New Zealand South Island Attractions You Must See On Your Road Trip

Hiking Hooker Valley, Mount Cook, New Zealand

Kia Ora! Together with 3 other comrades, we took on New Zealand’s South island on a campervan. If you’re new to the word campervan, a campervan is a self-contained vehicle where you drive, cook, eat, sleep, and sometimes poop (if you really must) in the vehicle. Self-contained vehicles are allowed to park in campsites with even the most basic amenities (i.e. only a dump hole that acts as a toilet).

Read: Detailed Breakdown of My New Zealand Budget Trip; $2600 for 20 days!

We rented a campervan for 10 days in May 2016 for NZ$500, including insurance. If you break the cost down, that’s $50 a day, and each person only pays $12.50 for the rental per day. This excludes petrol charges, of course, but I don’t think you can find a better deal elsewhere, considering we eat, sleep and move around the South in this vehicle.

Roads in New Zealand are really easy to drive. Take it from me. I’ve only gotten my driving license a month before hitting the roads in New Zealand, so when I say it’s easy, it really is.

The most challenging rides might be the winding ones en route to Queenstown (above), or whilst driving through snow. Otherwise, most of the roads are straight with mild bends. More on driving in New Zealand in another post.

It had been extremely challenging to plan our road trip around the South, as it involved multiple destinations and plenty of research. There was so much to do and see in the South that the only limiting factor was time and weather.

You almost cannot travel around New Zealand’s South without your own vehicle, because bus companies don’t go to all the picturesque locations. While everyone’s travelling pace and priorities might differ, there are certain attractions in the South you simply cannot leave without witnessing, for the sights are simply stunning.

New Zealand Road trip map on Google Maps
New Zealand Road trip map on Google Maps

Pictured above is an overview of the entire route which we took in 10 full days. We’ve been there, and done all the background work. Now we bring to you 19 of the best, unmissable spots of the South.

Read: How To Create Your Own Map Itinerary With Google Maps

And so our adventure begins…

We went in a North to South route, beginning our journey at Christchurch. After we picked up our car, we dove straight to a supermarket to stock up on food supplies, and raced to beat the dark by heading straight to Castle Hill.

1. Castle Hill/ Arthur’s Pass

castle hill, new zealand

Our main intention to come here was to climb. With hundreds of boulders splayed across hectares and hectares of land, the boulder choices were endless!

Only… we didn’t climb much because our fingers weren’t acclimatised to the cold and we were rather amateur at outdoor bouldering.

castle hill, new zealand

Watching the pros do it!

2. Lake Pearson

lake pearson, new zealand

This wasn’t an essential sight to catch, but since we camped here (with and in our campervan) overnight, we were greeted by a magnificent view of the still waters over Lake Pearson.

Read: 20 Favourite New Zealand Instagram Shots To Swoon Over (& Where To Find Them!)

3. Franz Josef Glacier

Glacier Terminal Face, New Zealand | Bel Around The World

A town that is somewhat similar to Fox. We did our glacier hike at Fox Glacier, but went for the terminal face walk (a walk along the base of the glacier and is free) at Franz Josef. More information on how to access the terminal face walk in See New Zealand’s Glacier For Free!

4. Fox Glacier

fox glacier, new zealand

One of the greatest highlights was hiking this glacier that had us awestruck! My post, Hiking on Ice at Fox Glacier, New Zealand, regales my entire adventure flying and hiking atop this magnificent glacier.

14 Replies to “New Zealand South Island Attractions You Must See On Your Road Trip”

  1. Awesome to read this. I’m actually from Christchurch so I love hearing about other people’s experiences around the South Island. Christchurch still has a lot of recovery happening post-earthquake. Been 5 years but progress is so slow. Next time you’ll need to explore more of Banks Peninsula, also head up to Nelson and do the Abel Tasman National Park – and if you really want to go the extra mile, cross over to little old Stewart Island at the bottom of the country!

    1. Hi Juliette! I’ve been to Christchurch – stayed there for more than 4 days! The post-earthquake recovery is still very real and evident in this town. Thank you for your recommendation! I’m considering doing a working holiday there… But there are so many things to consider and so I haven’t made up my mind! :/

  2. Thanks Lauren! It really is! Let me know if you do. I can share my itinerary with you! 🙂

  3. The glaciers are really stunning! This is a great way to get around. I’m always afraid to drive when abroad, though. :/

    1. It is! Can’t find it in every country so we figured we had to check this off in NZ! I hear you – we were very worried about driving in NZ initially too! I have an upcoming post addressing concerns about driving in NZ. Feel free to subscribe to the blog to be notified when it’s published Jess! 🙂

  4. These photos are beautiful!! New Zealand is on my list. Loved this post!
    xx, E

  5. I did a similar trip back in 2010, driving a campervan across the South Island with friends. It was completely and totally breathtaking, as your post shows. I am curious about one thing: how did you pick Instagrammers to feature here? And why? I guess this is sort of a blogging about blogging question so feel free to email respond to [email protected]


    1. I was just scrolling through my favourite Instagrammers and figured those photos they took were too pretty not to share and found them very apt for this post! But I also sought permission from them to share it. Hope that answers your question!

  6. I stopped at a lot of the same places as you when I went around the South Island but we got a few travel delays that cut a few things out! Those blue pools look amazing!

  7. Awesome blog post, and amazing pictures! Just one thing… you said that it’s always cold in NZ and you’d need to dress warm even in the summer – this definitely isn’t true for all of New Zealand! In the north island it gets very warm in the summer, and nights are very hot too! But you’re mostly right about the South Island, it’s definitely a bit colder down there 🙂

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  11. Hi Isabel. Read many of your posts on New Zealand. Amazing work and seems like you had a great time with many adventures. What excursions / day trips did you do from Christchurch? Did you make it to Kaikoura – is it worth the time/drive to whale watch there?

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