I’m off to explore the South Island with Haka Tours!

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I’ve been keeping a big secret, can you guys forgive me?

I’m going to New Zealand’s famous South Island for 2 weeks over Christmas!

Eeeep! I can’t wait!

Faced with yet another Christmas abroad (small sacrifice of an expat), I was really undecided about what to do come December 25. Only two requirements were on my mind – not be alone and do something cool – in retrospect two fairly easy things to accomplish in beautiful New Zealand filled with super friendly kiwis.

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I thought I was going to be a lot more homesick than how I currently find myself. New Zealand is very alien to me compared to Spain and Europe where I’ve Christmas-ed in the past, and while I’ve got plenty of friends here, they are all new friends who I didn’t want to dump my Christmas woes on.

I also thought being in a country with reversed seasons and a hot Christmas would make me even more homesick, especially since this appears to be the whitest Christmas in years back home (boo weather gods), but the opposite has happened.

I LOVE a hot December! This is great – I know understand people who winter in tropical climates. In fact, I nearly forgot that Christmas was right around the corner until I walked into Starbucks last week and it was decked out in red and gold with carols playing while I was wearing a tank top and shorts. Bizarre.

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With Christmas fast approaching, I decided to hop on an epic two-week tour of the South Island with Haka Tours. Geared toward solo, independent, adventure travelers, it didn’t take long for me to realize this was the trip for me.

I’ve been putting off going to the South Island because I’m planning on moving there at some point in the year that I’m in New Zealand. However, I’ve settled in Wellington indefinitely because IT’S THE COOLEST CITY IN THE WORLD, and also because I don’t know where I want to live in the South Island and I don’t really want to bum around from place to place until I find somewhere I love.

Nelson? Christchurch? Wanaka? Queenstown? Too many options!

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Settling on the 12 Day South Island Adrenalin Junkie Tour with Haka Tours was the solution to all my problems. Cue cheesy music. I get to spend my holidays with a bunch of fellow travel and adventure lovers exploring the best, brightest and, of course, the most beautiful spots of the South Island.

Of course being me, I can’t NOT mention the fact that the South Island is home to some of the most outrageous Lord of the Rings filming locations. Bring it.

Once again, I am excited for Christmas!

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Now to be honest here, I am not always one for organized tours. As some of my closest friends say loudly and repeatedly, I am slightly neurotic and a bit of a control freak (at the best of times) – though I don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m simple; when it comes to travel, I like to be in charge. And nothing tests my patience quite like enormous Asian tour groups. Shudder.

However, I’m swamped and overwhelmed with work and projects at the moment, and if I was planning this trip independently even with my magical travel skillz, there’s no way I could do it in 12 days for this cheap. Lucky for me, Haka Tours does small group tours (thank god) and with tons of mixes and add-ons, you get to customize your dream New Zealand trip.

Just how I like it.

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Here’s where you come in.

I need your help planning what funsies I should add on to the trip. Since I am physically incapable of doing every single one, please vote at the end of the post or leave me a comment and help me chose!

new zealand haka tours

Come Saturday night I’ll be bidding Wellington farewell from the decks of the famous ferry en route to Picton on the tippy top of the South Island.

Ahoy!

I really don’t want to give too much away but I do want to give you guys a little teaser of what I’m going to be up to in the next few weeks, especially since so many of you have encouraged me to head south since I first announced I was moving to New Zealand!

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Christchurch and Kaikoura

When I originally bought my flight to New Zealand for August, my plan was to fly into Christchurch and then look for somewhere to base myself on the South Island.

While I had plenty of people warning me away from the mess that is Christchurch from the earthquake a few years back, there’s certainly been a healthy bunch of folks telling me how much they loved the city, so I am excited to finally experience it myself.

Kaikoura is a beautiful seaside town surrounded by mountains famous for its dolphins, seals, whales and general marine life. Can you guess what I’ll be doing there?

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Lake Tekapo

I’ve been DYING to go this lake ever since I first saw pictures of it encircled with blooming lupins. Doesn’t it look fake?

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Queenstown

Probably where I’ll end up moving to, Queenstown is the famous adventure capital of the South Island. This little city has always been in the forefront of my mind when I imagined the South Island, so let’s see if the fantasy lives up to the reality.

Oh, and help me pick an adventure sport, deal?

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Milford Sound

The Milford Sound is one of the South Island’s jewels, and I’ve been dying to check it out since I got to New Zealand. From cruising next to waterfalls and enjoying the misty atmosphere, spending the day sailing around the Milford Sound with Real Journeys, I know this will be one of the highlights of my tour!

A pretty awesome way to spend Christmas Day, amiright?

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Wanaka

I had been considering living in Wanaka as an alternative to Queenstown so I’m super thrilled I’ll get to visit it so soon. With fab views of the Southern Alps, I’m for some time alone with these giant mountains.

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Franz Josef

After a helicopter ride over the famous Franz Josef Glacier, I’ll spend a few hours exploring the ice with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. While I’ve spent time around glaciers in Switzerland and Iceland, I’ve never actually gotten to explore them myself.

Expect some reenactments from Game of Thrones, Jon Snow-style.

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Punakaiki

From the icy glaciers we head north to the rainforest where we’ll be spending time exploring the bizarre pancake rock formations along the west coast. I had never actually heard of Punakaiki until this week so I am thrilled that we’ll be checking out somewhere surprising to me. 

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Abel Tasman

Two of my roommates are from sunny Nelson which is next to Abel Tasman so I am pumped I finally get to see this famous park for myself!

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So please tell me, have you ever been to the South Island? Would you like to go? Have any suggestions for me? Oh, and don’t forget, please let me know what adventure activity I should do!

 


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75 Comments on “I’m off to explore the South Island with Haka Tours!

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  1. This sounds like an epic vacation! Have such a wonderful time! I agree with you about being wary of group tours, but the fact that this particular one is small and provides the opportunity to customize sounds like the perfect happy medium. I too will be spending my Christmas abroad – my husband and I are expats in Barcelona and will be traveling to Salzburg & Vienna, Austria. I am excited to geek out on the Sound of Music tour, wander the Christmas markets and eat lots of schnitzel. Feliz Navidad, Liz!

  2. Lake tekapo is just awsome with feets on the grounds, but it’s even better seen from above !
    Those views are what you need !
    And all places on the south island are great. Except Queenstown to live. It reminded me too much of Europe. I’d rather stay anywhere else where you can find more kiwis than foreigners.
    But it’s definitly worth a visit !
    By the way, I love your blog, and can’t wait to read all your new adventures !

    Valerie ( Back in France after the trip of her life of 15 months in NZ. i want to go back ! )

  3. definitely the paragliding! we went skydiving in the north island on our honeymoon and the views are incredible! and i’ve heard the south island views are even better! i wish that we had time to explore the south but alas, like with every trip, there’s never enough time!

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