Epic Two Week Itinerary through New Zealand

by admin

Few places on earth can rival the variety of scenery that New Zealand’s South Island has to offer – snow-capped mountains that tower over luscious landscapes, glass-like glaciers that melt into topaz lakes and mighty fjords that meet the Tasman Sea. The South Island feels as though it was built for an epic road trip with easy-to-navigate roads, well-signposted scenic lookouts and ever-changing scenery. Passengers will have their eyes glued to the window for fear of missing a beautiful landscape. If you’ve got two weeks to spend exploring this beautiful corner of the earth, we’ve got you covered with this jam-packed itinerary showing you the very best places and the most time-efficient route.

New Zealand

Day 1: Rakaia Gorge

Rakaia Gorge has to be one of the South Island’s best-kept secrets. We passed very few hikers and were surrounded by breathtaking scenery which we had all to ourselves. The gorge is an hour’s drive from Christchurch and the hike takes between 3 to 4 hours. After you’ve finished the hike, cool down in the water before hopping back in the car towards Lake Tekapo.

Drive: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo | Distance: 260km | Driving time: 3 hours 15 minutes

New Zealand

Day 2: Lake Tekapo

Today is all about enjoying the destination with very little driving. Wake up at Lake Tekapo and spend a relaxing day around the lake soaking up the beauty. Start the morning by hiking up to Mount John for panoramic views over the lake (those who are feeling lazy can drive to the viewpoint). Have a lakeside picnic for lunch and spend the afternoon cycling around the lake, photographing the blossoming lupins and visiting the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Drive: Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki | Distance: 62km | Driving time: 40 minutes

New Zealand

Day 3: Lake Pukaki & Mount Cook

Today is a busy one, so get up early to seize the day. First up is the beautiful Lake Pukaki which can be best enjoyed from Peter’s Lookout which offers a beautiful view of the lake with the mountains in the background. Hop back in the car and head to Mount Cook village, but make sure to take your time on this scenic drive. Get as close to the iconic Mount Cook mountain as possible by walking the Hooker Valley Track which takes you to the foot of the glacial lake. It’s an easy 3 hour return walk and passes epic scenery along the route. Next up is the Tasman Glacier viewpoint which is a short but steep walk. In the afternoon take a scenic helicopter ride over Mount Cook and the surrounding mountainous landscape.

Drive: Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook | Distance: 42km | Driving time: 30 minutes

New Zealand

Day 4: Wanaka

Hit the road early so you can enjoy as much time as possible in Wanaka. Once you arrive at your destination, put on your hiking boots and get ready to do one of New Zealand’s most stunning hikes. Getting to the top of Roy’s Peak is certainly no easy feat, but the view is worth every drop of sweat. It’s a 5 to 6 hour return hike, but as long as you leave by midday you’ll make it up and back in plenty of time. Reward yourself with a well-deserved glass of pinot noir at the idyllic Rippon Winery which is a few minutes’ drive away.

Drive: Lake Pukaki to Wanaka | Distance: 164km | Driving time: 1 hour 50 minutes

New Zealand

Day 5: Wanaka

Wanaka is just too pretty so we’re going to stay another day. Choose how you would like to spend your second day in this lakeside town, but my suggestion would be to seek out the famous little Wanaka tree in the morning and then to venture on another beautiful hike in the afternoon. If you want more lakeside views then opt for Mt Iron which is a short and easy hike with views overlooking the town and lake. Or if you want something more challenging, head into Mount Aspiring National Park, an amazing world of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. Opt for the iconic Rob Roy hike which will take you close to active glaciers.

New Zealand

Day 6: Cardrona & Queenstown

Now we’re heading to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, but with a little pit stop in scenic Cardrona. Cardrona is a ski town nestled up in the hills with lots of charm and very little going on. We discovered a couple of gems which I would highly recommend if you’ve got an appetite for gin or cheese on the drive. The Cardrona Distillery is a stunning spot which distils its own spirits. Order one of their cheese platters and a G&T (I promise it’ll be the best local gin you try). Alternatively, there’s the Cardrona Hotel which is the oldest pub in all of New Zealand, making it something of an establishment.

