There’s a certain serene beauty about winter. Not only is it a wondrous time to spend the month of July celebrating my birthday it also offers the adventurer a whole new arena to play in.

This year we (ok it’s me) decided to change our usual winter habits and embrace the beauty of winter. Rather than escape the winter chills behind books, coffee and red wine. Which there is absolutely nothing wrong with! As we discussed in our recent post, Next Stop New Zealand, our first trip was jumping the ditch and heading over to the South Island for a mini epic road trip.

We did have a pretty fun and epic adventure list that we were attempting to tick off as many items as possible. This was our third time, as a couple, traveling to the South Island and road tripping. Remembering that we only had a week to explore the top East coast of the South Island. And in the middle of that we had to return to Christchurch for a 90th!

List of adventure activities-

  • Skiing
  • Eat a crossiant at Akaroa
  • Cow selfie
  • Hot Springs
  • Conquer Middle Earth on teeny tiny horses
  • Wade in a waterfall
  • Skip a rock across a perfectly still lake
  • Sea cliffs exploration
  • Fish  & chips over looking the sea
  • Visit Edoras
  • Make breakfast in bed in the van
  • Celebrate my birthday

So the items crossed off the list are the ones that we didn’t achieve. And I’d certainly love to spend some more time hiking in New Zealand. Let’s not dwell on the past, let’s chat more about the amazing things we did get to do.

We started off our road trip with a hand picked, bright orange, shiny Spaceship campervan rental. These are compact campervans that are brilliant to use to see a whole different side of New Zealand. They are versatile, fun and fuel efficient! Way easier to trek around in then the traditional grey nomad vans. Not to mention a lot more cost effective. As Spaceship like to say these are the Swish army knife of campervans. Which is why we couldn’t cook breakfast in bed, as the bed was on top of the kitchen and fridge. More on that later

First Stop- Akaroa

After a snooze in the back of the van in a New World car park, we headed down to Akaroa – the most French town in all of Kiwi-land. As the miles role on by I found myself mesmerised by the beauty of the mountains as we drove through the Canterbury region. Stopping along the way to take some truly horrendous photos of the mountains. There are some amazing places to take photos of the mountains that line the Canterbury region. Along the highway to Akaroa isn’t one of these amazing places.

This was our first stop where we discovered that large parts of the country close down for the school holidays. Quite a few of the cafes were closed when we arrived. So we opted to not hang around, go for a drive and head back to Little River for some silo time.

A wonderful nights sleep in a silo at Little River

Little River boasts no river, isn’t particularly large or small and has nothing of amazing natural significance to bring you here. Except these magnificent, bright shiny silver silos and some really good coffee. You can’t miss the silos, though most seem to have their blinkers on whilst on their way to Akaroa.

These little pods of luxury are the perfect place to rest your weary head.

Where is Little River?

Little River is nestled in among the hills at the head of Lake Wairewa. All the super important Peninsula roads converge on Little River and in earlier days it was a thriving coach and railway terminus. Which is evident when you drop by the railway museum. The whole district from Little River to Birdlings Flat and the Lake Forsyth outlet is rich in Maori history and occupation sites. Making this a super fun base for your explorations of the Banks Peninsula.

Next stop- Paying our respects to the fine people of Rohan, Edoras

Edoras is the capital of Rohan and home to Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden. The countryside of Rohan is described as a land of pastures and lush tall grassland which is frequently windswept. The lands of Rohan are frequently described as appearing like “seas of grass”, and are therefore perfect for horses.

The city of Rohan was built atop Mount Sunday, which lies within the Hakatere Conservation Park.  The park itself covers nearly 60,000 hectares of rugged mountain country, tussocklands, beech forest and sparkling clear rivers and lakes between two mighty rivers the Rakaia and Rangitata. The small hill got its name because boundary riders from the high-country stations would meet here on Sundays.

It’s a stunning drive along the pebbled road past the remote and beautiful Mt Potts High Country station and to Mount Sunday.

Along the way you can’t help but immerse yourself in the natural, unspoilt beauty of this breathtaking area. The sparkling clear lakes, glistening blue rivers and fresh, crisp mountain air. Really crisp, fresh mountain air.

