Backpacking in South Island!

I have been to New Zealand many times before. Its a beautiful country and my most favourite country so far, so visiting this part of the World is almost like an annual ritual. I had already been to New Zealand in bits and pieces for 4 to 5 times. But this time around, I decided to do a backpacking trip in the South Island and it has been one of my epic trips ever.

PIN for later reference

South Island
PIN for later reference – Backpacking in South Island

South Island

South Island is the biggest island of the two islands in New Zealand. It is undoubtedly a heaven on Earth. Some even address it as a paradise on Earth. The island is famous for its glaciers, National parks, and the southern lights. I had visited Queenstown in the South Island before for a few days but I had never had the opportunity to do a road trip and backpacking in South Island.

Kaikoura Milky way

Itinerary

Below is the itinerary that I followed on my backpacking trip.

NZ Itinerary - Backpacking in South Island
Itinerary

Day 1: Sydney to Christchurch

  • I had an evening flight from Sydney to Christchurch. New Zealand is 2 hours ahead of Sydney, so I reached Christchurch at midnight.
  • I stayed at Christchurch YHA.

Hostel details

Important Information

  • If you are traveling from Sydney, then this evening flight is the best flight to take as it actually saves a day in traveling. Also, one can finish their work and then take the flight in the evening which also saves a day of leave.
  • The best way to travel from Christchurch airport to the hostel was via the shuttle bus. This is the cheapest way to get to the hostel.
  • I always prefer staying at the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) hostels as they are extremely neat and safe.

Day 2: Christchurch to Tekapo

  • I took an early morning Intercity NZ bus to Tekapo. The bus journey along the countryside was totally worth getting up that morning.
  • I reached Tekapo in the afternoon. After boarding at the hostel, I straight away headed to do the Mt John South Summit hike. The Mt John South Summit hike is a short hike of 6 kilometres but it is definitely a steep walk. But the views from the summit are absolutely stunning and totally worth it.
  • In the evening, I was picked up by the tour guide for Tekapo Star Gazing. Having been on so many stargazing tours, I personally did not like this tour as much. I felt the tour was more about the hot springs than the stargazing itself. I felt it was a waste of money for a backpacker who was more interested in the stars as opposed to the hot springs. But as per the locals, the stargazing at Mt John Observatory is a must-do, which unfortunately I could not do.

Hostel details

  • LakeFront Backpackers Lodge.
  • 2, Lakeside Drive, Lake Tekapo.
  • +64 3680 6825.

Important Information

  • Ensure to book the tours at Tekapo Star Gazing and Mt John Observatory well in advance as they do get sold out quickly.
  • Mt John Observatory is open only over the weekends.

Day 3: Tekapo to Mt Cook

  • Mt Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. And I had decided to stay at Mt Cook for a night. Unfortunately, I was blessed by the rain god and it was pouring the entire time I was at Mt Cook.
  • The rain did not stop the entire time I was in Mt Cook. Instead of letting the rain spoil my plans, I decided to do the Tasman Glacier View and Blue Lake hike, which was pretty awesome.
  • For detailed information on things to do in Mount Cook, refer Things to do in Mount Cook.

Hostel details

  • Aoraki Mt Cook YHA.
  • 1, Bowen Drive, Mt Cook.
  • +64 3435 1820.

Important Information

  • It is very important to have a car for local transportation in Mt Cook. I did not have a car and I decided to hitchhike.
  • It is best to carry some ready to eat food options as there are very few restaurants in Mt Cook.

Day 4: Mt Cook to Wanaka

  • I reached Wanaka in the evening and the first thing I did after the check-in at the hostel was to head to the Wanaka tree. It was a delight to watch this lone tree.
  • I also waited for the sunset and the Milky Way to show up. As the clouds ruined my view of the Milky Way, I did not have much of luck to capture the Milky Way.

Hostel details

  • Wanaka YHA.
  • 94, Brownston Street, Wanaka.
  • +64 3443 1880.

Day 5: Wanaka & Wanaka to Queenstown

  • In the morning, I hiked up to the summit of Mt Iron to get picturesque views of Wanaka. It was totally worth it!
  • And in the evening I was at Queenstown, where I tried the burger at famous Fergburger. It is one of the most famous food options in Queenstown. There is always a very huge queue. The burger was definitely tasty but if you ask me was it worth the 30 minutes waiting line? I would say no.

