As I was on my way to Nelson, wanting to sleep, I tried to close my eyes and for reasons unknown, I couldn't. My brain kept me awake throughout the bus ride from Picton to Nelson. As it turned out, it was because of FOMO or the fear of missing out, purely because I was hyped to see the South Island's nature that some claimed to be one of the best in the world. As a result, I barely slept on the bus in New Zealand and I'm glad I did. South Island is the bomb and starting from this post on, you will start to see why as well as I traversed through Nelson and Motueka.
Looking for a complete itinerary for New Zealand? A Month In New Zealand On A Budget.
New Zealand Travel Video
Where to Stay in Nelson
Nelson: Hotel Tasman Bay Backpackers: 26.00 NZD/night
Free chocolate pudding at 8PM everyday.. again!
Climbing to the Center of New Zealand
I arrived in Nelson around 5PM and without delay, I decided to go and climb to the center of New Zealand, a mountain resided behind the city coastline that is considered to be the true center point of New Zealand.
It was raining heavily that afternoon but the weather seems to be stabilized in the evening. Oh how I was wrong..
By the time I got to the top (45 mins walk), it was cloudy again (typical New Zealand weather).
That night I stayed at the Tasman Bay Backpackers, another hostel that I highly recommend. For one, they serve Chocolate Pudding at 8PM again (at that point, I thought it was the South Island culture thing to serve chocolate pudding..). For another, it's cheap and has a nice sociable atmosphere, if you are into meeting new people.
Explore all the Hip Cafes in Nelson
When I was traveling in Japan, I had the opportunity to developed friendship with my good friend, Rhiannon Knecht a proud Kiwi. She was the force behind this epic trip and I promised her to lived her childhood when I'm in her hometown, which is Nelson. On Day 10, I dedicated the whole day to her because, without her advice, I wouldn't have had come up with this epic plan.
It was a beautiful day. I woke up early in the morning and went for a walk in the city.
Rhiannon had recommended me to give this cafe called Deville a go. As you can see, it took me a while to locate the place because it was hidden under thick vegetation. Another sign of a hidden gem.
The cafe has a large outdoor area where you can enjoy the sun, while listening to the subtle mingling sound of the locals.
I ordered a cup of Flat White and a Grilled Fish Burger. Much to my surprise, Deville has a reasonably fast free unlimited wifi, which is not so typical in New Zealand. I decided to work there for a bit (Yes, I do work.. sometime).
After an awesome meal, I went for a walk around the city and stumbled upon the Christ Church Cathedral, an iconic landmark in the middle of the town.
Rhiannon also recommended me to give a coffee from a coffee truck nearby a go but unfortunately, the coffee ran out right before I arrived.
Another of Rhi's recommendation, the Tahunanui beach. It was a few hours walk from the city. The walk was long and tiring but what more could you do on a good day like that.
Along the coastline of Nelson
A long white beach streched out as far as the eye can see.
Looking back at Nelson, while thinking of an alternative way to go back without walking. With all the walks I'd done in New Zealand, my foot started to give up.
It is amazing to see a beach unoccupied by tourists, something I don't see often enough in Thailand.
Despite me complaining about the distance, I decided to walk back anyway and by doing so, I stumbled upon an out-of-this-world art installation. The installation aligned perfectly with a barely-visible moon.
That night, Rhiannon hooked me up with her friend from schools in Nelson, Jeremy. He is an awesome kiwi who works in a hospitality industry in Richmond, a town nearby.
We went out to the Sprig and Fern bar on Hardy street, a popular local watering hole in Nelson. We talked about Rhiannon's childhood (Sorry, Rhi ;)), had a few beers, enjoyed live music played by Jeremy's friend, met Harrison and his girlfriend, and then we went off to the young night of Nelson.
We ended up at the fire dance party that happened every Tuesday in Nelson. Without Jeremy, I wouldn't have known about this place and wouldn't be able to try fire dance for the first time in my life. For that I thank Rhi and Jeremy!
We met Carl, an awesome fire dancer who taught me and Harrison how to wield "the staff" without burning ourselves.
And then he put us to shame with his crazy spin move.. without using his hands!
We ended the night, almost burning ourselves with "the staff" and the "Helicopter" trick (You don't wanna know) we were experimenting.
Getting to Motueka from Nelson
That day, I said goodbye to the people I met in the hostel (Thank you Maya, Livi, Lea, and Nicole for a great time) and headed out for my usual morning ritual. I decided to check out the local startup scene in Nelson at the Bridge Street Collective co-working space. The scene are pretty much alive and kicking there.
I took the NakedBus up to Motueka in the afternoon, dropped my bag at the YHA Motueka hostel, and went out into the night for some star gazing at the Janie Seddon Shipwreck, a place I was unable to find any information about except from the locals.
