10-Day Road Trip around New Zealand’s South Island

Day 1

Our New Zealand South Island campervan adventure begins! We had an overnight flight from Melbourne to Christchurch so we arrived tired. We picked up our campervan and headed out for adventures. We purchased a DOC (Department of Conservation) campervan pass for $40 NZD which gives us free camping at certain sites for 7 consecutive days. SCORE! We drove about two and a half hours from the airport to our campsite. Any further we felt would be dangerous because of fatigue. 

After checking in, we decided we needed to stay awake until at least 20:00 so we were on a normal sleep schedule for the next day. We immediately made coffee on our stove in the rear of the campervan knowing caffeine would be essential. Next, we decided to get our blood pumping and go on an hour hike to see a waterfall.

After the falls we came back, took showers and cooked dinner. With our bellies full, it was going to be harder to stay awake for a few more hours. We decided to watch a movie involving extra-terrestrials (always keeps us awake). Finally, 20:00 hit so we rolled down the shades and swan dived into a wonderful deep sleep. Day one was a success. 

Day 2

We woke up refreshed and drove towards Mt. Cook. On the way we stopped several times to take photos around Lake Tekapo, a stunning turquoise glacier fed lake. We arrived at our campsite, parked, geared up and headed out for our 3-hour return hike on the Hooker Valley Track. 

On the journey we crossed over multiple suspension bridges with stunning views of rivers. One bridge even gave you a great view of the Mueller glacier and lake. Along the way, it started to get very cold, rainy and windy. Fortunately, we are prepared for weather like this! 

Finally, we reached Mt. Cook. Wow! It was well worth the small hike there. On Mt. Cook is the Mt. Cook glacier and at the base is the glacier lake with large chunks of ice floating about. 

After returning to our camper, we cooked dinner and watched the stars come out. It was amazing to get to see the milky way! We were too busy being in awe to take any photos of that! 😜 Happy day!

Day 3

Today we woke up to heavy rain in Hooker Valley so we checked our weather apps and found that Cromwell, New Zealand’s wine country, was the only region of NZ that was supposed to have beautiful weather, so of course we headed that way because who doesn’t love wine?

As we headed towards the grapes we stopped in Lindis Valley for a quick hike. The landscape was so beautiful! The mountains looked like they were covered in basil seeds and flanked us on all sides. 

When we made it to Cromwell we drove around through wine covered hills and found a great winery to do a tasting. This part of New Zealand is known for its world-class Pino Noirs so of course we had to try them. However, because of the sunny summery warm weather, we felt a white would be best! 

After relaxing for a few hours with a bottle of Pinot Gris we made our way towards our Queenstown campsite. When we arrived it was raining heavily, which made for a fun dinner cooking experience! With dinner done, we curled up with a cocktail and watched a movie. Perfection!

Day 4

Today was a beautiful day. The weather was sunny with a high in the low 70s, Brad’s idea of summer! Since the sun was smiling, we felt it was perfect for an all-day hike. 

We made it to Roys Peak just after eating lunch on the banks of Lake Wanaka. We started the first half of our 16km journey up the mountain and quickly found out the incline was steeper than we thought. Fortunately, the weather was perfect and the views, while hiking, went from great to amazing so more frequent stops were a must for more fabulous photos!

After 4-hours challenging ourselves on this uphill battle, we finally made it to the top! It was the first time either of us had been at the top of a mountain and could see nothing but other mountain tops all around us. We were on top of the world and we had it all to ourselves. 

Pushing through the pain, we let gravity take hold of us as we made our decent. The downhill journey only took us 2-hours. When we made it to the bottom we opened the back of the campervan and cooked a large, well deserved, dinner consisting of rice and spicy chicken curry. We had left over tortillas from last night’s tacos, so we improvised and used them as naan. Yum! 

Day 5

Today was the day for Milford Sound! We woke up and made the five-hour drive to see it. Along the way, we made multiple stops for photo opportunities. 

Some of the coolest pictures we took were just random moments of Kevin yelling, “Pull over, I have to take this picture” as Brad swerved to the shoulder. A really neat detour was the mirror lakes. There was a slight breeze in the air, so it wasn’t still like glass, but the view was nothing to complain about. Only a little ways away and we would be to Milford Sound!

