Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Less than S$3,800 all in. New Zealand South island in 15 days!

Including flight, food, accommodation and our day tours!

To start with, we booked our flights really early. We were due to fly in October and we have already booked the flight tickets in April.

So here’s the expense and itinerary breakdown

Day 1 Singapore – Sydney – Christchurch
Depart Singapore on 16 October at 7pm local time
Cost: S$1,102.00 (Return flight - We found out that the prices sky rocketed after that, so it was an awesome feeling!)
SIN to SYD – 7 hrs 45 min (British Airways)
(4 hour layover – the luggage goes straight to Christchurch, so you don’t have to worry about this during the layover)
SYD to CHC – 3 hrs 5 min (Air New Zealand)
Day 1 Total Expenses: S$1,102.00

Day 2: Christchurch
We arrived at 3pm local time and man it was colddd. Brrrr.

We grab a 3GB Data prepaid sim card from Vodafone that was on promotion at NZD39 with 200 minutes local and overseas talk time so it was really well worth the price. Then we head over to the bus bay to wait for the transfer bus to take us to the Apex Car Rental to pick up our ride for the trip. We have already reserved a car back in Singapore and it costs us a total of NZD876 including all excess cover. To save some money, we brought our own GPS pre-configured, which was a great idea as we were familiar with our own device and reduces the need of fumbling around the machine.

The staffs was helpful, we checked the car and was ready to go!

We drove to our hotel in Christchurch – Breakfree on Cashel. This hotel is new and in the city area. You could reach the supermarkets and the places of interest all within about 10 minutes’ drive. Moreover, they have loads of free parking space nearby. So it’s a good deal.

Christchurch – Breakfree on Cashel (1 night)
Cost per person: S$47.50

Day 2 Total Expenses: S$47.50 + NZD 457.50 (NZD 915/2)

Day 3: Christchurch – Lake Tekapo
We headed out early to Lake Tekapo and the sceneries along the route were just breathtaking. We checked into our hostel – Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers and the staff was really welcoming, introducing us the places of interest in the vicinity. This hostel is only a mere 15 minutes’ walk or 4 minutes’ drive away from the infamous Church of Good Shepard and the eateries around town. You may think associate hostels with bunk beds and shared bathrooms but nope. This is none of those. We have a huge room to ourselves and an attached bathroom. Our car can be parked right in front of our unit so it was really convenient and economical!

Church of Good Shepard
Lake Tekapo - Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers (1 night)
Cost per person: S$44.00

Near evening, we head over to the Earth & Sky Stargazing Tour for an amazing night ahead. It was freezing cold but we saw the aurora australis!!!!!

Aurora Australis at Tekapo

Earth & Sky Stargazing Tour
Cost per person: S$137.95

Total distance covered: 325km
Day 3 Total Expenses: S$181.95

Day 4: Lake Tekapo – Mount Cook – Omarama
Mueller Lake Lookout
After the incredible night, we head over to Aoraki Mount Cook. As far as the planning goes, we wanted to stay in the car at the DOC for that night, but judging how little stuff we can do, we decided to make our way to the next town to alleviate some km for tomorrow.

So we ended driving to Omarama after a short hike to the Mueller Lake Lookout.

Omarama - Countrytime Hotel (1 night)
Cost per person: S$58.00

Countrytime hotel is fairly decent and has an old vintage feel to it. We actually like the hotel (surprisingly) despite being a last minute decision. The outdoor area has what it feels like a picturesque country side and you can only try to imagine big open spaces with Aoraki Mount Cook as the backdrop.

Total distance covered: 185km
Day 4 Total Expenses: S$58.00

Day 5: Omarama – Oamaru – Moeraki – Dunedin – Catlins
We started our day early as we have a long journey to go. We stopped by the Moeraki Boulders for a short break. There is a café at the site and boy, the fish and chips is really one of the best we ever had. It costs NZD$28 but it was huge and absolutely delicious and well worth it.

Nugget Point
We then move on to Dunedin, a city bustling with heritage and we visited some of the infamous places like the railway station and the Speight’s Brewery.

We left at around 3:30pm and start making our way to our last stop of the day at Kaka Point.

Kaka Point - Cardnos Accommodation (1 night)
Cost per person: S$48.00

Oh I love this homestay and it was really fantabulous. They have 3 heaters; 1 in the living area, 1 in the bedroom and 1 in the bathroom. For a S$48 per pax homestay I thought it was really well furnished. 

Right after we settled in, we went ahead to the roaring bay to wait for the rare yellow-eyed penguins and the eminent Nugget Point Lighthouse to enjoy a little sea breeze and sunset.

