Lower South Island New Zealand Itinerary
Visiting Christchurch, Dunedin, Te Anau / Milford Sound, Queenstown, Christchurch.
This 10 day South Island itinerary takes you to the southern half of New Zealand's beautiful South Island.
Beginning in Christchurch, the "Garden City", we then head south to Dunedin and its Scottish charms.
From Dunedin our itinerary takes us to the beautiful lakeside town of Te Anau, in readiness for our trip to New Zealand's number one attraction, the mighty Milford Sound.
From Milford Sound its off to the "Adventure Capital", Queenstown, for a couple of days in what is surely one of the most beautiful resort towns on earth.
1) You can view your interactive route map at the bottom of the page
2) 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 about a fully packaged self drive tour.
3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.
Day by day - click on each day for more detail, then when you finish just click on your browsers back button to return here
Day 1 - Arrive in Christchurch, the Garden City
Day 2 - Christchurch to Dunedin
Day 3 - Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Day 4 - Dunedin to Te Anau
Day 5 - Te Anau / Magical Milford Sound / Te Anau
Day 6 - Te Anau to Queenstown
Day 7 - Explore amazing Queenstown
Day 8 - Queenstown
Day 9 - Queenstown to Christchurch
Day 10 - Christchurch to home
Where to stay
If you are looking for a hotel close to the airport, the Sudima is around 5 minutes walk and is very highly rated.
The Airport Gateway Motor Lodge is another favorite of ours and is 10-15 minutes drive from the airport.
Around 20 minutes drive from the airport, Pavilions, on Papanui Road, is close to restaurants and pubs, and is around 15 minutes walk to the city center.
In the city, the historic Heritage has spacious rooms and lots of old world charm, and is highly recommended.
You can search a wide range of Christchurch accommodation and read customer reviews by clicking here.
Hiring your rental car or camper van
Through our partnership with the leading brands in the industry, we are able to offer market leading rates on a huge range of rental vehicles.
To check our range, prices, and availability just click here.
Things to do in and around Christchurch
Highly recommended are a drive to the "French" settlement of Akaroa, located sea side on the scenic Bank's Peninsula. Akaroa is around 80 kilometers (about 1.5 hours drive) down State Highway 75, and is well known for it's French feel and as one of New Zealand's best places to swim with the dolphins. Swimming with these beautiful marine mammals is an awesome experience for those lucky enough to do it.
Akaroa is a great place to spend a few hours exploring the shops and waterfront. And they have some really nice cafes and restaurants.
For great views of Christchurch, take a ride on the Christchurch Gondola, which takes you to 500 metres (1500 ft) above sea level. The 360 degree views highlight the Southern Alps, the ocean and the patchwork of the Canterbury Plains.
Also highly recommended are a hot air balloon ride, a punt ride down the Avon, and a visit to the International Antarctic Center, located near the airport. If you are feeling adventurous, try the wind chill room!
If you get the chance to walk along the banks of the Avon, keep an eye out for the huge trout that lurk in the shadows!
For lots of information on a wide range of Christchurch activities click HERE.
Day 2 Christchurch to Dunedin
Today your South Island itinerary takes you down State Highway 1 to Dunedin (about 5 hours drive).
Your trip takes you through the towns of Timaru and Oamaru, then about 75 kilometres before Dunedin you come to the village of Moeraki.
Moeraki is famed for the Moeraki Boulders, a series of spherical rocks, partially submerged in the sand.
They are perhaps one of New
Zealand's most photographed attractions. To be honest, I found them interesting, but a bit underwhelming.
Dunedin is a city of some 120,000 people, and is located on the southeast coast of the South Island. It is very much a university town, with around 10% of it's young people studying there.
Day 3 Dunedin
Today you are free to explore Dunedin.
Dunedin has a strong Scottish heritage, reflected in its architecture, street names, eateries serving haggis and whiskies, and the ever present sound of bagpipes at special events. Dunedin is also a sister city to Edinburgh.
Dunedin Railway Station (pictured) is an example of the architecture common to this Scottish influenced city.
Built around a beautiful harbour, filled with bays and beaches, it's a wonderful place to stroll and take in the views.
And just outside the city, the Otago Peninsula is home to a variety of wildlife, protected by a strong environmental culture.
At Taiaroa Head you can view the only mainland Royal Albatross colony south of the equator.
The Otago Peninsula is also home to fur seals, sea lions, and the world's rarest penguin, the hoiho.
Other recommended activities are a trip to Larnach
Castle, a tour of Dunedin Botanic Gardens (New Zealand's oldest), a
visit to Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street (you won't believe it until you see it), or a visit to
There is so much to see and do in the region.
To read customer reviews and learn more about things to see and do in and around Dunedin, just click here.
Find somewhere to stay in Dunedin
There is also a wide range of accommodation to choose from in Dunedin.
Day 4 Dunedin to Te Anau
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the pretty lake side town of Te Anau. Located on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the town is the closest settlement of any size to Milford Sound.
