New Zealand South Island Hiking Road Trip
New Zealand's South Island is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world — from the snow-capped mountains of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to the lush green forest of Fiordland. And between the dreamy laid-back lakeside town of Wanaka to nearby adventure capital, Queenstown — there's something for everyone. But with so much to see, where do you begin planning a week on New Zealand's South Island?
New Zealand Road Trip: South Island, 7 Day Itinerary
There's no way to see all of New Zealand's South Island in a week, but when a dozen of us got together in Autumn with Women Want Adventure, we gave it a pretty good crack: combining road-trip with hiking for the ultimate South Island adventure.
Day 1: Christchurch to Aoraki Mount Cook. After meeting up in Christchurch, our first stop was coffee in Geraldine, from there it was onward to Lake Tekapo for a picnic lunch, before driving on to the oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-it's-really-that-beautiful Aoraki Mount Cook — our first overnight stop, and where we'd be spending the next day hiking.
Day 2: Hiking in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. During our time in Aoraki Mount Cook we hiked Sealy Tarns (😍), Hooker Valley, Tasman Glacier, and Governor's Bush. Epic views everywhere.
Day 3: Queenstown via Lindis Pass. Speaking of epic views, driving the winding road of Lindis Pass is a jaw-dropping highlight en route to Queenstown. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and among the mountain ranges NZ is renowned for, there's no shortage of fun ways to spend a day in Queenstown. Hiking Ben Lomond was how me and a few of the ladies I was travelling with chose to spend our afternoon.
Day 4: Hollyford Valley. You'll never find another place quite like Gunns Camp in the Hollyford Valley — set among the lush greenery of Fiordland National Park and right by the Hollyford River, this place is full of stories... and is the perfect place to prepare for Fiordland adventures.
Day 5: Milford Sound and Key Summit. You can't head down south and not visit Milford Sound. Hundreds of thousands of people come from all over the world each year to visit Milford Sound, and it's not hard to see why. We spent our morning paddling around Milford Sound in kayaks, passing the spectacular Lady Bowen falls, and marveling at Mitre Peak. After drying off we were back in the van and on the road to Key Summit for an afternoon hike.
Day 6: Fiordland and the Kepler Track. The Kepler Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, it's a 60km loop that generally takes around 3-4 days to complete. We hiked a section of it during what would be our last day in Fiordland together.
Day 7: Fiordland to Queenstown. Back to Queenstown and time for farewells. Going our separate ways after a week of adventure that took us from Christchurch to Mt Cook, across Lindis Pass to Queenstown, on to the Hollyford Valley and Milford Sound, then down through Fiordland and back to Queenstown. Phew. An epic New Zealand South Island road trip and a fun week of hiking New Zealand.
As we bid our farewells, a couple of the ladies prepared to spend their next few days hiking the Routeburn Track, while others hit the dreamy Onsen Hot Pools for some R&R before flying back to Australia... and me? I jumped on a bus over to Lake Wanaka to cycle Glendhu Bay, hike through Mt Aspiring National Park, and pay a visit or two to #thatwanakatree.