Category: South Island

From Christchurch to Queenstown Itinerary - Aoraki Mount cook National Park, New Zealand

10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary for an Awesome Road Trip

New Zealand is one of the best countries to experience an unforgettable road trip. It offers breathtaking landscapes, dynamic Maori culture, amazing national parks and mesmerising lakes. Here is a New Zealand South Island itinerary for 10 days including important things that you can’t miss in New Zealand on your road trip. Don’t forget to check Important Things to Know Before Travelling to New Zealand.

10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary for an Awesome Road Trip
10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary for an Awesome Road Trip

From Christchurch to Queenstown Itinerary

The best way to explore New Zealand south island’s attractions is to start your road trip from Christchurch. You can hire a campervan and sleep under the open sky or drive between locations with the possibility to book accommodation for an overnight. Furthermore you can also plan an easy and flexible bus tour with Kiwi Experience. Either way you will be able to visit the best places of the South Island and to have the best time in New Zealand.

From Christchurch to Queenstown Itinerary
From Christchurch to Queenstown Itinerary

The official name of the South Island is Te Waipounamu, which is Maori for “the greenstone waters”. It has been also nicknamed the “mainland” because it’s 32% bigger than the North Island. Nevertheless only 23% of the whole New Zealand population are inhabitants of this area. It’s also the South West New Zealand World Heritage site, which is internationally recognised by UNESCO World Heritage.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand South Island highlights
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand South Island highlights

Best Season to visit New Zealand South Island

The seasons in New Zealand are the opposite to the well-known seasons in the Northern Hemisphere but the same to Australia. New Zealand’s climate is variable and it can happen to you that you will experience all 4 seasons in one day. I would suggest to visit South Island during the Spring (September to November) or Summer (December to February). Summer time is much busier with tourists though.

New Zealand South Island Highlights

Christchurch, 10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary
Christchurch, 10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary

Day 1: Spend a Day in Christchurch

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. It has nearly 400.000 Kiwis. It also has a compact size so you can see the attractions in a single day.

  1. You can explore the city in the historical, well- restored Christchurch tramway.
  2. See the Cardboard Cathedral that was build from cardboard tubes after the earthquakes in 2011.
  3. See the “185 Empty White Chairs” memorial to the quake victims
  4. Visit free Canerbury Museum with interesting galleries dedicated to Maori culture and natural history.
  5. Must visit in Christchurch is the Botanic Garden that is right behind the Museum.
  6. Enjoy the view of Christchurch from the Gondola cable car

Where to eat in Christchurch

  1. If you are searching for something extraordinary then definitely visit King of Snake. The whole restaurant resembles a movie set and not just a fine-dining restaurant.
  2. There are more and more people who are turning to vegetarianism and more aware of planet Earth. These ones should doubtlessly visit the Lotus-Heart. Here you will taste locally and organically sourced dishes.
  3. If you are searching for a cheap treat, visit No Meat Burger at Lower 9th Diner, 89 Lichfield St, Christchurch Central. Here you can taste various burgers for the price of $10 and under.

Day 2: Arthur’s Pass National Park

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

Just a two hours drive away from Christchurch you can reach magnificent Arthur’s Pass National Park with it’s highest pass across the Southern Alps. It’s another spectacular thing not to miss in New Zealand. Arthur’s Pass National Park is famous for having a landscape of two halves.

Arthurs Pass Best Tracks

There are different walking tracks but I would suggest you to take “The Arthur’s Pass Walking Track”. Within 3 hours you will observe stunning views, diverse alpine vegetation, waterfalls and beautiful birds.

Where to stay

There are various accommodations and hostels in Arthurs Village but I would suggest to book a room on Airbnb especially if you are travelling in a group. There are many amazing houses for a low price.

Day 3: Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier (3h drive)

Things to do in South Island: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Things to do in South Island: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

More great New Zealand South Island activities are helicopter ride or a guided ice walk to the famous rivers of ice, Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier. Both are jaw-droppingly beautiful and also part of the spectacular World Heritage Area. You will be able to see amazing rainforests, waterfalls and lakes. It’s also a great place to do a skydive and experience the view from a slightly different perspective.

