The Ultimate New Zealand South Island 2 Week Itinerary

The Ultimate New Zealand South Island 2 Week Itinerary

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As a couple, my husband and I always want to return to New Zealand. We took a New Zealand road trip on our honeymoon ten years ago and decided to have an anniversary trip and revisit some of the places we loved then and discover a few more. This is a busy New Zealand South Island 2 week itinerary we did in spring.

We took a 2 week New Zealand South Island road trip for our anniversary
New Zealand West Coast
New Zealand South Island 2 Week Itinerary

New Zealand South Island 2 Week Itinerary

In this itinerary, I will detail our New Zealand South Island road trip. It contains some of the best things to do in New Zealand South Island, even though the weather wasn’t always great. Another road trip we took was on the North Island.

I recommend renting a car in New Zealand, and I have also listed some New Zealand South Island tours. For more practical information on road trips, I have recommendations on Australia road trips and a list of road trip essentials.

The only place we visited on a separate trip is Akaroa but it could have fitted in a two-week itinerary as it is so close to Christchurch.

Most of the hotels mentioned are places we stayed at and the experiences and tours mentioned we paid for ourselves.

On previous trips to New Zealand, we also used AirBnb for accommodation.

Christchurch

With so much to pack into a two-week itinerary, we didn’t want to spend too much time in Christchurch, although it was a very convenient airport to fly into, and cheaper than Queenstown. The city has changed a fair bit in the last ten years, following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 but we only had one afternoon to dedicate to it.

The views of Christchurch  are very beautiful
Christchurch, New Zealand

We also picked up our car rental in Christchurch through RentalCars.com

Christchurch Gondola

I didn’t find too many attractions in Christchurch so we drove out of the airport and headed straight to the Gondola. It’s one of the fun things to do in Christchurch. I must say that the views were of interest and what nicer way to start the journey? 

Don't miss the Christchurch Gondola on the South Island
Christchurch Gondola

The 862m cable car journey is an easy one and from the top, you get lovely views of Christchurch, the Banks Peninsula (Akaroa) and Lyttelton. Of course, there is a cafe and a souvenir shop at the top, and you can take a 30-min walk to Cavendish Bluff Lookout.

Find out more information and current prices on the Christchurch Gondola.

Drive to Lyttelton

From the gondola, we drove to Lyttelton, a small but active commercial harbour facing the Banks Peninsula. The town and the harbour were badly damaged during the earthquakes but it’s a pleasant drive and the place retains its old-fashioned and bohemian character.

Lyttleton is a little harbour near Christchurch
Lyttelton Harbour

Godley Park

We drove to Godley Park, around the coast for more coastal views and met our first NZ sheep… It was a very pretty drive, quite reminiscent of the Banks Peninsula.

We started our New Zealand itinerary in Godley Park
Godley Park

Accommodation in Christchurch

Whenever I research Christchurch hotels, I find accommodation to be expensive and fairly standard. Since we had no reason to stay in the city and our only visit was going to be the Gondola, I looked for accommodation in Sumner Beach.

We chose nice accommodation for our time in Christchurch
Le Petit Hotel – Sumner

There are several beaches in Christchurch but this one met several criteria for us: a good location, relaxed vibe and reasonably priced accommodation

We stayed at Le Petit Hotel, in the beach suburb of Sumner. It’s a charming Bed & Breakfast, managed by a French lady and decorated in French country style. The rooms are cosy and well-appointed and we had a French breakfast with croissants the next morning.

Le Petit Hotel is a French place in Christchurch
Le Petit Hotel – Sumner

For dinner, we walked to the Beach Bar, which served delicious seafood in generous portions.

Enjoy some seafood at the Beach Cafe in Sumner
Beach Cafe – Sumner

The beach was a little windy that day but we were ready for our adventure…

I’m sure there are other things to see in Christchurch but I couldn’t wait to head out on our anniversary adventure!

The Banks Peninsula

We discovered the Banks Peninsula by accident, on our 2010 honeymoon. We were looking for things to do near Christchurch after our 2 weeks in New Zealand and it was an easy drive.

Don't miss the Banks Peninsula for a Christchurch day trip
Banks Peninsula

The Banks Peninsula was formed by two giant volcano eruptions and is a gorgeous scenery of harbours and bays. Discovered by Captain Cook, who mistook it for an island, it was named after the expedition’s botanist, Sir Joseph Banks.

Akaroa

The drive from Akaroa to Christchurch only takes about an hour. 

Akaroa has some French shops
Akaroa

In the 1840s, French whaling expeditions discovered the peninsula’s sheltered harbour and decided to settle there. Today, the historic town of Akaroa still bears the remnants of the French settlement, with French street names and a cemetery.

Summit Road

A drive along Summit Road is an absolute highlight when visiting the Banks Peninsula. It follows the rim of one of the craters, offering views over the different bays and villages.

A drive along Summit Road will show you the best views
Summit Road

Harbour Cruises

The waters of Akaroa are home to wildlife: penguins, orcas, seals and the smallest breed of dolphins called Hector’s dolphins. If you have time, why not take a cruise? Find out more information and current tour prices.

Several restaurants and cafés keep the French tradition alive in Akaroa. We tested The Little Bistro on our honeymoon and it’s still there. More recently, we had a casual meal at The Brasserie Kitchen & Bar.

Akaroa is a charming town on New Zealand South Island
Akaroa

Akaroa is a picturesque little town, with nicely painted houses, so it’s worth a wander. If you decide to stay overnight, I can suggest the Akaroa Village Inn. Find out more information and current prices.

Top tip: Use Akaroa as your base for Christchurch

Arthur’s Pass

The adventure started with a drive through Arthur’s Pass via the Great Alpine Hwy. After the Canterbury plain, the road climbs quite steeply into the mountains and begins a succession of valleys. 

