So you’ve been to the North Island
and had your fill of geothermal activities and amazing beaches. Now it's time to head down south for a drastic change of scenery. Get ready to be baffled by the picturesque mountains and discover some money-saving tips while you’re at it!
One thing you’ll have to keep in mind while in New Zealand in general is that I-Site
is a must-visit! It’s basically your go-to information counter if you’re lost. Most attractions are bound to have an i-site within sight. Ask for maps, prices of various activists from various companies/agencies, recommended transport, food and even accommodation if you’ve not settled yours!
For some activities, you’ll have to book it directly at the I-site.
Credit: Christchurch & Canterbury NZ on Facebook
A recommended mode of transport
while travelling throughout the South Island must be renting a car or even a camper van! With shared costs, travelling around in a rented vehicle won’t be too tough on your wallets. As this comprehensive itinerary has been planned out to be a return journey - starting and ending in Christchurch - it’s more budget friendly as compared to a one-way journey.
Credit: @sophiachristie on Instagram
For those who choose to rent cars, companies you can look out for are; Ace Rentals, Go Rentals and Omega Rentals. For those who intend to rent a camper van (when/where else can you ever do this? Highly recommended!) these are the companies to look out for; Jucy, Britz, and Maui. Imagine being able to spend a night literally under the stars ?
Try renting vehicles during the off-season, from May- October. Stay away from summer as that’s when the prices hike up and it gets crowded everywhere! You’ll be able to save up to 50% when renting during the colder season.
Credit: @tarshn on Instagram
If you’re intending to rent a car, for 11 days the average cost starts from $9/day.
However for a camper van, it ranges from NZD$17-NZD$120 per day. It depends on how self-sufficient you plan to be. Some campervans might come with toilets, stoves, heaters and camping chairs while some just come with an in-built bed. So although it's more expensive than cars, this can make up for your accommodation costs!
Average costs of Car/Campervan rentals for 11 days:
While renting vehicles, remember that that are various miscellaneous costs involved; daily rates, insurances, young driver fee (if you’re under 25 years old), one-way fee and more. Be sure to ask companies what’s included or not in the cost you’re paying for.
Day 1: Christchurch
Christchurch is still emerging from it’s past. After the devastating 2011 earthquake, evidence of its destruction is still avid if you’re in town. Despite all the atrocities, Christchurch is adapting and taking the disaster in their stride! Graffitis and various forms of street art can be seen scattered throughout the city. The otherwise bleak run-down buildings are brought to life with these art forms ?
Credits: Bernard Spragg NZ on Flickr
Re:Start Mall for an example. Think of the all too familiar Kilang Bateri in JB, it’s the exact replica! Cafes and quaint boutiques in colourful and strategically placed containers, it’s a photo-op waiting to happen. This place allows small shop owners to be back in the CBD quick and easy, albeit ongoing major construction.
Credit: Steel Wool on Flickr
One halal burger joint you’ll have to head to is Burger Fuel! Serving Fresh gourmet NZ beef and chicken, everything you order will be a good choice. Most beef burgers are topped with brewed tomato relish and aioli sauce. You’ll have the option of choosing normal fries (or as they say chips) or Kumara fries (sweet potato).
Credit: Burger Fuel on Facebook
Say good bye to macdonalds beef burger, make way to your new favourite! Remember to tell the staff you'd like the halal menu. They will cook the halal-certified meat and chicken separately.
Credit: Burger Fuel on Facebook1 night in YHA Christchurch:
NZD$ 30Burger Fuel meal:
Day 2: Tekapo
While in Tekapo the best way to get around is on foot! Just a small town with a population of 400, spending a day there will suffice. You can get a good photo-op if you head to the Church of Good Shepard - it's known to be “the” shot here!
Get onto the many walking tracks that leads you around the lake and head up Mt John. Get into the Mt John’s observatory and wait for the stars! Tekapo has is one of the few Dark Sky Reserve according to Unesco and it’s been preserved that way. Looking out for shooting stars, Milky Way and the southern lights will have to be in your list if you’re lucky ?
