The South Island of New Zealand has diverse and spectacular scenery, ranging from snow capped mountains, to rolling country side and rugged coastline, and a road trip is the perfect way to experience all of this beautiful island’s wonders. Allow enough time to take things slowly so you can drink in the views around you and stop wherever it takes your fancy.
Day 1 – Nelson
Nelson is the most Northern city on the South Island of New Zealand and is the ideal starting place for a South Island Road Trip. With its sunny weather, Nelson has traditionally been a magnet for craftspeople and artists of all kinds, including traditional Maori artists. Visit one of the many galleries or studios and take home a little piece of unique New Zealand art. Nelson also boasts beautiful beaches, rugged mountains and freshwater springs. Dine on the local Nelson Bay scallops or take a sea kayak tour and spot the little blue penguins and seals. Accommodation in Nelson ranges from luxury seaside resorts to camping grounds and everything in between.
Day 2 – Nelson to Kaikoura (247km)
Kaikoura is nestled at the base of Seaward Kaikoura Mountains and is a great base to explore the plethora of walking tracks winding through this beautiful part of the world. The unique combination of mountains and ocean provides stunning scenery and a range of activities, including whale watching, swimming with the dolphins, walks and more. Accommodation in Kaikoura is plentiful and varied and ranges from hotels, motels, lodges to holiday parks.
Day 3 – Kaikoura to Christchurch (180km)
Known as ‘the garden city’, Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and is filled with leafy avenues and 19th century buildings. Although many of the buildings in the centre of the city were damaged by a huge earthquake in February 2011, the welcoming nature of the residents and the spirit of the city remains the same. Cycle along the riverside, dine at one of the excellent restaurants, or go hiking in the nearby Arthur’s Pass National Park. World class golf courses and vineyards are also a feature of this area. Christchurch accommodation is easy to find and many well recognised hotel brands can be found in this city.
Day 4 – Christchurch to Timaru (164km)
Timaru is home to New Zealand’s second largest fishing and cargo port, and the largest man-made harbour in the world. The famous Caroline Bay in Timaru is one of the prettiest and safest beaches in New Zealand, and well worth a visit. Beautiful churches, parks, Edwardian architecture and attractions such as theatres, galleries and museums are all part of the beauty of this charming city. Timaru accommodation can cater for most needs and budgets.
Day 5 – Timaru to Dunedin (197km)
Dunedin, known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand is proud of its Scottish heritage and is one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Surrounded by dramatic hills and nestled at the end of a harbour, Dunedin is a picturesque city with many beautiful natural features. Close by you can find amazing world renowned wildlife including the world’s rarest penguins and the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross. There is a large choice of accommodation in Dunedin from international hotels to more budget options.
Day 6 – Dunedin to Invercargill (220km)
Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand, and is a cosmopolitan city with lively cafes, excellent shopping and a variety of heritage buildings. It is also the gateway to some of the most spectacular coastline in New Zealand including Fiordland, the Catlins and Stewart Island. There is a range of activities available in the area, from beautiful nature walks to visiting the many galleries, parks and beaches. Again there are a number of Invercargill accommodation options catering for all types of travellers.
Day 7 – Invercargill to Queenstown (355km)
One of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, Queenstown has a lot to offer. Nestled at the bottom of breathtaking mountains and on the edge of the crystal clear waters of Lake Wakatipu, there are an abundance of activities for thrill seekers and naturists alike. In winter, Queenstown comes alive with skiers, and year round there are activities such as bungy jumping, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking and river rafting. Bushwalking is popular in the summer months and tourists can enjoy the excellent food and wine all year. Queenstown accommodation is plentiful and good, and includes self contained apartments, bed & breakfasts, lodges and even farm stays.