10-Day South Island Road Trip Itinerary To See All The Best Parts Of New Zealand

Team Klook
Team Klook
19 Aug 2021
Image credits: @christchurchgondola, @franzjosefglacierguides, @annetteyules

Image credits: @christchurchgondola, @franzjosefglacierguides, @annetteyules

Planning to go on a New Zealand South Island road trip and looking for places to fill out your NZ itinerary while on the South Island? With tons of things to do on the South Island, you might face a difficult time crafting your DIY itinerary for your New Zealand South Island road trip.
South Island is brimming with thrilling adventures and scenic tours—thanks to its majestic rugged landscape. From scenic gondola rides and cruises along Milford Sound and Te Anau to the most exhilarating activities at the world’s adventure capital Queenstown, there are things to do for everyone! If you’re a film buff, you can check out the New Zealand tours of Lord of the Rings film sets.
To help you prepare for your trip, we’ve compiled a sample NZ itinerary for South Island, enough for a 10-day New Zealand South Island road trip. Our proposed trip starts at Christchurch, where the airport is located and ends at the charming resort town of Queenstown. The best part is you can book all of these activities hassle-free with Klook!
What are you waiting for? Start booking and pack your bags for your next New Zealand self-drive holiday!
  1. Christchurch
  2. Hanmer Springs
  3. Kaikoura
  4. Mount Cook
  5. Wanaka
  6. Te Anau
  7. Milford Sound
  8. Queenstown

1. CHRISTCHURCH

Kick off your 10-day New Zealand South Island road trip adventure around Christchurch, your gateway to all the best parts of New Zealand’s South Island. 

Christchurch Gondola

Treat yourself to the best views of Christchurch! Image credits: @christchurchgondola
Treat yourself to the best views of Christchurch! Image credits: @christchurchgondola
The best way to start your New Zealand South Island road trip is to see the entirety of the majestic Christchurch as you go uphill aboard a gondola! Nothing eases jet lag more than basking in the picturesque sights of Christchurch from the best vantage point in the city.
After the gondola ride, you can also check out other attractions like the Time Tunnel, which takes you into a volcano and to Christchurch's early settlements.

The Christchurch Pass

There are plenty of sights to see at Christchurch! Image credits: @travelstyle_vijaya
There are plenty of sights to see at Christchurch! Image credits: @travelstyle_vijaya
Experience all of Christchurch’s highlights in one go with this all-access tram pass to the best views of the city - a perfect way to spend one day of your New Zealand South Island road trip.
Alight on Christchurch’s historic tram and spend your morning learning about the local flora on your hour-long guided tour of the must-see Christchurch Botanic Gardens. After that, go on a scenic boat ride on the charming Avon River. A gondola pass is also included in the package for the ultimate sightseeing experience.

International Antarctic Ticket in Christchurch

Learn more about Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre. Image credits: @internationalantarcticcentre
Learn more about Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre. Image credits: @internationalantarcticcentre
Did you know you could add Antarctica to your NZ itinerary for the South Island? That’s right—travel to the edge of the world without leaving Christchurch at the International Antarctic Centre!
Learn more about the farthest region globally through interactive experiences such as the Antarctic Storm simulation, and hang out sessions with the Little Blue Penguins and more animal friends in the centre. If you’re travelling with kids on your New Zealand self-drive holiday, you will surely enjoy this one!

2. HANMER SPRINGS

Hanmer Springs is a perfect stop for your New Zealand South Island road trip if you like to mix relaxation and recreation. Whether you want to go jet boating or simply relax in a hot pool, you can easily experience both when you drive north for 1 hour!

Jet Boating in Hanmer Springs

Zoom past Waiau River on a jet boat!
Zoom past Waiau River on a jet boat!
Experience the thrill of a lifetime when you go zooming across the Waiau River on a jet boat! Enjoy heart-pumping twists and turns against the rapids. Have your breath further taken away by the stunning landscape that surrounds the river!
This 1-hour jet boat adventure is complete with a professional guide who will fill you in on the secrets and hidden gems around the area, as well as execute 360-degree spins made famous by the jet boat!

Quad Biking Experience in Hanmer Springs

Go on an off-road adventure in Hanmer Springs!
Go on an off-road adventure in Hanmer Springs!
Conquer the rugged terrains of Canterbury with this 2-hour quad biking adventure! Hop aboard a durable quad bike that’s easy to manoeuvre. Kids can even try their hands out at driving this vehicle so that you can enjoy this sightseeing experience to the fullest!
Marvel at the surrounding forests and springs in Hanmer Springs as your expert guide takes you to all of the best places you can go to during this experience. This package is complete with overalls, gumboots, and helmets to keep you safe and protected during your drive.

