Four weeks of fun in the South Island

Left Auckland and drove to Wellington in one day ( not highly recommended but we didn’t want to waste time getting to the South Island. Stayed in a cabin at the Top Ten in Lower Hutt.

Day 1 – 3

Crossed over to the South Island on the 9am ferry. Arrived at midday and were riding our bikes in the Malbourough Sounds that afternoon – woohoo, the adventure has begun! Stayed the next two nights at Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park.

The next day my husband and I had planned to ride Dunn Mountain but then decided it would take too long and we would rather spend time with the kids so we rode a section of the Great Taste Trail and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then the kids and my husband went to XXX.

Day 4 – 6

The next day we were driving to Arthurs Pass and stopped to ride through the Spooner Tunnel ( another part of the Great Taste Trail – park at XXX and ride a gentle incline to experience the longest rideable tunnel in NZ )

We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay in Arthurs Pass but as we drove through heavy rain to get there we decided to stay at Jacksons Retreat Alpine Holiday Park where you can camp under a barn-style roof and we were glad we did as each afternoon it poured with rain. There is a great little walk to a waterfall at the back of the campground.

The next day we walked the Scotts track which is straight up the side of a mountain on a rocky trail at times scrambling up the hill. This trail intersects with Avalanche track

After staying another night at Jacksons we headed for Hampden by the Moeraki Boulders. Along the way we did a short walk to the Devils Punchbowl in Arthurs Pass Village. The drive through the Arthurs Pass to Canterbury is through stunning. We also stopped at Castle Hill where limestone rocks have eroded into more dramatic

We chose to stay at Hampden scenery. A great spot to explore along the way.

Day 7

because it was a Kiwi campgrounds but there was a campground in Moeraki.

After a quick set up we headed to Katiki Point for some hoihoi ( yellow eyed penguins ) and had the best experience in all of our hoihoi spotting attempts. We arrived just as the hoihoi came up the hill and were super close. There was also great seal spotting here. We then drove around Moeraki village and visited the Moeraki boulders. We certainly make the most of the extra daylight hours in the South Island.

Day 8 – 12

Next morning we headed to Dunedin stopping along the way at Shag Point XXXX, and scrambled down a hill to see more Moeraki style boulders that were slightly more eroded but very interesting none-the-less. This is also where the fossil XXX. Further down this road is more great seal spotting.

We also stopped in to Karitane for a picnic on a stunning beach.

We stayed at XXXX in Dunedin which is by St Clairs beach for 4 nights.

Activities we did in Dunedin;

  • Mountain biked at Signal Hill
  • Visited Orokonui Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Spent a day on the XXX Peninsula visiting the Albatross Centre and Sandy Mount walk
  • Visited Tunnel Beach
  • Went to the Dunedin Museum which has a cool kids science area which does vost to get in
  • Explored the centre of Dunedin

From Dunedin we headed for the Caitlins and stayed at Pounawea. On the way we stopped at Nugget Point where there is a short walk to a very picturesque lighthouse with great seal and bird spotting.

There lots to do in the Caitlins but its quite spread out. We intended to stay at Pounawea for 4 nights but then realised we should have stayed two and then two further into the Catilins.

From Pounewa we;

  • Went to the Lost Gypsy. An inventors paradise with amazing creative inventions. At the time we visited the Lost Gyspy is closed on a Wednesday.
  • Walked to McLean Falls.
  • Walked to Cathedral Caves ( dependent on low tide )
  • The Okawa visitor centre and small museum has lots of interesting information.
  • Visited Jacks Bay which has a blowhole at high tide. Some great sea lion spotting on the beach.
  • Walked along the beach at Surat beach.
  • Explored the estuary around the campground which has some great bird spotting.

We then realised that everything else we wanted to do was further into the Caitlins so we forfeited one night at the Pounewa campground ( a learning there was in the off season don’t pay all nights up front. Just pay as you go ) and moved to Curio Bay.


At Curio Bay we;

  • Walked along the beach and saw Hectors Dophins frolicking in the waves.
  • Went hoihoi spotting . A lot of people go to this spot and we never did see them come in.
  • The petrified forest is also by the hoihoi landing spot.

From here we head to Bluff visiting the Waipapa Point lighthouse and Fortrose along the way . In Bluff we mountain biked up Bluff Mountain for some awesome views of our destination tomorrow, Stewart Island.

Up bright and early to head to Stewart Island on the ferry. We stayed at the Stewart Island backpackers.  Once we arrived on Stewart Island we headed for Ulva Island, an amazing wildlife sanctuary. Later that night we sat on the rugby fields ( apparently the best place to spot kiwi but while we heard them we never saw them) Really enjoyed talking to the locals. The next day we did a walk and visited the museum.

And then back to the mainland where we headed for Te Anau. Stayed here two nights.

The next day we headed to Milford Sound and walked the Key Summit track which is one end of the Routeburn track. An awesome walk with stunning views. Quite a rugged track. Drove through the Spooner tunnel ( NZs longest tunnel ) to Milford Sound for a look. On the way back to Te Anau we walked to Marian Falls. Great kea interactions at Spooner tunnel.

From here we headed to Wanaka driving over the Crown range. Stay at the campground by the outlet from Lake Wanaka for 4 nights. Great location for biking and very spacious campsite.

In Wanaka we did lots of riding; Deans bank, Sticky forest and  . We also hung out in town and soaked up the Wanaka atmosphere.

We also walked the Rob Roy glacier track. Getting there was quite an adventure, about one hour one a very bouncy gravel road crossing 10 fords. Stunning walk.

From here we headed back to Hampden via Dunedin where we went on the Taieri Gorge railway. An awesome rail trip through some stunning landscapes.

Then Christchurch where we went to the pools ( because so flippin hot ) , went to the Margaret Mahy playground at 8pm night when it cooled and then went mountain biking at the Christchurch Adventure Park the next day.

Then we pretty much headed for home with another one night stop just out of Kaikoura. Then crossed back to the North Island and headed via for home via Napier where we have friends.

We have a Kiwi campground discount card so this is the first place we look for a campground. Lots of the campgrounds have discount cards so if you go away a lot its worth looking in to them.