Lake Te Anau is the South Island's largest lake and the second largest in New Zealand after Lake Taupo.
A great place to visit when you arrive is the Department of Conservation (DOC) Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, located on Lakefront Drive.
With three of New Zealand's Great Walks (Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks) in the region, DOC provide bookings for walks, hut tickets and maps.
They also have heaps of information about the region and the many activities available.
The Fiordland i-SITE Center, also located on Lakefront Drive, is also well worth a visit, and you can book a range of activities and accommodation through them.
Where to stay in Te Anau
Although it's relatively small, the village has a good range of accommodation, with everything from backpacker lodges to five star lodges.
As always, we strongly recommend choosing carefully before booking.
You can search for accommodation and read reviews by clicking here.
Why not try the Milford Track sampler!
There are several commercially run guided tours of the Milford Track available, and if your time is limited we have a great one day walk that might be just what you are looking for.
Taking in the first section of the track, it's a relatively easy walk, with no steep hills. Lunch is provided, and there's lots of time to take in the stunning scenery.
You can learn more and read reviews here.
Visit the Glowworm Caves
If time permits this afternoon, consider a trip to the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves, which lie across the lake from Te Anau.
The tour lasts around two and a half hours and begins with a trip across the lake in a modern launch. You then enter an information center for a presentation about the glowworms and the caves, before boarding a small punt and heading into the cave.
The Glowworms, cavern and crystal clear waters are very impressive, and you won't believe how much "glow" these little creatures emit.
Well worth a visit.
Don't forget Doubtful Sound
Also highly rated is the iconic Doubtful Sound. Often overlooked in favor of the more popular Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is an amazing wilderness experience, and we can highly recommend a tour. You can read about several options by clicking on the links below:
* Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Te Anau click here.
* Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise from Te Anau click here.
Day 5 Te Anau / Milford Sound / Te Anau
Today you visit the number one attraction in New Zealand.
has been referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and deserves
it's reputation as one of the finest natural attractions in the world.
The drive to Milford Sound takes around 2 hours each way, however it is more relaxing to take an organized tour which will normally include the coach trip and cruise on Milford Sound.
Some find the journey to Milford Sound just as amazing as the Sound itself. Full of creek crossings, waterfalls, and the impressive Homer Tunnel, the drive provides many spectacular photo opportunities.
If you happen to stop at the entrance to the Homer Tunnel, keep an eye open for the cheeky Kea, a native parrot that delights in destroying rubber car parts.
Wiper blades, door rubbers. Kea's love them! These gregarious birds are fascinating to watch.
Milford Sound is one place where photos do not do it justice. Nothing can prepare you for what you will see.
Milford Sound reaches 16 kilometers inland from the sea.
Huge snow capped peaks rise up to 1500 metres almost vertically from the water, and Bowen Falls plunge 165 meters into the sea.
On our last trip we were amazed when the captain of our tour boat nosed the front of it under one of the waterfalls!
As we cruised close to the huge cliffs we constantly found ourselves craning our necks as we looked upwards at the towering peaks. Some days they disappear into the clouds and at other times they're backed by crystal clear skies.
Milford is home to dolphins, seals, penguins, and black coral, which grows just 10 meters below the surface.
deep water observatory is the perfect place to view life under the water
and we highly recommend a visit whilst you are at Milford Sound.
Are there tours of Milford Sound available from Te Anau?
Yes, there are a range of tours available from Te Anau, and you can even get packages that include the Te Anau Glowworm caves - click here to learn more about this tour.
Or, you can drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound yourself (about 2 hours each way) then just take a cruise when you reach Milford Sound - Please note - if you choose to do this, please pre-book your cruise to avoid disappointment. Some cruises are heavily booked and if you don't book in advance you could very well reach Milford Sound and not be able to cruise.
Personally, we prefer to sit back in a coach and let someone else do the driving. It's more relaxing, and you also have the benefit of learning about the region from an experienced guide.
Search available tours and read customer reviews
You can search through the available tours and read customer reviews on our dedicated page here.
Highly rated tours from Te Anau
Here are a couple of tours from Te Anau that previous guests have loved:
1) Full Day Milford Sound Extraordinaire Tour from Te Anau
Visit Fall's Creek, Cascade Creek and the Chasm, before you board your boat for your 2 hour nature cruise - click here to read why people loved this tour so much.
2) Milford Sound Nature Cruise from Te Anau.
Spend a couple of hours nosing into waterfalls, watching the local wildlife, and just taking in the beauty of Milford - click here to read about this fabulous tour.
3) Why not try an overnighter?
In addition to the day trips to Milford Sound, you can also choose an overnight cruise on the Sound.
Leaving from Te Anau, this highly rated trip is an unforgettable experience and one which we highly recommend. The scenery and serenity of Milford are amazing.
This is a truly amazing place. Enjoy.
Day 6 Te Anau to Queenstown
Today you travel to the "Adventure Capital" of New Zealand (2 hours drive).
is located on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, and is flanked by the
Remarkables mountain range, which towers to 7,000 feet, making
Queenstown one of the most visually stunning places in New Zealand, if not the world.