If you don’t want to book any tours to the glaciers but drive to the location then it’s possible to visit both areas in one day. Otherwise Franz Joseph Glacier tour is much more popular and offers designated tracks for all levels of experienced hikers. Nevertheless it’s steeper than Fox Glacier and groups tend to be bigger. Both glaciers are breathtakingly stunning and offer amazing natural attractions. It just depends if you prefer the secure guided walk tour or the more adventurous and off the beaten path experience.

Day 4: Twizel & Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

New Zealand South Island Attractions: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
New Zealand South Island Attractions: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is New Zealand South Island must do because it’s the highest Mountain in NZ which lies within a beautiful park. Aoraki is a UNESCO World Heritage and means “Cloud Piercer”. There are plenty of adventurous and interesting things to do. You can stay over night in Twizel.

What to do at Aoraki / Mount Cook

  1. Hooker Valley Track – For those who are beginners in hiking it’s an amazing opportunity to enjoy an easy but scenic route. The track is flat and ends up at the mesmerising Hooker Lake.
  2. Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier – Also amazing and easy tracks,
  3. Lake Pukaki – quiet lake that is known for it’s Lupin flowers blooming during the spring time.
  4. Lake Tekapo – famous Alpine lake in New Zealand which is very famous among tourists. It’s surrounded by various cafes and restaurants.
  5. Church of Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo – it’s a landmark of Lake Tekapo

Day 5: Wanaka

Things not to miss in New Zealand: Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Things not to miss in New Zealand: Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka is a small city located on New Zealand’s South Island which is surrounded by various great highlights that you can’t miss on your road trip. It’s a great place to locate yourself for a night and to explore nearby attractions.

What to do in Wanaka

  1. Lake Wanaka – You will find the lake right in the town and it’s New Zealand’s fourth largest lake which is more than 300m deep.
  2. Roys Peak – it’s a mountain in New Zealand that is just 6km away from Wanaka. The Instagram-famous track starts at the Roys Peak Track car park on the Mount Aspiring Road. It will take around 5-6 hours finishing the hike with breathtaking views over Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring.
  3. Rob Roy Glacier Track at Mount Aspiring – Is another most-loved half-day track which is one hour away from Wanaka. It’s also a very beautiful and easy hike.
  4. Mount Iron Walk – it’s one of the most popular short walks in Wanaka that offers a beautiful panoramic view.

Day 6-7: Queenstown

Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand

If you are searching for the best places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand then Queenstown should be on your bucket list. It’s a vibrant and scenic town that has various activities for every taste. If you’r up to experience some adrenalin rush then you can go for bungy-jumping, canyon swinging or wild-water rafting.

What to do in Queenstown

  1. Hiking to the summit of Ben Lomond – it’s a one day hike over the attractive mountain Ben Lomond with a hight of 1748metres. There are two options to reach the peak: Take the scenic ride on the Skyline Gondola or you can hike from Queenstown. There are 3 places to start the hike: from the end of Thompson Street, from the One Mile Power House on the road to Fernhill or from a track that begins near the gondola terminal.
  2. Glenorchy – it’s a little but spectacular town which is just a 45-minute drive away from Queenstown. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and national parks. It’s famous for it’s multi-day hikes including the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
  3. Bobs Cove – a mere 15-minute drive away from Queenstown, the short walk track through native bush offers a stunning cove with a view over the turquoise Lake Wakatipu.
  4. Where to eat in Queenstown – Try popular burgers at Fergburger, delicious pizza at Winnies and pasta at The Cow.

Day 8-10: Fiordland National Park & Milford Sound

Milford Sound, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

Fiordland National Park is a 2-hour drive away from Queenstown and it’s one of the most famous sights of New Zealand. It’s also part of Te Wahipounamu and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will experience breathtaking scenery over a vast landscape, unique wildlife, marvellous marine scenes and a world-famous Great Walk. The most convenient way to explore the best of Fiordland National Park is to stay in Te Anau.

