New Zealand South Island Recap

This is a long one! I have so many pictures from the last month it was hard to decide which ones to include in this post for each destination.

I loved my time on the South Island of New Zealand. It has so much to offer in terms of the diversity of landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor activities. I would say if you had to choose between doing the North Island versus the South Island I would definitely recommend the south. Most of my highlights from the trip occurred down south like my day trip to Milford Sound, hiking Roys Peak in Wanaka, and doing a night excursion to spot wild kiwi on Stewart Island.

My highlight of the North Island would have to be the day trip I took kayaking to some hot springs and visiting a glow worm cave. Keep in mind there are glow worm caves on the South Island so you could just see them down there as well.


Our first stop on the South Island was the small town of Kaikoura famous for its abundance of marine wildlife. Most people come here to see dolphins and whales, and they actually run trips where you can swim with the dolphins which you don’t see very often. I opted out of swimming with the dolphins because I didn’t like the idea of being out in the open ocean in cold water. So I signed up for the dolphin viewing which was a better experience in my opinion because I got to see the dolphins from a higher viewpoint and had a 360-degree view of the area from the boat. The people in the water said it was murky and you could only see the dolphins if they came right up to you. On the day we ventured out we found a pod of well over 100 dolphins! It was the coolest wildlife experience I’ve ever had. The dolphins were so playful and doing flips out of the water everywhere you looked.

Beach views on the way to Kaikoura.
Seal colony on the way to Kaikoura.
We stayed in a 12-bed dorm room at the Dusky Lodge. Not my favorite as you can imagine. Too many people in one room and not enough space for all the luggage.
Beautiful paua shell. The Maori people native to New Zealand use this shell in their artwork.
Dolphin viewing!
There are two species of dolphin in this photo. If you look closely one is the black Dusky dolphin and the other is a lighter Hectors dolphin I believe.
I was able to catch one doing a jump out of the water!
Up close and personal.

Wine Tasting

On our way to Christchurch from Kaikoura, we stopped at Greystone wineries for a little wine tasting.

We also got a nice cheese board.


We stopped in Christchurch briefly for an overnight stay. It was just enough time to go out and grab some dinner.

Street art.
Vegetarian ramen from Eight Grains.

Lake Tekapo

After leaving Christchurch we headed to Lake Tekapo. This is a dark sky reserve and one of the best spots for star gazing in New Zealand. I’m so glad I brought my nice camera and tripod with me on this trip because I was able to get some great photos of the stars here. Sometimes it’s a pain carrying around all the camera equipment, but when I get good pictures like the ones below it reminds me that it’s worth it.

Lake Tekapo.
Hot springs near Lake Tekapo.
This is a Victorian-Era telescope that was made in 1894 and used at the University of Pennslyvania. It was moved to New Zealand in 1963. They don’t have replacement parts for this telescope, especially the lens so it is not currently in use and needs to be renovated.
One of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken of myself!
So many stars!
I love how you can see the Milky Way in this one.

Lake Pukaki

After Lake Tekapo, we headed to Queenstown. We stopped a couple of times on the way for some must-see photo spots.

This is a view of Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki.
Linden Pass.
We stopped at Jones Family Fruit Stall in Cromwell for a lunch break.
I had some berry yogurt ice cream.


I ended up in Queenstown several times during my month in New Zealand. When I first arrived in New Zealand and found out my tour was canceled I flew straight down to Queenstown and rented a car to drive to Wanaka. Then during both organized group tours, we stopped in Queenstown. It’s really easy to see why so many people want to live here. The mountain/lake scenery is beautiful. The town also has tons of restaurants, bars, and shopping so you get the best of both worlds if you wanted to have a relaxing day in town. I got a massage one of the days we were there.

The Remarkables mountain range.

View of Queenstown when you take the gondola up the mountain.
Amazing views.
I decided to try the luge on the top of the mountain. You sit in a little car with wheels and make your way around the course. It was fun.
The luge track.
The view from inside the car.
Walking around the botanical gardens with Jenna.
A night out with Steph.
Fried tofu burger from Fergburger.
Pizza from Winnies.
Ice cream milkshake from Cookie Time.


My last night with the first group ended in Wanka (which I had already visited the first week of my trip). Some of us decided to go on a happy hour boat cruise and it was a really nice send-off.

Jenna and Vale.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound was one of the top three highlights of my trip to New Zealand. It’s out of the way and not all tours include it, but seriously don’t miss it! I added on a 5-day trip at the end of my stay just so I could go to Milford Sound. I had never seen a landscape like it before and I’m not sure I ever will again. All the waterfalls were amazing. I did a separate post on Milford Sound that you can check out by clicking -> here.

Nugget Point Lighthouse

On our way from Te Anau (Milford Sound) to the Catlins, we stopped at Nugget Point lighthouse for some great views over the Pacific ocean.

The Catlins

In the Caitlins, we stayed near Mclean falls. I thought the cabins we stayed in were really cute at first, but there was a terrible rainstorm with high winds the night we stayed and all the power went out on the entire property. There were no emergency lights, it was pitch black, and the bathrooms were separate from the cabins. I was a little scared because I had never heard wind that loud before and our cabins were shaking. It kept me up all night, but the waterfall was beautiful and I’m glad I got to see it.

Cabins at the Whispering Frog Lodge.

Mclean falls was a short drive down the road from our cabins. You have to walk a bit before you get to the falls but it’s worth it.

Stewart Island

My last stop in New Zealand was Stewart Island off the southern coast. I did a separate post on Stewart Island that you can check out by clicking -> here.

We stayed in the South Sea Hotel right by the dock which was very convenient.
I hiked to Horseshoe point and back ~6 miles.

This concludes my posts on New Zealand. I hope you enjoyed following my journey. I just got to Australia this week and I’m excited to explore a new country with warmer weather and tropical beaches. Plus I have a few friends here that I met while traveling over the years that I can’t wait to catch up with.

Leave me a comment below about what you enjoyed reading about the most from my New Zealand trip!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lelia Gentry says:

    Enjoyed it all. New Zealand is on our bucket list.

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