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Category Archives:Australia/NZ/Oceania

7 Spectacular Drives on New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand is made for road trips. In fact, the South Island, in particular, is made for road trips because there is one major highway that loops the entire island. With nature at the core of the attractions of the Island, hiring a campervan is an absolute must in my opinion. I hired a 2 berth with my wife in May, and even though things got pretty chilly, I would not have done it any other way.

If you’re not sure what size campervan is right for you, check out this handy guide Campanda have put together.

We just loved the fact that when we’d had enough driving we could wait for a sign to the nearest campground and pull off. Or if we were rolling into town, we just found the closest RV park so we could use the facilities and recharge the batteries; both figuratively and literally.

Being a relatively small island with mountains in the middle surrounded by the coast (obviously), the New Zealand South Island boasts some pretty spectacular roads. I rarely saw more than single lanes, since much of the roadway snaked around mountains. It was a great novelty and very pretty, but I can imagine that would get pretty tiresome if you lived there.

As we drove, there was a constant theme all over the island. I kept thinking to myself that “this town was pretty unremarkable, but the drive in between points A and B was spectacular”. Not every town, obviously, but it happened frequently.

Here are 7 of my favourite driving days I had in my 3 weeks there.

Picton to Nelson

The road from Picton to Neilson is absolutely astonishing. It winds its way up through the mountains along the north coast and gives increasingly beautiful views of the Marlborough Sounds. For those with limited time or money, driving west from Picton along Queen Charlotte Drive in a campervan is an excellent introduction experience to the sounds.

There are walking tracks and various aquatic tours through the sounds but they were all expensive and time-consuming. We were keen to keep moving and having now driven this road I do not feel like I missed out seeing the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds.

Marlborough Sounds along Queen Charlotte Road between Picton and Nelson
Along the Queen Charlotte Road

Blenheim to Renwick

Blenheim and Renwick are both fairly unremarkable towns, but what lies in between is around 45 wineries, all enjoying the soil and sun that prime for growing sauvignon blanc grapes. If you’ve ever heard of the Marlborough sauvignon blanc, this is where it is from. As you approach the region you begin to see a small vineyard here and a slightly bigger one there. But when the bright yellow bushes (during autumn) flank your van on both sides, you know it’s time to pull over and start wine tasting.

Vineyards through Marlborough wine country

 

Te Anau to Milford Sound

The drive to Milford is touted to be one of world standards. In fact, the drive itself is World Heritage Listed. To be honest, it doesn’t start to get really good until about 20 minutes before the Homer tunnel. The first hour it mostly farmland and rolling hills, and granted, this is very pretty. But you don’t get world heritage listed for having rolling farmland.

But as the hills fade away in your rear view mirror they are slowly replaced by mountains that shoot up right beside the road. And with mountains come rivers. Keep an eye out for good stopping locations by the river, which is filled with boulders large and small. This makes for very interesting white water flow patterns down the stream. Great to look at through a moving window but I would have loved to find a good spot for a tripod and long shutter the shit out of that bad boy.

Mountains along the Milford Road near the Homer Tunnel
Mountains along the Milford Road near the Homer Tunnel

Motueka to Golden Bay

The road out from Motueka was stunning, but nothing prepared us for the view and the ride that awaited us up Takaka Hill. To get out to Golden Bay you must cross this hill and at 792 metres above sea level is no easy feat. The road winds its way uphill steeply and sharply, but the lookouts that you can stop at on the way up are breathtaking and make it all worth it.

The way down the other side is much the same, but with a different view and despite the adventure, you are glad that after 25 kilometres of winding your way up and down the mountain that the road is straight again.

Comically, the speed limit up and down the hill is 100 km/h. That speed is ludicrous because I don’t think we topped 35km/h the entire length.

Highway 60 over Takaka Hill New Zealand
Highway 60 over Takaka Hill

Westport to Punakaiki

The drive south from Westport is spectacular and if possible, make sure you do this drive in the day time. Highway 6 continues on right by the beaches. For the majority of the route you will have ocean and beaches to your west and extreme mountains on your East, so convince your travel partner to drive this leg and keep that camera handy.

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki New Zealand South Island
Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Haast Pass

The Haast Pass is another incredible drive. The road drives through a valley and essentially follows the Path of the Haast River. So you have enormous mountains on either side of you and the deeper you get into the pass, the bigger, more snow capped, and more beautiful these mountains get. To do anything but stare out the window in awe would be a sin.

Mountains and field by the side of the road in New Zealand South Island
Haast Pass. Long shutter photo, taken out our van door while stopped in traffic.

Makaroa to Lake Hawea

This route is actually a direct continuation of the Haast Pass on Highway 6. But it was so different and so beautiful it 100% deserved its own section.

As we came out the other side of Haast Past we began to follow Boulder Creek. Highway 6 took the form of a riverside drive. The bright blue ‘creek’ in the foreground and the mountains of the Southern Alps in the background made for a very interesting drive. I was actually amazed at how blue the river was. Obviously more glacier water.

After finally turning away from Boulder Creek, we crested a hill and were again awestruck by a Lake Hawea. I am already beginning to see why they call this the Lake District. Lake Hawea was an instant camera grabber and thankfully some smart person had the foresight to put in a couple of lookouts along the drive because there would be a lot of accidents from people either gawking at the lake or trying to be a photographer and driver at the same time. In fact, back near Makaroa, I did see a sign that read ‘high level of accidents next 20km’. Well yep, that would seem about right.

Lake Hawea on the way south to Wanaka New Zealand

New Zealand is an incredible country with natural beauty in all forms literally around every corner. This list could easily be doubled and the quality would remain because the landscapes on which most every road is built are just stunning.

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Burgers and Beer: My Solo Weekend in Sydney

Back in May I took off work a little early and jumped on a train to Sydney with one goal: eat many burgers and drink as many different boutique beers as possible. The draw card was the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular (GABS), Australia’s biggest beer festival (probably), at which I would volunteer and then attend. I then built a weekend around this. Continue Reading

My 16 Favourite Things to Do on New Zealand’s South Island

They call it New Zealand. Aotearoa. The Land of the Long White Cloud. Whatever you want to call it, I just see raw, untamed natural beauty. With a few quiet cities thrown in for good measure, it’s an outdoor loving, adventure seeking, road tripper’s dream. Kynie and I rented a campervan and drove around the New Zealand South Island and these were some of the highlights from that 3 week road trip. Continue Reading

Sydney Railway Square YHA Review

Wherever you stay in Sydney it’s important to be as close to transport as possible because let’s face it, it’s not the most efficient city for getting around. Because of this, choosing to stay “in the CBD” still casts a wide net in potential sleeping points and surprisingly different experiences. The Circular Quay end feels the bustle of being right next to Sydney’s biggest attractions: the Bridge and the Opera House, while the Ultimo end feels a little more relaxed and reserved, especially as you approach Surry Hills or Camperdown. Continue Reading

48 Hours in Sydney: How to hit all the major sites

Despite the requirement to battle with throngs of fellow tourists, regardless of your travel style you would be kidding yourself if you came to Sydney without wanting to see the icons that make Sydney, Sydney. Some are fairly concentrated, others are a little more far flung but you should be able to knock them all off in 2 days before slowing the pace to seeing what the locals see. But first, this is what to see in your first 48 hours in Sydney. Continue Reading

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