Choose a base to fly in and out of, this way you can do a round trip and visit most of the island. You could fly into Christchurch or Queenstown, but because we flew into Queenstown our itinerary begins and ends here.
We tried to hit as much of the island as we could without spending too much time in the car!
Now don't get me wrong.. there are definitely some long driving days in this itinerary.. However to us it was worth it as it meant we got to see so much more of the island!
- Te Anau/Milford Track/Milford Sound
- Arrow town & Wanaka
- Mt Aspiring National Park, Fox Glacier & Franz Josef Glacier
- Abel Tasman National Park
- Hanmer Springs
- Lake Tekapo
- Lake Pukaki & Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park
Fly in and pick up your JUCY camper van, we got the Condo! The condo has plenty of room to move and stand up whilst cooking and is completely self sufficient (it has a sink with a water tank and although you would probably only want to use it in emergencies, it also has a loo). This means that you are able to camp in all the amazing Freedom Camping* zones around the island.
*There are loads of free campgrounds around NZ that you need to be certified as “self contained” to use. Self contained means that you have a loo on board and you have your own water supply. Both of which the JUCY condo has!
Also best thing about this camper (I think) is that it is still small enough to fit in normal car parking spots, this is SUPER beneficial when visiting and parking in towns!
Now download the free app “Camper Mate”. It is INVALUABLE. It works off your GPS (on and offline) and shows you all the different campgrounds available! It includes the Free freedom camping sites, cheap government run DOC (Department of Conservation) sites and paid campgrounds too!
Explore the town for a day, it’s beautiful but also very busy and touristy so if you’re into that then there are plenty of shops to look around in!
There are plenty camping stores and places to stock up on food and supplies for any upcoming hikes you might have booked! (Or should look in to booking because they’re awesome!)
If you’re not so much into shopping (like us) then head up to the Queenstown Hill hike. It takes roughly an hour and boasts some great views of Queenstown. Also you can play Frisbee Golf in the botanical gardens! It's a lot of fun, even for people with zero frisbee skills (myself). You can hire or buy Frisbees in town for as little as $5!
Make sure to get your fill of adrenalin activities here too. There is everything from bungee jumping and sky diving to underwater speed boating in a boat/submarine thing shaped like a shark. Yes, this is a real thing.
Te Anau / Milford Track / Milford Sound
Te Anau is 2 hours south of Queenstown, Milford Sound is 4.5 hours from Queenstown.
We headed South to Te Anau as this is where we started our Milford Track from. Unless you’re also headed to the Milford Track Te Anau is not an essential stop! It’s a nice lake with some beautiful mountains but lucky for you the South Island has loads of Lakes, majority of which are ringed by stunning mountains!
That being said you should definitely head to Milford Sound. We STRONGLY suggest doing the Milford track (after all it isn’t called "the finest walk in the world" for nothing) but if hiking isn’t your thing, or you don’t have the time for a 4 day hike then doing a cruise of Milford Sound is probably the next best thing (NB: We didn’t do a cruise but we’re told its good!).
For further convincing to do the Milford Track, CLICK HERE to read our blog on the 4 day trek!
We only spent a couple of hours here on our way to Wanaka. Arrowtown is a cute old style town with some nice bars and a terrific candy shop. Worth a little visit if you’re headed that way.
Also check out The Fork and Tap, a local pub with plenty of craft beers and local wines on offer!
Wanaka is beautiful! It’s a cute town set on a beautiful lake with super pretty snow capped mountains (obviously this depends on the time of the year). You can walk around the lake, hire bikes or do various hikes in the region really easily.
Some highlights are Isthmus Peak and Roy's Peak, both which give panoramic views of the lake and the southern alps.
If you need/want Wi-Fi, hot showers and a spa we suggest staying at the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park! Alternatively if you just need the bare minimum (somewhere to park and a beautiful river) we suggest staying at the Albert Town campground, just outside Wanaka town.
We squeezed these all into one day! We wanted to head west and north and decided we would hit these 3 places on the way.
We didn’t spend much time in the Mt Aspiring National Park however we did stop and do the Blue Pools walk. It’s short, easy and really beautiful! We then drove another couple of hours North West to the Glaciers. We much preferred Franz Josef to Fox, however the size of both of them comparatively to what they were less than 10 years ago is scary. Sean saw Fox Glacier 10 years ago on a school trip, and today it is unrecognisable compared to how impressive it was back then. He was seriously depressed at the amount it had diminished. We all hear about climate change all of the time, but to see its effects first hand is terrifying.
This park stretches a fair amount of coastline along the South Island's northern end. There is plenty of beautiful blue water, white sand, and incredible views to be had. We spent a day venturing into the park along the main walking track which started basically from our camp ground! We stayed at The Barn hostel & campground and it was once of the best camp grounds we've stayed at yet!
If you have a couple of days here and some good weather, plenty of people have recommended to us to go for a kayaking trip to get a different view of this amazing landscape. And of course there is one of NZ's Great walks "The Abel Tasman Coastal Track".
Home to some above average kiwi weather, some wonderful cafés, good coffee, plenty of good breweries and vineyards in the surrounding area. There are bike hire places in the area that specialise in making itineraries for you to squeeze as much of this as possible into a day or two.
We only stopped here for a meal on our way between Abel Tasman & Christchurch so we don't have many pictures. However we did have lunch at the worlds best Vegetarian & Vegan restaurant, East St!
Cute little town with some amazing scenery built around a hot spring complex. To be honest we weren't too thrilled with the springs which were basically plastic spas with the aroma of both chlorine and sulfur. Spas aren't really our thing though, so hey whatever floats your boat. We did find a really nice little freedom camping spot here just out of town, so it's worth a stop to rest a weary driver, and to stretch your legs with a stroll through some pretty scenery.
Awesome to see how the South Island's biggest city is rebuilding itself after the devastating earthquake in 2011. It's definitely worth negotiating the chaos downtown (plenty of carparks now exist on vacant blocks where buildings used to) to see the city getting back on its feet. Go check out the re:start mall too, a mall made from shipping containers.
Vibrant blue lake waters surrounded by even more vibrant coloured flowers. You might feel like Instagram has secretly invaded your visual cortex and applied some insane saturation enhancing filter, but no, that's just Tekapo. Certainly worth a stop or a night on the way to Aoraki/ Mount Cook. There is a freedom campsite out of town, and of you're lucky enough to get a cloudless, moonless night, prepare to have your mind blown.
The home of New Zealand's highest peak and an incredible amount of Glaciers. Whilst this is a mecca for climbers, offering some seriously challenging peaks, there is plenty to explore as well for those who like to keep their feet on relatively level ground.
As the weather here is quite temperamental, there is plenty to see in the visitors centre too.
If you're not entering the park via helicopter or some insane traverse from the west (not even sure if that's possible), you're bound to drive along Lake Pukaki on the way into and out of the park. Stop and have a picnic, or even just grab a few snaps, here's another one of New Zealand's insanely photogenic spots.
We hope you enjoy!
Also a massive thanks to JUCY for making our trip possible! Make sure to check these guys out for all your Road Trippin' needs! www.jucyworld.com, and don't forget to give them a like on social media @JUCYworld!