Sweet Escape To The South Island

Before travelling to South America, Jenna decided to explore her own backyard – New Zealand and the South Island.

While getting ready to embark on a South American odyssey, I suddenly realised I had no real concept of what I was leaving behind. So I decided to take a trip to New Zealand’s South Island as a practise run for future travels.

I took my new backpack, filled with the bare essentials. I also persuaded my boyfriend, Chris, to come so we could test our travel compatibility. It is often said that travel can make or break a relationship.

Thankfully, we came through relatively unscathed and have plans to travel together in the future. Plus we got to know each other’s travel personalities – I am the planner and organiser, he is the laidback one who comes up with workable solutions when things don’t go as planned.

Christchurch was the first stop in our travels and after flying into the domestic airport early on a weekday morning we were picked up by our rental car provider at the airport.

Being Kiwis and comfortable with New Zealand roads, we decided to drive as it allowed us more flexibility to do our own thing. The next day we drove to Kaikoura.

Stepping on to the beach I was amazed at the exquisite beauty of my surroundings; the breath-taking snow-capped mountains to the left and an expanse of grey, pebbled beach to the right. When we had finished taking in the scenery, we headed down the right end of the beach to the seal colony where we tiptoed around the rock-flats in search of seals.

We travelled onto Abel Tasman National Park and made a pit stop at Nelson where the hostel reception helped us book our activities. Opting for a ‘cruise and cuisine’ option, we set off to Kaiteriteri early the next morning to catch the water taxi that would take us through the park, showing us sights like Split Apple Rock and the Tonga Island seal colony along the way.

After being dropped off at Tonga Beach we enjoyed our picnic lunch on the golden sands in glorious sunshine, before catching the boat back.

The next day we awoke to fine misty drizzle – perfect weather for driving down the West Coast. We had long day’s driving ahead of us so we tag-teamed the driving responsibilities. The Punakaiki Rocks proved to be a great rest-stop, we enjoyed wandering through the 20 minute rock walk and admiring the unique formations. 

Next stop was the Monteith’s Brewery in Greymouth for a tour and beer tasting, where the experience of pulling my own pint was the highlight.

The small town of Franz Joseph was our destination for the day and after a long journey we were grateful to unwind in YHA’s five star hostel and enjoy the complementary sauna.

The next morning we went to explore the celebrated Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers. Both glaciers are surrounded by a national park so we embarked upon a free, ‘do-it-yourself’ tour, viewing the glaciers from the platforms along the walking tracks.

Our final stop before returning to Christchurch was tourist mecca, Queenstown. We spent three days experiencing everything it has to offer from adrenaline pumping to relaxing leisure activities.

With the trip all but over I reflected on the sights I’d seen and the experiences I’d had. I had to admit that a test trip had been exactly what I needed before embarking on my international travel. No matter how amazing the sights and the cultures, I know now that there is no place like home.