10 Days in the South Island Day 1 - Our adventure begins!
It's early August as we (Dave and Kim, and friends Dave and Paula) fly into Christchurch, the starting point for what would prove to be an amazing 10 days in the South Island.
We purposely chose August for our trip, because we believe that the stunning South is at it's best at this time of the year.
Snow capped peaks, roaring fires in the pubs and bars, and a
seemingly endless variety of postcard shots can be expected on any trip
at this time of the year, and we were not to be disappointed.
in Christchurch, our adventure would take us north along State Highway 1
to Kaikoura, then on through Blenheim and the Marlborough region, to
From there we would make our way along State Highway 6 to the wild west coast, and the villages of Punakaiki and Franz Josef.
And finally, the charms of the southern lakes awaited, with the vibrant, lakeside resorts of Wanaka and Queenstown.
1) You can view our route map at the bottom of the page. You can zoom in and out for more detail.
2) Want to take the same route as us? Feel free to hire a car and use this
itinerary as a guide, or fill out the form at the bottom of the page to
talk to one of our local experts. We can put together a fully packaged self drive tour for you.
3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.
4) There is much less traffic in New Zealand than in many other countries,
and the roads are well sealed, so driving is easy, as long as you drive
to the conditions. In winter, "grit trucks" patrol the highways and when
there is snow or ice about, they drop fine grit onto the roads to
Day 1 Christchurch to Kaikoura
Around 9 am we picked up our car from Go Rentals and headed north out
of Christchurch. The staff at Go Rentals were
really friendly and helpful, and we can highly recommend them. They have a large range of cars and at this time of year we prefer to hire a 4wd as they
are a bit safer in winter conditions. This time we chose a Hyundai Santa Fe, which would prove to be comfortable, spacious, and easy on the fuel.
If you leave from Christchurch airport, the route north on State Highway 1 is well signposted. Just follow the "Picton" signs.
a few kilometers on the motorway out of Christchurch, the road narrowed slightly and we
started to pass some wineries and the newly created town known as
Before long, the surrounding mountains revealed a covering
of snow, and as we made our way further north, the snow became much
thicker and was soon covering the rolling hills and fields as far as the eye could
see. Absolutely beautiful!
The seaside town of Kaikoura is around 2 to 2.5 hours drive from Christchurch. But if you
are like us, it will take longer because you will be constantly slowing
or stopping to take pictures.
Around half way between Christchurch and
Kaikoura, the small town of Cheviot is a good place to stop for a cuppa
and a toilet break.
Refreshed, we were soon back on the road, taking in the amazing scenery.
Around 30 minutes south of Kaikoura, near Goose Bay, the
coastline reveals itself, and if you have never been this way before,
prepare yourself for some awesome scenery. State Highway 1 hugs the
coast from here into Kaikoura, wedging you between the mountains and the
Through the clouds on our left we could see traces of snow on the peaks,
and to the right hand side we began to see our first New Zealand fur
seals, perched precariously on the rocky outcrops that adorn this
stretch of coast.
Relaxing at Kaikoura. A New Zealand fur seal near Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is best known as the whale
watching capital of New Zealand, and there are some really good tours
available. You can also swim with the dolphins. The conditions along
this part of the coast support a wide range of marine life, and if you
are fortunate enough to take one of the tours, it's possible to see
whales, dolphins, seals, and several species of birds.
whale watch tour was not on our list this time, we have been on them
before, and they are great. Best to go in the morning though, before the
wind and the ocean swell increase.
You can learn more about them here.
We arrived in Kaikoura around mid day and checked into our motel, the
Anchor Inn. Over the last 10 or 15 years we have stayed here numerous
times, and we keep coming back, because the water front location cannot
The rooms are always clean and comfortable, and our two bedroom family apartment gave us plenty of space, and a kitchen. Our hosts, Paul and Lyn were great, and did everything they could to make our stay enjoyable, including booking dinner for us at the nearby Pier Hotel.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Kaikoura, but we always like
to stay on the Esplanade, as apart from the views, it's close to the
We headed out along the Esplanade to the seal colony at Point Kean and there they
were! Fur seals, old and young, only meters from the walkways and car
This is probably the most accessible seal colony on the
South Island, and you can usually see the seals without even leaving
Much better though to hop out and have a walk along the decking and the paths that lead around the point.
One particularly cheeky pup took great delight in staring up at us
from under the board walk with the most adoring eyes you could imagine.
Just remember though that these are wild animals and they can, and sometimes do, bite!
After visiting the seals, we take the two minute drive to the lookout above the seal colony.
views over Kaikoura, the mountains and sea are breath taking. And at
this time of year, with the snow around, this has to be one of the most
picturesque places on the planet.
It's time then to head back to the Anchor Inn for a few hours rest before dinner.
All refreshed, we head off to the Pier Hotel around 6.30 pm. Since our last visit a few years back, the hotel has undergone extensive renovations, which take advantage of its water front location.
The bar and dining area offer beautiful views of the bay, and the roaring fire welcomes us inside, on what is a chilly night.
After a couple of drinks at the bar, we sit for dinner.
what a meal. We decide to share an entree of lightly battered New
Zealand whitebait, which proves a good choice. These tiny fish, no more
than a few centimeters in length, are a perfect appetizer.
main meals are something special. Two of us have a rich, thick seafood
chowder, which is "awarded" by us as best ever. We also try the New Zealand green
lipped mussels, and a crackly pork dish (the "Hog Roll") with apple
sauce, served on a bed of mash potato. Both are delicious.
remember to thank Paul and Lyn from the Anchor for the recommendation.
We will certainly be back to the Pier.
After dinner it's back to the Anchor Inn for a well earned rest. Tomorrow the adventure continues, and if our first day is anything to go by, our 10 days in the South Island are going to be something very special.
Continue to Day 2