New Zealand, South Island

15 days in New Zealand
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by @travaaguides

Travaa Guides

31st January 2019
Visit a world's premier nature and adventure destination. Here, in New Zealand, the pure natural scenery is always so incredibly breathtaking. Glowing blue lakes and clear skies, surrounded by giant ice capped mountains and golden rolling plains that go on as far as your eyes can see. Leave your city life and woes at home. Bring along your favourite music, we are going on a road trip adventure. Kia Ora and welcome to the expanse that is Middle Earth!
Christchurch International Airport
If you are flying into NZ, its touchdown in the nice airport of ChristChurch (else Queenstown airport may be a good alternative landing zone). Pro Tip: As with all outdoor activities, which are subject to prevailing weather conditions, you might want to budget an extra day in the area if there is an activity that you simply cannot miss. :-)
Pick up Rental Car
Pick up your rental car (at the airport?) and head into the city for a feed.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the third most-populous urban area in the country and international gateway to the South Island. This city was established in 1850 by English settlers. You will notice its English heritage showing on the older buildings, especially in the cultural precinct along Worcester Boulevard. Flowing through the central city, is the Avon river. Christchurch was affected by a large earthquake in 2011. A few historic buildings have been displaced and since then, a number of fresh new buildings have sprouted up all around.
? Christchurch Accomodation
drive to Mount Cook
Start your day early. Leave the city of Christchurch behind and head to Mount Cook Village. The scenery towards the later part of this drive is fabulous. Definitely sights to behold and treasure during daylight.
Church of the Good Shepherd
Stop by this old church sitting by Lake Tekapo. On a good day, you will remember the awesome views from this place for a long time to come. Pick a nice sunny spot for a sandwich (if you had packed one!). Alternatively, seek out some hot food in the nearby township.
drive to Mount Cook Village
Do stop at view points along Lake Pukaki and take in the sights of magnificent Mount Cook along your drive. See the peak where Sir Edmund Hillary trained for his successful Everest and Antarctic expeditions.
Mount Cook Village
Drop off your bags before heading out again for some fresh air. Locate your accomodations and get into your walking shoes. It is time to stretch those legs! Book accomodations to this area early ahead of your trip. Rooms (and eating places) here are very limited and can run out early in the summer months. Spending at least a night in this area is highly recommended if you can afford it. Alternatively, you can spend the night in a nearby township, but head here early in the day to beat the line of early hikers in summer and early-autumn.
? Mount Cook Village Accomodation
Kea Point Walk (Start Point)
Try this leisurely walk to Kea Point - the start of your New Zealand (mini-)hiking experience!
Kea Point
Stand on the platform and enjoy views of Mount Sefton (3,157 m / 10,358 ft) in the northwest, (dry) Mueller Lake and Mount Cook (3,754 m / 12,316 ft) in the northeast. Hope you enjoyed the short walk this evening. It's an easy preview for tomorrow's hike. Head back to the village for some "tea" as we call it here in New Zealand (a.k.a. dinner).
Hooker Valley Walk (start point)
Note: Bring water, a packed lunch and snacks for this walk. This is one of the 'best day walks in New Zealand'. At only 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) length and gaining only about 100 m (330 ft) in height, the well formed track can be walked by most with a basic level of fitness.
Hooker Lake
Before you is Hooker Lake with glacial ice from the Hooker Glacier. On a good day, you might get completely unobstructed views of the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook. If the winds aren't too strong, this is a good time to chow down on your packed lunch. Congrats! You have reached the mid point of the walk. When everyone is nice and ready, head back towards where you came from.
The Hermitage Coffeehouse
After that walk, you deserve to head up here and get yourself some souvenirs, plus a nice hot cup of coffee or cold beer! Afterwards, feel free to wander around this tiny local village.
Wanaka Lakefront
Wanaka is a small town situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand. It is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Wanaka shares many of the characteristics that draw millions of tourists to Queenstown each year – the mountains, the lakes and the outdoors – yet it enjoys a far smaller profile. In many ways it's the little brother to Queenstown – many would say the cooler little brother. While it doesn't have as many hotels and restaurants or the large bar scene, it still has a few great attractions of its own, and respectable eating and nightlife. It is time for some lunch and exploration of this small township in a place some call a "little slice of heaven".
