South Island New Zealand | Ultimate 14-Day Itinerary

New Zealand south Island

New Zealand’s South Island is the home of many adventures and natural wonders. Despite the North Island being the ‘home of the Hobbits’, the South Island offers plenty in the way of fantastical experiences. For those who are planning a campervan rental New Zealand trip, the South Island can be the perfect place to go.

The South Island is filled with breathtaking fjords, mountainous landscapes, gorgeous beaches, and charming people to boot. Fitting everything into a 14-day itinerary is difficult, to be sure. However, campervan rental New Zealand trips are incredibly popular simply because they do allow you to see a lot along the way.

If you are considering a campervan roadtrip across the New Zealand South Island, you have come to the right place. Here is a great 14-day itinerary that can help give you an idea about what to see, do, and experience. While 14 days may not seem like a lot, you can certainly pack plenty of adventure in there if you are determined enough. Also, combine this with our 14 day North Island campervan hire NZ itinerary .  So, with that said, let’s get started!

Related Article – North Island New Zealand | Ultimate 14-Day Itinerary

Day One – Christchurch

Tram in Christchurch New Zealand

For most travelers heading into the South Island, the city of Christchurch is going to be the entry point into the country. Because of that, we will start our trip in Christchurch. Christchurch is a fast growing city in the south island, and offers plenty in the way of fun and exciting experiences.

Once you land, you will want to get into your campervan, and get yourself settled in. Christchurch has plenty of things to do in the way of ‘fun’, however we advise that you only spend the first day here. Once you are rested from travel, you will want to head out of Christchurch as soon as you feel ready.

Day Two – Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo New Zealand Campervan hire

Day two will be your first day on the road, and out exploring the real countryside of the South Island. You will start your trip off by driving about 3 hours southwest from Christchurch, to the picturesque area of Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is one of the most stunning places in New Zealand, and will really launch you into the start of your two week adventure.

At Lake Tekapo, you will find crystal clear lake waters, mountainous views, and plenty of hiking areas. Here you can park your camper, and spend the afternoon with a picnic and some breathtaking scenery. You can also drive about 30 minutes further, and visit Lake Pukaki on the same day. Lake Pukaki is another glacially formed lake that will blow you away with how gorgeous it is.

Once you have had your fill of lakes and scenery, you are going to drive about 45 minutes to Mount Cook, where you will camp up at one of the various campervan parks, and spend the night.

Day Three/Four – Mount Cook

Mount Cook NZ

Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and is called Aoraki in Maori. The Aoraki national park is home to endless hiking options, and some of the most famous locations for sightseeing in the whole of New Zealand. Here you are going to want to spend at least two days, and you should prepare to get your hike on!

The first day you will want to explore the cute little town of Mount Cook village, and stock up on some snacks because you are going to be hiking a lot. You will spend the day hiking up to the most famous cabin in all of New Zealand–The Mueller Hut. The Mueller Hut takes about 4 hours to hike to, but the reward is absolutely worth it. Once you reach the hut, you will have a perfectly panoramic view of the mountain range, and you will be able to spend the night in the hut as well.

After spending the night in the hut, enjoying the crystal clear night skies and stars; you can spend the day exploring the surrounding national park and all that Mount Cook has to offer. That evening, you will hike back to your campervan and spend the night. The next morning you will get on your way.

Day Five – Wanaka

Wanaka New Zealand

Day Five you will wake up bright and early, and make your way down to Wanaka. The drive to Wanaka is one of the most scenic in all of New Zealand, and you will want to take the time to stop and grab some pictures along the way. After about 2,5 hours, you will reach the town of Wanaka.

Wanaka is a small resort town, and is accustomed to having travelers come through. So in this regard, you will have plenty of chances to stock up on food and drinks before going out on the famous hikes. There are two major hiking trails in Wanaka, and both are stunning. Isthmus Peak is the trail we recommend, purely because it is a bit easier than Roys Peak–after all the hiking from the previous days, this will be welcome.

Isthmus Peak offers a striking view of both Lake Wanaka, and Lake Hawea. Here you will be able to watch the sunset, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the waters below. The hike itself should only take 2-3 hours, and you will be able to get back to your campervan easily for your rest.

Day Six/Seven – Expert Campervan Travel Tip – Te Anau

Normally, travelers would advise you to go straight to Queenstown from here. However, if you are up for the adventure, there is a small detour that will take a day to accomplish–but is totally worth it. Don’t worry, we will get to Queenstown eventually!

On day six, you are going to drive through Queenstown, to the small village south of it called Te Anau. The drive to Te Anau from Wanaka is about 3 hours, but will reward you with one of the most gorgeous sights in all of New Zealand. Te Anau is a quaint little lakeside village, and gives you the chance to rest under the stars. The next day, you will head up to Milford Sound.

Milford Sound is actually a fjord, and it is amazing. In Milford Sound you will want to take the cruises that allow you to experience the fjord in all of its wonderfully. Once you have had the chance to explore Milford Sound and Te Anau, you can rest up and head on to Queenstown.

Day Eight/Nine/Ten – Queenstown

Queenstown New Zealand by Campervan hire

Days eight to ten are going to be spent in Queenstown. It might sound like a lot, but just know that Queenstown is jammed packed with activities that you won’t want to miss out on. You are going to park your campervan, and get yourself ready for some of the biggest thrills of your life.

In Queenstown you will have your pick of activities at any moment. You can go ziplining, bungee jumping, hiking, and even skiing if you are visiting in the winter. This city is filled with the most relaxed, cool, and ‘hip’ people in the whole country. But don’t worry, there are also plenty of ways you can relax as well! Queenstown is also filled with gorgeous vineyards and parks for you to unwind in. You will want to spend a few days in Queenstown, simply due to how electric the city is.

Day Eleven/Twelve

After spending your past few days in the city life, you are going to get back to the real wilds of New Zealand’s South Island. Waking up on day eleven will be bright and early, as you are going to be making one of your longest drives this entire trip. You will drive roughly 5 hours to the glacier region of Franz Josef.

This trip will take you back up towards Mount Cook, and the drive itself is filled with gorgeous views and sights. The town of Franz Josef is one of the most unique places in all of South Island, and here you absolutely MUST book a helicopter ride up to the Franz Josef Glacier. In and around Franz Josef you will also find plenty of hikes, and glacial walks to explore that will fill your two days here.

Day Thirteen

On day thirteen, you are going to spend your last day on the west coast heading up to Hokitika. Here you can engage in a ton of different activities from hiking Arthur’s Pass, to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall. You can also take underground guided rafting tours to see the glow worms! In and around Hokitika you will find tons of adventures, and opportunities to explore.

After having your fill of guided tours and west coast views, you will rest up for the night and prepare to bring your trip to a close.

Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen is going to be spent driving back to Christchurch. This unfortunately brings your South Island trip to a close–but you will still have time to see and do things in Christchurch! Here you can relax, unwind, and recollect your heart and mind after the mindblowing sights and adventures you just had. Christchurch is the perfect place to decompress, and reflect on your amazing journey!

Final Thoughts

Making a campervan road trip across New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most exciting adventures you will ever have. The South Island is home to some of the most mind blowing and otherworldly sights in the entire world. It is impossible to cover every aspect of the South Island in one campervan trip–but you can come close! With this ultimate 14-day itinerary, you can have the best campervan rental New Zealand trip possible across the South Island!

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