What Not to Miss in South New Zealand

One of THE moments and memories that I fondly keep remembering and reminiscing about in life is definitely those 21 days beginning from the day I finally board the flight with my backpack to take in all of the beauty that South New Zealand has to offer. The day I decided to finally take the step.

As any other traveler would do, with the help of the truly erudite Google, I did my months of preparation learning & readying myself for what the magnificent ‘mysterious’ new place has to offer me. South NZ, on the other hand, had its own plan to humble me by simply saying ‘not a million Google could prepare and ready you’ and in what grand way it did! These 21 days made me eventually learn that there is only so much your learning and preparation can do. What is important is being there. Being present and letting Mother Nature hold your hand.

What I got in return is 21 magical days that will never leave me for the rest of my live.

I really hope you could be there and create your own life-time of magic & I hope by me sharing this, I can be a little part of that magic 🙂 These are the magical moments that unfolded and humbled me forever

Magic #1 – Be a ‘prisoner’ at the Jailhouse Accommodation

Definitely one of a kind life-time experience. I mean where else could you stay in a ‘jailhouse’ and ‘get out’ whenever you want & tell the tale? It is truly a wonderful experience to add in your list. A well maintained prison turned into hostel, that is not only nearby to the Christchurch airport, but also reasonably priced (though slightly higher than normal backpackers hostels around South NZ – but trust me, its worth every penny) and have great service & hospitality to offer. It also boasts having won numerous awards, with the biggest recognition, I would say, from Lonely Planet.

It was my first hostel having just landed in CHC. I stayed for two days & was simply blown away with the whole experience. You will leave humbled & thankful of everything you have in life.

Here are some of my pics of this fab accommodation:

For more details, check out their cool webpage

Magic #2 – Whale Watching at Kaikoura 

If you ask me what’s your 10 most memorable moments in life, this would be one of it! It has to be. To be there at the moment and watch the Whales in its full glory at its home, just hit me so hard and made me realise how small I am in the scale of things. It was overwhelming, but in a positive good way! I was just awestruck and in my mind, I was silently praising God – God is truly a master creator!

To experience this, just get to Kaikoura & get to the Whale Watch Kaikoura operator. They not only bring you out there to watch the Whales but educate you on everything you need to know about these beautiful gentle giants. Just get there at the right time as there are possibilities where they are unable to locate any Whales. If this happens, they will return a certain percentage of your money – fair enough! I was there in early September & was lucky enough to see 3 different Whales a total of 4 times! Indeed lucky 🙂 The tickets are around NZ$145 for adults and NZ$60 for kids. If you are luckier, you could also see Dolphins, Fur Seals & Albatross. Besides the special built vessels, you could also opt for the more expensive aircraft ride or the helicopter ride.

link to the webpage of the operator

Some of my pics of this wonderful magical moment:

Magic #3 – Watch sunset with Alpine mountains & sea at the background

I don’t need to say much – Just look at the pictures. It will talk to you.

Just take a stroll from Adelphi Hotel & within minutes you will be here. Don’t miss the sunset & the chilling breeze. Truly a paradise in a quiet little town!

Don’t miss to do this 🙂

Magic #4 – Go ‘aww’ watching pup Seals at Ohau Waterfall Walk

While still in Kaikoura, don’t miss the chance of visiting the Ohau Waterfall Walk to see the adorable pup Seals playing in its natural habitat. Its just a 5 minutes walk on the trail to the waterfall from the main road. A pleasant walk & what awaits will melt you. Adorable lil pups playing around and coming close out of its curiosity. I must share this though; they are not there all year round. I myself was a little disappointed as I was eager to meet the lil fellas (after having watched many cute videos in YouTube). I did not see any pups on the day I was there BUT don’t be disheartened, there is always plan B 🙂 Just come out of the trail and cross the road & you will find yourself at the Ohau Point Seal Colony. You wont really find any pups here but plenty of Seals lies down there & ‘lazy’ around. They are not aggressive, so you can approach them easily but never go too near.

Here are some of my pics from both the points :


Magic #5 – Take a stroll at the Picton War Memorial Park ‘set’ against the backdrop of a peaceful harbor

Want a moment of quiet & peace? Want to sit and enjoy turning the pages of your favorite novel? This is the right place for you! Quiet, peaceful and serene. Sound of the wave crashing, the Seagulls coming close to you hoping to get fed, the beautiful ducks lazying around & gorgeous yachts, all against the blue blue sky – is simply bliss! Just bliss!

Some of my pics from this lovely little paradise:

Magic #6 – Hitch a ride or hike up to the Queen Charlotte Drive & view Picton town from high up

This is a point not to be missed. The whole of Picton town can be viewed from high up this beautiful point. Its not an easy hike up though. Since I was running out of time, I just hitch-hiked. A kind man drove me all the way up & dropped me at this stunning place.