Credit: Julian Apse
The best place to stay in while in Tekapo has to be the YHA hostel. Not only is it affordable but this hostel also boasts one of the best views here! With their main lounge facing the lake and overlooking the mountains, it the best place to be sitting by the fire during their blistering winters.
Credit: Goth Phil on Flickr#HHWT Tip:
Sign up for the YHA members card and you’ll be able to secure your rooms at a lower rate. The card is an investment, especially for frequent travellers as you can use it at any YHA hostel around New Zealand and the world!
1 night in YHA Tekapo:
NZD$35Mt John hike:
Day 3: Mt Cook
My personal favourite go-to place when in the south, Mt Cook! Surrounding yourself with mountains and glaciers can only remind you of just how majestic His creations are. Mt Cook, also known as Aoraki, is also a sacred place to the Maoris. This mountain is actually the peak of the Southern Alps!
Credit: Miles Holden
We recommend spending at least a night in Mt Cook - the feeling of sleeping while being surrounded by mountains in unbeatable☺️
It'll be useful to note that the nearest grocery store is about an hour’s drive away and the only convenient store in the area is in a hotel! So for those on a budget, it’s best to stock up beforehand and not depend on the convenient store as the price of daily necessities like bread, milk, eggs are almost double.
Spending a night in the YHA hostel here means saving more when you’re using your YHA membership card. There is another hostel in the area and the Hermitage Hotel if you’re feeling fancy.
Credits: The Hermitage Hotel on Facebook
There are countless tracks you may go on while in Mt Cook, varying in time and difficulty. The most famous track is the Hooker Valley track, which is 3 hours Long. Mostly passing through flat terrains with the occasional stairs, this track will be the most forgiving ?
At the end of the track, you will be rewarded with one of the best views you’ll ever lay your eyes on; the majestic view of Aoraki and the Ka Tiritiri o te Moana (Mt Cook and the Southern Alps). Surrounded by the iceberg-filled Hooker Lake, this view will be worth remembering!
Credit: Miles Holden
There are more challenging trails for experienced mountaineers who are willing to reach the peak! You may attempt to conquer the Tasman, Malte Brun and Sefton just to name a few. There are huts located all around the area specifically for the mountaineers going on their multiple day hikes!
For those interested to go on their mountaineering expedition, head into the I-site for more information - booking of huts and getting a guide.
1 night in YHA Mt Cook:
NZD$35Mt Cook tracks:
FreeVarious Mountaineering activities:
Starts from NZD$200
Day 4: Te Anau
Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and the breathtaking Milford Sound! Home to the largest lake in the South Island, it’s hard to give this place a miss. Hostels are easy to find while in Te Anau, like our favourite YHA Hostel ?
Credit: Gabrielle Ludlow on Flickr
One must-do activity here is going on the Milford Sound Cruise. With mountain peaks, dark waters and forest-clad cliffs, it’s a sight that won’t easily be forgotten!
Credit: Rob Suisted
Like the budget junkie we all are, there’s a really good website you can go to to get a cheaper price. Imagine Groupon (now Fave), but a Kiwi version. It’s called bookme.co.nz
. In some instances, you’ll be able to save more than 50% as compared to buying the tickets in stores! Pick the tickets that you want, pay online through your debit/credit card and show your e-ticket through your phone or print it out from your hostel. Simple!
Halal food is scarce while in Te Anau if you’re planning on eating out. But if you’re eating in, head to the nearest grocery store and buy whatever you need to survive the night. There’s a wider variety of halal items in the supermarket.
1 night in YHA Te Anau:
NZD$35Milford sound cruise (Bookme):
Day 5: Queenstown
Everyone’s favourite town, Queenstown! There's something for everyone here ? World renowned for its adventure and adrenaline rushing activities, it’s only right for you to try at least one of it! Why not jump into the deep side of the river (literally) and try bungee jumping off the Kawaru Bridge? ?
Credit: Robert Young on Flickr
Many adrenaline junkies come to Queenstown specifically for the Kawaru or Nevis Bungy! If jumping off a bridge into a river and letting your dear life depend on a springy rope isn’t what you fancy, try the zipride instead. It’s for those who are tamer at heart ? What’s better, you can go on the zipride with a friend!