Hanmer Springs Hot Pools

Enjoy a long warm soak at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa! Image credits: @pookestar1
Enjoy a long warm soak at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa! Image credits: @pookestar1
Relax your muscles when you visit the largest thermal hot pools during your New Zealand South Island road trip. Explore 15 outdoor pools, a spa, and waterslides, and see the benefits of natural mineral waters, clear alpine air, and an uplifting environment to both your mind and body.
Soak in their hot pools, infused with minerals to soften your skin. As you relax, kids can play on the Aqua Play Pools’ water slides. All of these against the picturesque backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains and redwood trees of Hanmer Springs!

3. KAIKOURA

Don’t miss out on the beautiful Kaikoura during your New Zealand South Island road trip! Animal lovers will enjoy this coastal town, especially with the animal encounter adventures you can have while here. From Christchurch, drive 2.5 hours to reach Kaikoura.

Kaikoura Whale Watching

Spot whales all year round at Kaikoura! Image credits: @whalewatchkaikoura
Spot whales all year round at Kaikoura! Image credits: @whalewatchkaikoura
Go whale watching all year round at Kaikoura! Grab this opportunity to get up close with giant sperm whales, the largest toothed predators in the world. Hop aboard a comfortable sailboat and cruise along the pristine waters in this whale watching tour with a 95% success rate. If you don’t get to see a whale during the trip, you get an 80% refund! 
Ensure you have your camera in your hands as some of the majestic whales can be shy sometimes and only show for a short time!

Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura

Meet adorable fur seals when you kayak. Image credits: @seal_kayak_kaikoura
Meet adorable fur seals when you kayak. Image credits: @seal_kayak_kaikoura
Continue the animal encounters in this New Zealand South Island road trip with a seal, kayaking adventure!
Explore the magical coastal town of Kaikoura and discover stunning cliffs, craggy rocks, and mountain tops on a comfortable kayak. Paddle along the Pacific and be greeted by friendly and adorable New Zealand fur seals as you weave through the waters. All necessary equipment is included in the package, like life jackets, spray skirts, paddle jackets, poggies, wet shoes, dry bag for your camera, spare thermals, and GORETEX dry pants for winter paddling!

4. MOUNT COOK

Add in the majestic views of the Southern Alps on your NZ itinerary for the South Island! With thrilling heli hike experiences, make this New Zealand self-drive holiday different from other road trips you’ve done before.

Heli Hike in Franz Josef Glacier with Free Hot Pool Admission

Learn step-cutting at Franz Josef Glacier. Image credits: @franzjosefglacierguides
Learn step-cutting at Franz Josef Glacier. Image credits: @franzjosefglacierguides
Land on the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier on a helicopter, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trek across this glacial formation!
This experience usually takes up half a day, as your expert guide will be teaching you how to comfortably walk on the glacier while revealing great tidbits about the area. Enjoy up to 3 hours of fun time on the snowy slopes. Afterwards, warm up as you soak in a hot pool at Franz Josef Hot Pool!

Tasman Glacier Hiking Experience in Mount Cook with Helicopter Ride

Have a fun time in the snow with the family! Image redits: @anthecannon
Have a fun time in the snow with the family! Image redits: @anthecannon
Make the most out of your New Zealand South Island road trip with this Tasman Glacier Hiking Experience! Hop on a helicopter and get the most stunning views of the largest glacier in NZ! 
Hike against the towering landscape of Mount Cook in this unique hiking experience that shifts pathways through time. This is due to the changes the glacier’s formations go through as days pass by.

Dark Sky Project-Summit Experience (Mt. John Observatory Tour)

Reach for the stars at Mt John Observatory. Image redits: @annetteyules
Reach for the stars at Mt John Observatory. Image redits: @annetteyules
Cap off one night on your 10-day New Zealand South Island road trip when you go stargazing in this Dark Sky Project.
An optimal stargazing spot, Mt. John Observatory offers you priceless views of the night sky you can’t see anywhere else! Embark on a 2-hour tour that takes you through space and observe constellations with an expert guide. On a clear night, you can even see Jupiter and the Orion Nebula from the observatory!

5. WANAKA

Venture into the quaint town Wanaka, an hour’s drive from Queenstown, the finale for our New Zealand South Island road trip. Adventure seekers will surely enjoy the activities Wanaka has in store for you!

Wanaka Skydive Experience

Leap of faith and soar over Wanaka. Image credits: @skydivewanaka
Leap of faith and soar over Wanaka. Image credits: @skydivewanaka
Freefall from up to 15,000 feet over the Southern Alps with this Wanaka skydive experience! Meet your tandem master at Wanaka Airport and board the aircraft that will take you above the stunning Mt. Cook and Mt. Aspiring! Take a leap of faith to have panoramic views of New Zealand!
For photo and video packages, make sure to book them during check-in!