A really sleepless night at Rakaia Gorge and no snow bunny session

After being entirely overly stimulated by the beauty of the mountains at Haketere Conservation Park we decided it was time to chill out, have a decent nights sleep and try to get up Mt Hutt for a snow bunny session. So far on the trip my ski pants had only ben  worn to hike Mount Sunday and that’s it. Well the weather gods had many different ideas for us. After a really sleepless night at the Rakaia Gorge camping ground where a poor choice of parking saw us getting slapped by a cabbage tree.

Despite all my hopes, dreams and prayers the wind stayed to harass us all the way into Methven. Where we stopped, had a coffee, a muffin and rethought our life choices. The winds were reported to be around the 175km/hr mark. So the mountain was closed. The roads were closed. And my dreams of skiing in New Zealand also faced closure. Our back up plan of driving over to Lake Tekapo was almost blown away, with road closures.

So we found ourselves back on the road again and heading up north to take a long relaxing soak at Hamner Springs.

Hot Springs, a hard to find camp site and road side cooking.

In a previous trip we had visited Hanmer Springs. Taking in all the touristy activities like bungy jumping and the hot springs. With an entire day and a half free we decided to revisit the hot springs, enjoy some us couple time and basically ignore the world.

We arrived in Hanmer Springs late in the evening having opted to take a detour to Woodend Beach and indulge in a traditional kiwi lunch of fish & chips with L&P. Taking on more Australian/New Zealand traditions we decided to pop into the pub for a quick drink before going 100% backpacker budget and cooking our dinner by torch light on the side of the road.

And then we drove around. A lot. Like heaps. Back and forth. Forth and back. Around town. We quickly discovered that the township of Hanmer Springs is anti-freedom camping. And even anti-camping. As it was Kiwi school holidays one caravan park was closed. One didn’t want to answer our phone calls and the other was full. So after some extreme web based research we found the one and only freedom camping spot in all of Hanmer Springs! Along with half a dozen other freebies finders.

So after a good nights sleep, being really impressed by the toilet facilities here we popped into town for a much needed soak in the natural hot springs here. As I’m not a totally creepy perve there’s no photos of us enjoying the hot springs. You’ll just need to believe me when I say that we had hot, steamy, natural stinky spring water fun here.

And then it’s off to be bored in Christchurch.

Christchurch it’s time to pull up your socks

And get a fixing! Yup I went there. Twice. Firstly I called out Christchurch on being boring. And now I’m calling you out on sulking like a poorly behaved teenager and not getting fixing on all the broken things. Unfortunately for me I’ve never seen Christchurch in her glory days. Never did I get to look up in awe at the cathedral. Never did I get to walk around with coffee in hand and admire the completly standing, beautifully designed buildings. This was my third visit to the city of Christchurch and it was sad to see that in over 3 years since my first visit things haven’t progressed. I’d go as far as saying that the only progression is the decaying buildings and soul of the city. James has been more times that he can remember, and does remember doing these things. Enjoying the beauty of a well created city.

So what exactly did we do? We got coffee. We walked around the souless shipping container mall and then we went home. On the upside there is some truly stunning artwork being created on the crumbling buildings. Bringing some form of colour and life to the city.

There’s really little to see and do in Christchurch CBD. So we headed out of town and tried to conquer Middle Earth on teeny tiny horses at the Christchurch Icelandic Horse Treks

Conquering Middle Earth on teeny tiny horses at the Christchurch Icelandic Horse Treks

Being a book nerd I can admit that I’ve read the Hobbit, watched all of LOTR and enjoyed it. As well as having read more books then I’d care to admit that involve mystical beings riding teeny tiny horses. Because seemingly it’s only large, goofy humans that ride regular sized horses. As part of my birthday celebration I was able to heavily persuade James into joining me on a ride. A first for us over the last 7 years of our relationship. Mainly because his allergic to horse hair.

