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The South Island as seen from my iPhone

south island travel new zealand

It’s been exactly a week since I stepped off the ferry back in Wellington after 14 days exploring the South Island over the holidays, and my mind is still reeling.

The verdict is in – New Zealand’s South Island is ACTUALLY the most beautiful place in the entire world.

Nope, don’t even try to argue.

Major sensory overload; I think it’s safe to say I have a visual hangover from too much pretty, and it’s taken me a week to even begin to process all of the stunning locations I was lucky enough to experience with Haka Tours.

Coming from a nomad who is addicted to mountainous landscapes, blue waters and adventure sports, that’s saying something.

south island travel new zealand


3 weeks ago when I made my way to the YHA hostel in downtown Wellington to meet up with the tour group for the first time, I had butterflies in my stomach and my hands were sweaty.

I was nervous. I had been traveling alone for so long I’d forgotten what it was like to share travel experiences in a group and not be in charge of planning.

What if they didn’t like me? What if I hated everyone and was miserable on Christmas? What if the guide was boring and I didn’t pack enough underwear?

Deep breath, Liz, calm the hell down and be more positive – I tried to give myself a mental pep talk. I know I’ve been too much of a hermit since getting to New Zealand. This trip would be good for me in so many ways.

south island travel new zealand

Turns out I had nothing to fear; not only did I in fact pack enough undies, but everyone was more than friendly and outgoing, and Burto, our guide, is my new favorite Kiwi.

After a quick run together for snacks for the ferry to the South Island, and the sharing of Skittles (nothing brings people together like sharing sugar), we were off! Though little did I know how much I would regret those Skittles the next day….

One of the things I loved the most about Haka Tours was that almost everyone is a solo traveler, just like me. Inhibitions are stripped away and bonds are quickly formed as you meet your new travel companions for the first time.

Nothing brings people together quite like traveling across the world to a new country with the possibility of a great adventure, am I right?

south island travel new zealand

The next day, the real journey would begin.

Finally getting to step foot on the South Island after a decade of dreams for me is almost indescribable. It takes a lot for me to be at a loss for words, but there were plenty of spots in the South Island that left me speechless and stuttering.

Our first stop was Kaikoura, and I place I was really looking forward to since I hadn’t heard much about it. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the water is as deep as the peaks are tall, making it a hot spot for sea creatures.

south island travel new zealand

Swimming with wild dolphins was on the agenda for the day!

The drive along the coast was the perfect introduction. Jagged mountains dropped down to turquoise water, creating the perfect moody ambience I was hoping for.

In spite of windy seas and all the morning boat tours being cancelled, after being warned of high waves and rough swells, our group was going to be the first to venture out that day.

Oh why didn’t I listen to the warnings?

south island travel new zealand

Armed with dramamine, ginger pills and thick wetsuits, we piled into a tiny boat before launched in the water with my new comrades. After searching for the dolphins for 45 minutes on the roughest water I’ve experienced to date, we finally found a huge group of them.

Slipping off the back of the boat we snorkeled around on the surface while hundreds of playful dolphins swam around us. Now that my friends is not something I’ll soon forget.

Not to mention they respond to sound and noise, so just wait for the video of me screaming the lyrics to “Under the Sea” through my snorkel. You’re welcome in advance.

south island travel new zealand

However, after 2 dives and accidentally getting a mouthful of seawater, seasickness finally kicked in and I flopped back in the boat unable to recover.

With my wetsuit half pulled off and my face in a bucket, I spent the rest of the trip wanting to die and really, really regretting binging on Skittles.

Not exactly how I envisioned my introduction to the rest of the tour. “Hi, I’m Liz….yak.”

Why me?

south island travel new zealand

Luckily, no one held it against me, and as I watched dozens of dolphins do flips out of the water next to the boat, I thought to myself, well, this might take the cake for the most beautiful place I’ve ever barfed.

Back on land (THANK GOD ALMIGHTY) we made our way down to Christchurch to an area of New Zealand often overlooked by tourists since the devastating earthquake a few years ago. Lucky for me, we checked into the Haka Lodge Christchurch, which was homey, comfy and cozy, AND with kittens included. Just what I needed to recover.

