Travel to New Zealand’s South Island – Episode 341

categories: pacific travel

The Amateur Traveler talks to Erik Smith about his month-long visit to New Zealand.

We focus in this interview on the New Zealand South Island road trip. Erick started in Christchurch and then visited The Banks Peninsula, Lake Tekapo, the Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula, the Southern Scenic Route including the Catlins, Fiordland National Park (including cruising both Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound) Queenstown, the rainy west coast, Abel Tasman National Park, Kaikoura, and Picton.

Along the way, Erick saw waterfalls, lighthouses, wildlife, fjords, glaciers, and mountains. He went whale watching, swam with Hector’s dolphins, and visited the Royal Albatross Center. But Erik most of all Erik was struck by the majesty of the Southern Island.

“The Southern Alps are not the tallest mountains. The U.S. Rockies are bigger, a lot of the Alps themselves are bigger, there are certainly higher mountain ranges in the world, but they are just so photogenic so beautiful.”

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Show Notes

Travel to America’s National Parks – Episode 121
Travel to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – Episode 183
Travel to Michigan – Episode 236
Travel to the Four Corners Region in the American SouthWest – Episode 278
Black Water Rafting
Akaroa Dolphins
Cadbury Chocolate Factory
Speights Brewery Tour
Survival of the Kiwi Bird
International Antarctic Centre
Camper Vanning It
Discover New Zealand With Real Journeys
Southern Discoveries
Abel Tasman National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park
Whale Watch – Kaikoura
Erik Smith


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Comments on Travel to the Microstates of Europe (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino) – Episode 340

Adolfo wrote:

I really enjoyed your episode on the European microstates. I especially liked the way the guest handled each one of them, not just explaining what’s there but telling the history behind these geographical oddities.

I’ve been to Liechtenstein and enjoyed it tremendously. Downtown Vaduz, the Parliament and the Cathedral were particularly nice, and since I went in mid-September, the hordes of annoying tourists were non-existent. It is indeed the same as being in Switzerland but the fact you are not, makes the experience somehow special.

My wife and I want to go back to Venice one more time before our days are over. I will make sure to add San Marino to that trip.

Thanks for your podcast. It is by far one of the better ones out there.

Jim wrote:

“We went into the casino at Monte Carlo without being too dressed up, although we were ‘business casual’. There is a room in the front of the casino where they have slot machines and video poker, probably intended for US visitors, which is as far as we went. It’s the only time I’ve ever won at slots. I believe the real casino that you see in the James Bond movies might be dressier.

The real thing to see at the casino is the restrooms, with super-automated toilets. Can’t explain, you just have to see them.

Also, Liechtenstein was invaded recently. A unit of the Swiss army got lost during a training exercise a couple of years back, and wandered over the border. But they didn’t take any prisoners.”

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

3 Responses to “Travel to New Zealand’s South Island – Episode 341”

Brad W.


Erik and Chris,

Thanks for a very well done episode. I did almost the exact same trip about 8 years, although in reverse order. We arrived in Picton then drove down to Blenham to check out a couple wineries, then around through Abel Tasman, etc…

You mentioned microbrews. We did stop in Greymouth for the Monteith Brewery tour and tasting. Here in the States, you’d never get than close to the open kettles. We could have easily added our own flavorings if so desired. And I’m not sure if they were short staffed, but they led us into the tasting room and just showed us where the glasses were. And left… Good thing I’m not much of a beer drinker, or that could have gotten out of hand.

We didn’t get to both Milford and Doubtful, but instead opted for a splurge: flying in a 4 seater Cessna from Te Anau to the little airport at Milford Sound, then boarding the boat for the regular tour with all the bus tourists, then a small van ride back to Te Anau. The flight takes you over the famous Milford Track, which is, in a word, drop-dead-gorgeous. (Hey, that’s one word, right? Some of your other guests have done that! ) There were a couple times where we asked “can we fly over there to get a better picture…?” And the driver of the van kept asking, “Well, what do you guys want to see on the way back?” We took several little detours and hikes that got us back well after dark. Much better than the boring 50 passenger bus ordeal from Queenstown.

One other thing that we thought was well worth the detour was a quick trip to Stewart Island just south of Invercargill. The boat to get there is nicknamed “The Vomit Comet”, so bring your Dramamine. There’s a lot of great treks there, plus the Ulva bird sanctuary on one of the nearby islands. All predators have been removed so the birds have flourished, and is supposedly pretty close to what the rest of the South Island used to be like.

One annoyance to watch out for are Sandflies, especially on the west side. Bring your repellent. Their bites itched more than any mozzie, and lasted much longer!

I was saddened to know that Christchurch is still reeling from the earthquake a few years back. My thoughts and good wishes go out to the people so impacted by the tragedy.

We had 5 weeks to see all of NZ, and split 2 weeks on the north and 3 weeks on the south. We could have easily spent 5 on each, but given the time we did have, it was a good split.

Thanks again, it was fun to relive that trip the last couple days during my drive to work. On the “right” side of the road.



My husband and I spent our three week honeymoon in New Zealand way back in the late 90s. Free wheeling we toured both islands by motorcycle and zig zagged across the south island. We overtook all those people who toured by campervan and thought we’d never use one. Our journey in the south started at Picton off the ferry, Kaikoura, Hamner hot spa springs, Christchurch, Akaroa (a beautiful French colonised town), twisted around Arthur’s Pass, Queenstown (did an adrenalin shot over boat ride), Milford Sound (over night on the more restful boat) & up the west coast to Greymouth.

Listening to Eric’s holiday and your commentary, I long to go back to visit our neighbour to the East. Living in Australia I agree with your comments about the differences between Australia’s dry and New Zealand’s wet terrain. We toured New Zeland in January and still got a lot of rain. We were prepared and had contingency days. Anyway, now with kids, them pesky campervans look appealing. I must be getting old.



I loved listening this to this episode, New Zealand is a destination close to my heart and one of my favourite countries to visit. Although Christchurch does appear to be broken, since Erik travelled there more of the city has opened up to the public again and they have a unique shopping experience set up in the form of a mall of containers which is proving to be really popular. I haven’t been to Christchurch since the earthquake but I hope to return soon to visit the gallery, wander through the botanic gardens and hopefully make a trip to Akaroa that won’t be affected by wind and horizontal rain.
Erik was correct when he said that Milford Sound appears to be more like a fiord, technically it is a fiord because it was formed by the erosive effects of a glacier. I flew in from Wanaka and it was an awesome experience to see the alps from the air, there was quite a bit of cloud cover as we flew over Queenstown, the Matukituki Valley and Rob Roy Glacier but once we reached Milford Sound the cloud had lifted and the weather was perfect for a cruise. After a few weeks of wet weather the waterfalls were gushing and the seals were making the most of the warmth as they lay like slugs on the edges of the Sound. Heading back too Wanaka we flew over Mt Aspiring National Park and past the peak of Mt Aspiring, the view of glaciers and glacial pools from the air was one of the most amazing sights I’d ever seen and I swear that my mouth was open in awe the entire time.
I have spent anywhere from 2 days to 7 weeks in New Zealand, not always travelling because I often stayed with my grandparents and my time was spent visiting family, but there is not one moment that I have not loved. Choosing between the North and South Islands is not possible for me, I have probably had alot of (authentic) experiences on the North Island that visitors don’t normally get  and although it doesn’t have the Alps it does have the giant Kauri tree forests, thermal regions and volcanic activity, spectacular beaches and rainforest as well as a prevalent Maori culture.

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