New Zealand is a country that was made for road trips. It is the best way to discover the country. The South Island Circuit is well known for all that it offers tourists and is a road trip that will go down in your list of all-time classics. You can choose to do it in a car or a campervan, or just about any mode of transport you like. To help you get started, here are some of the best places to visit in the South Island.
Any trip around South Island begins at Christchurch. From the airport, you have several transfer options and can choose your rentals then and there. In Christchurch itself, check out the Cathedral Square and the Botanic Gardens. Museum buffs should stop by the Canterbury Museum too.
Drive south along the coastline on the SH1 (State Highway 1) and you will arrive at Dunedin, which has many well-known tourist landmarks. Make time to visit the Larnach Castle and the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head. Along the route to Dunedin, you can make a pitstop at Akaroa and try to spot rare Hector dolphins. Coffee lovers should stop at Geraldine for a brew; while you’re there, make sure to visit the Barkers outlet shop to stock up on jams and chutneys made from New Zealand’s fresh produce. Stop by the Steampunk museum at Oamaru too.
There are many ways to arrive at Te Anau – you could drive via the picturesque Catlins area or opt for the quickest route via SH1 and SH94. At Te Anau, the Fiordland National Park should be on your list of must-visit places. Depending on how much you want to challenge yourself, you can indulge in the Kepler Challenge, a 60km mountain run, or the 27km Luxmore Grunt. Amateur hikers may like to walk on the Kepler Track. There are also options for those who prefer more laidback activities, like canoeing and kayaking. Head to Milford Sound and book yourself on a flight that goes over the mountains. A boat cruise or hiking across Milford Track are also activities to consider.
Queenstown is a place that has something for everyone. Want to get the adrenaline going? Queenstown offers bungee jumping, jet boating, and some great rapids for white water rafting. Prefer something quieter? Skyline Gondola is a must-visit. A tasting session at Central Otago Wine is also a reservation you’ll want to make. Or if you would rather café-hop, then Arrowtown has several quaint cafes to choose from.
Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers:
Another must-visit spot. You can visit the glaciers on foot or opt to see them from a helicopter ride. Going on foot gives you an up-close experience and is perhaps the best way to view them. There are guided walking tours that you can take. Make it a point to visit Lake Matheson, especially in the early morning and at sunset when photography enthusiasts can get some amazing photos.
Food and beer enthusiasts are going to love stopping over at Greymouth. Some great pancakes are waiting to be had at Pancake Rocks and Blowholes located in Punakaiki, but work up an appetite first by visiting Hokitika Gorge: views of the turquoise water are quite awe-inspiring. Stop over at Monteith’s Brewing Company for some great beer and a tour of the space as well. Beer tastings with some great bar food are a given here.
There are so many things to do at Nelson. Start by visiting the Boulder Bank tower. Museum enthusiasts are going to love the World of Wearable Art museum, the Nelson Classic Cars collection and the Nelson Provincial Museum. Or you can hike the Grampians, a landmark hill in the middle of Nelson with multiple tracks going up on all sides. A key reason to have Nelson on your list of places to visit is that it is well known as the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. You can choose to make your stop here a long one and spend it kayaking, going on hikes, or camping.
This is a popular place for whale watching. As you drive here along the SH1, head into Blenheim in the Marlborough region. Make a stop here to taste some of the region’s finest Sauvignon Blanc. Kaikoura’s whale watching is a much indulged-in activity too. You must try and experience a dolphin encounter: boat or helicopter rides are ways to get as close as possible to the whale highway of Kaikoura’s oceans. A nugget of information – this route is the migration corridor for whales going from Antarctica to the warm waters of Kaikoura.
The South Island Circuit has a lot to offer the enthusiastic traveller. Take your time, pace yourself leisurely, and absorb the wonderful sites and experiences that the region has to offer.