New Zealand Travel Guide: South Island

Hooker River

Kia Ora! You’re probably here because you have read the PART 1 of my NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL GUIDE. But in case you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest you read it first because all the basic information before traveling to New Zealand is there.

Ready for the South Island tour? Let’s go!

Hello, Queenstown!

DAY 5

Arrived in Queenstown at around 10:00AM and we immediately called Go Rentals to pick us up at the airport so they can bring us to their office to pick up our rented car. We got the same brand in our Auckland leg, Hybrid Toyota Camry for the same price.

After filling out the forms and checking of the vehicle, off we go to our hostel where we’ll stay for the next three to four days of our Queenstown adventure.

Welcome to Reavers Lodge, Queenstown

1st stop: Reavers Lodge.  Reavers Lodge is just 8.8km from Queenstown Airport and travel time is approximately 15 minutes only. Even though our hostel is not located in the middle of the bustling town center, it’s just a good 10 minute walk to the restaurants, bars, and shopping area of Queenstown.

Reavers Lodge is located in a not so steep hall near the Skyline Queenstown. It’s a sort of backpackers hotel with a nice overlooking view of the city center. It also has a nice garden where people usually hang out and drink during early evenings.

Party and drink with other backpackers at Reavers Lodge

2nd stop: Lunch and Coffee at the City Center. After settling down in our room. We headed to the city center to look for a place for lunch. We ate in a Thai restaurant because it’s the most affordable and just because. Hahaha. After which, we headed to a very nice and cozy coffee shop, the Halo Forbidden Bite.

Love this quaint cafe in Queenstown that we visited it twice during our brief stay.

3rd stop: Lake Hayes.  After having our lunch and coffee, we walked back to Reavers Lodge to get our car and headed to Lake Hayes.

Like Hayes is a very beautiful and tranquil lake that’s just 18 minutes away from Reavers Lodge. There were very few people when we visited the lake so taking nice photos of the breathtaking view was a breeze. I feel like hanging out here, doing nothing, and watching the sunset would be amazing as well.

Chilling with a good book
I love how serene this place is

4th stop: Queenstown Gardens and Lake Wakatipu. 14 minute drive from Lake Hayes is the Queenstown Gardens. There’s so much to see and do here but we just hanged out and discovered interesting spots where we can actually sit and wait for the sunset. Fave spot was at Lake Wakatipu. Golden hour here was so amazing and photogenic!

Over all, our Day 4 was a pretty a chill one because for sure, Day 5 would involve lots of driving and trekking.

What a view!
Strolling along Lake Wakatipu
Dramatic shot at Lake Wakatipu because the sunset and the view call for it.

DAY 6

1st stop: Kawarau Bridge. Since day 5 is all about road trips, adventure, and tiring ourselves out. We started our exploration at Kawarau Bridge where the home of the world’s first and famous bungy jump is located.

The AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown is a 43 metre jump nestled into a rock face overlooking the stunning view of Kawarau River. If you are in for some adventure, you may BOOK YOUR JUMP in advance. However, if bungy jumping is not your thing, you can also try their swing, catapult, and zip ride. Also, aside from their extreme activities and souvenir shop, they also have a restaurant at Bungy Queenstown so if you don’t feel very adventurous, you can just take a quick bite instead  just like what we did. Hehehe!

Take that leap of faith at Kawarau Bridge
Had our quick lunch at Queenstown Bungy

2nd stop: Lindis Pass. If you are headed to Mount Cook, you’ll definitely pass by the very scenic Lindis Pass where you can see valley of greens, browns, or snow, depending on the season of your visit.

During summer, you can see wild Lupins during your drive. Feel free to make a stop over to admire the view and take photos with friends.

Love the Blue and Green contrast
Quick stop for a leg break
Can you see the purple Lupins on the right?

3rd stop: Aoraki or Mount Cook National Park. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. Mount Cook is also considered to be the highest mountain in New Zealand.

Upon nearing the National Park, you will be greeted with breathtakingly huge mountains that seems to envelope you as you drive your way to your main destination, in our case, the HOOKER VALLEY TRACK, the easiest track.

Weather was a bit chilly and windy

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock, and the best way to experience the alpine environment is by walking one of the tracks. We didn’t really finish the whole trek (not guided) because we’re pressed for time already but we at least aimed to reach the first swing bridge.

Lower Hooker Suspension Bridge

View was definitely stunning! If you love nature and trekking, Mount Cook National Park should definitely top your list when visiting the south island. You can even set up a tent at the White Horse Hill campground if you wish to stay a little longer at the national park.

Breathtaking view awaits you!
White Horse Hill campground

4th stop: The Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo. Did you know that star gazing is probably one of the most popular activities in New Zealand? Because of its good air quality, you can experience the darkest night skies in the world in NZ, specifically in Tekapo. If you want a guided tour, you can BOOK through Tekapo Stargazing, but if you want to go DIY like what we did, we just drove to the Church of the Good Shepherd and waited until night for the stars to appear.

Book your stargazing tour here and buy some merch as well

At first, I thought it was just the usual stargazing like what I am usually used to. So while waiting for the sky to get a little bit darker, I just stayed inside the car because it’s so cold outside. When I decided to get out, lo and behold, the most beautiful and unbelievable night sky I have ever seen. Pictures don’t really do justice because the experience was so surreal. It’s like we’re looking at a perfect painting, only that it is very real. Millions, or probably billions of stars enveloped us that night. It was so beautiful and definitely one for the books, because if you know me, you know I love anything Astronomy.✨

Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo

5th stop: Head back to Queenstown. Left Tekapo a little late so we arrived at Reavers Lodge at about 3:00AM already. It was a smooth 3-hour ride, although I must admit quite scary because we’re all sleepy already, we were the only ones in the road that time, it was really dark, there we so many roadkills, rabbits to be exact, and to top it off, our fuel gauge was already blinking and we’re still an hour away from the city! There were very few houses along the road so let alone a gas station, thus we can be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Good thing our Camry was just overacting and we arrived in Queenstown safe and sound. Refueled our car in a nearby gas station and slept soundly in our hostel.

