City Guides, New Zealand, Road Trip

New Zealand South Island Itinerary: 10-day Road Trip Guide

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So, you’re planning to visit New Zealand? Lucky you, because you’re about to experience one of the world’s most beautiful places.

In this post, I’ll be taking you through my New Zealand South Island itinerary, which shows off some of the best sights New Zealand has to offer.

New Zealand South Island had long been on my to-visit list, but New Zealand is located out of the way from most places. It requires proper planning and setting aside precious vacation days, and I just kept getting distracted by other destinations to ever consider visiting New Zealand properly. So when an opportunity came up to check out the country, you bet I jumped on it! In total spent 2 weeks in New Zealand.

10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
A sneak peek of how beautiful New Zealand is – here is a view from Ben Lomond Hike

Anyway, enough fluff. let’s talk more about the big New Zealand trip!

New Zealand South Island Overview

New Zealand is made up of about 600 islands, but there are only two major islands: North Island and South Island. The majority of beautiful New Zealand landscapes and photos you see in travel magazines are located on the South Island.

And I swear, there are a lot of things to see here. 10 days was barely enough to scratch the surface of South Island. This is because every point of interest is so spread apart with a lot of ground to cover. After all, at around 150,000km², it’s not exactly a tiny island.

Despite this, I was surprised to learn that there are fewer people in the entirety of the South Island than there are people living in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand on the North Island.

So to put things into perspective for myself, I looked up the comparison of South Island to Singapore (where I live) in terms of population density. It turns out that there are nearly 6x more people on the tiny island of Singapore than on the South Island, even though the size of Singapore is only 0.5% the size of the South Island.

Crazy stuff, hey? Either Singapore is way too tiny or New Zealand is just that sparsely populated (I think it’s both).

OK, now that I’m done feeling small about my home country – back to the travel tips.

How long should I set aside for the South Island in New Zealand?

You’ll need at least 10 days to properly see the South Island, and that’s why this blog post has been written as a 10-day itinerary.

However, there is so much to see on the South Island that you can stay here as long as you have the time for. If time is not a constraint, I would stay at least 14 days so I have more time for all the hikes I didn’t get to do.

When is the best time to visit the South Island?

Remember that New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, so its seasons are the opposite of what one might believe are the conventional seasons.

Here are the seasons in New Zealand:

WinterJuly – September
SpringOctober – December
SummerDecember – March
FallMarch – June
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere

With this in mind, I think the best time to visit the South Island is at the tail end of Spring and towards Summer, in November or December. Summer is a very popular time to go to New Zealand due to all the natural activities that can be done in the Summer.

That said, we went at the tail end of Winter in September, and we still had a great time. It’s a different kind of beauty to see the beautiful landscape in crisp winter air.

New Zealand South Island Travel Tips

I find that New Zealand is very similar to Australia, so a lot of the tips below are going to overlap with my previous posts:

1. Renting a car – You MUST rent a car when visiting the South Island in New Zealand. Driving is pretty much a requirement to see most of the South Island, especially if you want to do it in 10 days. One way to further optimize this is to arrange to pick up the car straight from the airport you’re flying into, then arrange to drop it off from the other airport you will be flying out of. This saves you tons of time! For example, we picked up our car at Queenstown Airport but will be dropping it off at Christchurch Airport. Which, brings me to my next point…

2. Open-jaw your flight ticket – We have a lot of ground to cover in the South Island, so we decided to open-jaw our trip for the sake of time optimization – we flew into Queenstown and flew out of Christchurch. That way, we won’t have to drive back to Queenstown at the end of the trip. I highly recommend doing this too if you are pressed for time! You can do this in reverse too, of course. Meaning, that you can choose to fly to Christchurch and fly out of Queenstown, it makes no difference!

3. Driver’s License – Make sure you have your valid Driver’s License with you. If your license is not in English, you’ll need to have it translated by an authorized department or have an International Driver’s License with at least a month’s validity left.

4. Speed Limit – Like Australia, the New Zealand traffic police are strict on speed limits! We got pulled over once for driving a little over the limit at Fiordland National Park, but they let us off with a warning.

5. Fill up the fuel tank before returning your rental car – or it’s going to cost you later. The rental car will fill it up for you and charge you a premium for it!

6. Get a local SIM Card for data – you can pre-purchase a SIM card here and pick it up once you’re in NZ. 4G connection is widely available in most of the towns I went to. You do lose connection when you’re out in remote areas, but the cities remain well connected.

7. Things are closed early – In smaller towns, most amenities are closed by 6 pm. Yes, even grocery stores, so plan if you need to replenish resources. In bigger cities like Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown you might still have a chance to shop a bit later than 6 pm.

