14 Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary

by | Jun 2, 2021 | Live Work Play Travel, New Zealand Live Work and Play | 11 comments

Lake Wanaka – South Island, New Zealand

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Not only is New Zealand an incredible country to explore but it’s also quite small, making it easy to cover a lot of ground within a short amount of time! Once you’ve explored the North Island, you should make your way to the South Island for the adventure of a lifetime. Both islands are stunning and offer a wide range of activities for all ages. But the South Island is definitely centred around bold and adventurous travellers! This two week South Island itinerary will guide you through some of the most breathtaking sights in New Zealand and help get your holiday plans sorted.


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Getting Around the New Zealand’s South Island


Even though you can travel New Zealand by train and bus, the best way to get around the South Island is by car or camper van. A vehicle will allow you the freedom to move at your own pace and go where you want, when you want! Your trip will be more flexible as you can deviate during this 14 day New Zealand South Island itinerary if you want to. As you make your way through this South Island itinerary, you’ll see that there’s a lot of driving in order to get from place to place. If you don’t have a car or want to rent a camper van you can rent one through RentalCars.com. Check out pricing and availability here.


14 Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary


Day 1 – Fly in or Take a Boat from North Island and Drive to Christchurch


If You Sail Aboard The Interisland Ferry From New Zealand's North Island To South Island Your Last Hour On The Ferry Will See You Sail Through Milford Sound. Milford Sound Is A Spectacular Body Of Water Surrounded By Mountains.

Sail through Marlborough Sound on your way from the North Island to the South Island


To get from the North to South Island you can either fly or take a ferry. You can fly into Christchurch where you can rent a car. If you have been travelling around the North Island you can take the InterIslander Ferry from Wellington to Picton and take your car with you. The crossing from North Island to South Island is 92km across the Cook strait which makes it approximately 3-3.5 hours long. This journey is quite scenic, particularly the final stretch where you sail through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys. Enjoy steep forested hills and quiet bays as you cruise through to port in Picton. Once you make to land on the other side of New Zealand, you should head towards Christchurch, a vibrant city with lots to see and do!

It is then about a 5 hour drive from Picton to Christchurch making the day a long travelling day. However, you are driving through Marlborough Country, famous for its wine and food – fancy a local Sauvignon Blanc?. Possibly enjoy a few samples during your journey down the coast maybe stopping along the way at Blenheim or Kaikoura or any of the other towns along the way. Kaikoura is particularly beautiful. It is a coastal town and known for abundant wildlife including whales. Take the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway that winds through the town to lookout points and if time, go on a whale watching tour to see the might Sperm whales. Then onto Christchurch.

Where to stay in Christchurch

There are a number of accommodation options in Christchurch. Click on the links below for pricing, availability and to book.

Hostel: Urbanz Christchurch, YHA Christchurch
Budget: Ibis Hotel
Mid-range: Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square
Luxury: The George Christchurch


Day 2 – Christchurch


Christchurch Cathedral In Christchurch New Zealand. A Large Church In The Middle Of Christchurch.

Christchurch Cathedral


Enjoy a full day in Christchurch where you can explore more of the city. The Riverside Market is a must when visiting Christchurch! It has some of the best food and drinks you’ll find in the city. You should also make time to stop by the Christchurch Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum if you’e interested in seeing some of the unique art pieces and learning more about Christchurch’s history. Don’t forget to check out the earthquake tours that are available if you want to learn more about the earthquake in 2011 that changed the city forever. The town centre was practically destroyed and many people were made homeless. You might want to take a stroll in the beautiful Botanic Gardens if you didn’t yesterday or stroll by the Christchurch Cathedral. Or maybe visit the International Antarctic Centre designed to provide informative accounts of life in the Antarctic without even leaving Christchurch.

End the day with a ride along the Christchurch Gondola for beautiful city views! Then back to your Christchurch accommodation.

If you loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy you may want to discover where the movies were filmed. If you have time, you can organise a day tour from Christchurch. Visit Mount Potts and see how it was transformed into Edoras, the capital city of the Rohan people. Check out pricing and availability following.


Day 3 – Christchurch to Dunedin


Dunedin's Historic Railway Station Is Classic Edwardian And Victorian Architecture.

