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An Ideal Two-Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary (Our Road Trip Guide!)

An Ideal Two-Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary (Our Road Trip Guide!)

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New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best places to travel in the world. It’s small, rather unpopulated, and filled with so many amazing places to see and things to do. To me, visiting the South Island of New Zealand should be on everyone’s bucket list! We loved the South Island so much that we actually lived in Queenstown and explored almost every corner of the island.

For many though, a trip to the South Island will be short. In fact, most people usually allow for two weeks – which is why we’ve crafted the perfect two-week South Island itinerary!

But what are the best places to visit and things to do on New Zealand’s South Island and how can you see them? I personally love Queenstown’s amazing wine scene and all of the outdoor activities that can be found on the South Island, like Mount Cook National Park or Milford Sound, but there is really so much more!

Well, in this 14-day South Island itinerary I’m going to lay it all out for you. Showing you where, when, and how to spend the most epic two weeks on New Zealand’s South Island!

Need wheels? For rental cars, I always book with Discover Cars since the website is so easy to use with great prices. For motorhomes and campervans, I really like JUCY because of their huge selection and multiple depot locations that make pick-up and drop-off a breeze. You can browse JUCY’s availability here. Alternatively, you can see all of the different rental companies available in NZ on Motorhome Republic.

2-Week South Island Itinerary Overview

campervan drives down a scenic road in New Zealand
Ready to hit the road!

Planning a two-week road trip on the South Island is a lot of work. I mean, there are tons of amazing places to visit and you could easily spend months exploring all of the different attractions. With that said, two weeks is enough time to check out the very best places and attractions – you just need to choose the right places and plan the correct route.

Below, you’ll find an ideal 14-day itinerary for a road trip around the South Island. I’ve carefully planned this route and selected the best places to stop based on a two-week time frame. Although you won’t see every corner of the South Island, this itinerary is excellent because you won’t be too rushed. Far too often I see 2-week South Island itineraries that include just too many places and don’t take into consideration driving distances.

The roads on the South Island are not great, and the estimated driving times that Google Maps provides are never quite right, so you’ll have to allow extra time. Most of the main highways on the South Island are single lanes, and with lots of tourists driving on the roads, you will likely be stuck behind slow-moving traffic. In the winter, snow and ice can make driving times longer too. Many roads are narrow and curvy, so you’ll need to take it easy. Single-lane bridges are also common and require traffic to alternate.

It’s important not to plan too much and stretch yourself too thin or you’ll end up spending your entire holiday driving rather than enjoying destinations. The 2-week itinerary we’ve carefully crafted takes this all into consideration and is the perfect trip for anybody who wants to see the highlights of the South Island without driving all day every day.

Two-week South Island Itinerary Map

2-Week South Island Itinerary

Here’s what I think is the ideal 14-day South Island New Zealand itinerary in a nutshell. I have details on the driving distances, best things to do, and where to stay detailed below:

Day 1 – Christchurch

tram in christchurch new zealand
The tram in Christchurch is a great activity along your New Zealand South Island itinerary!

For most who come to visit New Zealand’s South Island, the port of entry will be Christchurch. It’s not only the South Islands’ largest city but it’s also home to an international airport.

In recent years, Christchurch has begun to make a comeback after the devastating 2011 earthquake that crippled the city.

With that said, we recommend only spending 1 day in Christchurch. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christchurch, but it’s just another big city and New Zealand is about so much more!

Things to do in Christchurch

1. Take the gondola up to Mount Cavendish – A great activity to do even with a little jet lag. This is one of the best things to do in Christchurch! The Christchurch Gondola is only 20 minutes from the city center and gives incredible views of Lyttleton Harbour and the city below. Once you’re at the top, you can hike one of the many walking tracks, enjoy the cafe with a view, and even do some souvenir shopping!

2. Canterbury Earthquake Museum – Learn about the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that devastated the region. The Quake City Museum is right in the downtown area of Christchurch and is $20 NZD for adults to enter and free for children. You can explore hands-on interactive exhibits and see artifacts, media coverage, and pieces of rubble to get a deeper understanding of this event.

3. Explore the Godley Head Hiking Trail – Even in Christchurch, you’re not far from nature. In fact, some of the best day trips from Christchurch involve nature escapes – like this one! Heading out of the city to the Godley Head Trail is also one of the best free things to do in Christchurch. Be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins, whales, and even Orcas. Some of my favorite views in Christchurch are found on the Godley Head Trail!

4. Wander Brockworth StreetBrockworth Street is the most vibrant street in the city. It’s filled with street art, cafes, bars, and restaurants and is the perfect place to get amongst the locals! While here, stop by the Brockworth Street Art Gallery to see some amazing murals and street art, it gives you a good look at Christchurch’s art culture.

5. Take a tram tour of the city – The best way to get to see all of Christchurch is on this hop-on-hop-off tram tour! With 17 stops around the city and the driver’s cheeky commentary, you not only get a chance to see a lot, but you’ll learn all about this lovely city along the way. I always enjoy hop-on-hop-off tours because they take care of transportation but I’m still on my own timeline! This tour can be booked for $35 NZD for adults and kids ride for free.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Freedom Camping – There are a few places around Christchurch where you can park your self-contained campervan or motorhome for free. Christchurch Council has a really easy-to-read map outlining exactly where you can and cannot camp.

Tasman Holiday Parks – This is a budget holiday park perfect for parking up your campervan for the night! You can’t book powered sites on booking.com (check out their website to do that) but you can book rooms through this link. It’s only 15 minutes from the CBD and 20 minutes from the airport.

Lylo Christchurch – Lylo Christchurch is a trendy budget hotel that although it isn’t close to the city center, is actually within walking distance to the airport. It’s an ideal place to stay after arriving on your flight to pick up your rental vehicle.

Fable Christchurch – This is a mid-range hotel located in the heart of Christchurch. It’s got a hint of luxury but comes with a modest price tag. Located right in the city, it has great views and is a comfortable place to stay to explore the city!

Related Read: Freedom camping is heavily regulated in New Zealand, and each area has its own set of rules. To make your planning easier, check out our guide to freedom camping in New Zealand so you can know the do’s and don’ts to avoid any hassle!

Day 2 – Christchurch to Franz Joseph

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand
  • Distance to drive: 381 kilometers (237 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 7 hour
  • Road conditions: Bad weather can close Arthurs Pass in spring and winter

Today is one of the longest driving days on this 14-day South Island itinerary. From Christchurch to Franz Josef it’s a 381 km (237 miles) drive that’s likely going to take all day.

The reason?

