The South Island is generally known as an ideal tourist site and is constantly populated with many locals too. There are many cool things about South Island Camping Sites but one thing for sure is that there are many great spots to camp on the South Island and it is considered one of the best spots for traveling worldwide. 

If there is one place that tops many bucket lists in the world, it might have to be New Zealand. Specifically, South Island’s camping sites. It is not every day that you get to encounter a global phenomenon and I would highly prize this spot as one of the best ones to visit anytime. 

Upon looking at photos of South Island’s camping sites, I was awed by the beautiful landscapes and captivating views. Despite the intriguing photos that I saw before visiting the places, I was even more mesmerized by the snow-capped mountains with icy glaciers that extended deep into the pure alpine lakes, growing wine culture, and how the photos could not translate the actual beauty of the place itself. Either way, I really appreciated my journey along with the South Island camping sites and having explored the South Island for two weeks. It was truly an opportunity of a lifetime! 

Things That Surprised Me on South Island

    1. The color of the lakes

    If you ever wonder where you can find the best-looking lakes, there are New Zealand blue lakes which put all other lakes to shame. Despite its artificial look, it is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant-looking lakes out there. Thanks to mineral deposits from glaciers in the past, some of the shade of blue has an aura that looks fake. I was so mesmerized by the color of the lakes that I even believed that it was not simply real.

      2. Rainforest in Punakaiki

      So you might be asking what Punakiaki is all together? Punakaiki is the base from which to explore the natural wonders of the Paparoa National Parks. With its lush tropical rainforest to beaches and other interesting rivers, there is something for each person. 

      There is simply so much you can do here. If you are interested in taking a journey into their galaxy with a stargazing tour, this is a possibility. In Punakaiki, everything is simply a possibility rather than just a thought. 

      Despite the list of activities that are available in this national park, I decided to walk one of the many sub-tropical rainforest and coastal tracks. 

      During our journey here, my family and I decided to enjoy a night in Punakaiki Resort, situated on the wild West Coast, surrounded by the Paparoa National Park and it is only a few metres from the beach. I was so surprised by how captivating the views were and the accommodating staff members -- highly recommended without a doubt. This is a good place to be close to nature yet still having a sense of comfort within the resort. 

      3. The stars

      This is one of the most surprising and least expected part of camping in New Zealand. I always wondered how the stars can be so clear and bright in this location. 

      Even on a normal night, you can see the stars beaming up in the galaxy. During one of our stops in Abel Tasman National Park, we headed up to the deck to experience what would be the most mesmerizing experience of a lifetime. This was something that I did not expect to see. I got to see the stars twinkling and shining. It was truly such a good ending after a strenuous hiking adventure in one of the most difficult hiking trails out there. 

      Although I was extremely drained and tired after my hike, this was totally worth my time. 

      Top Locations That I Visited: 

           1. Milford Track 

      Milford Track is known to be one of the finest hikes in the world. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hiker, this hiking spot is perfect for you. With its valley carved by glaciers, ancient rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, this place is known for its beauty and grace.

      Well, this Milford Track is a Great Walk - which means that it is of a higher standard than most other tracks. Besides having nice landscapes, the trails are easy to follow and well formed. Hence, it is perfect for individuals of different levels. Despite being a beginner or an advanced hiker, this place gives you the best of both. So if this is one of your concerns, do not worry! 

      The tracks are also usually quite wide depending on terrain - some even fit two people walking side by side in flat areas. So not to worry, if you are afraid of trails that are too narrow, this will do its job perfectly by giving you space! Despite its wide trails though, this trail is similar to others in a sense where it is made out of gravel, rock, or dirt. This means that the track can accumulate water in wet seasons. As a result, the track can get slippery. You should keep in mind proper footwear and clothing as safety measures. Besides, you should also be careful when you hike in general! 

