The South Island of New Zealand is home to breathtaking scenery, from bright green paddocks and shimmering lakes to snow capped mountains and rugged cliffs. The only way to truly appreciate the beauty of this magnificent island is to take a driving holiday across the land. A self drive holiday through New Zealand’s South Island is perfect for those who want to experience the freedom of travelling without a tight schedule. Linger in quaint seaside villages, enjoy leisurely lunches and take in the surrounds as you travel through spectacular scenery every step of the way.
Here are our top five driving destinations in New Zealand.
Queenstown, South Island
Stop in at Queenstown and spend the day enjoying the great outdoors. In winter, you can take to the slopes for a day of skiing or snowboarding with a number of fantastic ski fields close by. You won’t miss out on any of the fun in the summer with Queenstown being nicknamed New Zealand’s adventure capital. Thrill seekers can enjoy many adventure sports including white water rafting, jet boating, sky diving or canyon swinging. Spend time on the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and admire Queenstown’s magnificent mountain range, The Remarkables.
Dunedin, South Island
From Queenstown, you can drive to Dunedin via Invercargill. You’ll pass the peaceful lake, Te Anau and can take a walk through the stunning Fiordland National Park. Stop for a delicious meal at Invercargill, the southernmost city of New Zealand. As you arrive in Dunedin, you’ll be confronted with secluded beaches and attractive coastal scenery. Try a famous cheese roll at one of Dunedin’s cute cafes and see the incredible local wildlife including the world’s rarest penguins.
Christchurch, South Island
A drive from Dunedin to New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch, will offer glorious views. Take your time and stop to explore the unique, rounded Moeraki Boulders and see the fur seals and yellow eyed penguin colonies at Katiki Point. It’s worth dropping by Oamaru, which boasts beautiful 19th century architecture and be sure to visit the award winning Whitestone Cheese Factory. Once you arrive in Christchurch, you can venture up the Port Hills for impressive views of the city and coast or visit the Orana Wildlife Park.
Nelson, South Island
From Christchurch you can drive north through Canterbury’s wine region, the Waipara Valley, on your way to Nelson. Be surrounded by rolling hills as you drive to the town Kaikoura, which features the beautiful Southern Alps. In the right season, you can even go whale watching or swimming with dolphins. As you arrive in Nelson, you’ll be captivated by this creative seaside city with its golden sandy beaches and unique artistic nature. Take a walk along the Abel Tasman track for unrivalled coastal views and be sure to visit the myriad of art galleries.
Greymouth, South Island
As you travel from Nelson to Greymouth, you’ll pass the Paparoa National Park which is home to lush rainforest, unusual cave formation and breathtaking limestone canyons. Go for a walk and see the amazing Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and watch the blowholes spurt plumes of water at high tide. Greymouth is the largest town on the South Island’s west coast. The town’s history of gold mining is evident and families can even enjoy panning for gold. For a special memento, purchase New Zealand jade, known as pounamu, from one of the galleries around town.