8. The sun was super strong in NZ – always wear sunscreen and layer up with extra light clothing and a hat to shield yourself, even when you plan to be in the car all day.

9. Download Google Maps offline – I downloaded offline maps on my Google Maps app just in case we go off the grid. I experienced low connectivity when deep inside the National Parks, and having the map offline was massively helpful.

10. Check road conditions – If you are visiting during Winter or the beginning of Spring, make sure you check road conditions ahead of time. A change of weather might render certain routes impassable – for example, a few days after we left, the South Island was hit with a huge snowstorm which knocked over some trees, and the road to Glenorchy was cut off from Queenstown for some time.

11. Take the DOC’s grading of hiking tracks with a grain of salt – Even if it says “easy” it might not be a walk in the park either (see my Ben Lomond summit blog for example). I feel like the DOC – short for Department of Conservation, the Nature Park Service of New Zealand – is catering to a very fit audience.

12. Apply for NZ ETA – Make sure to check if you need to apply for NZ ETA before arriving in New Zealand. NZ ETA is the travel authorization needed for those who hold passports with visa waiver for visiting New Zealand. You can apply for NZ ETA here.

Packing List for Hiking in New Zealand

The main reason why many people come to visit New Zealand is to enjoy the beautiful nature. And you can only get the most of that by hiking! If you are planning to hike, here are some things that might come in handy:

  • As with any trip, bring a Portable Charger. My favorite charger is the Xiaomi 10,000 mAh. This stuff is super powerful. It can charge an iPhone 7/8+ twice.
  • Bring a good yet light windbreaker. It gets very windy and cold on some days. I used Uniqlo Blocktech Parka which was sufficient.
  • Sunscreen – can’t stress this enough! Protect your skin!
  • Sunglasses – for the same reason as above. Also, if you plan to go somewhere with snow on a sunny day, it will protect you against snow blindness. Something I only learned during the hike to Ben Lomond.
  • Snow gloves – if you visit at the tail end of Winter or the beginning of Spring, there might still be some snow in the mountainous area. So you’ll want something waterproof and insulated to crawl on snow if necessary. This was yet another thing I learned during the hike to Ben Lomond.
  • Hiking shoes – yes you need to wear proper hiking shoes with enough treads! My hiking boots are Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II in Mud/Sanguine which served me really well during this trip and many other hiking trips. I wanted a pop of color so I changed the laces to the 3M Rope Laces in Red from Slickies.

Weather in the South Island of New Zealand

I was in New Zealand in the first two weeks of September (September 1 to 17) and the weather gets very cold once you hit South Island.

On average, the daily temperatures were 9-12 C but some nights could go below 0 C. There was even a snowstorm that hit Queenstown and Wanaka (thankfully a few days after we left) even though it was already mid-September.

The temperature day-to-day varies greatly. One day it would be sunny and warm with blue skies, the next day it would be rainy and cold. Make sure to plan if you’re planning to do a long hike!

Accommodations in the South Island

Since we were a group of 5 people, we booked 3 bedroom houses with a full kitchen and amenities, and they ended up costing us about $30-40 / night per person through Airbnb.

Of course, if you are traveling in a smaller group, it will cost more. If I was traveling by myself I would look at backpacker hostels instead.

The 10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary

The area you’d want to visit in South Island falls under Te Wahipounamu, which is Maori for “the greenstone waters”. It’s the South West New Zealand World Heritage, which in turn is internationally recognized by UNESCO World Heritage. This list encompasses Fiordland, Mount Aspiring, Mount Cook, and Westland Tai Poutini.

If you are only in South Island for 10 days, you can probably only cover 3 out of 4 unless you really pack in the days.

Here’s our 10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary:

You can check the map below to visualize my itinerary. I’ve also marked up things to see and restaurants to eat at.

Map of New Zealand Itinerary
Map of my New Zealand Itinerary

🗺 Save this map to your phone! If you are a Google user, click on the image of the map above. The map will then be saved to your “Recent” maps viewed. Click here for instructions on how to view the map later. It will work from your phone too.

Alright, now let’s cover the details of the 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary:

Day 1-3: Get to Queenstown and explore Fiordland National Park (Stay overnight at Te Anau)

As mentioned before, we decided to open-jaw our flight tickets. Meaning that we would fly to Queenstown first and then fly out of Christchurch at the end of our trip. We do this to save time since there is a lot to see and do on the South Island!

Our first stop, Queenstown, is the most beautiful town I’ve ever flown into. We flew to Queenstown from Auckland, and I paid an extra $5 to get a window seat since I had a feeling the view would be epic. And I was right!