After losing my Skittles, I had plenty of space for the amazing homecooked pasta dinner we shared together, lounging around the common area. From someone who more often than not eats both out and alone on the road, it was really nice to have what felt like a family dinner that first night together.

south island travel new zealand

Christchurch might actually be one of the biggest surprises of the whole trip. After hearing from everyone and their mother about how much the city has fallen, is in ruin, and is a zombie-apocalypse town, my 2 cents are agree to disagree.

For me, Christchurch has nothing but potential, and I was really impressed by the efforts of locals to help both rebuild their town and show us outsiders just how great it can really be.

I can’t wait to go back and see more of it.

Oh, and did I mention Christchurch is home to New Zealand’s biggest cookie factory and shop?!

south island travel new zealand

Lake Pukaki

south island travel new zealand

From Christchurch we traveled through the center of the South Island, where I got my first glimpse of the Southern Alps, yippee! Though it did take a few days for me to finally catch a peek of Aoraki-Mount Cook, NZ’s highest peek, who was playing hard-to-get and hiding behind the clouds.

This was also the beginning of the trip where I started to annoy everyone by saying, “Oh wow, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. No wait, THIS is the most beautiful place. No wait, THIS.”

You get the idea.

south island travel new zealand

Lake Tekapo

Crystalline blue lakes are interspersed along Alpine mountains creating a land that looks like it was painted and not reality. Getting to sleep next to Lake Tekapo and frolic among fields of rainbow lupins was pretty much a fairytale come true.

It’s also around this point where I began to take an absurd amount of photos. Click, click, clickity click, that was me.

Right before the trip, I got hooked up with an olloclip 4 – in – 1 lens for my iPhone. With a fisheye, 2 macros and a wide angle that all conveniently clip together on my phone, I was really able to take some wicked shots of the South Island without having to yank out my heavy camera (incidentally, if you’d like to know more about what’s in my camera bag I wrote a whole post on it!)

Being the nerd that I am, I’m always whining about how I can fit the shot I want to in the damn Instagram square. Now, problem solved!

south island travel new zealand

Eventually we made our way to Queenstown in time for Christmas Eve, and after a very small world moment, I ended up meeting and drinking beer on the beach with one of my readers as the sun set! What a great way to spend Christmas Eve!

In a rare fit of spontaneity, I decided to go out on the town with everyone and properly enjoy the infamous party scene in town.

I’ve alluded to this before, but somehow New Zealand has had this amazing idea to create booze teapots in bars, that is, instead of ordering a regular old boring drink, you can get a much bigger one served up in a teapot instead.


Though, it goes without saying, I usually regret teapot nights in New Zealand.

south island travel new zealand

south island travel new zealand


Well Christmas Even involved a lot of teapots, singing carols loudly and dancing around the bars, and then a midnight dip in the lake.

Though it made for a rather rough Christmas morning, it was one of those beautiful travel experiences with new friends.

Massively hungover, I joined in on most of the tour on a day trip to Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand.

south island travel new zealand

After celebrating a massive Christmas feast together plus secret Santa and opening presents, we got to spend more time enjoying the beauty of this area of New Zealand.

Before leaving Queenstown, I had to take part in paragliding, the activity YOU picked for me to do on this trip! And holy shit, what a backdrop to try it out in!

I’ve never been paragliding before, and after this, it’s safe to say I’m hooked! In fact, I’m already looking into getting licensed on my own I loved it so much!

south island travel new zealand

And if things couldn’t get any better, which I should have known by now not to say because things always got better, we journeyed over to Wanaka, which is a town I am thinking seriously about moving to once my lease in Wellington ends.

From walking along the lake to getting to fly in a vintage WWII fighter plane, my short time there was pretty unforgettable!

In spite of being a tiny town, Wanaka packs a punch and I really can’t wait to move there. Maybe. Should I?

south island travel new zealand

Lake Wanaka from above

Once we got to the wild west coast, things started to get even more interesting.

Under beautiful clear skies, I got to strap on crampons and fulfill my Game of Thrones fantasy by spending a few hours hiking on the blue ice of the Franz Josef Glacier. Oh, and for the record, I didn’t faceplant, not once. Winning.

You know nothing, Jon Snow.

south island travel new zealand

From mountains to fiords to glaciers to rainforests to sandy beaches, by the end of the trip we found ourselves in the Abel Tasman National Park, hiking along a coastline that reminded me of Greece and sleeping under the Milky Way on a boat hostel.