Queenstown is also home to two world class ski fields, the Remarkables, and Coronet Peak.
Handy Tip about Queenstown accommodation
Your accommodation options are plentiful in Queenstown, with everything from hostels to 5 star luxury available.
Central Queenstown is hilly, so if possible, try and book accommodation that is within an easy walk of the town center.
We have stayed at various places, but keep going back to Pepper's Beacon.
They have a range of room types, and are a level, two minute walk to the center of town. So no need to get the car out.
We also love Garden Court apartments. Close to town, and although the views are not as good as they are at the Beacon, the rooms are spacious and modern, and it's just a short walk to town.
And if you are looking for a really special backpacker lodge, Haka Lodge might be ideal.
Search for your perfect Queenstown Accommodation
To find your perfect Queenstown accommodation click here.
Days 7 & 8 Queenstown
Thankfully your 10 day South Island itinerary allows you two full days to explore all that Queenstown has to offer.
And wow, does it deliver!
There is a never ending supply of Queenstown activities and you will never be left wondering "what next?".
From bungy jumping
and jet boats, to gondola rides and lake cruises on the TSS Earnslaw,
your days will be full of action (or relaxation if that's what you prefer).
The cruise on the historic TSS Earnslaw and a trip to the top of Bob's Peak are highly recommended, particularly if you are looking for something relaxing.
You board the gondola near the town center and it whisks you on an almost vertical ascent to Bob's Peak.
The Skyline complex has a restaurant (we can recommend dinner at dusk, looking down over Queenstown), snack bar, gift shop, and lots of spots to sit on a nice day and enjoy the view. And while you are up there, don't miss the chance for a luge ride. We have had dozens and admit to being addicted!
The historic TSS Earnslaw is a wonderfully relaxing way to sit back and admire the lake and mountains.
scenic drive to either Glenorchy or Kingston (both around 45 minutes), located at either end of Lake
Wakatipu, will provide some great photo opportunities.
For something more adventurous, I highly recommend a bungy jump.
We jumped off the original site at the old Kawarau bridge, and it was an experience that we will never forget. What a rush!
In Queenstown you can also bungy at the following sites (we are trying to work up enough courage for these):
* The Ledge, high above Queenstown at Bob's Peak
* The Nevis Highwire, a 134 meter drop over Skipper's Canyon
Other things to do include winery tours, white water rafting, mountain biking, jet boating and para gliding!
Search for things to do in Queenstown - the range is huge
Take some time to browse through the range of Queenstown activities. With everything from "mild" to "wild", Queenstown will have something to make your visit memorable.
To read customer reviews and check availability just click here.
Where to eat in Queenstown
Queenstown also has a huge variety of dining options, with something to suit all budgets.
Here are a few of our favorites:
* the Pub on Wharf - lakefront. At the time of writing they had a great range of meals with nothing over $20. If you sit outside, in the cooler months they have gas heaters and even rugs for your lap.
* Pog Mahone's - lakefront. Traditional Irish dishes and great pub food - try the beef and guiness pie. And the upstairs balcony has great lake views
* Winnie's - in central Queenstown in the mall. Great gourmet pizzas - we love the chicken, cranberry and brie.
* Fergburger - no trip to Queenstown would be complete without a gourmet burger from the famous Fergburger. But be prepared to queue no matter what time of the day.
With choices like "Little Lamby", "Southern Swine", "Sweet Bambi" and "Cockadoodle Oink", this is not your average burger joint!
* at the upper end of the market, the Botswana Butchery, located on the lakefront in the town center is highly rated. It's not cheap but the meals and service are first class.
the best views in town, the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar, located in
the Skyline Gondola complex on Bob's Peak, is simply unbeatable (see the
picture). You can have lunch or dinner, and the price of your buffet
includes the gondola ride up and back!
With views like these, bookings are recommended.
You can learn more here.
Day 9 Queenstown to Christchurch
Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you from Queenstown to Christchurch (6 hours drive).
To break the journey, stop for lunch and a fuel top up at the beautiful lake side township of Lake Tekapo.
The glacier fed lake has an almost unbelievable turquoise color, and is flanked by the Southern Alps, including Mt Cook.
When we first saw Lake Tekapo we put our hands in the lake and were amazed when we could not see them, due to the amount of suspended sediment. And the water is so blue!
On a sunny day, Tekapo will provide some of the best pictures in New Zealand.
One of New Zealand's most photographed sites, the Church of the
Good Shepherd, sits beside the lake, and the views of the lake through the large picture window of the church are stunning.
Day 10 Christchurch / Home
Unfortunately your 10 day south island itinerary comes to a close today as you fly home.
We hope that you have enjoyed your introduction to this very special part of New Zealand.
To make the most of your New Zealand Itinerary click on this link for all the details on New Zealand's southern regions.
And of course if you have any questions, please CONTACT US using the form below.
New Zealand Itinerary Lower South Island