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Great start to the South Island

Our first two weeks on New Zealand's South Island

rain 77 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Elizabeth and I immediately had a good vibe about South Island. As the ferry arrived in Picton from Wellington it wandered through the Marlborough Sounds. These are beautiful bodies of turquoise blue water surrounded by hills with quaint villages and beaches scattered throughout. Once we arrived we headed for Nelson which had the most life of any city we've encountered in NZ so far. The highlight for us was the Saturday morning market which was bustling with people and full of great, local art work, fruits and vegetables. Elizabeth bought our first souvenir and we had some delicious pot pies which are hot snack item here.

A cluster of mini-campervans on the Interislander Ferry. You feel left out if you don't have one. So all of you with minivans (Chad, Holly, Jessica)...watch out...we're converting them when we get back home! We used to mock you. Now we want your apple juice stained car! Chad, didn't you say you're selling?

Arriving at Picton on the ferry.

Master haggler at work.

Mmm... pot pies!

Abel Tasman National Park was the next stop and believe it or not, we did another backpacking/kayaking trip. This park is the location of a "Great Walk" of New Zealand (the name of New Zealand's most popular walks.) It lines the Tasman Sea and has beautiful views from inland by hiking through the bush, as they call it, or on water by kayaking or taking another type of boat.

I swear I didn't hold Elizabeth at gun point to convince her to go! She was convinced it was the number of days in a row we were living in a tent and hiking with heavy packs that ruined her first experience at Torres del Paine in Chile. So, we decided to take a sea taxi to the top of the park, which gave us a great overview of the area. We hiked the first day to a campsite on the beach. The next day we met a kayak group to get home. Continuing with the busy, high season theme, we were warned that the track would be a "virtual walking human highway," so we were sure this is where all the people would be.

As for the hike portion of our trip at Abel Tasman, it certainly earns it's status as a Great Walk. We hiked along beautiful beaches and up hills on paths with great overlooks of the Tasman Bay. Low and behold, we were mostly alone on the hike and our campsite only had four other tents! It was wonderful! While kayaking the next day, we saw lots of seals who are currently in mating season, as well as many more picturesque little bays and beaches. Ah, just what we needed... we love the south island! Elizabeth also enjoyed this style of expedition much more... water crossings included!

Elizabeth braving another water crossing even after her "Towers of Pain" (aka Torres del Paine) experience.

Elizabeth walking along the beach after crossing the tidal waters.

The human highway during the busy, high season.

Tonga Beach at Able Tasman.


The view from the campsite beach.

Yet another view from the campsite beach.

Sunset over our campsite at Tonga Quarry.


Kayaking with the seals.


After Abel Tasman we headed further west, passing through a hippie town called Takaka and traveling along Golden Bay to enjoy a morning alone on a long, beautiful beach.

Golden Bay during the busy, high season where the prices are doubled or tripled. Hmmm... we're on to you New Zealand!

Unfortunately, it was too cold to have a much needed beach day.

Heading south we traveled down the famous west coast of New Zealand, which is supposed to expose beautiful landscapes with ocean and mountain views the further and further south you drive. The roads are remarkably curvy, but scenery and signs to keep you awake and snickering. Unfortunately we hit a patch of bad weather, so we didn't see as much on the drive as we had hoped for.

Heading down the west coast we saw plenty of signs like this....Penguin crossing. You don't see this sign much in the USA! We also saw more sheep than people and some official deer parks. They actually raise deer here for venison...so forth for hunting season!

Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki along the West Coast.

Layers of limestone make up the Pancake Rocks.

We also had rainy views of two of New Zealand's largest glaciers. Although impressive to most visitors, we couldn't help but remember the massive and empowering site and sounds of Perito Mereno Glacier in Argentina. It makes both Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers look like a Mt. Wachusett ski slope. The glacier hikes were also supposed to have views of the highest mountains in New Zealand, Mt. Cook (12,316 ft) and Mt. Tasman (11,473 ft). Due to the low clouds, we'll have to wait until we come back around to this area to see this mountains.

Franz Joseph Glacier

We're currently in Queenstown, a city with a ski town feel, waiting out torrential rains. Queenstown also has a good vibe and is the first non-sleepy town we've hit in NZ. Stores are open and people stay out past 5pm! When the weather dries up we'll do some more hiking and Kayaking in Fjordland National Park... this is what New Zealand is known for, with it's high mountains and beautiful sounds, so we can't wait to get going! Plus, as self-declared street people, we got our first official warning from a city councilor this morning that we parked overnight too close to a residential area. If we do it again we could face a fine of $400. Aren't no showers punishment enough?

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 14:43 Archived in New Zealand

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I really enjoyed your post - it brought back memories! My wife and I drove around South Island in a campervan in November. It's a spectacular place. I loved Nelson, especially the Saturday market. Hope the enjoy the rest of your time in New Zealand.

by dr.pepper

This trip was the best idea EVER! Miss you guys!

by jilliep

How in the world are you going to pick which pictures to print and frame on your wall?? I am so thrilled for your adventure. Keep at it!

by nshimshock

Hello All, Thanks for your comments! We're keeping up with them but haven't had much computer time lately to reply to each of you personally. We also heard that there was some trouble posting comments. We think it's resolved, so keep trying! We're currently in Middlemarch, NZ, at the only free internet spot in the country. This happens to be the only store in town too! They do have a nice rail trail bike path though. More about Fjordlands and Queenstown soon. Thanks again!

Dave and Elizabeth

by daveliz

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