5 Must-do drives in the South Island – New Zealand

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There is a reason why some many movie directors choose the South Island of New Zealand as the setting of their films. Rugged coastlines, alpine scenery, and turquoise lakes are amongst the beautiful landscapes you will see. No doubt South Island is one of the most beautiful regions in the world. So stay a few days in Christchurch before spending your hard earned money on some metal on four wheels and explore South Island the best way possible: driving.


1.  Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

Words hardly describe the immense beauty of Lake Pukaki. Seeing the icy turquoise lake with blue skies in the background is a sight everyone should see at least once in their lives. It’s the perfect picture to take and show at home to make everyone jealous. Mount Cook and its neighbouring peaks make it a perfect alpine scenery.

This dramatic peak attracts many serious alpinists and mountaineers to climb the highest peak in the country. It was the former playground of New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary when training for the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. If you describe it as Middle Earth beauty, you are right since this landscape was used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The best view is when you drive on Highway 80 towards Mount Cook National Park after having stopped at Lake Pukaki.


Laki Pukaki and Mount Cook

Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook


2.  Kaikoura coast

The Kaikoura coast is best to be explored when you’re based at Christchurch. This coastline on the eastside of South Island has many small rivers originated by water running off Mountains, running towards and into the sea. It’s what gives the coastline its green colour. The road from Christchurch to Kaikoura is one of the most scenic drives you can make while staying in New Zealand.

This journey which will lead you through the wine region is often made as a day trip by travelers based in a hotel in Christchurch. The trip will take about three hours (probably more regarding the many photographic spots) before you reach Kaikoura, a scenic coastal town that is home for the most impressive marine wildlife living in the surrounding waters. This includes sperm whales, dusky dolphins, seals and albatross.


Kaikoura coast

Kaikoura coast


3.  Queenstown to Glenorchy

The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is often described as the road to Paradise. Literally. The place called Paradise, just outside of Glenorchy, hasn’t stolen its name. Being surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains and ancient forests, it was the setting of Isengard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The journey doesn’t take long. The 44-kilometer stretch can easily be driven in 45 minutes and is one of the most, if not the most, scenic drive in New Zealand. You’ll drive along the waters of Lake Wakatipu with the mountains in the background. If you want to see snow on the top of the peaks, we suggest you drive this road in early spring or winter.



Queenstown to Glenorchy

Queenstown to Glenorchy


4.  Greymouth to Westport

The State Highway 6 from Greymouth to Westport basically means you will be driving alongside the West coast of South Island. It’s a scenic road that takes in everything New Zealand has to offer. From mountain scenery through dense subtropical rainforest and glaciers. Especially the way from Wanaka to Nelson is amongst the most stunning drives in New Zealand. Eventhough the whole drive will be a jaw-dropping experience, we can highly recommend the drive from Greymouth to Westport as the roads lead you between the wild Tasman Sea and the snow-capped Southern Alps. When planning this road trip, consider making it a multi-day journey since there are so many photo taking opportunities you will want to stop a lot. Punaikaiki is a great place to spend the night.


The Classic NZ West Coast

A coastline between Punakaiki and Greymouth.


5.  Milford Sound

The most famous fjord of New Zealand, Milford Sound, is one of the highlights of a trip to the South Island, New Zealand. Even though the fjord is mighty impressive, why not make the journey towards it equally scenic? The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound may be quite busy, it’s with reason. It is considered as one of the most beautiful stretches to drive. Native bush, mirror lakes, and majestic Mountains will be the scenery you encounter. The highlight of the trip is just before you enter the Homer Tunnel when you realize you’re surrounded by rock cliffs and glaciers.



Milford Sound

Milford Sound



April 11, 2017 by Your friends at Hotel 115

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