New Zealand days 6-16: south island

Day 6 & 7: Abel Tasman

Map of Abel Tasman Track

Day 1 on the track:

    distance: 15 miles
    from: Marahau
    to: Bark Bay

DSC_0284 DSC_0281
Abel Tasman track start at sunrise

We decided start our trek in Marahau where we left our car and take a water taxi back from Totaranui at the end. The few people we saw seemed to be hiking the opposite way. For what seems to be one of the most populat tracks in New Zealand, it was pretty empty - we saw less than 10 people per day.

Numbers peak in January with over 250 per day and drop in August to less than 25.

NZ Dept of Conservation

Definitely recommend this track in the off-season.

  • no people
  • no bugs
  • cool, not hot, not freezing
  • wood burning stoves in the huts
  • brighter stars (like this bright)
DSC_0288_enhanced DSC_0291 DSC_0304 DSC_0315 DSC_0342 DSC_0329

Day 2 on the track:

    distance: 7-8 miles
    from: Bark Bay
    to: Awaroa

DSC_0426 DSC_0452 DSC_0477 DSC_0475 DSC_0459 DSC_0445 DSC_0417 DSC_0435
Day 2 tramping (hiking) on the Abel Tasman Track

Day 8: Abel Tasman - Westport

Day 3 on the track:

    distance: 4-5 miles
    from: Awaroa
    to: Totaranui

This was an interesting day, one that started at 4:30am. As a tramper on this track, you must cooperate with the tides. There are several tidal crossings that are sand by day and water by night. In our case it was water by day and sand by night. We chose sand, which meant we were up at 4:30am trekking across the tidal crossing which was actually an estuary. Among other things this meant that they’re a couple thigh deep 50 meter wide rivers to cross… even at low tide.

At 5am and a little below freezing with ski jacket on top and bare feet on bottom, we made our way to other side of the estuary. Promptly after we found the trailhead, we fired up the camping stove and warmed up to some hot cocoa, oatmeal and of course, Tim Tams.

DSC_0381 DSC_0423
night (low tide) & day (high tide)


Awaroa hut

Driving south without any plans for the night. We ended up in the old mining town of Westport. Feels a bit like West Virginia.

DSC_0487 DSC_0491_enhanced
$2 kiwis and a rest stop near Motueka

Day 9: Westport - Franz Joseph

We spent the morning checking out the pancake rocks at Punakaiki.


DSC_0517 DSC_0543_enhanced DSC_0557

We ate lunch and checked out some thrift store at Hokitika.
We also picked up some random CDs including some noise orchestra band, John Coltrane and a flamenco guitarist for a grand total of $1 to supplement the podcasts and spice up the ride for the long South Island drives ahead.


Park art in just about the middle of nowhere (Hari Hari)


Franz Josef Hostel

One of the best meals we had was here at Alice May - 3 course winter special dinner for $30 NZD!

Day 10: Franz Joseph

Heli Ice climb. Turns out we were pretty lucky that we were able to land on the glacier the one day we had in Franz Josef. Heli trips for the previous 3 days were cancelled due to weather.

DSCN0600 DSCN0624_enhanced DSCN0588_enhanced
Franz Joseph Glacier

We organized our trip with Franz Joseph Glacier Guides.
Definitely the most expensive part of the journey, but well worth it, especially if it’s your first time on a glacier, in a helicopter or ice climbing. For me it was a first for all three. The sensation of the ice axe falling out in a hold took some getting used to - hand holds don’t fall off the wall when bouldering at the climbing gym…

Franz Joseph Glacier

Day 11: Franz Joseph - Wanaka

DSC_0584 DSC_0582
Mountain biking Lake Wanaka


DSC_0580 DSC_0577 DSC_0600 DSC_0601
Lake Wanaka

Day 12: Wanaka - Milford Sound

It’s a long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound. An even longer drive from Wanaka. An even longer drive if you don’t have snow chains (or don’t think you do until you realize you’re forced to carry them to get to Milford Sound, check the back of the car and discover that you had them along).

DSC_0643 DSC_0652
Driving to Milford


DSC_0657 DSC_0661_enhanced DSC_0749_enhanced DSC_0815 DSC_0862 DSC_0875
Milford Sound
Milford Sound - seal rock

Day 13: Milford Sound - Queenstown

We got word the Dept of Conversation was closing the Milford Sound road at 9am, so we booked it early. We stopped for a sunrise hike at Key Summit (beginning of the Routeburn track).

Key Summit - beef jerkey for breakfast. Photo credit: Cori Land
DSC_0899_enhanced DSC_0904_enhanced DSC_0910 DSC_0920
Key Summit hike
DSC_0928 DSC_0929 DSC_0931
pit stop

Day 14: Queenstown

We got full-day mountain bike rentals and headed out to Wilson’s Bay for some lakeside cliff hilly tracks.

DSC_0941 DSC_0935
Moutain biking Seven Mile Track in Wilson Bay

Then we packed up and headed to Glenorchy for lunch (where Top of the Lake was filmed and set). Check it out - one of my current favorites.

We drove as far as we could to Paradise (town of 3 houses named after paradise ducks) on a dirt road until it became too hairy for 4 wheels. So we biked the rest of the way through some streams and past some lots of cows. Also where Lord of the Rings locations Lothlorien, Amon Hen, Orthanc and Isengard were filmed.

driving to Glenorchy
Queenstown hostel; Queenstown airport

Day 15: Queenstown - Auckland

Daytrip to Kariotahi black sand beach. It was a little grey, but fun was had climbing up the cliffs by the water and eating the cheapest Chinese fish and chips take-away of the whole trip on the beach.

Day 16: Auckland - DC

I had an evening flight back to DC, so we took a daytrip to Piha - climbed Lion’s Rock and checked out the surfers. Saw a few changing from wetsuits to business suits which gives me hope that one day I can take up surfing while still maintaining some sort of job.

DSC_0994 DSC_0986_enhanced
Piha & Lion's Rock