Credit: @saracatt on Instagram
Another must-try activity while in Queenstown is to go on the Shotover Jet! True to its name, it is the
ultimate jet boat ride. Imagine a 4D thrill ride (Transformers Ride in USS if you can relate), but only in real life! Bringing you through the spectacular Shotover River Canyons, hold on tight as the scenery rotates 360 degrees around you. You’ll be able to feel sprays of the river if you’re lucky while drifting pass canyon walls and boulders at speeds of up to 85km/h ?
Credit: Mikkot 02 on Flickr
Once done, head back to another YHA Hostel! There’s nothing like returning to a trusty hostel after a tiring day maxing out on your quota of adrenaline ?
Kawaru Bridge Bungy:
NZD$50Shotover Jet Ride:
Day 6: Queenstown
Spending a night in Queenstown will definitely never be enough! So if you do have more time, we recommend spending another couple of days here just to fully enjoy all that Queenstown offers.
Credit: Miles Holden
Today’s the day to walk around town, eat and basically see what this place has to offer! There are plenty of walks/hikes in Queenstown. Lake Wakatipu overlooks the most dramatic mountainous landscape, aptly named The Remarkables. Take a slow walk along the lake and let the views all sink in ?
For the thrill-seekers, get onto the gondola towards Bob’s Peak, where you’ll be able to a bird’s eye view of the region! Once you get to the top, there are plenty of things for you to do; experience the thrill of bungee jumping off the ledge, take a luge ride or enjoy lunch/dinner with a view.
The restaurant at Skyline Queenstown serves halal-certified chicken. This establishment also serves alcohol. Do dine at own discretion.
Skyline Queenstown Restaurant:
Day 7: Wanaka
No, this isn't the capital of Wakanda in Africa ? It’s less than 2 hours away from Queenstown, the wondrous land of Wanaka! It’s like Queenstown without the crowd.
The first thing anyone must do in Wanaka is head to #thatwanakatree. Photographers from around the world flock to Wanaka to get a shot of this tree. Give your photography skills a shot and take a picture of this quirky sight! A willow tree that’s seemingly sprouting from a lake, it’s a wonder how this tree managed to survive!
Credit: @beautifulpicturesr on Instagram
Throughout the entire year, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities waiting to be experienced. During the summer, try their water activities! Kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and wake boarding just to name a few. Over the winter, many come to give skiing/snowboarding a shot. The sport is perfect even for young children!
Don’t worry if you fail and end up rolling down, what matters is if you stand up to try again ?
Credit: Martyn Williams
If you’re feeling like spending the day indoors, try going for the Puzzling World in Wanaka. It’s just like the Trick Eye Museum but cooler! Get your cameras ready ?
Credit: Gordon Cheung on Flickr#thatwanakatree:
freeWater Activities (bookme):
From NZD$50Puzzling World in Wanaka (bookme):
Day 8: Franz Josef
About 3 hours away from Wanaka, is Franz Josef. A small-town population just a little shy of 400 people, it's enough to spend a night here!
One activity you’ll have to do in Franz Josef is to visit the Franz Josef Glacier! You might need to get a bigger shoe to fit this into your shoe string budget itinerary, but this will be worth it. They offer various tours, the most recommended being the heli hike. After getting an aerial view of the glacier from the chopper, you’ll begin your guided glacier hike!
Credit: Julian Apse
Being able to walk through the glaciers and see the glistening blue ice (and even take pictures in it!!), you’ll suddenly forget that heartache you felt when you paid for the tickets ? This once in a lifetime experience will be worth it!
Credit: Static6 on Flickr
If you’re on a tight budget, you may opt out from this hiking tour and just head on tracks or lookout points on your own! The only major difference is you won’t be able to walk on the glacier itself. But you'd still be able to experience being at a glacier and get amazing pictures for your gram ?
Glacier Heli Hike:
NZD$450Glacier Valley Walk (bookme):
Day 9: Nelson
When in Nelson, you have
to drop by Abel Tasman National Park and even spend a night here! They can accommodate backpackers and basically those on a tight budget!