I was afraid after all of the excitement and adrenaline of previous days, the end of the trip wouldn’t live up to scratch.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The glorious, raw beauty of the north coast combined with peaceful few days was just what I needed to wind down and say goodbye to the South Island.

south island travel new zealand

Ringing in New Years on the water with dozens of new and (somewhat) old friends around a campfire might be one of my favorite end of the year celebrations to date!

Two weeks in the South Island with Haka Tours was just what I needed without even knowing it. I was able to experience the incredible beauty of New Zealand for the first time with friends.

And like most of the people who I was with, I left with the feeling of wanting more and already thinking about coming back. New Zealand has a way of doing that with people.

Have you been to New Zealand’s South Island? Is it on your bucket list? Are you a fan of taking phone photos while traveling? 

south island travel new zealand

Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks

Many thanks to Haka Tours for hosting me in the South Island. Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect anything else from me!

110 Responses to The South Island as seen from my iPhone

  1. Alex @ ifs ands & butts January 9, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Your photos, and your photos alone, make me want to switch to iPhone (complete with Olloclip).

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

      It’s so amazing!!! I’m addicted!

  2. Rachel of Hippie in Heels January 9, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    jeez i’m already getting on amazon to get a lens for my iphone.. india doesnt carry olloclip though, so hopefully off brand will work- do you have to take the case off your phone? the photos are amazing- sorry you vom’d skittles everywhere!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

      Olloclip sells a special case that has a part that flips up when you want to attach the olloclip, making it really easy and convenient. My friends with other lenses don’t have that so you have to carry your phone without a case or modify a case yourself. Are you in India? Can someone post to you?

      • Rachel of Hippie in Heels January 31, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

        Oh that’s tricky I just bought a new otterbox 🙁 but yes, i’m living in India & it’s too hard to ship things sadly- the post never shows up and the express DHL etc will just get stuck in customs at airport almost everytime… Indians take 50% for fees! Its crazy- My mom was going to send a 12 pound package, it was going to cost 380 bucks & then I’d have to pay customs on top! ew

        • Liz February 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

          god that sucks, Spain was similar.

  3. Sarah January 9, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Great snaps! Found your blog recently and am loving following your adventures 🙂

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      Thanks Sarah! Glad you like my blog!

  4. Julie @ A Life Exotic January 9, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    I lived in Christchurch while I was in NZ in 2010 and it’s so heartbreaking to hear people give up on it and say it’s no good since the earthquakes… thank you for giving it a chance! I can’t wait to go back someday. On another note — more info on this boat hostel please?!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      I can’t wait to go back to Christchurch! Boat hostel I think was called aqua packers in Abel Tasman, Haka organized it though so I have to check 🙂

      • Julie @ A Life Exotic January 11, 2014 at 9:54 am #

        That sounds awesome!

      • Lynda April 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

        Hi Liz,
        I was really into Haka Tours as I am trying to arrange a trip for my husband and I to N.Z. We’ve talked about it for too many years and 2015 is finally going to be the time to do it.
        My worry is … you are all so YOUNG in the photos! We are 66/65 but very fit and active. We’ve had small group adventures in Oz (real mix of ages) and on cycling trips abroad. Would we feel like grandparents with all you young, beautiful things??
        Haka tours seem to do the kind of things we would like, although we are keen to cycle too and that didn’t seem to feature so much.
        Thanks Liz.

        • Liz April 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

          Hi Lynda, why don’y you shoot me an email? liz at youngadventures dot com

  5. Naomi January 9, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    When I finally sort out my finances and start saving, as soon as I have enough money, I am off to New Zealand, it looks absolutely beaaut! Love the photos Liz!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

      save up, it aint cheap haha, but it’s worth every penny!

  6. Kaelene @Unlocking Kiki January 9, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Wow, these photos are just beautiful! It sounds like you had one amazing trip, my travel envy is def happenings now. I hope to explore New Zealand one day and these photos just make me bump it up higher on my travel bucket list!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      NZ is perfect, come soon!

  7. Lindsay January 9, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Oh GIRL. The same thing happened to me in Kaikoura! Our dolphin swim was at the ass-crack of dawn, which I think had something to do with it (I notice lack of sleep often helps trigger motion sickness for me). I remember being ok in the water, then I got back on the boat and started feeling it.

    Then in the midst of my ‘oh god I think I’m gonna be sick’ panic, some random guy on the boat asked me to pose for a photo with him – really, right now of all times?! Within seconds of the photo being taken, I grabbed a bucket and threw up.

