The South Island of New Zealand is famed for having some of the best natural landscapes in the world. I would definitely agree!
Over the next three weeks, we’ll travel over 1350 miles from Picton to Christchurch via Bluff in Norman – our camper van. We really are having the full ‘Kiwi‘ experience.
If you’d like to read my first three blog posts of our time in New Zealand from the North Island, click here.
Day 20 – Wellington > Picton > Nelson Skywire Experience
After a whirlwind 19 days in the Northland, we caught the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton costing £224.
Luckily, there were clear blue skies, which meant we were able to enjoy the cruise from Arapaoa Island to Hitaua Bay in the stunning Marlborough Sounds.
Once it was safe to return to Norman, we hot-footed it straight to Nelson – a small city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay 85 miles away, as we had pre-booked to do ‘The Skywire Experience‘ at Cable Bay Adventure Park.
This is an adrenaline experience set above a 300m forest canopy where it is possible to reach speeds of up to 100 km/h. It is also described as being ‘One of the World’s longest Flying Fox’s‘ and has views of Mount Taranaki in the North Island on a clear day. (To read about the hike we did here, click this link).
Thankfully, we arrived just in the nick of time and I’m so glad we did as the views were spectacular. Watch below for the GoPro footage!
Afterwards, we said hello to the alpacas, highland cows and sheep on the farm. Unfortunately, my sheep whispering skills weren’t up to scratch.
This evening, we checked into a powered campsite at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Nelson. I couldn’t recommend these sites highly enough.
You can purchase a membership card for $49. This entitles you to 10% off all stays; 15% off the Interislander Ferry, 10% off a scenic train journey as well as discounted prices at over 500 activity operators, cafes, and restaurants throughout New Zealand. Best of all, it’s valid for two years.
Day 21 – Repairing Norman
Driving a 7.2m x 3.2m camper van isn’t easy, especially as I’ve never driven a vehicle this big before. A few days ago, I clumsily clipped the side of a rock which caused Norman’s waste water pipe to fall off.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to pay anything because of our insurance, but we still had to get him repaired.
We used this as a rest day to recharge our batteries. Travelling with Em really is the best thing in the world, but it does get tiring!
Day 22 – Elvis
Following on from yesterday, we had another recovery day because the boat tour we had planned to do in Abel Tasman National Park was cancelled due to strong winds.
We researched what there was to do in Nelson and struggled to find anything other than a local cinema, so we decided to go and watch Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis – played by the brilliant Austin Butler.
Later, we made the short 34-mile trip to Kaiteriteri Beach in the hope that the cruise would be running tomorrow.
Day 23 – Boat Cruise in Abel Tasman National Park
Found at the North end of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest national park in New Zealand, but it definitely shouldn’t be forgotten. It is renowned for its coastal track along a plethora of golden, sandy beaches.
Luckily, the weather had improved this morning which meant the Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle full-day cruise (costing $99 p/p) was able to go ahead as scheduled departing at 09:00 AM. It was bloody cold though!
The three hour cruise was beautiful and overall good value for money. On our way to Totaranui Beach, the Captain stopped at Apple Split Rock, a Fur Seal colony, as well as Anchorage Beach, Awaroa Beach, Medlands Beach and Torrent Bay for people who had also opted to go on a hike. What brave people!
Once we’d warmed up, we left Kaiteriteri and headed for the small village of Punakaiki on the West Coast 165 miles away.
The distance didn’t matter though, as we stopped off so many times along the way at beautiful lookout points including Lake Rotorua in Nelson Lakes National Park.
Day 24 – Cape Fouland, Pancake Rock and Hokitika Gorge hikes
We used the Punakaiki Top 10 Holiday Park as a stopover as we planned to do the 3.7 mile out & back hike to the Cape Foulwind Seal Colony from Lighthouse Road this morning.
The trek was along the edge of an escarpment all-the-while with panoramic views of the Tasman Sea. The incline was steep in places, but it was easily manageable.
When we reached the seals viewing platform, we tried to count how many we could see. Most camouflaged themselves into the granite rock, but we counted 32 in total. (I promise they are in the photo below)!
Once back with Norman, we had lunch before heading to our next point of call – ‘Pancake Rocks and Blowholes‘ in Paparoa National Park.
The 37-mile drive between Westport and Greymouth along the Great Coast Road to get to Paparoa National Park was a stunning one. So stunning that Lonely Planet named it as one of the Top 10 Coastal Drives in the world.
In my opinion, the 20-minute loop to get to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes wasn’t as impressive. Being more of a geography buff, Emily appreciated how they were formed – whereas I’ve always been more into history.
We then headed 88 miles further South to the town of Hokitika and because the sun hadn’t set, we decided to drive an additional 40 minutes to the Hokitika Gorge to do the 1.3 mile loop trail.
Day 25 – Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
By now we’ve learnt that New Zealand has so many beautiful lakes (775 to be exact) and we try and stop at each and every one that we pass. Today, on the drive to Franz Josef Glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, we stopped for pictures at Lake Ianthe and Lake Mapourika.
We did the 0.9 mile Glacier Trail to the furthest viewpoint which used to be longer but unfortunately the river has now cut off the access.
Afterwards, we drove 20 miles to the Fox Glacier Lookout and hiked the 2.7 mile Lake Matheson Loop Trail, which would have overlooked Fox Glacier on a clear day.
In my next post, we’ll be exploring Wānaka, Queenstown, Milford Sounds, Curio Bay and Bluff – New Zealand’s southernmost town.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date, then you can enter your email to receive notifications of blog updates at the bottom of this article; follow my blog by clicking the link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @AlecW95 or @alatw95.
Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure.
Thanks for stopping by, until the next time…
One thought on “New Zealand Road Trip – Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers + More (Part IV)”
LOOKS great Alec, best wishes to Emily, Enjoy and carry on camping! we should hopefully arrive at Dusky sound on 30/11/22