The Christchurch Iceland Horse Trek stable is a short 25mins drive from Christchurch CBD. Stable owner, and pony lover, Inga moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband in 2000 and brought along a few teeny tiny horses. Which from here on I’ll refer to correctly as ponies. The staff, resident dog and ponies are all friendly and happy to head out for a trek. We opted for a short 1 hour lagoon trek and have a wonderful, if albeit too short, a time in the saddle. Chatting along with the staff. Watching the dog go swimming in muddy puddles. Why did we choose Icelandic ponies? Well you get to enjoy the special gait called “tölt”, which is unique to Icelandic horses. It is a four-beat gait about as fast as trot, but much more comfortable to ride.

Thankfully our great friend Tara can show you what a South Island New Zealand road trip can look like without the poor weather. Or really what a road trip in New Zealand should be!

Fun facts-

We flew with Jetstar Australia from Melbourne to New Zealand. It’s the easiest and cheapest way for us to travel across the ditch. Even if we arrive in at 5am.

We rented a compact campervan from Spaceship rentals. Who charged us 100% of the usual, regular hire price. The staff here were super awesome to deal with. We collected our van early in the morning and returned after hours, with no issues. It was super easy to drive around, park, refuel etc.

I’m in love with marshmallow fish. Please send me these. All of these.

The lovely team at SiloStay, Little River provided us with one nights accommodation complimentary. You can read here about the wonderful time we had relaxing in Little River.

Don’t be fooled by our quick trip. New Zealand has so much more to offer. Here’s a few of our dream to do list in New Zealand.

Did you enjoy this article as much I enjoyed writing it for you? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts below or why not connect on Facebook or Twitter?

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Jeanette

Jeanette

Founder, Principal Blogger & Coffee Drinker

Coffee Lover | Travel Blogger | Horse Rider | Adventure Racer | Donut Dame. Generally nice lady-enjoys wine, indie movies & random dance parties in my tent.

32 Comments

  1. Wow, amazing blogpost.
    The hot pools in Hanmer are definitely a to-do thing for me and I would really like to do a horse riding trip as well, but not sure where 😉
    I am on the south island at the moment and I might go for the opportunity to go horse riding along a beach, that would be awesome. Otherwise a Lord of the Rings tour on a horse back would be awesome as well. So many decision to be made 🙁
    I left Christchurch right after my flight and so I haven’t seen much, but hopefully when I go back there is some progress with the building and the whole town. It looked quite sad, even if the people find ways around to deal with it.

    Reply
  2. Winter is actually a really fun time to visit New Zealand! Now, I have a bone to pick with you. I am from Christchurch. I’ve lived through the trauma of having a deadly earthquake rip the heart and soul out of my city and then every time you think you’re starting to come right, another massive aftershock tears you back down again. It is such a shame the rebuild has been so slow. But it’s not easy. NZ doesn’t have the same money and manpower as places like Japan where they can suddenly rebuild everything within a couple of years. The Christchurch people have suffered so much but finally there are some exciting things happening in the city. I love the brightly coloured container mall! Brought back a lot of life and much needed money into the city in a unique way. There’s plenty to do in Christchurch – the Antarctic Centre, Orana Park and Willowbank, the Art Gallery & Museum, the Botanic Gardens are beautiful to walk through, enjoy a punt down the Avon River, the Port Hills have amazing walks and tracks, even viewing the earthquake memorials & ruins is a poignant experience. New Regent Street and the Isaac Theatre Royal are gorgeous buildings and quite charming, the Gondola has some stunning views, and there’s Quake City to give people some perspective about what happened during the tragic earthquake which claimed nearly 200 lives. I hope you can visit another time to enjoy what Christchurch has to offer! Otherwise I’m glad you were able to visit the beautiful New Zealand.

    Reply
    • We go every year just about to see family who are based in Christchurch and have seen most of the places you’ve listed. As far as the South Island goes it’s just not the most mesmerising city for a tourist.

      Reply
  3. Haketere Conservation Park looks stunning. Your bright red car tempts to have a road trip just now to New Zealand with perfect climate and stunning drive. Good you can breathe some crisp mountain air as in cities it is hardly to find it. Your first stop at Akaroa is also amazing.

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  4. A dream road trip. Beautiful pictures. Mountains are gorgeous. Your cooking by the road is such an adventure and fun. It’s more fun when plans don’t always go as we thought, only then the discoveries happen. Kudos to your lovely road trip

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  5. Aw this made me so excited for visiting at the end of the year, even though it’ll be summer then! I’m a Kiwi but I haven’t been to a few of these places. Can’t wait to go!

