South Island Adventures – From Mount Cook to The Catlins

I had a limited amount of time in New Zealand. It was hard trying to fit in as much as possible while being able to spend as much time as possible with my sister. I think I did quite well, but I did not make it to the glaciers. I did make it down to the Catlins which were stunning. This was how I did my South Island adventure. check out this itinerary for another South Island roadtrip. You can also check out this South Island guide.

 If you have more time check out this crazy kiwi camper who has spent the last year travelling in her campervan. 

Christchurch to Queenstown

I started researching my options of how to get to Queenstown. Although I was dreading sitting on another bus for 10+ hours, it seemed like the only way to do it. I booked my bus ticket the day before I left along with my Hostel, which was the weekend before ski season. I booked my bus ticket with the Naked Bus again which I had great experiences with so far. The bus left at 10am and it seems as if the scenery just got better and better by the minute.

On the road again. Naked Bus to Queenstown

The bus stopped at Lake Tekapo where we switched over drivers. Lake Tekapo has got to be one of the most beautiful places I have been. I jumped out and ran around snapping pictures like crazy.

The beautiful Lake Tekapo 💙

Onwards to Wanaka, unfortunately we got in here just as the sun went down which was a little disappointing.

Milford Sound

One of the trips I had been looking at was a boat trip  through Milford Sound. I debated if the price was worth the experience. I basically made my decision based on “Would I regret not going if I never came back to New Zealand?” and my answer was yes, I would regret it if I missed it. So I used ‘bookme.co.nz’ to book my ticket. I chose the Juicy Cruiser with the coach to make life easier. I met these two amazing sisters that morning. The 5 hour drive to Milford Sound was stunning. What a way to start my South Island adventure.

Fiordland National Park

Mirror Lakes at Fiordland National Park

Then we reached Milford Sound… There were no words to describe the beauty of this place. I had never seen anything like it, especially coming from a small island in the Caribbean. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Milford Sound with Juicy

Waterfalls at Milford Sound

We hopped back on the bus for a sunset drive back to Queenstown. Even after such a long day out we felt we needed to make the most of the Queenstown nightlife, so it was time to hit the bars for some drinks.

Queenstown

Technically I had been in Queenstown for over 24 hours but I had yet to see Queenstown. This morning I went for a walk through the botanical gardens by myself, just taking in the beauty of this place.

A view of Queenstown from the gardens

I met up with the sisters and we wandered around the shops for a while. Queenstown is just stunning, it’s a quaint little ski town surrounded by mountains. I think this was definitely one of my favorite cities. I’m a little sad I came before ski season opened as I would have loved to learn to ski. If skiing is your thing then you have to try out some night skiing in Queenstown.

That afternoon my sister flew in and we made plans for a spontaneous roadtrip. We couldn’t leave the adventure capital without doing something adventurous…

Nevis Bungy & Swing

Ok, just to be clear, I am scared of heights. My first option was the Kawarau Bridge jump as I have never jumped before. My sister convinced me to do Nevis and she would do the swing with me. So here I am…

Geared up for my first bungy jump ever

Probably one of the scariest but most exhilarating things I had ever done in my life. Would I do it again? Definitely not Nevis, but maybe something smaller!

3, 2, 1, bungy!

I thought the bungy was bad, we watched four people go before us on the swing and everyone said it was worse. Fantastic!

World’s Largest Swing – Nevis Swing

I really enjoyed doing it paired up with my sister, it was a great experience we got to share with each other.

From there we went to the airport to pick up the car. After we had gotten over the adrenaline rush of course! If you are a little worried about renting a car just check out this post about driving in New Zealand.

Queenstown to Mount Cook to Dunedin

We woke up super early the next morning so that we could get moving. We reached Wanaka just after sunrise, I finally got to see this quaint town in the sunlight. Then we had a 2 hour drive until Mount Cook, through mountain passes and lots of fog. There were a few stops along the way, but one of the highlights was when we reached Lake Pukaki and our first views of Mount Cook. The scenery on the South Island was just amazing.

A view of Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki

The fog had suddenly cleared and it was a beautiful day for us. After wandering around and taking a few selfies with Mount Cook in the background, we hit the road again. 

Look we made it to Mount Cook!

It was time to make our way to Dunedin which was about a four and a half hour drive. Ambitious? yes! but we made it, we reached Dunedin by 6pm where we found a park, checked in and grabbed some of the best Chinese food ever!

The Catlins

After such a long day yesterday I was kind of dreading being in the car all day again today but today was our only option as the next day was meant to be rainy. So we left Dunedin ridiculously early and headed out to explore the deep south of the South Island, our first stop, Nugget Point. The weather could not have been better, the sun was blazing and it was actually quite warm.

Nugget Point on a beautiful sunny day!