Well, today’s the day you travel the stunning Arthurs Pass. This journey is beautiful and it’s one of the best road trips in New Zealand. So get comfy and enjoy the stunning views!

Along the way, you’ll want to make plenty of stops, especially along Arthurs Pass. I recommend setting off early on this day at around 8 am. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to complete the drive while having the freedom to stop for lunch along the way.

Once you arrive in Franz Josef, you can settle into the quaint town for a bit, but you’ll probably want to stretch your legs after being in the car all day! I recommend taking the Franz Joseph Glacier Valley Walk, which is a 2-hour guided walk that takes you through the forest and to the base of the glacier. It’s a fantastic introduction to Franz Josef to get you hyped to get on the glacier later. You can finish the night with some relaxation at the Franz Joseph hot pools!

Things to do in Franz Josef

Franz Joseph glacier valley walk
The 1 hour Franz Joseph Glacier Valley walk
Franz Josef hot pools is the best hot pools in New Zealand
Enjoying the peaceful and relaxing Franz Joseph Hot Pools

1. Hike the Franz Joseph Glacier Valley Walk – A short 1-hour return trail that leads to the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint. You can take the guided tour if you want to learn more about the area or you can do this on your own. This is an easy hike that is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) return. The guide will give you a chance to learn more about the fascinating geology and glaciology of this area, so I highly recommend booking a guided tour if this is your first time visiting Franz Josef.

2. Relax at the Franz Josef Hot PoolsFranz Josef has some of the best hot pools in New Zealand nestled in the most beautiful setting. This is a great way to unwind after a long day of driving, or after you explore the famous Franz Josef Glacier- who says you can only visit here once!?

3. Go skydiving – This is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world to go skydiving! Imagine soaring through the sky from 10,000 to 18,500 feet and catching views of New Zealand’s Glacier region- it is certainly incredible. There are several different height options to choose from that range from 10,000 ft for $329 NZD, 13,000 ft for $399 NZD, 16,500 ft for $499 NZD, or 18,000 ft for $749 NZD. They are all tandem jumps and the main difference is how long you’ll be in the air, so your budget will determine your fly time!

4. Glacier trekking and scenic flight – You can only walk to the base of the Franz Josef or Fox Glacier without a tour, so if you want to walk on the glacier itself, a helicopter trekking tour is the best option. Not only do you get scenic views of the Southern Alps, but you will land on the glacier and trek on the ice that is millions of years old! It’s on the pricier side ($712 NZD) but the small group setting and everything included is sure to be a special memory- you can book this epic tour in advance here!

Where to Stay in Franz Josef

Freedom camping – You cannot freedom camp in Franz Josef town, but you can find spots on the outskirts of town. The easiest way to find a suitable spot is the visit the Franz Josef Visitor Center. They’ll be more than happy to help you find a great spot. For more info, check out the West Land website.

Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park – I stayed here on my trip up the West Coast. Although a little out of Franz Josef, it’s a beautiful place to stay with good amenities and even free wifi! You can only book powered sites directly through their website however you can get rooms through the link above.

Rainforest Retreat – Provides the perfect relaxing escape located inside the rainforest, there are spas and saunas on the property but it is also right in town making it easy to get popular attractions like the hot pools. The hospitality is highly rated and the rooms and private suites are modern, bright, and cozy. Rooms start at $200 NZD and they have a holiday park option!

Alpine Glacier Motel – This place is perfect or those wanting their own space. This motel specializes in studio-style apartments and they all come with a basic kitchen and parking at the unit. Rooms are well-priced, especially for what you get.

Day 3 – Franz Josef to Wanaka

The view of the Blue Pools, New Zealand near Thunder Creek Falls
The Blue Pools are another must-visit attraction!
  • Distance to drive: 285 kilometers (177 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 8 hours
  • Road conditions: Heavy rains can cause slips so be careful in spring

On day 3 of this South Island itinerary, you’re going to start the morning with your chosen activities in Franz Josef. Then, it’s time to make the beautiful journey along the stunning west coast from Franz Josef to Wanaka.

The 285km (177 miles) drive will take around 4 hours without stopping but as you could’ve guessed, this route is filled with hidden gems to explore!

From Franz Josef, you’ll head along the highway to Fox Glacier. Here you’ll have the opportunity to hike the Fox Glacier Viewpoint Trail (another hour-long hike similar to Franz Josef) or if you’re really keen head off in the early morning to the Lake Matheson Viewpoint. Although a longer hike, the views are breathtaking!

If you didn’t take a chopper tour in Franz Josef, Fox Glacier is your last chance to do it so don’t leave without a helicopter ride over Fox Glacier and Mount Cook. Fox Glacier is just as impressive as Franz Josef, as they are known as “twin glaciers”, but it is far less touristy! So we like visiting Fox Glacier because there are usually fewer people. Plus on this tour, you get amazing views of Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain!

This 30-minute helicopter flight also allows you to land and walk on Fox Glacier, it’s quick but amazing so you can easily fit it into your itinerary. You can book this experience for $434 NZD.

Once you’ve left Fox Glacier, it’s into the wilderness and over the stunning Haast Pass. As you descend towards Wanaka it’s time to make a quick stop at Thunder Creek Falls. The falls are only a 5-minute walk from the main highway and a stop worth the hype.

Up the road, a little further is the very famous Blue Pools. The water here comes directly from the glaciers in the mountains nearby and because of that, it shines bright blue…literally! In summer, be sure to bring your swimmers but be warned, it’s bitterly cold!

As you drive further along you’ll pass two beautiful lakes, Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Here, make quick stops for photos, and if you’re visiting between November to January be sure to keep an eye out for the famous lupins (beautiful flowers)!

After that, it’s onto Wanaka where I’m sure you’re going to need some rest after this fun, but exhausting, day! Spend the night at one of Wanaka’s best restaurants and refuel or even take some drinks down to the edge of the lake and catch a stunning sunset!

Things to do between Franz Josef and Wanaka

Lake Hawea, New Zealand
Lake Hawea, New Zealand
Thunder Creek Falls near the Blue pools Wanaka
Relaxing at Thunder Creek Falls

1. Hike Lake Matheson TrailLake Matheson Trail is an easy walk near Fox Glacier. It is a 4.3-kilometer (2.6-mile) loop that gives incredible mirrored views of Mount Cook. A truly beautiful trail well worth exploring, especially at sunrise if you can get up early enough!

2. Fox Glacier Viewpoint Trail – A 1-hour hike to the Fox Glacier Viewpoint. This 3.4 out-and-back trail is a moderate hike and gives great views of the valley that sits below Fox Glacier. It doesn’t take long to reach the viewpoint, and it’s a great way to see Fox Glacier in all of its glory!

