New Zealand South Island – Stray Bus

My Stray Bus tour continued on to the South Island from Wellington with a beautiful 3 hour ferry ride, ultimately spending the night in Marahau, situated in Abel Tasman National Park. The weather was overcast and drizzling for most of our time there, but we got a nice walk in along the coast, and got to enjoy a full day there a stop without having to wake up early to get on the bus, which is something I’ve been doing just about every single day. We took a trip to Fat Tui burger, which our driver said is better than Fergburger in Queenstown, which is the probably the most famous burger spot in New Zealand. The burger at Fat Tui was large and pretty solid, but I don’t know if it cracks my Top 5. Conversely I made my way to Fergburger a few days later, and think that Fergburger was better than Fat Tui, but also doesn’t crack my top 5.

From Abel Tasman we made our way to Punakiki and got a quick look at the pancake rocks that have been formed by thousands of years of erosion. After a quick photo stop we settled into our accommodation for the night, which was situated in the middle of a rain forest. Each group of 6-8 people got it’s own lodge secluded from the other lodges. It was pretty cool and very different, something I’d probably never stay in usually, definitely a plus for the Stray Bus!

Punakiki Rocks - Stray Bus NZ South Island
Punakiki Rocks

We then made our way to Franz Josef Glacier for 2 days. The glacier is located within a temperate rain forest, 1 of only 3 in the world to get that distinction. It gets roughly 5-6 meters of rain a year at the bottom of the mountain, and up towards the top they get roughly 7-8 meters of snow a year, which is how the glacier is able to keep it’s size.

As you may or may not know a glacier is constantly moving, up towards the top of the glacier we were told it moves 5 meters a day, down towards the bottom it’s roughly 1 meter a day. Sadly enough, our guide said due to global warming this glacier might not be here in 50 years. Just a few years ago they were able to take guided tours up to the glacier by hiking, now, because the glacier has receded so much, they have to take a helicopter to a landing area at the base of the glacier. I decided to treat myself to the helicopter ride/hike and I think it was worth the money, although a lot of people weren’t that impressed with the glacier itself, but everyone enjoyed the helicopter ride. We hiked for an hour or two and made our way through a couple of brilliant blue ice caves. Every day is different on the glacier though, and our guide had to improvise a few times because the routes/caves are constantly changing due to the evolving nature of a glacier. It’s not every day that someone can say they’ve been on a glacier.

We then spent a day in Wanaka, which is a beautiful city situated on a lake surrounded by mountains, and one of the more expensive places to live in NZ. It is a resort town town that offers things to do in both the winter and the summer, and it’s quite expensive to ship building materials down there, so that’s why it is so expensive. If you’re looking for some Wanaka inspiration just check out the hashtag #NZMustDo and you’ll find plenty of amazing nature shots, specifically Roy’s Peak.

On to the next stop on the South Island tour we rode into Queenstown, which is the unofficial adrenaline capital of the world, also home to where Bungy jumping started by AJ Hackett. The town is really quite amazing when you catch it on the right day, a brilliant blue lake surrounded by the Southern Alps in a small ski town.

The trend of always being on the move with the Stray Bus brought us to Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is the wettest place in New Zealand, and is one of the rainiest place on planet earth. It rains ~270 days a year, and is the gateway to Milford Sound. This place would be stunning on a sunny day, but unfortunately for us we got an overcast/light rainy day on our way through the national park to Milford, and then on the way back got even more rain. We took a cruise through the sound, but because of the rain we stayed inside mostly. The silver lining to the rain is that it creates waterfalls that cascade off the mountains. I’ve seen plenty of waterfalls, so I was hoping for clear skies, but nothing I could do about it except sit back and enjoy the ride.

Fiordland National Park - Stray Bus NZ South Island
Fiordland National Park


Stay tuned for Part Deux of my Stray Bus South Island tour!