A south Island road trip is a dream come true. We have had a short visit to christchurch and Mt cook region before. But visiting Queenstown has always been a dream. We have heard and read a lot about Queenstown, Milford Sound and Wanaka. The want to visit around Queenstown was growing every day since we started living in New Zealand. The more we heard, the more we seen the more the desire was. Our desire took us to Queenstown. My in-laws were here and we wanted to show them the best of New Zealand. Then comes the day to fly to this wonderland. why wait??!
5 days!! We palnned a road trip around Queenstown to just a get a glimpse of New Zealand’s southern crown without any adventurous activities. They say New Zealand is for outdoorsy guys. I agree it for few reasons. But, New Zealand is also a stroller’s paradise. You can simply drive around, stop, relax and take in the views. If you turn around anywhere around Queenstown, all you will see is a picture perfect Scenery. You will never get bored or tired.
I prefer to choose itinerary upon locals recommendations. We did the same on the other south island road trip. That way you don’t miss any treasure, I believe. For very obvious reasons, I asked about the must visit places to the locals. They all had the same answer; they were clueless; they couldn’t actually recommend one over other. It is true too! Ask me now, what to do in Queenstown? My answer is simple too. I have no clue to recommend one over other but can list a thousand of beautiful spots. Turn right! Turn Left! Take that second exit in the roundabout! Go anywhere you feel like going! You will find a spot to get your soul relax with awesome 360 degree views. A Road trip can never get so beautiful than this.
So what makes this place so special? This wonderland hosts many lakes bordered by snow peaked mountains are the specials. But what make it more special is the driveways and the lonely shores. It is claimed as the most touristy place in New Zealand. I don’t think it’s crowded. Folks!! I hail from INDIA. Kiwis, call it as a crowded touristy place.
A South Island Road Trip:
Here is the recap of what we actually did for 5 days around Queenstown which includes 2 nights in Te Anau (a base town to visit Milford Sound) and 2 nights in Wanaka. Below is the route map of our south island road trip.
Day 1 : An hour and 50 mins of flying time took us from Auckland to Queenstown. As soon as we stepped out of the plane we felt the difference in the weather. It was already summer in Auckland but not in Queenstown. The wind in Queenstown is really cold. Could imagine how it would be in winter!
As always, a van from car hire company came to the airport to do the transfers from Airport. As before, We got a nice new car from GO Rental as we had already booked it online a month before. Then, a quick visit to the nearby Countdown supermarket to stock in all the food for 5 days. We were all ready to start the beautiful journey.
(We chose Go Rentals for our Road trip to Mount cook region from Christchurch. We were happy with their car and their service so we chose them again. Also, they had offered a little percentage of discount for returning customers)
Queenstown to Te Anau Drive: Our first day of stay was at Te Anau. Why Te Anau? Because, Te Anau is the base and the last town to stay in to visit Milford Sound. Visiting Milford Sound was our prime wish. The hour of drive between Queenstown to Milford Sound is 4 plus hours. 8 hours of drive with many stopovers for attractions and a 2 plus hours of cruise in Milford sound would make it a real tired day especially with a toddler and elders in the journey, it is really hard to do. So, we decided to stay in Te Anau the first day.
That evening in Te Anau was super exciting. Had a great family fun time at the shores of Lake Te Anau. Te Anau, the little town has a lot of character in it with loads of eateries, a gas station, a supermarket and a big garden which is actually a bigger garden for a town like this at the town centre. That night we had a sound sleep in our 3 bedroom rented apartment. Did I tell you? The official sunset time her is 9:30 pm. Even at 10 it had light which make it a very long day than in Auckland.
Day 2 : December 1st, the first official day of summer. It was my birthday. Got up at 6 and got all the wishes and prayers from family. Had a hot shower and packed food for the day. Started the life-time journey at 7am to the wonderful Milford sound.
Te anau to Milford Sound Drive: From Te Anau it takes about 2 hrs to Milford sound. But one full day is not just enough to see everything between Te Anau and Milford Sound. There are many look outs, stopovers with an exceptional beauty spots and many short and long walks. Driving along the beautiful Lake Te Anau with a stop over for Mirror lakes leading to an amazing Eglinton valley and then the awesome Chasm are some of the many attractions. The drive though the Home Tunnel (1.2km) into the mountain and thus reaching the mesmerizing Milford Sound.
Cruising through one of the Fiords which hosts innumerable waterfalls and streams leading to the open Tasman sea amidst high mountains along with small penguins and seals was an awesome experience. A well spent day and a memorable birthday ever. A surprise cake cutting with a bunch of flowers was waiting for me at the apartment that evening. Had night stay at the apartment,Te Anau.
Day 3 – Te Anau to Wanaka : On the third day, got ready; had breakfast. Packed food for the day. Started at 9am (a little bit late), then had a leisure drive to Lake Manapouri and then following the same scenic route to Queenstown then driving up the mountain towards Wanaka. An hour of drive from Queenstown to Wanaka was different. The crown range road zigzags steep up to the hill overlooking Arrowtown and a part of Queenstown. It was such wide massive view. Passing the farm lands comes Wanaka, the most happening little town in New Zealand.
Lake Wanaka is another serene beauty. The town has its mark around the lake. The next two nights of stay was here at Wanaka. Relaxing at the shore of lake Wanaka was just enough for that day.
Day 4 – Wanaka to Blue Pools
Next morning the south island road trip got fashioned visiting the Mt Aspiring National Park. Following the shores of Lake Hawea and lake Wanaka through the neck and tail of one over the other was stunning. The views were picturesque.
More stop overs, more clicks on the camera, short walk on the shores of lake Hawea smelling the great scent of wild flowers made the drive a pleasant one. Entering the rain forest of Mt aspiring National park was a cool drive.
Then comes the blue pools, a well renowned and a must visit place in New Zealand. Fed by the glacier water, this pool has a beautiful clear blue color. Like a love lock in Paris, making a stone pile is quiet famous here. I don’t know who started this but still it is great to do a stone pile. The drive was worthy.
That day ended beautifully after a short walk on the shores of lake Wanaka.
Day 5 – Wanaka to Queenstown
The daily routines of getting ready and packing food done and the next drive started from Wanaka to Queenstown. An hour and 30 mins of drive was all it took to Queenstown. We went straight to the Skyline. Gondola, ledge drive, a coffee break took half of our day and the rest of our day well spent at the Queenstown gardens. Beautiful views ever. Returned the car, reached airport, took a flight and arrived at Auckland. Back home with loads of good memories to keep.
Our choice of stay was Te Anau and Wanaka , not Queenstown. Those two towns had loads of other opportunities to do around. We didn’t do any long walk, hike or any other adventurous sport. So, it was a perfect holiday in short.
What is your favorite place in South Island, New Zealand?