South Island Intinerary

Hi Everyone, I'm going to be driving around the South Island in July and am looking for some advice on my itinerary. I'd like to take my GF to some places with lots of great scenery and wildlife. Not going to be doing too much skiing. I would like to find some of those 'hidden gem' spots that don't end up in the tourist guides.

Any advice on where to stay is much appreciated, including if you think I should stay longer in one spot or skip a place altogether.

So far I have

7 July Sydney > Christchurch
8 July Christchurch >Dunedin
9 July Dunedin > The Caitlins
10 July The Caitlins > Te Anau
11 July Te Anau>Milford Sound>
12 July Te Anau > Queenstown
13 July Queenstown
14 July Queenstown >Franz Josef Glaciers
15 July Franz Josef Glaciers
16 July Hokitika/Greymouth
17 July Nelson
18 July Kaikora
19 July Christchurch
20 July Christchurch > Sydney

Any 'must do' activities in those locations? A cruise to Milford Sound is definitely on the cards.

Thanks in advance :)



    Looking good. It appears you'll be driving a lot in the course of 12 days, about 2500kms in total or 200km (2.5 hours) a day. Definitely doable so long as you account for the long hauls between Christchurch to Dunners and Queenstown to Franz which are both about 5+ hours drive.

    It may be advisable to go straight from Milford to Queenstown on the 12th to have a day in lieu unless you want to stay in Te Anau again; although this will mean you'll be driving at least 4 hours in one go rather than 1.5 hours + 2.5 hours drive.

    If you have time it may be good to visit Hanmer Springs if you've exhausted everything while you're in Christchurch and want to chill out in hot pools; it's not too touristy and it's about 1.5 drive from town so you could return on the same day. Best time is during the weekday and not during school holidays. There are other fun activities like horse riding, jetboating, bungy jumping and quad biking that have good discounts on sites like if you're going at the right time.

  • +1 vote

    I say too much driving. Roads could be icy in the mornings in July so you won't to hit them before 10am, and it will be getting dark between 5-6pm.
    Queenstown > Franz Josef is too long, no time to spend in Wanaka (beautiful wee town with lake and mountains), or do any of the nice scenic walks like Blue Pools.
    You're not going to have much time in Dunedin to do much, eg Otago Peninsula wildlife, Taieri Gorge rail way (very scenic), I'd recommend 2 nights there.
    And you're missing a very nice drive SH8 taking in Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki, and Lake Tekapo. But the West Coast and Arthur's Pass is nice too, so 2 options. is good for activity deals.

    7 July Sydney > Christchurch
    8 July Christchurch > Dunedin - via stop in Oamaru and Moeraki Boulders
    9 July Dunedin - Elm Wildlife Tour and\or Taieri Gorge rail way, Olverston
    10 July Dunedin > The Caitlins (Curio Bay)
    11 July The Caitlins > Te Anau - glowworms
    12 July Te Anau > Milford Sound - not recommended to self drive in winter, do a tour
    13 July Te Anau > Arrowtown > Queenstown - take "back road" via Arthurs Point (could do Shotover Jet if timing works)
    14 July Queenstown - Gondola, maybe Glenorchy, Onsen Hot Pools
    15 July Queenstown > Wanaka, via Cromwell (nice wineries along the way at Gibbston and Bannockburn), there is a cool motorsport park here with go karts and can ride in a Ferrari or McLaren, Crown Range Road will probably be icy, but view up there is awesome

    16 July Wanaka > Franz Josef Glacier - Blue Pools walk
    17 July Franz Josef Glacier > Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson > Hokitika Gorge, Hokitika
    18 July Hokitika > Christchurch via Arthur's Pass

    16 July Wanaka > Mt Cook
    17 July Mt Cook
    18 July Mt Cook > Christchurch via Tekapo, Geraldine then SH72 since you will have done SH1 on the way down

    19 July Christchurch, day trip to Akaroa
    20 July Christchurch > Sydney


      Thanks for the advice. I see you've cut out a bit of driving by shooting across the island instead of going round the top - is it worth cutting out? Also, would you recommend your second option seeing Mt Cook seems to be the go?

      • +1 vote

        It's definitely worth cutting out. Your itinerary is way too much for a mid-summer trip with long 15hr days, let alone winter where you only get 9 hours. Bear in mind that even with the revised itinerary, you're going to be spending a huge proportion of the trip just sat in the car. A lot of people think they won't mind because of the scenery, but it will get repetitive!

        I'd personally go to Mt Cook above the glaciers, especially if you've seen them before anywhere else. Unless perhaps you do one of the very expensive glacier hikes - not in my price range (around $500 per person from memory) but the photos look incredible!


      Hi, do you think Blue Pools is worth it for a return trip from Wanaka? I wont be going to west coast

      what about driving to Mt cook (village?) without doing any hike from Pukaki, (>1km flat terrain walks) as we're travelling with senior relatives


    For "hidden gem" spots, I think everything is in tourist guides now, the SI really is great.
    I really like the old gold mining areas and historic buildings in Central Otago, like Arrowtown and Ophir (would be hard to fit that into your drive) and the rugged and open landscapes of the Maniototo. WE took the off road option from Middlemarch to Ophir last Christmas, it was so cool.


    A cruise to Milford Sound is definitely on the cards.

    Keep a look out for New Zealand's answer to the Loch Ness monster and Big Foot … the extinct Moa that supposedly still living down there. ;-)


    for your stop in oamaru area there are a few options:
    1. There is like a sculpture theme park thing takes about 1 hr for maybe $15ea (im guessing)
    2. There is a little victorian shopping area next to the sculpture thing it's worth a 5 minute wonder but not too much else
    3. There is a castle with restaurant i think it's between timarua and oamaru i think you must book lunch in advance. This would probably be cool to check out.
    4. Obviously the moreki boulders, takes about 20 minutes.

    If your fit you can do a overnight mt cook trek up to a hutt. You can hire some crampons and ice axe, it's a combo of bush walk then walk up a steep hill with some boulders then a short walk on snow / ice on the ridge. I had never done a tramp before and i was ok, but I went with experienced friends. I loved it. You could also go with a group perhaps? It's about 6-8 hr walk each day, you need to leave very early in the morning.

    Found it, it's called Muller Hutt

    It says only 4 hrs, but I'm sure we walked a bit longer than that.

    Views at the Hutt were amazing!


      Is the "sculpture theme park thing" maybe Steampunk HQ? $10 for adults or $4.90 on Bookme, it's interesting cos it's different. It's at the north end of the Victorian Precinct, and the south end is a park with some big Steampunk things. There is a whiskey shop and brewery there too if you're into that.
      Riverstone Kitchen is about 20 min north of Oamaru, very highly rated, there is a castle there now too, but no tours (it was open for special tours in Feb).


    Definitely agree with going to mt cook. I went there at Xmas. If you don't have too much time you can go about half way up (Sealy tarns) to muller hut, still a very nice scenic lookout. Just over 1hr up.

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