Dunedin Historic Train Station


The drive from Christchurch to Dunedin is about 4.5 hours. Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s best preserved Edwardian and Victorian cities with many beautiful buildings to admire, one such building the historic Train Station. Once you get to Dunedin you’ll find that this region of the south island is packed with things to do. If you’re interested in getting up close and personal with New Zealand’s wildlife, this is the place to do it! You can head to the Royal Albatross Centre or the Orokonui Ecosanctuary for an experience you’ll never forget.

If you didn’t get enough street art during your time in Christchurch, you can also explore Dunedin street art with Small City Big Walls. End your day with some local craft beer at Emerson’s Brewery before heading to your accommodation.


Where to stay in Dunedin

Dunedin has a number of accommodation options. Click on the links following for pricing, availalbity and to book.

Hostel: On Top Backpackers, Chalet Backpackers
Budget Motel: Aaron Lodge Holiday Park
Mid-Range: Owen’s Motel, Aria on Bank
Luxury: Distinction Dunedin Hotel


Day 4 – Dunedin


With a full day in Dunedin, there are many more activities to do and ground to cover. Dunedin is known for its spectacular beaches so spend the day beach hopping if you’re travelling during the summer months. St Clair is popular for surfing but Brighton Beach and Long Beach are great options for swimming and exploring caves!

Dunedin is also a great place for cycling and mountain biking with amazing downhill tracks not far from the city. If you’re up for a small drive you can make your way to Otago Rail Trail where you can ride through historic gold mining sites and a stunning landscape.


Day 5 – Dunedin to Invercargill


Invercargill On New Zealand's South Island Is At The Southern Most Point Of The South Island. With Beautiful Seaside Scenery You Will Find Ships Graveyard At Greenpoint.

Invercargill – Ships Graveyard


When you’ve finished exploring all that Dunedin has to offer, you’ll drive about 2.5 hours to Invercargill, the southernmost city in all of New Zealand. There is no shortage of sheep in Invercargill, as it’s landscape is perfect for harvesting food and for livestock to roam.

While venturing through the city, you must stop by Queens Park for a picnic or to check out the sports facilities. Don’t forget to stop by Oreti Beach, only a few minutes from the city centre! It’s great for families, as well as adrenaline junkies with endless activities. Some include swimming, kayaking, horse riding, paddling or 4-wheel driving. It’s also a magnificent spot to watch the sunset! 


Where to stay in Invercargill


Invercargill offers a number of accommodation options. Click on the links for pricing, availability and to book.

Hostels in Invercargill: Southern Comfort Backpackers, Tuatara Lodge
Budget Hotels in Invercargill: Whitehouse Hotel
Mid-range Hotels in Invercargill: Tower Lodge Motel, Quest Invercargill Serviced Apartments
Luxury Hotels in Invercargill: The Lodges At Transport World


Day 6 – Invercargill to Te Anau


Next stop on this 14 Day New Zealand South Island itinerary is Te Anau. Begin the drive west from Invercargill to Te Anau and the glacier region which is about 2 hours long. Once you arrive in Te Anau, you’ll want to settle in for the next few days as you’ll want to do a few day trips from this location! It’s right outside Fiordland National Park, and is your gateway to the Fiordland giving you easy access to amazing walks, hikes and bodies of water.

On arrival take a walk by Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in the South Island of New Zealand where the town Te Anau is nestled.  Venture to the glowworm caves which are an ecological wonder and definitely an interesting way to spend your afternoon in Te Anau! Te Anau is also a great spot for fishing if you want to kick back and relax.


Where to stay in Te Anau


You will be in Te Anau a few nights while doing day trips into the Fiordlands so you may want to upgrade your accommodation. Here are a few options.

Hostels in Te Anau: Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers, Barnyard Backpackers Te Anau
Budget Hotels in Te Anau: Alpenhon Motel, The Village Inn
Mid-range Hotel in Te Anau: Alpine View Motel, Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau
Luxury Hotels in Te Anau: Luxury on Howden
Apartments in Te Anau: Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments


Day 7 – Day trip to Doubtful Sound


Doubtful Sound On New Zealand's South Island Is A Beautiful Sunken Valley Full Of Water Surrounded By Tall Mountains.

Doubtful Sound


Take a quick 15-minute drive to Manapouri to explore the magnificent Doubtful Sound. Once you get to Manapouri, you’ll hop on a cruise to see Doubtful Sound for yourself! There are many cruise options to choose from, none of which will disappoint. While many people come to New Zealand’s South Island just to see Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is arguably just as beautiful. 

