New Zealand South Island

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  • New Zealand South Island
  • zokes

    Thinking about a hop across the Tasman to NZ for easter. We’ll have six full days, and want to book a camper (or 4wd camper) and see as much as we can in that time. Having lived in Oz for the past 2.5 years, driving distance doesn’t worry me, so happy to put in the miles behind the wheel to see as much as possible.

    I know a few people on here have either lived or visited the land of the long white cloud, so any ideas for an itinerary would be good. We can land in Chch or Queenstown, and would probably look to pitch up at a different place each night. We’ve done Chch (well, what’s left of it) and the Banks Peninsula, so wouldn’t be wanting to spend much if any time there.

    Any thoughts much appreciated


    Will you be bringing bikes or just touristing?

    If you’re biking, ignore the ‘South Island Biking’ guidebook (it’s useless) and go for the Kennet Brothers book instead (covers both islands but is far more useable).


    Just touristing. Only six days isn’t much time to see the place, so will have to leave the bike in Adelaide.


    Milford Sound – boat trip on the sound, glo-worm caves are nearby.
    Queenstown for bungy jumping, jet boating, etc. I can highly recommend this although it’s almost 15 years since I did it. Beware sand flies though. If you have time there are some lovely hikes from Arrowtown just up the road (but you might struggle with only 6 days)
    Glaciers – Franz Joseph and others. Just driving over to and then up that coast is beautiful.
    Kaikoura for whale watching and dolphin swimming – getting dropped from a boat miles from the shore into the middle of a pod of 500+ dolphins is weird.

    I lived on the South Island for a couple of years and my advice would be to not cram too much into your 6 dsys. On the map the distances look relatively small between towns etc but it always takes longer than you think because they are just big A roads and you’ll get stuck behind other users. Couple that with unpredicatable weather and you could end up driving around alot and not actualy seeing much cos you have to keep moving on. I met alot of people who wished they’d had a smaller itineray due to the above.

    Awesome place though and you’ll love it…

    Premier Icon drbob65

    Hokitika for the road kill festival


    I know a few people on here have either lived or visited the land of the long white cloud

    When I was there I heard it called the land of the wrong white crowd 🙁

    a few places to check out…

    Able Tasman National Park for stunning coastline, beaches, boat rides and walks.
    Wanaka in the Lakes not too far from Queenstown is a beautiful place, and probably the most scenic bike ride I’ve ever done.
    Fjordland, From Te Anau I drove about 2/3rd of the way to Milford Sound and camped at a small creek, then took a few short walks starting nearby. Stunning, just stunning.
    I also really enjoyed the Peel forest park not far from Christchurch, did a really good hike one day all over that place.

    Premier Icon ampthill

    If you want to keep it simple and do an area then fly into queens town

    Milford Sound

    Douptful Sounds (harder to get to you need to cross a lake first which adds to the fun)


    Then upto the Glaciers (Fox Franz Josef) if time

    I think Milford sound is the top priority and its along drive from Queens town. I think Milford Sound and Abel tasman in one trip would IMHO opinion woul be to far for a 6 day trip)

    Queens town if you want to pay for those thrill rides, rafting bungy jumping etc.


    Queenstown a must, so is Milford Sound – there is an awesome aquarium there where you literally walk down into the water, where the sea meets fresh water and look out and the sea life look back at you from their natural habitat – always made me wonder who was in the tank! Amazing place…..
    Also thought Pancake Rocks, North of Greymouth were worth the trek as was Abel Tasman – saw Orca, Seals etc. swimming alongside our small boat which was the only way to land on the beach as no cars were allowed in the park.

    Wished I’d have skipped Nelson and Christchurch TBH – not much more to add here….

    Am totally jealous…………….wish I’d have taken the opportunity to hire a bike and ride at Queenstown.

    Premier Icon simon_g

    The funyaks from Glenorchy are still great (or were as of 6 years ago).

    Milford or Doubtful Sound are worth getting to – the latter involves a trip over a lake then over a pass to get to, they do a good overnight trip though and you get to see sunset and sunrise there.

    Fox or Franz Josef glaciers – can get hiking tours onto both. Near there is Lake Matheson, which stays very calm and gives a near-mirror reflection of Mt Cook (an image you’ll see in most NZ guidebooks and calendars), nice place to watch sunrise from too.

    Really there’s lovely stuff all over, I really like the southern coast from Invercargill round to Dunedin and beyond but you’ll be really limited on what you can do in 6 days unless you’re driving all the time. No need for 4WD, the gravel roads are fine in any regular car (one of our trips was in a MX5) but you don’t even need to use those much.


    Milford sound was lovely, stay the night and book on to the first boat of the day is my tip. Dolphins at Kaikoura also great.


    We did NZ earlier in the year & our S Island highlights/reccomendations are –

    (At least 1/2 day) mtb in queenstown – awesome uplift, views, people & trails all followed by a Fergburger

    Milford Sound – journey there from Queenstown is amazing & worth it by

    Wanaka is beautiful & as above well worth a 1/2 day mtb hire

    Drive up the W Coast – its an amazing & unique ecosystem/geology & one of the best coastal trips we did in a 6 month world travel

    A Helihike on the Fox Glacier – helicopters + glacier = win.

