Backpacking New Zealand 2009

At the end of 2008 I decided quit my job and in the new year start a solo trip my first in fact, backpacking to New Zealand it was.

This trip was 2009 so many things may of changed, and with that if anyone has been recently I would love to know more about these places I visited and what it is like now.

I took the NZ1 Air New Zealand from London Heathrow to Christchurch via Los Angeles and Christchurch. Which now seems an odd route, but didn’t care at the time the excitement was to much.

Arriving at 6 am with just a bag and nowhere to stay the adventure had started I was about to start backpacking through New Zealand


Christchurch was a beautiful and vibrant city, after arriving the the Cathedral Square and seeing i was delighted at how beautiful the center was. The city was alive we people packed into coffee shops and cafes. The sun was shining and everybody seemed to be happy.

Cathedral Square’s uniqueness and beauty was partly down to the cathedral itself a stunning piece of architecture, which was a pleasant surprise to fairly modern approach the city looked. Another great addition running through the city were the old style wooden trams which have been running for years.

I Was only to stay the one night, as I wanted to set my sights away from a city. So an early morning coach and I was off to Queenstown.


The drive into Queenstown was one I will never forget. The rugged landscape, wild rivers, unbelievable views and most of all perched in the middle of it all a picture perfect town.

Although known for its great ski resort, the town is also a huge attraction in the summer. With its wide range of extreme sports, jet boating, bungee to name a few.

Queenstown Bungee

Frisbee Golf

With all the adventure that surrounds Queensland its quite amusing we got right into Frisbee golf of all things.

A course through the forest replacing clubs and balls with Frisbees and holes with buckets a game for anyone to play.

Want find out a bit more on this unique sport check out Chrstchurch Disc Golf Club for the rules, courses and a whole bunch of information and competitions.

The Best Hostel

Our accommodation was great, even nearly 15 years on now  it was the best hostel we have stayed in hands down. With no large dorms and only 6 bed per room, with a share computer in each room. Breakfast items were layed out in the mornings and tv room with lounges made a great homely stay. Although the name didn’t lend to its quality “The Last Resort Hostel”

Getting The Wheels For The Road Trip

My friend who I was travelling with prior to me arriving managed to find tbis little cash buy of a couple in Queenstiwn. I think $800 was the price with plenty of room and not one problem the whole trip. It was a steal of a buy.

Roadtrip car


Dunedin was only  a one night stop on our way down to the Catlins. One thing was for sure on this short leg was we wanted to get out onto the Otago Peninsula.

Sandfly Bay And Sea liins

We got down to Sandfly Bay late afternoon  we heard this was a good spot to see Sea Lions.

Sandfly Bay

Unfortunately for us we didn’t see any and we almost hit caught out with the light as it the night had closed in and an exit was only through a small gap at the top of a sanddune luckily we found our way through

Curio Bay

Curio Bay was not somewhere that was on the radar but after a night out and when we got chatting to some fellow travellers and a recommendation was made to visit we duly obliged and headed down.

The little town of Curio Bay was tiny a little street one shop a few scatterings of houses and a hostel. I do wonder what in 2021 the Bay looks like now.

Curio Bay street

Yellow Eyed Penguins

Curio Bay visit was for one reason its one of the best places to view the rare yellow eyed penguins, with the long rocky beach front it was a perfect spot where the penguins came in at night.

Curio Bay Sunset

One thing I loved about Curio Bay the most was the sunsets over the adjoining Bay Purpoise Bay. We would sit out on the hostel veranda and take in all its beauty and relax.

Sunset on Purpoise Bay
More sunset on Purpoise Bay

Hector Dolphins

We took surf lessons on our second day down on the Bay and we found out the the yellow eyed penguins were not the only rare local bread so to were the Hector Dolphins.

A very unique type of dolphin by the way they loved shallow waters. When we managed to stand up on the boards (which was not much) the dolphins would swim alongside us. It really was a surreal feeling and one to cherish.

Dolphins riding the waves

Milford Sound

The Milford Sound sits on the west side of the island, and even to this day is one of the most picturesque destinations i have been to. Its striking formation makes the trip into the sound jaw dropping and one we will never forget.

The Beauty Of The Sound

We arrived in a place called Te Anau just outside Milford Sound to stay in a cabin on top of the hills before our morning boat journey through sound.

It was a perfect morning we got to travel with the sun shining and very little wind.

As you can see below we navigated through the sound and its beautiful blue waters coming across many waterfalls and some stunning rock formations. We even managed to catch a rainbow or two as the boat reversed into the waterfalls for a bit of a thrill for those standing on the back balconies.

Seeing The Seals

One other sight to be seen in the Milford Sound is and all through the sound where the amount of seals that are about. We could see them lazing around on the rocks soaking up a bit of sun. We managed to get up close to some and it was a real treat to see them in there own habitat.