New Zealand wilderness at Arthurs Pass
Arthurs Pass National Park

The road is good, but it can get quite busy with trucks and camper vans. This is one of the only roads crossing the country from Christchurch to Greymouth.

It rained on our visit to Arthurs Pass
Arthurs Pass

The weather was pretty grey that day, and gradually became rainier as we crossed Arthur’s Pass. We missed some beautiful views but on a sunny day, there are some nice walks to do.

Otira Stagecoach Hotel

Arthur’s Pass Village has some accommodation, mostly relevant to hikers visiting the national park. We stopped at the Otira Stagecoach Hotel, built in 1865 to service the mining communities. Nothing much has changed since then, the hotel has a collection of carriages and vehicles sitting in the yard, and some rather interesting bathrooms…

Otira Stagecoach Hotel is an old fashioned pub
Otira Stagecoach Hotel

The south island weather got progressively worse on our Christchurch to Greymouth drive.

Greymouth

We arrived in Greymouth, the biggest town on the West Coast. By that time, it was raining firmly and Greymouth presented an industrial and mining feel. 

Greymouth is on the New Zealand West Coast
Greymouth – West Coast

Northern Breakwater

We visited the beach under incredible rain and got properly drenched. Northern breakwater (Shipwreck Point) and the Southern breakwater viewing platform have good views of the coast, in clear weather.

The West Coast of New Zealand is quite dramatic
Northern Breakwater

Rain has to be one of the best Greymouth attractions, but I’m speaking from an Australian point of view!

Monteiths Brewery

There are a few walks to do around Greymouth but the only thing to do in that weather was the Monteiths Brewery.

Monteith's Brewery is a great restaurant in Greymouth
Monteith’s Brewery

The food is quite good and you can taste all their beers and ciders. Whilst not a lot of the actual beer manufacturing is done here, there are tours of the brewery.

You can buy beer and cider at Monteith's Brewery
Monteith’s Brewery

Greymouth Restaurants

The food scene in Greymouth is a little limited but SevenPenny is a great little café with delicious breakfast options

Greymouth Accommodation

There are quite a few Greymouth motels and they seem to book up quickly. As the main town of the West Coast, it’s a popular town to stay in. We stayed two nights in Greymouth, in two different places because most of the accommodation in Greymouth was already taken.

Scenicland Motel

This place seems very standard but the bed was incredibly comfortable. A spacious bathroom and heating was everything we needed on this very wet day.

Scenicland Motel is a comfortable Greymouth hotel
Scenicland Motel in Greymouth

Like most motels in New Zealand, Scenicland also had a common laundry. Find out more information and current rates.

Scenicland Motel has very clean bathrooms
Scenicland Motel in Greymouth

Coleraine Suites

We stayed the second night at Coleraine. This motel is a little more upmarket and equally comfortable, and we had a slightly smaller room.

Coleraine Suites is a cosy Greymouth motel
Coleraine Suites in Greymouth

Find out more information and current rates.

Drive the West Coast

West Coast New Zealand is a great place for a road trip. The coastal road has some stunning viewpoints and the scenery is a mix of sheep paddocks, rocky beaches and impenetrable forests. 

The wild and beautiful New Zealand West Coast
New Zealand West Coast

Our destination that day was Cape Foulwind, to do the coastal walk. The weather improved and the drive was beautiful. The road is quite easy to drive and it’s an hour and a half from Greymouth to Cape Foulwind.

Pancake Rocks

North of Greymouth is Paparoa National Park and its dramatic cliffs. Turn left at Punakaiki to visit Dolomite Point and Pancake Rocks. Stylobedding is a layering-weathering process which carves the limestone of the coast in what looks likes piles of thick pancakes.

Visit Pancake Rocks on your West Coast drive
Pancake Rocks

Pancake Rocks is one of the most photogenic places to visit on the West Coast.

The pathway runs through thick coastal scrub to the coast and the pancakes. It’s quite a sight, with the beautiful coast in the background. If you are there at high tide, water surges through caverns and blowholes in spectacular fashion!

Blowholes and waves make up Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks

The walk is quite easy on the boardwalk, although there are some steps through the rocks. Expect to spend up to 40 min there, allowing enough time for photos.

We had beautiful weather when we visited Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks

Punakaiki is quite touristy and buses will roll in periodically. Make sure you include it as part of your West Coast holidays.

Top tip turn up early to avoid the crowds

Cape Foulwind

Initially named Rocky Point, Cape Foulwind is a promontory overlooking the Tasman Sea. The new name was given by Captain Cook after his ship was blown far off the coast in 1770. Cape Foulwind walkway is a pleasant, easy grade track. The beautiful coast makes it one of the best walks in New Zealand. 

Cape Foulwind is a great walk of the New Zealand West Coast
Cape Foulwind

This was a good introduction to New Zealand walks. The weather changed a fair bit while we were there, and this is what you should expect in this part of the world. 

The amazing coast of New Zealand at Cape Foulwind
Cape Foulwind

There is a seal colony visible from the trail.

Take a New Zealand coastal walk at Cape Foulwind
Cape Foulwind

Top tip Have a picnic on the beach before heading back.

Hokitika

We drove back to Greymouth, with a few more stops for photos, and we still had time to spare. The drive from Greymouth to Hokitika is only 36 km. 

Hokitika is a New Zealand coast town
Hokitika Town Centre

Hokitika was a lovely surprise. After the fairly industrial feel of Greymouth, Hokitika is a charming little beach town with a nice beach. If you run out of things to do in Greymouth, it’s a good option.