    Glad you were able to recover quickly, at least! These photos are INSANE!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      Yeah I don’t know what happened! I don’t usually get motion sick, grew up sailing and on the water, though I did get sick whale watching once when I was little in the winter. The sea was super rough that day, the swells were so big, every time we went over one, we smacked back down so hard. Plus I don’t usually eat candy so I think my stomach was already upset. Who knows. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who got sick there!

  8. Bridget @ A Traveling B January 9, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Your photos are so stunning, they alone make me want to book a flight to the South Island right now. I love how there are so many activities to do while you are there, which I think makes any place more interesting. The view while you were paragliding is amazing! I have never done it before, but seems like a great way to get a view from above! Can’t wait to read more about New Zealand!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Thanks! Yeah there is so much to do down there, this was just the tip of the iceberg!

  9. Mallory January 9, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Your photo of Lake Tekapo is gorgeous. Love reading about your adventures!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      Lake Tekapo is outrageous, I don’t know how such a place can exist!

  10. Crystal January 9, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Holy smokes this trip looks amazing and your photos make me take back every nasty thing that I ever said about iPhones! You make me want to runaway to New Zealand right this very second!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      wahoooo that’s what I like to hear 😀

  11. Amanda January 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    Guhhhhh I am so heartsick for NZ right now. Can I come visit you tomorrow???

    Sounds like the South Island treated you well (well, except for those waves in Kaikoura…), and your photos have captured it beautifully!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      please come please come!

  12. Renee January 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I sure do enjoy your posts! I am so thrilled that you are enjoying New Zealand so much and that the South Island has more than lived up to its reputation as the most beautiful place on earth. If your heart tells you to move to Wanaka, then do so. It was right about New Zealand!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      That’s some good advice!

  13. Kayli Schattner January 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Such gorgeous photos! Love following along on your adventures.

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      Thank you!

  14. Katharina @ 100 Miles Highway January 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Great Scuba photo!!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks! Shit, I should have mentioned that was taken on my gopro, only for underwater stuff 😀

  15. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas January 9, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    Have no ganas to read thru all the comments, in case this was already addressed, but what programs do you use, if any? I have the world’s dumbest smartphone and my photos are far from pretty!!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Pretty much all I use are snapseed and proHDR 🙂

  16. Dustin@WeGoRTW January 9, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Loving the dolphin pics! Having just dealt with editing all the NZ vids, I am sad to say we missed out on swimming with dolphins in the open ocean! Well Done! Jealousy 🙂

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      Guess that means you just have to come back 😀

  17. Sam January 9, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    Great selection of photos, and wow – what a great way to spend Christmas! Beats my eating overboiled vegetables in wintry England!

    Oh, and I love this: “What if the guide was boring and I didn’t pack enough underwear?” – as though they could be related! Hehehe!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      A rare glimpse into the ADD nature of my mind

  18. Helen January 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Bloody love this post! Your pics have been amazing! I want to go back to NZ now! With Haka Tours!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

      Come back this year so we can hang out

      • Helen January 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

        I wish I could! Don’t think a NZ trip will be on the cards this year! But hopefully see you somewhere around the world! 🙂

  19. Shalee January 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    WOW! I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about this post. Where all these photos taken with the Olloclip? I’ve been researching it forever and debating whether to get one. But these photos are amazing! Makes my travel photos look like poop on a stick. Nice post!

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      I’d say more than half were taken with an olloclip, definitely worth the investment if you take a lot of phone photos!

  20. Megan January 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    UGH, the pretty. I really need to make it back there. After visiting Iceland I thought it was the prettiest place in the history of ever…but seeing your pictures reminds me that there’s NOTHING quite like NZ. I’ve entertained notions of renting a camper van and RVing around. That would be bliss.

    • Liz January 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      It’s really hard for me to decide between NZ and Iceland!! You should deffo do the RV thing, it’s really popular here and for a good reason 🙂

  21. Erin January 10, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    I love taking iPhone photos on trips, it’s so easy to capture the moment quickly. That paragliding experience looks amazing.

    • Liz January 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Paragliding was awesome, and what a cool place to do it!

