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Road tripping around New Zealand - South Island

Hey all! I am traveling from the US to Queenstown, New Zealand in November for 6 days. I have a car rental booked and pretty much have free range to do whatever. My question is, where would you recommend going?

Here is what I have so far:

Queenstown & Arrowtown
Milford Sound (I really want to either do a cruise or flight tour)
the Caitlins (Invercargill)
Wanaka --> Roy's Peak & Lake Tekapo
Drive up the west coast to Nelson
Abel Tasman

As you can see, I don't really have a lot of set plans. My main objective is to take it easy but also find the hidden gems :)

Posted by
703 posts

you might want to do a search on this site for New Zealand, as this topic has been covered before. with only 6 days a suggestion would be to spend most of your time, as you have suggested, eg: generally in and around Queenstown. its an 'easy' area to drive around. but don't underestimate the time it will take.

Posted by
271 posts

Having done 9 nights based in Queenstown your schedule appears to be good. We were there in their winter time. We rented a car and it was not an issue getting around. Queenstown is a great place with many great restaurants. There are a number of winery's north of Queenstown if that is something that you would be interested in. We did not go We like to explore by driving to different areas and the areas that we went to were Glenorchy, Kingston, Arrowtown, Wanaka, and Dunedin. We spent a night in Dunedin since it was a bit of a hike for a day trip. We took a bus (tour) out of Queenstown to the Milford sound. I highly recommend that. I can not comment about Invercargill because we did not go. My daughters friends said that it was not worth the trip. I guess I shall never know for sure now. There is bungy jumping and the Nevis swing if you are adventurous.
As for Roy's Peak, Lake Tekapo, Nelson, and Abel Tasman I am sorry but we never went there so I can not comment.
You will have a great trip. Enjoy!

Posted by
6869 posts

We intended last year to go to Australia and take a cruise over to New Zealand and around the islands. For the price of the flight alone, we ended flying Norwegian Air Shuttle to Europe and taking a 12 night cruise out of Rome to Malta, the Greek Isles, to Turkey and back to Venice.
We spent about the same on our last two trips to Europe--with 2 great cruises.

Posted by
94 posts

Have a look at some of the itineraries on the NZ tourism website:

I can see that you're trying to squeeze as much as you can to make the most of your 6 days, but yikes I think you'll pass out from fatigue about day 4!

If this was my trip, I'd drop the Catlins, and either drop or (if you have to) choose one of Nelson/Abel Tasman or Lake Tekapo. This is because:
- you'll have more than enough to keep you occupied in Qtown, Milford and Wanaka for 6 days.
- to get to Tekapo, you're driving in the opposite direction from Nelson (unless you carry to Christchurch and then to Nelson via Lewis Pass...long drive)
- To get to Nelson up the West coast from Wanaka is a big driving day (9 hours or more). Possible...but you need to really want that.

Invercargill...noooooo. It's an agricultural service town at the bottom of the country, not a tourist town. The countryside is lovely, but save it for when you've run out of other places to see. I go there for work and don't linger.

If you really want to take it easy, I'd stay in Qtown for 2 or 3 nights, 1 night in milford on an overnight cruise (fly in or out to save the long drive from Qtown to Milford - if it's in your budget), then 2 or 3 nights in Wanaka (more chilled than Qtown).

Try Real Journeys for Milford or Doubtful cruises.

Posted by
2 posts

Help needed 12 Day itinerary South Island

Hi to all,
Help required, need to finalise the itinerary fast for booking.
Please advise if this itinerary sounds ok , if there can be a better option, or something we are missing .
Option 1

26-Dec arrive christchurch christchurch

27 Christchurch to lake tapekomt cook Stay Mt cook Driving 4.25hr
28 Mt cook to queenstown Stayqueentown Driving 4hrs
29 Hollyford trek None
30 Hollyford trek None
31 Hollyford trek Stay queentown No drivinf time
1 Queenstown to te anau te anau Driving time, doubtful sound/caves
2 te anau to wanaka Stay wanaka driving time 2.5 hrs
3 wanaka to franz joseph StayNear franz Driving 3.5 hrs
4 franz joseph and fox explore

5 fox to grey mouth punakini etc 2hrs
6 transapline train to chrischurch 4 hrs

7 Chrischurch to hong kong

In this case dates of hollyford track cant be changed from 29- 31st either from queestown ot te anau

Option 2

26-Dec arrive christchurch afternoon Stay christchurch

27 Christchurch to lake tapekomt Stay cook Mt cook Drive4.25hr
28 Mount cook to te anau Stay te anau 5 hr (Watch glow caves)
29 doubful /milford sound drive back to queenstn Stay queenstown Drive1.5 hrs
30 Ruteburn

31 routebutn

1 routeburn Stay queenstown

2 queen to wanaka area Stay wanaka Drive 1hr
3 wanaka tp franz jose Stay nearFranz jos Drive 3 hrs
4 franz joseph and fox Explore

5 fox to grey mouth punakini 2hrs
6 transapline train to chrischurch by train
7 Fly back early morning to hong kong

Have a few questions:-
Can i return rental at greymouth
How can i adjust dunedin in itinerary without making it too hectic, is there a route
Can i fly to queenstown when i reach christchurch, is there a shorter driving itinerary starting from queenstown

We dont want to adventure sports but hiking(moderate), star gazing,glacier exploring

Please help, inputs appreciated ,