Epic New Zealand road trip

New Zealand is a country filled with adrenaline and adventures. And how not too, if you start thinking of the incredible mountains, foaming waterfalls, the wild sandy beaches that provide the backdrop to breathtaking hikes and the astonishing wildlife.

If your time is limited to one week in New Zealand, having the route well planed is very important. There is so much to do and see and coming here without a plan will be overwhelming and you will loose time and many great places to see. So, here I will share with you our route for one week.

This itinerary is based on the assumption that you’ll be arriving on a flight into Christchurch, the main air hub on the South Island and the common way to arrive into the South Island. In this blog post I will share the first part of our route in the south island, that means there will be a second blog about New Zealand.

getting around the South Island

Travelling by rental car or camper van is currently the easiest way by far to get around New Zealand. I do recommend you the camper van, because if there is a way to make your experience more interesting and special, that will be by camper van. It will not only provide you an unique way to explore the country, but it will give you more freedom to move from a place to another, it will also make you gain more time, as you don’t have to go back to a hotel.

TIMARU

Timaru is located between Dunedin and Christchurch. It’s a great place if you want to stay overnight, but also a nice place to have pleasant beach walks. But what makes this beaches very special, is that if you take a walk at dusk you have pretty good chances to meet the little blue penguins returning to their burrows, or you can even see some sea lions.

watch penguins return to their burrows

Caroline Bay is one of the places on the South Island where you can see the smallest penguins in the world, the Little Blue Penguins. If you want to increase your chances to see them, maybe you should book a visit at one of the protection companies in Timaru.

We did it and it was such a wonderful experience. We spotted more than 300 penguins returning from the sea and also sea lions. I don’t have photos, neither videos because we weren’t allowed, for safety reasons for the penguins (the flash light can scare them and they may not come back again), but we had a few curious ones coming super close to us, they were so close we could touch them, but I didn’t because it is not recommend, as we can pass them a disease. This is something I highly recommend you to do!

New Zealand will spoil you with astonishing views anywhere you go
The sheep are curious, but shy

DUNEDIN

Dunedin is a great city, with plenty of things to do, but it also has many amazing natural attractions, which is perfect for nature lovers, or photographers. Here is also where we’ve been the closest to wild sea lions, which it was one of the best experience of our life.

I will share with you some of the beaches where you can be super close to them. If you come at sunrise or sunset, you can see penguins too. Even if these beaches are very protected, you don’t have to book a visit to see the wildlife. You just park your van at beach entrance, walk a little bit until you reach the beach and then enjoy the walk.

do and don’t

You have to have it very clear that they are wild animals and there are a few rules to follow. Also you don’t need to be scared of them, because if you don’t approach too much (keep a distance of 10 meters), or if you don’t bother them, they will do no harm to you. And they are so cute, that is hard to believe they can be harmful.

Allans Beach

This beach has some pretty awesome coastal views and sea lions laying down here and there. We were super happy to meet them, because this was our fist time seeing wild sea lions so close and also they were all “babies”. We spotted like 6 of them and probably there were many more hidden in the grass. Super cute!!

The ocean is generally rough in these parts of the peninsula, but it is also a great spot for surf lovers. There are many beaches in Dunedin, perfect for surfing. This is it also a good place to stop for lunch. 15 minutes drive from the beach you can find restaurants, or you can just enjoy the van life and have lunch with the beach and sea lions in front of you.

This is one of the cutest views to enjoy while you are in New Zealand

Portobello

The small village of Portobello it´s surrounded by some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and only 25 minutes from central Dunedin. This is a great place to enjoy the best of nature, because the more you roam around, the more you’ll find.

And I am talking about the world’s only mainland albatross breeding colony at Taiaroa Head and various other ocean bird, seal and penguin species, including one of the world’s rarest, the yellow eyed penguin. You can also spot many sheep along the way, because you are in New Zealand!

That is our van
New Zealand

Smails Beach

Smails Beach is a very special one for me. This is the type of beach where you’ll get views of the top of the hill and down at the beach. If you want to access the beach, then you have to walk down from the top of the hill, then you have to walk down past a series of viewpoints until you make it down. Watch your step, because there are sea lions that camouflage very well with the sand. You don’t want to get mad any of them.

We had the best time of our lives here. Watching the sea lions, playing in the sand, swimming, being teased by the Albatros. Oh my what a good laugh we had! But for me the best of the best was to see how much they enjoy life and how happy they were. We watched one of them playing in the water like an hour. It was a pretty amazing experience.

sea lions
They are so adorable making their way back to the beach
This happy I am to be in New Zealand

Moeraki boulders

I´m pretty sure that when you think about New Zealand, the first thing that comes to our minds apart from Lake Tekapo it is also Moeraki boulders. This natural phenomenon is one place you can’t miss while in New Zealand. This is an awesome beach if you want to whitness a beautiful sunrise. The perfectly round boulders stuck in the sand add a little something special to an already magical beach sunrise.

CAMPER VANS

Adventuring by camper van across New Zealand is one of the most rewarding ways to experience this diverse and vibrant country. I just loved the freedom of living in a camper van, I literally felt like a turtle. This way of exploring a new country is an experience hard to forget!

Driving in New Zealand is very different to driving in other countries. Whilst traffic is generally very calm, the roads tend to follow the curves of the environment. The roads can be completely isolated, the people amazingly friendly and the wildlife incredibly weird. And let’s not forget that in New Zealand you have to drive on the other side, but you’ll get used to it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Very cool. Those boulders do look fascinating.

    ✨🦋🐍🕊🐉🗝⚖🕯🤍⚛🎐🎋🙏✨

    1. Madeleine says:

      thank you Stephen

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