Total distance covered: 360km
Day 5 Total Expenses: S$48.00

Day 6: Catlins – Slope Point (Invercargil) – Te Anau
We went further south today, in fact that’s the “southest” you can go. We visited slope point and invercargil as an impromptu after we went by the Cannibal Bay and the millions years old Curio Bay. We then proceeded dejectedly to Te Anau when we found out that the famous Bluff oysters were a bluff (off- season when we visited, as we didn’t do much research since it was an impromptu side track)

Wind-swept trees at Slope Point
We drove in the rain and reached Te Anau at around 7pm. Rain is usually a good sign in the evening; it tells you that there is a good chance that the sky will be clear the next day.

Te Anau – Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park (1 night)
Cost per person: S$53.00

I honestly didn’t had a good opinions about holiday parks until I arrived and stayed here. It was INCREDIBLE. It was clean, it has all the amenities and you can park your car right outside your unit. Don’t underestimate the privilege to park right outside your unit. You don’t really want to lunge your luggage around in the cold, and worst rain.

So after we washed up, we went back to book the tour to Milford Sound (Go Milford) for the following morning. It was a decent deal, NZD159 per pax including picnic lunch and a mini land tour as well as entry to NZ only floating underwater observatory at Milford Discovery Center. (Note: there was another similar tour at NZD 149 that includes buffet lunch that we only realised later. But read what happens the next day to understand why we didn’t regret our choices)

Total distance covered: 337km
Day 6 Total Expenses: S$53.00 + NZD159

Day 7: Te Anau – Milford Sound – Queenstown
We woke up early to pack and check out and prepare for our tour to Milford Sound. A small bus came to pick us up and the tour was unbelievable.

We went past the Mirror Lake, Monkey Creek, Knobs Flat, Homer Tunnel, Christie Falls and The Chasm for photo stops and finally on the cruise for the Milford Sound tour. The guide was really informative and the cruise was relatively small, so you get a panoramic view from every seat. There is also a outdoor area where you can enjoy the breeze and also the waterfall as they go under it.

Milford Sound
We were brought to the floating underwater observatory where we can observe the wildlife in their natural homes. Afterwards, we board another cruise back to land. That’s the thing, this cruise that picked us up was a huge one, serving buffet lunch. But the cruise was so huge it wouldn’t be able to go close to the cliffs to experience the waterfalls, and also it you can’t get a seat near the windows, you pretty much can’t see much. So yea, I think we’ve got ourselves a better deal.

We were back in the holiday park before 5:30pm and we make our move to Queenstown via the Devil’s Staircase and the views were just breathtaking. We arrived slightly before 8, got ourselves checked in and went out for the renowned Fergburger for dinner.

Queenstown - Tanoa Aspen Hotel Queenstown (2 nights)
Cost per person: S$95.00

The hotel is about 5 minutes’ drive from the city center but it resides up a hill which makes your mornings look like a painting from your windows. The room was normal and decent, but they gave us a 3pax room making it very comfortable for our 2 nights stay.

Total distance covered: 410km
Day 7 Total Expenses: S$95.00

Day 8: Queenstown

We woke up early to have a light breakfast before heading to the Kawarau Bridge Bungee. The whole thing went off really quickly, from the time I got my tags, I was done in 15minutes. But boy, it was really frightening and I jumped before I’ve got time to hesitate.

Kawarau Bridge Bungee
Coronet Peak
Cost: NZD 195

And guess what did we do after bungee? We went for a buffet. LOL. We parked downhill and took a gondola up Bob’s Peak and had buffet lunch at the award winning Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar. Considering that it only costs NZD 57 per pax including the gondola ride which costs NZD 32 by itself, it is an extremely good deal with international cuisine and panoramic view of Queenstown.

After our well worthy lunch, we went to take a quick drive around Queenstown and landed up in Arrowtown and Coronet Peak (after we got lost to Skipper’s Canyon). It sure ain’t the ski season but the view was nonetheless beautiful in her own ways.

And guess what we had for dinner again? You guessed it, FERGBURGER! It was so awesome that my boyfriend has to eat it twice in 2 nights. (Trust me he even considered going back when we were in Christchurch later in the trip)

Total distance covered: 86km
Day 8 Total Expenses: NZD252.00

Day 9: Queenstown – Wanaka – Haast (Blue Pools) – Fox Glacier
We set out early as it’s another long drive to Fox Glacier with the stops we want to make along the way. We took the Crown Range road to get to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We also passed by the Haast’s Pass and had some fun at the Blue Pools before we went straight to Fox Glacier.

Crown Range Road
Fox Glacier – Lake Matheson Motel (2 nights)
Cost per person: S$119.00

I always had a different opinion about motels until I arrived here. Lake Matheson Motel is an unassuming motel that has an ultimate homely feeling when we were there.

