2 Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary (In A Campervan)
New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in the world. It’s towering mountains, beautiful lakes, winding roads and all-round wild beauty will simply take your breath away. As it’s so remote, the best way to make the most of your time on the island is to explore it in a campervan. And although even with your own transport, you won’t be able to see everything in 14 days. This 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary will show you some of the highlights and make you fall in love with this magical place.
Day 1: Christchurch
Although Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, it’s still a very small city compared to most. You don’t need more than a day to experience it’s main attractions, but they are well worth seeing all the same.
Top things to do in Christchurch
Christchurch Art Gallery – A modern gallery where you’ll find some amazing Maori art.
The Riverside Market – This market is a foodie’s dream…full of street food vendors, indie restaurants and craft bars
Botanical Gardens – A beautiful green space to relax in
New Regent Street – A quirky street full of cafes and shops with art deco style facades.
Christchurch Tramway – A tourist tram tour that takes you around the city whilst detailing its history.
Day 2: Lake Tekapo
Wake up early, pick up your campervan and hit the road! Your first stop is Lake Tekapo, a tiny township and beautiful blue coloured lake fringed by the southern alps. The drive takes around 3 hours depending on traffic, so you’ll be able to spend the afternoon there. The village is very small with no supermarket, so make sure to stock up on food before leaving Christchurch.
Top things to do at Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd – A famous landmark stone church nestled on the shores of Lake Tekapo.
See the Lupins (spring and summer months) – These beautiful wildflowers grow in abundance on Lake Tekapo’s shores and make for a photographer’s dream.
Walking – There are several great walks around Lake Tekapo where you can take in the beautiful scenery including the walk to Pine Beach, Mount John summit and the Cowan’s Hill Walkway.
Stargazing – The Mackenzie District which Lake Tekapo resides in is also home to the International Dark Sky Reserve. A lack of light pollution means that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can see millions of stars in the night sky as well as constellations like the Milky Way and the Southern Cross. Keen astronomers can also book a stargazing tour at the Mount John Observatory to see the night sky through their telescopes.
Tekapo Hot Springs – The perfect place to relax and unwind after hiking or on a cold winter’s day.
Day 3: Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mount Cook village
The next stop on your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary is the equally beautiful and blue Lake Pukaki. This lake is the largest in the Mackenzie District and is even more remote than Lake Tekapo. It’s also one of the most underrated lakes in New Zealand, as on a clear day you can see to Aoraki/Mount Cook in the distance on the northern shore.
After spending the morning at Lake Pukaki, turn onto the scenic Route 80 and continue to Aoraki/Mount Cook village…The gateway to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Top things to do at Lake Pukaki
Lake Pukaki walking tracks – An easy walking trail which offers stunning views of the lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook in the distance.
Route 80 – One of the best drives the south island has to offer. It’s also the only way to reach the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Lake Pukaki viewpoint – This point offers beautiful panoramic views of the lake and mountains.
Mount Cook Alpine Salmon – A well known alpine salmon farm with a lakefront shop where you can buy their fresh produce.
You might also like: Even more top things to do at Lake Pukaki
Day 4: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Enjoy a driving free day and spend your time exploring the rivers, lakes, glaciers and mountains of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Top things to do in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
The Hooker Valley Track – One of the most scenic walks in New Zealand, which takes you through the heart of the valley and ends at the Hooker Lake.
Tasman Glacier & Lake walks – Two easy walking tracks where you can glimpse New Zealand’s longest glacier and the lake that flows into it.
Mueller’s Viewpoint – Another easy walk which takes you to a panoramic viewpoint of Mueller’s Lake and Glacier.
Take a short flight/helicopter ride – See Mount Cook, the Tasman glacier and even the neighbouring Franz Josef and Fox Glacier from a whole new perspective.
Stargazing – Didn’t get your fill of watching the night sky at Lake Tekapo? Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is also within the Dark Sky Reserve and is a great place to see the stars.
You might also like: Best places to visit in Mackenzie District, South Island
Day 5 – 6: Wanaka
Your next stop on your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary is Wanaka, a busy resort town in the heart of the Southern Alps. Wanaka is a great jumping point for Mount Aspiring National Park and plenty of other outdoor activities which will keep you busy for at least a couple of days.
Top things to do in Wanaka
Hiking – For shorter hikes, Mount Iron offers a gorgeous view across the town and mountains from its summit. Whilst the walk from Roy’s Bay to Waterfall Creek is a lovely easy trail along the lakefront. Or if you’re looking for a day-long hike, Roy’s Peak is a highly popular more challenging walk with amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
Mountain biking – Wanaka is also a great place to do mountain biking, with lots of cycling trails around the lake. The lakeside Gledhu Bay track is a particularly good one if you’re up for a challenge, offering beautiful views all the way along.
#thatwanakatree – Although it’s just a tree that grows in the shallows of the lake, it does make for a pretty cool photo.
Kayaking – Kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent from the shore in the spring and summer months. They are a great way to see the lake and mountains from a new perspective.
