Why you should visit New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, mostly because of the huge diversity in landscapes.
New Zealand is only slightly bigger than the U.K. but has just a fraction of the inhabitants, 5 million people are living in NZ versus 67 million in the UK. Consequently, there is so much unspoiled nature to be explored.
Fun fact: New Zealand actually consists of more than 600 islands, though the two largest ones are the North and the South Island.
From beautiful beaches to active volcanoes and from lush green tropical forest to towering mountains, New Zealand has it all.
This road trip itinerary includes as many highlights on New Zealand’s South Island as you can possibly (comfortably) cover in two weeks. Though honestly, you could spend months or even years exploring this amazing country without running out of things to see and do.
How to get around New Zealand’s South Island
Before we get to the itinerary it’s important to decide how you’ll explore the South Island. In my humble opinion there is only one best way to explore NZ and that is by having your own wheels.
More specifically: rent a campervan (self-contained preferably) and spend the day exploring the many spectacular sites of NZ South Island and the night at campsites with the most amazing views. If you’re very lucky you may even be the only one there…
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New Zealand South Island 2-week road trip itinerary
- Day 1: start your trip in Christchurch, pick up your campervan, pick up some groceries, fill up the tank and hit the road! Drive south via the Summit Road to Akaroa which was founded by French settler in 1840. Stroll around this lovely historic village and enjoy the views over the bay. Spend the night at a campground near Peel Forest and don’t forget to admire the incredibly clear Milky Way once darkness has fallen.
- Day 2: Do some hiking around Peel Forest and marvel at the huge and ancient native trees. Have lunch in Geraldine and continue on your way to Lake Tekapo, one of the most (if not the most) beautiful lakes in NZ. Spend your afternoon admiring the stunning color of Lake Tekapo, visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and take a stroll around the tiny village Lake Tekapo.
- Day 3: Explore Mount Cook National Park. Hike the Tasman Glacier track or for a truly spectacular and unforgettable experience, book a helicopter flight.
- Day 4: Explore Lake Wanaka and Wanaka town. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and get out on the water or go mountain biking on one of the many tracks.
- Day 5: there are countless hiking trails in Mount Aspiring National Park and you could spend a lot more time here than just one day. The Rob Roy Glacier track is a popular but relatively busy hike, check the DOC site for more incredible hikes in Mt. Aspiring NP.
- Day 6-7: Queenstown is the adventure capital of NZ and possibly the world. There are numerous adrenaline inducing activities to choose from. From jetboating to skydiving and rafting, Queenstown is the place to be.
- Day 7-8: the Milford Sound is simply stunning and should feature in any New Zealand Road trip. Take a cruise (overnight if your budget allows it), visit the Chasm and take a picture at the Mirror Lakes.
- Day 11-13: the Wild West Coast (Haast to Westport) is a bit of a drive from the Milford Sound but driving in New Zealand is such a huge part of your trip. The views are magnificent and the roads mostly empty. Along the way there are countless of worthwhile stops so you can stop every hour to stretch your legs and take yet another beautiful picture. Once you’ve made it to the Wild West Coast, spend the next few days slowly making your way up. Admire the splendid coastal views, hike to the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers, check out the Pancake Rocks and marvel at the color of the white rocks and vivid blue water at Hokitika Gorge.
- Day 14: drive back to Christchurch and return your campervan. Your epic South Island Road trip has come to an end…
I guarantee you’ll be (not-so-secretly) planning another trip to New Zealand because there is much more to see. For more New Zealand travel inspiration, check out Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog.
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Lotte is an avid traveler who loves road trips, hiking, camping and scuba diving. She is a mom of two, enjoys cooking (and eating), can quote pretty much every scene from Friends, and loves to help people plan their trips. Lotte writes about her adventures on Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog.