It’s hard to find anything that rivals New Zealand’s South Island. Each pocket feels like an entirely new climate and each with their own majestic qualities, meaning a road trip is the perfect way to see it all.
To start, book a camper which you can pick up from Christchurch and drop off in Queenstown. Book this well in advance as they sell out quite quickly during the summer months / holidays seasons. Maui, Britz and Jucy are a few good places to start.
I’ve provided holiday parks below to pull up in at each destination. They have showers, cooking facilities and their prices range between $20-$40 a night, however there are plenty of ‘free camping’ zones around New Zealand too. Many work on a first come first serve basis and don’t have power outlets. We opted to book holiday parks as we were there during the peak season and didn’t want to be rushing from spot to spot.
Drive from Christchurch to Hokitika (3-4 hours). On the way you will drive through Arthur’s Pass, an attraction all on it’s own. A warning, there really aren’t many places on the way to get food. So stock up the Van on the outskirts of Christchurch if you can.
Once you get to Hokitika, walk to the beach where you will see their famous sign.
Make yourself at home at the Hokitika Holiday Park.
Drive to Hokitika Gorge where you will see the first of many turquoise water lakes in New Zealand. Be careful of sand flies when opening your van doors. Our’s was instantly infested and it took us hours to get them out.
Once you’ve finished exploring Hokitika, make your way down the coast to Franz Joseph Glacier. Book yourself a private Glacier Hot Pool for the evening.
Pull up for the night at the Rainforest Holiday Park.
There’s a couple of ways you can see Franz Joseph Glacier, you can hike up yourself which might take 2 hours, depending how fast you are. Or if you have the cash opt for the Heli Hike, which involves being dropped onto the glacier from a helicopter and then a guided hike down to the bottom. The whole experience takes roughly 4 hours. Unfortunately due to the weather our heli hike was canceled (which is apparently quite common). In the meantime, the Hike on foot was just as satisfying.
Franz Joseph has plenty of lovely pubs and restaurants in the area, we only stayed one night, however could easily have stayed for two.
Drive to Wanaka (roughly 3.5 hours).
On your way, be sure to venture out to Makarora Blue Pools (around the 2.5 hour mark). The site is well signed. The walk down to the pools and back up will take roughly 30mins – 1h and they are well worth the detour.
Once you arrive at Lake Wanaka stop off at Rippon Winery, which has beautiful views over the water. A bike ride around the lake is also a nice way to spend the afternoon and explore the town.
Hike Roys Peak in the morning. Warning: This is not for the light hearted!!
It takes roughly 6 hours and is 8-9km to the peak and then back down again. So its almost a 20km trek and in our experience, going down was more painful then going up. Pack plenty of water and snacks and be prepared for a line at the top to get the photo. Despite the week-long sore muscles it was definitely worth it.
After you have recovered from the hike, jump back in the van and drive to Lake Tekapo (2.5hrs). For those of you who have had enough of the Van now, you could at this point continue on to Queenstown which is only another 1.5hours drive south. Lake Tekapo I will admit is a move in the opposite direction, but, unmissable.
On the drive to Lake Tekapo you will pass through Lindis Valley as well as Twizzle (which you might recognise is where Lord of the Rings was filmed).
Lake Tekapo looks straight out of a painting. The holiday park has a 5 star view and is a breathtaking spot to have a picnic, bbq and wake up to with your coffee.
In the morning you could opt for lakeside horseriding with Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking.
In the afternoon pack up and move on to Mount Cook (1.5hour drive). As like all the drives so far, this one will have more stunning scenery, including passing Lake Pukaki.
Star gaze beneath the alpine scenery at White Horse Hill Campground. This is a first come first serve spot, but there’s plenty of room for everyone (so long as you pay the national park fees). Depending what time you get there, you can either do the Hooker Valley Track in the afternoon or morning, it takes anywhere from 2-4hours and is relatively flat. You will cross over rope bridges, which are terrifying, especially in the wind, but also extraordinary.
Drive to Arrowtown (3hrs) and plug back into society. This cute little town has plenty of history as well as bustling little cafes and restaurants to make it worth a night’s stopover.
Provisions – For the best coffee and pastry in town
Chop Shop – For either breakfast or lunch
Dorothy Brown’s Cinema – For Drinks
Blue Door – For drinks or dinner
Down the road is Amisfield winery, where you can either pop in for a cheese plate or indulge in a 7 course meal with their ‘trust the chef’ menu. Both options are well deserved after the past week’s camping.
Just 20 minutes away is action packed Queenstown, which requires it’s own itinerary.
If you would like any further information or would like assistance booking the above itinerary… Please contact here.