When we arrived, Milford Sound was very misty and visibility was super low. Fortunately, we had plenty of time to walk around and explore. We ended up cooking some spicy chilly for dinner and waited for the sun to go down. 

As the sun began to fall and the mist rise, the true beauty of the mouth of Milford Sound showed itself. With no one else around, we headed off road and walked right to the edge of the water and enjoyed the views all to ourselves

On the way to our campsite for the night we made a few more little stops while we still had light. Laying in our campervan looking through the moon roof at the stars again was a magical ending to this wonderful day.

Day 6

Today was a more relaxed day. We woke up to a little rain so we headed south to get away from it. Stopped for lunch along Lake Te Anau then went to the DOC (Department of Conservation) information center to see what new adventures we could find in Southland and Otago. 
We continued south east and took our time admiring how different New Zealand looks down south. 

We decided to call it an early day and head straight for our campsite. The campground was the most amazing yet. We were at Purakaunui Bay, steps from the beach with towering cliffs to one side and forest to the other. It was spectacular. 

After some food and wine, we relaxed and watched the sun go down. We were even lucky enough to see the amazing milky way again! Mother nature at its best!

Day 7

Our road trip today took us along The Catlins Heritage Trail and part of the Southern Scenic Route. 

We first journeyed to Waikawa Harbour for beautiful views while we chowed down on PB&J sandwiches. Next up was Curious Bay which was so incredible! It’s a 180-million-year-old ancient fossil forest with petrified trees from the Jurassic era.

We hung out waking the shores for a few hours admiring them while listening to the huge ocean waves crash against the cliffs. 

We then made our way to slope point and did a quick 20-minute hike through a sheep farm to the southernmost point of New Zealand’s south island. 

Continuing east, we made it to this lighthouse on Waipapa Point. Talk about a quintessential looking lighthouse. Hung out for a bit exploring the beaches nearby and saw a few sea lions hanging out on the beach! So, cool!

Our last few stops of the day were the 22-meter-high McLean Falls and the three-tiered Purakaunui Falls. We then headed back to our beach side campgrounds for the evening. Our New Zealand road trip has been so amazing so far!

Day 8

The pretties just keep on coming! Today we drove west and north along New Zealand’s scenic coastline. Our first stop was and hour hike to Jack’s Blowhole, a 55-meter-deep crevasse 200 meters from the ocean. It was a sea cavern that the ocean eroded to the point of it collapsing. 

Our next destination was Nugget Point. We came here to see Tokata Lighthouse but ended up falling in love with what laid beyond. These beautiful rock formations were giving us life! We love how they, so perfectly, trickle away into the vastness of the ocean. A real surprise and a fantastic treat. 

Next, we journeyed along the coast north, past Kaka Point and Dunedin City, to our campsite for the evening. This site was nestled in Trotters Gorge. Could not have asked for a better day.

Day 9

The Otaga Peninsula was our main goal today. We drove the winding roads along the beautiful coastline for almost an hour before heading a little inland and uphill to get to our hiking location. When we made it to Sandymount, we drank in the views overlooking part of the peninsula and knew this was going to be a pretty place for a hike. 

Our first stop on the hike was lookout point, the top of the hill. The view was obstructed by all the shrubs around so we didn’t spend too long there. Next, we made our way down and hiked along the edge of the mountain overlooking Sandfly Bay. An ironic name, since sandflys have been biting at us for the past 10 days. Who knew flies bit! 

As we continued along the edge of the mountain we came around to Lovers Leap, a bridge like rock formation over the ocean. We were the only ones there so we took our time to enjoy the peace. 

After our hikes for the day, we decided to head back into Dunedin. The city is a small town with a few spots to see, like the train station and church, but other than that not too much. We walked around looking at the art galleries, gift shops and street art. We settled in for a craft beer at a local pub in the city center while we charged our laptop and watched the locals stroll by.  

Day 10

Today was the last day of our New Zealand South Island Road Trip before spending a few days in Christchurch then leaving. 

We woke up and started our 5-hour journey back to Christchurch. We figured we would make a few detours along the way to see random things that may have caught our attention but we quickly found out there was not much between Dunedin and Christchurch to see. We powered through the book we had been listening to and finished it as we made our way home. 

Reflecting on our journey around the South Island was a bittersweet moment. We loved all the beautiful things nature provided for us but we are excited to continue onward. Two more days in Christchurch then off to Sydney! Cheers! 

