South Island of New Zealand - 2019

We took a two week trip to the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand in February of 2019. This webpage gives a summary, in video and in picture, of our vacation.

I liked New Zealand a lot, despite the days where we endured tremendous rainfall. I think other parts of New Zealand are much drier, and I hope that we make a return visit or two.

Milford Track Waterfalls

McKinnon Pass

Sutherland Falls

Waterfall in Milford Sound

Luxmore Summit

Cathedral Cave Beach

Surat Beach

Yellow-eyed Penguin


Single Click on any thumbnail to begin the slide show at that photograph


The highlight of this trip is hiking the world famous Milford Sound Trek. Trying to get reservations for hiking the trail is really hard (unless you want to pay for an expensive guided option.) I was waiting on the website as soon as hut reservations became available and booked our trips within minutes of them opening. This article says that last season, tickets for the self-guided Milford Sound trek sold out within 90 minutes of being released. We might need to decide which trip we want to do next, and then book the huts for that trip right away (in April)

There are two of the famous New Zealand Great Tramps on this trip - the Milford Sound trek, and the Kepler Track. Both take 4 days to complete. Must book way ahead of time at Booking DOC website

It rains a tremendous amount on the western side of the south island, rain gear is essential, as are waterproof pack liners. Fortunately we got a lot of clear days too, though unfortunately we had a downpour all day when we hiked the most dramatic portion of the Kepler Trek.

Once again, the trip itinerary fit into two weeks (barely!). We would need to return to New Zealand twice or thrice more to completely tour the islands.

Feb 8: Friday

Day 1 Detailed Info

Leave Seattle 8:40 AM on Hawaiian Air HA2001 on 6 1/2 hr flight, land at 1 PM

rent car in Honolulu

Visit Katy & Matt

Feb 9: Saturday

return rental car in Honolulu

Leave Honolulu at 1:45 PM on Hawaiian Air HA0445. 10 hr flight

Feb 10: Sunday

Day 3 Detailed Info

Land in Auckland at 10 PM

Stay in Auckland at Ibis Budget Auckland Airport Hotel

Feb 11: Monday

Day 4 Detailed Info

Leave Auckland 9:30 AM on Air New Zealand on 2 hr flight

Arrive in Queenstown at 11:30 AM

Pickup rental car

Queenstown Hill hike 3 hr hike, listed as best hike

Stay in Queenstown at Lakeside Motel

Feb 12: Tuesday

Day 5 Detailed Info

Full day Ben Lomond Hike 7 hr, 7 miles. Listed as best hike

There is a gondola to get us partway up Ben Lomond

G Force Paragliding

Stay in Queenstown at Lakeside Motel

Feb 13: Wednesday

Day 6 Detailed Info

Drive 2 1/4 hrs, 172 Km to Te Anau

Pickup Milford Track tickets from Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre

Drive 1/2 hrs, 30 Km from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs

Day 1 of the Milford Track Hike

1 PM Water taxi to Glade Wharf

5 Km hike to Clinton Hut

Stay at Clinton Hut

Feb 14: Thursday

Day 7 Detailed Info

Day 2 of the Milford Track Hike

6 Hr 16.5 Km hike to Mintaro Hut

If weather is nice, hike up Mackinnon Pass for view when it isn't raining

Stay at Mintaro Hut

Feb 15: Friday

Day 8 Detailed Info

Day 3 of the Milford Track Hike

7 Hr 14 Km hike to Dumpling Hut

Short side hike to Sutherland Falls

Stay at Dumpling Hut

Feb 16: Saturday

Day 9 Detailed Info

Day 4 of the Milford Track Hike

6 Hr 18 Km hike to Sandfly Point

2:00 PM Water taxi from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound

Drive 120 KM (2 hrs) to Te Anau

Stay in Te Anau at Bellavista Motel

Feb 17: Sunday

Day 10 Detailed Info

2 hour, 120 km drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound.

Take a 2 hr nature cruise on Milford Sound at 11:00 AM

The Chasm Walk 0.5 Km, 0.5 Hr

Lake Marian Hike 4.8 Km, 3 Hrs. A best hike

Mirror Lakes 0.5Km, 0.25 Hr

Stay in Te Anau at Bellavista Motel

Feb 18: Monday

Day 11 Detailed Info

Day 1 of the 60 Km Kepler Track Hike

Pickup Kepler Track tickets from Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre

Kepler Track car park to Luxmore Hut 6 Hrs, 14 Km

Side trip to Luxmore Caves

0.5 hr side trip up Mt Luxmore

Stay at Luxmore Hut

Feb 19: Tuesday

Day 12 Detailed Info

Day 2 of the 60 Km Kepler Track Hike

Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut 6 Hrs, 14.5 Km

Stay at Iris Burn Hut

Feb 20: Wednesday

Day 13 Detailed Info

Day 3 of the 60 Km Kepler Track Hike

Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut 6 Hrs, 16 Km

Moturau Hut to Rainbow Reach 1.5 Hrs, 6 Km. Catch 3 PM shuttle bus back to Te Anau

Te Anau Bird Sanctuary Free, open until dusk.