We drove to The Lake Matheson but it was drizzling and required a fair bit of walk so we turned around and went for dinner at Cook Saddle Cafe & Saloon instead.  The food is great and the price is reasonable. (Try their Chicken Chop! It was absolutely mouth-watering the moment you see the dish. Gosh I’m getting hungry thinking about it. Their Fish & Chips is only so-so compared to the ones we had in Moeraki and Kaka Point.)

Total distance covered: 330km
Day 9 Total Expenses: S$119.00

Day 10: Fox Glacier
Our hearts sank when we woke up hearing rain drops on our doorstep because it meant that our long awaited trip to the heli-hike up the Fox Glacier might be cancelled. Nevertheless we got all dressed up and went ahead to the Fox Glacier Guiding Building just around the corner to await the weather check.

Fox Glacier Helihike
Cost per person: NZD 399

It’s a go ahead after waiting for 15minutes’ or so, but we had the choice of postponing our hike to the later time. We were lucky that we had 2 nights here at Fox Glacier township so we had the luxury of ascending the glacier at a later time. One tip would be to book for the 8:50am tour so that in any event, like us, you encountered bad weather, we could still go back for the tour at 11:50am. And that’s what we did! We went back at 11:50am and the sky cleared up quite a fair bit by then so it’s great news!

While waiting for the time to pass, we went over to Lake Matheson (again). This time round we managed to complete the full circuit in about an hour and the time was well-spent! Really, you should definitely visit Lake Matheson whilst in Fox Glacier township.

Total distance covered: 10km
Day 10 Total Expenses: NZD399.00

Day 11: Fox Glacier – Franz Joseph – Hokitika – Greymouth – Punakaki – Nelson Lake National Parks – St Arnaud
It’s a ultra-long day today and we set off really early before 8am and we made a terrible mistake by not pumping petrol at Fox Glacier township and move on to Franz Joseph township thinking that the petrol will be cheaper there since it is a larger township of the two. BUT WE WERE WRONG. It costs us an explosive NZD2.275 per litre in Franz Joseph but only NZD2.175 per litre in Fox. Silly us. Thinking that there were no other petrol kiosk for the next hundreds of km, we decided to bear the pain and pump nevertheless to only arrive in Whataroa to find the petrol at only NZD1.959 per litre. Yes we were devastated. Lucky we only pumped NZD30 in Franz Joseph. So we filled the tank and carry on to Hokitika Gorge.

We passed by this Lake Mapourika along the way and it really is a hidden gem. It was quiet and peaceful and exceptionally gorgeous. We had our take-away lunch there before continuing our journey to Hokitika Gorge.

Lake Mapourika
We then went straight to Greymouth because allegedly there was a KFC and he just had to have that craving. But I guessed we were really out of luck as the only KFC in a 3 hour drive radius is under renovation. I LOL when I saw his face when he realized there was no KFC. So we settled out lunch at McDonald’s just opposite the supposedly KFC location.
We are supposed to head straight to Nelson Lake Motel but him being him and me being me, we decided to re-route our way to see the Punakaki Pancake Rocks and the blowhole before we finally reached our accommodation of the night at St Arnaud slightly passed 8pm.

St Arnaud - Nelson Lake Motel (1 night)
Cost per person: S$58

Damn. It’s cold. The landlady shed some light as to why it’s so cold, because it’s about 800m above MSL. To put it into some perspective, Mount Cook village is only about 750m above MSL. And lucky thing Nelson Lake Motel has 2 separate heaters to keep us warm through the night.

Total distance covered: 505km
Day 11 Total Expenses: S$58.00

Day 12: St Arnaud – Kaikoura
There’s a beautiful lake just behind our motel hence we headed over there the first thing in the morning after we checked out. It’s really beautiful but there are too many flies. We couldn’t hang out for long. If you are there just take a peep around the pier as there are huge clusters of eels swimming around the pier.

The drive from St Arnaud to Kaikoura is only about 3 hours, so we decided to head up north. We passed by Nelson and decided against Picton as it started pouring. Since Marlborough is renowned for their vineyards, we dropped by one of the most accredited vineyard on international level – Cloudy Bay. We had wine tasting in their vineyard. How awesome is that. They have a range of different wine and tasting would only costs NZD5, NZD 10 or NZD20 depending on the package you choose. And it’s just purely amazing.

Cloudy Bay
I couldn’t help myself but to walk out with a bottle in hand as we carry on our journey to Kaikoura. You know that you are reaching Kaikoura because you see tons of seals. Like everywhere. They lie on all the rock formations and we even saw some right beside the roads.

