Back on the road again! After finishing up our North Island adventures in Wellington we took the Bluebridge ferry over to Picton to begin our two week journey through the South Island. Although the South Island is much larger than the North Island, it is less populated making for longer more scenic drives between cities. The perfect combination for a great road trip!

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Marlborough Region

We started the North Island wwoofing and decided to do the same thing on the South Island. For this woofing experience, we worked on a sheep and cattle farm located right in the heart of the Marlborough Region. For those of you that don’t know, the Marlborough Region is New Zealand’s largest wine country with over 40 wineries and most famously known for their sauvignon blanc. Once we heard that, we knew we wanted to spend more than a few days exploring this area. We tried our hardest to make it to all 40+ wineries, but spending a few hours each day stuffing hay into 25kg sacks prevented us from being full-time winos (hopefully one-day!). Of the wineries we did make it to, below is a short list of some of our favorites:

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Cloudy Bay: Of the wineries we visited, this is probably the most well known and was definitely one of our favorites. Besides the wine, the have an awesome outdoor dinning/drinking area complete with swinging egg shaped chairs! Tasting price: $5 to $20 depending on number of wines you’d like to taste. They also have free WiFi!

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Mount Riley: For a quick tasting, Mount Riley is a little off the popular wine trails but had our favorite sauvignon blanc making it well worth the few minute detour. Tasting price: Free!

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Farmingham: At this winery we were a little distracted as we ran into two fellow New Jerseyans who live a few towns away from us back home. From what we remember the wine was good and the tasting was free!

Highfield Estate: If you’re looking for a great view of the surrounding areas look no further than Highfield Estate. To see the whole winery you can climb a few flights of stairs to the top of their viewing tour. We turned this place into our afternoon office while we sat back on their outdoor patio and enjoyed a bottle (or two). A little different from our former 9-5 lives.

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Kaikoura

While wwoofing in the Marlborough Region our lovely hosts told us that we needed to visit Kaikoura and they couldn’t have been more right. The drive from where we were staying to Kaikoura was about two hours but was one of the most scenic and beautiful drives we had all trip. Not to mention there are several great places to stop and check out some seal colonies! Arf arf arf! Once you get to Kaikoura there are a lot of activities you can do like whale and/or seal watching as well as a beautiful coastal walk along the peninsula.

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Nelson

Although we only spent a few hours in Nelson it was definitely worth including in our road trip. Nelson is a very popular stop on the South Island and a great town to spend a day or two visiting. While there we had our very first B.L.A.T (Bacon, lettuce, AVACADO and tomato!!) and while having a sandwich may not seem note worthy it was definitely a life altering experience. After enjoying one of these bad boys you’ll never be able to enjoy a regular BLT again. In addition to eating great sandwiches, while in Nelson we also explored the Queens Gardens, walked down Trafalgar Street and strolled along Tahunanui Beach.

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Havelock

While we’re on the topic of delicious food, Havelock is the green lipped mussel capital of the world! While passing though we had to stop for lunch at The Mussel Pot where we enjoyed a delicious smörgåsbord of all types of mussels. When they were describing what types of mussels came with their sampler it reminded us of the scene from Forest Gump where Bubba tells Forest all the ways you can cook shrimp. They had steamed mussels, smoked mussels, marinated mussels, grilled mussels, battered mussels, mussel chowder, and “that – that’s about it”.

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Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

One of the things we both had on our bucket list when starting our trip was to visit both of these glaciers. While both of them were really cool to see, in our opinion Fox Glacier was more impressive. Besides seeing the actual glaciers, one of the more amazing things is how much bigger these glaciers were just a few short years ago. Both walks were marked with signs showing how far back the glaciers used to stretch as recent as 2008 and as far back as 150+ years ago. Damn you global warming!