10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
The view of flying into Queenstown

I was lucky enough to have picked the side of the plane that’s facing West, which is where all the scenic Southern Alps are. I highly recommend sitting on this side if you ever fly in or out of Queenstown. The last hour of the flight before descending to Queenstown was just pure scenic – worth the measly $5 I paid to sit in a window seat.

As soon as we landed in Queenstown, we picked up our rental car and drove down to Te Anau, which took 2.5 hours. Te Anau is the closest civilization to Fiordland National Park, and where most people would stay overnight.

Once we got to Te Anau, there wasn’t much else we could do since it was already late. So we settled in our Airbnb and watched the sunset from Lake Te Anau, which was very picturesque that night.

10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Te Anau Lake was only a few steps away from our Airbnb

The next day, we drove up to Fiordland National Park. This national park is located in the southwest of the South Island and houses some of the most famous sights of New Zealand. Fiordland National Park is part of Te Wahipounamu and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What to do at Fiordland National Park:

1. Lake Marian Hike – My favorite hike in the Fiordland. It was a sufficiently challenging yet short hike, and the reward at the end of it was a beautiful alpine lake. What more could you ask for?

Dive Deeper: I wrote a separate post about our experience hiking to Lake Marian. You can read the post for more information!

Lake Marian - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Taking in the sights at Lake Marian
Lake Marian - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Hiking up at Lake Marian

2. Gertrude Saddle – This track is highly technical. It is described as an expert and unmarked track. However, I’ve heard the reward at the end is massive – you get to overlook Milford Sound from the top of the saddle. We went at the tail end of winter, and unless you have experience with ice climbing and the right equipment, I don’t recommend going up to the summit. So we just stayed around in the valley which was still quite scenic.

Gertrude Saddle - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Gertrude Saddle

3. Key Summit Track – This is another popular track, though we did not have a chance to visit. I think the Key Summit track would be an excellent choice for a day hike – it’s a 3 hours return journey.

4. Milford Sound – Probably the most famous attraction in the park! I’ve got to be honest, I found it a little underwhelming and very touristy compared to everything else we saw, but it’s still a must-visit.

Our Itinerary at Fiordland National Park

  • Day 1/10: Get to Queenstown and drive to Te Anau
  • Day 2/10: Milford Sounds and Gertrude Saddle at Fiordland National Park (or Key Summit Track)
  • Day 3/10: Lake Marian Hike at Fiordland National Park

In retrospect, I think I would have swapped Day 2 with the Key Summit track since we love hiking. I personally felt Milford Sound was a little underwhelming even though it’s a popular site.

Where to stay in Te Anau

Airbnb – We stayed at an Airbnb in Te Anau, however it is no longer listed. At that time, it was a brand new 3-bedroom house with very modern amenities. Very close (1-2 minute walk) to the lake.

Budget Options – If you are looking for budget accommodation, I recommend the following hostels:

Day 4-5: Queenstown

Queenstown is the most beautiful town I’ve ever visited. Everywhere you look, you are greeted with a beautiful view of the dramatic Southern Alps mountain range over Lake Wakatipu.

I know we aren’t supposed to play favorites, but Queenstown was my favorite stop in this itinerary. Could you blame me though, when the beautiful lake and snow-capped mountains can be seen right outside the windows of our Airbnb? I did not want to leave!

View of Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
View of Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown

What to do at Queenstown

1. Hiking to the summit of Ben Lomond – My most memorable moment in Queenstown is hiking to the summit of Ben Lomond. The track is NOT an easy hike despite being graded as “Easy” by the DOC, but it’s worth it.

Dive Deeper: I wrote a very detailed post about hiking up Ben Lomond. More info on hiking Ben Lomond in this blog post!

View from Ben Lomond Hike
The beautiful view from Ben Lomond Hike

2. Take a short drive to Glenorchy, a cute little town just north of Queenstown. There are a few cool tracks you can do (Lake Sylvan track for example) near Glenorchy. Otherwise, the drive up from Queenstown to Glenorchy was just beautiful. This trip is doable on your own, or you can opt to take this Glenorchy Tour which will also show you the shooting locations of a famous movie *cough cough* Lord of the Rings.

Glenorchy - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
This hut gave me a very Wes Anderson vibe
Glenorchy - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
The road to Glenorchy

3. Do Adventure Sports – Queenstown is known for high-adrenaline sports activities. So if you’re up for it, here are some activities you can do. I suggest you pick one:

  • Skydiving in Queenstown – New Zealand is known as one of the best skydiving spots in the world. If you want to skydive in New Zealand, Queenstown is THE place to do it!
  • Kawarau Bridge Bungee Jump – If Skydiving is not your thing, then perhaps you can try the bungee jump instead! It’s a 43m jump over the Kawarau River.
  • The Nevis Swing – The swing is also a great option for that adrenaline rush, you’ll be swinging across a canyon 160m over the Nevis River.
  • Shotover Jet – If you prefer to do water sports instead but still want the excitement, then you might be interested in this 30-minute jet boat ride on the Shotover River.
  • Skyline Gondola (with optional Luge Ride) – You can take this gondola to see Queenstown from above, or as a shortcut to the Ben Lomond summit. I highly recommend reading my blog on Ben Lomond first if you are thinking of hiking up. It may not be as easy as you expected.
  • If you decided to take the Gondola, then you might be interested in The Ledge Swing as well. It will send you 400m flying over Queenstown!

