With its majestic views and stunning landscape, New Zealand’s South Island is the perfect place for a roadtrip – here’s how to fully experience everything the island has to offer!
New Zealand: A Roadtrip Across the Most Beautiful Country in the World (South Island)
In my previous article (North Island), I discussed all the incredible places that the North Island of New Zealand has to offer – there were many activities and natural sights to explore. However, personally, South Island has no comparison. It is by far one of the most stunning islands on the planet.
There are a few ways to get to the South Island. One of the options is to take a ferry and drive to Nelson, a city that offers the most beautiful crystal beaches around. However, if there are time restrictions, the quickest way would be to take a flight to Christchurch from Wellington.
From Nelson, it takes around 5 hours to get to Christchurch. It is the largest city on the South Island with a unique combination of innovation, heritage, and culture. However, if Christchurch was the start destination for the trip, then there are many sights to enjoy across the city. In order to make the most out of the day, it is best to get up early in the morning to enjoy the small markets and botanic gardens. After that, head straight to Lake Tekapo, which is 3 hours away from the city.
Lake Tekapo is a popular tourist attraction, thanks to its remarkable beauty. The turquoise blue lake offers magnificent views with the mountains in the background. It is also a part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve which means that at night, it is the perfect spot to connect with nature by stargazing. This place can be enjoyed both during the day and night. It would be best to spend the night in the Mackenzie basin, in order to enjoy a short drive to Mount Cook the next day.
Mount Cook/Aoraki National park is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Interestingly, this is also the mountain where Sir Edmund Hillary developed his skills before climbing Mount Everest. Aoraki National Park offers many glaciers and mountains in the area. The drive itself to the mountain is possibly one of the most surreal experiences that anyone can relish. There are also many picture opportunities along the way. It offers one of the most incredible views anyone will ever get to witness.
Climbing Mount Cook is very challenging and physically demanding. However, there are different
routes for hiking near Mount Cook that are easy to complete. One of the most scenic hike views are
across the Hooker valley. There is a spot near the glacial lake, where the icebergs can be seen
After the hike and all the activities, either stay in one of the accommodations for the night or head back to Queenstown, which is a four-hour drive – but the time goes by quickly when the views are so spectacular on every corner.
Queenstown is by far the most thrilling, adventurous, breath-taking place for me in New Zealand. A four-hour drive early in the morning from Mount Cook to Queenstown gives plenty of time to explore the town for the rest of the day. There are so many activities to do that we are spoilt for choices. That is one of the reasons it is known as the adventure capital of the world.
Let’s get straight on the Skyline Gondola that offers the most epic views of the town. Visitors can either go through via cable car, or hike up to the top. I would certainly recommend the short hike to the top. The top of the skyline offers such remarkable panoramic views that it leaves everyone speechless.
One of the activities Queenstown is famous for is bungee jumping. The Nevis bungee is a must-do for all the adventure seekers out there. It is New Zealand’s highest bungy jump that gives everyone an adrenaline rush. It is a fun activity for someone that is not afraid of heights or jumping with a rope tied to them. There is also a place called Kawarau Gorge suspension bridge where another bungee bridge is created. However, understandably, it is not for everyone and there are other activities such as water rafting, jet skiing, and kayaking that can be enjoyed.
Ever thought about taking the helicopter to the top of a mountain? Well, Franz Josef Glacier is certainly the place to do it. Franz Josef Glacier helicopter tour is a once in a lifetime experience that everyone should do – a ride to the top of the glaciers is an unforgettable experience.
It feels like a different world with just white snow and a surreal aura of the place. Once dropped from the helicopter, many people opt for the guided hike which takes around 4 hours. This is an exciting opportunity for the hikers to enjoy beautiful ice formations, ice caves, and seracs. This is something I highly recommend because there aren’t many places in the world where this opportunity arises.
Fiordland national park is A UNESCO world heritage site, and this is where Milford and Doubtful Sound are located. As it is a four and half hour-long drive from Queenstown, both locations cannot be done in a day, so it is best to spend a day in each location. The fiord offers spectacular views with waterfalls, wildlife, and forests around. It is one of the most majestic natural attractions in the country.
Often described as the eighth wonder of the world, it is easy to see why so many tourists visit this place each year. This place offers the most breath-taking waterfalls and mountains. Milford averages 7 meters of rainfall each year, with rainfall over 180 days in a year. However, the place is stunning in any weather.
One of the best ways to enjoy this place is to jump on a boat cruise in the morning to explore the area. On a lucky day, the dolphins can also be seen swimming next to the boat.
After the trip to Milford sound is completed, stay in Te Anau which offers a range of accommodations. This would also be a good middle ground for the trip to Doubtful Sound the next day.
Doubtful Sound is a couple of hours’ drive from Te Anau. The place is a lot bigger compared to Milford Sound but it is a lot quieter – it is sometimes called “the sound of silence” for its calmness. A lot of people prefer to just visit one out of the two places as Milford easier to get to. However, Doubtful Sound offers a more relaxed and intimate experience. The Doubtful Sound cruise across Lake Manapouri offers gorgeous views of the Fiordland national park as well.
The tour guides also take the visitors through Wilmot Pass, which offers views of wilderness and rainforest. It is the perfect place to connect with nature and forget about all the worries in the world. What makes this place even more special is the wildlife that is around it. On the cruise, often many seals, penguins, and dolphins can be spotted. After the cruise, head back to Queenstown for the final day of the trip.
Back in Queenstown, even though it is the last day of the trip there are still many activities to do around the area. Just before leaving New Zealand, there is one last thing that everyone should tick off their list. That one last adventure is skydiving. Jump from up to 15,000 ft at a speed of 200 kmph. As Queenstown is the hub for adventures, it only makes sense to end the trip on a high, literally. Witness the most insane views from the top, it’ll be a sight no one can forget.
After the jump, head down to Lake Wanaka where the famous tree is located. This lone tree is one of the most pictured trees in New Zealand. It is famous for its unique feature of growing inside the lake. Lake Wanaka is also a beautiful place for a relaxing walk.
At the end of the trip, enjoy the famous fernburger in Queenstown while enjoying the beautiful sunset. Though the queues are long and may take up to half an hour for the food, it is worth it.
New Zealand is a country that keeps on giving. I have travelled to many countries across the globe but for me, New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world. I really hope this article helped to create an itinerary and hopefully inspired you all to visit this stunning country.
To read the first part of this series on New Zealand, focusing on the North Island, click here!