  22. Kirsten January 10, 2014 at 2:24 am #

    My parents got back from NZ about a week ago and they both said the same thing about the south island: hands down the most beautiful place in the world. My mom even found a NZ working holiday visa for Canadians and has been trying to convince(practically ordering) me to apply for one over the last few days, haha. Love your pictures btw! I want an Olloclip now…

    • Liz January 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Yeah, they do have the working holiday for Canadians, you might even be able to get it for 2 years too! You should go, it’s incredible!

  23. Charise January 10, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    NZ is on my “someday” list … but all your gorgeous pictures here and posts about places like Hobbiton make me anxious of ever fitting all I’d want to see in what would likely have to be a 2 week vacation!

    • Liz January 10, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      It’s hard, that’s why I went with Haka Tours, let them do all the planning! It’s hard to fit it all in on your own affordably at least. Plus I have no self control. Hell, if I’d been by myself I wouldn’t have gone past Lake Tekapo haha, would have been stuck there for a week! Glad to have someone to force me back in the van to see more!

  24. Jennifer January 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Agree, agree, agree. New zealands south islamd is amazing!! I also loved wanaka and I want to live there, on a farm and ride horses everyday. I also love the abel tasman coast and thats where ive spent the most time as its where my in laws live. I shall be visiting again in 2015 for my sister inlaws wedding 🙂

    • Liz January 10, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      Lucky! Abel Tasman is gorgeous!

  25. Lily January 10, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Your photos bring back happy memories of our trip to the South Island in Feb./Mar. of 2013. I, too, am tempted to move there! Wanaka was great, but I actually liked Nelson even better! My husband and I are seriously considering spending some time in Nelson getting paraglider certified. I am totally addicted after just one flight and have fantasies of paragliding all over the world.

    Great photos!

    • Liz January 11, 2014 at 6:24 am #

      Ah I loved paragliding, I would love to get certified too!

  26. Kathryn Yates January 12, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    Liz –

    I just started reading your blog right before I came to New Zealand (about 5 days ago) and I am SO fascinated. I too have an insatiable travel itch, but my journey has just begun! My friend Annie and I are also from Virginia (Wahoowah!) and decided to buy a one way ticket to the South Island. Right now we are working on a vineyard in Blenheim but want to travel any and everywhere! We love your pictures and reading your posts. I am seriously so inspired…you make me want to travel the whole world!

    What’s your next stop? How long is your lease in Wellington? We want to go there as well and would love to meet up/spend some time with a fellow American!

    Keep up the awesome blogging 🙂

    • Liz January 13, 2014 at 2:40 am #

      Ah that’s awesome, I’m here til February before heading to the south island, probs Wanaka, would love to meet up! Send me an email and we can make a plan 😀

  27. Robin January 12, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    All these photos are insanely gorgeous! Who needs a heavy camera when you have iPhone.

  28. Matthew Cheyne January 12, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Stunning photos and a beautiful story to match. Being an iPhone 4 user myself, I’m curious to know which iPhone you used: the 4 or 5 and it’s variants.

    Being an Aussie as well who has yet to travel overseas, New Zealand is definitely on my bucket list, right up top as a matter of fact. I’ve noticed a lot of changes recently in the Australia to New Zealand dollar exchange where in the last six months or so where the New Zealand dollar has been closing in on the Aussie to the point that I read the other day in the Australian media that the Kiwi dollar could be worth more than the Aussie soon for the first time in over 40 years. That makes me ask the question – how expensive are things for the traveler in New Zealand compared to Australia and also how do you go about buying big ticket items there if and when the need arises?

    All that said and done, I laughed out loud when I read that you were singing “under the sea” through your snorkel. That’s hilarious and something I must do when I get to New Zealand too.

    I am loving your blog and openness and honesty to talk about yourself and your experiences. May 2014 be your best year yet 🙂

    • Liz January 13, 2014 at 2:39 am #

      Thank you! I have an iphone 5, love it. For me New Zealand is expensive, much more expensive than Europe, but then I went to Oz and was floored by how much more expensive it was than NZ, so I think you’ll be good here haha.

  29. Emmy January 13, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    Hi Liz,
    I came across your blog while trying to find ways to inspire young people in my hometown (in California) to travel. When I noticed you’re in NZ, I had to post a comment. I moved to Wellington earlier this year and also just got back from a 2 week trip on the South Island. Small world! Anyway, happy travels.