? Wanaka Accomodation
Rocky Mountain Walk
For those looking to stretch their legs further, there are a few enjoyable walks in this area - a short drive out of town. We like the walk (climb) up Rocky Mountain. The views up there of Lake Wanaka are quite special. This walk requires a mid-level of fitness to do. If you do this Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit walk, it is a 3 hour return trip. Bring water, snacks, a light jacket and a torch. Be sure to leave plenty of time to get back into town before sun down - after which it becomes pitch black!
Te Anau
Te Anau is a town in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland. Many folks come to Te Anua as the base point to one of the regional multi-day tracks in the area. Stroll down the short village area for lunch.
? Te Anau Accomodation
ferry to Caves
Ferry ticket is included with your Glowworm cave visit.
Glowworm Caves
Get tickets here early for a boat ride across the lake to visit glowworms in their natural habitat. I particularly like the evening/night outings as you tend to feel that extra bit of "atmosphere"!
drive to Milford Sound
Head through the Homer tunnel and enjoy the wriggly drive to the New Zealand fiordlands!
Cruise Milford Sound
Park your car nearby and head to the cruise center by this world famous fiord. There are many scenic cruise operators here. A cruise could be about a couple of hours. Get tickets over the counter and pick your ride. I personally find that the under water observatory visit is optional, but hey, if it's your thing, why not.
drive back to Te Anau
Keep an eye out for the endangered New Zealand Kea. They are the world's only alpine parrot and one of the most intelligent birds. You will never know what mischief they are up to next .. ? :-) Definitely snap a photo with them - if you can!
drive to Arrowtown
The drive over to Arrowtown passes up high into the hill and down low into the valleys. Enjoy the ride, .. and views ..
Arrowtown is in a quaint village in the Queenstown-Lakes region of the South Island. Once a picturesque gold mining town in the Wakatipu Basin, this place is set at the edge of the Otago goldfields. These days Arrowtown relies on its determinedly preserved heritage to attract tourists - miners' cottages, historic wooden buildings, tree lined streets and 19th century-style shops, still stand as they did during the gold rush. There is a small area in the far end of the main street which has a nice outdoor exhibit reminisced of the old gold mining days. Makes for a nice mid-day stroll. Arrowtown has a quiet village feel outside of the historic main street, and a number of the properties in the town are holiday houses for locals.
drive to Queenstown
Now to head for the adventure capital of New Zealand. There are a number of nice vineyards in the area. If money is not an issue, feel free to make advance reservations for a nice lunch and wine pairings. Alternatively, drop in and taste some of the finest Pinot Noir's the country has to offer. All at relatively affordable prices! Obviously, if you will be drinking, you should not be the one driving. ;-)
Welcome to one of the adventure center of NZ, and also one of the most beautiful towns in the world! Drop your bags off at your accomodation and start making some bookings for your adventure(s) of choice.
? Queenstown Accomodation
Pick an accomodation in Queenstown (ideally with parking) for your stay. Accomodations tend to get more affordable the further away from the lakefront.
Skyline Gondola
Head up the Skyline Gondola for some awesome views and panoramic photos of this beautiful place! A cafeteria (and restaurant) at the top of the ride makes for a nice place for some afternoon tea. There are picnic places outside too. For adrenaline junkies, you'll have to do the Luge rides up top. Beware, the advanced riders course does take you through some fairly fast (and steep) slopes!
Queenstown Lakeside
Take a stroll by the waterfront. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the area. If you arrive in the heat of mid-summer, you might fancy a dip in its cool waters. It's now close to dinner time, so find a spot to park yourself, grab a drink and enjoy the surroundings here after a long day. :-)
There are plenty of adventure activities to choose from in Queenstown - just see the plentitude of brochures by the front desk of your accomodation. Spend the day doing what you fancy. Some activities will definitely have you stretching beyond your comfort zone - skydiving perhaps? Some activities are listed here, but you'll probably only have enough time to do a couple in a single day. Pick what you catches your drift and make pre-reservations - via their website or phone number.
The Station
The Station Information Centre If you are still not sure what you'll like to try, head on down to "the Station". There's heaps of information on activities here. Many activities provide complementary transfers from Queenstown (pick up from the Station or your hotel) to the activity point.