Stay in Te Anau at Bellavista Motel

Feb 21: Thursday

Day 14 Detailed Info

Full day Kayak trip on Doubtful Sound 6;30 AM at Te Anau office, w/ lunch

Stay in Te Anau at Bellavista Motel

Feb 22: Friday

Day 15 Detailed Info

We should spend our last 2 full days traveling the South Scenic Route

Drive 5 hrs, 400 Km to Kaka Point

Curio Bay tree fossils

Cathedral Caves

Matai Falls and Purakanui Falls

Surat Bay Wildlife Walk

Roaring Bay Penguins

Stay in Kaka Point at Nugget View Beach Motel

Feb 23: Saturday

Day 16 Detailed Info

Drive 2 hrs, 130 Km from Kaka Point to Otago Peninsula

Walks on Otago Peninsula

Sandymount loop & Lover's Leap hike 1 hr, 3 Km

1 hour, 3:00 PM tour at Royal Albatross Center

Drive 4 1/2 hrs, 310 Km to Queenstown

Stay in Queenstown at Lakeside Motel

Feb 24: Sunday

Day 17 Detailed Info

Return Queenstown rental car

Leave Queenstown at 9:30 AM for 2 hr flight to Auckland on Air New Zealand

Pickup Auckland rental car

Karekare Falls

Tasman Lookout Hike

Stay in Auckland at Auckland Airport Kiwi Hotel

Feb 25: Monday

Day 18 Detailed Info

Auckland Airport Kiwi Hotel includes a continental breakfast

Return Auckland rental car

Leave Auckland on United at 3:30 PM for 12 hr flight to San Francisco

2 hr 20 min layover in San Francisco

Leave San Francisco on United at 9 AM for 2 1/2 hr flight to Seattle

Arrive in Seattle at 11:30 AM




There are hikes along the road between Milford Sound and Te Anau

The South Scenic Drive goes along the southern shore of the South Island. We made numerous stops along the way.

I recorded all of our expenses for the entire two week trip. The trip turned out to be well worth every penny!

Excursion New Zealand $ Comment
Queenstown Gondola NZ$78 Two roundtrip tickets
G-Force Paragliding NZ$478 Two rides on paraglider
G-Force Video and Pictures NZ$100 Two USB sticks of in flight video
Te Anua ferry to start of Milford track NZ$180 one way trip at 1 PM
Milford Track Huts NZ$840 Great Tramps huts are NZ$140 per night per adult
Milford Track Car Relocation NZ$240 Use Track Hopperservice.
Sandfly Pt to Milford Sound ferry NZ$104 One way trip at 3 PM, a 20 min boat ride.
Milford Sound Nature Cruise NZ$171 We just want the boat ride, not the bus rides to/from Queenstown
Kepler Track Huts NZ$520 Great Tramps huts are NZ$130 per night per adult
Doubtful Sound Kayak NZ$698 Full day of sea kayaking
Cathedral Cave Admission NZ$10 Two Tickets
Royal Albatross Viewing Center NZ$100
Total NZ$3519 US$2408
Hotel $US LocationComment
Ibis Budget Airport HotelUS$106Auckland
Bella Vista MotelUS$149*4Te Anau 4 nights. Wi-Fi, Microwave, Refrigerator, Superior Queen Studio Room
Lakeside MotelUS$116*3Queenstown 3 nights. Wi-Fi, Kitchenette, no free breakfast
Nugget View Beach MotelUS$100Kaka Point One night. Kitchenette. No free breakfast
Auckland Airport Kiwi HotelUS$103Auckland One night. Kitchenette. Free continental breakfast
Total US$1253 Cost for 2 peopleDoes not include Milford or Kepler Huts
Price dominated by plane fare
Transportation $USComment
Seattle to Auckland roundtrip$2185
Auckland to Queenstown roundtrip$485
Seatac Parking$107
Honolulu Car Rental$58One day rental from Thrifty
Yellow Bus Tickets$23Shuttle to/from Auckland airport
Queenstown Car Rental$478Compact car from Alamo
Queenstown Car Collision Damage Plan$154Expedia Insurance (a mistake)
Auckland Car Rental$61Compact car from Alamo
Auckland Car Collision Damage Plan$22Expedia insurance (a mistake)
Total US$3573
Category New Zealand $Comment
MealsNZ$188We ate a lot of meals using kitchenettes in motels
GasNZ$1851456 Km on Queenstown Car Rental
Total NZ$761 US$521
Grand Total $2408 + $1253 + $3573 + $521US $7755

Queenstown weather

Fiordland National Park weather

Fiordland National Park website

All of tourist stops along the Southern Scenic Route drive along the southern tip of the South Island.

Great Tramps in the Fiordland area. We will do the Routeburn hike on our next trip (I hope)

Just in case we run out of hikes to do in New Zealand, here is a list of alternative Great Tramps.

Here is a chart of rainfall at Milford Sound. February is the driest month, but it is still almost 20 inches (in one month!). It also averages 13 days of rain per February, which implies that there are 15 dry days each average February?

Information on Great Tramps Huts

Hut provides cold running water, flush toilets, gas burning stoves

Bring your own food, utensils, pots & pans, plates & cups

Hut provides a few hours of light in the evening (Until solar charged battery runs out)

No electricity, no WiFi. Bring your own headlamp

Hut provides wooden bunk bed and mattress in room with 8 to 20 bunks

Bring your own sleeping bag and pillow

Huts must be reserved well in advance! Milford Track reservations for 2019 sold out within hours.