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New Zealand Backpacking – Picton and Kaikoura

Day One of our backpacking trip around New Zealand was to my mind, not the best way to start our 2 month tour of New Zealand. We woke up on the day, a bit snippy and a bit under the weather. And quite tired from a really long week of finishing up work and various stupid odd jobs. Like sorting out bags and hair cuts, and hangovers and I can’t remember what else.

And it was early in the morning, I am NOT a morning person. And then I checked the news.

An earthquake further North up the island meant that there where tsunami warnings being issued. My fight or flight mode kicked in and I decided that getting on the ferry was the worst idea I’d ever heard. The tsunami warnings weren’t being issued in the area where we were. However I felt really panicked and not happy at all about traveling.

Nonetheless we checked online and our ferry was still scheduled. So we took our taxi to the ferry terminal and asked the staff. Being in my usual ridiculously early time we were the first people at the terminal. And then it transpired we just had to wait a few hours for a delayed ferry to cross to the South Island.

The water was really choppy. But thank goodness I didn’t get seasick – I’ve had a terrible experience on a catamaran, which I hope never to repeat! The air was thick with fog – so the glorious views of the Queen Charlotte Sound which I had hoped to see didn’t really appear. But we made it alive, so I was cool with that.

Picton New Zealand Backpacking
Queen Charlotte Sound – September 2016


Eventually we arrived on the South Island. And straight away got picked up by a complementary van provided by our lovely little hostel, Sequioa Lodge and checked in. We had a cute little room around the back, and access to a hot tub (out there they called them spas) to which I promptly signed up. (You sign up for an hour slot.)

Picton New Zealand Backpacking
View of Picton taken from the Tirohanga Track

We whiled away the afternoon with our first little hike – we walked partly up the Tirohanga Track. But after awhile we were quite tired and hot, and so turned back. I think at this time my fitness levels where not up to scratch, so we didn’t do the full track. Later on, on our way back up North, we would revisit on our way back up, and complete the track!

We explored Shelleys Beach, and watched the sun go down, our first sunset of the trip! Then headed back to the hostel for our first meal, indulging in the free soup and chocolate pudding.

I would like to mention that many hostels across New Zealand advertise free soups and puddings as a perk. However the quality is… well its not haute cuisine. But as a backpacker on a budget, you cant be too fussy. But be warned, if this something you choose to rely on, for the most part its pretty bland and tasteless. And then it was finally a dip in the hottub, for a whole blissful hour, which was both very relaxing and romantic.

The next day it was up for a free breakfast. Iin almost all hostels this tends to be a choice of toast, or 2 types of cereals. I would love to know where hostelries get their products. They all seemed to serve the same stuff up and down the country.

Working Out!

After breakie Ian and I worked out together. For those of you that don’t know us, my boyfriend Ian is quite the fitness guy and he has essentially been training me for the last few years. He’s been writing my programs and very patiently guiding me. From a distance anyway. Before, I never took criticism very well, and felt too nervous/shy to workout in front of anyone. However in recent years my confidence has improved drastically, and I finally felt comfortable enough to share this part of me. I have since come to hugely enjoy our exercise time together and really enjoyed those 2 months. I have even joined the gym now we’re back at home. Now we’re the annoying couple giggling like teenagers in the squat rack. *smug smile*

Picton New Zealand Backpacking
Rachel On Route – at Picton!

Picton New Zealand Backpacking

We whiled away the rest of our stay in Picton watching the boats, kayaks and ferries come and go. Sipping coffee in the sunshine and feeling very excited about exploring.


Next on our list was Kaikoura! So we jumped on our booked Intercity bus, which took us on a 2 hour drive down through Blenheim and Marlborough’s vineyards. And then down the very stunning east coastline, with a few hairy, ‘oh my god the roads really close to the cliff edge’ moments along the way.

Kaikoura New Zealand Backpacking
Ian on the beach at Kaikoura

In Kaikoura we stayed at Dusky Lodge Backpackers. A lovely little hostel slightly away from the main strip, and it was quiet and homely, just what we wanted. Our plan was to explore and make the most of our days and then rest up at night. We did enough partying in Wellington to last a lifetime!

Due to our budget for most of our stay in Kaikoura we lived out of the supermarket. I think we had one coffee from a cafe, but with that exception we didn’t try any other restaurants or other amenities. Instead choosing to cook for ourselves. This set the precedent for the trip really, as we were budgeting we did a lot of cooking. The following day though, we set about exploring, and went around the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Despite the overcast weather, we had stunning views of the mountains in the distance. We wandered around to Point Kean viewpoint and unwittingly stumbled across a seal colony which we had no idea would be there. I quiet literally turned a corner on the path and nearly walked into one (see him below!)

Kaikoura Seal New Zealand Backpacking
Seal lazing on the path on the Kaikoura Peninsula, New Zealand

After the seal colony we followed the trail along the clifftops and down to the South Bay area. On our way back to the main part of Kaikoura we heard a very loud siren going off – which absolutely terrified me to be honest. It had a very harsh catawalling kind of sound that goes right through you.

Earthquakes and Tsunami’s

Having heard all of the horror stories and warnings about earthquakes and tsunamis warnings and the events of the previous few days, we thought perhaps it was a tsunami warning! And so we started considering the idea that perhaps we should make for high ground. After a short time the siren stopped, and we saw some locals looking nonplussed. So we decided we were probably safe, and casually wandered back to our little hostel. We later discovered Kaikoura’s fire brigade is manned by volunteers, and the siren was for them and not an evacuation siren.

I would like to note that my fear was not completely stupid and unfounded. As 10 weeks after our visit to Kaikoura and 3 weeks after we had returned to the UK, they were hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by serious tsunami warnings. People had to be airlifted out of the town as the roads where completely cut off due to landslides, and there was no other method of evacuation. Tragically 2 people lost their lives in the event, and it goes to show you the danger of mother nature and how much we really are at her mercy.

We walked 11 miles that day – which for me was insanely good, and a great start to getting my fitness levels up. I noted in my travel journal how exhausted I was though, so an early night, and a healthy nutritious hostel cooked dinner!

Our next stop on our tour of New Zealand was Christchurch. So back on the bus we hopped. Stay tuned for the next installment of our trip!

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New Zealand Backpacking – Picton and Kaikoura


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