4 Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary

4 Week New Zealand South Island Itinerary

This 4-week itinerary will take you to the South Island’s premier hiking destinations, famous wine regions, and charming historical towns. For those arriving on the South Island via the Interislander ferry, this will be a perfect plan to follow. If you’re arriving in Christchurch or Queenstown, you can easily re-work this route based on your starting point.

We traveled through New Zeland with an NSC (non self-contained) campervan from mid-January to mid-April (Summer, Autumn). This itinerary is closely based on what we did, though we lingered in some places longer due to bad weather. For each day, we’ve outlined our favorite things to do and see, including hikes, wineries and places to eat. We’ve also included where to stay, whether you’re camping, backpacking, or staying in hotels.

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New Zealand South Island Itinerary - 4 Week Road Trip

New Zealand South Island Itinerary Overview

  • Day 1: Marlborough Wine Region
  • Days 2 – 4: Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Day 5: Hanmer Springs
  • Day 6: Waipara Valley Wine Region
  • Days 7-9: Mount Cook National Park
  • Days 10-15: Wanaka & Mount Aspiring National Park
  • Day 16: Central Otago Wine Region
  • Days 17-19: Milford Sound & Fiordland
  • Days 20-23: Queenstown & Around
  • Days 24-26: Haast Pass & West Coast
  • Day 27: Arthur’s Pass & Castle Hill
  • Days 28-29: Banks Peninsula
  • Day 30: Christchurch
Planning a trip to New Zealand? Read these helpful guides next:
Get the Guide
  • Lonely Planet New Zealand – an indispensable guide for traveling in NZ. We consulted our LP on our whole trip.
  • We also bought the Lonely Planet’s New Zealand’s Best Trips book. This is a road trip guide that gives you a good visual understanding of how regions are connected and how to plan your trip. Buying both was a bit redundant, but it did simplify the planning process.

This post links to products and services we love, which we may make a small commission from, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our blog!! – Sabrina and Kati

Spy Valley Cellar Door, Wine Tasting in NZ, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 1: Marlborough Wine Region

Getting to Marlborough

Our New Zeland North Island itinerary begins in Marlborough. If you’re coming from the North Island, take the Picton Interislander ferry to the South Island. When you arrive at the ferry terminal, it’s a 25-minute drive to the middle of Marlbourgh wine country. For those that are flying to the South Island, it’s a longer journey (4.5 hours) up to Marlborough. From Christchurch (airport), we recommend driving the Kaikoura Coast up and then following this itinerary as is. Quick Summary:

  • From the Picton Interislander Terminal, it’s a 25-minute drive to Blenheim.
  • From Christchurch, it’s a 4-hour 40-minute drive to Blenheim via the Pacific coastal route (Kaikoura Coast). If you’re coming from Christchurch, you can take the coastal route up, and follow the itinerary as is.

Marlborough – New Zealand’s most celebrated wine region

Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest and most well-known wine region. With an international reputation for sauvignon blanc, Marlborough delivers that and so much more. Many winemakers are challenging the region’s reputation by producing interesting varietals that don’t reflect the somewhat aggressive standard. We recommend seeking out small, family-owned wineries during your visit to Marlborough. They’ll offer insight into the making and philosophy behind their wines.

Most of the open cellar doors are concentrated in and between the towns of Renwick and Blenheim. Pop into the i-Site in Blenheim to grab a wine trail map. Cellar doors are usually open between 10:30 a.m. (or 11:00 a.m.) and 4:30 p.m. (5:00 p.m.). Note: winter hours are generally shorter than summer hours.

Cellar Doors to Visit in Marlborough

  • Gibson Bridge Vineyard – Boutique family owned vineyard located in Renwick. They’re passionate about what they do and it shows. Their wines will surprise your palate. They don’t add sugar or sulfites. 
  • Bladen Wines – A glass of their 2017 Gewürztraminer in Palmerston North led us to this family-owned winery. Established in 1989, they have the oldest Pinot Gris vines in the area. 
  • Spy Valley Wines – a Successful family-owned winery. Though they’re a larger producer, they still make excellent wines. We love their aromatics, especially their Pinot Gris. Excellent cellar door experience – thorough and educational.
  • If you have more time in Marlborough, or if you can drink more than us, here are a few other tasting rooms to visit: Te Whare RaFramingham, Forrest, HuiaWhitehavenSaint Clair, Wither Hills, Fromm, and Brancott Estate.  