3. The Blue Pools – This is one of the most beautiful rivers in New Zealand with its pure blue color. You can reach the Blue Pools in about 25-30 minutes, and then spend a few hours relaxing here!

4. Thunder Creek Falls – A 96-meter (315-foot) waterfall only a few minutes off the highway! Thunder Creek Falls is a great quick stop on your road trip to stretch your legs for a bit before continuing the journey.

Where to Stay in Wanaka

Freedom Camping – Freedom camping in Wanaka is heavily restricted. There are a few spots outside of the town boundary and you can find them on Campermate and Rankers. Alternatively, check out this map for areas where you cannot freedom camp.

Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park – Located a little out of town but still within walking distance this cute little holiday park is a great place to stay in Wanaka. For the price, it’s one of the best value options in town! With rooms ranging from powered sites (can’t book on booking.com), triples, and all the way to a 3-bedroom apartment for up to 8 people, there’s something for everyone.

Wanaka Springs Lodge – The Wanaka Springs Lodge is a great mid-range option very close to town. The reviews on this place are amazing and all the rooms here include an exceptional breakfast. For anyone wanting a very personal touch at a small boutique hotel, this is a great choice!

Clearbrook Motel and Apartments – If (like me) you love having your own apartment with a kitchen, private entrance, and the extra room to feel at home then this place is worth looking at. It’s located right in town and makes you feel as though you’re a Wanaka local even if it’s just for a day or two!

Day 4 & 5 – Wanaka

Standing on the famous Roy's Peak viewpoint at sunrise
Standing on the famous Roy’s Peak viewpoint at sunrise

For the next two days, it’s time to just enjoy Wanaka. On day 4 you may want a more relaxing way to spend the day. Sleep in, enjoy the weather, and maybe head over to the Wanaka Lavender Farm or Puzzle World, which is great for anyone but kids especially love it. You can also take a quick stop at the iconic Wanaka Tree!

Another way to spend your relaxing afternoon is to go wine tasting. Now that you’ve reached Wanaka, you’re officially in the amazing Central Otago wine region, so there is no shortage of wine tours around! You can also cruise around Lake Wanaka on an hour-long wine and cheese cruise to get the incredible views and a relaxing afternoon on a boat!

Enjoy that night how you please but don’t drink too much, day 5 is one of the best on this entire 14-day New Zealand South Island itinerary, and you’ll want to be fresh!

On day 5, if you’re up for it I highly recommend hiking the famous Roys Peak. The trail climbs over 1200m (3,937ft) in elevation over 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way – so it’s not an easy hike. There are a lot of great hikes in Wanaka but it’s my favorite hike in all of New Zealand (that’s a big statement to make!). If you want to avoid the crowds set off before sunrise, it’s not only cooler but you’ll just about have the place to yourself!

After hiking Roys Peak, it’s time to make the short drive into Queenstown for night number 5!

Things to do in Wanaka

exploring the wanaka lavender farm
Wanaka Lavender Farm
The Wanaka Tree on a sunny day in wanaka
The Wanaka Tree is one of the most famous attractions in Wanaka!

1. Hike Roys PeakRoys Peak is easily one of the best hikes in New Zealand and my personal favorite! It is famous because of its incredible views from the summit, and they are even more impressive at sunrise. Roys Peak is a 16-kilometer (10.6 mile) hike that is rated as moderate to hard level, you’ll want a decent fitness foundation, it’s a workout for sure! The trailhead is about 7 minutes from Wanaka.

2. Diamond Lake Trail – This is a shorter trail with amazing views, it’s a great option if you’re not up to hiking Roy’s Peak! Diamond Lake has a few different tracks you can take, with the most difficult being the Rocky Mountain Summit at 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) in total. It’s still relatively easy, so no matter which track you choose, it’s a leisurely way to enjoy the outdoors.

3. Wanaka Wine Tasting – There are some amazing wineries that surround Wanaka, as the Central Otago wine region is world-famous! The region is known for its Pinot Noir varieties, but each winery has a unique ambiance that makes visiting them one of the top things to do in Wanaka. This wine tour is fantastic, as it provides a designated driver/local guide, will stop at 4 wineries, and includes all of your tasting fees so you can simply enjoy the day. This 4.5-hour wine tour is $269 NZD and can be booked here.

4. Go Jetboating on Clutha River – For a bit more thrill while in Wanaka, try out a jetboat tour! This is a super fun experience that also boasts Wanaka Lake and the gorgeous, fast-moving Clutha River. You will hit up to 80 kph (50 mph) and see the impressive boat tricks the captain can do. This hour-long tour is $135 NZD, so it can easily fit into your Wanaka itinerary.

5. Lake Wanaka Cruise – For a more relaxed way to explore Lake Wanaka, check out this hour-long lake cruise that also includes cheese and wine! Lake Wanaka is seriously pretty and finding some way to get on the water is essential, so why not make it a chill afternoon with a glass of vino in hand? You’ll sail past Stevenson Peninsula, Ruby Island, and the famous “that Wanaka tree” and get to learn about the area with an onboard commentary. This cruise includes drinks, a cheese platter, and an hour-long boat ride for $60 NZD, you can book it in advance online here!

Day 6 & 7 – Queenstown

view of lake wakatipu near queenstown
View of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown
  • Distance to drive: 67 kilometers (41 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 1.5 hours
  • Road conditions: In the winter you must carry snow chains on the Crown Range (the road between Wanaka and Queenstown)

Sometime in the afternoon on day 5, you’ll arrive in Queenstown after a short drive from Wanaka (the place I called home in 2018!) If you were out hiking that day it’s time to sit back and enjoy the night how you see fit.

Whether that’s drinking beer at Smiths or Atlas (the best places for craft beer in Queenstown), enjoying cocktails at World Bar or Attiqa (some of the best bars in Queenstown), dinner at Blue Kanu (my favorite restaurant), or even trying the very famous Ferg Burger you’re guaranteed to have a great evening!

On days 6 and 7 you’ll have almost two entire days to explore Queenstown. There are so many amazing things to do in Queenstown that you could spend your days a thousand different ways! However, you can find some of my favorite things to do below!

Sometime in the afternoon on day 7 of this itinerary, it’s time to move on to our next destination, Te Anau which is about a two-hour drive away. On this stretch of road there isn’t too much to see but be sure to stop as you head out of Queenstown along Lake Wakatipu, it’s really beautiful here!