The mountains aren’t quite as high at Doubtful Sound but it’s less touristy and a quieter spot if you’re after something a little more secluded! You can book your tour to Doubtful Sound here.


Day 8 – Day trip to Milford Sound


Milford Sound On New Zealand's South Island Is A Beautiful Sunken Valley Full Of Water Surrounded By Tall Mountains.

Milford Sound


Milford sound is only about 1.5 hours from Te Anau and definitely worth the journey! The drive in is beautiful with dozens of waterfalls on a rainy day and crystal clear water you can drink right from the streams. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a sunny, clear day, you’ll see bright blue water. The large fiords are world-renowned and offer some of the most incredible views in all of New Zealand! See the spectacular Bowen Falls and towering Mitre Peak, two highlights of Milford Sound

Hop aboard a cruise for the day to learn more about how these fiords formed thousands of years ago and to immerse yourself in this natural wonder.


Day 9 – Te Anau to Queenstown


The next stop is Queenstown which is about a 2-hour drive from Te Anau. Queenstown is without a doubt the adrenaline capital of New Zealand with heaps of adventurous activities to partake in. Take this opportunity to face your fears and skydive in Queenstown or try out a bungy or giant swing with AJ Hackett Bungy! Or maybe a jet boat ride is more your style!

The winter in Queenstown is absolutely magical and you can take up a wide range of winter sports such as downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more.


Where to stay in Queenstown


Queenstown has a number of accommodation options. Check out the following suggestions and click on the links for pricing and availability.

Hostels in Queenstown: Nomads Queenstown, The Black Sheep Backpackers
Budget Hotels in Queenstown: Four Seasons Motel Queenstown
Mid-range Hotels in Queenstown: Mercure Queenstown Resort, Rydges Lakeland Resort Queenstown, Novotel Queenstown Lakeside
Luxury Hotels in Queenstown: The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, The Spire Queenstown


Day 10 – Queenstown


Queenstown Is The Gateway To New Zealand's Ski Fields. It Is A Beautiful Town On A Lake With Snow Covered Mountains Around It. If You Want To Bungy Jump Then Come To Queenstown As It Is Home To AJHacket.

Overlooking Queenstown


With a full day in Queenstown, you can set out to explore the city centre, walk by Lake Wakatipu or maybe cruise around it, do a few short day hikes near the city. If you hope to jump into the lake, beware of the freezing cold water, even in the summer months! If you’re an adrenalin junkie, or even not, there are plenty of activities to partake in. Why not bungee jump or skydive while in Queenstown. Check out the tours following.

Queenstown is also known for its nightlife so you should certainly check out some of the bars in the city before you take off to Wanaka the next day.

Queenstown is in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and is a great base if you want to ski in New Zealand. The four ski resorts, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Treble Cone offer great snow and a variety of terrain that suits beginners to expert skiers. There is plenty of are ski as well in the bars and restaurants. 


READ MORE: How to get a job in the New Zealand Ski Resorts


Day 11 – Queenstown to Wanaka


Don’t get too upset about leaving Queenstown because Wanaka is just as beautiful and only about an hour drive away! Wanaka is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and If you’re up for a hike, you must do Roy’s Peak while you’re in Wanaka. Start the hike in the afternoon to get to the peak by sunset. Just remember to bring a flashlight for your walk down the track on the way back.

You could also spend a chilled day in Wanaka, walking to the famous lone tree of Lake Wanaka, (a famous tree that’s grown out of Lake Wanaka near the shore). There are also boat cruises and bike tours if you’re looking for a different activity!


Where to stay in Wanaka


Wanaka has a number of accommodation options. Check out the following and click on the links for pricing and availability.

Hostels in Wanaka: YHA Wanaka, Wanaka Backpackers Bothy
Budget to Mid-range Hotels in Wanaka: Fairway Motel and ApartmentsOakridge Resort Wanaka, Edgewater Lake Wanaka
Luxury Hotels in Wanaka: Wanaka View Motel


Day 12 – Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier


Franz Josef Glacier On New Zealand's South Iceland Is One Of The Many Glaciers Made From Ice That You Can Visit.

