New Zealand South Island Travel Guide

April 05, 2019

New Zealand South Island Travel Guide

New Zealand is famous for its breathtaking scenery, and especially the South Island! Thus, I was very excited to go on a 14-day road trip in New Zealand South Island in winter. Read on and watch my vlog for more details of our trip! 

New Zealand South Island Road Trip: Travel Itinerary | 14 Day Travel Guide
• Day 1: Christchurch to Tekapo to Mt Cook
• Day 2: Mt Cook to Queenstown
• Day 3 - 4: Queenstown and day trip to Glenorchy
• Day 5: Frankton to Cardrona to Wanaka
• Day 6: Wanaka to Franz Josef
• Day 7: Franz Josef to Greymouth
• Day 8: Greymouth to Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura
• Day 9 - 10: Kaikoura
• Day 11: Kaikoura to Cheviot to Waipara
• Day 12: Akaroa
• Day 13 - 14: Christchurch

Day 1: Driving from Christchurch to Mt Cook
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

We took a red-eye flight from Singapore and landed in Christchurch at 9:30am in the morning. We collected our rental car that is located near to the airport, from Snap Rentals. In total, we paid about SGD $680 for renting 15 days. We chose to go for the premium mid-sized sedan because I suffer from car-sickness, and it will be better to get a better car for a smoother ride for the long journey ahead.

We stopped at Tekapo along the way, and visited the "must-see" places like Church of the Good Shepard, Lake Tekapo, and Mount John University Observatory. It was pretty crowded at Church of the Good Shepard, and if you are thinking of getting a nice shot without tourists, be ready to wait for very long because the place was packed with visitors. Despite the crowd, it is still a beautiful sight to view, with the church against the amazing backdrop.

Lake Tekapo turned out to be one of my favourite places from this trip. The scenery is breathtaking and the water is unbelievably clear. We managed to take some couple shots at this place, undisturbed by other travellers (which also makes taking selfies with a tripod and remote less embarrassing hahaha).

If you have time, drive up to Mount John University Observatory. You can see amazing views from up there, and can visit the cafe for some drinks of snacks if needed. Do note that there is a small entrance fee to drive up.

Church of the Good Shepard
Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand

Lake Tekapo
7999, New Zealand

Mount John University Observatory
422 Godley Peaks Road, Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand 

Day 2: Mt Cook to Queenstown
Accommodation: Nugget Point, a THC Group Hotel 

We woke up early to walk at the Hooker Valley Track - it's 10km and took approximately 3 hours in total. At the end of the track, you will be rewarded with amazing views of Hooker Glacier. Although it was winter when we went, we ended up removing our winter jackets because the track worked up a sweat 😂

There are limited food options at Mt Cook, but we found a cosy place called Old Mountaineers' Cafe, Bar and Restaurant. We ordered the pizza, muffin, and chai latte - to refuel all the energy burnt from the walk in the morning! 

After lunch, we drove towards Queenstown where we would be staying for 3 nights. Along the way, we drove to Lindis Pass. One reviewer on TripAdvisor perfectly described Lindis Pass: "This alpine area of tall, tussock-covered mountains is beautiful in every season, but with a dusting of snow it's particularly enchanting."

We ended the night with a simple meal at KFC, and also queued at the Cookie Time Cookie Bar in the Queenstown city center. There were so many cookie options to choose from, and we stuck to classics like the Original and Triple Chocolate Chunk. They even offer cookie dough ice creams, ice cream sandwiches, and shakes.

Hooker Valley Track/Hooker Glacier
Hooker Valley Track, Mt Cook National Park 7999, New Zealand

 Old Mountaineers' Cafe, Bar and Restaurant
Aoraki Mount Cook Village 7999, New Zealand

Lindis Pass
9382, New Zealand

Cookie Time Cookie Bar
18 Camp Street, Queenstown

Day 3-4: Queenstown and day trip to Glenorchy
Accommodation: Nugget Point, a THC Group Hotel 

We kickstarted the day at the Onsen Hot Pools - they have private hot spas with spectacular views that make you never want to leave. It's best to make reservations in advance, as they tend to get fully booked. Highly recommended place! We were lucky that our hotel is located just next to it, so we could stroll over.