Our Itinerary at Queenstown

  • Day 4/10: Drive to Queenstown from Te Anau (2.5 Hours) in the morning, visit Glenorchy, or do one of the activities I mentioned above!
  • Day 5/10: Hike up to Ben Lomond in Queenstown (approx 6-8 hours)

Where to stay in Queenstown

We stayed at an Airbnb in Queenstown – (update: Unfortunately this Airbnb is no longer available for booking, but I’ll list some similar options below) It is just an average 3-bedroom apartment, but that view was the best out of all the accommodations we had. Check this out:

View from Airbnb in Queenstown at South Island, New Zealand - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
View from Airbnb in Queenstown at South Island, New Zealand

Hotels – As mentioned above, the Airbnb I booked is no longer active but here are some similar options in the same area. You’d want to stay near Frankton Road for the view I posted above (click here for the general area).

These accommodations are 5-10 minutes’ drive to town so I would only recommend it if you are driving.

Budget Options – If you are looking for budget options, you can look at the following hostels. It might not have a spectacular view like the one I posted, but it will be right in the middle of town and close to amenities.

PS: YHA, Base, and Nomads are all well-known chains for backpacker hostels across Australia and NZ, while Absoloot and JUCY are local NZ businesses.

Day 6-7: Mount Aspiring National Park (Stay overnight at Wanaka)

Mount Aspiring National Park is part of the Southern Alps that I saw on my flight down to Queenstown. Like Fiordland, Mount Aspiring National Park is also part of Te Wahipounamu and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What to do at Mount Aspiring and Wanaka:

1. Rob Roy Glacier Track – A beautiful AND easy hike just an hour away from Wanaka. Part of the road leading to the start of the track is private farmland, so if you’re a city girl like me this would be a very amusing drive.

Dive Deeper: You can read all about my experience on the Rob Roy Glacier track here. Hint: So many cows. So many sheep. So much everything.

West Matukituki River - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
West Matukituki River at Rob Roy Glacier
Matukituki River - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Matukituki River
Rob Roy Glacier from the Lower Lookout - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Rob Roy Glacier from the Lower Lookout

2. Roys Peak – Probably the most Instagrammed hike in New Zealand. It’s very popular so you’d be hiking with a lot of people. The hike is also very dull since it just zigzags up the hill, but I heard the view above is worth it! You just probably have to queue for it since this is such a popular hike. We chose not to do this since we had just hiked up Ben Lomond a few days prior.

3. Isthmus Peak – similar to Roy’s Peak, but lesser known. You can try this hike if you don’t feel like dealing with the crowd at Roy’s Peak.

4. Lake Wanaka and That Wanaka Tree – This lake is right in the middle of Wanaka town so you have no excuse not to check it out! There is also a pretty cool tree that is partly inside the lake and is a popular subject for photography.

5. Skydive Wanaka – If you missed out on skydiving in Queenstown, you can still do it here in Wanaka. You’ll see the Mount Aspiring range from the sky.

Our Itinerary at Wanaka

  • Day 6/10: Drive to Wanaka (1 Hour) in the morning, visit Lake Wanaka, and see That Wanaka Tree
  • Day 7/10: Rob Roy Glacier Track at Mount Aspiring, followed by Skydiving

Where to stay in Wanaka

  • The White Room – This is a studio apartment that can accommodate up to 4 people.

Budget Options – If you are looking for budget options in the town, you can take a look at the following hostel:

PS: YHA and Base are well-known chains for backpacker hostels across Australia and NZ

Day 8-9: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park (Stay overnight at Twizel)

This area had been long known to Maori as Aoraki, which means “Cloud Piercer”. It was then renamed Mount Cook after James Cook in 1851, but the name Aoraki was reincorporated back in 1998 out of respect for Maori history.

And yep, you guessed it. Like the other two national parks I’ve mentioned above, Aoraki is also part of Te Wahipounamu and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

What to do at Aoraki / Mount Cook:

1. Hooker Valley Track – This is a very easy and very scenic 10km return route. The track is mostly flat and can be done by children and adults alike. I saw many families picnic-ing on the trail. The trail ends at Hooker Lake, with a great view of the famous Mount Cook.

