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 have already been to New Zealand in bits and pieces for 4 to 5 times. But the last time around, I decided to do a backpacking trip in the South Island and it has been one of my epic travels ever.

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PIN for later reference - Backpacking in South Island!
PIN for later reference – Backpacking in South Island!

About 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

10 days 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 took 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 the evening flight is the best flight to take as it actually saves a day in traveling. Also, you can finish your 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 (read details below). 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.

Transportation between Christchurch International Airport and Hostel

I landed in Christchurch at around 1 AM. I was worried that my only options to get to my hostel (YHA Christchurch) would be taxis or Uber, which could cost me somewhere from NZD 40-80.

In fact, earlier that day I had called the hostel reception and had inquired the cheapest and safest way to get there. The answer that I had got was that it had to be either taxi or Uber as at the time of my flight landing, there would be no options available.

But the guy at the reception and I were both wrong. I walked out of the exit at the airport and saw an ‘i’ board, which generally means the Information centre. I walked up to the guy at the information centre and inquired the same that I had asked earlier to the hostel guy. The answer was quite different. He said there were shared shuttle services called Supershuttle, which is a door to door service and they would drop me right in front of my hostel. How cool is that! And this for only NZD 25. Even before getting into the shuttle I had become their fan.

The fondness for them grew when:

  1. My shuttle driver was super friendly and she took care of me by making sure I got down right in front of my hostel. For some reason the hostel gate code did not work and I could not get into my hostel for 5 to 10 minutes. The shuttle driver patiently waited till I got in and then left, ensuring I was safe.
  2. Everyone who knows me well knows I am a big fan of free wifi. Just like the icing on the cake, it turned out that the shuttle had free wifi service on-board.
How do you book?
  • Supershuttle.co.nz
  • 0800 748 885
  • Shuttle stand outside Christchurch airport

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 Mount John South Summit hike. The Mount 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. The Tekapo star gazing with hot pools is very unique to Tekapo as it is the only star gazing tour with hot springs in New Zealand.
    • Having been on so many stargazing tours, I personally did not like the star gazing part as much. I felt the tour was more about the hot springs and enjoying the views of the stars than the star gazing itself. I felt this tour was more for people who love hot springs than who were more interested in only the stars. As per the locals, the stargazing at Mount John Observatory is a must-do, which unfortunately I could not do because of lack of time.
New Zealand
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Mount John South Summit hiking details

Tekapo is a small town located in the inland South Island in New Zealand. One of the must dos when in Tekapo is hiking the South Summit of Mount John. The walk starts off at the hot springs and makes its way through the lush green forest, till the Summit and then to the Café at the observatory.

Backpacking in New Zealand

Undoubtedly, the views along the way are spectacular. But the views at the Summit are breath taking. The path provides the view of the turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo and it is definitely something to die for. At the summit, Lake Tekapo and Lake McGregor are visible next to each other. It’s splendid!

Logistics
  • Total distance: approximately 6 kilometres.
  • Total time: 1.5 to 2 hours (return).
  • Type of walk: Return.
  • Grade: Moderate (it is quite steep in some sections).
  • Cost: FREE.

Note: Ensure you wear good hiking boots as in winters there could be ice and it can be very slippery.

Hostel details

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

Important Information

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

Day 3: Tekapo to Mount Cook

  • Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. And I had decided to stay at Mount Cook for a night. Unfortunately, I was blessed by the rain god and it was pouring the entire time I was at Mount Cook.
  • The rain did not stop the entire time I was in Mount 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.

Hike to Tasman Glacier view and Blue Lake walk details

There are plenty of walks in Mount Cook. The walks that provide spectacular views of the snow capped mountains. But on a rainy day, one has no choice but to opt for easy walks (Tasman Glacier View and Blue Lake Walk) so the day is not wasted. I just had one day in Mount Cook and I had to make the best of it. The weather was real bad and it was pouring continuously from the time I arrived.