Carve your own jade at this gallery in Hokitika
Jade Gallery in Hokitika

It’s a great place to shop for greenstone, or even carve your own. Some of the galleries have some really good quality jewellery and other locally made objects. 

A good option for accommodation in Hokitika is the Bella Vista Motel. Find out more information and current rates.

Sunset Point

This is a popular spot to watch the sun go down. 

Watch the sunset on the beach at Hokitika
Sunset at Hokitika

This old boat is a great photo prop at the end of the day.

This old boat is a nice photo prop in Hokitika
Sunset Point

Glowworm Dell

Hokitika is one of the few places where you can see glow worms for free. There is a dell on the side of the road just outside of town. As it’s not a cave, you have to wait for total darkness to fall in order to see anything.

Top tip as West Coast accommodation can be hard to find, consider staying in Hokitika instead of Greymouth.

Hokitika Restaurants

There aren’t many restaurant options in Hokitika so we went to Fat Pipi Pizza, for a tasty and reasonable meal.

We devoured a pizza at Fat Pipis in Hokitika
Fat Pipis Pizza in Hokitika

Hokitika Gorge

We actually visited this on our drive south from Greymouth to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Only 36km from Hokitika, it’s a very scenic drive through rural countryside and fields. 

Hokitika Gorge is a beautiful drive through the countryside
Drive to Hokitika Gorge

The Hokitika Gorge is carved by glacial movement and the turquoise blue is created by glacial “flour” ground over the bottom of the river.

There is glacial flour at the bottom of Hokitika Gorge
Hokitika Gorge

The colour wasn’t super bright on our visit but it’s a nice walk across the swing bridge. The gorge is only 15 min from the carpark so this visit won’t take too long.

Drive to the Glaciers

The drive from Hokitika to Franz Josef is only two hours and we didn’t find it too busy. The road meanders through glacial valleys and waterfalls, it’s quite a nice drive. Greymouth to Fox Glacier is about 200 km on the West Coast of New Zealand.

The way to Fox Glacier is a beautiful New Zealand drive
Drive to Fox Glacier

The road is quite easy, except for Mount Hercules, where the road rises quite steeply and down again.

This road was a nice addition to our New Zealand road trip itinerary.

Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a fairly sizeable township dedicated to the Franz Josef Glacier. It’s a common starting point for helicopter rides and hikes around the glacier.

Stop by the waterfall on the way to Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

When researching this trip, I found that the accommodation in Franz Josef is generally more expensive than Fox Glacier but where you stay may be commanded by your itinerary and your South Island tours.

Helicopter Tours

We booked a flight to view both Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, which is one of the best West Coast attractions. The flight was departing from Franz Josef, unfortunately, it was delayed due to bad weather and the later flight was due to depart from Fox Glacier.

Take a tour with Glacier Helicopters in Franz Josef
Glacier Helicopters in Franz Josef

We went through the security briefing and even though the flight was altogether cancelled, also due to bad weather, I was pretty impressed with the company and have no hesitation in recommending them.

Find out more information and current rates with Glacier Helicopters.

Follow the path of the helicopter around the New Zealand glaciers
Glacier Map

This was to be a highlight of our New Zealand South Island tour but the visibility was too poor to be worth it…

Franz Josef Glacier Walk

Other things to do in Franz Josef include the glacier walk. This walk is a fairly easy grade and takes about 3 hours return. Most of the walk is on the flat glacier bed and the ground is all rocky. Solid footwear is highly recommended for this walk.

Take a walk to view Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

The nevé has receded quite a lot in the last ten years and is only accessible by helicopter but you can see the glacier in the distance.

Fox Glacier

The drive from Franz Josef to Fox Glacier is quite dramatic. Fox Glacier is a smaller township with similar activities and we were booked to stay there.

Take the view of Fox Glacier in New Zealand
Fox Glacier

Lake Matheson

Also known as “Mirror Lake”, Lake Matheson is a short drive from Fox Glacier and is one of the South Island points of interest. We took the loop circuit, which goes around the lake in an hour and a half. 

Lake Matheson is like a mirror on a still day
Lake Matheson

The slight wind meant that the surface of the lake wasn’t still enough to be a mirror, but it’s a very nice walk.

Lake Matheson is a heaven for bird life in Fox Glacier
Lake Matheson

Helicopter tours

Our flight was cancelled due to poor weather but we were booked for a flight and glacier landing with Glacier Helicopters.

Accommodation in Fox Glacier

We stayed at the Bella Vista Motel, which is conveniently located in the centre of town. The room was small but comfortable and the motel had good wifi.

The Bella Vista Motel is in a good location in Fox Glacier
Bella Vista Motel in Fox Glacier

The bathroom was also quite small but I liked the small recycling bin, a clever touch! Find out more information and current rates.

A comfortable sleep at the Bella Vista Motel in Fox Glacier
Bella Vista Motel in Fox Glacier

After the walk around Lake Matheson and still slightly disappointed by the cancellation of our helicopter flight, we had a drink at The White Pub Café & Bar.

Dinner was at The Last Kitchen. The recipes are quite simple but you can’t go wrong using New Zealand’s fresh produce and meat!

Drive to Wanaka

The drive from Fox Glacier to Wanaka via Haast Pass is quite diverse, passing through fields, waterfalls, glacial valleys and a very pretty section along the New Zealand coast, just before Haast. 

Stop by Knights Lookout on the New Zealand West Coast
Knights Lookout

Blue Pools

If you don’t have time for Hokitika Gorge, don’t despair! The Blue Pools are even more spectacular.

Don't miss Blue Pools on the way to Wanaka
Blue Pools

It’s quite popular, and parking can be difficult to find. Also, there are no toilets on site, the closest are a few kilometres away.