Marlborough Wineries with Food

  • Rock Ferry Cellar Door & Cafe – Standout wines. We came here for lunch. The atmosphere is lovely. The food is good, but not great, though it strives to be. 
  • Wairau River Wines – Our tastebuds were useless by the time we hopped in here, so our opinion is useless. This is a popular winery for lunch. Make sure to make a reservation. 
  • Brancott Estate Cellar Door & Restaurant – Restaurant is open for lunch.
  • Giesen Wines – Grab a platter and a glass of wine and enjoy it in their sunny courtyard.
  • Hans Herzog Estate – Bistro and Gourmet restaurant.
  • Wither Hills – Restaurant open for lunch. They have platters and mains. Drink wine next to a fireplace.

Stay in Blenheim or Renwick

Camping | Renwick Domain Carpark (Free Campsite) – There are only 10 free camping spots available at this site. Facilities are minimal, but it’s a good location. This is suitable for both NSC and SC vehicles.

Budget | Spring Creek Holiday Park (Blenheim) – If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on accommodation while in New Zealand, this is the place for you. You can expect clean rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, and friendly staff.

Mid-range | Falcon’s Rise Alpaca Farm (Renwick) – This farm guesthouse is located close to many wineries. Falcon’s Rise features a farm tour and free bicycles. A delicious breakfast is included in the room rate.

Luxury | Chateau Marlborough (Blenheim) – Located just 30-minutes from Pickton Ferry Terminal, this boutique-style hotel spoils guests with spacious rooms, great service (tours to the wine region available!), a wine bar, an outdoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. Tasty breakfast and dinner available.

Look for accommodation in Blenheim or Renwick.

Nelson Lakes National Park, NZ Hiking Guide | Moon & Honey Travel

Days 2-4: Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park is our favorite hiking destination in New Zealand. You can hike around lakes, through beech forest, on mountain ridges, and to mountain huts. The landscape reminded us of both Norway and the Dolomites.

Hike Ridges in Nelson Lakes National Park

  • St. Arnaud Range Track (Day Hike) – St. Arnaud Range was a bit difficult after wine tasting the day before, but worth every step. After two hours of hiking through dense beech forest, you’ll reach the bushline. The views of Lake Rotoiti are deeply satisfying, but once you reach the ridge, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful the other side is. You’ll see tarns and peaks in every direction. Trailhead: Eastern corner of Kerr Bay, on the edge of Lake Rotoiti in St Arnaud. 
  • Robert Ridge to Angelus Hut (Overnight Hike) – After hiking the appropriately named Pinchgut trail, you’ll follow a poled route along Robert Ridge to Angelus Hut. From the ridge, you’ll see a mountain hut perfectly situated by Lake Angelus. This is a fair weather hike. We experienced both excellent and brutal (gale force winds) weather along the ridge. In high season, you should book this hut in advance. 

Where to Eat in Nelson Lakes

  • Alpine Lodge in St. Arnaud  This might be your only option, but it’s a good option. We ate dinner here twice. If you arrive before their kitchen opens (5:30 p.m.), you can grab a glass of wine or beer and lounge around.

Stay in St. Arnaud

Camping | Teetotal Campsite (8 NSD per person) – This large campsite is suitable for NSC and SC vehicles. There’s only one dry toilet on site. For showers, head to West Bay Campsite on Lake Rotoiti. You can buy a shower token from the DOC Visitor Center.

Budget | Wairau Pass B&B is a charming B&B with a shared living room, a fireplace, and nice kitchen facilities. 

Mid-range | Avarest Bed & Breakfast – While staying here, you’ll enjoy superb views, a bountiful breakfast, and very friendly hosts. You’ll also be able to rent a kayak or bicycle for free.

