I was travelling to New Zealand from Australia for a 3-week road trip before heading back to the UK. I planned to do both the North and South Island so have written a post on both including my itinerary, the route I took and what I saw along the way! I hope you enjoy and it helps you on your travels to this beautiful country…
We arrived into Christchurch from Australia pretty late, we stayed in the Jucy Snooze Hostel for the one night before setting off to Lake Tekapo the following morning! It’s around 2.5-hour drive from Christchurch. Once we arrived at Lake Tekapo, we had dinner watching the sunset by the lake before heading 20 minutes to Lake Alexandra Camp Spot.
This campsite is in a little remote section of this region, it has access to a toilet and was $20 a night. It’s right on the lake so we had a nice (chilly) swim in the morning!
From Lake Alexandra, we drove back into town to grab a coffee before heading 1 hour to Mount Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain!) We hiked the Hooker Valley Trail which was SO worth it! We had absolutely beautiful weather and clarity, meaning Mount Cook was visible the whole way!
The Hooker Valley Trail is a great short day walk with amazing views of Mount Cook and the surrounding terrain. At only 5km in length and a fairly flat 3 hour (1.5 hour there and 1.5 return) walk, it’s well worth it for a morning or afternoon hike! It includes 3 swing bridges and ends at the bottom of Hooker Glacier on the Hooker Lake. You can actually see icebergs on the Lake as you arrive!
After this short hike, we drove around 1.5 hours to our campsite for the night that was situated by the lake and totally free!
We woke up fairly early this morning and drove 2.5 hours to Queenstown. The drive itself was up there with one of the most beautiful drives, never-ending views to look at and so many places to stop and take photos of the landscape!
After spending the afternoon walking around Queenstown, we found a freedom camp spot called 25 mile stream (Glenorchy) – situated just outside of Queenstown in Glenorchy. This spot to camp was one of my favourites of the whole trip. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is absolutely mind-blowing, it follows Lake Wakatipu the whole way and I’ve never witnessed such magical views of lake and mountains meeting. The camp spot is situated right on the lake so amazing if you fancy a swim in the evening or morning! There are only around 10 spaces at this camp spot, so make sure you arrive late afternoon to guarantee a spot!
After a morning swim, we spent the day taking a slow drive to Colac Bay where we spent the afternoon surfing then watching the sunset. We parked up and camped right on the seafront with amazing views of the sun setting behind the horizon.
We left early this morning to head to Te Anau to explore the Fiordland National Park. On the way, there are amazing places to stop – like Clifton Suspension Bridge! After arriving in Te Anau and checking in for a camp spot at Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park (this campsite has amazing facilities for laundry, cooking and catching up on laptop work!) we headed for a trip to the Glow Worm Cave!
The trip departed from Te Anau waterfront and cost around $100 each. The trip itself lasts around 2.5 hours, including a 30-minute ferry to the western shores of Te Anau. The trip includes a twisting walk through the cave following limestone passages, whirlpools and a waterfall before arriving to the boat that takes you further into the cave. On the boat, they turn all lights off as you venture in to see the Glow Worms in their natural habitat – this part lasts about 20 minutes. You aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the cave as it can kill the Glow Worms but below is an image from the official site of what it looks like:
After a night in Te Anau, we woke up early to hike the Kepler Track (day hike). We drove to the car park which was around 20 minutes from the town and is around a 1.5 hour walk to the bottom of the Kepler Track. The ascend up the mountain takes around 2+ hours and is steady but slow hike up winding through forest with the only views being once you reach the top! I’m glad we hiked this track but I wouldn’t do it again – the walk wasn’t too enjoyable as it’s just through forest land. The views from the top were amazing but it’s so weather dependent so definitely check the weather before hiking!
We then drove back to Queenstown to meet some friends for dinner and to experience a night out in the lively town!
This morning was adventure morning as we had booked to do the Nevis Swing! WHAT an experience this was. The whole trip was great from the drive to the swing destination to the experience of the swing. It’s something I am SO glad I’ve done but I probably wouldn’t do it again hehe. I actually found it worse than a skydive :’)
After an adrenaline-filled morning, we drove to another of my favourite free camp spots called Lowburn Harbour Overnight Camping – it has toilet facilities and is right on the lakefront! There is a lovely grocery and farm shop around 5 minutes up the road that’s well worth a visit and stock up on your groceries!
This camp spot is around a 40-minute drive to Wanaka so we headed there in the morning to explore the town, lake and of course the famous Wanaka Tree!
Another pretty epic drive is from Wanaka to Haast – we stopped off at the Blue Pools where you can jump off the suspension bridge into the crystal blue glacier water. We stayed at another campsite called Haast River Motels & Holiday Park – a great spot for a shower, freshen up and place to cook some dinner. It has an old plane hanger so pretty cool to hang out here for an evening!
Today was a big driving day from Haast to Greymouth, the scenery was lovely but not many places to stop off and explore. We camped by the Ocean at another freedom camping spot called Blake town Quay. It had great shower and toilet facilities but there’s only a limited number of spaces as it’s a car park so make sure you arrive within plenty of time!
We were heading to Picton today to catch a ferry to the north island. Stopping at Lake Rotoiti is well worth a stop and visit if you have time! We stayed here for a couple of hours to soak up the views before catching a 7pm from Picton to Wellington!
The South Island was one of my favourite road trips to date. There was so much endless beauty, if you’re lucky enough to travel here – I’m so excited for you. You will LOVE it.