Dive Deeper: You can read about my Hooker Valley Track experience here.

First Suspension Bridge  at Hooker Valley - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
First Suspension Bridge at Hooker Valley
Glacier Lake at Hooker Valley - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Glacier Lake at Hooker Valley
Hooker Lake at the end of the Hooker Valley Track - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Hooker Lake at the end of the Hooker Valley Track

2. Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier – another easy track, shorter than Hooker Valley that ends up with a glacier view.

3. Lake Pukaki – This is the lesser-known twin of Lake Tekapo. I preferred Lake Pukaki better than Tekapo because it’s quieter! If you are here in the Spring, it’s also known for the Lupin flowers.

4. Lake Tekapo – probably the most famous Alpine lake in New Zealand. Unlike Lake Pukaki, you can find restaurants and a tourist center at the base of the lake closest to the main road.

5. Church of Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo – Lake Tekapo is also where the famous church is located. This tiny yet picturesque stone church is an iconic landmark of Lake Tekapo and has been a popular subject of night photography. Don’t expect to be the only photographer here!

Recommended itinerary at Aoraki / Mount Cook

  • Day 8/10: Drive to Twizel (1 Hour) in the morning, visit Hooker Valley Track at Aoraki and Lake Pukaki along the way
  • Day 9/10: Visit the Lake Tekapo area and the Church of Good Shepherd

Where to stay in Twizel / Aoraki

  • Our Airbnb in Twizel – A cozy little 3-bedroom house. It is very convenient as a base for Aoraki and Lake Tekapo.

Other economic options you can consider:

Day 10: Drive to Christchurch and fly out

We spent some time in Christchurch after leaving Twizel, but this was only because we were flying out of Christchurch Airport. It’s not that Christchurch is not worth visiting – I think it’s a very cool city. But if you are optimizing time to see nature in New Zealand, then Christchurch won’t be at the top of your list.

Keep in mind the drive from Twizel to Christchurch is 3 hours, so if you’re flying out early you might want to stay in Christchurch the night before to make sure you won’t be missing the flight.

Where to stay in Christchurch

For backpacker options:

Example Cost Breakdown of 10 days stay in New Zealand

Since a lot of people emailed me about this, here are the total cost expenditures for 10 days in South Island for 5 people. I was able to get a detailed number since we were using Splitwise to track group spending!

My airfare to NZ costs S$1260 (or roughly US$920). I did not include it in the cost calculation, because airfare cost varies depending on where you’re coming from.

Type of Spend (%)Cost in SGDCost in USD (approx)
Car Rental (14.13%)S$ 809.83US$ 591.12
Fuel for Car (5.56%)S$ 318.77US$ 232.68
Dining out (13.65%)S$ 782.40US$ 571.09
Groceries (7.04%)S$ 403.40US$ 294.45
Accommodation (59.63%)S$ 3,418.28US$ 2,495.09
Grand Total for 5 peopleS$ 5,732.68US$ 4,184.44
Cost per PersonS$ 1,146.54US$ 836.89
Cost Breakdown of 10 days in New Zealand

Obviously, If you are traveling with fewer people, the cost could go up since sharing a car and hotel with fewer people means more total per person.

But as you can see, the majority of the cost comes from accommodation. We stayed mainly in Airbnb, but if you are willing to go budget, then the cost can go down quite a bit. I also would budget a few hundred dollars more for any emergencies and activities you might want to do (skydiving and tours).

Do you still have more time to spend on the South Island?

If you are staying longer than 10 days in the South Island (oh lucky you!!!) – you can consider hitting up the following places:

  • Kahurangi National Park to the northwest of Christchurch. I had heard great things about Arthur’s Pass.
  • Westland Tai Poutini National Park. This is where the highly photographed Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are! I would definitely go visit if I had the chance to go back.

And… that’s all from me for New Zealand! I can safely say New Zealand was the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited, in terms of nature and scenic routes. It could be because I haven’t traveled to the mountains during winter, so seeing snow almost every day was a brand-new experience for me.

And of course, what’s a road trip without friends? I did this trip with my teammates who are also my good friends. This was a remote work trip for us. We would go hiking in the morning and work in the afternoon and into the night to sync up with the team in Singapore.

Thank you, Lucas for organizing the trip, Shekhar for driving (a LOT), and Ezra and Nishant for being great travel buddies! This is one of the most memorable trips that I keep thinking back about.

Hooker Lake at South Island, New Zealand - 10-Day New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Ending our trip at Hooker Lake at South Island, New Zealand

PS: Want to reference this post later?

Click on any of the images below to pin to your Pinterest board!