This is what awaits you:


Magic #7 – Splurge in the signature Cray Fish & Kaikoura’s famous Fish & Chips generous meal

Backpackers do tend to save their pennies so that traveling days can be extended but once in a while, when you know there is a famous signature dish ready for you to dive in, you do just that!

A list of some famous dining spots for you to go all foodie can be found in this page

Here is one of the fish & chip that I savored:


Magic #8 – Walk or Bike the Queen Charlotte Walkway – right in the heart of Marlborough Sound (OR if you are not up to that, just a pleasant walk around Picton Town 🙂 )

This is one of the pleasant walk that you can make in South NZ. I did not have the time to complete the walk but this is one of the longest I did – even before entering the walkway, I walked the whole of Picton town, I think 🙂

Here are some pictures I snapped along the walk:

Magic #9 – At least one vineyard visit, for sure!

A visit to South NZ will not be complete without making a vineyard tour. It has plenty to offer and I made a few stops. I did not spend any additional money for this, so I didn’t take any proper vineyard tour. If you have not been to any before, South NZ has many to offer. Why not try?

Here are some pics I snapped from my stops:

Magic #10 – Go on a Catamaran ride in the Tasman Bay to ‘meet’ Adele, Tonga & Fisherman 

This is another favorite magical moment of mine. The moments created during the catamaran ride along the Abel Tasman coast is simply unforgettable. The friendly dolphins swimming along with us, the flock of birds flying past above you & the windy weather with the Sun shining down on you, are just some of the things that makes you forget everything and be one with Mother Nature. Along the way, you get a few stops & do some really cool stuff – like posing on the famous Split Apple Rock. For me, the ultimate magical moment that I will cherish forever is the moment two beautiful dolphins decided to swim beside us.

Some pics for you:

Magic #11 – Walk the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Another walk not to be missed for nature lover.

Have a look at the pics:

Magic #12 – Pack you bag to the Cake 🙂 – Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes

Just about 20 minutes walk from the main road of Punakaiki, you will be struck in awe to see what awaits.

Click to read more about the Pancake Rocks

Magic #13 – Hide away & retreat in Te Nikau Retreat, Punakaiki

Stay a night at the middle of the rainforest in the midst of the Nikau Palms. This was surely one of the relaxing retreat I had in my entire stay in NZ. A great place to be one with the nature. Just the right place to chill and rest after the exploration of the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & the Beach Cove.

Magic #14 – Carve a Cow bone with all your heart

How often can you say I’ve carved a cow bone? Truly a unique experience. To be able to pick your own Maori design and start the carving process from scratch is really something! Magical & mystical at the same time! I did mine in Skeleton Crew Carving Studio:

Magic #15 – Do the glorious Glacier hiking @ the Franz Josef Glaciers

This would be one of the most expensive tick off the bucket list that I made but what memories it gave me! A one of a kind experience which brought so many firsts for me; my first helicopter ride, my first snow encounter, my first step on top of a mountain & my first ever glacier hike. The ride up is out of this world. Never have I ever experienced a thrill like that. Being able to see it all from the top is just magnificent. Once up, give it all – do the hike & do the slide as well 🙂 This moment was made extra special for me as a fellow hiker proposed to his girlfriend & what a moment it was.

The moments:

Magic #16 – Sky Dive across Franz Josef Glacier

Sky diving could be in many traveler’s bucket list. Imagine doing it across such a beautiful backdrop? There are plenty of popular sport across NZ where you can skydive, the most popular one being in Queenstown, but I chose to do mine in Franz Josef. It did burn a big hole in my pocket but every single second of this thrilling experience makes it worth it all. This remains one of the most difficult one for me to do but I made it & I think if given the chance, I will do it again. Its one experience that you can re-live again and again.

Here are some of my pics:


Magic #17 –Reflect at the Lake Mattheson 

Walking the Lake Mattheson track for about 40 minutes is worth every second for what waits you at the end is too mesmerizing to be missed. Stand still at the dock & watch what Mother Nature has to offer you. The mirror reflection of Mount Cook & Mount Tasman is beyond anything you could imagine. Just be sure to pick the right day & time to do this as the perfect reflection very much depends on how the weather is for the day.

Check it out here

Get awestruck-ed:

Magic #18 – Get lost in the Maze & get puzzled in Wanaka’s Wonderful World of Weirdness

This will just bring out the kid in you. Do feel challenged to complete the Great Maze. I left the place with wonder & amazement and a little silliness 🙂

Puzzled much?:

Magic #19 – ‘Jump’ from that bridge! Bungee jump from the Kawarau Bridge

Blue river? You gotta be kidding me!! Seriously, even the river is blue. This alone blew my mind away. Get your adrenaline rushing while soaking in all the stunning beauty around by doing your bungee jump off the Kawarau Bridge here.  I, somehow, did not even have the thought of bungee-ing here but was glad to see my friends having all the fun.

Some pics to help you decide, perhaps?:

Magic #20 – Drive along Lake Hawea

The whole drive will just take your breathe away as the view unfolds in totality. You will be dumbfounded.