Blue Pools have an extraordinary translucent colour
Blue Pools

The walk to Blue Pools is 15 min through the forest. As the sky was cloudy, I expected the colours to be muted. But even in average weather, the colours were amazing and the water incredibly translucent…

There are many peaceful rivers in New Zealand
Blue Pools

We had a picnic by the river. It’s a pretty popular spot but well worth a visit.

Lake Wanaka

After the mountains and waterfalls, you get to some beautiful New Zealand lakes. The first one is Lake Wanaka.

Some New Zealand lakes are quite windy
Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

The weather improved a little as we progressed and we stopped at some of the lookouts.

Lake Hawea has a beautiful blue colour
Lake Hawea

Wanaka

After the wilderness of the West Coast and the relative isolation of the mountains, Wanaka felt like a big town. For a long time, it was considered a smaller version of Queenstown. There are many things to do in Wanaka and we had several Wanaka hikes in mind, so we stayed three nights.

Take a walk around Lake Wanaka at dusk
Lake Wanaka

Wanaka Tree

Even though the focus of our stay was to do some Wanaka walks, we couldn’t stay away from the Insta-famous Wanaka tree. This tree grows in the water and can potentially strike quite a figure against the background of the lake and the mountains.

The Wanaka Tree is a very popular photography spot
Wanaka Tree

I went to see it several times during the course of our stay in Wanaka, at different times. Even then, I found it a little disappointing. For Wanaka attractions, getting the right combination of clear skies, calm water and snowy peaks is not easy.

Mount Aspiring National Park

Our first walk was to Mount Aspiring Hut. The starting point is a 55km drive outside of Wanaka, in a remote area close to Rob Roy Glacier.

There are many sheep in Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park

The walk to the hut is 2,5 hours, through private farmland. The grade is quite easy but we had to cross several streams and realised quickly that getting water in our shoes was unavoidable. 

Mount Aspiring is a great New Zealand walk
Mount Aspiring National Park

This being spring, there were plenty of little lambs along the way. The weather wasn’t very good but at least it wasn’t raining. The Mount Aspiring Hut had toilets and water and we had our picnic there.

If you are hiking in New Zealand, try mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park

We loved this walk and I would count it amongst the best hikes in New Zealand.

Roys Peak

One of New Zealand great walks, Roys Peak is famous for its stunning views over Lake Wanaka. This is a hard grade hike and you have to make sure you’re up to it. I found it really hard and had slightly overestimated my capabilities for a steep hike in the sunshine.

Roys Peak is a great vantage point for Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak

The climb is steep and took over 2,5 hours however, some people seemed to progress a lot quicker. I didn’t know hikes in Wanaka could be so hard!

Take a hike up to Roys Peak for this view
Roys Peak

The view from the top is very rewarding however, this is a very popular hike and there is a queue to take photos of the lake. Yet, people are disciplined and the process worked, small groups waiting to take their turn and helping each other with photos.

Wait your turn at the top of Roys Peak
Roys Peak

We didn’t go to the very top, it was a shorter but even steeper hike.

Roys Peak is a tough New Zealand hike
Lake Wanaka from Roys Peak

Top Tip Take an early start and watch the sunrise from the top!

Wanaka Accommodation

As we were staying three nights, we looked at Wanaka apartments. We did our own cooking for three nights so we didn’t get to try any Wanaka restaurants.

Distinction Wanaka has self contained units
Distinction Wanaka

The Distinction Wanaka has secure and spacious units with views of the mountains. With a lock-up garage and laundry facilities, it was a great choice and felt like a home away from home.

Distinction Wanaka has spacious units
Distinction Wanaka

Find out more information and current rates.

A good night sleep at Distinction Wanaka
Distinction Wanaka

Drive to Queenstown

We took the main road from Wanaka to Cromwell, which was a bit disappointing. Next time, I will take the road through Cardrona which is said to be much more spectacular.

Queenstown to Wanaka via Cardrona is about two hours drive.

Arrowtown

On our drive from Wanaka to Queenstown, we stopped at Arrowtown, a charming goldfields-era town. It’s still quite busy and there are some nice restaurants and cafés. 

Arrowtown is a lovely little New Zealand town
Arrowtown Church

The neatly painted old houses and churches make for a good photography subject and it was a good place to stop on our South Island road trip.

The streets of Arrowtown are packed with nice shops
Arrowtown

Chinese Camp

As a goldfields town, Arrowtown had a Chinese camp, where a few hand-built houses remain. Take a walk by the river.

The Chinese Camp in Arrowtown is a step back in time
Chinese Camp in Arrowtown

It’s worth considering staying in Arrowtown, you can still take the many Queenstown tours.

Accommodation can be expensive but Shades of Arrowtown is a good option. Find out more information and current rates.

Queenstown

A trip to New Zealand is often a Queenstown adventure. This busy small town is still the undisputed leader of adventure travel on the South Island. Indeed, local travel agencies offer all sorts of tours and excursions. Queenstown city centre is incredibly busy and traffic is a bit of a nightmare.

Take some Queenstown views
Queenstown

The banks of the Lake Wakatipu are full of cafés and restaurants for various budgets.

Lakeside Queenstown is so beautiful on a sunny day
Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

With Arrowtown nearby, you don’t have to stay in Queenstown however, it is still the essential starting point to many activities. And there are many things to do in Queenstown!

There are many tours and things to do in Queenstown and I have selected the main ones.

Shotover Jet

If you’ve never experienced white water rafting, the Shotover Jet is great fun. This is a true adventure in the cold and wild waters of New Zealand. A mix of calm meandering waters and exciting rush of rapids, this is a great day trip in Queenstown.

We did this tour on our honeymoon and I thoroughly recommend it.