Look for accommodation in St. Arnaud.

New Zealand Sheep, New Zealand One Month Itinerary South Island | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 5: Hanmer Springs

Day 5 of your New Zealand South Island itinerary is all about relaxing and pampering yourself. Head to the resort town of Hanmer Springs for thermal pools, saunas, and massage. To get here, you’ll drive along Maruia River on the Lewis Pass Highway. If your legs aren’t as tired as ours were, you could hike the Lewis Pass Tops Track (something we wanted to do), which climbs through beech forest to the ridge crest. The hike starts from an inconspicuous carpark off the highway close to the Lewis Pass summit (not too far from the St. James Walkway carpark).

Soak in Hot Springs

  • Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools – There are a number of pools of varying sizes, temperatures, and mineral composition. For an additional amount, you can get a private sauna, or private pool for 30, or 60 minutes. There’s also an area that caters to children as well as an on-site cafe. Overall, we really enjoyed our experience here. 

Stay in Hanmer Springs

Camping | There are several campgrounds and holidays parks in Hanmer Springs, including Alpine Holiday Apartment & Campground, Hanmer Springs Top 10 Holiday Park and Pines Holiday Park. We ended up driving to Culverden and stayed at the Culverden Domain Camping Ground (15 NSD per site).

Budget | Drifters Inn – This hotel offers nice rooms with access to a guest lounge. It is located just 80 meters away from the Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve.

Mid-range | 8 on Oregon – The boutique style lodge is just 10 minutes walk away from the town center of Hanmer Springs. You’ll love the location and the panoramic views. If you want peace, this is the place for you. Breakfast is included in the room rate!

Luxury | The St James Premium Accommodation – This fantastic luxury accommodation features rooms with a heated floor, a spa bath, very comfortable beds, lovely views, friendly staff, a DVD library and the free use of towels for the thermal pools.

Look for accommodation in Hanmer Springs.

Black Estate, Waipara Wine Region, Arthur's Pass National Park, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 6: Waipara Valley Wine Region

Waipara is a fun wine region obsessed with making pinot noir. Though tiny in comparison to Marlborough, there’s plenty to taste here. We had an amazing day twirling between cellar doors and learning about terroir wines.

Wine Tasting in Waipara

  • Black Estate Wines – Passionate winemakers. We’re sad we didn’t get to try out the adjoined restaurant, but the cellar door made up for it. They have several vineyards in the region. If you want to taste how soil composition impacts the expression of wine, come here.
  • Greystone Wines  – Incredible organic wines. 
  • Pegasus Bay – We did a wine tasting here followed by lunch. Excellent cuisine!
  • Other cellar doors to visit: Waipara Springs and Terrace Edge. 

Stay in Waipara or Christchurch

Budget | Montreal St StayThis budget homestay is located right in the heart of Christchurch. The room features a private bathroom, a flat screen tv and air conditioning.

Mid-range | Barbs PlaceThe location of Barbs Place will make it easy to visit nearby wineries. Breakfast and dinner available on demand.

Luxury | If you want to stay in a winery, you can. Black Estate has a deluxe studio and Greystone has a holiday home.

Look for accommodation in Waipara or Christchurch.

Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand - Best Hikes in New Zealand

Days 7-9: Mount Cook National Park

The drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook is 4.5 hours. There are many opportunities to get out of your car and enjoy the scenery. Here’s what we suggest:

Scenic Drive to Mount Cook

  • Lunch in Geraldine – the cheese and pickle capital of New Zealand. We ate in the garden cafe Verde. It was good (not exceptional). Check out the Talbot Forest Cheese shop and Barker’s (preserves), before continuing your journey.
  • Lake Tekapo and Church of the Good Shepherd (1935).
  • Lake Pukaki – Stop at Peter’s lookout for an excellent view of Mount Cook. You’ll drive along this milky turquoise-colored lake on your way to Mount Cook. 
  • New Zealand Alpine Lavender – organic lavender farm. They sell lavender ice cream and other treats.
  • If you still have some extra time before dinner, you could hike to the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake or hike the Hooker Valley Track. If you hike the latter, there will be a lot of people on the trail.