    Kayaking in the Abel Tasman – more beautiful coastline but no cars allowed

    Swimming with dolphins in Kaikora – we were surrounded by 600+ dolphins all wanting to play if you are. Huge smiles all round & quite possible the best thing we did in NZ

    Lots there & way more than 6 days worth (we were there for c4 weeks). One of the main things we enjoyed was driving (we borrowed a friends campervan) from place to place, parking up at night & waking in the morning to amazing vistas, sites & visitors (seals, pukekos, keas).

    As mentioned above the distances are quite large & although very doable (especially having driven in oz & you like driving) the roads in places are either A roads & you’ll find yourself stuck behind campers or very very twist and turny (v different to roads in US or Oz) and you can’t actually go that fast so it’ll take you ages to get there (iirc there was one stretch of road with bends on it that had a 10 km/h limit).

    Premier Icon postierich

    It was ok 😉 Abel Tasman being my fave place!
    The only way to travel around NZ

    Fave time of the day East Coast NZ by Richard Munro, on Flickr

    Abel Tasman by Richard Munro, on Flickr


    Damn you all I want to go back now. Loved the South Island
    But can’t add or change anything to what’s above

    Only slight blight with Milford sound is the bloody flies but fine when out in the water

    Found Kia campers very good and helpful if not quite the cheapest

    Premier Icon NZCol

    All already been said, for that length of trip you’d only want to get as far north as Arthurs Pass really.

    I would add in a few pretty nice spots:
    – Hokitika Gorge is fantastic and well worth a trip.
    – Glaciers all good as is whole West Coast, road is open again after a bridge was washed away a couple of weeks back.
    – The black rafting thing in Westport is awesome if you are into any sort of adrenaline fuelled stuff
    – Wanaka is beautiful, like Queenstown was about 15yrs ago. Got to Raspberry Flat and take the walk up to Aspiring Hut , one of the most beautiful walks i have been on.

    If you do get a camper then use the DOC sites – even the backcountry ones have bogs and running water (or a stream). Cheap and fine if you have all mod cons in the van. Just don’t dump litter and sh1t everywhere 😕 It would amaze you what some of our wonderful visitors do to our country, although to be fair we make a godo job of it ourselves sometimes.


    6 days is pushing it to see the South Island without rushing around. A couple of nights in Queenstown would be good. You can do Milford Sound as a day trip from there but it is a long day. Night at either Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, a night at Wanaka and a night in Christchurch.
    There are lots of other nice places, kaikoura, Picton, Nelson, Dunedin. Good luck though, sounds nice.


    Thanks all, that’s plenty food for thought. Looks like Queenstown it is, and a ‘natural boundary’ I’d already considered in Arthur’s pass being as far north as we get. I had wanted longer, but my wife doesn’t have the leave, and flights are a pain from Adelaide – it seems to take the best part of a day layover in Sydney unless you want to go to Aukland, so what was going to be 6-and-two-half days is now only six 🙁

    Premier Icon NZCol

    Adelaide Akl then direct queenstown takes 7h15mins.
    Leave Adelaide after lunch and dinner in queenstown.Return is quicker, depart queenstown 6am back in adelaide 3:25pm.


    Virgin ADL-SYD-QUT is reasonable enough timing.

    I would have preferred Qantas from the frequent flier perspective, but there is no way to get to an Eastern hub in Oz before the flights to NZ leave on the same day. Crazy.

    Premier Icon NZCol

    Virgin and airnz have a code share so you can get pretty good deas there.

    Premier Icon superdale

    Its been over 10 years since I was there but from Queenstown you could book half a days MTB riding with one of the tour operators. Only Fuji FS but no doubt better by now, which used 4×4 to get you out to the trails. By lunchtime you had ridden out to Skippers Canyon where you did a 102m bungy of the bridge – it was probably the most adrenaline filled day of my life to date. Well worth doing.

    When I was out there, accomodation in beautiful places plus hire car was cheaper than camper van hire. If you’re only there for six days, i’d not bother camper vanning it.

    And like people say above, don’t underestimate the roads, and how many really slow drivers you’ll see on the wiggly, no room to overtake bits. If you do Queenstown – Arthur’s Pass and loop back, that’d be 15 hours or so of driving. If you love camper van driving, then that’s fine – personally I would aim not to spend a third of my holiday behind a wheel. If you’re coming from oz, you can always go again next year to see bits you missed.


    It wasn’t so bad around chch in terms of slow driving, and I guess if I’m in a camper, I sort of am the slow traffic!

    TBH 15 hours driving is nothing – I live in Oz remember! That’s just a trip to the local shops 😉

    It is surprisingly pricey to get over there (compared to similar european flights), so do want to see a decent chunk of south island. Plan would be North of South Island and South of North Island next time (mates in wgtn).

    Premier Icon ransos

    We walked the Kepler trail, jumped out of a plane over the Fox glacier, went ice walking at Franz Josef and diving in Milford Sound. All highly recommended. If you want to wind down, you can hire bikes to go wine tasting round Marlborough.


    Highlights of my trip to NZ 15 years ago was hanging out in sleepy Wanaka and getting way from everything and everyone by doing the long walking tracks (I had a broken hand so wasn’t biking). I loved walking the Greenstone & Caples tracks, and Stuart Island was awesome… but I’m not one for crowds or the adrenalin fueled stuff. I hated Queenstown as it was full of wonks.

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