If you are planning to visit New Zealand’s south Island for the first time, the planning of your road trip can be quite overwhelming:
What to see, where to start, what not to miss?! Don’t fret, that’s what we are here for: to help you to get some ideas and inspiration.
That’s why we’ve listed some of our favourite places on New Zealand’s South Island.
1. Fox Glacier
Where else in the world can you so easily access a dynamic glacial environment that is only a stone’s throw away from the main Highway?!
Take a guided tour and find out why the glaciers are moving. There are tours available for every fitness level, although we would recommend to put on your serious hiking gear and take a guided tour that leads you right into the crystal blue ice.
Find more information in our article, Set Your Eyes on Fox Glacier.
2. Moeraki Boulders
The Māoris explained the presence of these spherical boulders on Koekohe Beach, on the South Island of New Zealand, as eel baskets washed up from an enormous, sunken canoe, but the science behind these rock formations is even stranger.
The Moeraki Boulders, formed around 60 million years ago, measure up to 3 metres in diameter were in fact formed from ancient sea sediments.
Regardless of how they were formed, they make for some truly stunning footage. So don’t forget to take you camera with you and enjoy this truly magical place.
3. Lake Matheson
At Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier, you will find exactly the right ingredients to capture some truly stunning reflections of New Zealand’s highest peaks–Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.
The waters of Lake Matheson are dark brown, so on a calm day they create the ideal, reflective surface.
Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and to New Zealand’s second largest city.
The last couple of years were pretty rough for this beautiful city: 2 major earthquakes destroyed many (city-centre) buildings, and restoration work continues today.
It is very inspiring to see in what creative ways this city evolves and rebuilds itself to new glory. The container shopping mall in the city center is only one of those ideas and worth exploring.
5. Pancake Rocks
The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes make for a very interesting and beautiful stop along the West Coast Highway, Route 6.
This heavily eroded limestone area is probably the most visited natural attraction on the West Coast and with good reason. Through some narrow and deep vertical air shafts, plumes of salt water shoot skyward in a geyser-like manner. The roaring sound of the ocean and the wild look of the pancakes make for wonderful scenery which you shouldn’t miss on your road trip.
6. Arrow Town
This former gold mining settlement has a story or two to share.
Arrowtown is located on the banks of the Arrow River, in the Otago region of the South Island, not far away from Queenstown. Many of the cottages that were built during the Otago gold rush, a time were the settlement was established, can still be seen today. The old pharmacy is just one of those buildings.
The partly restored Chinese settlement at the edge of the river, built by Chinese miners, paints a pretty good picture of the life of those early settlers in 1868.
Nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy is the gateway to hiking trails and…you already knew it: some true Middle-earth magic. It was here where they filmed the setting for Isengaard, and many of the local operators were involved with filming. The locals are always up for a chat and have some interesting stories to tell.
Glenorchy is also the jump-off point for the famous Routeburn Track; one of the top 10 classic hikes in the world.
This is a great place to go kayaking and swimming with dolphins, seals and whales all year round. It’s also a beautiful little town worth visiting. Moreover, Kaikoura is a good stop to catch the Interislander bus.
9. Bruce Beach
Located just outside of Haast, Bruce Beach is great opportunity to take a mystical stroll. The driftwood makes for a brilliant photographic backdrop. Once your SD card is full, grab your pen and leave a message for friends, loved ones or other travellers on one of the many white pebbles you’ll find at the beach and place it amongst the hundreds of other pebbles that were placed there.
Is there anything you can’t do in Queenstown? This city is famous amongst adrenalin junkies and adventure seekers. No matter if you are after a bungy jump, skiing (in Winter), downhill MTB, paragliding, speed boating or a fun ride with the Luge, there is literally something for every age, every taste and every pace. And it doesn’t stop there, because this city has thought about everything, even the little ones.
Photo credit: Siyamalan
11. Hokitika Gorge
Sometimes you see a pictures in a tourism brochure and you think: “Yeah right, it can’t look THIS good. They must have done some pretty good photoshop work.”
But let us tell you, no photoshop could ever do the vivid, turquoise water of the Hokitika Gorge justice. This place is unbelievably pretty. Looking at it and experiencing it in real life just feels surreal. We promise, this pretty little piece of earth (and water) will put a huge smile on your face that won’t go away for a while.
One tip: Don’t forget to bring your camera!
This is by far only a fraction of our favourite places on the South Island. We might need to write a second list of recommendations. What would you include in this list and why? Write your suggestions in the comments below.
We’ve got you in the right mood for a road trip, and is all you need now a campervan to get you on the road? No problem, we have campervans of any size and for every budget. Find out more on our website.