Roadtripping in New Zealand's South Island
New Zealand is one of the most rewarding places to take a road-trip. Firstly, it’s super small and easily do-able in a short amount of time (especially if you’re only sticking to one island), and secondly because the scenery is jaw-dropping and you’ll feel like you’re driving through postcard scenery most the time! So grab your camera, hop across the ditch, and hire yourself a car or van and set off on an adventure to remember.
The main tourist destinations in the South Island are Christchurch and Queenstown, so most car rental companies offer their cheapest rates out of these depots. If you’re flying into the South Island, chances are you’ll go to one of these destinations anyhow. You can return to a different drop off but you’ll likely be slogged with an additional one-way fee. Motorhome hire actually works out to be quite economical when you take into account the money you’ll save on accommodation, and it’s very convenient having everything there in the van ready for you.
Where to go
The south Island is full of jaw-dropping scenery and natural attractions, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve made a list of everything you want to see. The West Coast of the South Island is a beautiful drive through rugged mountainous scenery that leads straight down to the ocean. Here you’ll find the famous Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, where you can take a hike up these momentous frozen rivers of ice. Further up the West Coast is the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes where jets of water shoot up into the air from rocks staked like pancakes.
Heading to the North of the South Island, you’ll find the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, home to Havelock, the green muscle capital of the world (a must-do if you love seafood). The laid back coastal town of Nelson, surrounded by Abel Tasman National Park and wineries is also located here. Driving down the East Coast of the South Island, you’ll enjoy remote coastal scenery with small quaint towns along the way.
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Kaikoura is a popular stop off for it’s marine wildlife encounters. Enjoy the thrill of swimming with fur seals and dusky dolphins, or get up close and personal with migrating whales on a boat tour. Further down the coast you’ll get to Christchurch, the South Island’s garden city, from which you can head inland past Mount Cook across to Queenstown, or choose to head south on to Dunedin and the remote southern coast of Invercargill.
The Queenstown area is a tourist mecca, offering not only outstanding natural beauty, but also thrilling adventures for fun-seekers with skiing and boarding, jet-boat rides, bungy jumping and more.The ridiculously beautiful Milford Sound is also located close by in the Fiordland National Park, and you can even take a scenic flight there from Queenstown to enjoy the scenery along the way and save time.
Where to Stay
The South Island is well set up for budget friendly road trips, with lots of great camping areas located along the way. Check out the Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites, which tend to be located in idyllic beauty spots and are very affordable.
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