Helicopter Ride

After our disappointment in Fox Glacier, we booked this flight with an alpine landing. The weather was perfect! Find out more information and current rates.

Take a helicopter tour in Queenstown
Helicopter ride in Queenstown

Drive to the Remarkables and Coronet Peak

Driving to the ski fields is quite easy, at least when there is no snow. We drove 13 km of steep road to the Remarkables.

A drive to the Remarkables is something to do in Queenstown
The Remarkables

The drive to Coronet Peak was less steep but the weather didn’t make for good photos, unfortunately.

Skydive

Sky diving has got to be one of the best things to do in Queenstown, it was a highlight of our honeymoon!

Find out more information and current rates.

Queenstown Cruise

Lake Wakatipu is one of the best Queenstown attractions, with its majestic blue and green hues.

Find out more information and current rates.

Bungy Jump

This is the ultimate adrenaline in Queenstown! Find out more information and current rates.

Swing

A little less intense than a bungy jump, this would be my pick! Find out more information and current rates.

Queenstown Gondola

We took the Queenstown Gondola in order to get a start on a hike. The start of the Gondola is in downtown Queenstown and there is a carpark nearby.

Queenstown Gondola has some beautiful views over Lake Wakatipu
Queenstown Gondola

The views from the top are stunning, there is also a restaurant and souvenir shop. Find out more information and current rates.

Gondola and Luge

While you’re up there, why not race down on a luge. We didn’t get to experience but it sure looked like fun!

The luge is a fun Queenstown activity
Queenstown Luge

This is a combination of two great Queenstown activities, the views and the speed! Find out more information and current rates.

Ben Lomond Saddle

We another hike in Queenstown. Starting from the Gondola terminal, the walk to Ben Lomond Saddle takes about two hours. It’s a medium, steady climb, with beautiful views over Wakatipu Lake and the Alps.

Ben Lomond Saddle is another worthwhile New Zealand hike
Ben Lomond Saddle

It is possible to go all to the top of Ben Lomond, but it’s a lot steeper, so we stopped at the saddle.

Zipline

This zip line is now in the top 10 things to do in Queenstown. Find out more information and current rates.

Queenstown Accommodation

Figuring out where to stay in Queenstown proved a bit of a challenge. Queenstown motels are pretty standard and can be expensive. We stayed in downtown Queenstown before, on a ski trip but this time I chose a hotel by the lake, just 3 km out of town. It turned out to be our best hotel experience in New Zealand.

We chose Sherwood for our Queenstown hotel
Sherwood Queenstown

Sherwood Queenstown is an interesting place. The old motel has been renovated and transformed into a comfortable and hip place. The rooms are nicely decorated with recycled materials, including old army blankets.

Sherwood Queenstown has recycled decor
Sherwood Queenstown

Sherwood places great importance on sustainability and recycling. There is no television in the rooms and the fridge was off when we arrived. They also offer co-working spaces and yoga classes.

We had great New Zealand food at Sherwood Queenstown
Sherwood Queenstown

Sherwood grow and harvest their own food, and also use local produce. We had dinner at the restaurant and the food was superb, if a little expensive. Find out more information and current rates.

Drive to Glenorchy

One of the best Queenstown day trips is to visit Glenorchy at the end of Lake Wakatipu. The distance from Queenstown to Glenorchy is only 45 km and it’s a very scenic drive. 

Glenorchy is one of the best New Zealand drives
Lake Wakatipu

The road can be challenging however, there are some beautiful lookouts along the way.

Driving to Glenorchy only takes an hour
Drive to Glenorchy

There aren’t many things to do in Glenorchy, apart from the jetty, which is another Instagram spot. Still, it’s one of the iconic South Island destinations and you should definitely include the drive in your Queenstown sightseeing. 

Lake Rere

By the time we made it to Queenstown, we wanted to do more New Zealand hiking and there are some good Glenorchy walks. We had included a few walks in our New Zealand travel itinerary and Lake Rere was a perfect addition. 

Lake Rere is a great New Zealand walk
Lake Wakatipu

We looked at Glenorchy Accommodation but found that it was actually quite far from the beginning of the walk, so we stayed at Kinloch Lodge.

Kinloch Lodge

About 25 km from Glenorchy, Kinloch Lodge is an old historic hotel and has been operating since 1868. The rooms are small but comfortable and the common bathrooms are renovated. 

Kinloch Lodge is old fashioned and cosy accommodation
Kinloch Lodge

Kinloch also has dorm rooms. We dined at the restaurant, which you need to book and order in advance. The food was really good, made with local ingredients.

New Zealand food is fresh and delicious
Dinner at Kinloch Lodge

Kinloch has a lot of charm and the historic hotel feels very authentic. Find out more information and current rates.

Take a walk around Lake Rere to experience the New Zealand wilderness
Lake Rere Walk

In order to get to the start of the Lake Rere walk, you need to drive 11 km beyond Kinloch, on a dirt road and cross some fords. It’s a nice drive along Lake Wakatipu, opposite Glenorchy. The start of the walk has toilets and water.

One of the best walks in New Zealand is Lake Rere
Lake Rere

The walk is about 16 km, or 4 to 6 hours return. I would say the grade is medium. There is a steep section just after Elfin Bay and a descent to Lake Rere. The path is quite clearly marked although you have to be careful to end up in a cattle trail at the beginning. 

The walk starts along the lake, then climbs through forests. The lake is quite pretty and there were plenty of yellow flowers everywhere. 

In our two weeks in New Zealand, this was one of the best walks we did. It was so peaceful and isolated, we only came across two rangers but no other hikers.

Te Anau

The Queenstown to Te Anau drive is about two hours, along the southern arm of Lake Wakatipu, which is very pretty. After that, the road is less interesting and it’s quite busy with camper vans.