TSS Earnslaw
For parties with senior folks or families with younger kids, you will enjoy a slow ride across the lake to *Walter Peak* aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, followed by a tour of a (sheep) farm and watching sheep dogs in action! There is horse riding there too. Definitely get tickets at least a day in advance. This is the place to be to board the TSS Earnslaw for an awesome boat trip across the beautiful blue waters of lake Wakatipu.
Shotover Jet
The classic Queenstown adventure of riding a (very) high speed jet boat through the canyons. There are a number of jet boat operators in the area with the Shotover Jet being the world famous. Definitely not the cheapest 25 min ride in your life, but if you can afford it, do it!
Fancy jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet in the air? Yes!
Try it where it all began, the World's home of bungy. Into the canyon you'll go with AJ Hackett Bungy. Big decision here is, if you'll like to touch the water or not .. at the bottom of the drop?
River Rafting
If you are physically fit, it's time to don a wet and get wet and wild in the Shotover river! Skip dinner plans .. This is going to be a massive ride.
Free Day!
Head out and explore .. go nuts!
drive to the West Coast Glaciers
Franz Josef Glacier (Heli) Hike
Walking on glacier is a must! Choose between the full day walk to the glacier (return) or half-day helicopter & hike. Doing the Fox Glacier is a great alternative option.
Franz Josef Accomodation
drive to Kaikoura
Enjoy this longest drive of your whole trip.
Hanmer Springs Accomodation
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
Unless you are visiting in the peak of summer .. This is nice place for a well deserved soaking. Ohhhh, go goooood ..
Kaikoura is a small coastal town on the east coast (Pacific Ocean). It is famed for its marine mammals (whales, dolphins, seals) and other sea-life, all of which you can see, some of which you can swim with, and some you can eat. In Maori, kai means "eat" and koura is "crayfish' (rock lobster). So Kaikoura is a place to eat crayfish! Kaikoura lies on a narrow coastal plain between high mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In places along this coast the mountains drop almost straight into the sea, with barely enough flat land for a single railway line, two lane road and rocky beach, and even then some short tunnels are needed on corners. The steepness of the mountains reflects the underwater geography as well. The deep-water Hikurangi Trench and the continental shelf edge lies just offshore here. This causes the ocean around Kaikoura to be rich in sea life and attracts seals, whales (and humans) to the area to partake in the bounty of the sea. The town itself has a similar charm to an east coast USA beach town, with a hodgepodge of signs trying to grab tourists' attention. At the edges of the town, the more relaxed and nature-oriented activities again take precedence. Kaikoura is the perfect place to enjoy both the wonders of the magnificent Pacific Ocean and the tall, majestic mountains. Early or late walks around the costal areas are always easy and a great way to unwind as you begin your South Island journey.
Kaikoura Accomodation
Whale Watch Kaikoura
This is the most popular activity in the area and a highlight for many. Get your tickets early and have a spare day in the area - to avoid disappointment from trip cancellation due to poor weather conditions. The Whale Watch boats get though some choppy waters to get up real close to the whales in the area. For folks who get motion / sea-sickness (like me!), you may want to do a bit of research on how manage this (I personally try to avoid the front of the boat, and try to get to an upper/outside deck - if available). This trip is always a good one to do. Get your tickets early to avoid disappointment! An alternative, is to do whale watching/ chasing from the air via a helicopter-operator in the area. I've tried this once many years, but I still prefer the trip via boat as you'll get much closer to these beautiful mammoths. Like all things, your mileage may vary.
Dolphin Encounter
Fancy a swim with Dolphins? It's going to be unforgettable!
Seal Swim Kaikoura
Something a little different perhaps?
Enjoy your lazy day going for walks and seeking crayfish & bisque at a local restaurant.
drive to Christchurch
Ok, it's time for the return trip down South. This is a good time to turn up the music and enjoy your drive.
International Antarctic Centre
If you haven't been to see penguins before, here is a nice place to spend a couple of hours learning about the far South of our planet. The International Antarctic Centre is one of the major tourist attractions of the city.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens, located in the central city. An afternoon here on a good day is a fairly relaxed way of spending the day.
Christchurch Accomodation
A last night in New Zealand. Time to get some nice wine and relaxed sleep before you go ..
Christchurch International Airport
Time to drop off your rental car and head off home with plenty of awesome memories of your epic adventure in middle earth ..
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