If you love the adrenaline rush of rafting down white water rapids, the high of bungee jumping through hundred meter canyons, and the thrill of climbing glacier capped mountains, then the South Island New Zealand should be first on your bucket list! While we have traveled to 60 countries around the world, New Zealand quickly climbed to the top of our favorite countries shortly upon arrival. From the moment we stepped onto our Air New Zealand flight, we knew we were in for the adventure of a lifetime. Between its rugged mountains, natural beauty, and jaw dropping landscape, New Zealand rapidly had us hooked.

South Island New Zealand

We spent two full weeks driving around the spectacular South Island of New Zealand, camping, adventuring, and making memories to last a lifetime. While it may sound like a lot to drive around the entire South Island, road trip culture is widely accepted in New Zealand. With so many beautiful stops around this island, driving is the best way to experience all that New Zealand has to offer. Here are our recommendations for an epic adventure through the South Island of New Zealand.


Days 1 – 2: Queenstown

Day 3: Te Anau

Day 4: Milford Sound

Day 5: Fiordland National Park

Day 6: Wanaka

Day 7: Mt. Aspiring National Park

Day 8: Mt. Cook National Park

Day 9: Glaciers

Day 10: Christchurch

Day 11: Blenheim

Days 12 – 13: Abel Tasman National Park

Day 14: Nelson

south island new zealand - lake

Day 1, Queenstown: Fly Air New Zealand to Queenstown, New Zealand, the adventure capital of the world. Pick up your Camper Van or RV (we compared prices and hired a Wicked Camper through Compare and Choose). Book this way in advance as campers sell out fast.

South Island New Zealand - vinyard

Day 2, Queenstown: Buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life with Shotover Canyon Swing. Strap in and bungee swing 108 meters up through the canyons of Queenstown. Dine at Fat Badgers for the best pizza in town and camp at Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park.

south island new zealand - Queenstown

Day 3, Te AnauExplore the glow worm caves of beautiful Te Anau. Take a hike through the Routeburn Track and go for a long walk on the shores of the lake. Drive Time: 2.5 hours

Day 4, Milford Sound: Drive down to Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. Take a cruise through the majestic fiords of Milford Sound with Cruise Milford. Camp at Milford Sound Lodge.

Drive time: 1.5-2 hours

South Island New Zealand

Day 5, Fiordland National Park to Wanaka: Leave Milford Sound in the morning and stop at the Lake Marian hike in Fiordland National Park. This three-hour hike is not for the faint of heart, however, the glacial lake at the top is worth the steep hour hike up. Pack a sandwich and enjoy the quietness of nature at the top. Once done, drive up to Lake Wanaka to rest for the night.

Drive Time: 4 hours

Day 6, Wanaka: Pick your athletic poison! Hire kayaks, bikes or a sailboat and enjoy the splendors of Lake Wanaka. After freshening up, enjoy a drink at Gin & Rasberry and dinner at The Landing. Camp at Wanaka that evening.

Day 7, Mt. Aspiring National Park: Drive up to Mt. Aspiring National Park, home of the Blue Pools. Take this 30-minute hike to the ice blue pools where you can swim and sunbathe on the banks of the water.

Drive Time: 1 hour

South Island New Zealand

Day 8, Mt. Cook: Hikers, rejoice! It’s time to visit the highest mountain in all of New Zealand. Take the beautiful drive through the lavender fields, past the ice blue lakes of Lake Pukaki, to end at the magnificent Mt. Cook. Enjoy the 6+-mile hike through the Hooker Valley. There are three swing bridges to pass on this hike. Make sure you walk past the second swing bridge, as the view will take your breath away.

South Island New Zealand

Day 9, Franz Josef or Fox Glacier: New Zealand is filled with surprises, but one of the best adventures in the entire country is the opportunity to hike a glacier. Take a helicopter from Mt. Cook and choose from Fox or Franz Josef glaciers where you can hike a glacier or even helicopter in. Weather is unpredictable at the glaciers so try allowing a day or two padding around the glacier day as a possible rain date.

Day 10, Christchurch: An artsy and funky city on the rebound from the 11’ quake, spend a day in Christchurch before flying out. Walk through the graffiti art streets of Christchurch and dine at funky restaurant, The Cuban, where you can transport back in time to 1960’s Havana. Make sure to order the Cuban sandwich and a mojito!

Drive Time: 4.5-5 hours

Day 11, Blenheim: Marlborough County is known as wine country in New Zealand, home to hundreds of the best vineyards in all of New Zealand. Take the best wine tour in town with Bubbly Grape Wine Tours. Get picked up bright and early and taste the beautiful wines of the Marlborough region. Make sure to request a visit to Cloudy Bay winery, the best wines we tasted in all of New Zealand.

Drive Time: 4 hours

South Island New Zealand

Days 12 & 13, Abel Tasman National Park: Explore the golden beaches and lush landscape of Abel Tasman National Park. While the full walking track is over 60 km long, you can take smaller day hikes and hire a water taxi to take you back to your start point. For a list of hikes, click here.

Drive Time: 2.5 hour

Day 14, Nelson:  Try to plan this so that you are in Nelson during their famous Saturday market. Enjoy the beach and go kayaking at Kaiteriteri or a Marahau. Explore beautiful Mapua and dine at Jellyfish Cafe as you watch the sunset over the ocean.

Drive Time: 2 hours

South Island New Zealand

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