Te Anau Lake is very peaceful
Te Anau Lake

We based ourselves in Te Anau for our Milford Sound day trip.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

On the other side of Te Anau lake, there are caves where you can see glow worms. As you are in a cave, you don’t need to wait for darkness to see the Te Anau glow worms. Our cruise was cancelled due to the cave being flooded, unfortunately. Find out more information and current rates.

Te Anau Accommodation

Most of the Te Anau hotels are by the lake. We stayed at the Kingsgate Te Anau, a standard but comfortable hotel.

Kingsgate is a decent Te Anau motel
Te Anau Kingsgate Motel

The best rooms are on the first floor and there is no elevator but the staff will help you with your luggage if required.

Kingsgate Motel is a place to stay in Te Anau
Te Anau Kingsgate Motel

Generally, Te Anau motels and hotels are expensive and book up quickly, especially in high season so I recommend booking early. Find out more information and current rates.

Te Anau Restaurants

As we did our Milford Sound tour from Te Anau, we stayed two nights there and had time to visit several restaurants and cafés. We were nicely surprised by the quality of the food but noticed that restaurants get quite busy. 

The Fat Duck is a popular Te Anau restaurant
Fat Duck Restaurant

Our first meal was at La Toscana Pizzeria, for simple but well-made Italian food. The following night was our wedding anniversary and we only just managed to get a table at The Fat Duck.

Try the Sandfly Cafe in Te Anau
Sandfly Cafe in Te Anau

For breakfast, we ate at the Sandfly Café. 

Milford Sound

The Milford Sound cruise was an absolute highlight of our New Zealand South Island itinerary. We were very lucky with the weather, we had a day of beautiful sunshine when it had rained non stop the previous week. 

Milford Sound is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand
Milford Sound

Te Anau to Milford Sound takes about two hours to drive. It’s a beautiful road however, it’s very busy with buses and campervans. 

What is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is a fiord, also known as Piopiotahi to the local Maori tribes. The sound runs 15 km inland from the Tasman Sea and your cruise will take you close to the rainforest. The sound receives a huge amount of rain and temporary waterfalls appear. With the wind, some of the rainfall never reaches the water below, which is why you get this impression of being in a raincloud…

We had great weather for our Milford Sound day trip
Milford Sound

There are also two permanent waterfalls in the sound: Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.

The rainforest on the side of the fiord sometimes loses its grip due to accumulated rain, which causes tree avalanches.

The Best Milford Sound Cruise

We took a Milford Sound Nature Cruise with Southern Discoveries. There are several operators for a Milford Sound tour but we chose this one due to the smaller size of the boat. It was a wise choice. 

We chose a smaller boat for our Milford Sound boat cruise
Milford Sound Nature Cruise

There was plenty of room for people to move around, the back deck was sheltered and the crew was really friendly. They gave plenty of information on the sound, the local flora and fauna, and made the two and a half hour journey really fun and enjoyable.

Milford Sound has temporary waterfalls
Milford Sound Waterfall

We even got a taste of one of the Milford Sound waterfalls, and got absolutely drenched! Find out more information and current tour prices.

Milford Sound Accommodation

There isn’t a lot of accommodation available, which is why a Milford Sound day tour is often the only option.

This was the perfect day for a Milford Sound tour
Milford Sound

The Milford Sound Lodge does have luxury chalets and dorm rooms, but you need to book far in advance, especially in spring and summer. Find out more information and current prices.

Milford Sound Parking

Something to bear in mind is that there isn’t a lot of free parking available in Milford Sound. And if you have to pay for parking, it’s expensive. We only just missed the last free parking spot and ended paying over $50 for just a few hours!

This combined with the fact that the Milford Sound road is a challenging drive, we thought that a Milford Sound cruise from Te Anau would have been just as good. Find out more information and current tour prices.

Milford Sound Scenic Flights

If you don’t want to stay in Te Anau and want to consider a Milford Sound tour from Queenstown, you need to bear in mind that it’s a four hour drive each way…

A good option is a scenic flight from Queenstown. You still get to enjoy a Milford Sound scenic cruise but with the amazing experience of flying over Mount Cook and Fiordland! Find out more information and current tour prices.

Drive to Twizel

The drive from Te Anau to Twizel is a long drive, almost 360 km and five hours drive. We stopped at Arrowtown again to miss the Queenstown busy traffic.

The Lindis Pass is in the heart of New Zealand South Island
Lindis Pass

It was interesting to see how the centre of the South Island is much drier than the rest of the country we had seen so far. Most of the time, the road from Queenstown to Twizel is pretty mundane however the scenery is quite beautiful around the Lindis Pass.

Omorama is a small town in New Zealand dedicated to gliding
Pink Glider Cafe in Omarama

Once you enter the MacKenzie region, the land is quite flat, and the New Zealand Alps appear in the distance. This seems to be perfect for hand gliding and the village of Omamara is dedicated to it. 

We stopped briefly at the Pink Glider Café for a milkshake.

Twizel

Our next stop was Twizel, a small town often used for Mount Cook hiking. Twizel to Mount Cook is only 30 minutes drive and there is more accommodation there.

You may need to stay in Twizel when you visit Mount Cook
Twizel

The town was created to support the building of a hydro scheme in the 1970s and there isn’t much there but it’s also handy for Lake Pukaki accommodation.

We stayed two nights in Twizel, in different hotels.

Mountain Chalets Motels

The Mountain Chalet Motels are pretty basic and the decor is dated, but the location was good, just off the main road and only a few minutes from the town centre.

Twizel accommodation gets busy and we stayed one night at the Mountain Chalets Motel
Mountain Chalets Motel in Twizel

Also, the room and bathroom were very clean. Find out more information and current prices.