What to do at Fiordland National Park

  1. Lake Marian Hike – the duration of this awesome hike is around 3-4 hours. The track is very beautiful but it can get rocky and muddy especially if there has been recent rain. During your hike you will see Like Marian surrounded by snow covered mountains.
  2. Gertrude Saddle – if you like challenging hiking routes and you are an experienced one you can try to conquer the Gertrude Saddle. In the end you will be rewarded with an overlook of Milford Sound from the top of the saddle. This hike will take around 4-6 hours.
  3. Key Summit – it’s another popular hiking track that will take you only 3 hours.
  4. Milford Sound Cruise – it’s a different way to experience the fiord in it’s glory from the water.
  5. Kayak Milford Sound – it’s a cool and adventurous way to see the beauty of the area by kayaking. You can also come closer to the waterfalls.
  6. Visit Te Anau Glowworm Caves  – that’s a great way to experience a mysterious underground world with the luminous light of numerous glowworms. Definitely an unforgettable experience.
  7. The Chasm Walk – it’s a short but impressive walk with powerful waterfalls.


Best things to do in Golden Bay, New Zealand

Why Golden Bay in New Zealand is so great?

If you are searching for beautiful beaches with gold sand, turquoise water and ample outdoor activities then Golden Bay is the ideal place for you. New Zealand is famous for it’s maritime refreshing climate, relatively high rainfall and a couple of hours of sunshine on a lucky day. But I have good news, there is a place at the top of the South Island where you can absorb vitamin D most of the time.  This vast Eden will spoil every nature lover with it’s incredible scenic views, never-ending walkways and relaxed atmosphere. Nevertheless check the essential packing list for New Zealand before you plan your visit!

The tranquil region is comprised of very small rural towns and farms where you can find a couple of old-fashioned as well as less old-fashioned restaurants and pubs. The majority of the population is made up by families with young children, the elderly generation and plenty of German backpackers having a carefree lifestyle. Golden Bay offers everything to escape reality, furthermore if you want to hideaway from civilization and maybe even start your own little business, go there.

2B Natural Insect Repellent

The Great 2B Natural Insect Repellent

But as every heaven on Earth even this place has something unpleasant and it’s thirsty mosquitoes. Nevertheless there is a great product made by locals that I discovered there: 2B Natural Insect Repellent. It’s always great to support a local business especially knowing that all the oils used to manufacture that spray are organic. The smell resembles a spa salon and the spray’s effectiveness is surprisingly good: haven’t been touched by any cheeky sandflies afterwards. The other incredible aspect is 2B is waterproof and long lasting. You can find it online or in many other shops across spacious New Zealand. Trust me nothing will protect your precious skin better than this spray!

Various walks and hiking tours in Nelson

Nelson is a lovely town on the top of New Zealand’s South Island which should be the first stop on the way exploring the beauty of New Zealand. The best and inexpensive way to reach the jewel is to fly. Compare the prices on good old sky scanner.

Paradiso Backpacker Hostel, Nelson

The sun shines almost all the time in Nelson which emphasizes the great outdoor experiences like hiking, kayaking, biking and causing. These aspects attract plenty of tourists and backpackers that’s why it’s very easy to find a place to stay. Nevertheless I would suggest to book a room or bed 1-2 weeks in advance during the high season, which starts in December and ends in March. I stayed in a tidy, cozy and exceptional hostel equipped with facilities such as a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna: Paradiso Backpacker Hostel. It’s located just 15 minutes away from Nelson’s center and offers a good breakfast and on some days even dinner. The prices are acceptable, most rooms are occupied by 4 people and have their own bathrooms.

Centre of New Zealand Walk

New Zealand is all about breathtaking views and mesmerizing landscapes, that’s why you need to start your day with the Centre of New Zealand Walk. I would suggest to start your 45 minutes walk from Atawhai Dr. towards the town’s center. Keep your finger on the trigger because you will be surprised by picturesque sights of Nelson and it’s harbour.

The Cathedral of Nelson city

After some Instagram-worthy views head toward the cute city of Nelson. If you’ve been traveling a lot then nothing will surprise you, as anywhere else in a town next to the beach there are various possibilities to dine, shop in the boutiques and visiting museums. Nevertheless it’s fun to walk around and sometimes you can discover curious things like an exhibition of local artists in one of the parks for free. So it’s a nice spot for typical backpackers to stay there and find an easy-going job.

