New Zealand diary: The journey south…

For our trip to New Zealand we decided to use the Kiwi Experience bus tour group during September and October 2014. We used the bus to get around New Zealand for the five weeks we were in New Zealand. It sounded great, had a cheeky personality and the deals they had on were really great. They have a variety of packages ranging from simply seeing just the north or South Island or you can grab a package which includes everything there is to see in New Zealand.

We went for the Super Funky package. One because it was on sale at the time of booking, but also because it included all the main stop offs, including Bay of Islands and Milford Sound but didn’t go to the Deep South, which we weren’t that interested in.

However, the only downfall I personally had was that our stops were planned for us which is not really how I like to travel, as I enjoy more freedom. However, we booked and I hoped for the best and luckily I was right to choose Kiwi experience and I am so glad we did now!

So, here is a run-down of each overnight location on the North Island as we headed south and the West coast of the South Island. In most places we stayed just one night, but some places like Auckland and Wellington we stayed two because of the bus route and we stayed four days in Rotorua. We also stayed three nights in Nelson, where the bus doesn’t stop as I had family there. We started in Auckland and ended in Queenstown. And the trip took three weeks!

Auckland (2 Nights, not consecutive)
Everyone had warned me not to expect much from Auckland and I’m glad I didn’t have high expectations as we arrived to a grey and rainy city that didn’t feel inviting. We took a trip up the Sky Tower, but that was pretty much it. Only my personal opinion though!
Where to stay: Nomads Auckland

Hot Water Beach
This is certainly a huge summer destination in New Zealand and is based around a small township with a beautiful and unique beach – rated one of the world’s best. You can pop over to Cathedral Cove for amazing views and coastal walks. In summer you could probably spend a week here, but in spring, autumn or winter it’s only worth the over night stay. We didn’t manage to get to dig our own hole because the tide was really high even at low tide but it was still a lovely area.
Where to stay: Top Ten Holiday Park

There is nothing here except the glow worms and the caves, so unless you are interested in either then it may not be worth stopping here. We stopped with the bus andKatie went glow-worm caving and my Swedish friend and I  went for a walk up to a viewpoint where we took some amazing photos. However the rain started and we got absolutely soaked. A nice place to visit but unless you are caving, I wouldn’t otherwise stop here.
Where to stay: Kiwi Paka

Rotorua (stayed four nights)
Kirura Park is the main tourist attraction and it is free to wander around and look at the geothermal activity. Rotorua is also home to the Maori culture and provides plenty of options for going to a culture show – be careful though as some have a reputation for being touristy but we went on the Tamaki Tours trip organised by the Kiwi Experience and it was really good fun. We also went and visited the Polynesian Spa and Hells Gate during our stay in Rotorua, both of which were really relaxing.
Where to stay: Nomads Crash Palace

River Valley
This was an exclusive Kiwi Experience stop and somewhere I don’t imagine you’ll stop unless you happen to be on the bus. We didn’t stop here as we were told mixed reviews and we made the decision to make our own way down to Wellington from Rotorua and have the extra days there instead. However, if you want to horse ride or white water raft this is the place for you! I’ve been told the horse riding is awesome.
Where to stay: River Valley Lodge

Wellington (4 nights, not consecutive)
We barely spent any time in the Capital City, however I did love what I saw and would definitely return to Wellington should I ever come back. The two days we stayed in Wellington were great.  We went to the national museum and for a hike up Mount Victoria. Wellington is prone to a lot earthquakes as it is sitting on a fault line, however is it fully prepared for what Mother Nature throws at it. The city feels rather small but has plenty of things to do and even has a beach!
Where to stay: Base Wellington

Nelson (3 nights)
The Kiwi Experience bus doesn’t stop here, but we just jumped on and off again by talking to head office. It was easy enough to do and we had no problems! Nelson is a lovely little city situated around three hours away from Picton. It is surrounded by the sea so there’s an abundance of beaches, water sports and activities. The area is also famous for its wine so be sure to visit a vineyard! I don’t know why the bus doesn’t stop here, it should!
Stay: We stayed at friends but there’s a YHA in town.

Kaiteriterl is the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and a beautiful stretch of coast across a huge bay, with Nelson on the other side. Because we had spent four days in Nelson we had only scheduled one night for here and what we saw was amazing! The views are gorgeous with beautiful beaches hidden all over the place. We had one morning only and sat on the beach near the hostel to relax after our busy schedule. Just remember to take sandfly repellent.
Where we stayed: Kaiteri Lodge

A cute little west coast town located just off the beach. The scenery around this area is beautiful and even though the town doesn’t provide much, it is a good place to relax and go surfing or paddle boarding. I did paddle boarding down a river and it was great fun!! Westport is a typical small west coast town and home to a great hostel named Bazils. We merely overnighted here with Kiwi but you probably wouldn’t need to if you were on a tight schedule.
Where we stayed: Bazils

Franz Josef (2 nights)
We stayed in Franz Josef at Sir Cedrics and despite its tiny size you could spend longer here. With heli-hikes to the ice glacier daily (weather dependant though) and plenty of walking to do, it would be easy to find things to do over a few days in the summer. The town is tiny, and I mean tiny but it is still a lovely town. You can find lively bars or quiet hostels along with hot pools and spas along the only two roads there. We stayed on the back road and also visited the Glacier Spa Pools.
Where we stayed: Sir Cedrics

This is basically a small Queenstown, set against Lake Wanaka with beautiful views ofthe surrounding area. The town is small, but in winter it is a great ski destination for any budding skier or snowboarder. We didn’t see much of this town due to Kiwi bus and time restrictions but it seemed lovely and quaint. We also visited Puzzle World which is apparently one of their main attractions minus the skiing. If I came back I’d definitely spend a week here skiing in winter.
Where we stayed: Base Wanaka

I’ve already mentioned Queenstown in my north diary. But again… Stayed in Nomads and Sir Cedrics and then had a few Fergburgers and got drunk. Queenstown in spring is lovely!



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