The ultimate New Zealand itinerary for outdoor fans – part II
Welcome to part 2 of our ultimate New Zealand itinerary for outdoor fans! In this post, we’ll take you around some of the most spectacular scenery New Zealand has to offer, from sandy white beaches to rainforests and glaciers. If you have missed the first part, go here to read all about the first two weeks of our trip, during which we went to Hobbiton, hiked the Tongariro Northern Circuit and explored the Queen Charlotte Track.
Day 15 Golden Bay
The northern part of New Zealand’s Southern Island is truly stunning. It may not be as spectacular as the westcoast or the deep south, but we loved it as much! If you want to take a nice scenic drive and Nelson is your next destination from Picton, make sure to take the 6 passing by Anakiwa and Havelock, rather than the 1 that leads you to Blenheim first. The drive was stunning and I’d do it all over again if I could. After a quick stop in Nelson to stock up on groceries, we first drove to Marahau, our camp before heading out on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. However, since we got there early, we decided to continue to Takaka. The route was spectacular and in the afternoon, we went to the amazing Anatoki Salmon Farm where we caught our own salmon and had it prepared for a late lunch. Delicious! The owners, who are in fact Dutch, told us to take a moment and hike over to the Pupu Springs, which has the clearest water in the world. It was a true treat to be hiking there! By the end of the afternoon, it was time to head back over the pass to Motueka and prepare for our next trek!
Where we stayed
We camped at the Marahau Beach Camp, conveniently located close to the start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Day 16-18 Abel Tasman Coastal Track
During our first visit to New Zealand back in 2002, we made the mistake of just to Abel Tasman National Park ‘for the afternoon’ from Nelson, where we were staying. This time, we decided to spend 3 days here, hiking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. It’s a brilliant hike and not too hard, so if you are a novice hiker, this one’s perfect for you! We wrote a full blog with lots of pictures and detailed information about it, check it here if you want to know more. After our trek, while it was dark and about to start raining, we made our way over to the next National Park on our list: Nelson Lakes!
Where we stayed
At the campsites in Abel Tasman National Park, which we booked beforehand (it’s a must!). Our first night was at a tiny campsite at Watering Cove, far away from the crowds. The second night we stayed at Awaroa Bay Campsite, which is a lot bigger. In Nelson we planned on going camping but as the weather wasn’t too good, we booked a backpackers room at the Alpine Lodge in St. Arnaud. Their restaurant is great by the way!
Day 18-19 Nelson Lakes National Park
A lot of people tend to skip Nelson Lakes National Park for some reason. I’m unsure why, but I can’t find many stories about it online and it doesn’t seem to be incredibly popular. Which is strange, because we thought it was truly spectacular! A friend of ours suggested to hike up to Bushline Hut, stay overnight and hike back the next morning, which is exactly what we did. We happened to be the only ones up in the hut and we had a blast. Upon arrival it was rainy and we couldn’t even see the lake from where we were at, but the next morning we opened up our eyes and it turned out we were above the clouds. Truly spectacular! Go here to read our full story about hiking to Bushline Hut and how to get there!
Where we stayed
At the Bushline Hut. You can’t book it in advance, you just need a ticket which can be bought at any DOC office. Payment goes by depositing your ticket into the honesty box. We love it!
Day 20 Lake Daniell
From Nelson Lakes we drove straight on to our next hiking destination: the Lake Daniell Track near Springs Junction. This hike is relatively unknown with the big audience and as we started quite late in the afternoon, we turned out to be one of the few left on the track. It’s just 8.4 kms long so we decided to pitch up our tent and stay overnight at the lake. There was nobody else but us. Oh, and a lot of sandflies. We stayed overnight and hiked back out the next morning, only running in to a handful of people before we arrived back at our car. It was time to move on again, but this would be a night to remember: the one where we were the only ones and heard nothing but the silence of nature all night long!
Where we stayed
We camped at the terrain in front of Manson Nicholls Memorial Hut. Bookings can’t be made, it’s a first come, first serve for the hut.
