Day 1 & 2: Christchurch
Once you arrive in Christchurch, get a sim card from one of the booths at the airport so that you have access to the internet and maps. Pick up your rental and you’re set to go! You might want to pick up some snacks and essentials from any store nearby for your trip.
Christchurch is one of the largest and most touristy cities in New Zealand. Brimming with architecture, scenic natural surroundings, art, and adventure, it is every vacationer’s paradise. We recommend spending 2 days here so that you can visit as many attractions here as possible.
Things to do in Christchurch:
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The Christchurch Botanic Garden has been one of the main attractions of the city since 1863. Spread across 21 hectares of land, it is home to ten gardens consisting of rare and exotic plant species from all over the world and over 250 different kinds of roses.
Not only that, but you can also watch different kinds of birds here during the spring or shop at the gift shop and or just hang out at the cafe. The best part of all of it? Free admission!
If the adventures at Queenstown were not enough for you, then don’t you worry cause Christchurch also offers some adrenaline rushing activities to get you excited. You can go skydiving here.
Visit The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
On February 22, 2011, Christchurch experienced a disastrous earthquake that took the lives of 185 people and left many others injured, and stripped thousands of people of their homes.
The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial was opened in honor of the people who were deeply affected by it. The memorial has a wall where the names of everyone who lost their lives or were affected by it are written, and people go here to pay their respects and honor their memories. There are also 185 white empty chairs placed here as a symbol of those who are no longer here due to the earthquake.
To explore Christchurch on a budget, you can read Top 12 Things To See & Do In Christchurch On A Budget.
Other attractions in Christchurch:
Where to stay in Christchurch:
JUCY Snooze Christchurch
All Stars INN
Sandy Feet Hotel
Where to eat in Christchurch:
The Burger Joint
Day 3: Lake Tekapo
Drive time: 2 h 43 min
Distance: 225.5 km
Things to do:
One of the main attractions around Lake Tekapo is the Church of the Good Shepherd. This small and quiet church was built to honor the pioneers of The Mackenzie country. The view of the Southern Alps and the lake from here is beautiful.
If you prefer to spend a night here, then you can do Stargazing. Lake Tekapo has been declared to be the largest International Dark Sky Reserve in the world and is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. You can also soak in a hot tub as you lose yourself in the mesmerizing beauty of the stars.
Other attractions in Lake Tekapo:
Where to Stay in Lake Tekapo:
Where to Eat in Lake Tekapo:
Blue Lake Eatery And Bar
Our Dog Friday
Dark Sky Diner
Drive time: 1 h 10 min
Distance: 104.2 km
Drive to Lake Pukaki from here and you’ll find more stunning views of bright turquoise water. You can stop here for a picnic or start driving to Mount Cook Village right away.
The drive from Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook Village is astounding. It will make you want to stop and stare every few minutes at the beautiful views surrounding the drive.
You will want to reach here before sunset. Head to Mount Cook National Park which has been listed as a World Heritage area. With glaciers, rivers, beautiful mountain views, and hiking options, it is definitely an experience you can't miss out on. You can do the Hooker Valley Track here which is a 3-hour return walk on a pretty well-maintained trail which is pretty easy for people of all ages and abilities.
You can view landscapes, boardwalks, picturesque views of Mount Cook, and some suspension bridges on this walk.
There is also a campground here called White Horse Hill Campground if you want to spend a night here and camp. You can find information about the costs and options for camping here.
Day 4: Explore Mount Cook
Wake up early today and explore Mount Cook.
Things to do in Mount Cook:
You can hike up to Sealy Tarns and do a 4-hour return trip up to the lakes of Sealy Tarns or hike up to Tasman Glacier's viewpoint. The hike to Tasman Glacier viewpoint is easier than the hike to Sealy Tarns and you can get views of pretty blue-green water lakes. This hike is not that difficult since the path consists of stairs. If you want to see icebergs from close proximity, then this is the place for you.
Other attractions in Mount Cook:
Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre
Get a 360-degree view of the Southern Alps from Mueller Hut
View the mountains up close from a helicopter
Where to stay in Mount Cook:
White Horse Hill Campground
YHA Mt Cook
The Hermitage Hotel Mount Cook
Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge
Where to eat in Mount Cook:
Head to Queenstown from here.
Day -5 & 6 : Queenstown
Drive time: 3 h 4 min
Distance: 263.0 km
When it comes to balancing between breathtaking natural wonders and getting an adventurer’s heart beating faster with excitement, Queenstown is a pro. Also known as New Zealand’s adventure capital, it is heaven for those who love sports and outdoor activities. It is famous for being home to a plethora of activities such as jet boating, bungee jumping, white water rafting, skydiving, and indoor activities.
Things to do:
If you love activities that get your heart pumping, then Queenstown is the place for you. Go Bungee jumping, hike to the top via the Tiki Trail. You can also head to the Shot Over river where you can take a jetboat ride and do white water rafting.
Relax at the Onsen Hot Pools and indulge in the breathtaking views from the pool. They also offer an extensive range of face and body treatments for both women and men.
Visit the beautiful village of Arrowtown
A popular day trip from Queenstown is Milford Sound. If you are up for the nearly 4 hour drive, Milford Sound is a true natural wonder, consisting of mountains, rainforests and waterfalls, which can be best explored through an organized cruise in the area.