Though the hostel might not be the renowned YHA, smaller family-run hostels are just as sweet. Varying from $20 per night, there’s a few different hostels/holiday parks you may choose from!
Credit: Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park on Facebook
Activities vary from kayaking to going on long walks through this huge park. World renowned for it’s golden beaches, granite cliffs and breath-taking coastal walks, there will be something for everyone here!
Credit: itravelNZ on FlickrFull day Kayak Hire (book me):
Day 10: Kaikoura
When in Kaikoura, the first thing on your list is to treat yourself to a whale watching experience!
Credits: Gabe Lerner on Flickr
This is one of the best spots in the world to see giant sperm whales ?
Credit: Bernard Spargg on Flickr
Other than whale watching, Kaikoura’s known for a lot of wildlife-related activities. Try swimming with dolphins if you’re interested. Rather than paying a small amount of money to take pictures with animals in confined spaces, it would be better if you’re able to swim with dolphins in the great ocean!
Credit: Howard/Harriet Greenwood on Flickr
And for those who are on a tight budget, fret not you’re also able to have your fair share of seeing these animals in the wild. Head to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and the Fur Seal Colony. These coastal walks offer dazzling viewpoints in which you’re able to see the fur seal colony ?
Credit: Tim Parkinson on Flickr
If you’re starving after all the whale/ dolphin/ seal watching, head to the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ! Serving the freshest seafood, nothing in their menu will disappoint. They’re known for their crayfish, grilled and season right on site. Not to forget, this entire food truck is Muslim-friendly!
Credit: @meidyruser_ on InstagramKaikoura Seal Kayak Tour:
NZD$60Kaikoura Whale Watching:
NZD$150Fur Seal Colony/ Walkway:
FreeKaikoura Seafood BBQ:
Day 11: Christchurch
It’s the last day of our South Island adventure and we’ve made a full circle, ending up in Christchurch! Enroute to Christchurch, drop by Akaroa! A mini French town located in the peninsula, it’s as good as being in France (some say). From the French-inspired architecture to road signs written in French, this is the closest you’ll get to being in France in this region of the world ?
Credit: Andrea Schaffer on Flickr
Before taking a flight back, head to the Carcroft Fresh Fried and let your last meal be a proper set of fish and chips! After eating this in New Zealand, eating fish and chips anywhere else will never be the same. The Carcroft Fresh Fried is a hidden gem amongst the locals! Get the basic cod fillet that comes with huge chunky chips/fries, it’s a hearty meal for one at less than NZD$15.
Note: Carcroft Fried Fish does not serve any pork, but do they sell chicken and meat which are grilled and fried separately as the fish.
Credit: Radarsmum67 on FlickrCarcroft Fish and Chips:
Now for the moment of truth, ensuring that you’ve been staying within budget! This will be a rough estimate of how much you’ll be spending in about two weeks:
I’d suggest surviving on sandwiches, toasts, pastas and easily cooked dishes that are readily available in the grocery stores. But do try the eateries we've recommended! It might not be as budget-friendly but it'll complete your New Zealand experience ?
At an average of $30 per night in hostels, prices might differ if you’re in town or way out in the mountains! Rent a campervan to save costs even more!
Assuming you’ll be travelling on the road for two weeks, this is the average cost of a low budget car (not inclusive of petrol which will differ with each car you rent). If you’re not driving, get onto the hop-on hop-off bus. Not sure what’s that? Check this out
! Look under transport, state buses.
I spent the most on activities in New Zealand and skimped out on food! It really depends on what kind of activities you’re looking for. If you enjoy going for the adrenaline-spiking activities, expect to pay slightly more than NZD$500. If you enjoy taking it slow, you probably won't spend as much.
Once again this is only a rough estimate of how prices are going to be like when you spend 2 weeks there. Prices will almost double if you’re travelling during the peak season and if you’re unaware of certain websites that will be able to offer you good rates! *wink BOOKME wink*
With all the #nzbudgethacks given, I only hope it will be as thrilling for you as it was for me! Everything in the South is so enchanting, from the scenery you’ll lay your eyes on to the food you’d to eat. Without a doubt, the South Island trip will be an extraordinary trip ?