Kaikoura - Heritage Court Motor Lodge (1 night)
Cost per person: S$48

Similar to a motel, we parked right in front of our unit. This motor lodge seemed to be operated by a group of Chinese so this is a good place if you need mandarin speaking assistance.

We head along to have dinner and we chanced upon Coopers Catch Kaikoura just tucked away from plain site, nothing fanciful, just a downright eatery. But the food was fabulous! The fish & chips were also one of the best we had, and the burgers were really nice and cheap.

Total distance covered: 335km
Day 12 Total Expenses: S$48.00

Day 13: Kaikoura – Hanmer Spring – Christchurch
We received a call in the morning from the Kaikoura Aero Club advising us to fly a little later than our scheduled timing as it’s drizzling and the whales might not appear. We took the offer and went over to Reserve Hutt for breakfast.

Kaikoura Whale Watch – Extended Scenic Flight
Cost per person: NZD140

We really got a cheap deal from Bookme.com as the price for this Extended Scenic Flights costs NZD210 usually. So go over to the site and see what promotions are there that coincides with the activities you are interested in.

But unfortunately, despite seeing loads of dolphins, we did not manage to spot any whales. Even the whaling boats didn’t set out that day. To trust our luck. But we did have a treat that day when we were the only 2 person onboard. What an incredible experience to “charter a plane”. Nonetheless, the scenery is still breathtaking, and definitely different from what you would see from land.

We landed safely under the experience of the pilots and they were really kind to give us a voucher that would take us up on another flight for whale watch for free the next time we visit Kaikoura, judging that we didn’t manage to see any whales with our rotten luck.

We then visited the Seal Colony, really it is flooded with wild fur seals in every direction you look. They are ridiculously cute. We also had our take away lunch from Coopers Catch (again) before heading on to Hanmer Springs.
Seal Colony
We took up the Private Thermal Pool at NZD40pp for 60mins at Hanmer Springs. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and relaxed sufficiently then move on back to Christchurch. By the time we arrived, it was already half past 8pm.

Christchurch - Camelot Motor Lodge (2 nights)
Cost per person: S$96

We wanted to try a different hotel as the first night so we can have a comparison. This motor lodge is really 1 quaint looking accommodation in the midst of an urbanized city.

Total distance covered: 280km
Day 13 Total Expenses: S$96.00 + NZD180

Day 14: Christchurch
We didn’t have anything planned out for the day so we decided to drive around Christchurch and later concluding that we should visit Akaroa for their well-known seafood. But it was a pity it was raining when we were on the way, so we only grabbed lunch at one of the local shops before heading back.

I really wanted to see some penguins before we leave New Zealand, so we settle with the little blue penguins in the Antarctic Center right beside the airport. It was actually quite fascinating and they have a chamber that simulates the Antarctic Storm. Lucky we were in time to experience what it feels like with wind speed at 40km/h and -18degC.

Antarctic center Admission: NZD39

Total distance covered: 180km
Day 14 Total Expenses: NZD39.00

Day 15: Christchurch – Auckland – Sydney
CHC to AKL – 1 hr 20 min (Air New Zealand)
1 hr 35 min layover
AKL to SYD – 3 hrs 35 min (Air New Zealand)
1 hr 55 min layover
SYD to SIN – 8 hrs 00 min (British Airways)

So we were there and back again. Covering a whopping 3343km on land!!

And there you have it! S$3,280.00 for 15 days (Exchange rate S$1: NZD1.08) in New Zealand excluding most food items. But we spent about S$3,800 each in total considering the entire expenses (we spent about S$400 on petrol). You can estimate to set aside about S$50 per person per day as a complete meal in any decent bar or restaurant will set you back about S$30 per person. I am a small eater, and we usually eat on the go for lunch so we had quite a huge savings from there. We also did cook for a couple of times as the motels and motor lodges come with microwave and electronic stove.

1.       En-suite rooms means that there was a connecting bathroom. Good for people on budget yet still hopeful for privacy like us!
2.       Petrol prices fluctuate quite a lot in New Zealand. The cheapest petrol we’ve got was $189.90 and the most expensive one was $227.50. I would say it averages out at about $195.50. (We’ve got the most expensive petrol at Franz Joseph and saw it was only $195.90 at Whataroa at less than 30min drive away, we almost burst into tears. Moral of the story, don’t pump at Franz Joseph. )
3.       New Zealand is a very tourist safe destination, they have indicative signs if there is no petrol for a long ride ahead.
4.       Bigger cities will usually have a better petrol prices
5.       Google map time estimation is quite accurate.  

I hope the itinerary is useful for you. I had loads of fun in New Zealand. I hope you do too!!