As Jon was still feeling bloated from the night before (he was having some digestive problems), we skipped lunch and headed to Coronet Peak Ski Area. We didn't ski, and we headed up there just to see snow #HardlySeeSnow #LivingInTheEquator. The view and snow is worth the drive up. 

If you enjoy wine, do visit the wineries in the area like Gibbston Valley Wine, Chard Farm Vineyard, and Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door.

We also stopped by the Pillars of the King, where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. 
"Although the mighty statues of Isildur and Andrion were superimposed in the film, the Kawarau River is clearly recognisable as Middle Earth's Anduin."

If you are in Queenstown, the Fergburger is a must-try! Even though we went quite early before dinner time actually started, there was already a queue. The burgers are huge and juicy. The onion rings are surprisingly good too! 

The next day, we visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park. The conservation show was informative, and we got to see kiwi! No photography or videography is allowed in the kiwi enclosure, as they are nocturnal birds and light from the camera might affect them. 

Lunch was at Vudu Café & Larder. Their soup was amazing! So unassuming and simple, but absolutely delicious. I still think about it till this day. Highly recommended place!

On our drive to Glenorchy (about 55 minutes away from Queenstown city center), it started to rain. We waited for the rain to become light before heading to the animal farm at Glenorchy Animal Experience. The animals were super cute and it was still a fun experience despite the wet weather.

We drove back to Queenstown for dessert at Patagonia Ice Creamery & Chocolaterie. They are very generous with their servings.

Onsen Hot Pools
160 Arthurs Point Rd, Arthurs Point 9371, New Zealand 

Coronet Peak Ski Area
Coronet Peak Ski Area, Queenstown 9371, New Zealand

Gibbston Valley Wine
Chard Farm Vineyard
Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door
Wet Jacket Wines

Pillars of the King
205 Chard Rd, Gibbston 9371, New Zealand

42 Shotover St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Kiwi Birdlife Park
Upper Brecon Street, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Vudu Café & Larder
16 Rees St, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Glenorchy Animal Experience
225 Glenorchy-Paradise Rd, Glenorchy 9372, New Zealand

Patagonia Ice Creamery & Chocolaterie
2 Rees Street | Cnr of The Mall and Rees Street, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Day 5: Frankton to Cardrona to Wanaka
Accommodation: Wanaka Edge Apartments

From Queenstown, we headed towards Wanaka. Along the way, we visited Frankton to shop and decided to eat at a Thai restaurant called Thaitanium (lol @ the punny name), and it was decent Thai food. Only comment is that the food could be spicier. 

Then, we visited the Cardrona Hotel - one of New Zealand's oldest hotels that was established in 1863. In the past, Cardrona was a prosperous settlement and significant commercial hub for the area.

After a 50 minute drive, we arrived at Wanaka. There's a beautiful winery called Rippon Vineyard, do visit if you have the time. And of course, that Wanaka Tree is a must-see. Even though there were quite a number of tourists at there, it was still worth visiting and nice to take a stroll. Ended the night with yummy slow food at Big Fig, and ice cream from Black Peak Gelato Wanaka.

5, Remarkables Park Shopping Centre Riverside Rd, Frankton, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand

Cardrona Hotel
Cardrona Valley Rd, Cardrona 9381, New Zealand

Rippon Vineyard
246 Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Rd, Wanaka 9381, New Zealand

That Wanaka Tree
59 Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Rd, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand

Big Fig Restaurant
105 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand

Black Peak Gelato Wanaka 
5/123 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand

Day 6: Wanaka to Franz Josef
Accommodation: Alpine Glacier Motel

If you are looking for unique activities, head over to Crossfire Wanaka. They offer a range of activities, like clay bird shooting, target shooting, archery, golf driving range, mini golf course, hole-in-one challenge, & unique battlefield game. We went for the package of 4 activities - target shooting, archery, clay bird shooting, and mini golf. It was a fun experience for the both of us. Do make a booking before heading down!