Where to Stay in Motueka
Motueka: Hotel YHA Motueka / Laughing Kiwi Backpackers: 28.00 NZD/night
Walk to the Janie Seddon Shipwreck
I had the weirdest encounter with the Kiwis ever here. I was walking down the street at night (almost 9 PM) trying to reach the shipwreck for a nice star photos and I saw a car parked right at the outlook spot near the ship. Two girls inside somehow waved and greeted me for no apparent reason. I waved back, said hi and approached them to see if I knew them from somewhere. Turned out I had no idea who they were but it didn't matter for us, we still talked.
What made this conversation interesting was that they were high school kids, on their way to a party (it was Halloween) and I don't often hear young local's express opinion about their own country. The thing that most fascinated me was how they know everyone in Motueka, either by face or name, and the reason they said hi to me in the first place was because they thought I was one of the locals. So random, yet it happens so often when I travel.
The encounter reminded me why I love traveling solo so much. It is this randomness, that forced me to meet new people, learn new knowledge and help expand my worldview like nothing can.
They went off to the party, and I continued my journey to see the stars.
I arrived at the shipwreck. It was illuminated by the light from Nelson and billion of stars in the sky.
It was windy and cold but it didn't matter. I was in front of the result of nature's grandest, most ambitious project, the universe.
I would do anything for a grand sight of the universe, no matter how cold or how much effort it needs. It never grew tired of it.
And that is all for this week's episode of the Solo Traveler's Journal. We have been tackling New Zealand in a very slow manner for the past 2 entries now and I think it is time to spice things up a bit. Next episode, I promise unforgettable adventure and untouched nature as we will go on part of the Abel Tasman National Park, one of the great walk in New Zealand. Stay tuned.
Continue Reading the Next Part: A Full Day Hiking Guide to Abel Tasman National Park.
Further Reading for Backpacking in New Zealand
I’ve spent 5 weeks backpacking in New Zealand and I have written a ton more about my journey traveling throughout New Zealand from the North Island to the South Island that you might help in your trip planning.
Here’s a selection of articles about New Zealand:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to spend one month in New Zealand on a budget? A Month In New Zealand On A Budget - The Perfect Backpacking Itinerary.
- New Zealand has a special place in my heart. It is one of the most memorable trips I have ever done and here are 10 things I love about New Zealand.
- If you are planning to start traveling in New Zealand from North to South, Rotorua is a great place to visit on your way South from Auckland. Here is a travel guide on things to do in Rotorua.
- Did you know that you can climb Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings in real life? Along the Tongariro Crossing trail, you have the option to summit Mount Ngauruhoe which was used as a reference for Mount Doom in the movie. Here a travel guide on how to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in one day.
- Crossing from the North Island of New Zealand to the South is an experience in and of itself. See how to cross from the North Island to the South Island in New Zealand here.
- One of the best Great Walk you can do is in the Abel Tasman National Park and you can do parts of it in one day. Here’s a complete guide on how to hike parts of the Abel Tasman Great Walk in one day.
- The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is not very popular among travelers, making it a great place to go off the beaten path. Here’s a travel guide on things to do, and where to go in West Port, New Zealand.
- Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, a question that has been asked for as long as travelers start traveling in New Zealand. It doesn’t really matter which one you pick as both are a great place to go ice climbing. Here’s a travel guide on how to go ice climbing on Franz Josef glacier with Ice Explorer.
- You must have a seen photo of a lone tree in a lake with beautiful mountains as a background somewhere. That’s in Wanaka, New Zealand and here’s travel guide on things to do in Wanaka in one day.
- Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. If your body can endure it, you can find it in Queenstown. Here’s a 3 days itinerary on things to do in Queenstown.
- Queenstown is also one of the best places in the world to go skydiving. Here’s my experience skydiving with the NZONE in Queenstown.
- The Milford Sound is touristy, there’s no denying it and you are not wrong to be skeptical but I can assure you, it is worth the hype. Here’s a travel guide on which cruise to pick for the Milford Sound and how to get there.
- One of the best Great Walk in New Zealand you can do is the Routeburn Track. Here’s a complete 3 days itinerary and travel guide on how to trek the Routeburn Track.
- Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and the best way to see it is to hike the Hooker Valley trail. Here’s a travel guide on visiting Mt. Cook and hiking the Hooker Valley trail.
- Dunedin is a great place to end your trip in New Zealand. After all the adventure you have been through, here’s how to spend 5 days in Dunedin, taking it slow and seeing the city at your own leisure.
- Not convinced by my words about New Zealand? Come follow me and I’ll show you New Zealand in 70 photos.
- You can see all my New Zealand travel guides and related articles on my New Zealand Travel Guide page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.