Hike in Mount Cook National Park

There are lots of ways to enjoy Mount Cook National Park. This is one of the South Island’s most popular destinations, so we recommend booking accommodations in advance and waking up early to enjoy well-traveled trails such as Hooker Valley. Here are three ways you can plan your trip to Mount Cook:

  1. Hike to Mueller Hut and stay the night in the hut. Make sure to book the hut in advance. Hike down the next day and grab lunch at the Mountaineer’s Cafe (This is what we did). Note: The Mueller Hut track is considered intermediate-advanced tramping.
  2. Hike the Hooker Valley track (3 hours return/round-trip) in the morning (before it gets too crowded). Eat lunch at the Mountaineer’s Cafe and check out the Tasman Glacier Lake (1-hour return) in the afternoon. The next day, you can hike to Sealy Tarns (or Mueller if you’re ambitious).
  3. Hike to Sealy Tarns (halfway to Mueller Hut) in the morning (4 hours return). Eat lunch and head to Tasman Glacier Lake. Spend the night in Mount Cook NP.  Hike the Hooker Valley Track the next morning.

Stay in Mount Cook National Park

Camping | White Horse Hill Campground (13 NSD per person)  great location with unbeatable views. Trailheads are located at the campground. There are flush toilets and a communal kitchen area at your disposal. This campground is suitable for both NSC and SC vehicles.

Budget | YHA Mount Cook (Youth Hostel) is the most affordable choice in Mount Cook National Park.

Mid-range | Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge  This is the hotel to stay in if you want to be in the national park. The views are unbeatable! Guests have access to a shared kitchen.

Luxury | Aoraki Court Motel – After a long hike, there is no better place to come back to than a warm, cozy hotel with spa facilities. Treat yourself!

Look for accommodation in Mount Cook Village

Guided Tours in Mount Cook National Park


Roys Peak, Wanaka | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 10-15: Wanaka & Around

Wanaka is a mellow, but cheerful lakeside town surrounded by mountains. Base yourself here for a few days, so that you can fully enjoy everything this town and the surrounding region has to offer. We’ve allocated five days to Wanaka because we’re hoping you’ll head to West Matukituki Valley in Mount Aspiring National Park.

What to See & Do in Wanaka

  • Rippon Winery – From the middle of town, walk along the lake to that Wanaka Tree. After passing the tree, look for a sign to Rippon. The winery offers free tastings and arguably the best vineyard views in NZ. 
  • Cinema Paradiso – This wacky licensed movie theater offers food and drink before and during the movie. During intermission, you can pick up refreshments, or their famous freshly baked cookies. 
  • Hike Roy’s Peak – One of NZ’s most popular hiking trails. The views don’t disappoint. It’s a steep track, but not difficult.
  • Hike Isthmus Peak – Far less popular than Roys Peak (for no good reason), the Isthmus Peak traverses farmland with views of Lake Hāwea. When you get up on the ridge, you’ll have 360-degree views of both Hawea and Lake Wanaka. We hiked here in late March to the sound or rutting stags and the smell of mountain goats. 

Where to Eat & Drink in Wanaka

  • Francesca’s Italian Kitchen  pizza, pizza, divine pizza.
  • Cork Bar – small wine bar. 
  • Alchemy – spacious café serving excellent coffee and baked goods.
  • Kai Whakapai – scrumptious breakfast and lunch café. 

Hike in West Matukituki Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park

The trailhead for the West Matukituki Valley trails is Raspberry Creek carpark, an hour drive from Wanaka. The drive to the carpark is difficult to impossible depending on rainfall. We had to park 3 km from the trailhead because the fords were too deep to cross. But, without rain, it’s no problem. Here are some hiking options:

  • Rob Roy Glacier Track – Day Hike (Intermediate Tramp)
  • Mount Aspiring Hut – Day Hike or Overnight Hike (Moderate Tramp)
  • Liverpool Hut – Day Hike or Overnight Hike (Advanced Tramp)
  • French Ridge Hut – Day Hike or Overnight Hike (Advanced Tramp) 

We wrote about these hikes in our NZ Hiking Guide.