Things to do in Queenstown

The views from Bob's Peak
The views from Bob’s Peak
Tasting wine in the Gibbston Valley, New Zealand
Tasting wine in the Gibbston Valley

1. Cruise Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw– Lake Wakatipu is the big beautiful lake whose shores Queenstown sits upon, so I can’t imagine a better way to get to know this area than by taking a Lake Wakatipu Cruise! You’ll get the most breathtaking views from the water and ride the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship over to Walter Peak High Country farm for lunch. These are 3 classic Queenstown activities all wrapped into one afternoon of activities. You can book this cruise and lunch tour for $175 NZD per person.

2. Go Hiking – There is no shortage of fantastic hiking trails around Queenstown just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re looking for a decent challenge and breathtaking views on the Tiki Trail or the iconic Queenstown Hill hike, you won’t run out of trails to trek! I’d recommend spending at least a half-day exploring Queenstown’s outdoors, or taking on one of the more challenging routes and making it a full-day activity.

3. Go wine tasting – Some of the best wineries in Queenstown are only 20 minutes from the city (it is also one of the best wine regions in NZ) so it’s worth checking out on a self-guided or organized tour! I love this wine and lunch tour because they take care of transportation, and wine tasting fees at 5 wineries, and lunch is included for $289 NZD. I also think this wine and bike tour is really fun because you can bike from winery to winery in the gorgeous Gibbston Valley. Wine tastings aren’t included, but the bike rental is as well as a tasting trail map to follow, you can book this tour for $105 NZD.

4. Try an adventure sport – Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand so it only makes sense to try some of the craziest activities it has to offer. My favorite activities are canyoning, where you scramble along cliffsides, rappel down waterfalls, and explore the crevices of the canyon! As well as skydiving, either at 9,000 feet, 12,000 feet, or 15,000 feet which has a 60-second freefall- yikes. But we also can’t forget about ziplining, which is just as much of an adrenaline rush as the others, but you’re securely strapped into your harness (phew!).

New Zealand is the birthplace of bungy jumping, so it’s the absolute best place to try it out!

5. Take the scenic drive to Glenorchy – This is one of the most breathtaking drives in New Zealand, the 45-kilometer (28-mile) journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy is really a must-do! Make stops along the way to soak in the sights, and then enjoy Glenorchy’s quaint and historic charm. Glenorchy was also a film location for 3 notable Lord of the Rings scenes, so you can take a LOTR tour to visit these spots and learn all that went into the filmmaking process. I’m not even that big of a LOTR fan, and I thought this tour was awesome!

6. Take the Gondola up to Bob’s Peak – The gondola in Queenstown is the best way to get amazing views without having to break a sweat! Up the top, you can enjoy a romantic buffet dinner or take a crazy ride on the Luge! There are some great hiking tracks from the top too, so you can really spend quite a few hours up here.

Hot tip: For more insider info on Queenstown, be sure to check out our blog which is a complete guide to visiting Queenstown, New Zealand!

Where to Stay in Queenstown

Freedom camping – Freedom camping is very limited in Queenstown, for a detailed map of where you cannot camp check out this government site here.

The Flaming Kiwi Backpackers – This was the first place I ever stayed in Queenstown. It’s a great budget backpacker hostel with a very social vibe. The building is kind of old but it’s great value and even has onsite parking for free! A dorm bed here will cost you around $59 NZD per night!

Autoline Queenstown Motel – Autoline Queenstown is a budget to mid-range hotel located in the heart of Queenstown. They specialize in studio apartments with a luxury feel. The service here is really good and the reviews really make this hotel a tempting choice.

The Rees Hotel – The Rees Hotel is the perfect luxury option for those who not only want a hint of luxury but also breathtaking views. Although located a little out of Queenstown Center, they do provide a free shuttle every hour to town. With views like this, you’re sure to enjoy your stay!

Related Read: For an even further breakdown of the areas of the city, check out our guide on where to stay in Queenstown. We explain each neighborhood and pick out top accommodations, so you can find the perfect fit!

Day 8 – Te Anau (Nights 7 & 8)

Enjoying views pon the Kepler Track, New Zealand
View from the Kepler Track of Lake Te Anau.
  • Distance to drive: 172 kilometers (107 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 2 hours
  • Road conditions: Fine all year round

After driving to Te Anau on night 7 it’s time to sit back and relax. You’re officially at the halfway point of your two-week South Island road trip with still a huge list of adventures to be had!

Te Anau isn’t the most vibrant town but a quick walk along the edge of Lake Te Anau or maybe a nice dinner in town would be a great way to watch the sunset and get some rest for an epic day 8!

On day 8 you’ll have the entire day to explore Te Anau. You may be wanting to take some rest or maybe you’re up for an awesome adventure! Regardless, Te Anau really has something for everyone!

Highly recommended: One activity you really should consider is a tour of Doubtful Sound, which is just as impressive but has much fewer tourists than the popular Milford Sound. This full-day cruise will explore the vast Fiordland National Park on a luxury catamaran boat, and you’ll be accompanied by a naturalist guide to learn all bout Doubtful Sound. And coming from Te Anau, day tours are super convenient as it’s only about 20 minutes away.

If you’re a keen hiker then consider hiking the Kepler track for the day. The trail to the Luxmore Hut and back takes around 6 hours, but wow, are the views amazing! If you’re looking for a more unique hiking experience, you can take this heli-hike of the Kepler Track. You’ll ride in a helicopter to the Luxmore Hut, then explore the alpine wilderness as you hike back- what a remarkable experience!

For those wanting a real NZ experience, a visit to the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves is another option. Glow worms are only found in a few places in New Zealand and Australia, and the caves in Te Anau are a great place to see them! Tours run daily to the caves and include a short boat ride.

Get some rest tonight as tomorrow you begin your epic road trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound!

If you’re short on time you could just do a tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound. I do not recommend this as you won’t get the amazing experience in Milford but it is an option for those wanting to save some time and it’s better than not visiting Milford at all. For more information, read our blog about traveling from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Things to do in Te Anau

Glow worms in the waipu Caves, New Zealand
Glow worms in the Waipu Caves, New Zealand
kea bird in new zealand
Keas are beautiful and interesting birds!

1. Visit the Te Anau Glow Worm Cave – If you haven’t seen glow worms elsewhere in New Zealand then you really have to see them and Te Anau is the place to do so! You must book a tour to see Te Anau glow worms, as they are in a cave and require a boat to access. But, it makes it all worth it because the guides do a fantastic job of explaining the science behind these lit creatures and their ecosystem. This 2.5-hour experience includes a cruise across Lake Te Anau and a cave tour for $119 NZD per person.