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:00 am #

      woah small world!!! That’s awesome! Let me know if you want to meet up in Welly sometime 😀

      • Emmy January 17, 2014 at 2:21 am #

        I’d love to meet up sometime! I think you can see my email address, right? I’d feel weird posting my phone number online…

  30. Ross January 13, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Super photos. Sounds like you had a brilliant time (with the exception of the dolphins)

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:02 am #

      Dolphins were brilliant minus the barfing :/ you win some you lose some

  31. Maia January 14, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    Hi Liz, (and Emmy) and other fellow Americans possibly reading this blog. I’m moving to NZ in a couple weeks from Seattle, WA. I visited the North Island on a quick trip in August but I’m heading back for good in early February. Not sure where yet…working on those plans now, but I would love to meet up with some of you who know the ropes! I have some friends in Auckland but I don’t know much about the South Island. Trying to decide if I want to start off in Auckland where I’m a bit more familiar and eventually work my way down, or just throw caution to the wind and head somewhere else sight unseen!

    • Emmy January 17, 2014 at 2:35 am #

      Hi Maia,

      I’d be happy to meet up when you make it to Wellington. Personally, I think Wellington’s waay better than Auckland, even with the wind. Though if you start off in Auckland, checking out the Bay of Islands while you’re up that way would be worth it. I haven’t been yet, but it’s supposed to be really beautiful.

      I don’t think it really matters where you start if you’re not pressed for time. There are gorgeous places everywhere, though you can’t beat the South Island for scenery. I tend to travel without knowing where I’ll be in the next 3 days, and I haven’t had much trouble booking hostels and buses only a day in advance. Though you can get some cheap flight deals ( and $1 bus deals ( if you plan ahead.

  32. Hannah M. January 14, 2014 at 6:29 am #

    Hey Liz! I just found your blog in the past week or so, and I’m loving reading about all your adventures, especially the New Zealand ones! 😀 I told my sister about the working holiday visa for Americans who want to live in NZ, and we’re thinking about trying it, like you, at some point in the future. Probably not the best place to ask a bunch of questions, haha, but how exactly does it work? How do you find places to live/leases that are less than a year? And what about employment? I’m just wondering about the specifics, I guess, and you seem like you know a lot about it now since you’ve been living there a little while.

    Also, side note, you need to go to Asia soon! I am currently living and working in Japan as an English teacher (I’m 22, just graduated college last May), and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m in the northern island, Hokkaido, which has some gorgeous, breathtaking sights I think you’d enjoy!

    Thanks for reading and have fun!

  33. Anna January 24, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    Hey Liz,
    I just found your blog after reading the article on and I love it! I am a Kiwi (ex. Welly!) currently living in London and your posts are making me so homesick…! I’ve traveled a lot, seen some incredible things but It’s not until you leave New Zealand and look back at it that you realise just how magical it is! I think you’re awesome seeing so much of the world on your own, and can’t wait to engross my self in rest of your posts! You’ve inspired me to pick up my travel blog again – what a cool project! Keep on having the best times! Anna
    Ps. If you haven’t already you HAVE to go to the Coromadel – Mt Maunganui, Waihi, Whangamata, Cooks Beach, Hahei & best of all Cathedral Cove xx

    • Liz January 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      I can’t wait to go to those places!

      • Sana May 7, 2014 at 1:51 am #

        I’m exactly the same as you Anna!

        I’m a Kiwi (also from Welly) studying in Portugal, and while I’m absolutely loving Europe, nothing compares to New Zealand’s beauty.

        I went to Istanbul a few weeks ago and took a cooking class with Olga, who you raved about in one of your posts. Best. Food. Ever. I would sell my soul for another taste of her red pepper dip.

        Keep up the awesome posts 😀 xx

        • Liz May 7, 2014 at 10:01 am #

          omg that makes me so happy to hear and OMFG what would I do for some home cooked turkish food right now!!!

          • Sana May 7, 2014 at 11:53 am #

            Borek, come at me.

  34. Debbi S. January 28, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Just booked the same Haka Tour in April! So excited… your great recaps really solidified this. Thanks for always sharing! 🙂

    • Liz January 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

      Yay! You are going to have a blast! Send me pics?

      • Debbi S. March 14, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

        (super late, oops) You bet! 🙂 Although they won’t compare to your beautiful shots… especially with my arm in my GoPro shots, haha.

