The Best 12 days Road trip Itinerary for Southland, New Zealand 

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Photo of The Best 12 days Road trip Itinerary for Southland, New Zealand  1/3 by Aditi Jana
Lake Tekapo - Aditi Jana (c)

New Zealand on every level is one of the most spectacular places on earth and we feel thoroughly grateful for being able to experience that. Most part of this country is untouched and pristine in all it’s natural glory. From sun bouncing off the white glaciers to wild lupines covering the valley like Persian carpets. Not to mention all the delicious wines from numerous vineyards to choose from, all with their own distinct flavours by region and age. People of New Zealand are by now very familiar with tourists so it is not a surprise that at all times they are warm, friendly towards you and assuring that you have the best time there.

With all that said; stunning landscape, fun and adventurous activities, amazing restaurants and wine culture has qualified New Zealand as one of the places that is fun and romantic at the same time, for us and many honeymoon goers. If just lazing around by the beach or island getaways are not your ideal vacation to spend quality time with each other, then this isolated and cornered country, a long flight away from most places around the world with maybe multiple stopovers along the route, will still be your best call and every bit worth it.

Photo of The Best 12 days Road trip Itinerary for Southland, New Zealand  2/3 by Aditi Jana
Lake Wakatipu - Aditi Jana (c)

We were in South New Zealand for good 12 days and covered the entire South Island by road following a pre planned route. We made multiple stops to explore quaint towns and breathtaking landscapes along the way. It’s surprising how many lakes and rivers we came across on our route and each one of them different and beautiful in their own way. With the sky exploding into a different shade with the time of the day and lakes turning from turquoise blue to a sapphire right before our eyes as the clouds move, it was all surreal and yet after twelve long days we are left craving for more.

For this road trip we had planned out our itinerary way before hand and booked our accommodation at Airbnbs and other short stay apartments, accordingly. Food was never an issue for us as we found some great restaurants along the way and in the towns. We stuck by those for a while and they also had many vegetarian options within their menu if and when we wanted. I have realised renting a comfortable car is the key to enjoying a journey as the distance between towns are long and can go on for hours with way too many photo ops along the way. Trust me when I say South New Zealand is oozing the kind of beauty which you must have otherwise only seen on post cards and even assumed that’s more of a good Photoshop job than being this close to the real deal and if you are a photographer or one who can’t resist missing a good frame like myself, make sure to inform your accommodation before hand about your delay as the towns close pretty early. You also will want to avoid driving late after sundown for hours, after all the drive is enjoyable with visibly changing landscape, not just street lamps and endless dark roads.

Luckily for us, we were there in one of the shoulder months of the year i.e. the first and the second week of December, right before the holidays began and peak tourist season takes over. Even so, Queenstown which is the adventure capital of the world was still pretty much buzzing with tourists. The smaller towns and stunning vineyards were where we found our occasional solace as we figured, the art of sipping on delicious wines with a side of good cheese transports you to a very content and gratitude filled happy place. Guide to wineries HERE.

Photo of The Best 12 days Road trip Itinerary for Southland, New Zealand  3/3 by Aditi Jana
Wine tasting - Aditi Jana (c)

Finally here, I am sharing our South New Zealand Itinerary, hoping this’ll help make your trip leisurely and exciting at the same time, like it did for us and definitely feel free to add or omit any route that may seem convenient according to you.

OUR 12 DAYS ITINERARY FOR SOUTH NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP

DAY 1: ARRIVE IN CHRISTCHURCH

We reached Christchurch late in the night around 10pm and the only place open for business was McDonald’s near the airport for take away. After picking up our rental car from Christchurch and getting not so good burgers for dinner we headed to an apartment waiting for us in the city.

DAY 2: EXPLORING CHRISTCHURCH and TRAVEL VIA LAKE TEKAPO AND PUKAKI TO MT COOK

Today we got breakfast at one of the many lovely cafes and explored the city for about a couple of hours before we hit the road to AORAKI VILLAGE at the foothills of Mt. COOK via RAKAI GEORGE through SOUTH CANTERBURY to GERADLINE then into MACKENZIE COUNTRY.