2. Hike the Kepler TrackThe Kepler Track is my favorite Great Walk in New Zealand and on a day trip from Te Anau to the Luxmore Hut you can really get amazing views! While the entire Kepler Track is a 4-day 60-kilometer (37-mile) endeavor, the Luxmore Hut hike is only 13 kilometers (8 miles). To reach the trailhead, you can take a water taxi from Te Anau (which shaves a few kilometers off the trail) or you can find the trailhead 5 minutes from Te Anau.

3. Take a day trip to Doubtful SoundDoubtful Sound was high on my New Zealand bucket list, and it did not disappoint! As another fiord in Fiordland National Park, you’ll discover deep valleys and stark mountain peaks, full of lush greenery and waterfalls everywhere! This full-day tour is an excellent way to explore Doubtful Sound as you cruise on a catamaran and can spot fur seals, dolphins, crested penguins, and little blue penguins. This tour is $329 NZD and should be booked in advance, as this place is amazing!

4. Visit the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary – If you love animals then you’re not going to want to miss this one. The Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is home to many rare and endangered birds and helps support conservation and rehabilitation. It is run by volunteers, and they love sharing their passion and knowledge for New Zealand’s diverse bird species. It’s definitely worth a stop!

5. Take a helicopter flight– Scenic flights are always well worth doing, and flying over Fiordland National Park is probably the most beautiful place to do it! This 25-minute helicopter flight gives scenic views of alpine lakes, stark mountains, and mind-blowingly gorgeous fiords. It departs from Te Anau, so it’s a convenient addition to your 2-week itinerary, and while 25 minutes sounds short, scenic flights always feel much longer to me. You can book this incredible experience for $395 NZD.

Where to Stay in Te Anau

Freedom Camping – Te Anau is a heavily restricted freedom camping zone. In fact, nowhere near the town can you freedom camp. My advice for Te Anau would be to look at a DOC campsite (there are lots around). One of the best is the Henry Creek Campsite in Te Anau Downs (around 30 minutes from Te Anau.)

Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park – I have stayed at this holiday park many times. It’s a nice place close to town right on the edge of Lake Te Anau. They have non-powered, powered, and double rooms available. The facilities are good and kept clean.

Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers – Another accommodation option located right on the lake. The Lakefront Backpackers has budget double rooms and dorm beds for the solo traveler. The hostel is kept clean has great facilities and extremely helpful staff.

Fiordland Lakeview Motel – This place is such a beautiful hotel in a breathtaking location. Honestly, if you’re after a luxury stay in Te Anau you really can’t go past this hotel. Unfortunately, it’s booked up most of the summer, so get in fast!

Related Read: If you have room in your travel plans, consider exploring New Zealand’s North Island after your road trip. The best beaches in New Zealand are on the North Island, giving a whole different climate and atmosphere- you must check it out!

Day 9 – Te Anau to Milford Sound

Bailey sitting on a rock at Lake Marian on the way to Miflord Sound
If you stay in Te Anau you can hike to Lake Marian on your way to Milford Sound
  • Distance to drive: 118 kilometers (73 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 3 to 6 hours
  • Road conditions: In winter snow can cause issues. Check the online road report before driving in winter or after snow.

This is easily one of my favorite days on this two-week New Zealand South Island itinerary! Not only will you finally gaze your eyes upon Milford Sound, but honestly the road from Te Anau to Milford is just as beautiful!

Hot Tip: I highly recommend setting off early this morning, no later than 8 am. Although only a 1.5-hour journey, if you choose to do a few hikes and stop at all the best viewpoints you’re going to need most of the day. Also, if you leave early you’ll get to most of the best attractions before the hundreds of tourists coming to Milford from Queenstown.

Today you’re going to arrive in Milford Sound sometime in the late afternoon (if you check out the must-see stops I mention below).

Now, you could jump on an afternoon cruise, but the best thing to do would be to take it easy and enjoy a sunset at Milford Sound from the shore. It’s crazy how quiet and peaceful Milford Sound is at sunset and it’s really a bucket list thing to see at least once!

You’ll spend the night near Milford Sound either at the Milford Sound Lodge or a nearby campsite (more info below). There are many places to stay in Milford Sound, so you won’t have trouble finding a good option.

Things to do on the Milford Road

A viewpoint on the road to Milford Sound
Pop’s Viewpoint
The road to Milford Sound
Eglington Valley

1. Hike the Lake Marian Track – This is my favorite hike on the road to Milford Sound! The Lake Marian Track leads to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in NZ, with waterfalls and stunning views the entire way. This hike should take around 3 hours, as it is 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and is moderately challenging, but is definitely doable in a day trip!

2. Hike to the Key Summit – Another 3-hour hike that starts from the Great Divide (the start or end of the Routeburn Track). Only hike this trail on a clear day as the views are dependent on it! The trail is 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) and is rated as easy to moderate, even though it’s a steady incline for most of the trail.

3. Wander Mirror Lakes – A short boardwalk right on the edge of the road that on a calm, clear day reflects the mountains flawlessly, hence the name Mirror Lakes! Since it is right off the road, it’s an easy place to stop and stretch your legs, take a photo, and admire New Zealand’s vast beauty.

4. Explore the Eglinton Valley – You can’t miss this one as you have to drive through it, but be sure to find a safe place to stop and take in the views! Ellington Valley is simply gorgeous and it’s crazy to think this valley was once filled with glaciers! This is an iconic photo stop, and honestly, you’ll just be in awe of the valley that it’s worth pulling over to soak it in.

5. Stop at Pop’s Lookout – On a clear day, this Pop’s Lookout is really a beautiful place to stop. It’s also common to find Kea’s here. You’ll find the viewpoint at the highest point on the road, just before the road begins descending to sea level and just past Lake Gunn (another noteworthy stop). You only need a few minutes here, but it’s a fantastic viewpoint.

6. Visit the Chasm – A hugely powerful waterfall that’s truly mesmerizing to see only a few minutes from the road. You can find the parking lot for the Chasm on the left-hand side of the road, just 10 minutes before you reach Milford Sound.

For more info on the stops along Milford Road check out our road trip guide between Te Anau and Milford Sound!

Where to Stay near Milford Sound

Tonight you’ll be staying at the Milford Sound Lodge. It’s the only place to stay in Milford Sound. The lodge has powered sites for campervans only, dorm rooms, private rooms, and luxury apartments. Surprisingly the Milford Lodge isn’t that pricey and in my opinion, you can’t miss staying in Milford Sound.

Alternatively, if the Milford Lodge is out of your budget then stay at the Cascade Creek campsite. It’s the closest campsite to Milford Sound and only costs $15 per person to camp. The campsite cannot be booked and is first come first serve.