Let the pictures convince you:

Magic #21 – Do the Doubtful; Cruise the Doubtful Sound & take a ‘power’ trip to the Manapouri Power Station

This is another not to be missed adventure. One of the most beautiful Sounds in the world. It’s always overshadowed by the more popular Milford Sound but you get an additional one of its kind experience on your way to Doubtful, so its kinda 2 in 1 deal for you.  A trip to the Lake Manapouri and a short coach trip underground to the spiral tunnel will bring you to the Manapouri Power Station. Since its open for public, you can literally walk inside the middle of the earth to experience the whole underground hydroelectric process.

Here are my shots of both these amazing ‘deals’:


Magic #22 – Walk the Mirror Lake Walks

Lovely reflective view of Earl Mountains waits within minutes of walk.

To read more click  here

See for yourself:

Magic #23 – Make your way to Milford Sound

Undoubtedly one of the most popular Sound in the world. The blue water & the waters falling from the mountains will make you wonderstrucked and watch in awe. Just a reminder, it is vital that you choose a good weather day to start your cruise as the true beauty of the Sound is only revealed during clear days.

Read more here

Some of my pics:

Magic #24 – Make your way to Waipapa Point Lighthouse, Invercargill, Southland

The view & panorama is to die for! Such beauty all in one place. You will also encounter Sea Lions around the beach here. Just remember not to go too close to them.

Some of my shots:

Magic #25 – Visit Porpoise Bay

A beautiful bay worth your day.

Some snaps for your eyes:

Magic #26 – Watch a Haka Maori Performance

An unique performance that should be experienced by all. The culture, the music & their love will warm you to the core and help you embrace the culture pleasingly. I am lucky to have been given an opportunity to try some of the dance & ritual myself & what an experience it was!

Here are the shots I managed to get:

Magic #27 – Queenstown, Queenstown, Queenstown

The town that I love the most in SNZ. A beautiful town blessed by God I must say. Such beauty & tranquility. I spent about 5 days in this paradise. There are so many things you can do here; take the Skyline gondola up to have a 360degree view of the town. Once up, you can do the fun luge ride & have a good meal at their restaurant. There’s a great Kiwi observatory place in Qtown called the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Lots of adrenaline rush activities as well – bungee jumping, ATV rides, rafting, kayaking & the likes. Also, don’t miss a stroll around the stunning Lake Wanaka. I even got my Maori design tattoo here – some great studios along the town.  Do not miss the Fergburger here. Long queue but worth the wait. Here is a site where you can learn all the great things to do while in Queenstown

Magic #28 – Respect the Magnificent Mt. Cook

Trip to South NZ wont be complete without setting your foot at the Aoraki Mt.Cook Village. Truly an amazing place filled with achievement & sublime stories that will not fail to inspire you. Again the walk to the point where you can view the magnificent Mt.Cook & its reflection is very much dependent on the weather. Don’t miss the nearby walk to the Hooker Valley. Stunning view within minutes of walking up.

Hooker Valley shot:

Magic #29 – Two lakes not to be missed: Lake Tekapo & Lake Pukaki 

I must admit that one of the early reasons why I fell in love with NZ are some gorgeous shots I’ve seen of Lake Tekapo with the lovely Lupins. However, Lupins do not bloom all year round. The time that I went was, unfortunately, not the time Lupins come alive. I was a little disappointed but the lake itself is a treat to the eyes. The Good Shepherd Church here is like a bonus 🙂 To sit inside this historical beautiful church & pray will humble & make you speechless. God is indeed the ultimate artist. Lake Pukaki is something out of this world. I mean, just look at all the blue here. I love the color blue & just imagine my excitement when I was there.

Magic #30 – Walk around Christchurch 

Spend your last few days in Christchurch before your flight back. The city is still recovering from the 2011 earthquake but the spirit of how the city is rebuilding & how its people have picked themselves up is just remarkable. I was stunned by its beauty & a stroll in the city keeps bringing you to splendid sceneries & makes one to almost forget that they are in the middle of a city! Beautiful Avon River running in the middle of the city, the wonderful museum and the iconic James Cook statue in Victoria Square are just some spots not to be missed.

Some of my shots around CHC:

Other notable mentions I must make here is the trip to see the Tuatara – also known as the ‘living fossil’, while in Invercargill. I saw two (really old 🙂 ) Tuataras in the Southland Museum & Art Gallery.

If you want a challenge & go back to basics, stay a night at the Gunns’ Camp. Just be prepared and bring the right tools, like flashlight, if you plan to move about at the camp area after 10pm.

These 21 days made my life richer without a doubt. It will always remain the most memorable trip of my life; my first solo backpacking trip & first one outside Asia. North New Zealand is now ‘calling’ me & I will surely ‘answer the calls’ soon, hopefully!

Do what you love, do lots of it & do it right. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you 🙂