsen Hot Pools which are really near to the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park. It was great to chill out in a luxury hot tub and open up the ‘window’ to gaze at the stars. Or, if you go in the day time, you’d see an amazing landscape view, so either way you get an amazing experience.

Milford Sound

We really loved Queenstown and it worked well for us as a base for the South West of New Zealand. Rather than packing everything up to drive to Milford Sound over a couple of days, we decided we’d do a same-day coach-cruise-coach tour instead.

Rainy Milford Sound, New Zealand
Flex Image
Flex Image

We aren’t really the type of people to book tour packages, but we didn’t want the hassle of driving 4-5 hours each way to Milford Sound and back. Our flight out of New Zealand was from Christchurch, so we had to drive back through Queenstown anyway.

Milford Sound Cruise with Real Journeys

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really in our favour on the day of the tour and it poured down the entire way there. It didn’t even stop when we got on the boat for the cruise. Everyone tried to wait it out, but the wind was howling and even just sitting on the boat, it was super rocky.

2016-05-12_post-img_9723_

SAVE THE SANDWICHES!

We ended up sitting back on the coach, all wet and drenched from the rain and headed back to Queenstown. We were quite relieved that we didn’t do the drive ourselves though, as we’d have lost even more time and crucial diesel costs. At least we got a full refund for the tour and saw tonnes of Milford Sound’s strong waterfalls along the way.

When we go back to New Zealand, we’d probably go during better weather (if that can even be predicted) and properly explore Milford Sound.

We spent our last day in Queenstown planning what to do next as we had a couple of extra days spare that we were originally going to use to drive around the Fiordlands. But given the bad weather and what we had already seen from the coach, we decided to abandon that idea.

Lake Tekapo

As we wanted to be close to Mount Cook Village and possibly go for a scenic walk early in the morning, we thought we’d stay near Lake Pukaki for one of our last nights. We saw on the Camping NZ app, a great spot underneath the pine trees where you can camp for free. There’s a gravel road along the length of the lake and you can pretty much park anywhere on the road and stay there for free!

Mountain roads to Lake Pukaki
Our Mighty campervan camping under the pines at Lake Pukaki

I think ever since the Milford Sound day, the weather really wasn’t in our favour as the rain put a hold to all of our plans and was so unpredictable at times. The view of Lake Pukaki and staying under the pine trees was another New Zealand experience I’ll never forget. As I said, the weather was extremely unpredictable; we weren’t able to see the mountains at all, it was that stormy.

Lake Pukaki Sunset
Lake Pukaki Sunset
Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki

Before we drove away from Lake Pukaki, we drove up Mount Cook Road to see if we could see any part of the mountains. But driving the campervan down that road made me SO nervous. I felt the full brunt of the wind and I was genuinely struggling to keep the wheel straight and not get pushed off the road by the wind.

Lake Pukaki Poor Visibility

In the morning, we could barely see bugger all!

I saw quite a few cars stop on the side of the road, so we decided to assess whether it was a good idea to keep going as it was getting worse the closer we were getting to the mountains. We decided it wasn’t worth risking having the campervan topple over and seeing as we’d already experienced a heli flight to see the mountains up close, we weren’t too bummed about missing out. You can see some great shots of the mountains in our other vlog and blog post here.

The next day was spent at Tekapo Springs, where we ice skated with the whole rink to ourselves, before heading into the Hot Spring Pools. The location of Tekapo Springs is really secluded and there’s a nice scenic view of the lake surrounded by trees and the mountains.

Lake Tekapo New Zealand
Lake Tekapo

However, our penultimate night in the campervan was an unforgettable one. It was the windiest night of our whole trip and I honestly felt like the campervan was going to tip over. I was actually really scared, as I’ve never heard the wind howl so much and really feel the full force of it.

I felt that we were burning out from all the driving we’d done over the past three weeks (in addition to our epic drives across Australia), so we were kind of glad to be moving on to our last campsite, Grumpy’s Retreat near Geraldine, which is halfway from Tekapo to Christchurch.

New Zealand Sheep
New Zealand

We had a really chilled night in, cleaning the campervan and packing up before returning it to Mighty at Christchurch airport.

Our flight was at 6am, but we had to return the campervan before 4pm the day before, as Mighty doesn’t open until about 8am. Of course this meant we had quite a lot of time to kill at the airport.

We didn’t think it was worth staying in a hotel in the city, which was the only option because there aren’t many places to stay near the airport, so we thought we’d just hang out at the airport and wait it out.

We ended up sleeping on bean bags in an allocated “early flight lounge” for $10 each. It was an unusual and again unforgettable ending to our New Zealand trip, but then again… our whole journey was unusual and unforgettable!

New Zealand, WE LOVE YOU!

Further reading

How to Road Trip Across New Zealand

How to Road Trip Across New Zealand

If you’re looking to do your own road trip across New Zealand, check out our full itinerary, complete with a map and top tips for a campervan road trip!

Follow us online

We really hope you enjoyed this post! Make sure to follow us online to get the latest updates of where we are and what we’re up to!

Subscribe to updates

Join thousands of others and get updates straight to your inbox! Plus, get a massive 40% OFF some bespoke Lightroom presets, instantly.