Accommodation in Twizel is simple but clean
Mountain Chalets Motel in Twizel

The Lakes Motel

We stayed at the Lakes Motel the second night. The rooms have a spa bath and were a little more upmarket. This would be my pick of the two.

The Lakes Motel is a mid range Twizel motel
The Lakes Motel in Twizel

Find out more information and current prices.

The Lakes Motel is a good place to stay when you visit Mount Aoraki
The Lakes Motel in Twizel

We took our breakfast at the Musterers Hut Café. We also tested the Ministry of Works Bar & Eatery, which has some good burgers and pub food.

Lake Pukaki

Only 20 mins from Twizel, Lake Pukaki is one of the most photogenic lakes we saw on our South Island itinerary.

Lake Pukaki is one of the best New Zealand lakes
Lake Pukaki

The turquoise colour is created by the glacial flour at the bottom of the lake. On a sunny day, the colour is stunning. 

Lake Pukaki should feature on your New Zealand itinerary
Lake Pukaki

We stopped at the lake for a few photos but if you have time, I recommend taking the road that runs along the lake, past the hydro scheme. It turns into a dirt road and it was quite dusty when we were there.

We were lucky to see wildflowers at Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki

However, it was worth driving there in order to get closer to Mount Cook. The wildflowers were in full bloom…

Mount Cook or Mount Aoraki

The next day, we headed out to the Mount Cook National Park, which we had visited on our honeymoon. The weather was very different then… As we made our way to Mount Cook Village, the weather got progressively worse. 

There are many things to do in Mount Cook but we wanted to go back and do one of the Mount Cook walks.

Hooker Valley Track

The Hooker Valley Track is a medium grade walk to a viewpoint where you can see the Tasman Glacier. There are also beautiful views of Mount Aoraki, the highest mountain in New Zealand at 2724m.

Hooker Valley Track is an easy New Zealand day walk
Hooker Valley Track

We started our walk in the rain and didn’t get to see the views. The wind was also very strong and people were getting almost blown off the boardwalk…

The Hooker Valley Track is a New Zealand icon
Hooker Valley Track

This is the wettest we’ve been in New Zealand and I wondered if it was worth the trouble halfway through. Yet, we didn’t want to give up… Rain is very much part of hiking in New Zealand…

Normally you can see Mount Cook from the Hooker Valley Track
Hooker Valley Track

By the end of it, we were too cold and wet to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.

Accommodation in Mount Cook is expensive, which is why Twizel is a good base. The Hermitage Hotel Mt Cook is an option but you need to book well ahead. Find out more information and current prices.

If you are planning to visit more Mount Cook trails, there are several day walks. If you want to do anything longer than a day, you need to be an experienced hiker.

Lake Tekapo

We passed through Lake Tekapo on the last day of New Zealand two week itinerary. On our honeymoon, we actually stayed there, did some hiking and horse riding. 

Lake Tekapo is a must see in New Zealand
Lake Tekapo

The drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook is just over an hour so it’s a good place to stay if you want to visit the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

We stayed at Lake Tekapo on our honeymoon but accommodation is expensive now. Nomads Rest is a reasonable option. Find out more information and current prices.

Mount John Observatory

The Aoraki Mackenzie area was declared an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012, one of only 12 in the world. This is the ideal place to experience a stargazing tour. 

You can observe the dark sky at Mount John Observatory
Mount John Observatory

We went there during the day and the views over Lake Tekapo are beautiful although the colour of the water is not as spectacular as Lake Pukaki. Nowadays you have to pay $8 to take the road up to Mount John and bulky vehicles are not allowed.

Mount John has some beautiful Lake Tekapo views
Lake Tekapo from Mount John

If you are there at night time, I highly recommend a Lake Tekapo stargazing tour, it’s both instructional and mesmerizing. The lack of light around the place means you can see the night sky like nowhere else… Find out more information and current prices.

Church of the Good Shepherd

This is an icon of Lake Tekapo and it’s very busy with tourists. The church is very charming and there is an attendant reminding everyone that it’s a place of worship and that photography is not allowed inside. 

This little church in Lake Tekapo is a well-known New Zealand sight
Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo

Still, we managed to get some good photos and the wildflowers were in bloom by the lake.

The Church of the Good Shepherd is a great New Zealand photography spot
Church of the Good Shepherd in Lake Tekapo

Hot Pools

There wasn’t enough time for us to indulge in the hot pools but a single day pass is not that expensive. Find out more information and current prices.

Drive back to Christchurch

And that concluded our 2 weeks in New Zealand South Island… A very packed itinerary with lots of diversity and adventure! The drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch is pretty straightforward and we dropped off our Christchurch car rental back at the airport.

This little shack in Canterbury saw us leave the South Island of New Zealand
Canterbury Countryside

Of course, there are more places to visit in New Zealand South Island but we would have needed more time. 

Do you have suggestions for other things to do in New Zealand South Island? I can’t wait to get back there and discover more! Please tell me in the comments below!

As a couple, my husband and I always want to return to New Zealand. This busy New Zealand South Island 2 week itinerary will help you plan your trip.
#travel #newzealand #coupletravel #nz #roadtrip

28 Comments

  1. Annette Jones

    January 5, 2020 at 11:23 am

    NZ hasn’t been on my radar to visit until I’ve read your post. Plus I have 2 friends visiting there now. Thanks for a comprehensive list to follow.

    1. Delphine

      January 6, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Hi Annette, New Zealand is one of my favourite places to visit, and it’s not too far from Sydney!

  2. samantha karen

    January 5, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Wow every place looks so beautiful. What an in depth and thorough two week itinerary. I think Wanaka looks so peaceful and zen, I would love to stay here for a bit.

