The stunning south - home of The Lord of the Rings, mountain ranges and bright blue rivers - this vast island screams adventure, thrives on tramping and gets you wasted off delicious, world-renowned wine. What more could you dream of?!?
With so much to experience, I thought I would shine a little light on my favourites of what this place has to offer. So hire yourself a car or preferably a camper van (alternatively check out Kiwi chain The Warehouse for cheap tents) and get on the road.
For the occasional upgrade I highly recommend using Airbnb as NZ is crawling with amazing, authentic and truly beautiful restored homes! One of the biggest misunderstandings and blunders in my budget was the lack of free camping… More often than not we paid between $20-$40 for a tent space. However these fees may vary as it was over the Christmas/New Year period.
Queenstown and surroundings
- Onsen Hot Pools - Treat yourself to one of the most picturesque and relaxing baths you will ever have…EVER. Bookings are essential!
- Wilson’s Bay - A beautiful bay on Lake Wakatipu, and only a short and scenic drive from Queenstown. A dream location for a myriad of water sports and activities.
- Arrowtown - A restored charming mining town. The main street is lined with original buildings making it the perfect place to pick up a coffee as well as a bacon & egg butty.
- Central Otago wineries - Scattered along the road from Queenstown to Cromwell, there’s so many inviting cellar doors to sink your lips into. Chard Farm and Quartz Reef were two of my favourites and worth checking out. And whilst in Cromwell be sure to check out their historic town centre.
- Glenorchy - A charming little town an hours drive along Lake Wakatipu. Worth staying here a night but accomodation books out so get in early!
- The Cadrona Hotel - A great pit stop between Queenstown and Wanaka, it boasts an exceptional beer garden with local brew on tap and super tasty burgers.
- Hike Roy’s Peak - One of the most spectacular day hikes I have ever done, rewarded with stunning mountain and lake views, it is the perfect day out.
- Mt Iron walk - an easy hour walk up a gentle incline to stare out over the beautiful Lake Wanaka.
- Blue Pools - Located just a short and scenic drive out of Wanaka. Take the plunge from a swing bridge into the clearest blue water that will literally leave you breathless.
- Rippon winery - Wanaka’s oldest winery and well worth the visit. This biodynamically farmed Vineyard will have you wanting bottle after bottle whilst taking in the most beautiful views over Lake Wanaka.
- Earland Falls & Key summit - 2 birds, one stone, same track! Set your sights on one of the most incredible waterfalls of the south, and enjoy captivating views of snow capped mountains all in about a 5 hour stroll!
- Cruise the Milford Sound - $90 for one company, or $50 for another… I don’t think the more expensive one gives you all that much more, apart from slightly less crowds. Choose a price and boat that works for you as long as it gets you cruising the Milford and up close and personal with a tremendous waterfall.
- Routeburn walk - A 32km track that generally takes between 2 - 4 days to complete. This track includes the previously mentioned giant Earland Falls and panoramic Key Summit, as well as a bunch of other incredible views! A must do if you have the time and the camping gear, there are even huts you can stay in along the journey - although you’ll need to book ahead!
- Kea Point - A quick stroll that still rewards you with a stunning views of the Southern Alps and the Mueller Glacier lake. It is about a half hour return from the White Horse camp ground.
- Hooker Valley walk - The most popular walk and Mt Cook and its easy to see why! Walking over multiple swing bridges this walk spits you out right at the foot of the Southern Alps.
- Tasman Glacier - An easy half hour walk to view out over the Tasman Glacier lake where icebergs float, even in the middle of summer!
- Abel Tasman track - A 60km walking track tracing the top of the south island past some of NZ’s most beautiful beaches. If you don’t have a few days to camp out in this stunning National Park, then a day will still suffice to see some stunning views!
- Kayaking - There are a bunch of companies set up to rent out Sea Kayaks so you can float over the crystal clear water and park at a beach which you have all to yourself. If an entire day of paddling doesn’t float your boat, then it’s optional to hire one way and walk back or get a ride with a water taxi!
- Cleopatra Pool - A gorgeous clear water swimming hole with a natural waterslide… sounds like a dream? Unfortunately everybody agrees! Thus expect this place to be super busy in the summer, whilst some other stunning spots along the way are just as pretty and a little more quiet.
- Anchorage bay - A superb beach! Set up here for the day & tan away!!
- MANA Organic Wines - A collection of gorgeous wineries who all share one common belief; “Less is more”. Seresin was my ultimate favourite!
- Forrest Winery - The Doctor’s range is super experimental and are all damn tasty drops!
- Picton - An adorable seaside town which flourishes from tourism as ferries linking both islands, and massive cruise ships continuously roll on in. There’s a pick of tasty waterfront cafés and restaurants to choose from or you can simply bliss out with fish and chips on the harbour.
- Marlborough Sounds and Havelock - This family of stunning sounds are home to the green-lipped mussel and famous for it! Worth the scenic drive to indulge in a massive bowl of these beauties!
Three weeks exploring the stunning south was barely enough to scrape the surface, stretching over 150,000 square KM’s of wild swimming, massive mountain ranges and tramping tracks, this Island will forever have me coming back to explore something new.