Apple Picking Farm

We arrived in Motueka when we scored a few jobs on a apple orchard in Motueka. Accommodation was provided albeit very basic but we didn’t care. And we set off for a 5 week stint at picking apples.

Home Away From

After finishing up at the farm we moved into town to the  White Elephant hostel  Motueka.

A small scale backpackers with dorms in the house, cabins out the back and also camping.

It was here we met some great friends, had some great laughs and I believe shared a drink or two.

We settled into the white elephant for a while and found another job in a factory. It was here also that I joined Motueaka FC soccer club and signed on for the season. It was starting to feel very homely.

Motueka FC

The Finest Beaches

At the weekends we tried to get out and explore and to our joy there were plenty of little hidden sandy beaches to be found around the area. With little hidden coves to long stretches so beautiful to see.

We had seen some great Coastline along our journey but this had a different feel gone were those rugged shores and with crystal clear blue water its was beginning to be more paradise.

Farewell Spit

Right at the top of the South Island is the Farewell Spit. A large sand spit, full of sand dunes and eye catching views. It runs east from Cape Farewell which is the south island most northern point.

We took a day trip there, a fine day and the views were breathtaking. We climbed sand dunes, swam and nestled into a picnic, there are certainly not many better picnic spots than Farewell Spit.

Abel Tasman

I heard so much about the Abel Tasman, it was one I was looking forward to the most.

We wanted to camp in the national park by one of the remote beaches. And with that we found a campsite and a completely remote beach not accessible by car so we had to take a boat.

After arriving at the beach we got parked up and hoped on to the pristine sandy beaches, was this heavan ?

I remember it being very quiet with only a handful of people.

We were surrounded in lush forest with walkways and entries to walking tracks into the Abel Tasman National Park.

About half way up the beach we found an opening in the forest which lead to a small scale campsite. We fired up the camping stove and got cooking.

Finishing The South Island

A fair few months later after working hard we decided to pack up and end over the Tasman and give Australia a go.

Landing in Brisbane in May 2009 to start a new journey which eventually lead to the Gold Coast were I spent 13 great years.

Gold Coast

Fancy following on our journey then check out some adventures we got upto on the Gold Coast.

Curio Bay New Zealand – Yellow Eyed Penguins

Day Trip To Curio Bay

Back in 2008 when we were travelling through New Zealand, over what i can only imagine was a few beers and and a game of beer pong. In a hostel was said to be on New Zealand steepest Road (thats another story). A fellow traveler brought to my attention a little find of there’s they had recently been on called Curio Bay and the adjoining Porpoise Bay. Curio bay was known for the very rare yellow eyed penguin colony.

Intrigued we set of the next day from Dunedin to the far south of the south island in search of these rare penguins.

Location Of Curio Bay

2 hr 30 minutes drive from the South Islands second largest city Dunedin. A city known for its beautiful wildlife and rugged coastline

1 hr 10 mins drive from the small city of Invercargill. A city which is one of the southernly cities in the world.

As you can see below the bustling Town center of Curio Bay one street and surrounding woodland. Peace and quiet and a real sense of being in the wild.

Curio Bay center

Yellow Eye Penguins History

These penguins also known as Hoiho the moari term for yellow eyed penguin. Meaning “noise shouter” referring to there calls. This colony of penguins are endangered with around 6000 and 1700 breading pairs. They are largely found on the southern shores of the south island of New Zealand and very popular in Curio Bay.

Our Trip To Curio Bay

So where was I ?

Porpoise Bay

We got up at sunrise and headed down early. We had booked in at the hostel on the adjoining Porpoise Bay. The hostel was also a surf school (cant seem to find on maps assuming not there anymore). As the penguins only came in at night we arranged some surf lessons to keep us occupied during the day.

Curio Bay Dolphins

Surfing here was great fun and little did we know here on Porpoise Bay was another rare bread the hector dolphins. A dolphin known for only swimming in shallow shores and was delighted to catch this shot below with the dolphins playing in the surf and riding the waves.

They were not one bit afraid of us, when we were out they would swim up close and follow you through the waves.

These special Curio Bay dolphins were another rare endangered breed we were delighted to see these here in this relatively untouched area of beauty and in the own habitat.

Yellow Eyed Penguin Spotting

We settled back in after after our fun in the surf and were told to head down to the Curio Bay side as the penguins would come in an hour or so before sunset.

We got a place perched up on the rocks and waited patiently for any sign of these rare penguins.

It wasn’t long before we caught a glimpse, waddling along and hopping up the rocks. It was a slow process for these poor penguins going through this every night. A waddle a jump a waddle a jump almost like myself at 4am on a sunday morning.

The Penguins

I remember the distinct yellow colouring on them that stood out most. They seemed to keep there distance from any of us and of course we stood well back and respected there area and land.

We spent a good hour or so watching them come in, there would of been 100s waddling in for the night. We just sat back and soaked it all up and watched these beautiful creatures in the wild. Just doing what they do every day.