Day 21-22 The glaciers
The one place we were looking forward to seeing again, were the glaciers at New Zealand’s west coast. Back in 2002 we had nothing but rain here and unfortunately, the weather didn’t look a whole lot better this time around. However, it’s not something you can change, but it was a bit of a sad thing. As we stayed at Franz Josef Glacier last time, we decided to stay at Fox Glacier this time. We put up our tent at a campsite and that evening, after three days of nothing but hiking, spoiled ourselves with a visit to the Glacier Hot Pools. The next day we decided to hike to the mouth of both glaciers, we were shocked to see how much they had retreated over the last years. They were still pretty, but in all honesty, don’t really compare to what we’ve seen in Patagonia or Alaska (sorry New Zealand!). On our last morning, we woke up super early and drove up to Lake Matheson to see Mount Cook reflect into Reflection Pond. Although I’m not a fan of getting up super early, it was well worth the effort because within 15 minutes of arriving, clouds had started to set in and shortly after, they were covering the mountains and the prettiness was gone. And so were we, off further down south!
Where we stayed
We camped at the Top 10 campsite in Fox Glacier. Not your most scenic but with all facilities we needed and very comfortable!
Day 23 Siberia and Wanaka
Our next adventure was the Siberia Experience, which is actually a combination of a flightseeing above Mount Aspiring National Park, hiking and a jetboat tour. This particular tour was suggested to me by a colleague and even though it wasn’t cheap, we enjoyed it a lot. As we we dropped off and picked up again by jetboat, we hiked in an area not many other people hike, which made it extra special. The jetboat ride was very soft compared to what we did later on in Queenstown, but good fun anyway. If you have some extra time and money available, make sure to go and see this, it’s spectacular!
Where we stayed
We camped in at the Top 10 Campsite in Wanaka. Back then, we got a 50% discount on those with our Explore New Zealand card. We didn’t get this as bloggers but for the company I work for as a New Zealand specialist. However, you can apply for it as a blogger, too!
Day 24-28 Queenstown and the Routeburn Track
Ahhh, I just love Queenstown! In 2002 we stayed there way too short and nearly didn’t do any hiking, so this time we made sure to plan lots of adventures around town. From Wanaka, we first took the scenic drive across Cadrona Pass (instead of the highway) and made a quick stop in Arrowtown for a hike. Once in Queenstown, we packed our gear for our next great adventure: hiking the Routeburn Track! This amazing trail is one of the most scenic in New Zealand and we were incredibly lucky to have nothing but amazing weather over the three days we hiked it. Of course, we wrote a full blog on this trail, which can be found here. If you can only do one multiple-day hike in New Zealand, make sure it’s this one! After the track, we came back here and took a day “off” from all outdoor activities. At least, that was the plan. We still hiked up to Queenstown Hill and Martijn also went downhill mountainbiking. We also took another jetboat tour, just to get the adrenaline pumpin’ again. That’s just something you have to do when in Queenstown. Oh and if you are there, make sure to grab a burger at Fergburger. They are legendary and by far the best burgers I’ve ever had. Multiple, yes!
Where we stayed
While in Queenstown, we decided to spoil ourselves to a room in the Pinewood Lodge, where we also stayed in 2002. However, we found it quite out-dated and I’m sure there are better value for money budget places in town. While on the Routeburn Track, we stayed at the DOC huts, the first one being the Routeburn Falls Hut and the second one being the Mackenzie Hut, one of the best ones we stayed at if you ask me!
This concludes our second two weeks in New Zealand. While writing all of this, I can’t imagine we actually did ALL THIS STUFF in just two weeks. As before, we will add some suggestions in case you have more or less time available:
– Add the Heaphy Track! This one is 6 days long and another New Zealand Great Walk. We saw the mountains of Kahurangi National Park from the Takaka region and instantly felt sorry we didn’t have time for this. We heard great stories about this track, we’ll do it for sure next time we’re in New Zealand!
– Take a glacier hike on one of the glaciers. We did that back in 2002 and loved it. I’m sure it’s a bit of a different experience nowadays but still so much fun!
– Stay in Wanaka longer than the one night we had here and then hike to Rob Roy Glacier. We didn’t find time for it (it’s all about choices) which still leaves us sad. Instead, we did laundry and went to see a movie at their funky movie theatre. *sigh*
– More time in Queenstown for extra adventure activities, such as bungy jumping! We did this the first time around and loved it, but didn’t feel like going a second time, also because of the cost. However, we think that bungy jumping is something everyone should do just once in their lives, just for the sake of it!