Puzzling World Ticket in Wanaka

Don’t let the illusion trick you at Puzzling World! Image credits: @puzzlingworldwanaka
Don’t let the illusion trick you at Puzzling World! Image credits: @puzzlingworldwanaka
Get your minds blown by illusions and 3D exhibits at Puzzling World! True to its name, this attraction is made to trick you and your kids’ minds with confusing illusions and puzzles.
Conquer the world’s first 3D Super Maze, and don’t forget to take amazing photos at their optical illusion rooms to trick your followers when you post them on IG!

6. TE ANAU

Home to fantastic wildlife, the lakeside town of Te Anau should be on your list of places to visit during your New Zealand South Island road trip! Plus, this town sits right outside the Fiordland National Park, so you can easily head to Milford Sound right after!

Te Anau Glowworm Cave Tour

No, those are not stars! Those dazzling creatures are Te Anau’s glowworms.
No, those are not stars! Those dazzling creatures are Te Anau’s glowworms.
Be mesmerised by the dazzling glow worms that inhabit Te Anau in this half-day glowworm cave tour! Ride on a cruise vessel and explore the cave’s hidden limestone passages. Some pathways require you to travel by foot, so be prepared to get wet along this trip. 
But, don’t worry, the tour is worth it as thousands of glow worms will greet you as you pass along hidden grottos where they stay! To keep you warm, unlimited hot drinks are available onboard.

7. MILFORD SOUND

Nature lovers on their New Zealand South Island road trip will absolutely adore Milford Sound! With its lush rainforests, majestic rock formations and cascading waterfalls, a picture-perfect day await you at this remote fiord.

Milford Sound Day Tour by Southern Discoveries

Rain or shine, Milford Sound awaits you! Image credits: @southerndiscoveries
Rain or shine, Milford Sound awaits you! Image credits: @southerndiscoveries
Embark on a Milford Sound day tour that lasts for up to 12 hours! Start a day on your New Zealand self-drive holiday on a bus tour that goes to Fiordland National Park. 
Stop by picturesque locations such as Lake Te Anau for photo ops, then embark on a sightseeing Milford Sound tour. Plus, a picnic lunch of meat wraps, salad, soup, seasonal fresh fruit and dessert is included in the tour to keep you full!

Milford Sound Day Tour by GreatSight

Brace yourself for the cascading waterfalls along Milford Sound! Image credits: @counting.countries
Brace yourself for the cascading waterfalls along Milford Sound! Image credits: @counting.countries
Spend a full day at Milford Sound with another cruise option for your NZ South Island itinerary! Experience a ride under the mountains aboard a comfy coach bus that takes you through the iconic Homer Tunnel! Soon, you’ll be reaching the Fiordland National Park, where you will take the cruise around Milford Sound. 
Don’t miss out on the chance to taste the freshest water on the planet when you stop by Monkey Creek!

8. QUEENSTOWN

The road of this New Zealand South Island road trip ends at Queenstown. Named as the adventure capital of the world, you will indeed have your fill of the most thrilling activities for your NZ South Island itinerary!

Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Luge Ride with Buffet Lunch or Dinner

Marvel at the incredible Queenstown scenery atop Bob’s Peak! Image credits: @skylinequeenstown
Marvel at the incredible Queenstown scenery atop Bob’s Peak! Image credits: @skylinequeenstown
A great way to start your final days in this New Zealand South Island road trip is to let the gorgeous Queenstown scenery wow you! Hop on an iconic Skyline Gondola which will take you 450 metres above the ground! Make sure you capture the beauty of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables from Bob’s Peak!
Plus, enjoy a thrilling downhill luge ride when you reach the peak and a tasty buffet lunch or dinner at the Stratosfare Bar & Restaurant.

Skydive Queenstown Experience with NZONE

Tick off skydiving on your bucket list in Queenstown! Image credits: @nzoneskydive
Tick off skydiving on your bucket list in Queenstown! Image credits: @nzoneskydive
Don’t miss out on this thrilling skydive experience during your New Zealand South Island road trip! Experience a one-of-a-kind skydive matched with the most breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu!
As soon as you jump, experience up to 25 seconds of freefall followed by a 5-minute canopy ride. Keep this memory with you if you order a photo and video pack during check-in!

Glenorchy Scenic and LOTR Small Group Tour

Time to live your LOTR dreams at Glenorchy! Image credits: @cece_cb3a56
Time to live your LOTR dreams at Glenorchy! Image credits: @cece_cb3a56
If you’re visiting NZ in hopes to check out the iconic LOTR film location, then you’re in for a treat! There are countless Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand, and Queenstown is one of the perfect gateways for such an activity!
In this small group Lord of the Rings tour in Queenstown, witness the fantastic views of Glenorchy and visit filming locations for the beloved movie franchise, as well as other well-known movies like X-men Origins: Wolverine, Mission Impossible: Fallout, and more! Plus, you get to relive your most favourite scenes with authentic Lord of the Rings costumes and replica props provided during the tour!