Our Two Week New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
As part of our recent trip to Oceania, we decided that since we were going to be right next door in Australia, that we needed to hop over to the South Island of New Zealand. Chris had previously done a bus tour around the island ten years prior when he was living in Australia pursuing his degree and knew how amazing the natural beauty and people are.
We arrived fairly late in the morning (about 1am) the first night we flew into Christchurch. We spent the night at a motel fairly close to the airport as we had to pick up our van the next day. After picking up our van/hotel from the depot, we headed out of Christchurch Northwest towards Arthur’s Pass. We decided that the best route was counter clockwise around the island. Once we arrived in Arthur’s Pass however, the weather was quite rainy so we spent the night at one of the camp sites and continued on the next day.
After waking up and packing up the camper, we headed out from Arthur’s Pass onto our next destination. We decided to head towards Hokitika on the western coast and spent the night at another camp site just outside of town at Lake Mahinapua.
We spent the morning checking out Hokitika before heading on towards Franz Josef glacier. We arrived in Franz Josef just after lunchtime and grabbed lunch at one of the cafes in town. After we realized that the only way to get up on the glacier was via helicopter, we decided to splurge on a trip up to the top of the glacier. After the helicopter trip, we headed onwards towards Fox Glacier.
After arriving in Fox Glacier, we went over to Lake Matheson to take in the sunset and do a bit of star gazing. The next few days however, were filled with rain and wind. We spent an extra day here to see if the weather would clear up, but when the forecast confirmed more rain for several days after, we decided to cut our losses and continue on.
After leaving Fox Glacier in the morning, we continued down the coast, stopping for lunch in Haast, before turning inland and several hours towards Wanaka. We arrived in Wanaka in the early evening and grabbed dinner. We spent the next few days here trying out some local wines and doing some hiking.
After leaving Wanaka in the morning we continued south towards Queenstown. Queenstown has a wealth of activities to sample so we decided to spend several days here, doing some wine tasting, as well as bungee jumping. We departed on the afternoon of our last day bound for Te Anau, a small town about two hours drive from Queenstown that would lead us further on towards Milford Sound.
After spending the night in Te Anau, we woke up the next morning and continued on towards Milford Sound. It’s a several hour journey through mountainous terrain (that is often closed in winter). We arrived late afternoon and spent two nights there. Much like Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, the weather is almost constant rain in Milford Sound and we wanted the chance to take a boat cruise. Luckily the weather cleared on the last day and we were able to set sail before getting on the road to head back towards Queenstown.
After spending the previous day driving from Milford Sound back though Te Anau, and then back to Queenstown, we spent the night at the holiday park we had previously stayed. We then departed the next morning to travel to Mt Cook National Park, several hours drive away. We arrived at the campground in the early evening and then drove further into the park to take in the sight of the mountain before the last light disappeared. The next day we did some hiking and checked out the Tasman Glacier and then departed the day after.
After departing Mt Cook, we were headed towards the final stop on our road trip, Lake Tekapo. Luckily, Tekapo is only a little more than an hour from Mt Cook, so we arrived in the early afternoon and were able to get some wonderful views of the church of the good shepard during sunset. We then went over to the hot pools that were right near the holiday park we stayed at.
We departed from Tekapo bound for Christchurch, driving straight through with a quick stop for some lunch and coffee. The drive took roughly 3 hours, and once we arrived we turned in our rental van and organized our things before our flight out the next day.
Depart from Christchurch. We took one of the earliest flights of the day out of Christchurch, so unfortunately we didn’t have any other opportunity to explore the city before departing.
There you have our (roughly) two week road trip itinerary around South Island! We hope this is helpful for anyone looking to undertake a similar journey as we thought we saw just about all the major highlights that the island has to offer! If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out our South Island location guide for a description of and things to do at each of our stops along the way!