Alternative route: If you can’t get accommodation in Milford Sound (you should try to stay in Milford) then consider joining one of the latest cruises in the day and driving back to Te Anau for the night. If you do this you’ll also be able to make it to Mount Cook the next day and skip staying in Queenstown or Cromwell for night ten (as mentioned next).

Day 10 – Milford Sound (Night 10 in Cromwell)

The views from the Milford Sound forrest walk
The views from the Milford Sound Forrest Walk
  • Distance to drive: 344 kilometers (207 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 4 hours
  • Road conditions: Check conditions on the road from Milford Sound to Te Anau

Today’s the day you go on your amazing Milford Sound cruise! You have a big day ahead so it’s best to get on one of the first cruises!

Luckily the best cruise I’ve done (I’ve done 3) is the 9:45 am, Milford Sound Nature Cruise. This cruise is all about spotting wildlife, getting up and close to waterfalls, and even drinking pure glacier water right from the source! It is a small boat so you can get close to waterfalls and wildlife and you’ll have about 2 hours on the water. You can book this tour in advance (which I recommend, it’s popular!) for $180 NZD including lunch.

Or if you want a bit more adventure, you can take this cruise and kayak experience. It still departs in the morning and is on a small boat (the best option) but it will give you time to kayak into Harrison Cove to get up close to Milford Sounds natural beauty! This 2-hour experience is $295 NZD per person and can be booked here.

And after a thrilling morning on the water of Milford Sound, you’ll begin our journey to Mount Cook National Park! The trip to Mount Cook is far too long to make in one day (it’s around 6 hours without stopping and believe me, you’ll want to stop!). So instead, pick a town along the way to spend the night.

We recommend staying in Cromwell. Although there isn’t much to do in this town, there are plenty of hotels and campsites here to choose from. Plus, there are many wineries nearby which you could visit if you get in early enough!

Hot Tip: As you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to make the trip to Cromwell then consider visiting some of the stops on Milford Road you missed on the way there!

Things to do in Milford Sound

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Kayaking in Milford Sound
The Milford Sound Swing, New Zealand
The Milford Sound Swing, New Zealand

There are lots of fun things to do in Milford Sound. Some of the highlights include:

1. Visit the Milford SwingThe Milford Sound Swing is a must-visit. It’s located only a short walk from the visitor center and is the perfect place for a beautiful photo!

2. Join a Milford Sound Cruise – Taking a cruise in Milford Sound is the absolute best way to experience it, and there are plenty of options out there! The best cruise I’ve been on is the Milford Sound Nature Cruise, which gets you up close to waterfalls, and wildlife in a 1.5-hour small boat tour. This sightseeing cruise with lunch is also a great option as the naturalist guides do a fantastic job of pointing out scenic viewpoints and giving information on the geology and glaciology of the area!

3. Go KayakingKayaking in Milford Sound is one way to truly get close to the fiord a gaze at its true size and beauty! You don’t realize just how large the fiord is until you’re just a small speck in a kayak next to it. This cruise and kayak tour was an awesome experience and they included all the gear we needed, as well as a naturalist guide to show us where to go. I highly recommend this option!

4. Visit Lady Bowen Falls – From the foreshore, you can take a short boat ride for $10 to Lady Bowen Falls. Lady Bowen is Milford’s most powerful waterfall, it actually the power and water source for Milford town! The short Bowen Falls walk is closed, but you can get really close to the falls on the boat ride so it’s worth a visit.

Where to Stay in Cromwell

Freedom Camping – You can’t freedom camp wherever you’d like in Cromwell, but there are a few designated freedom camping sites. One that I recommend is called Lowburn Harbour and you can find more information about it on the Campermate app.

Harvest Park Studios Workers Accommodation – This is a great option for those on a budget or looking for a comfortable modern space. They offer twin or queen studios that have simple private kitchenettes and are located within walking distance from a couple of wineries.

Marsden Lake Resort – This lakeside resort offers studio apartments all the way to 3-bedroom villas, and of course, it has lake views! It is only about 1 kilometer from 3 different wineries, so if you get into Cromwell early enough, this is the perfect end to your day.

The Harvest Hotel – This hotel is pure luxury located just outside of Cromwell with mountain views. It’s the perfect place to relax for a night and enjoy the peace and quiet. They also have a highly-reviewed restaurant onsite so you don’t even have to leave for dinner!

Related Read: If you’re considering renting a campervan for this road trip, be sure to read the pros and cons of van life!

Day 11 – Cromwell to Mount Cook Village

Road tripping through Mount cook in our campervan rental car
The road to Mount Cook along Lake Pukaki
  • Distance to drive: 203 kilometers (126 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 4 hours
  • Road conditions: Lindis Pass gets icy in winter. Drive carefully over the pass and carry snow chains.

Today it’s time to rise and shine nice and early to hit to road to Mount Cook. On this route, there’s plenty to see so get your camera ready and hit the road.

Direct from Cromwell it’s a 3.5-hour journey to Mount Cook Village. With stops allow 5 to 6 hours!

Once you leave Cromwell you begin your ascent to Lindis Pass. Lindis Pass is our first stop and while there be sure to take a hike up one of the hills for amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

After Lindis Pass you’ll reach the small town of Omarama. Here you can choose to visit the Omarama Hot Tubs and/or the Omarama Clay Cliffs.

After your quick stop in Omarama, it’s time to drive to Mount Cook National Park. Once you reach the turnoff a really stunning drive begins. As you pass Lake Pukaki you’re in for a real treat, this stunning lake literally shines blue and along the way, you’ll want to make plenty of stops.

Continuing on, you’ll begin to get magnificent views of Mount Cook from the highway, and just before the airport is where the famous Mount Cook road photo is taken. Then, it’s onto Mount Cook Village to check into your hotel before heading off on a short hike.

I highly recommend either checking out the Tasman River Viewpoint or hiking the Hooker Valley Track. Both are short walks and perfect after a long day of driving! If you want to relax that’s okay too, you have all day tomorrow in Mount Cook National Park!

Things to do on the road to Mount Cook

The road to the mount Cook village where the Mt Cook accommodation is
The famous Mount Cook Road photo
Another view of Lindis Pass lookout
Another view of Lindis Pass lookout

1. Visit the Omarama Hot TubsOmarama Hot Tubs are private hot tubs in one of the most beautiful locations in New Zealand! you know we love hot pools in New Zealand, and between all of these adventures your achy muscles will thank you for a soak. Prices start at $100 NZD for a 90-minute soak.

2. Explore Lindis Pass – You’ll have to travel Lindis Pass regardless if you stop or not but you really should explore, this place is amazing! Stop by the Lindis Pass Lookout and for even more epic views, take the trail on the left, cut under the fence (lots of people do it), and follow the man-made trail up the steep hill. These are the most incredible views in all of New Zealand!