DAY 7

Before starting our adventure, we headed again to Halo Forbidden Bites and grab a quick brunch. Got myself an Eggs Benedict and coffee.

Eggs Benedict

1st stop: Glenorchy. Just 45 minutes from the city center is Glenorchy. It is also one of the most popular gateways to some nice hiking trails and middle-earth magic as most of the scenes in the Lord of The Rings were filmed here. With its stunning landscape, it’s no wonder filmmakers were mesmerized and inspired to shoot their films in Glenorchy.

Since we’re off to Cromwell that day and needed to return our vehicle in the afternoon, we did not do the trek anymore and just settled for the famous Red boat shed and the jetty port.

The most photographed boat shed in Glenorchy
It’s nice to just chill and stay here for a few minutes

2nd stop: Cherry picking at Cromwell. When in Cromwell, you should, at least once, experience cherry picking. I must admit I am not really a fan of Cherries, but this experience changed my perspective. Because fresh Cherries, straight from the trees, are seriously crunchy and yummy!

Cherries in Cromwell

We went at Cheekie Cherries orchard in Cromwell for the Cherry picking, no booking required. Just note though that for the PYO (pick your own) experience, their orchard is only open mid-late November and closes late January to early February.

If I reckon, you can only get a maximum of 1kg per person, which costs roughly NZD17. You can actually eat some Cherries straight from the tree while filling your bucket but be careful not to overdo it. Hahaha!

Pick your own Cherries at Cheekie Cherries

3rd stop: Arthurs Point. Before returning our car at Go Rentals, we decided to check out first Arthurs Point to see the happenings there. Too bad their cute coffee shop is already closed so we just while away the hours by just lounging at their bean bags and watching the Shotover jet.

Too bad this cute coffee cart closes early
Shotover Jet

DAY 8

1st stop: Cookie Time. Day 7 was our free day since we don’t have we have a car anymore. We just roamed around the city center by foot and checked out the famous, yummy, and very sweet Cookie Time! I almost got a migraine because of too much sugar. Hahaha!

Queue was kinda long but ’twas worth the try
Choose your drink! Got the Nutella Cookie Shake

2nd stop: Skyline Queenstown. Before we sugar crash, we headed to Skyline Queenstown for some adrenaline rush…well kinda. Hahaha! We just took a scenic ride in the iconic Skyline Gondola to take a glimpse of the stunning view of Queenstown. Aside from the Gondola, you can also try their luge to experience the thrill of their gravity-fuelled carts. Aside from these rides, Skyline Queenstown also has a restaurant and gift shop for your last minute souvenir shopping.

Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola

3rd stop. Fergburger. Ever since we arrived in Queenstown, we already noticed the never ending long line at Fergburger. This is actually the most talked about and popular burger in Queenstown. Travellers have been raving about it so we gave it a go since we’re in no rush that day. After the long wait, we just chilled in a small park at the city center as we finished off our burgers. My verdict? Nothing special. Hahaha. Or maybe I don’t really fancy burgers that much.

Fergburger
Chillin’ with these cute ducks at the park

4th stop: Chill at Reavers Lodge’s veranda. Since it’s our last night at the Reavers Lodge. We figured we should at least try their beers and ales, and chill out in their bar as we slowly recharge again for our flight the next day and to cap off our Queenstown adventure.

Cheers!

DAY 9

Woke up early to catch our flight back to Auckland. One of our friends stayed behind because she’ll catch her flight to Melbourne from Queenstown.

1st stop: Fly back to Auckland. Low energy level already. We just want to arrive in Auckland ASAP and rest.

Bye Queenstown!

2nd stop: Strolled Auckland and last minute pasalubong shopping. After checking in and resting at Haka Lodge, which by the way is a very nice hostel,  we roamed Auckland City a little bit and bought some tea, choco drinks, and quinoa, because again, it’s cheaper there.

Sightseeing bus in Auckland
Glimpse of Auckland right before the dusk. Very different from Queenstown
Goodnight!

DAY 10

1st stop: Auckland Tower. Our last day in New Zealand. To kill time, we went for a walk outside the city and tried to check out Auckland Tower. We did not really went to the tower itself because we’re too tired already so we just took a glimpse from afar. I think it looks better in the evening though.

Sky City Auckland Tower from afar

2nd stop: Coffee Time. Again, to while away the hour, we just chill at a nearby coffee shop and played some computer games. Yep, it’s free. How cool, right? Upon going back to Haka Lodge, we fixed our stuff, stayed at their common area and rested for a bit while we wait for the cab that will bring us to the airport.

Found this cute cafe tucked just few meters from Haka Lodge
Haka Lodge’s common area

3rd stop: Fly back to Manila. Our flight back to Manila is at 8:20PM, January 12. Like our flight to Auckland, our flight back to Manila entails another layover at Goldcoast, Australia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were seated at Air Asia’s quiet zone so our sleep was a little okay. Arrived in Manila a little past lunch time already of January 13.

WE WERE SO TIRED but REALLY HAPPY. Our journey to the Middle Earth was really worth the money and tiredness. Kia Ora!

My usual morning view during breakfast at Reavers Lodge, Queenstown
SEE YOU AGAIN SOON, QUEENSTOWN! Nice dusk view from our room. This was about 9:47PM