Over the Christmas holidays, we spent a week driving around South Island, New Zealand. We drove a lot, but with the summer sun setting at 9:30pm everyday, we manage to get a lot of things done. So lets get started…
We landed on Christmas Eve at 730pm and by the time we got our rental car, groceries (because I read everything was closed for christmas including supermarkets), checked in and showered, it was 11pm when we went out to look for dinner. Absolutely nothing was open except bars and clubs that had no food. Even McDonald’s was closed (Do Kiwis not eat when drunk?!)…so we had a 7/11 meal.
A jet lagged sleep later off we went via Arthur’s Pass to Hokitika in the West Coast. Our first stop was Castle Hill, a place with lots of rocks and boulders scattered around some hills. Of course it was also a famous bouldering spot and we had packed a bouldering mat with us. I have to say, we sucked at bouldering at Castle Hill. Everything was slopers, mantles and minimal features, totally not my style. We were the only boulderings on Christmas day there.
Afterwards we went to the nearby Cave Stream where it was a DIY 45 min (600m) caving experience in a pitch black ice cold underground river experience. The place is popular enough that if your flashlight ran out of batteries, someone would come by eventually. As well, you can’t get lost since there is only one way. However we were alone for the entire time even though there was a party ahead of us and behind us, still it was a bit scary when you are afraid of the dark like me!
Here is the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) link on the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve
The last part of the day we attempted to hike up Bealy Spur Track but after going up for 40 mins the rain started and there was no point of going further since there was poor visibility.
So off we drove to Hokitika to camp and end the day. Originally I had thought it would be good to stay in a DOC campsite because it was cheaper. But the temptation of showers and wifi and the fact we had no gas for our stove meant we stayed in a glam-camp. It was the best decision we made.
- We rented a hatchback from DriveNZ. for 272NZD for 8 days during high season (Dec 24- Jan 1), very efficient service.
- Gas is expensive at $2.1NZD per Liter. The roads are also very mountainous so gas goes fast.
- No need to prebook accomodation other than for major cities during high season.
- Bring a cooler to pack food.
- If not staying at DOC campgrounds, private campgrounds provide cooking facilities (stove , pans and pots)