    Reply
  6. It is a dream of mine to make a roadtrip in New Zealand, I learnt a lot from your post. The Spaceship campervan looks cool and is something I’d love to travel around in! It can sure get windy there, I would have never imagined this. I can imagine the view of the mountains and countryside there is incredible!

    Reply
  7. I am originally from Australia so I can totally relate and found it a struggle when I moved to England and the seasons are opposite to each other. New Zealand is a stunning place and I have always wanted to back and explore more. I love those cute Icelandic horse and those silver silos look like a lot of fun to stay in.

    Reply
  8. This looks like lots of fun. Looks like there was still plenty to do even in the winter. Would love to come to NZ

    Reply
    • It really is an amazing place to visit

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  9. New Zealand is an exquisitely beautiful country! The campervan looks cool, and super comfy for a long ride! The snow covered mountains and green landscape looks stunning!

    Reply
  10. OMG how is New Zealand sooo beautiful!?!?! I’m heading there in 3 weeks for the first time and this just got me even more excited!! I hadn’t heard of the hot springs – I’ll have to look into that more and see if we can squeeze it in. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  11. This looks like SO much fun! I adore your adventure list haha everything seems up my alley, and I’m pretty thrilled to see that “eat a croissant” made the list lol. Sometimes adventure blog posts are way out of my league with the extreme activities, so reading this made me feel like “yes finally… MY people.” New Zealand looks wonderful and I’ve always wanted to do a road trip around the whole country, so thank you for pushing me more towards that dream!

    Reply
    • Ha ha ha. Yes I know that feeling about adventure blogs! Some times people forget to just have fun

      Reply
  12. Oh! I just posted something about New Zealand’s south island too!! 🙂 I loved Akaroa too and I really wanted to sleep in the silo too!! Next time 😉

    Reply
    • The Silo was amazing. You should really go there.

      Reply
  13. This looks like a fun idea for winter. We’ve also featured about a campervan trip to New Zealand and it was so much fun! This too sounds like quite an adventure!

    Reply
    • New Zealand is a great country to road trip!

      Reply
  14. Exploring Middle Earth on tiny horses sounds like THE most fun thing ever! I’m putting it on the bucket list right now.

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    • It was a lot of fun! So tiny

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  15. New Zealand looks absolutely gorgeous! Love the pictures of the mountains. 🙂 I definitely want to visit NZ one day! <3

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    • The mountains are amazing

      Reply
  16. Hot springs and icelandic horses? Sounds like an ideal trip! You fit a lot of fun stuff into it. Love those silos, too!

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  17. Such a stunning road trip, and cooking besides the road while on the go..sounds like a dream trip to me . Ultimately, you did enjoy a lot , isn’t it?

    Reply
    • Always enjoy it!

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  18. Your trip looks beautiful, even if you didn’t manage to do all the things you have planned. That is always a reason to come back. Even if the wind was blowing really hard and the mountain was closed the views and the blue sky gave you some really scenic views.

    Reply
    • Thanks Joanna! We got back fairly regularly. One day I will ski there

      Reply
  19. Okay so NZ has been on the list for ages! This week I have seen an incredible amount of sale fares, and I was so close to booking…. This post might have just pushed me over the edge!! Ekkkkkkk! :):)

    Thanks so much for all the detailed info!! It will be put to good use YAY:D !!

    Love and light fellow wanderer xx

    Reply
  20. The mountains are absolutely stunning. I live in a state full on beautiful mountains, but nothing like that! It has been a long-time dream of mine to vacation in NZ. My father served a mission there for the LDS church as a young man and loved it! Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure and beautiful photos.

    Reply
  21. Such a beautiful trip ?

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  22. I am heading to NZ in November for a road trip. Completely opposite to you though we are doing the North Island in the summer but we also only have a week. It’s so hard to fit everything in! If we do the South in winter will definitely revisit this.

    Reply
  23. Wow what an adventure!! Love reading such honest travel reviews 🙂 Such great photos too!

    Reply

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