New Zealand’s South Island

Last week, I jumped onboard a bus called the Flying Kiwi. I had booked the Reverse Traverse Tour and would be working my way from Queenstown in the South up to Bay of Islands in the North via bus and camping over the next 14 days. Laying in the comfort of my hotel room in Queenstown, a camping trip suddenly seemded wet, cold and potentially a huge mistake.

But I had committed to this game plan and prepaid, so I reloaded my backpack and marched off to meet my group. Actually, like Sofitel, I booked the Flying Kiwi in advance and received 10% off along with a single tent upgrade. #schwing!

Over the last week, I’ve been hiking through national parks, visiting pristine beaches, ice-climbing glaciers, popping along the countryside and camping under the stars in the Southern half of New Zealand. This is life on the Flying Kiwi. In a word, it is full of possibilities.

Everyone on tour (24 individuals) is so friendly and I’m meeting people from the US, Mexico, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Each day has a purpose and moves at a good pace. Lead by two amazing guides, Dennis and Kim, enthusiactic, knowledgable and seemlessly meet 24 individuals needs. We are up early each day, about half of the mornings I have my headlamp on and coffee inhand as I watch the sunrise. We have an assortment of mostly breads, cerials and fruit for breakfast in the crisp fresh New Zealand air and get fueled for a adventurous day, as well as, pack a lunch for picturesque picknicking. Everyone is responsible for breaking down and setting up their tent, washing your dishes and having your stuff packed and by the bus for a prompt depature time. Once we set out driving, there are always multiple well thought out spots, from hidden hikes to the best local coffee shops. Dinner can range from healthy dinners cooked by different cook groups on rotation or meals out for local fare (amazing burgers, fish n’ chips, etc). Most nights we chat over bottles of local wine and I look forward to a peaceful night of sleep in my tent. There is not a dull moment and also A LOT of flexibility.

This is definitely in-between travel and as a solo traveler, I have felt comfortable (never really ‘alone’ with my flying kiwi family) and covered a ton of ground. I feel immersed in nature and away from WIFI; my senses are awake and my mind is at ease. A break from technology was needed and refreshing. Always an optomist, wishful thinking I will come back to New Zealand and do the east side of the Country North to South with my soulmate. Coupled I would rent a car or a camper van and follow a similar itinerary as Flying Kiwi . . .this is the hands down the best way to see New Zealand.

I dont quite have the words to describe New Zealand’s sublime landscape, so I’ll let my pictures do the talking!


Where to Stay (aka Best Campgrounds):

Boundary Creek Lake Wanaka

Contrasting the adrenaline filled Queenstown we found tranquility beside a beautiful lakeside campsite with spectacular views of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Abel Tasman

Numerous amazing camping options in Abel Tasman! We stayed at Old Macdonalds Farm Holiday Park, which is a great spot to get your bearings before or after a trek or a perfect option if you only have a night or two. Next time I will  pack a backpack and hike the full 60k and stay at pristine campsites along the way (Bark Bay . . .heaven)! Book everything in advance as spots fill up, including water taxi and campsites.

Best Hikes:

Blue Pools Forest Walk (Aspiring National Park)

Just before we reached the West Coast we stopped for a magical 30 minute walk to access the amazing Blue Pools.

Thunder Creek Falls

As the scenery starts to change we had a chance to sample this with a waterfall hike, Thunder Creek Falls,  in emerald green moss tree bliss.

Tauparikaka Ship Creek (swamp to sea walk)

In 30 minutes hike the swamp and the sea, Ship Creek.

Punakaiki (Paparoa National Park)

Paparoa National Park where giant columns of water shoot skywards at Pancake Rocks! Punakaiki is a great camping spot with, a local bar, beach bccess, wonderful hiking trails, rainforests, and sunsets.

To Do:

Fox Glacier Helicopter Ice Climb

Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s most unique and spectacular natural wonders. I suggest the heli hike, as we spent the entire day on the glacier, round trip helicopter ride, glacier hiking, small group instruction on ice climbing and then to the main event. On my first attempt ice climbing half way up the ice wall I thought I cannot do this. I had only ended up on this tour because the more reasonable ice hike was booked. I came down defeated and frustrated and immediately attempted it again. I pushed myself and made it to the top. Honestly, I shed one tear, in a year of lows I conquered a fear and got to the top of the glacier and did something completely out of the box.

Berlins Cafe & Bar

Berlins Cafe and Bar, best coffee of my life! #nuffsaid

Abel Tasman


Great for beginner to advance hikers with all sorts of accommodations (camping to luxe lodges) and activities (sail boats, horse back riding to kayaks). My favorite spot on the South Island.


  1. Possibilities…I love it! You make me want to visit Abel talsman! Love that you are experiencing so much.

    And good job on the glacier, girl! Imagining “the fighter” haha! Safe trip north…

  2. I’m enjoying your travel blog and pictures. Great job Rissa!!! I got home on the 20th of April after 3 months of travel. It’s spring! Loved NZ and Flying Kiwi. Combo of cool people in a stunning travel destination made for an excellent month.

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