Franz Joseph Glacier


A trip to the Franz Josef Glacier just might be the highlight of your trip to New Zealand! It will take close to 4 hours to get there driving from Wanaka but it’s worth it. Leave early so you have enough time to do the heli hike where you get to explore the glacier with a guide, crawling through ice tunnels and caves and take in the breathtaking views! Time permitting, the Fox Glacier might be on your list to visit. Maybe end your day at the Glacier Hot Pools Experience. Enjoy the pools fed by rainwater and surrounding natural waters to revive your body after a hard day sightseeing!

The heli hikes are only available when weather permits so keep an eye out beforehand to ensure you’re able to get a spot. If the weather isn’t great there are a few hikes in the area that will lead you close to the glacier. Or perhaps you would want to take a scenic flight over Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. A flight would be better, as it would be a long drive and unfortunately, not enough time on this 14 day New Zealand South Island Itinerary.


Where to stay in Franz Josef


Find a range of accommodation options in Franz Josef. Click on the links for pricing, availability and to book.

Hostels in Franz Josef: Rainforest Retreat, Glow Worm Accommodation
Budget-mid-range Hotels in Franz Josef: Alpine Glacier Hotel, Westwood Lodge
Luxury Hotels in Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef


Day 13 – Franz Josef Glacier to Greymouth


Greymouth is your final stop on the South Island. It will take about 2.5 hours driving from Franz Josef to get there and is full of history. What was once a mining town on the West Coast of the South Island is now a unique destination where you can visit the Shantytown Museum and taste a few of Monteith’s finest beers!

If you’re interested in learning more about Greymouth’s history take on Point Elizabeth Walk (2 hours) that passes through old mining sites, a beach and a scenic reserve. 


Where to stay in Greymouth


For your final night on this 14 day New Zealand South Itinerary check out the following accommodation in Greymouth.

Hostels in Weymouth: The Duke Hostel
Budget Hotels in Weymouth:
Mid-Range Hotels in Greymouth:
Luxury Hotels in Weymouth:


Day 14 – Greymouth to Picton


All good things must come to an end! Drive about 4.5 hours from Greymouth to Picton to catch a ferry back to the North Island. You could also drive about 3 hours instead to Christchurch to catch a flight out of the country if you’re continuing your travels or heading back home! 


READ MORE: 7 Day New Zealand North Island Itinerary


Of course, there’s so much more to discover in New Zealand but this South Island itinerary will allow you to experience as much as possible in a short amount of time. If you happen to have more time to explore the North Island of New Zealand, you should do it! Both islands are unique and incredibly beautiful so it’s worth checking out if you can. Regardless, you’ll have a spectacular time venturing through this South Island itinerary!



Extend your stay with a New Zealand Working Holiday
What to pack for a Working Holiday


New Zealand's South Island Has Beautiful Bodies Of Water Called Sounds And Apart From All The Beautiful Things To See Like Glaciers It Is Also The Adrenalin Capital Of The World.  Why Not Bungee Jump Or Sky Dive.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


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Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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  1. Krista

    This is a great itinerary! I have always wanted to drive around New Zealand and your photos look stunning. I like that you mixed in towns/cities with more natural spots too.

  2. Emma

    So many great suggestions!! I’m definitely planning a trip to NZ now that the travel bubble is open between Australia and New Zealand!

  3. Suvarna Arora

    I loved South Island so much. I hope to be back someday soon and explore a few more places that you have mentioned.

  4. Tess

    This itinerary is great! I did basically the same trip in reverse in 2016 and it was one of the best trips I’ve done! Milford Sound is definitely a highlight, but everywhere on the South Island is so scenic!

  5. Shelley

    WOW! it seems like the south island is it’s own world! i’m particularly drawn to Doubtful Sound, but your whole itinerary sounds amazing. i hope to make it to NZ soon

  6. Alex

    The whole trip sounds amazing but especially Franz Joseph Glacier

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Franz Joseph Glacier is simply amazing. I hope you get to see it one day.

  7. Shannon

    New Zeland has been on my travel wish list for ages and this post has given me lots of ideas! Doubtful Sound looks so beautiful and, as a big LOTR fan, I need to add Mount Potts to my itinerary as well!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Doubtful Sound is simply beautiful – that whole area is! I am a big LOTR fan also and it is wonderful to experience places the movies were filmed.

  8. Magicandbliss

    New Zealand is high on my bucket list and all I am waiting is for travel restrictions to ease off so I can plan my trip to NZ. I am going to save this informative post and hope I get to refer it soon *fingers crossed*

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Many are in a similar boat and waiting for travel restrictions to ease. Hopefully very soon.


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