Below is a great photo of these beautiful penguins. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to close up and back in 2008 the camera wasn’t great. We did however get permission to use this.

Courtesy of Caitlins photography

Accommodation Tip

A stay at the Curio Bay Salthouse is a must with it’s self catering apartments, studios and sea views make it a restful and relaxing stay.

With its great hosts helping you on your way to a great stay with there fantastic local knowledge a real sense of this little community is felt here.

The apartments are clean, modern and well maintained, what more could you ask for.

Final Thought

My main tips are simple bring a camera, relax, enjoy the beauty of these species and dont forget to respect there space and land.

Ahhhhh memory lane i do really need to get back to these shores one day.

Apologies for the lack of quality photos this was some while ago.

Fancy learning a bit more about us check out our About page

As always thanks for stopping by

Richard & Michelle

New Zealand Arrival Pt 2

Part 1 Recap Leaving For New Zealand

Before we set off on our New Zealand arrival make sure you check out part 1 first link below

So Where were we

Part 2 New Zealand Arrival

Now, to most people 30 hours on a plane doesn’t seem like fun but the sheer excitement of what lied ahead keep me going.

Pulled In At Immigration

I got off the plane my eyes dancing around my head, i wanted to see everything. I flew through baggage then one last port of call immigration. A quick stamp and im off and racing. Until a voice said to me “please would you follow us sir”.

Was I worried? YES, so worried the nerves were unbearable. I hadn’t done anything but still the anxiety was through the roof. I was questioned about my trip, what i planned to do, how i was planning to support myself, what are my ongoing plans and so on.

After over an hour sat answering questions and having my baggage and documents checked, a lady walked in handed me my passport and said “your free to go welcome to New Zealand”‘.

Absolute delight as i skipped through arrivals and burst through the airport doors i was here, let the journey begin.

Lets Get Exploring Christchurch

I jumped in a taxi and headed for Christchurch. I hadn’t booked accommodation, i thought the thrill of not knowing where i was staying would excite me and would be part of the journey. Sat in that taxi that thrill went and all i could think of was where am i staying tonight and damn i need some sleep.

I arrived and was dropped in the center of Christchurch. It was so beautiful, there were trams flowing, there were street performers and the most amazing cathedral (it was such a shame it was so severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake).

Get Me A Hotel

I went into the first hotel i forget now the name, i didn’t care what the price wasi just wanted to sleep i was exhausted. So i checked in got into the room, pulled the curtains, jumped into bed. I lied there for 10 minutes my mind was racing, i wanted to go explore. After another 5 minutes, that was it out the bed, curtains open and got dressed and i just walked around for about 3 hours.

Such a beautiful city, the city center was like a big grid with adjacent roads so you would never lose you way. And some of the most beautiful parks and waterways.

And Finally

I wont go to in-depth on Christchurch as i was off to Queenstown in the morning and my exploring of Christchurch came later on in the trip. i will detail that in a later part.

Later on i got back to the hotel, had dinner and as i said wanted to set off to Queenstown in the morning, as i had a friend there who i was meeting up with. I booked a coach to my disappointment the only time was 7 am, i did it i pulled back the curtains and was asleep in about 2 seconds.

I woke up to the bellowing alarm at 6am, i rose and felt fresh from the rest and the excitement now begins, im off to Queenstown.

Thanks for stopping by, stayed tuned for part 3 on Queenstown.

For now its goodbye and again if you haven’t check out New Zealand Part 1

New Zealand (The Beginning 2008) Pt 1

Where The Travel Addiction Started New Zealand

When did my travel addiction start?? Well let me tell you!

Back in December 2007 I decided enough was enough, I was fed up of the same old same old. Time to get out I wanted to see the world.

I had watched so much on tv and on the internet about the backpacker packer life down under I thought I wanted that.

I had no ties I was a free man and so there one day I said I’m doing it. Went to work and gave my notice, next step I booked a flight to New Zealand I felt alive for the first time in ages.

The next month went so slow it felt like a life time. The excitement was there couldn’t wait. I was gathering my bits, buying my backpack, my summer clothes, travel kits you name it I was arming up for the trip of a lifetime.

And Off We Go

January 30th 2008. The day was here I was going, I was actually doing this. I headed off to Heathrow, I was on the 1pm Air New Zealand flight to Auckland via Los Angeles.

The flight was on time I gathered my reading material and boarded. It was going to be one long journey we were flying Heathrow to LA, then LA to Auckland and finally Auckland to Christchurch. Did it seem long? I was so excited I enjoyed every minute of it.

30 hours later I had arrived, I couldn’t believe it there I was on the other side of the world.

Now the fun begins, but first of all customs. Now that’s a story for the next part.

Thanks for reading. I am going to be writing this in a few parts, please come back and enjoy the journey

We will speak soon

Stay safe

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