Beer tasting in Stoke

Stoke is one of the suburbs of Nelson with a modest population of almost 18.000 people. It’s an ideal area to stop and discover some hidden jewels on your way to the next destination especially if you have an affinity for beer or food.

Tasting in McCashin’s Brewery

You’ve probably heard that beer has played a significant role in the local culture of New Zealand, going back to the 1840s. And not only because Kiwis love to drink beer under the gentle sunbeams but being home to the perfect location and climate to cultivate the best and most unique hops in the world. That’s why you will find numerous breweries in Nelson region but at McCashin’s you can have a tour through their big beer factory accomplished by tasting a wide range of unique beers. If a tasting dose was not enough for you then you can purchase more of this refreshing drink at Mc Cashin’s restaurant.

The great chef of Crusoe’s

If you didn’t have time for a proper breakfast or you are planing to have long ride then visit the hidden oasis of Crusoe´s Cafe & Bar. It’s a tranquil spacious restaurant with a funky decor and cozy, relaxing atmosphere. There are many great aspects about this place. One of them is that they please every food preference that exists on the planet. I’m not talking about vegetarian or lactose intolerance, because we got used to it already but also the special needs that makes everyone’s life more complicated like gluten free and vegan. Moreover the size of the meals will make your eyes grow. The place is beloved by the locals because of the homemade and locally sourced food.

Sumptuous portions of smoked salmon salad and open steak sandwich with camembert

The best beach in Golden Bay

Breaker Bay

No doubt that Kaiteriteri is home to one of the most beautiful beaches of Golden Bay. It lays around 13 kilometers from Motueka and offers incredible golden sand and clear turquoise water. The magnitude of the main beach is vast but if you require something a bit more private then there are two attractive alternatives for you: on the left side from the main beach behind the bushes you will discover a path leading to a smaller beach, which carries the name Breaker Bay. It’s the epitome of a lovely paradise, surrounded by rocks covered with huge mussels. On the right side is Kaiteriteri’s little brother, equally beautiful but with less people.

Delicious mussels and a beautiful view over the beach

To have a better overview of the scenery you can wander to the top of the cliff above the beach. Don’t forget to take a drink and a partner with you to make that moment even more memorable. If you got hungry after all the exploring visit one of the restaurants and try their seafood. Just be sure that it won’t be fried because Kiwis have the tendency to batter up nearly everything.

Must do – Kayaking in Golden Bay & visit Abel Tasman National Park

A must do in Golden Bay is a kayaking day tour along the mesmerizing Tasman Bay coastline. Do it with the great Kiwi owned Tasman Bay Sea Kayaking operators starting all their tours from Old Macdonald’s Farm Holiday Park in Marahau. Even if you’ve never kayaked before, don’t worry, they will train and take care of you so you will turn into a professional by the end. I booked a full day adventure for $125 with them which included 3 hours of great adventure on the water with the amazing guide Troy and a 3,5 hour walk through the Abel Tasman National Park from where I could take plenty quixotic pictures for my blog and memories of course. The difference to other kayak tours is that the groups are much smaller and instead of being surrounded by 6-10 double kayaks you will almost have a private tour of 2 or 3. It means you can hear all of Troy’s interesting stories about the environment and mythology of New Zealand and paddle freely in the sparkling waters at the same time.

Lookout from the Abel Tasman National Park

Travel in Golden Bay, New Zealand

Golden Bay offers beautiful spots where nature shows it’s best. If you want to expand your trip check out A PERFECT NEW ZEALAND SOUTH ISLAND ITINERARY – A 2 WEEK ROAD TRIP. You can easily explore the surroundings without paying anything for it by hitch hiking and discovering walkways by feet. You will need at least 2 weeks time to complete the incredible adventure and collect unforgettable impressions. Go further, reach Takaka, ride horses on the beach coast and try savory seafood. New Zealand is unfortunately not a cheap country but don’t think about money, it’s all about enjoying the moments.

Planing your trip to the North Island too? Here are the places that you can’t miss if you are in New Zealand!

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