This 5 Day South Island Itinerary has you flying in to Queenstown and then out of either Picton or Wellington, depending on domestic and international connections, rental car arrangements, and your time frame and schedule. It’s a fair amount of driving, but you’ll get a good combination of urban and rural, with landscapes ranging from sub-tropical and coastal to inland and mountainous.
This 7 Day South Island Itinerary has you flying in to Queenstown and then out of either Picton or Wellington, depending on domestic and international connections, rental car arrangements, and your time frame and schedule. If you only have 5 days, check out our 5 Day Itinerary from Wellington to Dunedin, flying out of Queenstown.
We’ve planned the best 14 Day New Zealand Itinerary so you don’t have to! Check out each of the days below to put together your own holiday around the South Island and Wellington, or customize a trip if you’ve only got a few days or a week. (Check out our “Itineraries” in the main menu for other, shorter itineraries from New Zealand and other countries, as well).
Check out our New Zealand Top 10 list, including all our favorite road trip stops throughout the South Island and Wellington. We’ve hand-picked our favorite spots, activities, and must-see locations to help you plan your own kiwi adventure itinerary.
We planned day four as a driving day to cover about 1/3 of the length of the South Island, from Hokitika all the way to Motueka, on the South Island’s North Shore between the Abel Tasman National Park and the wine-growing region of Nelson, Picton, and Blenheim. If you have a little more time, you could easily break this into two segments and stay in Reefton, the first town in New Zealand and all of the Southern Hemisphere to receive electricity. You can easily cover the distance with a few fun stops in less than a full day.
Hokitika is known for its greenstone shops and other tourist attractions. Originally a gold mining town in the 1860s, Hokitika was once one of the most populous New Zealand cities. Even though the original industries have faded, it has become a popular tourist destination along the West Coast, and we recommend spending at least half a day checking out the historical downtown area and gray sand beaches.
The mountain villages of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef provide access to the two most accessible glaciers on the West Coast. You can easily spend a full day exploring the glacier nature walks and the villages that thrive on the summertime tourist economy. At Fox Glacier, the hike to view the receding glacier has more than doubled since we first started visiting in 2003, due to the stunning retreat of the glacier.
For this part of the trip, we recommend taking a full day to drive the stretch from Makarora to Fox Glacier, with plenty of time to stop at the blue pools and the beaches North of Haast. If you have a little more time, break this up into two sections, camping near Bruce Bay or Haast.
Visiting the Blue Pools, you’ll find a series of unbelievably turquoise pools just below a waterfall that opens up into a wide river below. The banks are littered with smooth, round stones, and the glacial mineral runoff refracts the sun’s light to create the most beautiful blue water imaginable. If it wasn’t for the hordes of sandflies, this would truly be paradise.
Once you leave Queenstown, drive up between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea for spectacular views of both lakes and Mt. Aspiring National Park to the West. We highly recommend the reasonably-priced and comfortable A-Frame accommodations at the Makarora Tourist Centre, just below Mt. Shrimpton and adjacent to Mt. Aspiring National Park.