From Nugget Point to Purakaunui Falls, it was about a 40minute drive and a quick walk through the bush and we were here…

Purakaunui Falls

It was beautiful and we were the only people here. We took our time snapping more selfies for our family at home and then we were off again.

Unfortunately the Cathedral Caves were closed that day, which was a little disappointing. Instead we turned off the road and followed a road down to the back of someone’s sheep farm where we found McLean Falls. We walked for about 30minutes one way to find these falls which ended up being a bit more than I expected.

McLean Falls a pleasant surprise

The last stop was Curio Bay, I was curious to check it out. It is a petrified forest which dates back to 180 million years ago. Silica preserved these trees, turning them into fossils. You can see evidence of this when you get down onto the beach. There are clearly tree stumps and logs around, which was really cool to see. No penguins though.

Curio Bay

Dunedin

The next day was rainy which gave us a day to explore Dunedin. This town reminded me of somewhere in Europe with it’s beautiful old buildings.

So many churches and old buildings in Dunedin

I really loved Dunedin and wished I had sent a bit more time there but I saw quite a bit while I was there. The next morning we left at 6am for our drive back to Christchurch. It was a beautiful, and fun week of exploring the deep south.

Dunedin Railway Station

Check out my north island adventures in Auckland, through Middle Earth, Rotorua and Wellington!

 

17 Comments

  • Jurga - Full Suitcase September 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Reading this post brought back so many memories from our trip to New Zealand years ago. We loved it, especially the South Island with Milford Sound and helicopter landing on the mountains near Mt Cook. Would love to go back one day!

    Reply
  • Abbi September 18, 2016 at 12:21 am

    It looks like you managed to pack so much into a tight schedule! The Catlins were an absolute highlight of my trip and are often overlooked by tourists so I’m glad you got to spend some time there. Great post! 🙂

    Reply
    • Stace September 18, 2016 at 6:45 am

      Yes missed out the glaciers and Abel Tasman though but maybe its just a reason to come back!

      Reply
  • Cristina September 18, 2016 at 2:51 am

    WOW, you are brave! I would never have the courage to jump. Well done to you :). I hope to get to New Zealand one day, it looks fab!
    Cristina

    Reply
  • Flo September 18, 2016 at 6:36 am

    This is the 2nd post on NZ I’ve read in 2 days and it’s making me SERIOUSLY want to visit this beautiful country!

    Reply
    • Stace September 18, 2016 at 6:46 am

      You have to! 😍😍 absolutely gorgeous!

      Reply
  • Leah November 11, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I keep seeing about New Zealand, it’s such a gorgeous country. It’s good to see what you did so I can use some of your recommendations for when I finally get to go! Love all of your pictures, the nature there seems stunning 🙂 and the bungy!!!

    Reply
  • Jen Morrow November 11, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Queenstown looks gorgeous! The bus ride, not so much. Did you consider a car hire for this journey? The views are beautiful, I think I would prefer to drive at my own pace.

    Reply
    • Stace November 11, 2016 at 11:18 am

      I did but I didn’t want to do it alone so I opted for the bus. There were lots of stop offs so it wasn’t too bad

      Reply
  • Lydia@LifeUntraveled November 11, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    New Zealand looks like a fairy tale land! It just looks so beautiful and diverse. As for the bungy/swing….not for me!

    Reply
  • Marissa November 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Ok, my feet literally started tingling when I looked at the photos of you bungee jumping! Eeek! Kudos to you for working up the courage to do it, I’m not sure if I could (and I love a good adventure activity). Your photos from the South Island are stunning, and I definitely have wanderlust to visit. Looks like an amazing time with your sister!

    Reply
  • Christina November 12, 2016 at 3:57 am

    New Zealand’s South Island is possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Reading this reminds of our road trip several years ago. We were stunned at the snowcapped mountains.

    Reply
  • neha November 12, 2016 at 3:59 am

    I totally agree with you where you say there are no words to describe the beauty of this place. Indeed it looks like surreal

    Reply
  • Deni November 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    New Zealand is so beautiful! I would love to try the night skiing in Queenstown- that sounds like a blast! Is there a specific mountain/resort where that happens? And Cuiro Bay would be amazing to see!! I wonder how it became petrified in the first place! (I will definitely be adding this to my list of places to go!)

    Reply
    • Stace November 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      I believe it was Mt Coronet ski area. It’s a really beautiful country

      Reply
  • Allison November 12, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I’m heading to New Zealand next week. It’s my second visit and this time we are doing the North Island. Queenstown is just beautiful! I’ll be sure and check out all your Nirth Island post (especially Auckland and Rotorua) during the week 😀

    Reply
  • Meg Cale December 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    OH LORD I’d pass out just standing on the steps of that tower let alone actually jumping off. The waterfalls look so gorgeous. Makes me really want to visit NZ

    Reply

Leave a Comment