Stay in Wanaka

Camping | We stayed at both the Albert Town Campground (10 NSD per person) by the river and the Lake Hawea Hotel and Campground (12 NSD per person). Though a bit further away from Wanaka, we preferred the Lake Hawea campground, because there are showers, laundry facilities, and a bar and restaurant.

Budget | YHA Wanaka – Clean and comfortable hostel in a great location. Double rooms available. 

Mid-range | Two Stories – This guesthouse features rooms with private bathrooms, breakfast and access to a shared kitchen and BBQ facilities. It’s situated just a few meters away from Lake Wanaka. 

Luxury | Edgewater is a lakeside hotel with a day spa and restaurant. Stunning views!

Look for accommodation in Wanaka


Day 16: Central Otago and Gibbston Valley Wine Regions

After some epic hikes in and around Wanaka, it’s time to wine and dine. Your New Zealand South Island itinerary will take you to the wine region Central Otago. Today, you’ll have a chance to taste the region’s specialty – pinot noir – as well as dine in one of New Zealand’s finest winery restaurants.

Wine Tasting in Central Otago

  • Mount Difficulty – 2 NSD per tasting. The views are phenomenal, but the tasting room is busy. We didn’t get a lot of information about the wines. There’s an on-site restaurant.  
  • Wild Earth – Winery and Restaurant. Memorable culinary experience. Their signature food & wine pairing tray is excellent. Their food is steamed, baked, grilled and smoked in retired French oak Pinot Noir wine barrels. And their wines were superb!
  • Brennan Wines – 15 NSD per tasting (but you can share). Thorough and interesting explanation of the wines. Casual and hip setting. You can lounge in some bean bags outside and play a game of petanque.
  • Chard Farm Vineyards – Free wine tasting. Many wines to choose from. Really welcoming atmosphere.
  • Wet Jacket – 5 NSD per tasting. Warm intimate tasting room. 4 wines to taste. 

Stay in Arrowtown

Arrowtown is easily the most charming town in New Zealand. We recommend wrapping up your wine tasting day here with dinner at Slow Cuts, a movie at Dorothy Browns, or some live music at the Blue Door (Wednesdays).

Camping | Arrowtown Holiday Park (42 NSD per two people) – The only camping option in Arrowtown. This was the best campground we stayed in. The shower facilities are excellent. There’s a communal kitchen as well. It’s walking distance from the heart of the town. They also have cottages with private bathrooms and kitchens.

Budget/Mid-range | 1220 Gibbston Lodge features a sun terrace, a BBQ and beautiful gardens. Very helpful and friendly hosts!

Luxury | Arrowtown Lodge is a luxurious accommodation with charming cottages. Breakfast included!

Look for accommodation in Arrowtown

Milford Sound Cruise, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Days 17-19: Milford Sound and Fiordland

After enjoying a slow morning in Arrowtown, we recommend heading to Te Anau. We stopped for lunch in Queenstown before driving to Te Ananu. Note: Queenstown recommendations are in the next section.

Te Anau

We rented an AirBnB with our friend who was visiting, so we ended up enjoying the comforts of a kitchen, couch, and tv during our time in Te Anau. We did stroll through the free bird sanctuary, which we can recommend.

Drive to Milford Sound

The drive to Milford Sound is as beautiful as Milford Sound itself. You’ll see a plethora of cascading waterfalls as you drive the mountainous road to the fjord. Rainforest and evergreen beech forest dominate the surroundings. A few notable stops on the drive are Mirror Lakes, Chasm Creek, and Homer Tunnel. 