Hostel details

  • Nomads Queenstown. I will not stay at this hostel ever. This was extremely crowded and dirty.
  • 5 – 11, Church Street, Queenstown.
  • +64 3441 3922.

Day 6: Queenstown & Queenstown to Dunedin

  • I am in love with Queenstown. It is surely my most favourite places in New Zealand.
  • In the morning, I did the 4 line zipling at Queenstown. I would definitely recommend this activity in Queenstown. Queenstown is known for its adventurous activities. One can do bunjee jumping, swing, or jet skiing. All these activities are amazing.
  • And the entire day I traveled to Dunedin.

Hostel details

  • Central Backpackers Dunedin.
  • 243, Moray Place, Dunedin.
  • +64 3477 9985.

Day 7: Dunedin & Dunedin to Invercargill

  • In the first half of the day, I visited the famous landmarks of Dunedin. I really liked Dunedin.
  • And I spent the rest of the day traveling to Invercargill.

Hostel details

  • Tuatara Lodge.
  • 32, Dee Street, P.O. Box 960, Invercargill.
  • +64 3214 0954.

Day 8: Invercargill to Stewart Island

  • Did you know New Zealand also has a third biggest island that is not as big as the North and the South Islands? The name of that third island is Stewart Island.
  • I explored Stewart Island the entire day.

Hostel details

  • South Sea Hotel ā€“ Stewart Island.
  • Elgin Terrace, Half Moon Bay.
  • +64 3219 1059.

Day 9: Ulva Island & Stewart Island to Invercargill

  • I was dropped at Ulva Island in the morning. Would you believe if I said I was the only person on this island the entire time I was at Ulva island?
  • I spent about 2 hours on Ulva, before heading back to Stewart Island to catch a flight to Invercargill.

Hostel details

  • Tuatara Lodge.
  • 30 – 32, Dee Street, P.O. Box 960, Invercargill.
  • +64 3214 0954.

Day 10: Invercargill to Christchurch

  • I spent the entire day traveling on the bus, from Invercargill to Christchurch.

Hostel details

Day 11: Christchurch to Sydney

  • I had an early morning flight from Christchurch to Sydney.

My Route map

Expenses

For a 10 days backpacking trip with lots of activities, the total expenses was AUD 1,951.81.

Flights

Sydney – Christchurch

  • Frequent flights fly between Sydney and Christchurch.
  • Jetstar is definitely the most economical airline.
  • Sydney to Christchurch return: CostAUD 409.34 (including 15Kgs of Check-in baggage) (USD 310).

Invercargill – Stewart Island

  • Stewart Island Flights run flights between Invercargill and Stewart Island.
  • Cost for return flights and two sight-seeing tours: AUD 282 (USD 214).

Local Transportation

Christchurch airport transfer

  • Cost: NZD 25 or AUD 23.1 (USD 17.6).

Stewart Island Car hire

  • Cost: NZD 120 or AUD 111.79 (USD 83.45).

Invercargill airport shuttle

  • Cost: NZD 15 or AUD 13.9 (USD 11.4).

Intercity travel

  • I traveled mostly by bus. Intercity NZ runs frequent buses between the cities and towns. But one can also hire a campervan to travel within the island, read Cheap New Zealand Campervan Hire for details on how to get the best and cheap campervans.
Route Route (Cont..)ProviderCost in NZDCost in AUDCost in USD
Christchurch to Tekapo Intercity38.9935.9627.2
Tekapo to Twizel to Mt Cook The Cook Connection37.534.5926.18
Mt Cook to Twizel to Tekapo The Cook ConnectionIncluded in aboveIncluded in aboveIncluded in above
Tekapo to TarrasTarras to WanakaIntercity68.9963.6348.17
Wanaka YHA to Queenstown Intercity32.9930.4223.03
Queenstown to Dunedin Intercity4.994.63.48
Dunedin to GoreGore to InvercargillIntercity25.9923.9718.14
Invercargill to GoreGore to ChristchurchIntercity39.9936.8827.91

