Monday 20 November 2017

South Island Vegan Road Trip - Part 1

When Nick and I arrived on the South Island we were both feeling a little lost, we hadn't had time to sit down and plan our South Island road trip at all and we had no idea where we were headed - just that we had a car and the freedom to go anywhere. The very first thing that we spotted as we were checking into our hostel was a flyer for tours of a peanut butter factory! That was clearly a sign and we were sold. I was on the phone booking our spots in seconds. Coincidentally someone I knew from Brighton was in the area housesitting so we hooked up with her and her husband and headed to the Pic's factory in Nelson the very next day.

Pic's are actually a super cool peanut butter company, the founder started making PB in a concrete mixer in his garage and selling it at farmer's markets and it's grown into a bit of a peanut butter empire with stockists all over New Zealand and a chunk of the rest of the world. Pic seems like a cool dude, he's all about employing local people and keeping the business local as it grows. Pic is blind and him and his lovely seeing eye dog made a great video about the cool PB journey he's been on.

Factory tours are free and run every weekday morning at 10am so if you're in the area go along and grab a jar of PB for your journey around NZ. After hanging with Nikki and her husband we decided to head to the Japanese Gardens with our maps and some green tea to do some planning. We sat under the cherry trees for a couple of hours and mapped out our entire South Island adventure. We were still working with Hitch Car Rentals so we had the freedom to go anywhere and do anything which made narrowing it down a little challenging!

The South Island is definitely more wild than the north and we loved getting outside and exploring the coast early on in our journey. We were so lucky with the weather, it was well and truly springtime, and we were able to go on some fantastic walks along the coast, around parks, and to Buller Gorge.

Hokitika was our next major stop, it's a little town on the west coast and it was a fine place to stop. It has a cafe with vegan options that was closed whilst we were there so we just had a little walk around before getting on with the outdoor activities we had planned.

Firstly we headed to Hokitika Gorge. This is a stunning spot for a walk and the water really is that colour, no photoshop! The swing bridge is a fun but wobbly walk and there are rocks you can sit on at the end of the walk to marvel at the gorgeous water some more. 

Pancake Rocks was our second destination and all that they made me do was crave pancakes! I kid, of course I was also in awe of the beauty of the coast but damnit why did they have to set up a pancake restaurant right there with no vegan options?! So rude! 

As you can see this place is called pancake rocks because the rocks are layered like pancakes. I think I've spent too much time cooking from American recipe books because I was expecting a few huge rocks piled on top of each other like a classic US pancake stack rather than these thinner more crepe like rocks. 

Whatever they looked like I was still craving pancakes pretty hard when we got back into the car so we set off on a mission to find vegan pancakes. It's at times like this that I'm glad that I'm married to another vegan. I'm not sure that most non vegans would go on wild missions to find and make vegan pancakes! We went to four stores but eventually we struck gold.

Nick's the pancake chef in our house so he whipped up the pancakes whilst I chopped fruit. This was an epic pancake plate, we didn't have any syrup but the sugar from the fruit was enough and we had margarine. The pancakes themselves were surprisingly good given they they were from a gluten free box mix and they're a good option when you're travelling and don't want to be carrying around a bunch of ingredients.

After dinner we popped down the road to explore the glow worm dell. It's just a little path off of the main highway and after dark it comes alive with bright little glowworms. It wasn't as spectacular as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves I wrote about in my North Island post but it was still pretty cool and it's free so you can't complain. After that we drove to sunset point right by the water to look at the stars, there was a little too much light pollution and it was a little cloudy but it was still gorgeous and I think that getting to see the stars in another hemisphere is super cool.

One of the main things people come to the South Island for are glaciers. Both Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph glacier are world famous but sadly, just like the Great Barrier Reef, they aren't what they once were thanks to global warming. It was still cool and interesting to see them in real life in comparison to older photos online but it's still sad. They're good hikes though because they're well marked and through interesting landscapes.

One of my favourite things about Franz Joseph was that there are hot pools. I love hot pools! Nick treated us to a private hot pool experience which was really fun. We've never done that before and we loved having our own private cosy peaceful space where we could stargaze and hang out together. The only downside was that there was no control over the temperature of the water and we found our pool to be a little on the warm side, I spent quite a lot of the time lying on the decking with just my arms or legs in the water which meant that it wasn't quite as relaxing as it could've been.

Right opposite the hot pools is King Tiger an Asian restaurant with a couple of vegan options on the menu. We both ordered this tofu in gravy dish that they were happy to make without the peppers. It came with rice and it was really delicious. It was nice to take a break from cooking our own food!

The next stop on the road trip was Wanaka which is such a cool little town. We weren't going to stay there originally as it's so close to Queenstown but we were so glad that we did. The YHA hostel there is lovely and the lake is gorgeous. There's even a surprising amount of vegan food in Wanaka! We found pizza, hot chocolate, ice cream, and even crepes. We took a lot of walks around the lake and spent time sitting and chatting by the shore. It's a really breathtaking place.

After devouring hot chocolates and pizzas at cute riverside spot Kai Whakapai Cafe Bar on day one we stumbled upon this ice cream spot the very next day. Black Peak Gelato only have sorbets for vegans but they were really good sorbets and they has some fun and interesting flavours including salted chocolate and nectarine.

They made a weird combo but they don't do individual scoops so we had them together and shared to save cash. I'm definitely a fan of chocolate sorbet and this one didn't disappoint. I've never had a nectarine sorbet before and I loved it, it was so fresh tasting and bursting with flavour.

We spotted the Charlie Brown crepe cart when we were walking to our hostel and the sign said vegan options all over it so we had to give it a try. We really got our hopes up when we asked what could be veganised and the dude working said everything. I was imagining a vegan cheese and ham crepe followed by a chocolate berry crepe but it turned out that the guy just thought we meant gluten free. Why does this happen so often? Gluten free and vegan couldn't be more different damnit. It turned out that despite the sign the guy working didn't really have any idea about what was vegan and after asking a couple of times it turned out that even the chocolate sauce contained dairy so we just played it safe and got a simple sugar and lemon crepe.

It was totally delicious and I loved that there was a vegan option and appreciated that the guy working was super apologetic about the confusion but I'd suggest that they get more knowledgeable about veganism and stop telling people they can veganise everything because it definitely gets your hopes up a little too much. It got me dreaming of an all vegan crepe cart though, wouldn't that be amazing? Let It Be or Oh La La (RIP) in Berlin are the closest I've gotten to my vegan crepe dreams coming true and I can't wait to get back to the city for more one day.

Zipping all over the south island in our Budget Hitch was so much fun, as you can see we visited a lot of cool spots and ate a lot of delicious vegan food. Queenstown was our next road trip destination but I'm going to save that and the rest of our South Island road trip for my next post. See you then!

This post was sponsored by Hitch Car Rentals. As always all words and opinions are my own. Posts like these help me to keep bringing you travel posts from around the globe.


  1. What gorgeous photos! Lovely place! Great vegan finds, too! I really want those pancakes LOL

  2. I love that you were inspired to make pancakes by the crepey rocks! Shame the actual crepes didn't deliver as much as they could have done.

  3. NZ really is such a beautiful place! I should go back there some time. And I definitely need to go on that PB tour.


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