10 Days in New Zealand Itinerary
10 Days in New Zealand Itinerary
10 Days in New Zealand Itinerary
10 Days in New Zealand Itinerary
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Filed under: City Guides, New Zealand, Road Trip

Written by Melissa

Hi there! 👋🏻 I'm the "Girl" in Girl Eat World. I love eating, traveling and sharing my travel experiences in this blog. During the day, I work as a designer in tech. More about me →


  1. Hihi,

    Thanks for the detailed write up!
    I was wondering if you think its’s possible to do solo female road trip in south island following your route?
    Anything to watch out for?

    • Melissa says

      Hi Dan, NZ is fairly safe, so I think should be ok. Still I would exercise caution when going to remote areas (basically anything outside of Queenstown) as there will not be many people. Make sure you know what to do when alone in wilderness and careful not to get lost. Always tell someone where you will be for the day.

    • Fiona says

      Hi Dan,
      I just completed my solo trip in NZ. I did this itinerary but backwards from Christchurch to Queenstown and I met another solo girl traveller who had done both islands in 3 weeks and had also hired a car. It’s very safe for girls on their own. Queenstown is especially welcoming and when I was solo cycling around in the wilderness it was safe to do so. It’s sooo under populated but the tracks are well maintained and it’s a small country so I was never completely isolated or without mobile phone reception. I wouldn’t stay at Te Anau, this town was pretty depressing!

  2. Amelia says

    Hi Melissa! Was it easy to find places to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner? Or most of the time you kinda need to prepare meals?

    Which areas would you say is the hardest to find food and hence need to be prepared for?

    • Melissa says

      Hey Amelia, in the towns there would be 2-3 restaurants depending on how big the town is. Lesser variety on smaller towns and things close early. We did not have difficulty with finding food. I did find the food to be pricey though so we cooked some meals.

  3. Shania says

    Hello Melissa! May I ask what camera gear are you using? Thank you 🙂

  4. Hi, just wondering if the hikes are doable in June. Will it be too cold? Thanks.

  5. Pavlesh Shah says

    hi Melissa

    Any recommendation for Car rental company .
    Your group rent car from which company ? I am looking for 7-8 seater since we are 5 so get better space with luggage .

  6. Pavlesh Shah says

    Hi Melissa

    Lot of useful information you provide here in your blog for South NZ . See if you can help in our NZ trip plan
    We are group of 5 pax , 4 of age ( 50-60 ) and 1 below 20 . Our plan to visit NewZealand in 2nd week .

    here is our plan need some advice
    Day1 – Arrive Queenstown airport at 12.30 pm after overnight flight from Singapore , pickup car from Airport . On that day where we can go after hotel check in ?
    Question 1:Day-1 , any suggestion of some near by sight seen destination .

    Day-2 – Package tour to Milford Sound

    Day-3 Queenstown to Wanaka
    Question 2: Day-3 Any recommendation on the way (QT to Wanaka ) should we stop any place for sight seen?

    Day-4 Spend at Wanaka

    Day-5 Wanaka to Mount cook
    Question 3 : Day-5 Any recommendation on the way should we stop any place ?

    Day-6 Spend at Mount Cook

    Day-7 Mount cook to Christchurch ( Stop over at Lake Takapao )

    Day-8 Christchurch to Greymouth (via Train TranzAlpine )
    Question 4 : Ovenight stay at Greymouth , Punakaki or Hokiata ?

    Day-9 Greymouth to Christchurch ( via Train )
    Day-10 Christchurch sight seen
    Question 5 – Any 1/2 day sight seen recommendation ?

    • Melissa says

      Hey Pavlesh!

      Here is what I know:

      Day 1 – I suggest going to the water front and walking around the downtown area for your first day. Would be nice chill day after an overnight
      Day 3 – This drive is quite scenic! Crown Range Road Scenic Lookout is a great place to stop by
      Day 5 – You can stop by Lake Pukaki on the way
      Day 10 – Christchurch Botanic Gardens was a nice place to visit. There is also Christchurch Gondola if you want to see the area from above

  7. Tina kwan says

    U mentioned u travelled in 5 but d accommodation suggested had o ly 4 beds. Where did the fifth person sleeps?

    • Melissa says

      Hey Tina, which one are you looking at? We def had at least 5 beds in all of our accommodations 🤔

  8. Stu says

    Thanks Melissa.
    We are planning a family holiday this summer, featuring lots of hiking, and you have really helped shape our travel planning. What a great trip you had and thanks for helping others.

    • Melissa says

      Hey Stu, I hope you’ll have fun in New Zealand with your family! Thanks for the kind comment

  9. Mel says

    Hi, is it possible to share which car rental company that you used? Thank you

  10. Damien says

    Like your blog!
    You seem very keen on the fly in one city and out the other but if you had flown in and out of Queenstown you would have saved nearly 100km of driving. Were there any reasons why you flew out of Christchurch? Spots to see between Twizel and Christchurch?