Then, we went for the Blue Pools Track at Makarora. It was a relatively easy path to walk, and not very long. After that, we checked in at our accommodation at the Alpine Glacier Motel in Franz Josef. The staff recommended us to try this Asian restaurant called Snake Bite. Jon is a fan of Asian food, so we tried it, even though we just had Thai food for lunch the day before. On that cool evening, we sat outdoors as we slurped down the spicy noodles and duck noodle soup ðŸ˜‹

Crossfire Wanaka 
9 Mount Barker Rd, Wanaka 9382, New Zealand

Cardrona Hotel

Rippon Vineyard

That Wanaka Tree

Big Fig Restaurant
105 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand

Black Peak Gelato Wanaka 
5/123 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand

Day 7: Franz Josef to Greymouth
Accommodation: Apostles View Motel

It was a rainy morning. We had a warm breakfast at Full of Beans, then headed to the Franz Josef Glacier walk even though it was drizzling. Unfortunately, the rain started to get too heavy even before we made it halfway through. As we are not super fit or familiar with outdoor survival, we decided not to risk getting stuck in the bad weather, and turned back instead. Hopefully we have the chance to visit that place one day!

Thankfully, it wasn't raining in Greymouth. There, we visited Monteith's Brewing Company - the place is restaurant, bar, and brewery in one. You can also join the tour to learn more about their brewing process.

If you are interested in histories of places, take some time to visit the Brunner Mine Site Walk. This was one of New Zealand's earliest industrial sites where coal was mined and coke, firebricks and other products were manufactured from the 1860s until the 1940s. There are many signs and boards that you can read to learn about the history of the place.

Full of Beans 
Main Rd, Franz Josef 7886, New Zealand

Monteith's Brewing Company
60 Herbert St, Greymouth 7805, New Zealand

Brunner Mine Site Walk
State Highway 7, Greymouth, New Zealand

Day 8: Greymouth to Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura
Accommodation: The Fairways Apartments 

From Greymouth, we headed towards Kaikoura, stopping at Hanmer Springs along the way and had breakfast at Rustic Cafe & Tapas. OMGGGG the clam chowder soup was amazing! Best clam chowder soup I've ever had (so much seafood in every bite). Highly recommended. Jon ordered the french toast and they were yummy too. Super big portions and friendly staff!

We wanted to visit the thermal pools there, but it was pretty crowded on that day so we skipped it. Instead, we went to the Hanmer Springs Animal Park - fun feeding so many different types of animals, including wallabies, deer, alpaca, and llamas. Entrance fee is NZD $13, and you pay a bit more to get the feedbag.

After a 2 hour drive, we arrived at Kaikoura and checked into the Fairways Apartment. We stayed in for a simple instant noodle dinner while we watched old episodes of Survivor. The apartment was absolutely lovely, so no complains about staying in for the night! (We got the place at a very good deal from agoda, even the owner said it rarely happens!)

Rustic Cafe & Tapas
60 Herbert St, Greymouth 7805, New Zealand

Hanmer Springs Animal Park
108 Rippingale Rd, Hanmer Springs 7334, New Zealand

Day 9-10: Kaikoura
Accommodation: The Fairways Apartments 

On day 9, we went kayaking and saw seals with the tour group, Kaikoura Kayaks. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about kayaking and seals, and it was a fun and informative experience. Our kayaks were so close to the rocks where the seals rested! The entire experience lasted about 3 hours.

For dinner, we ordered takeaway from Black Rabbit Pizza and Coopers Catch (Fish & Chips). As we simply couldn't get enough of the spacious and lovely apartment.

