17 May 2021 | Written by Bachcare Holiday Homes

South Island Winter Road Trip

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New Zealand South Island Winter Road Trip

Castle Hill New Zealand Road - Free photo on Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

Everyone loves a road trip! They’re fun, exciting, and lead to faraway destinations with all kinds of things to do and see. Travelers tend to think of road trips as a summer vacation, but why not expand your horizons? Winter in New Zealand is a great time to hit the road!

For the perfect New Zealand holiday, it’s tough to beat a South Island winter road trip. It’s filled with great places to see and lots of adventure — whether it’s skiing down snow-capped mountains or enjoying a glass of wine by a cozy fire. This region offers breathtaking scenery and memorable activities, so get your map out, and let’s get planning!


Planning the Perfect South Island Winter Road Trip

You might not know this, but New Zealand’s South Island is larger than the North Island. Despite its larger landmass, it’s home to a much smaller population. Where the North Island is more urban, the South Island is more rugged and wild. That sounds like an adventure!

So what is there to do on the South Island?

That’s a great question, and the answer is A LOT! The perfect road trip is more about the journey than the destination, but, hey, it never hurts to have a point on the horizon to aim toward. The following itinerary will let adventure-seeking traveler’s wind around the majority of the South Island and see some of its most interesting places but still leave plenty left unexplored for future visits!


South Island Winter Road Trip Itinerary

Christchurch > Wanaka > Queenstown

Destination 1: Christchurch

South Island Winter Road Trip
Credit: Flickr

The first stop on our trip is the South Island’s largest city — Christchurch! Not only is Christchurch the largest city on the South Island, but it’s also the oldest city in New Zealand. It was officially designated a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856. There’s tons of history here!

Things To See And Do In Christchurch

Riccarton House

riccarton house chch
Credit: Flickr

Step back in time and experience the Victorian and Edwardian eras of the 19th century. Riccarton House is a grand homestead constructed in phases over nearly 50 years — from 1856 to 1900. This amazing historical landmark was home to the pioneering Deans family. Today the house is completely restored, decorated and furnished in period style and welcomes visitors daily.

Christchurch Tramway

christchurch tramway - road trip
Punting on the Avon. Credit: Flickr

This tram system is one of Christchurch’s most iconic attractions and takes passengers to stops such as the Canterbury Museum and Punting on the Avon — a sightseeing boat ride where guests sit in a small, flat-bottom boat and enjoy tours led by guides dressed in Edwardian clothing!

Where To Stay In Christchurch
Every destination needs top-notch accommodations! While you’re in Christchurch why not stay at Islay Cottage, a Lyttelton Holiday Home? This cute cottage was built in 1851 by Thomas Kent who arrived aboard one of the first four ships bound for Canterbury — the ”Cressy”’.

This historical getaway offers 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, and sleeps 5. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Christchurch and the many nearby bays, beaches, and hills.


Destination 2: Wanaka

winter road trip south island
Credit: Flickr

After the rich history of Christchurch, it’s time to head to Wanaka — located in the heart of the beautiful Otago region of the South Island. The town of Wanaka is one of the most popular ski destinations in New Zealand, with pristine views of snow-covered mountains!

Things To See And Do In Wanaka

Mount Aspiring National Park

nz south island road trip
Mount Aspiring National Park. Credit: Flickr

This gorgeous national park is the perfect place to kick off your Wanaka visit! It offers some of the best hiking trails in the Otago region. They generally take between 3-4 hours to complete and offer plenty of breathtaking scenery!

Cardrona Ski Resort

Cardrona south island
Credit: Flickr

Just a short drive from Wanaka is the renowned Cardrona Ski Resort offering winter sports adventures of all kinds! Ski, snowboard, try snow tubing, or just hang out at the lodge! At night, take a guided stargazing tour. Outdoor fun is just the tip of the iceberg at Wanaka! Make sure you check out the restaurants, clubs, and shops as well!

Where To Stay In Wanaka
The Wanaka region offers lots of great places to hang your hat while visiting! Beacon Point Beauty, a Wanaka holiday home. It offers 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and sleeps 8! It’s just a short stroll to Bremner Bay and Cardrona ski field is just a 40-minute drive!


Destination 3: Queenstown

queenstown south island road trip
Credit: Wikicommons

Queenstown is a happening city and a sightseer’s dream! Located in the mighty Southern Alps, Queenstown gives travelers unparalleled access to stunning views and breathtaking landscapes.

Things To See And Do In Queenstown

The TSS Earnslaw

queenstown road trip
Credit: Picryl

One of the best things to do on Lake Wakatipu is to cruise on the authentic steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. This coal-powered passenger vessel known as the “Lady of the Lake”, is the last of its kind. The cruise will bring you back to the days when the ship transported goods to remote lake settlements, but the real attraction is the stunning view of the snow-capped Southern Alps!

Kawarau Bungy Centre

queenstown road trip in the south island
Credit: Flickr

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and is truly famed for its heart-stopping bungy jump attractions. Kawarau Bungy Centre was the world’s first bungy jump attraction and is widely regarded as the best. Do you have what it takes to make the dive?!

Queenstown offers so much more! From helicopter rides to white water rafting, you just can’t go wrong with this exciting destination!

Where To Stay In Queenstown
Queenstown has so many great places to stay it’s hard to pick just one, but for starters why not check out Lindmore Lodge? The lodge offers 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and sleeps 9! It’s just the spot to plan your day’s adventure! Head into Queenstown for dining and shopping, or hit the slopes! Coronet Peak is only 15 minutes away, and the Remarkables are just a 35-minute drive.


Must-See Day Trip Destination: Milford Sound

milford sound
Credit: Flickr

While you are headquartered in Queenstown, be sure to take a day and visit Milford Sound. The sound cuts through a spectacular fjord and is regarded by travelers as a highlight of any trip to the South Island. Its unmatched mountain views and scenery make Milford Sound a photographer’s dream!

Don’t miss Te Anau while you’re there. Te Anau is the closest town to Milford Sound and is famous for its Te Ana-au caves. These caves are home to a thriving glowworm population and make a glorious experience for visitors!


Get Ready for Your Adventure to the Great White South!

As you can see there are tons of adventures waiting for you on New Zealand’s South Island. The activities listed in this itinerary are just the beginning. Why not start planning your perfect trip now? One of the best ways to get started is to figure out exactly where you’ll be staying. Visit Bachcare.co.nz to visit hundreds of holiday homes around the island.

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