New Zealand South Island Itinerary
If you thought the North Island was good, wait till you get to New Zealand’s South Island. An adrenaline junkies heaven where you can do practically anything ridiculous from Skydiving, Bungee jumping or flying stunt planes. So here is my New Zealand South Island Itinerary.
If you plan to fly into the South Island, then Christchurch is your best bet. However, if you are taking the Ferry over from Wellington, then you will get into Picton. This is where I start my journey through the South Island.
Official Language: English & Maori
Currency: New Zealand Dollar ($1.92 vs £1.00 – 2019)
Fun Fact: The world’s first commercial bungee jump was a 43-metre leap off the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988.
Again time and mode of transport will be a varying factor, so I encourage you to adapt it to fit your needs and preferences. These are the places where you should definitely go along the way working your way around the island, plus a few that I heard were incredible, but I couldn’t go at the time.
Wine Country, situated in the heart of wine-growing Marlborough. After heading into Picton on the Ferry, a great way to spend the day is to go round New Zealand’s famous vineyards. You can move around each vineyard by bike or car and a sample of their famous Sauvignon Blanc wines. It is one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, and the mountains frame the area.
While I was there I took a tour of the Cloudy Bay Vineyards which was stunning as well as delicious more info can be found at https://www.cloudybay.co.nz/ but there are many others to choose from. Only a day or two needed here, depending on your alcohol consumption.
Moving West and into Nelson. Nelson is a great base to go off and do activities nearby. Although Nelson is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, from long golden beaches to untouched forests and rugged mountains.
One of the best things to do here is to explore the Abel Tasman National Park and what better way than Kayaking around the golden beaches and exploring the mountains by foot. While you Kayak, you can get up close with the seals and watch them bathe off the rocks. With Kayaking, you can make day trips up to 5 days going slow and immersing yourself in the area.
Punakaiki is a small community on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, between Westport and Greymouth. Punakaiki is best known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. It is also a great base from which to explore the natural wonders of the Paparoa National Park, there are sandy beaches and rocky coastlines, through lush subtropical rainforest overhanging magical, moody rivers, to spectacular alpine tops there is something here for everyone to discover here.
You can Kayak through the rivers or take a horse riding trek through the National Park of Paparoa. This three-hour horse ride follows the Punakaiki river and up into the Punakaiki valley.
Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier
This is a must of the west coast. The glaciers that come down well below the snow line and almost to the sea. Here you can get a helicopter tour. Due to these Glaciers been at such a low altitude. They are among the most convenient to visit in the world. An easy walk is available to the foot of Franz Josef Glacier along the river valley with steep sides bearing gigantic horizontal scars from when the glaciers have retreated and advanced over the last decade. You can also take in the view of magnificent Fox Glacier by foot. While I was there, I took a tour on top of Franz Josef Glacier via Helicopter. This is a great and exciting way to see the glacier with a three-hour hike through the glacier as well as the surrounding area and Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
Three and a half hours from the Glaciers is Wanaka. A picture-postcard town is known as the gateway to the Southern Alps. It is an ideal base for which to set off on your adventures. For adventure seekers, you can go skydiving, canyoning, climbing or mountaineering and there are hundreds of kilometres of tracks for hiking or biking. The crystal-clear water of the lakes and rivers are ideal for Kayaking, fishing, lake cruises and jet-boating. You get the idea. Here list the top 10 things to do in Wanaka
Known as the adventure Capital of the world and for a good reason. From bungee jumping into a river to skydiving, skiing to swinging, this place has it all. When I was here, I went skiing in Cardrona and went bungee jumping off the Nevis Bungy, New Zealand’s highest bungee jump but also a good one to do it the Nevis Swing.https://www.bungy.co.nz/queenstown/nevis/
There is so much to keep you occupied while you are here and is definitely a must-see place to experience. If you are feeling hungry though FergBurger is a place which everyone who rides into Queenstown has to try. To this day, the only burger to defeat me…..https://www.fergburger.com/
Fiordland National Park – Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound
Save the best till last — there so many words to describe these places. While I was in Queenstown, I was recommended to do the overnight cruise in The Doubtful Sound. You can be transferred from Queenstown or Te Anau which is closer to the Fiordland National Park. Doubtful Sound is unspoiled, unmatched and unforgettable. With the overnight cruise, you can swim, kayak around the Sound and there is a guide giving you any info you have about the Sound. Here is a sample video of that the place. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vZ_W2CJoyk
This was the best thing I did in New Zealand. When I got back to Te Anau the following day, I cycled to Milford Sound which was around 100km. This was an incredible ride although I would get to a fantastic spot all alone, take a moment to appreciate it and then all of a sudden a couple of coaches would stop and offload people to take pictures. Even though this went on through till Milford Sounds, the scenery is incredible, and the National Park is like nothing else I have seen before. Here you can take a boat cruise around the Sound for the day and see it all up close.
If you like hiking and time is on your side, then I would recommend hiking through the national park. There are huts to stay in and stunning view after stunning view.
Milford Sound is the touristy bit, and you can expect many people there throughout the day. Nevertheless, it is still well worth going, but I would go for the peace of the Doubtful Sound Overnight cruise where you really can experience this wonder of nature.
From here I travelled to Dunedin, where I stayed for a few nights. Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand I felt right at home. It is more of a university city.
While I was there I drove up to the Otago Peninsula – the views are endless and the beaches are beautifully rugged. The other thing Dunedin is famous for is the steepest street in the world or at least it was at the time. I believe the title has just gone to a street in Wales. Nonetheless, worth the hike up the street.
After Dunedin, I flew back to Auckland, and onto my next trip. However, there are many options for you to choose from there:
The Catlins Coast, the South Island coast is one of the most underrated spots in New Zealand. The Catlins has a massive concentration of things to do that are not only easily accessible, but they’re also free! The wild coast of the Catlins is full of major natural attractions from sea caves to waterfalls, lakes to rare wildlife.
Sadly didn’t go to Christchurch due to the earthquake, but it is an energetic city where urban regeneration, creativity and innovation thrive. Has impressive street art, and state-of-the-art architecture that is changing the way the city looks and feels, but it still has that English heritage and tradition. From Christchurch, you can fly out of the country or head up north back to Picton and take the Ferry back over to the North Island.
Mount Cook National Park
Mt Cook Village sits in the heart of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. While small, the village is the start of many adventures to explore New Zealand’s most extreme and most beautiful alpine environment. Mountains, glaciers, lakes, braided rivers, valleys, snow, so there is plenty to keep you occupied there.
For an excellent guide, check out. https://www.inafarawayland.com/mount-cook-national-park-guide/
Have I missed anything? For the North, Island Itinerary check out https://www.johnhorsfall.org/2019/08/new-zealand-north-island-itinerary/