New Zealand South guide

You may have already discovered the beauties of New Zealand’s North Island in my previous post, if not you can read it here. This post is the second part of my travel guide to New-Zealand: a 9-day road trip loop from Christchurch across the amazing wild South Island. This road trip was a bit more than 2000 kilometers in total. It was mainly focused on the discovery of the West coast.

new zealand south 1

The end of the trip was dictated by the poor weather that pushed the itinerary towards the East coast and cities instead of Queenstown and the mont Cook but it leaves opportunities for a next trip 😉
I must say it was very difficult to choose the pics of this post and I hope they will do justice to the magic of the different places they represent.

Day 1: Christchurch > Greymouth

The discovery of the city was not part of our itinerary so we headed directly to the West Coast through the Arthur’s Pass. The weather was bad but it added a little mystery to this pretty road between the mountains. Actually it reminded me of the beloved Highlands of Scotland.

Arthur's Pass
Arthur’s Pass
Castle Hill is a great place to stop for a walk. It is in fact not a castle but there are many big rocks around the area.
Castle hill

Day 2: Greymouth > Okarito

On the road to Okarito, the pancake stones of Punakaiki are amazing geological formations along the shore  which are worth a stop. A special walkway has been created in the area to show you through the formations.punakaiki pancakes

Day 3: Okarito > Wanaka

You can spend the night in the quiet campground of Okarito near a wonderful beach where you can watch the most beautiful sunsets reflecting in the water ponds.

Wonderful sunset
Wonderful sunset at Okarito beach
Wonderful sunset
Wonderful sunset at Okarito beach (2)

After a short drive along the West coast, discovering great beaches, you will reach Franz Josef glacier & Fox glacier that can be seen from the sky either by helicopter or small planes.

The helicopter option is expensive but totally worth it as the views you have from up there are truly incredible and unforgettable especially as the weather was perfect on that day.

You also get to land on the glacier for a few minutes to take a few pictures.

fox glacier
Fox glacier
Franz Joseph glacier
Franz Josef glacier

Day 4: Wanaka > Te Anau

Wanaka is a charming town on the shore of lake Wanaka.

Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka

You can rent mountain bikes or kayaks to enjoy its beauties. There are many tracks along the lake and the river which are easy to follow and the views are truly amazing. See below the colour of the river and the leaves starting to change colour as it was the beginning of autumn season.

Wanaka riverside

Day 5: Te Anau > Milford Sound

The road between Te Anau and Milford sound is full of wonderful stops.
Watch the mountains reflecting in the mirror lakes.
You may encounter a few keas, the beautiful mountain parrots in one of the lookout parkings.

The tunnel to cross the mountain is really impressive. Especially its entrance on Te Anau’s side. The mountain is so high and vertical!

Tunnel entrance
Tunnel entrance to reach Te Anau

You will reach Milford sound and board for a 2 hours cruise on the fiord. Our boat from go-orange company was almost empty (6 people) and we got a great tour of the fiord reaching the sea and back. The waterfalls are astonishing, the fiord is so deep that the front of the boat could reach the bottom of one of the falls and we were all wet! What is really impressive is the scale of the mountains! You only realise it when you see another boat.

Milford Sound fjord
Milford Sound fjord
Milford Sound waterfall
Milford Sound waterfall

Day 6: Milford Sound > Dunedin

Dunedin is well know for its university but also for the Otago Peninsula which is a wildlife sanctuary.

A one hour cruise at the end of the afternoon will allow you to see many sea birds, fur seals, sea lions and the famous royal albatross.

Seal in Otago Peninsula
Seal in Otago Peninsula

This cruise can be combined with a visit of the penguin place to watch the rare yellow eyed penguins coming back to their nest for the night hidden in small wooden hides to avoid scaring them.

Yellow penguin
Yellow penguin in Otago Peninsula
West Coast Beach
West Coast Beach

Day 7: Dunedin & Otago peninsula

The settlers museum of Dunedin is one of the rare free museums and is really worth a stop. The modern presentations make it very enjoyable on a rainy day and is very interesting to learn more about the settlers and their lives.

Beach on the West Coast
Beach on the East Coast near Dunedin
You can also make some shopping in Dunedin with many souvenir shops and a great wool shop for the knitters among you.

Day 8: Dunedin > Oamaru

Oamaru is well known for its architecture. As there was no wood in this area, the settlers used limestone to make the buildings. This is why today so many beautiful buildings remain. But it is also in the old quarry that a blue penguins colony has settled about 30 years ago. You can watch these little cute creatures which are about 30 cm high (they are the smallest in the world) come back to their nest just after sunset. No picture was allowed but the viewing and hearing of their characteristic sounds is worth a detour.

Oemaru > Christchurch

Watch the mysterious Makaiti boulders geological formations on the beach at low tide.
This trip to New Zealand was a great reminder that the beauties of our planet are incredible and need to be preserved.

I hope you liked this guided itinerary through North Island of New Zealand and you will have the chance to discover this amazing country for yourself.
If you would like to prepare your travel, I have made this free printable travel planner that will help you preparing your trip but also keep track of what you are doing during your stay day by day.

You may also like my previous Hong Kong getaways guide:

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