The drive down the South Island’s West Coast may be the single most beautiful drive in New Zealand, making the best of your time on a short South Island road trip itinerary.
Start in Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest flight hub in New Zealand, with a number of direct international connections as well as very regular flights from Auckland.
The city is known for its English influence, and if you explore the botanic gardens and Hagley park, you may quickly gain a sense of this for yourself.
Alpine Arthur’s Pass
From Christchurch make the drive to the west coast by way of scenic Arthur’s Pass. On this route, you’ll experience excellent alpine scenery even just from the roadside. If you’re more energetic, there are near unlimited options for short and longer hikes along the way.
In the west coast, you’ll find a verdant green paradise of rainforest cloaked mountains, rich dairy land and proud West Coast culture. As you make your way south to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, you’ll have the opportunity to photograph beautiful mirror lakes, and some of the wildest coastline in the country.
Beautiful lakeside towns of Wanaka and Queenstown
While the weather on the West Coast tends to be quite unpredictable to say the least, as you make your way over Haast Pass and into Otago, you’ll likely find it comparatively drier. For this reason, you’ll find a number of wineries in the area – many of which you can visit for tastings.
Here you’ll find the lakeside towns of Wanaka and Queenstown. Both are extremely vibrant, with Queenstown taking the prize for the most adventure-centric town in New Zealand. As well as the many activities and sights to explore in and around town, Milford Sound is just a 20 minute flight away. You’ll need more time if you wish to drive there though – the circuitous route leads you around the mountains and takes 4 hours each way.