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Drive New Zealand's South Island

Listed under Road Trips in Christchurch, New Zealand.

  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
  • Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
Photo of Drive New Zealand's South Island
Photo by flickr user Omer Simkha
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From majestic glacial peaks of the Southern Alps to rainforest wildlife, turquoise sea and soothing waterfalls, New Zealand’s South Island offers the drive of a lifetime. With some of the rarest birds and most exotic plantlife in the world, national parks and natural blowholes, golden beaches and marine life, the best of New Zealand is taken in by car. Favoured route is: Christchurch to Kaikoura (for whale and dolphin spotting), to Nelson to Punakaiki and on to Westport’s historic coal-mining settlement. Then to mountainous Franz Josef (with the option of sightseeing from the air), Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu and Milford Sound’s sheer cliffs and Mitre Peak, finishing with Timaru’s Edwardian and Victorian architecture.

Written by  George Monkhouse.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

are you likely to need chains for any of the roads in mid september

1 Reply

September is quite early in the season, but you'd need to be more specific about which roads and get detailed advice locally.

4`Wheel Diving In new zealand

Hi . Next year sometime a group of us from melbourne would like to go 4 wheel driving around new zealand . We plan to hire 4 wheel drive vehicles here as we cant afford to bring out vehicles over and plan to stay for about a mth . Can you suggest which tracks( mild to rough terrain ) and camping sites would be good as we dont really have a perference to go in new zealand .

We are going to motor home it around south island for 3 weeks in may.

Wondering what road conditions are like? I'm getting the idea that Christchurch to Timaru is the drive to do. I know with earth quake Christchurch is so badly hurt but we want to come over anyway. I'd rather spend my holiday money in a sister country that needs the tourist dollar.

1 Reply

the roads are fine. life has changed quite a lot down here for those of us who live here but for tourists, they seem to hardly notice anything different. main roads are back and thriving - it's just the neighborhoods that are still torn apart.

Driving in October

I will driving from Christchurch to Te Anau via Dunedin then to Milford Sound before going to Queenstown and back to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo. This trip will be from 1/10/10 till 7/10/10. Would it still be winter road conditions and if so do i need chains for the tyres? I come from the tropics so would appreciate any tips on how to prepare for winter driving. Thank you.

A stress free driving experience in South Island August '10 for 16 days.

Can anyone suggest the best itinerary for scenery without getting ourselves into trouble on the roads. Which parts of the island should we definitely avoid. thanks!

6 Replies

Are you definitely planning on the South Island?

Andrew (I'm not quite sure how to reply to you). My Australian friend who toured North Island last August has tried to change my mind. So,no, if it is really a bad idea we'll do North Island

There's lots on both islands, it's just that the South Island is known more for extreme sports- bungy, rafting, climbing, that sort of thing, rather than relaxing.

Mainly, I was attracted to the type of scenery in the South Island but bad road conditions are not for me!!Thanks for your help,though. We'll be touring the North Island , definitely.

One thought would be to talk to people who do or arrange cycling holidays - they're bound to know the relaxing road routes?

Driving around in a Motorhome

I plan to visit NZ southisland in the 2nd week of September this yr and drive around in a motorhome for 3 full days. What will be the weather n road conditions like then? Plan to visit Chch,greysmouth, fox glazier, milford sound, queenstown, mountcook. Is this too much to cover in 3 days considering the distance between places? How do u rate the transalpine journey from chch to greysmouth? I have also heard of the doubtful sound is this better place then milford sound?Thanks in advance

2 Replies

The South Island is basically temperate and September is the first month of Spring so on an average year it's going to be sunny and warm in the sun but breezy & around 16 -17 degrees max. Don't discount rain.

Have a look at our World Weather Guide for an idea of average temperatures and weather conditions:

What's the best place to go in 3 days in South Island?

My family is travelling to New Zealand on 2nd week of March for just 5 days, including the flights in & out of NZ. We are going for a short visit to a relative. My daughters are ages 9 & 11 yrs old. What do you suggest we can do with our limited time?

Nature+sun-loving daughter (22) & mom driving S. Island 12/20-1/12

We want to hike and kayak but also be mellow place over holidays in S. Island. Recommendations?

Also. appreciate Maori cultural heritage.

1 Reply

Hi Elena, Have a look at our <a href="">South Island Holiday Idea</a> for starters, then maybe consider changing the details of how long you want to stay in each place and how adventurous you want to be to suit your own tastes.

2 week drive between Auckland and Queenstown

most scenic route, hikes along the way, places to stay during a 2 week drive bewteen Auckland and Queenstown in mis January 2010

1 Reply

Check out <a href="">Holiday Idea #7: New Zealand's South Island<a/> for inspiration and go from there?

Is December a good time to travel to South Island, New Zealand?

I'm thinking of spending 3 weeks from mid to end December 2009 in South Island, New Zealand. Is it a good time to travel, weather-wise? Will it be crowded given that I understand it is peak season.

1 Reply

December is summer and school holidays, so it is going to be busier on the roads. And flights will be busier as people jet about to see family at Christmas. But it really depends your plans as to how many people you'll encounter.

Im a South Islander, August is mid winter and in the south island road conditions in places can get dicey especially in the deep south where we get huge frontal systems sweeping in from Antarctica. Thats not to say that August is out of the question, if you love skiing I would hit the southern slopes near Queenstown. Its the driving that can get dicey at times, but you just need to look out for weather reports, I have been caught out in deep snow once on the Arthurs Pass and wouldnt wish it on anybody... New Zealand is a stunning place though, you will love it!

6 Replies

If you're just planning to drive which do you think would be the best time of year for it, Mike? We're thinking 2010. Thanks!

Well depends on what you like - if you like skiing then july/august/sep would be ideal but my favourite time of the year is February/March - March is fast becoming the most stable weather as NZ transitions out of Summer (its also often classed as a shoulder season). School holidays go from mid to late december right through to the end of January so any time after that is the best of both worlds... Campervans IMHO is the only way to see NZ... unlike many countries what you see outside the cities is what makes NZ great! Bare minimum trip for the SOuth Island alone is 2-3 weeks - and I would say a little less for the North Island (but Im biased).

Thanks for that Mike. I'll have a look at booking travel for March - we have just under three weeks, so do you think two weeks on the South Island and the rest on the North?

We're taking our two kids aged 7 and 10, do you have any special suggestions for them? They're pretty adventurous so rafting and fishing are definitely in! Thanks again for all your help!

I would say 1 week in the north and 2 in the south would be fine. Your kids will love queenstown - lots of fun outdoor activities. Rafting is a good one, the tourism new zealand website should have some childbased activities... I hope you have a great time and enjoy what can only be described as the best scenery in the world.

Hi again Emilie, I just stumbled upon the following itinerary which is superb - I would check that out (bear in mind that it is a tour company selling self drive holiday BUT very good for giving you an idea of timings)PLUS I would trim 1 or 2 days in the north island and add it to your Queenstown/Fiordland area part... but its a 3 week journey with some nice suggestions.

Oh and I forgot to add my 2 favourite areas of NZ especially in Feb/Mar The Abel Tasman National Park (dozens of white sand beaches) and great kayaking at the top of the SOuth Island and the Bay of Islands at the top of the North Island arent included in that journey - Im assuming this is because they are considered off the beaten path - my suggestion is do some unbeaten path - thats what NZ is really about - If you take highway 1 all the way (especially in the South Island) you miss Nelson (my favourite little beach city and market) also.

Is the timing of Mid Aug still make this trip good?

Is this route good for August timeframe to travel?

I have done this trip recently ... and i can vouch for it - it has to be among the world's most scenic drives ...

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