Pierre and I had been talking about visiting South Island in New Zealand for many years. We had heard so many stories and recount describing it as a “must do” for photographers, hikers, thrill seekers and your everyday traveler. With it being so close to Australia and having friends living in Auckland, we planned a 2 week trip in January (their Summer, same as ours) to see the sights and experience New Zealand, the land of the long, white cloud. Fortunately, we are due to go back in August for a wedding – we are so lucky to see them get married and experience in NZ in winter. We can’t wait 😀
Now to do the South Island in NZ justice, I decided I couldn’t just write one post. It is best broken down into small, bite size pieces. I have organised and ordered it as we drove the trip – so some sections may have smaller portions of information depending on what their is to do in the vicinity of that region, others will have heaps of information as there was lots to do!
This was our driving route, which you could follow for your own itinerary or base it off this to hopefully cover as much of the South Island you can within 14 days. I would recommend going longer or returning for the areas you haven’t covered or if you were a little unlucky like us having a bit of rain that made some days a bit wet for seeing above 10 meters!
As a teaser, here are some pictures that truly capture the essence of New Zealand.
Click on links to go directly to each area of the South Island for more information
Christchurch to Franz Josef
Christchurch was a brief overnight visit, why so short you’re thinking? No particular reason as such, but we were more interested in seeing the South Island rather than another main City, albeit its a beautiful little city and in recent times have also been struck by quite a few earthquakes that have caused a bit of mayhem across the city and its buildings. With this said, its still a vibrant City with friendly locals, your usual shops, restaurants, shopping centres and so on.
Our day was short, quick wonder around having a look at a beautiful church which was being rebuilt from damage caused from the earthquake, some shopping and also some breakfast before heading south up a beautiful winding road to Sugarloaf in Port Hills to take a look at the view down before continuing on our trip to Arthurs Pass.
The view from Sugarloaf was just a taster of what was to come, and it added to the excitement of what more the South Island had to offer and how vastly different it is from the North Island.
Arthurs Pass & Haast
Only an hour away from Queenstown, Wanaka offered some incredibly walks, Roys Peak as pictured below was our favourite and definitely one of the hardest and most enduring walk we have done. Food was great, accommodation of course great also but i think this was one of our favourite towns on the trip so much we said that we would retire there! Big call, but having a beautiful town surrounded in pristine lakes, amazing mountainous landscapes combined with enough shops, great food and the usual super friendly kiwi community what more could you want! Fresh air, food, and outdoors! Follow the link above to get more information, tips, photos(!!!) and ideas of what to do and why you should visit Wanaka and what things to do in wanaka.
Probably the biggest City on the South Island, with opportunity to go Skiing/Snowboarding during the winter months combined with the Adrenalin packed Shotover Jet and Bungee Jumping – Queenstown is apparently the place to be! For us, we felt it was a little too much on the tourist side. Still beautiful and surrounded with a lake and gorgeous mountains we still preferred the quieter yes busy-enough Wanaka.
You will find all your favourite foods, shops and plenty of things to do in QT. But.. we would suggest getting out and exploring and seeing whats around as there definitely plenty of short day trips excursions you can do.
Click in to read a bit more about what there is to do in Queenstown.
Honestly, we are struggling to find the words of how incredibly amazing Milford Sound & Fiordland! The chartered flight we took above and through the Fjords leaves us lost for words! And it isn’t often we’re lost for words for places we visit. New Zealand’s South Island offers such incredible experiences, landscapes and history already but Milford is simply beautiful whether from the boat cruise on the lake or in the air by plane or helicopter. There are many things to do, many things to do, be sure to not miss out and click into see more details about Milford Sound and what to do there! (oh, and the amazing scenery from the pictures!).
Tekapo is listed as an International Dark Sky area so for those who have never experience ‘Star Gazing’ we would suggest visiting, apart from the most famous landmark below pictured ‘The Church of The Good Sheppard’ it has many small yet big offerings including as mentioned Star Gazing at a level that you can only describe as incredible, beautiful and insane! What the naked eye can see here you cannot experience any many places across the globe. Combined with a few small but great restaurants, amazingly beautiful landscapes, great walks and of course Tekapo’s Hotsprings add this to your list of must do. Be sure to follow the link to find out things to do in tekapo, where to stay in tekapo and of course how long to stay!
Mt Cook / Lake Pukaki
If you have already started to look into Mount Cook & Lake Pukaki we will tell you this right now, it is as amazing as you have read and seen online. The colour of the water will leave anybody in awe when you first see it, such unbelievable landscapes surrounded by picturesque snow capped mounts with many hidden gems, including the amazing drive into Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. You cannot miss this part of the South Island on your trip!
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