    • Melissa says

      Thanks Damien! Tbh i forgot the reasoning, but I think we just wanted to drive and see as many different places as possible. We’re coming from Singapore where a road trip isn’t really a thing! the drive from Twizel to Christchurch was nice too, though I wouldn’t go out of my way as you can find beautiful drives everywhere in the south island. So if you’re not keen to drive, and if there are good flight time options to go back to your destination, then going back to Queenstown is the right choice.

  11. Wah Ng says

    Hi Melissa,
    My wife & I are thinking of a 2-week free&easy trip to NZ South Island and 1 1-week North Island. Thank you for your tips!

    • Melissa says

      Hope my blog helps! let me know if you have specific questions

  12. Water Rafting Auckland says

    This is wonderful information about new Zealand south island itinerary, thanks a lot for sharing kind of content with us. Your blog gives the best and the most interesting information. I wonder if we can gather such practical information about it, a great post definitely to come across.

  13. New Zealand says

    Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about a great itinerary for south island of New Zealand!

  14. Nyasha says

    You see, I do have an interest to go to New Zealand but never thought of going to the South Island and what I could do. Thanks for this Melissa!

  15. Meera Shankar says

    What a beautiful country! The view of Queenstown from the flight and the Te Anau lake look gorgeous! I was planning a trip to New Zealand sometime this year and I can’t wait now. 🙂 The travel tips are really useful.

  16. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for this very informative blog. Planning to visit NZ this June during the school holiday. Can you share the car rental company you used during your trip? Does the price S$809.83 includes insurance or GPS? or any inclusions in that price?

  17. zalinka says

    I also spent a really good time there during my last journey and we came back with stunning memories.

  18. Daphine Ong says

    Hi Melissa!

    Thanks for the detailed write-up! May I know which website did you rent your car from?

  19. Brooke says

    I wish I read this post before going to New Zealand, especially your advice on car rentals. I decided to take a group tour of the south island, although I met a lot of good people I didn’t get the freedom to explore on my own! Great post!!

  20. Samuel Birch says

    Great Blog!!
    Thank you for sharing this.
    This is really informative and useful for the one who is looking to have a trip to South Island NZ!

  21. Hi Melisa,

    Good read and thanks for all the information.
    Did you manage to catch any aurora australis during your trip?
    Also I assume you are flying from SG. Which airline did you take and how long was the layover / which city was it?

    Thank you!

    • Melissa Hie says

      Hey CL, I took Air NZ and it was a direct flight to Auckland. I stayed in Auckland for 5 days before going down to Queenstown. Otw back I had a 2 hour layover in Auckland.

      I didn’t manage to catch Aurora Australis during my trip, but I wasn’t specifically looking out for it either. I don’t think it was the season at that time.

  22. Raymond Chan says

    Hello Melisa
    For Singaporeans, it is not necessary for international driving license, contrary to what you have indicated

    • Melissa Hie says

      you are right! Thanks Raymond. It looks like you only need international driver license if the license is not in english.

  23. I seriously hate your itinerary. We’ve tried following it and IIt’s bloody unrealistic and damn boring with so many missed out landmarks. Didn’t even get to go to franz Josef, and missed out so many places!!! Zzz

    • Melissa Hie says

      Sorry you feel that way. Can you elaborate more on your comment? which part is unrealistic? which landmarks were missed (aside of Franz Josef, which would have taken an extra day)? and how we can fit them all to 10 days?

  24. Michelle says

    Hi melissa,

    Thank you so much for posted this. It s so helpfull for me! Unfortunately i booked my flights , to christchurch and will fly out again from christchurch. Any advice where i need to start tge journey?


    • Melissa Hie says

      Hey Michelle, you can still follow the same itinerary but backward. It takes 6 hours to drive back to Christchurch though, so probably something like this:

      Day 1-2: Get to Christchurch, go to Aoraki / Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo
      Day 3-4: Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National park
      Day 5-6: Queenstown and surrounding areas
      Day 7-9: Fiordland National Park
      Day 10: Drive back to Christchutch (6 hours)

  25. Matt says


    thanks for sharing, I have taken a note of these for my next trip to nz

    I really liked the information and its very useful

    Keep writing and inspiring, looking forward to reading your next post…


      • Tabitha says

        Hi Melissa,

        Sorry was abit confused. in the blog you mentioned that you went this trip during the the first two weeks of September (September 1 to 17). So is it in Sep or in Aug?