Hostels

NameAddressAccomodation typeCost per night (NZD)Cost per night (AUD)Cost per night (USD)
Christchurch YHA36, Hereford Street, Christchurch; +64337995366 Bed Share Female40.537.328.2
LakeFront Backpackers Lodge2, Lakeside drive, Lake Tekapo; +64368068256 Bed Share Mixed373426
Aoraki Mt Cook YHA1, Bowen Drive, Mt Cook; +64343518208 Bed Share Female34.231.523.9
Wanaka YHA94, Brownston Street, Wanaka; +64344318804 Bed Share Female36.93425.8
Nomads Queenstown5 – 11, Church Street, Queenstown; +64344139226 Bed Share Female4137.828.62
Central Backpackers Dunedin243, Moray Place, Dunedin; +64347799858 Bed Share Female2825.819.5
Tuatara Lodge32, Dee Street, P.O. Box 960, Invercargill; +64321409544 Bed Share Mixed3229.522.3
South Sea Hotel ā€“ Stewart IslandElgin Terrace, Half Moon Bay; +6432191059Single Room7569.152.3
Tuatara Lodge30 – 32, Dee Street, P.O. Box 960, Invercargill; +64321409544 Bed Share Mixed3229.522.3
JUCY Snooze Christchurch5, Peter Leeming Road, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand; +64390300708 Bed Share Female3330.423

Activities

Maori Powhiri Welcome Dance

  • Cost: AUD 23.64 (USD 17.89).
  • Booked on Viator.

Tekapo Star Gazing

  • Cost: AUD 85.10 (USD 64.41).
  • Booked on Viator.

Queenstown Zipline tour

  • Cost: AUD 89.83 (USD 67.99) + NZD 44 or AUD 40.73 (USD 30.82).
  • Booked on Viator.

Queenstown Gandola

  • Cost: NZD 39 or AUD 36.11 (USD 27.31).
  • Booked at the bottom of Gandola.

Dunedin City and Coastal Tour

  • Cost: AUD 80.38 (USD 60.84).
  • Booked on Viator.

Larnach Castle entrance

  • Cost: NZD 31 or AUD 28.91 (USD 21.62).
  • Booked at the Castle gate.

Water Taxi to Ulva Island & Stewart Island Bus Tour

  • Cost: Included with the flights.
  • Booked along with the flights’ add-on.

Tip: Always Ensure you call the tour operators one day before to confirm your bookings. And also mention them the places you are staying in, sometimes they pick you up from your hostels.

Food

  • I carried 10 packets of ready to eat of food; cost: AUD 18 (USD 13.64).
  • Note: Do not forget to declare this at the airport.
  • I also ate food at various restaurants, costing about NZD 150 or AUD 139.05 (USD 113.7).
  • Stewart Island was the most expensive place for food.

SIM and Wifi

  • Optus Australia is my phone provider. Having a prepaid connection automatically qualifies me for International roaming. So I did not buy a separate SIM card.
  • Generally, at hostels, the Wifi is free. However, some hostels I stayed at, did charge me for Wifi connection. The cost was around NZD 5 or AUD 4.63 (USD 3.79).

Is it safe for solo female travelers?

New Zealand is one of the safest countries I have ever traveled as a solo female travelers. The country is known for its tourism and is very safe. So I would definitely say yes! However, like any other country in the World, I would say be cautious especially at nights and trust your instinct.

Closing notes

As I mentioned earlier, this has been one of my most epic travels ever and I had such an awesome time backpacking in the South Island.

PIN for later reference

South Island

8 Comments

  1. Samidha Mathur

    Amazed to see your properly planned and written itinerary. I want to do a solo traveling too but not getting enough guidance and ideas to do it. And New Zealand is very beautiful. As my brother stays there.. So he keeps on praising it. šŸ™‚

  2. delhifundos2014

    Thanks for sharing all the things in detailed I really love such blogs where author provides each and everything in detailed and well mannered. Thank you for sharing about these wonderful places with us during a time when we are not able to travel and see such places ourselves. At least we can see and visit them virtually. Would love to someday see them in real life for sure.

  3. U r so lucky to visit NZ so many times. I wish to see all these beautiful locations.
    That itinerary pic u posted is impressive & it will instantly make things easy for the travellers.
    Also the pics are so good. Plz do add more photos.

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