Cruise Milford Sound

  • We did the basic Southern Discoveries cruise (10:30 a.m.) and we couldn’t be more pleased. The boat wasn’t overcrowded and there was plenty of space to move around and take in the panoramic views. We also saw dolphins, seals and many temporary rainbows, due to heavy rainfall the night before.
  • What cruise to choose? The time of day is more important than the cruise you choose. There are a lot of tour companies that operate one-day Milford Sound tours from Queenstown. That means that Milford Sound is especially busy in the early and mid-afternoon. You should try to snag an earlier cruise time (10:30, 11:15, 11:30).

Hike in Fiordland National Park

  • If you’ve opted for an early cruise, you’ll have plenty of time to do a hike in the afternoon. Just make sure to bring a packed lunch, since there are no reasonable places between Te Ananu and Milford Sound to eat.
  • Key Summit Track (3 hours round-trip)
  • Lake Marian Track (3 hours round-trip)

Stay two nights in Te Anau

You could drive from Queenstown directly to Milford Sound, but it’s four hours. We recommend staying two nights in Te Anau, which is a two-hour drive to Milford Sound. If you do, you’ll have more time to enjoy the scenic drive as well as the region.

Camping | Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park

Budget | YHA Te Anau – This hostel offers a shared kitchen with plenty of space for everyone. The beds are comfy and the staff is really helpful.

Mid-range | Bella Vista Motel offers good value for money. It’s an easy walk to the town centre.

Luxury | Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments offers fabulous lake and mountain views from the room. Clean and comfortable facilities.

Look for accommodation in Te Anau.

Ben Lomond Hike, Queenstown, New Zealand South Island 4 Week Itinerary

Days 20-23: Queenstown & Around

Queenstown is an energetic town with more tourists than locals (at least it feels that way). Surrounded by jaw-dropping mountain ranges, you can’t blame the place for being a bit smug. There are trails, restaurants and bars and no shortage of activities to partake in.

Best Hikes in Queenstown

  • Ben Lomond (Day Hike) – One of our favorite peak hikes in NZ. When you get to the Ben Lomond Saddle, you won’t believe your eyes. 
  • Lake Alta in The Remarkables (Short Hike) – It’s a short hike to get to this gorgeous glacier lake. For some reason, it’s not a busy destination. Perhaps it’s because it’s a long drive up to the Ski Base (trailhead). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike the ridge of the Remarkables. 

Where to Eat & Drink in Queenstown

  • Fergburger – This burger joint is easily NZ’s best place to grab a burger. There will be a wait, but it’s worth it, especially after a long hike.
  • Directly next to Fergburger is the tiny but mighty bakery Fergbaker. Oh, the pies! And the bread! And the muffins! Everything is delicious. Eat! Eat! Eat!
  • The Winery – This is a self-service wine tasting room. The concept is cool. You can go around reading about different regional wines and deciding whether you want a tasting size or a full glass. 

Side Trip to Glenorchy

  • Glenorchy is a small town located on the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. There are a few cafés as well as a general store in the town. The point in coming here is the drive. If you have time, drive to the Routeburn Shelter. The scenery crescendoes in beauty. The Routeburn shelter is the trailhead to the Routeburn Great Walk. While the walk itself is 2-4 days, you can also do a long day hike, or a small nature loop as well. We hiked to Harris Saddle and back in one day (20.2 km return).

Stay in Queenstown

Camping | Twelve Mile Delta Campsite (13 NSD per person)  a 15-minute drive from “downtown” Queenstown. The views are great, but there are minimal facilities.

Budget | Sir Cedrics Tahuna Pod Hostel features comfy beds, clean bathrooms and a well-equipped kitchen. Good value for money.

Mid-range | Mi-pad Smart Hotel offers clean and modern facilities in a perfect location.

Luxury | The Dairy is a private hotel in an excellent location. It’s very close to the Gondola and Bespoke Kitchen.

Look for accommodation in Queenstown

Guided Tours from Queenstown


Avalanche Peak, Arthur's Pass National Park, | Moon & Honey Travel

Days 24-26: Haast Pass & West Coast

From Queenstown take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka. You won’t drive through Gibbston Valley again unless you want to. The drive to the West Coast via Haast Pass is full of scenic short walks and opportunities to get bombarded by sandflies.