The next day, we did a Dolphin Swim with the Dolphin Encounter company. This was the highlight of our entire trip, because we got to swim up close with wild dolphins. We were very lucky as on the day we were at sea, we encountered groups of dolphins. These wild dolphins are super friendly and they actually swam closer to us. The guide said that if we hummed a tune, they were more likely to come closer. Even though I'm very fearful of being out in the ocean, I went ahead with it (also because they gave me a float as I'm not a great swimmer hahahah). I'm super thankful to have made that decision because it's an experience I will remember for a lifetime.

We had lunch at the Pier Hotel Restaurant (decent food, but clam chowder was not as good as Rustic Cafe and Tapas) and had desserts at Poppy's Handmade Ice Cream (very yummy frozen berry soft serve!).

Ended our time in Kaikoura at the Peninsula Seal Colony. We didn't spot any seals, but it was nice to catch the sunset from there.

Kaikoura Kayaks
19 Killarney St, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Black Rabbit Pizza
17 Beach Rd, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Coopers Catch
9 W End, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Dolphin Encounter
96 Esplanade, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Pier Hotel Restaurant 
1 Avoca Street, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Poppy's Handmade Ice Cream 
18 W End, Kaikoura 7300, New Zealand

Peninsula Seal Colony
Point Kean, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Day 11: Kaikoura to Cheviot to Waipara
Accommodation: Country Glen Lodge 

From Kaikoura, we drove towards Cheviot and Waipara. Waipara is known for its wineries, and it is one of New Zealand's fastest growing wine regions. The list below are some of the highly recommended wineries to visit.

Black Estate
614 Omihi Rd, Waipara 7483, New Zealand

Waipara Springs Winery and Cafe
409 Omihi Rd, Waipara 7483, New Zealand

Greystone Wines
376 Omihi Rd, Waipara 7483, New Zealand

Torlesse Wines
Loffhagen Dr, Waipara 7483, New Zealand

Waipara Hills
780 Glasnevin Rd, Waipara, North Canterbury 7483, New Zealand

Terrace Edge Wines
328 Georges Rd, RD2, Waipara 7482, New Zealand

Day 12: Akaroa
Accommodation: Akaroa Criterion Motel 

Akaroa is the most French town in New Zealand, and it won us over with its historic buildings and charming harbour. When we were there, we learnt that many of the locals own holiday homes there, and because it wasn't holiday season, it was pretty quiet. We joined a boat tour where we got to see the wildlife like the birds, seals, and even more dolphins!

Then we had lunch at Bulley Hayes and caught some amazing views from the Akaroa Lighthouse. The food is pretty good, with the highlight of our meal being the iced mocha we ordered that came with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bulley Hayes
57 Beach Road, Akaroa

Akaroa Lighthouse
Beach Road, Akaroa, Akaroa, New Zealand

Day 13 - 14: Christchurch
Accommodation: Best Western FINO Hotel & Suites 

On the last leg of our trip, we headed back to Christchurch. I will share a list of the places we visited below. In particular, I'd like to give a special mention to this cafe called Unknown Chapter Coffee Roasters - their food is delicious and we had this super rich Brownie Raspberry Cheesecake. I've been wanting to recreate that dessert! Will try to find time to do so.

Unknown Chapter Coffee Roasters
254 St Asaph St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

The Caffeine Laboratory
1 New Regent St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

Pedro's House of Lamb
17b Papanui Road | Merivale, Christchurch 8014, New Zealand

Rollickin' Dessert Cafe
35 New Regent St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

Botanic Garden
City Centre Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum
Rolleston Ave, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand

Cardboard Cathedral
234 Hereford St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

New Brighton Pier
Marine Parade, Christchurch, New Zealand

Brockworth Street Art Gallery
33 Riccarton Rd, Riccarton, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

The Tannery - Very charming mall! 
3 Garlands Rd, Woolston, Christchurch 8023, New Zealand

Overall, it was a great trip and everything went relatively smoothly. Would love to visit the country again! Beautiful country with lovely and friendly people.

Thank you for the memories, New Zealand!

New Zealand South Island Travel Guide

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