        • Melissa Hie says

          ah sorry, yes it was September. I was a bit confused bc it’s been a while! However, I was working in Auckland for the first 7 days before heading down to South Island for the last 10 days. I’ve shared my itinerary here for the South Island part only

  26. Erika says

    It’s been 17 days since I came back from New Zealand and I have to admit that it was the best trip of my life.
    I was there for 3 weeks, traveling the island from one point to another without stopping.

    It is a country that everyone should consider as a holiday destination, really advisable!


    • Tabitha says

      Hi Erika,

      Do you mind to share your 17days itinerary for NZ?

  27. Julienne says

    Hi Melissa, this long-read was really helpful for our planning of the 10-day journey across the island. The only thing bothering me is that we are flying into Christchurch and departing from Queenstown. Shall we simply do our road trip in the reverse direction? Thanks

    • Melissa Hie says

      yes you can definitely do it in reverse direction by just reversing the itinerary. it’s all pretty linear. we just happened to choose the queenstown to christchurch direction on random.

  28. Luke Lee says

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for the super helpful and detailed blog. Amazing detail.
    Can you let us know which AirBnB you stayed at while at Te Anau?
    Those sunset views by the lake are awesome!

  29. Elaine Chin says

    Hi Melissa,

    I enjoyed reading your blog & taking in some tips for our family trip this coming May! However, we booked our tickets before reading it & hence we are arriving & departing at Queenstown unlike your blog (which i think was a better opion, too bad:( ). Not use if you could then suggest how we can “U- turn” our itinerary such that we are able to cover some of these lovely places & yet depart from Queenstown. We are skipping Christchurch, anyway.

    Thank you in advance for sharing.

    Elaine C

    • Melissa Hie says

      Hey Elaine! I think it’s still very possible to use my itinerary, as the drive from Twizel to Queenstown is only 2.5-3 hours, which is the same journey as to Christchurch. I just recommended Christchurch since the drive from Twizel to Christchurch was quite beautiful and most people don’t like to U-turn, but it wasn’t a requirement if you don’t have the time.

      • Elaine Chin says

        Hi Melissa,

        Thank you for your reply. If we are starting from Queenstown towards north-west route, at which part/town you would suggest to take the u-turn route back to Queenstown for departure? I was a bit confused & lost as to which way to take.

        Thank you in advance for taking time to reply .

        • Melissa Hie says

          Hey Elaine, it really depends what you want to see, but I would U-turn around Lake Tekapo. or if you want to go further, you can go to Fox Glacier and then u-turn, but obviously, this would be longer drive back to Queenstown.

  30. Zoey says

    Hi Melissa,
    Thank you for sharing this itinerary, it is really informative and useful for my upcoming 10-day South Island NZ trip!
    I would like to ask if there’s any reason why you have chosen to drive to Te Anau the first day you arrived, other than staying at Queensland first, followed by Te Anau then head off to Wanaka?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer this!

    • Melissa Hie says

      Hey Zoey, I am glad you find this post useful! You can do it that way too, but the drive from Te Anau to Wanaka might be a little long. That’s why we broke it up and stayed in Queenstown on the way back.

      • Zoey says

        Hi Melissa,
        Thank you for the reply! Helps me better in my planning.
        Thank you for taking the time to reply! Really appreciate it!

      • Anne says

        Hi Melissa

        Your full detailed write up is so useful. Too bad I found your page a little late cos we have booked most of our accommodations.

        Just wondering what car did you rent and was it good cos we also have 6 pax?
        Also, driving to Te Anau and Milford Sound is easy or a rough route?

        Thank you.

        • Melissa Hie says

          Hey Anne, we were a group of 4 so we didn’t rent a big car. The drive from Te Anau and Milford Sound was super easy – it was all paved route. Just becareful about speeding since it’s easy to gorget about speed limit since the road are mostly straight and empty. We got stopped by a police officer on the way back.

  31. Hi Melissa, was wondering how much you spent in total for the whole trip? Thanks!

    • Melissa Hie says

      Hey Sera, Great question! Thankfully I have them tracked. I spent total about SGD1130 (US$836) for the expenses in NZ (Airbnb, food, groceries, car rental and gas). For the flight, I paid SGD1260 (US$930). So the overall total expense is SGD2390 (US$1768.92). I’ll add this information to the blog 🙂

  32. Hi, I am thinking of booking the same accommodation as u for Christchurch! How was the airbnb? Want to hear from a fellow Singaporean 🙂

    • Melissa Hie says

      hello Jan! you are talking about this one right? I really loved it! It’s small in relative to other airbnb I booked in NZ, but for us Singaporean it’s fine 😛 it’s 2 stories, very cute and clean, comes with its own parking (but we parked outside since the garage is a bit tight to get in for daily use) and you don’t have to meet with the owner since they’ve left us with the code combination to get in. it’s walking distance to the park and some restaurant too! hope you enjoy the place

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