There are a lot of glacier-themed activities to do around Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier. We drove the West Coast in one day because we wanted to hike Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass on a sunny day (the only sunny day in a week). But, take it a bit slower than us, and check out the glaciers. You’ll find the most accommodation options around Franz Joseph.

Castle Hill, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 28: Arthur's Pass & Castle Hill

Braided river valleys capture your imagination as you drive the mountainous road to Arthur’s Pass. The scenery continues to unfold beautifully and shift as you make your way to Castle Hill.

Hike in Arthur’s Pass National Park

We came to Arthur’s Pass National Park with the sole intent of hiking to Avalanche Peak. The views are worth the strain, but it is a strenuous hike. We found the descent harder, because of loose rocks. Only hike here on a good day.

Explore Castle Hill

Castle Hill, or treasure from a distant land in Maori, is an unusual landscape made up of scattered limestone formations. Walking through this natural rock garden is like walking through a sculpture park. The organic smooth stones tower around you and it feels like you’re in a place of ceremony and ritual. It’s no wonder that this place is sacred to the Maori.

Stay near Castle Hill

Camping | Lake Lyndon Campsite (Free) – Located directly on the lake, it’s a great free option. There’s one dry toilet. 

Budget/Mid-range | Springfield Motel and Lodge – Beautiful, modern and clean facilities. Breakfast available. It’s a short drive from Arthur’s pass. 

Look for accommodation in Castle Hill

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, Arthur's Pass National Park, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Days 29-30: Banks Peninsula

Formed by volcanoes, Banks Peninsula is a circular peninsula that epitomizes country living at its best. With too many bays to count and rolling green hills that gracefully descend into the ocean, this area south of Christchurch is not to be missed. Akaroa made a lasting impression on us – perhaps because it was a sunny day and we were badly in need of a good meal and a seaside stroll.

Hop between charming towns

  • Akaroa is a small town located in the Banks Peninsula. As the country’s first French settlement, it endeavors to maintain its heritage with a profusion of French restaurants and bakeries, street names and flowering gardens. We enjoyed our garden lunch at the Brasserie and espresso drinks at the General Store.
  • Lyttelton is a port town on the north shore of Lyttelton Harbour. London street has a number of shops and cafés to keep you amused. We ended up a Civil & Naval for beer, wine, and tapas, and we didn’t want to leave.
  • Little River is indeed little, but worth a road-side stop. The Little River Art Gallery and Cafe sells tasty sandwiches and baked goods.

Take a Walk

  • Packhorse Hut Trail  Hike through grazing farmland and pine forest. It’s not a must-do, but if you want to stretch your legs, it’s a good place to do it.

Stay near Akaroa

Camping | Little Akaloa Wilderness Campsite (15 NSD per site) – Situated at the Little Akaloa Bay (a 40-minute drive from Akaroa), this quiet campground was peaceful, but a bit out of the way.

Budget | Halfmoon Cottage – If you’re looking for a peaceful place to stay, this is the perfect choice. The rooms are very cozy and you’ll have access to a beautiful garden.

Mid-range | Akaroa Village Inn – This hotel in Akaroa offers great facilites, spacious rooms and an excellent location. You can choose between booking a room, or an apartment. 

Luxury | French Bay House – Darling guesthouse full of character, charm and light-filled rooms. Next time we’re in Akaroa, we’re staying here! Breakfast included in the room rate.

Look for accommodation in Akaroa

The Tannery, Christchurch, Arthur's Pass National Park, NZ South Island Itinerary | Moon & Honey Travel

Day 31: Christchurch

Christchurch marks the end of your New Zealand South Island adventure. As you unwind, enjoy the city’s breweries and cafés.


  • Cassels & Sons The Brewery (In the Tannery) – Come here for a flight of beer.
  • Addington Coffee Co-op – Hip coffee shop and store featuring organic coffee, world-conscious books and products, and collector spoons.
  • O.G.B. – Drink any alcoholic beverage you desire in this atmospheric bar.

Stay in Christchurch

Camping | Coes Ford (Free Campsite)  This is the closest, free campsite to Christchurch.