3. Wander the Omarama Clay Cliffs – Beautiful clay formations located just outside the town of Omarama. The Omarama Clay Cliffs are impressively rugged clay cliffs that tower 30 meters (98.5 feet) high! They are just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the town of Omarama and there is a small fee to pay in an honesty box, so be sure to have some change on you.

4. Take in the views of Lake Pukaki – Lake Pukaki is one of the bluest lakes in New Zealand and on a sunny day it’s sure to take your breath away. Luckily, it stretches along your route, so you can soak in the views as you drive or stop at the Lake Pukaki Viewpoint.

5. Take the famous Mount Cook Road Photo – This stunning shot is worth stopping for. Just be sure to read our blog on how to take the famous Mount Cook Road photo to find out exactly where to take the shot! There are a lot of photo-worth spots in Mount Cook, so get your camera ready for the next few days.

Where to stay in Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook National Park is one of the most sought-after places to stay in New Zealand. For this reason, it books up very fast. Therefore, you need to book your hotel in Mount Cook well in advance!

For a detailed guide on where to stay in Mount Cook check out our Mount Cook accommodation guide.

Day 12 – Mount Cook National Park (Night in Lake Tekapo)

Looking out at Mount Cook from the bench at the end of the Hooker Valley Trail
Not a bad place to relax!

Mount Cook National Park is easily my all-time favorite place to visit in New Zealand. This stunning national park is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From amazing hikes (both short and long) to stunning viewpoints with breath-taking views, no road trip itinerary on New Zealand’s South Island would be complete without a visit to Mount Cook.

Today, you’ll have all day to explore the park! I recommend getting up early and heading to the Tasman River viewpoint for sunrise if you’re up for it. It’s such a beautiful place to see the sunrise!

You could also hike to the Mueller Hut in the afternoon and actually spend the night there instead of in the village for your second night! This is an epic hike and by staying in the hut you really get to take in the best views around.

Note: The hike to the Mueller Hut takes around 6 hours and the hut must be booked well in advance in the summer, but in the winter it is first come first serve!

But perhaps the most thrilling thing to do is take a scenic flight over Mount Cook National Park! There are quite a few helicopter flights to see New Zealand’s highest mountain from an aerial view, but I took this 40-minute flight had had a blast. The 40-minute flight is $592 NZD (worth the price in my book) but if you are looking for a cheaper option, this 20-minute flight still gives epic views for $337 NZD!

Things to do in Mount Cook National Park

Mueller Hut Trail in Mount Cook, New Zealand one of the best places to visit on the south island
The Mueller Hut Trail
The mountains that seperate the west and est coast of New Zealand on our scenic flight through Mount Cook National Park
The mountains that separate the west and east coast of New Zealand on our scenic flight through Mount Cook National Park

1. Hike to the Mueller HutThe Mueller Hut is one of the most popular backcountry huts in New Zealand. Hiking and then staying the night is one of the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park. The trail is 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) each way and takes about 4 hours in the summer, and 5 hours in the winter. I love this particular hike because it’s doable year-round, and offers incredible views no matter when you visit!

2. Hooker Valley Track – An easy 3-hour hike (round trip) to a stunning alpine lake called the Hooker Lake that sits below Mount Cook. This is one of the more popular hikes in Mount Cook because it’s more accessible to all levels of hikers than Mueller Hut Track. Hooker Valley Track is 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) and flat almost the whole way.

3. Enjoy a Scenic Flight – I did a scenic flight in Mount Cook and it’s still one of the best things I have ever done in New Zealand – the views are simply incredible! This 40-minute flight soars around Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, lands on Tasman Glacier to walk on, and is a thrilling helicopter ride. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to take a scenic flight. If you only take one flight on your two-week itinerary New Zealand itinerary, book this one!

4. Tasman Lake Viewpoint – This place is beautiful, especially at sunrise and the best part is it’s only a 10-minute walk from the car parking lot. Tasman Lake Glacier is the largest glacier in New Zealand, so it’s quite impressive to see! Finding the exact spot is a little tricky, so read our guide on the Tasman Lake Viewpoint so you’re in the right spot.

5. Sealy Tarns TrackThe Sealy Tarns trail is actually the first half of the Mueller Hut Trail. The hike involves climbing over 2,200 stairs to the Sealy Tarn. So if you’re up for a great workout, you’ll love this hike!

Day 13 – Lake Tekapo

Lupins at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lupines in full bloom!
  • Distance to drive: 105 kilometers (65 miles)
  • Estimated drive time with stops: 1 hour
  • Road conditions: Carry snow chains in winter

You’re coming to the end of your epic road trip around New Zealand’s South Island so it’s time to take it easy and enjoy your last couple of days. Luckily, Lake Tekapo is the perfect place to do this. It’s one of the most popular places in New Zealand and rightly so – it’s simply stunning.

On Day 13 after the short 1-hour drive from Mount Cook, you’ll have all day to relax and explore all that Lake Tekapo has to offer. A few things to fill your day include visiting the Church of the Good Shepard, relaxing by the lake, and exploring the stunning lupines (November to January).

During the evening, take it easy by eating at one of the restaurants in Lake Tekapo or consider visiting the Tekapo Hot Springs. Regardless, it’s a night to relax.

Things to do in Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo
the church of good shepard

1. Visit the Church of the Good Shepard – This is arguably the most photographed church in New Zealand. It’s located right in town and is beautiful! A quick stop at the Church of the Good Shepard boasts New Zealand’s long-standing history and architecture.

2. Go stargazing – Lake Tekapo is an official dark sky reserve which means the stars are incredible. Stargazing is a must-do activity in Lake Tekapo and a perfectly relaxing activity for your last night in New Zealand! This 1.5-hour stargazing experience lets you use a high-powered telescope and is led by an astronomer, which makes this experience even more immersive. You can book this experience for $123 NZD per person!

3. Visit the Tekapo Hot Springs – Not my favorite hot springs in NZ, but Tekapo Hot Springs are still worth visiting and perfect for relaxing after a couple of days of hiking in Mount Cook. They only offer shared pools, starting at $37 NZD, so while they aren’t as luxurious as the private hot pools, it’s more affordable!

4. Wander the Lupins – If you’re visiting between November and January then head to the edge of the lake and enjoy the stunning Lupins. You’ll find a display of pink and purple flowers dotting the lakeside, it’s quite lovely!

Where to stay in Lake Tekapo

Freedom Camping – In the town of Lake Tekapo, you cannot freedom camp, however outside the city limits you are free to do so in most places. In the town of Lake Tekapo, there are signs showing you where you cannot freedom camp.