Other attractions in Queenstown:
Where to stay in Queenstown
Where to Eat
Jervois Steak House
The Taj Indian Kitchen
Day 7 & 8: Wanaka
Drive time: A little over 1 hour
Head to Wanaka in the morning. Start early so that you have the entire day to explore. With over 750km of trails catered for walking, hiking, and mountain biking, there’s a lot to do in Wanaka to get the adventure lovers excited!
Things to do:
For all you adventurer seekers out there, there are tons of activities to get your blood pumping. Go canoeing, Skydiving, jet-boating, kayaking in the summer, and if you’re visiting in the winter, don’t let your hopes down, cause there are four very unique ski areas Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snow Farm, and Soho Basin all located within a 40-minute drive from the town center for skiing and snowboarding.
Go hiking at Roy’s Peak. This is one of the most popular hikes in Wanaka and the view from the top is totally worth the hike.
If you’re not that big on outdoor activities and would love to just relax on your trip, then say no more cause Wanaka’s got you covered for that too! There are lots of boutique retail stores, art galleries, and museums you can visit.
There are also amazing restaurants and cafes, vineyards and boutique breweries you might want to visit.
Explore Lake Wanaka
Wanaka Lavender Farm, covering 20 acres of land with picturesque lavender fields is just a few minutes from Wanaka. You can indulge yourself in some quality time with some friendly farm animals, walk through the flowers, and treat yourself to a beautiful sight of display gardens, herbal tea, and lavender ice creams!
Other attractions in Wanaka:
Where to stay in Wanaka:
Where to Eat in Wanaka:
Day 9: Haast
Drive time: 1 h 45 min
Distance: 142.7 km
Head to Haast in the morning and spend the day today driving around and stopping at waterfalls, lakes, and rivers since Haast Pass is home to beautiful rivers and waterfalls.
Things to do:
Spend some time at the Blue Pools Walk which is one of the most beautiful short walks. A short drive away from here is the Fantail Falls which is a 23-meter waterfall that you definitely want to see. If this is not impressive enough for you, then don’t worry because there’s an even greater 92-meter fall called the Thunder Creek Falls which you can visit.
Other attractions in Haast:
Haast River Safari
Knights Point Lookout
Swamp Forest Walk
Where to stay in Haast:
Head to Franz Josef from here.
Day 10 & 11: Franz Josef
Drive time: Around 2 hours
Once you’re in Franz Josef, you might wanna unwind after a day of walking and traveling. Head to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, where they have three Main Pools which make their way through the rainforest and offer an amazing place to relax and revive in the midst of nature. You can also get a massage here. Adult single entry for the main pools is $29.00 and $99.00 for a private pool for two people.
At Franz Josef, you’ll find that there are two popular glaciers here – Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier, which are very closely located to each other. We recommend spending at least 2 days here since there’s a lot to do and see in this part of town.
The weather here is known to be very bipolar, so you might want to prepare for that beforehand. You can take a helicopter ride here over Franz Josef Glacier which will reward you with a view of the glacier from above. However, you have to make sure that you book your ride in advance since it’s pretty popular and often get sold out.
Things to do:
Glow Worms Nightwalk- if you want to spot glow worms, then head to The Terrace Walk, which is a dark forest covered path and you’ll be able to lay your eyes on the beautiful glow worms here and there.
Visit the West Coast Wildlife Centre where you can witness the hatching and incubation program of New Zealand’s national bird- the kiwi!
Other attractions in Franz Josef:
The Helicopter Line
Tatare Tunnels Walk
Where to stay in Franz Josef:
Where to eat in Franz Josef:
The Canopy Restaurant
Day 12: Westport
Drive time: 3h 30min
Distance: 271.1 km
Head to Westport from Franz Josef early in the morning and you can stop at Hokitika Gorge along the way. The vibrant turquoise water here will leave you in awe. You can also visit Lake Matheson for some picturesque views. Continue to Westport once you’re done and spend the night here.
Things to do in Westport:
Visit art galleries
Walk around at the Cape Foulwind Walkway for a splendid viewing experience of a seal colony. You also get to witness a historic lighthouse and beautiful coastal views on the 40-minute one-way walk.
Stargaze at the North Beach where people are known to make small bonfires at the end of North Beach Road and toast marshmallows and enjoy the tranquil environment there.
Other attractions in Westport:
Nine Mile Beach
Seal Colony Tauranga Bay
Where to Stay in Westport:
Where to Eat in Westport:
Day 13: Hanmer Springs
Drive Time: 2h 45m
Distance: 214.4 km
Things to do:
Hanmer Springs is a resort town famous for its Thermal Pools. At The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa, there are different outdoor pools catering to both children and adults such as Rainbow Pools, Aqua Therapy Pools, and Sulphur Pools. You need to buy your tickets in advance to make sure you reserve your spot.
There are some forest walks that you can go for too when you’re here. Visiting the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park, which is spread across 22 acres of tree-lined land, is also an option.
Other attractions in Hanmer Springs:
Where to stay in Hanmer Springs:
Where to eat in Hanmer Springs:
No31 Restaurant and Bar
Day 14: Christchurch
Head back to Christchurch today If you missed out on any activity that you have wanted to do in Christchurch earlier, today is the day to get it done. Return your campervan or rental car. Your 2-week south island trip is done and you can start preparing for your next adventure!