      Photography by Milford Track

      The Milford Track which spans over 53.5km in total starts at Glade Wharf and finishes at Sanfly Point in Miford Sound. The track can only be walked from one direction - from the start to end - and usually spans for around 4 days in total. Yes, it is certainly possible to finish the hike in less than 4 days, but you might not be able to do a pitstop in all the huts in this multi-day hike. Each night is spent at a different pre-booked hut for the finest experience. 

      In terms of the hut facilities, here are some of them: 

      • Bunks with mattresses in a communal sleeping layout.
      • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
      • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
      • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
      • A resident DOC ranger - they can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

      After a boat cruise from Te Anau Downs which takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, take a walk through beautiful beech forest along the banks of the Clinton River to Clinton Hut, where all the hikers spend their first night. In a way, this is a mandatory spot that you will come across. Once you arrive, take some time to check out the swimming holes near the hut or simply take a short walk around the wetland boardwalk. 

      When you arrive at Clinton Hut where you will stay on your first day, there are plenty of facilities you can find here. There are around 40 bunk beds located here. Keep in mind that Clinton Hut only has communal spaces - for instance, the cooking and washing up facilities require you to share your space. In any case if you do not prefer communal spaces, maybe this hike might not be the best fit for you. Make sure to place your bookings beforehand as it is very high in demand. 

      The second day, I spent my time in Clinton Hut and Mintaro Hut. After the steady uphill inclination after you reside in Clinton Hut on the first night, you will be led to Hirere Falls. Here, you can get your first view of Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona icefield. 

      Once we left Mitnaro Hut, we went to Dumpling Hut. Along the way, you will be treated to some of the most exceptional views of Lake Mintaro and Clinton Canyon. This memorial is a great spot to take your Instagram photos so you can take awe-inspiring panoramas, before reaching the highest point of the track. 

      Travel to and from the Milford Track usually requires road transport and boat access at both ends of the track. You can only walk the Milford Track in one direction, and the below transport options are for the summer Great Walks season only.

      The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes one hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

      Te Anau Downs is 27 km from Te Anau on the road to Milford Sound. It has a car parking area if you wish to leave your vehicle. Bus services run daily scheduled services from Te Anau to meet the boat at Te Anau Downs.

      Overall, Milford Track is known to be one of the finest hikes in the world. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hiker, this hiking spot is perfect for you. With its valley carved by glaciers, ancient rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, this place is known for its beauty and grace. Take time in enjoying the scenic view and for all its nooks and crannies.

      Photography by Destination Less Travel

           2. Routeburn Track 

      If you are short on time and want to see the Greatest Hits of Fiordland, the Routeburn Track is waiting for you. Even with such a short distance, you can see stunning views; valleys, glaciers, blue rivers, and truly stunning views that keep you moving! 

      The Routeburn Track is considered one of the easier tracks compared to some of the more renowned and difficult ones such as Kepler Track and Milford Track as observed above. It is relatively short and can be completed in two or three days depending on your pace.

      Interesting points to take note of: 

      • You can swim in the gorgeous but freezing cold Lake Mackenzie. 
      • You can take a short (45 minute return) side trail to Key Summit for some of the best views in New Zealand. 
      • Our fave hut ranger is stationed at Lake Mackenzie hut. 

      In terms of hut facilities, both Milford Track and Routeburn Track had similar offerings: 

      • Bunks with mattresses in a communal sleeping layout.
      • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
      • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
      • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
      • A resident DOC ranger - they can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

      Photography by Otago Daily Times

      The only clear difficulty of the Routeburn track is the huge distance between the start to end, there will be a lot of walking - but that’s the true essence of going on hikes right? You will just have to rely on long bus rides to get back to your car in the start/ end of your hike. Apart from that, this route is perfect for beginner to advanced levels as it entails some degree of difficulty either way.

      Conclusion

      Overall, if there is one place that tops many bucket lists in the world, it might have to be New Zealand. Specifically, South Island’s camping sites. It is not every day that you get to encounter a global phenomenon and I would highly prize this spot as one of the best ones to visit anytime. 

      Needless to say, I had an adventure of a lifetime in the South Island -- highly recommended and will definitely visit again in the near future.