I’ve been wanting to share with everyone one of my more recent adventures in the South Island of beautiful New Zealand. The mountains are high, the roads are long, and with a full tank of gas and a sexy looking camper to boot, we were embarking on a road trip like no other, in our own backyard none-the-less. But wait. There’s another element to all of this. It’s winter! And when I mean winter I mean snow on the roads, mornings and often days in the negatives, and yea, as I said, a campervan. So we’re we crazy? Nope. We were ready for the long distance driving, sausage rolls, and snow that the South Island had to offer. Recently quitting our jobs, Tom (my boyfriend) and I decided that before we set off into the wide world, why not explore further what our own country has to offer? And dang New Zealand, you are fine.
If you want to do a South Island Road trip – winter or summer – I highly recommend getting a camper. NZ has an awesome freedom camping network of campsites and places you can park up for the night. Some of these places are absolutely stunning (such as the place above in the photo , Franz Josef Township on the West Coast). Especially if you are looking to do budget travel, or backpacking, there really is no limitations when you have your own vehicle and freedom to go wherever you want, as well as have the security of a place for your gear. I am probably going to do a post where I specifically review the Jucy camper we had – but in short IT WAS AWESOME AND TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Having a camper that is low-cost comes with numerous benefits. Firstly – it is both your accommodation and your transport. You can really make it your own for the duration of your trip! Plus, it meant we could stock up on essentials like cheese and beer and meat for the nights we were cooking and away from civilisation. Nothing like stopping to take in the amazing view and having some decent snacks and bevvies to keep you going.
So basically Tom & I did a circular route from Christchurch to the West Coast back up to Christchurch and then I flew out to go back and sit my final exams (YES you read that correctly).
Throughout our journey we saw so many amazing views that it is difficult to explain, pictures don’t even do it justice. I love that the South Island is so spacious and there is so much room to move – travelling by car is a must!!
Below is a map Ive made which tracks where we went in the camper! WOO
Tom then went diving while I was sitting my exams and proceeded to drive the camper around even more of the South Island and then down to Queenstown where I met him again for camper round 2! Having brought our snowboards down with us, we were excited as ever to still be on the road, as we had such an epic first week we were sure there was more in store for us!
Our first week saw us go to Akaroa , across Arthur’s Pass and all the way south on the West Coast , stopping at Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers , then continuing over the Haast Pass. We were so lucky to even make it this far – considering the road conditions and crazy weather patterns. Snow was upon us and roads looking to close – we made it over to Wanaka just in time! After spending some time in Wanaka we made our way north – initially hoping to go through Twizel and Lake Tekapo. Unfortunately – we will have to revisit those another time as literally metres of snow stopped us from going anywhere and we had to dig our way out using the handy snowboards ! (they make great snow shovels haha).
We diverted to Timaru and then headed inland on a “scenic route” which was absolutely stunning. Amazing views everywhere – fields covered in snow , mountains and blue sky surrounding the green all around – it was unreal and still is when I think about it. We stayed a night in the ski village of Methven (which I pronounced Meth Haven because I thought it was actually called that after some nighttime map reading skills)
Methven was one of my favourite spots on our trip – it had been a mission of a day and because of the epic snowfall there was very little chance of free camping due to the snow. We booked into a holiday park and dug our a patch for the car – we arrived so late the guy was lovely and showed us where everything was and was chilled about us checking out whenever the next day!! Was great to have hot showers and a lie in after a night of checking out the night life at the iconic Blue Pub. Making our way back to Christchurch ended our first week loop – no better way than to spend at an Irish pub with our friends!
But wait – theres more!!
Bring on camper journey round 2 – exams finished and ready to do life!
I flew into Queenstown and Tom was waiting in our awesome Jucy wagon. I was so glad to be back on the road and more adventures were in store! During the next five days we covered some serious milage, drank more beer, ate more cheese – and saw some of the most spectacular views the South Island had to offer!
As you can see – we drove a lot! Milford Sound was spectacular – we managed to arrive the only morning it hadn’t rained and did a cruise on the water for an hour or so. Driving through the iconic Homer Tunnel was pretty sweet – and seeing where all the tramping tracks like the Routeburn and Milford track are to scope out for my next summer trip. Along the road out to Milford sound , we were rewarded with some spectacular views and were lucky to do the whole thing without chains, seeing it was winter.
Back to Queenstown then we stopped off at the beautiful Arrowtown and met up with my cousins and family for a lovely evening and continued back to Wanaka. Meeting up with our mates from Auckland and finishing the week shredding some fresh pow had us never wanting to leave!
We arrived early after staying literally minutes away – freedom camping rules!! there was a site pretty much at the base of the mountain.
We got to enjoy 15cm of fresh pow that morning!
The views are spectacular when boarding. Everyone can jam their own style and lines and just do whatever they felt like. Personally, after weeks of being on the road and a hectic six months I was pooped! But being able to chill out and snowboard in such a wonderful place was the icing on the cake to our winter roadie.
And lets not forget the Pow Pow Pow !
We finished off our amazing adventure in the South Island with a morning in Queenstown before we flew out. During our last month both Tom & I agreed that although the rest of the world is waiting to be explored, New Zealand is truly a beautiful place and one we are lucky to call home. I highly recommend to travellers and locals and everyone and everyone – go to the South Island and see what I’m talking about!
Shout out to my partner in crime Tom for the wicked photos you see throughout my blog. We had an awesome roadie and would do it again in a heartbeat!
Thanks for reading and catch you soon!
Great story Courtz and thoroughly enjoyable read. Be a good blueprint for budding travellers… Dad.
Amazing! I love the South Island so much! Sucks you didnt get to visit Dunedin and its chocolate factory ;P (Just secretly it’s kinda lame but still…CHOCOLATE!!) Maybe next time 😀 xx
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