    1. Delphine

      January 6, 2020 at 9:20 am

      Hi Sam, I wish I had stayed longer in Wanaka and explored the cafes and restaurants. I’m sure I’ll go back and do more hiking there!

  3. Lara Dunning

    January 6, 2020 at 11:24 am

    How fun that you got to revisit your honeymoon destination. New Zealand is high on my list and I appreciate all the details you’ve included in this post and that you’ visited so many small towns. Arthur’s Pass, Milford Sound, Mount Cook National Park and Lake Tekapo are gorgeous! When I go, hiking will definitely be part of the trip.

    1. Delphine

      January 7, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Hi Lara, choosing the honeymoon destination was the easiest as we both love New Zealand so much! I already want to go back and visit the places I haven’t seen yet!

  4. Linda (LD Holland)

    January 6, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    This is a timely post. We are hoping to get to New Zealand in 2020. A road trip seems like a good way to see the sights. Starting the trip with a panoramic view from the gondola in Christchurch sounds wonderful. We would definitely head to Godley Park for the sheep. The Banks Peninsula reminds me of the caldera lakes in the Azores Islands. The west coast certainly looks like a great spot to drive. Love the views of pounding surf. Paparoa National Park will definitely go on our list. And Wanaka has been a spot we wanted to visit for some time. A glacier helicopter ride would be a highlight of our trip. So many reasons to plan to travel to New Zealand.

    1. Delphine

      January 7, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      Hi Linda, it’s true that are so many things to do in New Zealand. Two weeks is not enough to see the whole of the South Island but we did pack a lot in! The Banks Peninsula is one of my favourite places, it’s ideal for a long weekend from Sydney, it’s only a three-hour flight!

  5. Susanne

    January 7, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    The more I read about New Zealand, the more certain I am that I definitely want to go there. Thank you for your great information, so you get a great overview of your tour.

    1. Delphine

      January 7, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Susanne, New Zealand is a fantastic destination, I hope you get a chance to visit sometime!

  6. Emma

    January 7, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    Road tripping New Zealand is definitely a bucket list item for us. It’s great to see how much you packed into two weeks. We often wondered if hiring a car is the best way to go, which it sounds like it might be. You’ll have to tackle the North Island next.

    1. Delphine

      January 8, 2020 at 6:58 pm

      Hi Emma, the trailer would do very well in New Zealand, although some roads can be challenging… As for the North Island, we did go there for the Easter long weekend a few years ago but the itinerary wasn’t as well planned…

  7. Sage

    January 8, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    New Zealand has long been on my dream list. This is the most comprehensive resource I think I’ve ever come across for the New Zealand!

    1. Delphine

      January 8, 2020 at 6:59 pm

      Hi Sage, thank you, we packed a lot in just two weeks. I want to go back and discover more as soon as I can!

  8. Heather

    January 8, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    I’m so jealous you got to honeymoon in NZ! I want to go there so badly! The views of the Lyttelton Harbour are flat out amazing! That Beach Cafe dish looks gorgeous and would be a must-try. Although I’m not a beer fan, I would have to visit Monteith’s Brewery for all the colorful photography I could get. I’ve never heard of the Pancake Rocks but they are really cool and unique. And a HUGE bucket list item for me are the glow worms. Oh my stars there’s so much to do in NZ!

    1. Delphine

      January 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      New Zealand is only three hours from Sydney so it’s easy for us! New Zealand is always so far away from most places. It’s worth the long journey though, it’s such a magnificent country!

  9. Yukti Agrawal

    January 10, 2020 at 6:15 am

    Wow it is great to visit such a beautiful place and it is lovely that you had spent 2 weeks in New Zealand South Island. Canterbury Countryside looks a relaxing place for me and I would spend a lot of my time here. Thanks for sharing a great itinerary.

    1. Delphine

      January 11, 2020 at 9:53 am

      Hi Yukti, 2 weeks in New Zealand is not enough to see everything but we did pack a lot into our trip, we need to go back soon though!

  10. Ruby

    January 18, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    It looks like a fantastic trip. A very detailed and comprehensive post too.

    1. Delphine

      January 18, 2020 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks Ruby, we had two very busy weeks of travel in New Zealand!

  11. Erica

    January 18, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    What a great post! I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I’ve always wanted to visit. I haven’t done any research on New Zealand, but your post just did it all for me! Saving it for when I plan a trip to New Zealand.

    1. Delphine

      January 18, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Erica, there is a lot to see in New Zealand. I have been there several times but I’m still not done with it!

  12. Karen Warren

    January 18, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Hi, I’m going back to New Zealand next year so a great post for resources. I found a couple of new places to visit in your post. thanks.

    1. Delphine

      January 19, 2020 at 9:39 am

      Hi Karen, New Zealand is beautiful, I have more places I want to see, I need to take another trip…

  13. April

    January 18, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    What a jam packed itinerary! There were several places I wanted to get to on the South Island (like Pancake Rocks which look stunning) but I spent more time hiking than driving so some places are on my to do list for next time. Looks like you had amazing weather, too!

    1. Delphine

      January 19, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Hi April, the weather wasn’t always good, we had some really wet days. Thankfully, blue skies over New Zealand are really stunning, we got lucky at Pancake Rocks, the sun came out just for us!

  14. Sneha Joshi

    January 18, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    I was in New Zealand 10 years ago. Your post has rekindled those memories. Beautiful place and your post does it full justice Delphine!

    1. Delphine

      January 19, 2020 at 9:35 am

      Hi Sneha, we spent our honeymoon in New Zealand 10 years ago and this was our anniversary trip, we loved it! I hope to keep going back soon!

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