If you’re a free spirited bohemian type who loves nature and the open road, New Zealand’s South Island is the ultimate getaway. Hike tropical rainforests, trek icy mountain glaciers, cruise through centuries old redwood forests, sample the sauv blancs of Marlborough, and free-camp beside empty black sand beaches… there is so much natural beauty on this incredible island, so rent a hippie van and explore!
Fly into Christchurch, rent a camper van for around $30NZ a day– that’s ~$20 US for transportation and a makeshift bed– what better way to explore freely and embrace the laid back Kiwi lifestyle? Head north along the east coast to Kaikoura, best known for whale watching, but the real highlight of this region is the Ohau Stream Walk, an incredible rainforest waterfall and secret hideaway for seals. Free-camp on the black sand beach 15 minutes north of town, wake with the sun and check out this beautiful spot – if you get there early, you might be lucky enough to spot seals flopping around in the waterfall pool.
Head north along the narrow coastal highway to Marlborough, a region world famous for its delicious Sauvignon Blanc, where boutique wineries offer free tastings. Rent a bicycle for the day and you can hit up ten different vineyards, each offering at least five samples… who can resist free (and delicious) wine?
As you make your way west, stop by Abel Tasman national park, a lush rainforest on the beach. Spend the night at The Barn, a hippie-run campsite with horses, chickens and rabbits chillin onsite, walking around the grounds. Amazing! And there’s even internet for those who can’t get by without a LIVE FAST update.
Only a few hours south of the rainforests are enormous glaciers… this island is incredible! Grab an ice-pick wielding guide in town and trek up the glacier at Franz Josef national park for an incredible, awe-inspiring hike through tunnels of blue tinted ice.
Cruise south to Queenstown, where you can get a pint of Speight’s, my fav NZ beer, meet friendly locals and hear cool kiwi expressions such as “Sweet As” (transation: “sounds good”).
A few hours southeast of Queenstown is the legendary Milford Sound, an awesome sight of misty craggly mountains descending into stone-gray waters. The narrow highway to and from Milford Sound runs beside waterfalls and though a forest of giant redwood trees.
For once in your life, hope for rain– it creates over 1000 waterfalls to gaze up at, not to mention the awesome view of the mountains amidst the clouds.
Oh, how I love New Zealand!