Ripon Winery– It’s not all about action and adventure in Wanaka. The town is also home to a winery which offers free informal wine tasting every day and a shop to buy a bottle or two after.
Day 7 – 9: Queenstown
Next up on your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary is Queenstown, where you’ll spend the next 3 days. Set against the backdrop of The Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is in the south island’s heart of action and adventure. As a tourism centre, the town is also a lively hub with plenty of restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. In terms of activities, there isn’t much that Queenstown doesn’t offer…From extreme sports like bungee jumping and jet boating to hiking and biking.
Top things to do in Queenstown
Go bar hopping – Queenstown is a bit of a party town, well for New Zealand anyway. 1876 bar is the best for cheap happy hour drinks, whilst Harry’s Bar is good if you want to play pool. Make sure to finish your evening with a trip to the renowned Fergburger afterwards.
Glenorchy – The little town of Glenorchy is well worth visiting. It’s 45 minutes further north along Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown and the drive is one of the most scenic on the South Island.
Hiking – If you’re looking for something free to do in Queenstown, there are some short hikes to amazing viewpoints. These include the Tiki Trail which follows the gondola route up to Bob’s Peak and the Queenstown Hill walk. Or for a longer, more challenging hike, check out the Ben Lomond Track.
Queenstown Skyline complex – At Bob’s Peak, you’ll also find this adventure-filled complex. Whether you’re mountain biking in the Queenstown Bike Park or whizzing down the famous Luge circuit, there’s action for everyone. You can reach the complex by getting the Skyline gondola or hiking up the Tiki Trail.
Shotover Jet – One for thrill-seekers. The world-famous jet boat river on the Shotover River is one of the most popular activities in Queenstown.
Day 10: Milford Sound (Day trip)
A day trip to Milford Sound is essential to explore the stunning waterfalls and mountains of Fjordland National Park. There are lots of coach or helicopter day tours that operate from Queenstown. Most tours include transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back as well as a cruise up the Sound and out to the Tasman sea. Alternatively, if you want to drive there yourself, you can pick up a cruise directly at Milford Sound.
Day 11: Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
Next up on your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary is Glacier country. As it’s quite a long half-day of driving, make sure to set off from Queenstown early so you can spend the afternoon here. Home to rainforests, beaches, gorges, and the ancient Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, this part of the South Island is where towering rugged mountains meet the wilderness of the West Coast.
Top things to do at Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
Glacier helicopter ride or flight – This is the top thing to do at Franz Josef. If you’ve got the cash, take a short scenic flight to see the wonders of the glaciers from the air.
Lake Matheson – A small lake just outside of the Fox Glacier town, famous for its reflective views of Mount Aoraki/Cook and with a few lovely walking trails around its perimeter.
Haast Pass – The mountain road that passes through the Southern Alps between Wanaka and Glacier Country is home to many natural wonders along the way. Highlights to stop at on the way include the Thunder Creek Falls, the Blue Pools and Haast Pass lookout.
Fox Glacier & Franz Josef Glacier viewpoints – If you don’t have the budget for a helicopter ride or flight, there are a couple of free hikes that take you to a glacier viewpoint. Try Robert’s Point Track for the Franz Josef Glacier or the Fox Glacier view track.
Day 12: Arthur’s Pass National Park
Wake up early and continue driving to Arthur’s Pass National Park…The next stop of your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary. Arthur’s Pass National Park lies in the mountainous heart of the island, made up of rainforests, alpine forests, winding roads and a historic railway.
Top things to do in Arthur’s Pass National Park
Otira Falls Lookout – A very scenic piece of engineering involving a road tunnel with a man-made waterfall crashing over it into the gorge below.
Otira Viaduct Lookout – An amazing viewpoint of the Otira highway snaking into the distance between the mountains.
Tranzalpine Train – Look out for the TranzAlpine Train and historic railway that runs through the national park. Starting from Christchurch and ending in Greymouth, it’s considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.
Devil’s Punchbowl – An impressive 131m drop waterfall, with a short hike up to its base.
Spot a Kea – Try and spot the world’s only endangered alpine parrot. Though don’t get too close, as sometimes they can be a little too inquisitive!
Day 13: Kaikoura
The final destination of your 2 week New Zealand South Island itinerary is Kaikoura. Known as the place where the mountains meet the ocean, this quaint seaside town’s main attraction is whale watching. Though it has a lot more to offer than that.
Top things to do in Kaikoura
Do a whale watching tour – Take a boat tour, helicopter ride or flight to try and get a glimpse of these gentle giants.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walk – A beautiful walk along the cliff tops with multiple lookouts where you can spot whales offshore in the right season.
Point Kean – A scenic spot with views of the mountains across the water.
Kaikoura fur seal colony – Head to Point Kean or the beach below the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk to see Kaikoura’s famous furry residents. There are also kayaking tours on offer where you can get up close to the seals in the water.
Day 14: Kaikoura, then back to Christchurch
Spend the morning exploring Kaikoura before starting your final drive back to Christchurch to drop off your campervan.