We are two en route for future road trips. Kia Ora

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5 Steps to see The Great Barrier Reef on a Budget

Before we left on our trip around the world we made a list of “must sees.” One must see that was on the top of our list was The Great Barrier Reef, a 2400 kilometer long stretch of thousands of coral reefs and hundreds of islands.  Thousands of fish, mollusks and starfish, multiple types of turtles, dolphins and sharks all call this wonderful place home. (click here to see 25 of our favorite great barrier reef photos we captured when exploring)

Now, it’s hard to speak about anything in Australia and associating it with the word “budget” because nothing comes cheap in the land down under. However, we were able to minimize our costs by following a few simples steps.

Step 1. Find a Cheap Flight in

Like all countries we visit around the world we always look for the lowest cost way into a country. To enter Australia, we flew on a budget airline, one-way, from Bali, a relatively close country. Because we were already so close this kept our cost down to $208 USD per person. A great deal, we thought, since flights from the states are easily five times this price. We saved even more money because our flight was the overnight red eye and there was no need to pay for lodging that night. Of course the consequence of that it we were super tired when we arrived into Cairns.

Step 2. Transportation to and from the Airport

Cairns is a small city and there is no public transportation directly linked to the airport. We often times find that it’s the same price as public transport and cheaper than a taxi to take Uber or Lyft into town, however, these companies do not operate in Cairns. It always amazes us how hard it is in some cities to get to and from the airport. With some quick research we found that the easiest and most affordable way to make the 3 kilometer journey into town is with the Cairns Backpackers Shuttle. They have a backpackers special that will take you to and from your Cairns CBD accommodation for only $10 AUD return. Be aware this has to be booked online at least 24-hours ahead of time.

Step 3. Affordable Accommodations

Cairns has accommodations that cater to the budget conscious individuals to the travelers who want to live in opulence while on vacation. Cairns is also an infamous backpacker friendly city. It seems like we are not the only people who have the dream of snorkeling or diving The Great Barrier Reef. We stayed in the Parramatta Park neighborhood which is known as Backpackers District because of the high concentration of hostels and guest houses. We stayed at Ryan’s Rest and was able to snag a private room with a shared bath for $38 USD per night. The backpackers district is also within walking distance of Reef Fleet Terminal, where all the tour boats depart from.

Step 4. Cook Your Own Food and Drink Wine

A cheap meal in Australia is around $15 AUD ($12 USD) per person, add a drink on top of that and expect a hole to burn in your pocket. This can quickly add up when eating three meals a day. Our advice is to head to the grocery store and stock up on the grub. In Australia, often times grocery stores are found in shopping malls. By doing this we were able to get our meal costs down to an average $5 USD per meal while still having a full belly! Going out in Cairns is another way to spend your budget fast. However, we did find that wine was good and cheap. So if you want to have that glass of wine with your meal, drink up! Cheers!

Step 5. Select the right The Reef Tour

This is where the bulk of your budget is going to go and that’s okay, you did not come to see The Great Barrier Reef and not experience it’s wonder. There is a plethora of companies that operate one, two, even three day tours of the reef and islands that accompany them. We opted for the 1-day snorkeling reef experience with Compass Cruises for $109 AUD ($84 USD) per person. Compass Cruises’ boats are slightly older than some of the others we saw on the dock but it’s not the boat we came to see.

When we arrived we found out that our older vessel was broken down and that we had been “upgraded” to another company with a nicer boat so unfortunately we cannot let you know how the boats were for Compass Cruises. What we can let you know is the crew was spectacular since they followed us over to our new ride for the day.

Our day on board was fantastic. We started with complementary tea and coffee. As we sipped our mugs on the way to the outer reef, the on board marine biologist gave a presentation explaining the reef and wildlife we could possibly see. Our excitement began to build!

After an hour journey we made it to Hastings Reef, a part of the outer reef. It was time to put on our sexy stinger suits (a one piece) and jump in to feast our eyes on The Great Barrier Reef! From the moment we entered the water we were hooked. We had over three hours of snorkel time in the water at Hastings Reef. Kevin was even the last one out of the water, he never wanted to leave. In the hours spent snorkeling we saw so much!  

