All good things come in three, and our ultimate road trip guide for Aotearoa’s South Island is not exception to that. Drive through some of the most diverse landscapes, encounter spectacular marine wildlife and chase the adrenaline kick you are after!
Our first stop of the trip’s last leg takes us to Nelson, geographically the centre of New Zealand. Famous for its sunshine, long golden beaches, and national parks, this is definitely a must-do stop! Nelson is home to a big and busy art community – there are many amazing local galleries to explore and hands-on workshops to take for the most meaningful souvenirs of your trip.
For a little history lesson, the Nelson Provincial Museum features interesting exhibitions of the city’s settlement history as well as touring exhibitions that should not be missed.
But to make the most of the great weather and to stretch your legs between the long drives, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail is the perfect excuse for a fun-fuelled cycle tour that can include as many or as little bar and pub stops as needed.
Also called ‘The Gateway to Wineries’ – Blenheim is any wine connoisseurs’ heaven. Jump onto a bike and cycle the scenic roads between your favourite vineyards, or book yourself onto a guided shuttle tour for an exclusive experience. Experience the most famous wine region of Aotearoa and send your tastebuds on a journey of their own!
Continuing our travels further down south, we’ll be passing through Kaikōura, the unrivalled whale and marine wildlife watching spot. This is your chance to view the magnificent wildlife up close and personal on a whale watching tour or to rent a kayak and explore the coastline on a self-guided tour.
If you feel more comfortable staying on solid ground and dry, the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway should be on your itinerary. Enjoy clifftop views across the ocean with its resident sperm whale colony, NZ’s native dolphins, seals, and seabirds. If you are up to it, catch the sunrise for extra spectacular photos.
One of the most photographed spots in Aotearoa – Lake Tekapo. Its stunning turquoise water against the steep mountain range backdrop looks out of this world and is definitely a not-to-be-missed sight on your South Island adventure. If you are lucky and travel through this are between November and December, you will also experience the sheer endless fields up lupin flowers that stretch around the lake!
Another incredible sight that is hard to match in its beauty is the sky by night above the South Island. Learn more about the whetū (stars) that light up the dark with the Dark Sky Project. Choose between The Summit Experience and the Crater Experience to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
For this road trip’s grand finale, we’re heading out to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park before returning to Christchurch. Aoraki is Aotearoa’s highest mountain with a height of 3,724m. The surrounding national park is not only providing excellent views of the mountain but also hosts many amazing tracks, wildlife, and sights. To experience Aoraki to its full potential, booking the Aoraki/Mt Cook Ultimate scenic flight is the way to go. Discover blue ice, hanging glaciers and the world-famous West Coast glaciers of Fox & Franz Josef before touching down on the Haupapa/Tasman Glacier. You will catch views that are unmatched to anything you’ve seen before.
Now it is time to make your way back to Christchurch. With a head full of new experiences, a heart bursting with memories and a new understanding of the world and environment we live in. Road tripping across Aotearoa’s South Island is truly the trip of a lifetime.