If you are not aware, Christchurch has multiple times been affected by severe earthquakes and there are ruins of the damage around the city with saddening yet beautiful memorial for people and children who did not survive the disaster.

If you are there around November to December like me, you will be able to enjoy the coulors of the beautiful lupines around scenic lake Tekapo.

To know more about how and where to find Lupines visit my website: www.bohemianontherun.com

DAY 3: TRAVEL TO WANAKA

After spending a night at an apartment around Mt. cook in the Mackenzie region and enjoying breakfast with a view of the sugar powdered glaciers we drove out to Wanaka. A charming little town with a beautiful lake that made for a jaw dropping view from our rooms.

You can join a glacier lake tour if you are staying around longer.

DAY 4: EXPLORE TOWN AND WINERIES

Wanaka is a charming little town built around the beds of the spectacular Lake Wanaka.

This day we walked around touring the town, trying out restaurants and explored a couple to wineries in the area. Later spent the evening indoors with a bottle of delicious riesling from one of the vineyards.

DAY 5: TRAVEL TO TE ANU

We were in Te Anu in two to three hours’ time. Another, even smaller town in the region.

After exploring the GLOW WORM CAVES, we got dinner in the town center and spent time under the clear starry sky at the Te Anu lake.

DAY 6: MILFORD SOUND CRUISE/ FIRODLAND HIKE

This day we headed to tour the spectacular Milford sound on a small cruise. We were lucky to have experienced wild dolphins, seals lazing on rocks and a stunning water fall. The cruise tour was an awe-inspiring visual treat.

If you want, you can take up popular guided hike along the Firodland as well to witness their wildlife in the forests and more scenic beauty.

DAY 7: HEAD TO QUEESNTOWN

After a couple nights we departed Te Anu and geared up for a leisurely drive to Queenstown.

We were there around lunch and enjoyed food and drinks at one of the many amazing restaurants in the city and moved along with the crowd to the lake to unwind.

The city also has a vintage theatre which is a fun experience and called it a night after dinner and cocktails at one of our now favourite bar in Queenstown: 1876.

DAY 8: EXPLORE OUTSIDE TOWN AND WINERIES

This day we planned our day around visiting as many wineries as we could. The out of this world drive along side the never ending Lake Wakatipu was my favourite part of the day. The stunning vineyards with spectacular view overlooking lakes, mountains and the delicious wines confirmed that we were in our happy place. It was Pinot Noir season, we sampled some with beautiful flavours and bought bottles from the vineyards we really liked.

After stopping at cherry fields, sampling and buying a bunch we also spotted a sign to view lavender flowers carpeting the fields in soothing purple on our way back to Queenstown.

DAY 9: INDULGE IN WATER SPORTS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES

There are a number of water sports activities that you can indulge in on Lake Wakatipu and few other touristy activities like penguin reserves, in Queenstown. From getting ice creams and standing in queue from the best burgers to jet skiing and paragliding the day went by just being around in town on a fine sunny day.

DAY 10: ADVENTURE SPORTS AND WINERIES

The famous Hackett bungee jumping, sky diving, gondola rides disclosing amazing view of the town. Also, indulge in advanced three wheeled luge cart rides which just might be the most scenic luge track in the world.

We of course ended the day with more wine tasting with cheese platters in Rippon Valley.

DAY 11: DRIVE TO CHRISTCHURCH VIA FOX GLACIER

Finally coming to the end we got out on the road early in the morning today to cover fox glacier in PUNAKAIKI area on our way to Christchurch, which was around a 9-hour long drive.

DAY 12: DEPART FROM CHRIST CHURCH

Explore more of the city if you got the time before leaving for the airport with beaming memories of this amazing trip.

Queenstown - Aditi Jana (C)

Photo of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand by Aditi Jana

For more stories and updates on my travel exploits follow @BohemianOnTheRun on Instagram.

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