Pure, natural, and breathtakingly beautiful, the South Island of New Zealand has so much to offer the traveller, that many of those on a round the world trip change their tickets and stay for much longer than they expected.
From snow-capped mountains and glaciers, to emerald-green fjords and turquoise lakes, the South Island offers such diverse scenery and terrain that it is impossible to put your camera away for more than 5 minutes, and so it is no surprise that many film directors choose this special island to film their blockbuster movies.
The picturesque city of Christchurch is the perfect place to start your Kiwi adventure, and as the roads are simple to navigate and virtually traffic free, the easiest way to get around is with a rental car or camper van.
Driving around New Zealand’s south island is great fun, and the circular road that runs round the outer edge of the island is not only well signposted and easy to follow, but it leads to all the major points of interest.
Before heading south, we took a day trip to the pretty lakeside town of Kaikoura, which is just a couple of hours from Christchurch. A beautiful place, it is well worth the drive, and one can enjoy a relaxing lunch at the water’s edge before heading out onto the lake in search of the local marine life.
Back on the road, heading south, one can turn off the motorway at Timaru and head inland to take a sneaky peek at the impressive Mt Cook , before heading on down to Dunedin for the lively pub scene, and then to the Otago Peninsula to catch up with the local wildlife.
Following the circular road, the next port of call would have to be the adrenalin capital of New Zealand – Queenstown. Bungee jumping, white-water rafting, skiing, and hiking are all part of daily life in Queenstown, and whether you arrive in summer or winter, there is always something going on.
Te Anau is easily accessible from Queenstown, as is Milford Sounds – the majestic fjords recently voted the #1 must see in New Zealand.
Sailing Milford Sounds is an unforgettable experience and the photo opportunities are endless – just don’t forget your camera and your bug spray – the sand flies are merciless!
Changing direction and heading up the west coast, the next great places of interest would have to include Haast, the Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, Fox Glacier, and Franz Josef Glacier, where the vibrant green landscape stands out beautifully against the soaring walls of ice.
A walk up to the glacier should feature on every itinerary – but we would have to recommend wet weather gear – or you may find yourself driving home in your underwear!
Heading further north to Greymouth, one can recharge the batteries at Montheith’s Brewing Company, before heading inland on the Lewis Pass to the Spa town of Hanmer. With natural hot springs, Hanmer is the perfect place to relax, and while the pools get crowded during peak season, it is still well worth a visit.
Finally, wine connoisseurs shouldn’t miss the magnificent wine regions of Marlborough and Nelson, where the Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, refreshing, and plentiful!
The perfect place to end your trip around New Zealand’s South Island, Nelson is just a short hop from Picton, where one can catch the car ferry to the North Ireland – and that is a blog for another day!