  35. amelie88 January 28, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    I stalked your pictures on Instagram during the tour and yeah, pretty much all of NZ is spectacular is what I took away from this. Oh and paragliding is AWESOME. I did it once when I was studying abroad in France in the Pyrenees and I would sell my first unborn child to experience it again.

    I was going to say woohoo, an experience with wild animals that went well! I think this time we can blame the Skittles, the dolphins just swam around you and had fun!

    • Liz January 29, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      it was totally the skittles 😀

  36. Neil February 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Great fun travelling with you Liz. Glad to see that the teapots, carols and midnight swimming made it into the story!!

    • Neil February 3, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      p.s. Thanks for the Skittles 🙂

      • Liz February 4, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

        barf haha

    • Liz February 4, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      Glad we got to meet Neil! Come back and visit New Zealand whenever you want – I’ll be down in Wanaka after March and you’re more than welcome to visit! Hugs!

  37. Kathy February 11, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    Those photos are gorgeous!!

    Looks like you had a fantastic time touring the South Island! I’ve been longing to visit New Zealand for years now, spending wayyy more time searching for all things NZ on the web than is healthy!! BUT whilst planning I’ve tossed and turned over the idea of self-drive (I’ve never driven my car outside of Gib let alone in a foreign country on the other side of the road!) and the thought of huge tour buses IMO is just…awful!! I discovered Haka Tours recently and your article has been the push I needed to go with them! I’ve never been on a holiday in a small group before so I think it’ll be good change for me. I’ll probably choose either the 16 or 24 day tour across both islands.

    Thanks for the inspiration!! 🙂

    Now to keep on saving until I can finally get over there!!

    • Liz February 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

      great Kathy that’s what I like to hear! Haka tours is amazing, feel free to message me if you have more questions.

      • Kathy February 14, 2014 at 11:26 am #

        Thanks Liz! 🙂

  38. Lexy February 14, 2014 at 4:05 am #

    Your photos make me want to go back to NZ!!!

    Have you done (or can you do) a post on the filters you use in your iphone photos? I can tell filters have been used and I’m really curious to know about your editing process.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated!!

  39. Rebecca February 17, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    Just beautiful! I think you’ll be doing a lot for the tourism industry in New Zealand if you keep up these gorgeous posts 🙂

  40. Julianna March 20, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Your blog is so amazing! I have been thinking about moving to Christchurch New Zealand for a while now, and I was just wondering about a few things. I want to go there for school and live there for a time, kind of just go on an adventure and see the world. How did you find work and where did you look? Is it hard to get a job out there and find a place to stay? I am so nervous from moving from the US to a whole new country, so any details you have would be more than amazing!

  41. brizza April 22, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    liz or anyone who has been there ..have you seen much building work going on in christchurch .i keep getting calls from agency about work there .the set up cost for visa . paperwork .flights etc medical police check is about 3000 pounds before ive even step foot in nz ..i keep doing the lottery but no luck hehe

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      NZ is worth every penny!

  42. Jen Seligmann May 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    I have just spent my evening re-reading all of your NZ posts for info as I am planning my South Island adventure right now. I’m so excited!!!! These pics have made me want to go now and not wait until October.

  43. Calvin November 9, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Hi, were these taken in summer ?

    • Liz November 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      yeah right around christmas which is the NZ summer

  44. Amanda February 10, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    Hey! so totally loving your blog and i know this is an older one, but just wondering. For someone who has never been to New Zealand. I would love to get my moneys worth. Would you recommend a roadtrip in the Jucy car or the Haka tour for someone with a budget. Which one was better value/price wise?

    • Liz February 10, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

      haka tours 🙂

  45. Sarah July 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    After your many months in New Zealand, would you still recommend Haka? I’m having trouble deciding whether to go with them or something with a bit more flexibility like Stray. I’m considering Haka’s longest tour, but I’m worried about how rushed it seems.


    • Liz July 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      Still love them, they rock!

  46. Alina May 7, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    Wow, what an amazing trip. I kept taking notes, adding these places to my bucket list! I’m planning to apply for working holiday in New Zealand this fall. On the one hand, it’s kinda scary. On the other hand, after reading your blog, I feel better about making this decision. Thank you!

  47. Rachel November 10, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    I love your blog, and I’m so glad you visted Christchurch, I have long wanted to go to that beautiful town and was heartbroken about the earthquake. It has long been one of the places I have wanted to live and I’m glad you have gone and seen that it is rebuilding itself!


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