Backpacking in New Zealand

I looked at the list of walks and shortlisted the two easy walks, one next to the other. The two walks were:

  1. Tasman Glacier View.
  2. Blue Lake.

The Tasman Glacier Walk was my favourite. The walk is about 1 hour return and has steps to get to the top. The view provides the icebergs melting on the lake. During winter, the lake is supposed to be frozen. But I was lucky enough to see the ice floating on the lake. It was breath taking.

Backpacking in New Zealand

The Blue Lake provides view of the lakes that are supposed to be blue. But the lakes were green in colour. There is a board explaining why the lake is green. According to the board, a lake is blue when it is freshly melted from a glacier and green when the water is from rainwater.

Backpacking in New Zealand
Logistics
  • Total Distance: 3.5 kilometres.
  • Time taken: 1 hour return.
  • Cost: FREE.

I would recommend these walks if you are short of time and wants to make use of a rainy day.

Hostel details

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

Important Information

  • It is very important to have a car for local transportation in Mount 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 Mount Cook.

Day 4: Mount 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 Mount 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.

Mount Iron loop Hiking details

If you want panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and Wanaka town, Mount Iron Summit is definitely the place to be. Mount Iron is about 573 metres high and is one of the prominent mountains visible from Wanaka town.

Backpacking in New Zealand

The car park is about 2 kilometres from the Town centre. And that is the starting point of the hike.

The walk during winter provides pretty picturesque views of Lake Wanaka with the snow capped mountains in the background. It’s a stunning view for sure! It is steep in certain sections but is definitely rewarding at the summit.

Logistics
  • Distance: Approximately 5 kilometres loop walk.
  • Total time: 1.5 hours return.
  • Type of walk: loop.
  • Grade: Medium as the walk does have steep sections.
  • Cost: FREE.

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.

4 line zipling details

Queenstown is the place to be if you love adventures and if you are an adventure junkie. Ranging from Bungee jumping to Skydiving to Jetboating, Queenstown has it all. This is definitely my favourite place in New Zealand. The vibe and the air of this place is itself amazing.

Since I have bungee jumped in Queenstown and have skydived twice in other places in the past, this time I chose to do the zip line. It is a super fun way to spend few hours in Queenstown.

I booked the tour through:

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

The Ziplining tour does not include the Gandola ride, which you need to get up to the mountain. The check in point for the Zipline is on the mountain near the Skyline. For Gandola ride booking:

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

Note: You can hike up the mountain if you wish, it takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to hike up and it is pretty steep.

The zip line tour which I booked was a 4 line zip tour, and each line gets longer than the previous one. The last zip line is the longest and has the best view of Lake Wakatipu.

We were in a group of three and we were taken care of so well by our guides Nara and Declan. They ensured our harness were safe and most importantly we were comfortable every time we ziplined. It was definitely memorable. I would totally recommend them.

Backpacking in New Zealand

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 – 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

  • JUCY Snooze Christchurch.
  • 5, Peter Leeming Road, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch.
  • +64 3903 0070.

Jucy Snooze Christchurch

I stumbled upon Jucy Snooze pods while researching for hostels near Christchurch airport. And I must say it is definitely one of the coolest places I have ever stayed at. It is just 10 minutes walk from the international airport. The whole check in and out process is automated and it is a very simple process. The check in process only requires a pre-booking and scanning of a photo identity (passport).

I loved this place and I definitely recommend this place.

Booking details

  • Jucy Snooze Pod.
  • Address: 5, Peter Leeming Road, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • Phone Number: +6439030070.
  • A pod costs only about NZD 33 or AUD 30.4 (USD 23) in a 8 shared female dorm.
Jucy Christchurch

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

Between Sydney and 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).

Between 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 Mount Cook The Cook Connection37.534.5926.18
Mount 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 Mount Cook YHA1, Bowen Drive, Mount 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 – 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

PIN for later reference - Backpacking in South Island!
PIN for later reference – Backpacking in South Island!

8 thoughts on “Backpacking in South Island!”

  1. 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. 🙂

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • My first cousin lives in New Zealand. It is such a shame I haven’t visited him. But looking at your travel exploits I feel that I have taken a virtual tour of the country. Great coverage as always!

      Reply
  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.

    Reply

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