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Wanaka

We’ve read a ton of great things about this part of New Zealand from a travel blogger we follow, Young Adventuress, and it definitely did not disappoint. The drive into town was absolutely insane! We had to stop on the side of the road to mount our Go-Pro to the top of our rental car. Something we didn’t realize was that the mount is pretty much impossible to take off… whoever has our car next, we hope you enjoy the free Go-Pro mount ;-). Wanaka really is the perfect lakeside town but with crazy mountains and beautiful views all around it. In fact, this was the only place in New Zealand that we ended up extending our stay because it was just that awesome.

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Stopping to put to our GoPro on!

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While staying in Wanaka we did some local exploring, including hiking to see Rob Roy Glacier within Mount Aspiring National Park. The hike itself is about an hours drive from the town of Wanaka and takes about three or four hours total to complete. While walking there is a lower and upper viewing point… make sure to go to the upper viewing point! It is only a little bit further up the mountain and has much better views. If you’re going to drive the hour and make the hike this far you might as well go the extra little bit.

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Drive into Mount Aspiring National Park!

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Rob Roy Glacier

In the town itself you can go kayaking on the lake (as long as it’s not too windy) and check out the now famous Wanaka Tree. There is also a great winery, Rippon Vineyard, just outside the center of town that has great views of the lake and incredible wines. Since we were only in Wanaka for a few days we didn’t get the opportunity to see everything we would have liked, but this is definitely a place we will be back to.

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The Wanaka Tree

Milford Sound

If we had to describe Milford Sound in one word it would be: Amazingly Magical (of course we both got a word). To start off, the drive through Fiordland National Park was absolutely incredible and only got better as we drove along. As we continued towards Milford Sound we passed through Homer Tunnel which is a literally a 1.2 km road carved through a mountain. When we came out the other side we felt like we were on another planet. We were surrounded by towering mountains and receding glaciers. It was almost hard to grasp whether this was reality or a dream. However, we did come back to reality when we realized that we had booked a camp site on a gravel patch of driveway with sandflies buzzing all around us.

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Yup, we drove through a mountain!

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Sleeping on gravel isn’t that bad when we’re so close to the Milford Sound

Although we didn’t get the best nights sleep, the Milford Sound Lodge is definitely the place to stay when visiting. As far as lodges and campsites go it was one of the best we’ve stayed at and was a key part of the experience for us. While we were hanging out in the lodge lounge there were tons of people relaxing and occasionally playing the piano in the middle of the room. Nothing like a group kumbaya!

We only had one full day to visit the Milford Sound so we decided to do a 3 hour cruise in order to see as much as we could in our short time there. There are several companies that offer cruises, but we opted to go with JUCY as we had booked our rental car through them and they offered driver discounts. Cha-Ching! The cruise took us through the Sound starting near Bowen Falls and we made our way out to the Tasman Sea before looping back around. Even though it was a cloudy day while we were there, the views from the cruise were still some of the best we saw while in New Zealand. Being able to visit places like this and experience something so uniquely beautiful is one of the main reasons why we wanted to travel in the first place and is what makes this trip so worth while.

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Pit stop to visit The Chasm

Christchurch

To reach the last stop on our New Zealand adventure we had to drive 12 hours straight from Milford Sound to Christchurch. We must have listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album at least 10 times. Nick still sings it in his sleep… perks of traveling with your girlfriend ;-).

You may remember that several years ago Christchurch was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of the city. Although this was in 2011, it’s easy to see that they’re still rebuilding today but they’re definitely making the most of it. While there we visited the Re:START “mall”, which is a unique outdoor mall made entirely of shipping containers. There are also projects all over the city in which they are using recycled debris from the earthquake to build new things.

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While visiting Christchurch we decided to take a one last short road trip to the nearby town of Akaroa. Located about an hour outside of the city, Akaroa is a small town with a French feel. This makes sense as it was originally purchased by a French whaler in the early 1800’s. Bonjour! Akaroa is a great little harbour town with cute shops and restaurants and a great little beach.

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And there you have it! As you can see we covered a lot of ground in our two weeks on the South Island and put plenty of miles on our rental car. Everyone we ran into on the North Island kept telling us how amazing the South Island of New Zealand is and it definitely lived up to it’s reputation!

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