Lunch on board was top notch. We feasted like kings while we headed to Jorgensen Patch, our second snorkel location. Here the waters were a little rougher and the reef deeper. We had do to a lot more free diving style maneuvers to get up close and personal with this beautiful work of nature. It was worth every moment since we were lucky enough to see a sea turtle! Cue the excitement dance!

After an hour of snorkeling we were properly tired for the day and headed back on board for the complementary wine and cheese on our way to the harbor. From the sunny weather to the attentive crew, we could not have asked for a more wonderful day of snorkeling The Great Barrier Reef.

We are two en route for more wonderful budget travel experiences.

Sunset at Tanah Lot, a Bali must-see

We landed in Bali not knowing where each day would take us. Something we found out quickly was Bali public transportation is not well connected or easy to use. What was easiest for us, and very affordable, was to hire a private driver for around $35 for the day and see multiple sites at our own pace. After asking around we quickly found out from locals and other travelers that seeing Tanah Lot at sunset was a must, so we put that on our list for the day!

Tanah Lot is rock formed just off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. At low tide, the temple is most easily accessible. Build on Tanah Lot is a Pura (temple) said to have been from the 16th-century. The temple is built in honor of the Balinese sea gods. 

Tanah Lot is one of seven sea temples that litter the coast of Bali. In addition to Pura Tanah Lot, we were also about to see Pura Batu Bolong. While this temple is not as iconic as Tanah Lot, it was a treat to be able to see another one of the sea temples. 

We made our way down to get a closer look at this beautiful Hindu site. We were not able to go onto the top of the rock to see the actual temple, just onto the stairs. However, before being able to enter the steps of the temple we had remove our shoes and receive a blessing to prepare us to enter the holy site.

The blessing is called a rice blessing. First, water is sprinkled across your forehead with a brush, then rice is placed on it and finally, a plumeria flower place behind your ear. Kevin decided to partake in the blessing.

Brad decided to sit it out to relax and do some people watching. It didn’t take long for Kevin to receive the blessing then walk up the 25-steps and see the ocean go off into the horizon. 

For the next hour, we wondered around the rocky coastline enjoying the views of the ocean. As we wandered around, waited for the sun to go down, we came across the best little spot to enjoy the sunset from. 

As the sun went down we realized why seeing the sun set over Tanah Lot is a must-see when visiting Bali, Indonesia. The way that the sky turned beautiful shades of purple and orange were a real treat. 

An added bonus to where we decided to enjoy the sunset from was there were stagnate pools of ocean water left by high tide which allowed for some of the most beautiful sunset photos. We love the way Tanah Lot and the sunset reflect off the water. We are so glad we listened to other’s advise and made it to see the sunset over Pura Tanah Lot. 

We are two en route for more must-see sites

25 of Our Favorite Great Barrier Reef Photos

One of the natural wonders of the world is the Great Barrier Reef. This 2400-kilometer (1400 mile) beauty stretched from Australia’s east coast to the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. It has some of the most diverse and unique sea life in the world. It comes as no surprise that feasting our eyes on this natural wonder was on our “must see list” before we took off on our world tour. Armed with our GoPro Hero+ (classic), we dove in and explored the reef. Here are 25 of our favorite photos.   

 Us starting our snorkel adventures!
Us starting our snorkel adventures!
 All the beautiful color of the corals
All the beautiful color of the corals
 We found Nemo! 
We found Nemo! 
 Kevin with a Jelly 
Kevin with a Jelly 
 Loving all the unique corals
Loving all the unique corals
 One of our fish friends
One of our fish friends
 Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
 Our Sea Turtle buddy.
Our Sea Turtle buddy.
 Exploring the reef with fish 
Exploring the reef with fish 
 Great textures all around
Great textures all around
 I really cool long yellow fish
I really cool long yellow fish
 These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
 Going to school with the fish.
Going to school with the fish.
 Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
 More amazing textures under the sea
More amazing textures under the sea
 Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
 The colors were WOW
The colors were WOW
 The lone fish who caught out eye
The lone fish who caught out eye
 Brad found a Jelly!
Brad found a Jelly!
 Quinessential coral
Quinessential coral
 Cool fish hanging out over the coral
Cool fish hanging out over the coral
 The reef went on forever!
The reef went on forever!
 Moody Blues on this coral
Moody Blues on this coral
 Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
 The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef... we couldn't have asked for anything else.
The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef… we couldn’t have asked for anything else.

We are two en route for more photo fun