Well hubby and I have been back two weeks from our Camper holiday in the South Island and we both agree we don't know how anybody can tear themselves away from the place.
We were spoilt for choice with scenery - amazing countryside, beautiful lakes, snow capped mountains & after two weeks we were definitely on sensory overload, photos just don't do it justice!
The weather according to the locals was unusually cold for Spring 15th October - 28th Oct, following a great winter with lots of sun filled days.
It started to rain in Hokitika and didn't stop until we reached glorious Wanaka, that threw a few spanners in the works but we just adjusted our itinerary and still enjoyed our time.
When we reached Franz Josef it was raining and flights were grounded. After visiting the I-site we learned that the weather ahead was pretty much the same for the next few days, so unlikely to get a flight landing on glacier.
We did do the walk to Franz Josef from the carpark but it was pretty poor visibility, lots of low clouds, fog and still raining, not the glacial experience I was after, so we decided to go on to Wanaka and check the weather from there & double back if/when the weather improved.
Wanaka was sunny and we loved the place at first sight, hubby even got a real estate book to check out the house prices lol. We decided to do a flight from Wanaka airport a couple of days later with Southern Alps Air – that flew over Mt Cook, Tasman, Franz and Fox glaciers, money well spent and at least we got to see the glaciers from the air but no landing, save something for next time;)
Hubby took a flight in a Pitts Plane, if adrenaline activities are your thing then check out Ivan Krippner's Extreme Trial Flight (Southern Lakes “Learn to Fly”) from Wanaka airport. Ivan was recommended by the lady at Wanaka I-site because hubby wanted to do the Silver Demon flight but found it was not running any longer.
Ivan is New Zealands very own Evel Knievel (2 x aerobatic champion) hubby performed the stunts which Ivan taught him and bought the DVD to prove it , with Ivan hamming it up in the background pretending to take a nap. Hubby loved every minute of it and was sick as a dog after landing haha, anyway if you like that sort of thing hubby highly recommends.
We had more bad luck in Queenstown with a rockslide on the Milford Road, we were collected at 6.25am for our Milford cruise and we were back at the holiday park by 7.30am, due to the road closure – luckily we got a refund from Mitre Peak cruises.
We could not afford another flight so we decided to go on to Dunedin. A couple of days later we checked the weather and the road had re-opened so we drove 7 + hours to get back, (not recommended;)!
We booked by phone with Mitre Peak cruises, even got a discount due to the cancellation of the first trip which was very nice of them. The cruise was great and I loved the road journey from Te Anau to Milford, stunning scenery with a fabulous informative bus driver, all in all a good company with smaller boats and very comfortable experience. Milford was definitely a highlight as we saw penguins, seals and dolphins and the sun was shining from the moment we arrived, on the way home we even had snow, so a unique experience for us.
We hired a Star ST (shower toilet) from Wendrekreissen – the price was affordable but gee you better be good friends as it was tiny! Only one can stand up at a time, it took a few days to work out a way to get things done, on the plus side we slept like logs.
We agreed that the shower was not needed as 99% of the holiday parks we visited had heated ablutions blocks, good to have the porta potty at night though.
The multi media centre provided by Wendekreissin was useless for TV even in Christchurch. We only got a clear picture in Dunedin, the rest of the time we got one station with a shocking picture, so good for DVD's only, fortunately all the holiday parks have a few DVD's which they will loan for free.
The van was a Mazda Hitop & in good working order but top speed was 80 kph and it did not handle too well in the wind but other than that was fine.
On our last day part of the plastic lever that you use to open the rear door broke off in hubby’s hand and we were slugged $407 NZD for that (I only had to pay the excess of $250 ) but as we only opened the rear door three times, thought this was more wear n tear than negligence, claimed on our travel insurance back home, so no biggie. Apart from that I would use them again but def go with a bigger camper.
We mainly stayed in Top 10 and Kiwi parks, the cheapest was $32 per night for a powered site and the dearest $49 in Queenstown. They were all in good locations, well run with mostly friendly staff, clean and had good facilities – our favourite was Akaroa for the stunning view and Geraldine for the most hospitable staff and general layout of the park.
Our least favourite was in Haast – Aspiring Motel and motorhome Lodge – no atmosphere, felt like a car park.
Some of my favourites places were Arrowtown, Cromwell, Wanaka, Oamaru, Akaroa, Te Anau and Queenstown.
My favourite drives, gosh hard to name just a few but off the top of my head - Te Anau to Milford is definitely stunning, Christchurch to Arthur’s pass, Wanaka to Queenstown over Cardrona Pass and the drive into Akaroa.
Petrol was quite expensive, the cheapest for unleaded was $2.16 litre and dearest was on the west Coast $2.40, average was about $2.20. We used the discount vouchers on our 4-Square supermarket shopping dockets for the Z fuel service stations.
Listen to the experts, the distances are not great but the roads really require concentration, most days we capped it at a 3 hour drive except for the mad dash from Dunedin to Queenstown, exhausting.
Kiwi's were mostly friendly and hospitable everywhere we went, they love to chat & have a laugh
Be flexible as the weather in October can throw you a few curve balls.
Two weeks is not enough time to do the South Island justice, have to go back, what a shame;)
Christchurch was a very humbling experience, the scale of the damage caused was far greater than I had expected but good to see that the city goes on and the container city was fabulous.
I- sites were very helpful, loads of free maps and useful information.
Pies are delicious in NZ, hubby had the best Butter Chicken one at Darfield Bakery and a Satay chicken one in the little pie shop in Te Anau.
I loved picking up fresh produce at little farm stalls enroute , yummy asparagus, apples etc
I love Keas, I know they are cheeky and destroy stuff but gosh they are cute and fun to watch.
We will be back as soon as we can afford it, hubby is an adrelaline junkie.