Five days if you are in a rush, at least a week would be better!
Easy driving for pretty much the whole route. You may find some challenging roads around Akaroa especially if you drive up to the top of the hills on Banks Peninsula. Just take them slow, and if you don’t have a 4-wheel-drive don’t go past the signs that say “4WD only”… Or you will end up with a broken fuel injector, like us…
Mt Cook – Hooker Valley Hike
- The tallest mountain of New Zealand. The Hooker Valley hike is an easy hike for people of all levels taking 1.5-3 hours return.
- A small french settlement just out of Christchurch. Take a short walk to Newton’s Falls and have a drive around the top of the Bank’s Peninsula for stunning views of the harbour!
Lake Tekapo & Lake Pukaki
- It’s not only the lake here that is stunning, but the night sky is not one to be missed. This area is part of the the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve and is effectively free of light pollution making for an amazing view of the starry skies.
- Queenstown and Wanaka have some of the best skiing in New Zealand. Treble Cone, Cardrona, The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the biggest. While Treble Cone is not the best for a true beginner for anyone intermediate level and above its perfect! If you are just starting out on the snow Cardrona is probably a better field for you (with many advanced slopes too!).
Roy’s Peak Wanaka
- A great day hike! It is a 1.2km climb over 8km with stunning views over Wanaka at the top. The trails are not difficult walking and their are great views for the whole hike so suitable for most fitness levels. Check it out here!
Day 1: Kaikoura
Starting the break off with a much needed hike! With fitness levels at a minimum we headed up Mt Fyff, tramping bags on our backs, to stay at the DOC hut at the top for the night. I have to be honest, this hike is very boring for a huge chunk of it. You walk on an old farm road for the majority of the way surrounded by unspectacular bush, and our unfit bodies definitely struggled to find the motivation to push on. That being said once we finally got to the hut there was a beautiful view of Kaikoura and the surrounding mountains. It was the destination that made it, not the journey.
I chopped the firewood while Elric went on a photo mission before we lost the light. Then we could sit together with a cider an watch the sun set behind the mountains.
It seemed like it would only be the two of us, but then hiking through the darkness came a father and his daughter to join us in the hut for the night. They were great people but unfortunately didn’t have a skill for fire building, and managed to put out the fire we had made not once but 3 times…
After a quick game of cards we headed to bed for a pretty average nights sleep. The hut was just a little short of the summit so we planned an early morning to get to the summit for sunrise.
Day 2: Kaikoura → Akaroa
Due to an average night sleep of cold and snoring we didn’t quite make it for sunrise, however it was a beautiful clear day so that didn’t matter! This part of the hike was a lot more beautiful, and the snowy topped mountain combined with blue skies and amazing views of Kaikoura made for a stunning hike.
At the top I had a small surprise for Elric. As we weren’t in the same country for his actual birthday we hadn’t been able to celebrate together, so today on his half-birthday I gave him some cake/brownie I had made secretly the day before. After hiking down we would head off to Akaroa for a bit of French culture and a nice French meal, and later in the week I’d take him skiing.
Akaroa is a little French settlement just out if Christchurch. As it wasn’t high season when we were there it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The harbour is gorgeous, and the air silent. A great spot for relaxing. After an amazing dinner at Ma Maison we headed to the local bar to watch the rugby.
You are able to park self contained vehicles pretty much anywhere outside of the main center, so we were able to walk back to the car parked up directly by the harbour and fall asleep to the sound of the water.
Day 3: Akaroa → Lake Pukaki
Today we did a bit of exploring around the top of banks peninsula. Up there was gorgeous farm land and views of the small town below. Elric decided we should challenge the 4WD tracks in our very un-4WD sheep. Not the best idea as tomorrow we would find out the roads weren’t too nice to us…
Now we were off again, this time en route to Mt Cook! Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki were stunning as always and we pulled up at Lake Pukaki free camp for the night. An amazing spot with magnificent views of the lake and mountains, and free! NZ sure has some great free spots for self contained vehicles!
Day 4: Lake Pukaki → Mount Cook → Twizel
Time to head off to Mt Cook! The tallest mountain in NZ. Arriving in the parking lot we noticed a distinct smell of petrol and on further inspection a small dripping of something under the car. We decided to head out on a quick hike before getting the car checked out at a mechanic in Twizel.
The Hooker Valley Hike was a great short walk/jog through the mountains leading to Mt Cook. We ran into a guy that was about to do some free climbing in the area, pretty intense in the conditions giving we had just seen an avalanche a few minutes before. But I’d love to take a bit more time next time hiking up to one of the huts in the Mountains.
So on arriving in Twizel to the mechanics it seemed the rough Akaroa roads had led to a broken fuel injector. With Sheepie out of action we checked into a cabin at the Twizel Holiday Park. We had a couple of days to wait for parts so it was time to plan the next move…
Day 5: Twizel → Wanaka
Hitchhiking. The only logical answer in this situation. Not wanting to miss any travel time we made a sign and headed to the highway. It wasn’t long before we were picked up by 3 girls in a campervan on the way to Wanaka. On arrival we dropped our bags at the Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park and headed to the lake.
I love Wanaka, it’s a great town, not as touristy as Queenstown but with all the beauty. After a bit of wandering and some gelato we booked our skiing for the morning! Treble Cone here we come!
Day 6: Wanaka
A full day of skiing! Average weather meant not all of the slopes were open, but it was still an amazing day of skiing with great views!
Day 7: Wanaka
Finally time to pick up Sheepie! Elric hitchhiked back because we thought it was easier to have one person taken rather than 2. Unfortunately this was a bit of a mission…
First he tried to catch a bus to guarantee getting to Twizel early. But the bus didn’t show. Then he waited with a Californian girl also trying to hitchhike to Mt Cook. They waited for 4 hours with no-one stopping… We needed to pick up sheepie today because it was a Friday, the mechanic was closed for the weekend and I needed to be back for class on Monday morning… I started to look into the cost of renting a car for the day for the 3 of us, but just as I started to do this they were picked up by a guy in an electric car. Unfortunately this electric car ran out of battery 30min drive out of Twizel… and it needed a night to recharge… so it was back to hitchhiking, back to waiting, for another hour… finally an old man relocating a campervan picked them up and took them the remainder of the way, just in time before the mechanic closed. Elric came back with the van and we were together again. Elric, me and the new and improved sheepie.
Day 8: Wanaka → Queenstown
We stopped in Arrowtown for a French breakfast and a quick wander around before heading home… Via Queenstown for a Ferg Burger, of course.
The app you need: To find free (or cheap) camping spots download CamperMate – a great app to find everything from camping spots, to showers, to wifi hotspots and information centers! (or go to http://www.campermate.co.nz)
Not to forget: Rain jacket, sun screen
One thought on “Sea to Sky: New Zealand – Mid/East South Island”
New Zealand seems To be really fantastic country.