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. Be sure to follow the link for more information on each area of the South Island to help you plan your trip.
Christchurch can be a brief overnight visit, or even 2-3 days. You’re asking why such a short visit? The South Island’s beauty starts at Christchurch and then explodes from here downwards! For us, we’re more interested in seeing the South Island charm and natural beauty rather than a main city. With this said, it is still an incredibly beautiful small city; vibrant, great food, cafes, shopping and incredibly friendly locals – but hey, all kiwis are always friendly like us aussies.
We have visited Christchurch on a number of occasions and one thing that you will notice is a mixture of very new, modern and also damaged architecture. This was and has been the cause of several earthquakes that have hit Christchurch City.
There are a few things to do to keep you busy, including the beautiful Botanical Gardens. So be sure to least give yourself one full day to explore Christchurch.
Arthurs Pass & Haast
Not a must do visit, however if you’re planning to drive from Christchurch across to say Franz Josef you will head via Arthurs Pass and down to Haast. If this is your plan, then definitely stopping and visiting both is worthwhile! With any luck you may have some blue skies, or have a mixed of warm greys and blue as we did that was a little unfortunate. It most definitely is a very unspoilt area of New Zealand in general where of course like any small town you hear some unusual stories from the past. But what is evident is that Haast is incredibly beautiful and so untouched. We’ll have a post up very shortly with more information and pictures on what you can do in this small yet unique little town & surrounds!
A quick 1 hour drive from Queenstown through the stunning Crown Range Pass and you are in Wanaka. Famous not only for “That Wanaka Tree”, but as pictured below some of the most incredible landscapes, food, walks/hikes and Roys Peak – which was definitely 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 but with that said, a short drive in a couple different directions and you can place yourself outside of the hustle and bustle of Queenstown. Still beautiful and surrounded with a lake and gorgeous mountains we still preferred the quieter yes busy-enough Wanaka!
You will however, find all a great collection of restaurants, cafes and plenty of shopping where let’s be honest there its only Christchurch or Queenstown that you would find this. But.. we would suggest getting out and exploring and seeing whats around as there definitely plenty of short day trips excursions you can do including Wanaka just an hour away.
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 and breathtaking Lake, 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!
Mount 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, and definitely not miss the Hooker Valley Track!
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