Central South Island Experience
Kiwi cities are beautiful, but if you hire a rental car and explore some of the countryside as well, you'll be swept off your feet by the sheer bounty of exciting, memorable things to do. If you are planning on visiting Christchurch, use this itinerary to help you make the most of viewing Christchurch before embarking on your NZ road trip.
Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Visit the stunning and beautiful Botanic Gardens, a great place to get lost on a warm summer's day.
Big Rock Canyon's Kaumira Canyon
Abseil, jumpo, zipline, slide, swim and hike the Kaumira Canyon - a must see and do.
Throw yourself off a bridge attached only to a bungy cord! Exhilaration plus.
Heading through some of the best wineries in the country, stop for a drink.
Whether you’ve made your way to Christchurch via air, train or road, the city’s landscape is one of beauty. Post the Christchurch 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, which caused significant damage to its infrastructure, the city is now awash with new development, cafes and thriving businesses. Known as the ‘Garden City’ be sure to take in the plethora of gardens throughout the city. Stuck for things to do? Don’t worry, there is plenty to entertain!
- Go punting on the Avon (river)
- Take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola
- Take a ride on the Christchurch Tramway and experience the urban beauty of the city
- Visit the International Antarctic Centre and see little blue penguins
- Head out to Akaroa and experience a piece of French history
Just under two hours south of the Garden City you'll find your first stop, Air Rangitata, and a unique charter flight. This company offers numerous aerial tours around the South Island, but its hour-long Canterbury Plains trip is the ultimate way to soak in the local region, which is the largest plain in the country and where you have been driving.
Just a few minutes further south and you'll be in the agricultural town of Geraldine, a great place to stop for night after the flight and to witness mid-Canterbury from the ground. If you are physically fit and want a thrill, Big Rock Canyons' Kaumira Canyon is nearby. This is a full-day experience, combining abseiling, cliff jumping, zip lining and swimming, starting from the Geraldine Visitors Centre. And for the thrill seekers, Rangitata Rafts and Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail are some of the most popular activites in this gorgeous region.
Accommodation for the night can be found at Geraldine Kiwi Holiday Park & Motel.
Head east the following morning in search of Tekapo. Tekapo is a small tourist hub about an hour from Geraldine, sitting adjacent to a stunningly beautiful lake with the same name. The water here comes down from glaciers in the Southern Alps, picking up incredibly fine rock flour as it goes. Why is this relevant? This combination of forces gives Lake Tekapo a brilliant turquoise colour like you may never have seen before, making it a defining natural highlight of this entire road trip.
After you manage to pull yourself away from the water hues of the lakes, head north and detour off the main highway just past Pukaki and travel for another 40 minutes. You'll weave your way up into the mountains, a breath-taking journey that brings you to the Mount Cook National Park, and the sight of the eponymous mountain (the tallest in NZ). You'll find numerous hikes here, such as Glencoe Walk (30 minutes return), Bowen Bush Walk (10 minutes return) and the Red Tarns Track (two hours return). Each of these offer a mixture of scenery, from lush natural bush to expansive vistas that feature the Hooker Glacier and Mount Cook itself.
A great place to stay while exploring the Mt. Cook area is Twizel Kiwi Holiday Park. And if you are heading south, you can get a head start on the next day and make your way to Kurow, and the Kurow Holiday Park.
Back on the main road, it's just 30 minutes to the alpine community of Omarama, where a great lunch can be found as well as plenty of possum fur and merino wool souvenirs. You have a few options here for fun - you could stop to try the local ski fields and heli-flights, or even turn off the main road for a scenic detour.
When you continue your journey, your next destination of Cromwell is only an hour and 20 minutes from Omarama. Not only is this another spectacular lake town, but its surrounds are positively blanketed by a booming wine and fruit industry. There are loads of vineyards and orchards located in very close proximity, so be sure to drive around a bit and grab a few samples to gorge on later.
Be sure to stretch the legs and walk around the historic Cromwell Heritage Precinct for boutiques shops, art galleries and cosy cafes. Head to beautiful Lake Wanaka for the night and stay at the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park there before starting your next adventure.
Rise nice and early to make the most of a full day in Wanaka and Queenstown. Spend one, two or many days in this small piece of paradise and you'll find jet boats, bungy jumping, skiing/snowboarding, lake cruises (check out the TSS Earnslaw cruise), walking and biking tracks, shopping, world-famous eateries and so much more to experience.
Take in one of the many trails at Mount Aspiring National Park. Great for a day of hiking, mountain biking or rock climing in this beautirul park of New Zealand.
A great base camp in Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park