– You can do various dayhikes on the Routeburn Track, instead of doing the 3-day tour. The best would be to drive down to The Divide and hike up to Key Summit from there, it’s very scenic and not too difficult.
– Skip the glaciers. Don’t shoot me, but if you’ve seen glaciers in Patagonia, Iceland or Alaska, you may end up disappointed.
– Day-hike in Abel Tasman. Although not encouraged because of our previous mistake just to go for an afternoon, I’m sure you can still see plenty if you make a full day out of it!
We hope once again that you enjoyed reading our itinerary and that it will help you plan your adventure trip to New Zealand. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask by leaving a message below or emailing us.
After our Tasmania trip, we will finally wrap up this series with the third and last post about our ultimate New Zealand itinerary for outdoor fans. The original plan was to do so before but there are still so many other stories to write. You know how it works, right?
Until then, make sure to check out these posts,too:
– The best hikes in New Zealand (spoiler alert!)
– My obsession with New Zealand
– Things to do in New Zealand that don’t involve hiking
– All you want to know about hiking in New Zealand
[Disclaimer: as this trip happened before we started blogging, we did not receive any sponsorships nor financial compensation for mentioning and linking to the suppliers. Also please note that our trip has been a while ago and things may have changed. Although we did our best to carefully check all details, it may be that some information is out-dated]
Have you been to New Zealand? What was your ultimate adventure when you were there?
Thank you for sharing!
The Guy Who Flies
This looks like you are really tasting the NZ outdoors and seeing how amazing it is. Your pictures justify it. Also by your gradual trekking it sounds like a perfect slow travel journey.
Did you have any pictures from the Siberia Experience? It sounds like a fun thing to do.
We totally did! I’ll upload some Siberia Experience pics later on, it was a truly great experience!
Great point about booking national park campgrounds well in advance. In my experience, most NPs around the world have gorgeous campsites but they need to be booked months, if not a whole year in advance (like some at the Grand Canyon).
I know, we went to the US and were amazed that so many National Park campgrounds were already fully booked!
I can not get over how gorgeous New Zealand is! I’d definitely want to see Nelson Lakes National Park as well.
I hope you can make it to NZ one day!
This looks sooooo pretty! I’m planning a trip to Australia and I definitely think I may need to combine it with a visit to NZ.
I’ve never been to New Zealand but this looks sooooo pretty! I’m planning a trip to Australia and I definitely think I may need to combine it with a visit to NZ.
You should! I did the same in 2002 and loved it, they’re such different countries!
Love the idea of camping in an unplanned place. The experience at Lake Daniell Track sounds like an amazing moment, the whole lake and park for you! And how you handle the sand-flies, I hate them! We had a bad experience with sandflies in Morocco and Cambodia, couldn´t avoid them even using mosquito repellent, they are nasty!
Ahhh they can ruin your trip for sure! We went to Scotland early enough to avoid the midgets there…
Every time I read something about NZ landscapes it makes me want to go madly. Now, when I see pictures like this, even more!
I hope you can make it one day Inma!
beautiful spots and pictures! i would like to camp at Lake Daniell, stunning. minus the sandflies, whatever they may be. 😉
the are some kind of mosquitos who drive you nuts and nearly kill you … blahhh! but other than that, it was lovely!
I have a friend venturing around New Zealand at the moment and it just looks fantastic. Your photos are amazing as well. Is there anywhere in NZ that sucks?! haha. Doesn’t seem to be. Can’t wait to find the time to do my own month adventure there.
Uhm, yeah there is actually. Tell them not to go to Invercargill, the most depressing place in the country if you ask me! But other than that, it’s a truly amazing place!
Wow! Your photos are absolutely amazing! We are going to New Zealand next year. Hope to be where you have been and see what you have seen.
Have a great time in NZ, I’m sure you will love it!
I’ve been looking forward to this post! I absolutely love New Zealand!
Yay, well, here it is 🙂
WOW WOW! NZ looks so freaking beautiful. I can’t wait until I get there. Great photos too!