New Zealand is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go back to. During my semester abroad, some university friends and I decided to use our spring break to road trip around New Zealand’s South Island. However, this happened to coincide with Casey studying abroad in Spain and so, unfortunately, she was not able to join me and only hears the rambling stories of my trip.
In anticipation of taking her there someday, I’m planning ahead and putting an epic road trip itinerary down on paper. Here is my future New Zealand Road Trip itinerary.
Fly into Christchurch
New Zealand, especially the South Island is quite remote and you’ll want the freedom to go and do as you please when you please. For this reason, you’ll want to rent a car in Christchurch. When I took my road trip the first time around we opted for the small economy size car but when traveling this time around I would recommend upgrading to an intermediate which you can get for under $150 for 10 days. Some important things to remember are New Zealand drives on the left side of the road with the driver’s seat on the right. Also, roads can be very curvy and, in accordance with the stereotype, there are a lot of sheep which sometimes make their way onto the roads. So try to avoid driving at night if you don’t have to.
Drive Arthur’s Pass
This gorgeous scenic drive is the perfect way to start off your New Zealand road trip. You’ll climb more than 900 meters passing through tunnels, over stunning bridges and past waterfalls that are redirected into chutes to avoid damaging this expertly engineered road. Give yourself some extra time to stretch your legs at any of the scenic pull-offs or maybe go for a quick hike at the village at Arthur’s Pass.
This historic town of gold mining is similar to the wild west of New Zealand. Take a look at the mesmerizing formations and impressive blowhole at Pancake Rocks to learn more about how the islands of New Zealand came to be. End your time here by sampling beer at Monteith’s Brewery, one of New Zealand’s oldest.
Head Down The Coast
Take your time as you make your way along the coast using State Highway 6 until you make a pit stop in the tiny town of Hokitika. Take a break to admire the impressive clock tower and stop by the Hokitika Glass Studio where you can watch the artists working their craft.
Get Your Glaciers On
You’ll next want to witness two nearby attractions, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Each of these glaciers have terminal faces that are at relatively low altitudes, giving you the chance to see them up close and personal! Each allow you to do self-guided hikes to the glacier’s edge or take a group tour and venture up onto the glaciers icy surface for an other-worldly experience.
This gorgeous resort town located on the lake of the same name is the perfect place to spend a few nights to relax and stretch your legs. Take a day or two to explore the surrounding hikes as there are plenty to keep you busy. Roy’s Peak will give you stunning views of the lake and surrounding area. Time a summit hike at sunrise for a particularly photogenic treat. Also, don’t miss Puzzling World, a cafe full of mazes and illusions fun for all ages.
Get Your Blood Pumping In Queenstown
Known as the adventure capital of the world, here’s where you really get your adrenaline pumping. From the gravity fed go-kart track overlooking the surrounding mountains to the birthplace of bungee jumping or jet boating through the narrow Shotover Canyons, there’s no shortage of exciting activities to try!
Admire Fjordland In Milford Sound
This is the only destination on the list which I didn’t get to visit during my first trip. Though a bit far off the beaten track, you’re rewarded with amazing views of some of the most dramatic scenery on Earth. Try a number of activities including boat cruises, kayaking or take your journey skyward with a flight tour. Don’t forget to check out the underwater observatory at Harrison Cove to witness the 11-legged sea stars and black coral.
Take A Hike At Aoraki/Mount Cook
First made famous as the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary while preparing for Mount Everest, it was later made popular by being the mountain featured in Lord Of The Rings. Aoraki/Mount Cook can be enjoyed via the brisk and relatively easy Governors Bush Walk or if you’re feeling more adventurous try the 3-hour Hooker Valley Track which takes you over 2 swing-bridges and ends at the Hooker Glacier terminal lake.
Relax In Tekapo
Finish things up with romantic hot pools and stargazing experience. Though a small town, it is perfectly situated as a stopover on your way back to Christchurch.
Things To Not Leave Without
– Bring a good pair of hiking boots and running shoes as you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet and outdoors.
– Comfortable and, depending on the season, warm socks can also make all the difference between a fun and miserable day on your feet.
– A good flashlight and/or headlamp are essential as lighting in small towns and outdoors can be poor.
– Plenty of road snacks. Towns can few and far in between and when you do come across one they may be quite small and limited on provisions. Stock up on what you think you may need in Christchurch, it may not be until Queenstown that you are able to find everything you need again.
Have you visited New Zealand? Where do you recommend stopping on a South Island Road Trip?