Hot Tip: A great place I recommend for camping is Lake Alexandria just outside of Tekapo. I personally camped here a few nights and it’s a great safe spot. There is a gravel road to the spot and a closed gate. The road is fine for all vehicles and the gate just needs to be left closed after entering. It’s just for livestock.

Lake Tekapo Holiday Park – This place is one of the best mid-range options in Lake Tekapo. They have great little cabins with shared facilities at a great price. Overall, it’s a good option in an even better location.

Lakefront Lodge Backpackers – The Lakefront Lodge in Tekapo is your cheapest option for the solo traveler just looking for a dorm bed. It’s in an ideal location right by the hot springs and the Mt St John Track and is one of the best-rated budget options in town!

Tekapo Heights – This is a boutique hotel that does not cut corners when it comes to luxuries and details. It is located within a 10-minute walk to the town center but still far enough away to have a quiet night. Rooms have mountain views and some have deep bathtubs with an epic view!

Day 14 – Lake Tekapo to Christchurch

On your last day, it’s time to head back to Christchurch from Lake Tekapo. The drive takes just over 3 hours to complete and you can leave depending on your flight time. On this route, there isn’t too much to see, but if you have time be sure to drive up the Mt Hutt ski field and take in the stunning views of the Southern Alps!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! You must act quickly, though, as this code is only valid for bookings made before June 30, 2024, with travel dates before December 21, 2024!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Important Tips and Info for Planning Your NZ Road Trip

Now that you have chosen one of the different New Zealand road trip itineraries and have the route all planned out, there are a few other things you need to do to prepare for your road trip to New Zealand! Here is some other important information to help you out!

Booking accommodation in New Zealand

The view of Queenstown, New Zealand from Bob's Peak
The view of Queenstown, New Zealand from Bob’s Peak. This tiny town is busy and accommodation can sometimes be difficult to get!

Would you believe it I told you Bailey and I have made over 250 hotel bookings since we started blogging! That’s a lot of bookings!

We could literally recommend any booking site and make a commission, however, the only website we use to make bookings is Booking.com (aside from the odd booking on Hostelworld).

They are the best in our opinion and their price match guarantee (we have used this before) means you’ll always get the best deal. If you’re planning your New Zealand road trip and need a place to stay (we all need some luxury here and there!) or a campground, Booking.com is the best way!

Booking the Inter-Island Ferry

Booking your Inter-Island Ferry in advance is a great way to save money and hassle during your New Zealand Road trip. You can book the Inter-Island Ferry here.

Booking Flights

A great company to book flights to and from New Zealand and internally is Kiwi.com. We have used them many times and find them to be one of the cheapest.

Packing for an NZ Road Trip

The views on day two of the kepler track one of New Zealand's great walks
The only way to get the best views is to go hiking!

Packing the right items for your New Zealand road trip is super important. Some items often forgotten are:

  • Travel adaptor – Try to get one with the USB plugins as well as a standard power plug.
  • Flynet – In the South Island, the sandflies are bad. Getting a fly net for your face will protect it during your road trip from nasty bites that can last weeks.
  • Lifestraw drink bottle – On many of the hikes in New Zealand the water is generally safe to drink. However, to be sure a Life Straw Water Bottle is a, well, lifesaver!
  • Reef-safe sunscreen – Protecting New Zealand’s pristine waterways is super important. Reef-safe sunscreen is a great way to do your part.
  • Sand-proof towel – These towels are amazing. I can’t go back to a normal beach towel anymore.
  • DEET-free bug repellent – The main ingredient in New Zealand bug repellent is DEET. It’s really bad for both humans and bugs and DEET-free options are just as effective.
  • Road trip food – Make sure to pack some great snacks and easy food to make for your road trip. Stop at a grocery store before you hit the road and load up!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, read our complete Viator review to learn more about what we think about Viator.

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

selfie on motuara island, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

And that’s it, the end of your 2-week New Zealand South Island road trip. I hope my detailed itinerary has helped plan your most epic trip. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you!

We spent an entire year exploring all New Zealand has to offer. For planning your own road trip, some of these blogs we wrote should prove to be helpful! Check out our New Zealand page or the recommended articles below:

7 EPIC South Island Destinations – The BEST Places to Visit on the South Island, NZ

13 BEST Tours in Queenstown

10 Tips on How to Score a Cheap Campervan Rental in New Zealand

Leong

Thursday 21st of December 2023

Hi, thanks for the informative blog. I get a lot of information after reading your blog. May I know for the trip of Milford Sound Cruise and Te Anau Glow Worms Cave, is it reliable to book through Viator? It seems like the price shown in Viator is much lower than the price I found in RealNZ and Southern Discoveries

Destinationless Travel

Sunday 24th of December 2023

Hey Leong,

The price is likely in USD. You can change the currency at the top right hand corner of the page. Viator is great to book with they work like Booking.com by helping connect tour operators to customers.

Thanks

Sara

Tuesday 19th of December 2023

Do you have any suggestions for where to get maps for hiking trails?

Destinationless Travel

Wednesday 20th of December 2023

Hey Sara,

All Trails is the best for this.

Thanks Daniel

Sara

Sunday 22nd of October 2023

So helpful, thank you! Is there any reason the route is counterclockwise? Any reason not to go clockwise? Thanks!

Sara

Sunday 29th of October 2023

Oops, I meant clockwise

Sara

Sunday 29th of October 2023

Great, thanks! Any changes to the itinerary that you'd recommend if going counterclockwise?

destinationlesstravel

Sunday 22nd of October 2023

Hey Sara,

No you can go either way!

Thanks

Jon.S.

Thursday 29th of June 2023

This is a great itinerary - thank you both. Has cemented my idea about doing the self-drive 'big loop' from Queenstown as our base, heading to Christchurch, then up thru Franz Josef, down to Wanaka, and knocking over Milford Sound last, before flying back out from QT again. 12 days total for us, so we'd probably give Wanaka and Christchurch just one night each to fit everything in. Should be a superb honeymoon in March 2024. :) cheers

Debbie McCormack

Sunday 28th of May 2023

Loved your itinerary and am planning on using it in February 2024, but we are going for 17 days instead of 14. How would you change the itinerary with 3 extra days -- either adding a new destination (Punakaiki or maybe Kaikoura for whale watching?)

destinationlesstravel

Monday 29th of May 2023

Hey Debbie!

I am so glad you loved the itinerary!

Yes go to Kaikoura! You'll have time to take the road trip up there and back to Christchurch with an extra 3 days. The whales are amazing to see!

Another option would be to just take your trip slower but that depends on your travel style!

I hope this help!

Thanks Daniel