Drive: Wanaka to Queenstown | Distance: 74km | Driving time: 1 hour 10 minutes

New Zealand

Day 7: Queenstown

First full day in Queenstown and it’s time to put those walking boots back on and venture to the top of Ben Lomond. This all day hike is challenging, but it’s made worthwhile by the sweeping lake and mountain views at the summit. The walking track also passes the cable car station so you can stop for refreshments and soak up the view over Queenstown town.

New Zealand

Day 8: Queenstown

Nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy is a short 45-minute drive from Queenstown. It boasts plenty of activities from horse trekking to kayaking, or you can simply enjoy the rustic town and its turquoise lake. Head back along the same scenic drive to spend a stress-free afternoon wining and dining at the iconic Amisfield. Trust the chef and he’ll whip you up an epic 3-course or 5-course lunch with matching wines.

Drive: Glenorchy to Amisfield | Distance: 107km | Driving time: 1 hour 45 minutes

New Zealand

Day 9: Queenstown

Start the day by gently ambling around the charming heritage town of Arrowtown and learning about its gold mining past. We popped into the Chop Shop which I would recommend for a decent cup of coffee and a bite to eat. In the afternoon drive through the wine country passing rolling hills and verdant vineyards until you reach the most charming winery in Central Otago: Mount Difficulty. Enjoy a long lunch here, followed by a spot of cellar door hopping at the neighboring vineyards.

Drive: Arrowtown to Mount Difficulty | Distance: 66km | Driving time: 1 hour

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Day 10: Milford Sound

No trip to the South Island is complete without venturing to Milford Sound, the land of the fjords. The scenery is dramatic with towering mountains, cascading waterfalls, and deep fjords. It can be visited on a day trip from Queenstown, but it’s a very long day with lots of driving. Make sure to make plenty of time for all of the scenic stops along the route; you’ll be pulling over every few minutes.

Drive: Queenstown to Milford Sound return | Distance: 575km | Driving time: 7 hours 30 minutes

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Day 11: Haast Pass

It’s time to bid farewell to Queenstown and head to the glacier country along the West Coast. The route takes you along the Haast Pass, which is an epic drive through the lush Mount Aspiring National Park. Take your time on this drive, ensuring to stop at the famous Blue Pools walkway and Haast viewpoint. The next stop is Lake Matheson, which is famous for its reflections of the snow-capped peaks. You’ll have arrived at Fox Glacier by the afternoon which will leave you just enough time to do the Fox Glacier track, which takes you within 450m of the glacier.

Drive: Queenstown to Fox Glacier | Distance: 327km | Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

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Day 12: Franz Josef

Today, we’ve got a full day to spend at Franz Josef Glacier. Wake up bright and early and do the Franz Josef glacier walk, which is an easy 1.5 hours return trip. It will take you to the base of the glacier and will give you a taster of what’s in store. Once you’re back, embark on a heli hike which will literally take you inside the glacier through the spirals of spectacular ice.

New Zealand

Day 13: Hokitika Gorge & Punakaiki

It’s our penultimate day in New Zealand and it’s time to explore some of the country’s beautiful coastline. But first up is a little detour to Hokitika Gorge. Trust me when I say this deep gorge with glacial blue waters is worth the extra few miles. From here, we’re heading north to the iconic pancake rocks. Stop and do a couple of the short coastal walks for views over the impressive rock formations and crashing waves. It’s a dramatic road with national park to one side and the coastline to the other, so take your time and stop at all of the scenic lookouts.

Drive: Franz Josef Glacier to Punakaiki | Distance: 278km | Driving time: 3 hours 50 minutes

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Day 14: Arthur’s Pass

The last day means journeying back to Christchurch with a few scenic stops along the way. The route takes the famous Arthur’s Pass, which crosses the Southern Alps and provides some very dramatic scenery. Stop at Castle Hill and explore the limestone rock formations for a step back to Maori history. Depending on how long the journey takes you, there might be some time left over to spend in Christchurch. It’s a small city so an afternoon would be ample to get a taste for it.

Drive: Punakaiki to Christchurch | Distance: 288km | Driving time: 3 hours 50 minutes