Everyone told us the South Island would be better and (sorry North Island) but it really is. After getting the ferry over we were instantly welcomed with what was the start of many, many mountains.
Our first stop was Kaikoura. We ended up staying a few days as we loved it so much. There’s seal colonies everywhere, dusky dolphins, sperm whales, albatross – we made friends with many animals… All with the backdrop of snow peaked mountains.
We drove down from there along the east coast passing Christchurch and Dunedin enroute. To add to the wildlife tick list we saw a little yellow eyed penguin coming back home for the evening, apparently they’re the rarest penguin in the world but we haven’t verified that fact with wikipedia yet.
We drove down to the bottom of the island and started working our way back up the west coast. The next place we stopped for a few days was Te Anau which is the part of the Fiordland. We took an evening dip in the freezing glacier lake and drove to Milford Sound for the most insane kayak trip ever. On the still clear waters with towering mountain faces all around, we fell in love with New Zealand all over again.
Continuing northbound we stumbled across a secluded little opening to a huge beach- the perfect free camping spot. The beach was blustery to say the least; a slightly haunting landscape of sand and huge tree debris that had been washed up. We made the most of it though and scavenged for fire wood and even found all the components for a home made grill.
Franz Josef was our next impressive stop, our first ever glacier, we walked up and marvelled at how big and icy it was and then later googled what a glacier is.
Lots of windy mountain drives, far too many sand flies and a single glow worm cave later and we’re back up north, heading to Auckland for the final leg of our big trip.