Budget | Turret House – Great location. Breakfast included. Clean, bright and happy accommodation. 

Mid-range | Distinction Christchurch Hotel – This new and central hotel offers elegant, air-conditioned hotel rooms. Bar and restaurant on site.   

Luxury | Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch – Located right in the city center, rooms feature air conditioning, a work desk and tea and coffee making facilities. 

Look for accommodation in Christchurch


New Zealand Travel Resources

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New Zealand South Island Road Trip Itinerary
Moon & Honey Travel Resources
External Resources
  • DOC (Department of Conservation) – you’ll find every DOC trail, hut, camping ground and national park on this website.
  • MetService – weather forecast. We used this site religiously, when planning out hiking dates.
  • Day Walks in New Zealand: 100 Great Tracks by Shaun Barnett & Geographx – we used this book religiously to figure out where we wanted to hike.
  • Lonely Planet New Zealand – indispensable guide for traveling in NZ. We consulted our LP throughout our whole trip. We also bought the the Lonely Planet’s New Zealand’s Best Trips book. This is a road trip guide that gives you a good visual understanding of how regions are connected and how to plan your trip. Buying both was a bit redundant, but it did simplify the planning process.
  • Overnighting in Austrian Mountain Huts - Corona Measures 2020  @alpenverein just published a few rules for hikers who are planning on overnighting in huts this summer:  1. Only visit mountain huts when you're healthy.  2. Bring your own face mask.  3. Make reservations for overnight stays in advance. You can't stay in a hut without a reservation.  4. Bring your own sleeping bag and pillow case.  Note: a sleeping bag liner is not sufficient, as blankets will not be distributed in the huts this summer.
  • Austrian mountain huts are slowly opening up for the hiking season and we‘re ecstatic.  This is the cozy interior of Neue Seehütte in the Raxalpe in Lower Austria (very close to Styria).
  • There’s something terribly wrong with this photo. Can you guess what it is?  Kati took this photo of me during our trek across Triglav National Park (Slovenia), one of our favorite hikes of all time.  When I look at this photo, I can keenly recall this particular morning in the Seven Lakes Valley. I remember the stillness and the mountain reflection in the lake, but I also remember the discomfort of carrying that backpack.  Kati and I aren’t “gear people.” We kinda just use what we have until it falls apart. So, in this photo, I’m hiking with my Osprey Farpoint, an excellent travel backpack but a TERRIBLE hiking backpack.  The problem with this pack is that you always feel like you’re falling backwards. The weight of the pack works against you, making steep ascents and descents particularly uncomfortable and even dangerous.  I learned my lesson the hard way. Investing in the right pack is essential for a safe and comfortable multi-day hiking experience.  I now use my Osprey Kyte 36 religiously for hut to hut hiking, and convinced Kati to buy one too.  If you don’t want to make the same mistakes we have, you can read our complete hut to hut hiking packing list (link in bio). This post is not sponsored in any way.
  • Last week, Kati and I went on a day hike in the Rax, a mountain range close to Vienna. We talk a lot when we hike. Okay, maybe I do most of the talking. About 5 hours into our hike I had a brilliant idea: What if I took a vacation?  You might be thinking, that’s silly - you’re always on vacation. The fact is I haven’t taken an intentional vacation, or rest day in years. And when I do rest, I usually feel guilty, buying into that American belief that worthiness is tied to productivity.  Kati has no problem resting. She can detach from work and her “to do list” effortlessly. And, I’ve envied her for years.  So, for the first time in 5 years of knowing Kati, I thought I’m giving myself permission to do the same. I’m GOING ON VACATION and I’m going to do whatever the hell I want. So, in the last few days, I devoured Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by @lbardugo (any YA fantasy fans out there?) and then I read Untamed by @glennondoyle . I have so much to say about this book, but I think you just have to read it. It’s like inhaling fire and falling into the sea at the same time.  For most of us, vacation is a place, a destination far far away. We have to get away, or go somewhere, in order to relax, rest, and detach from the endless “to dos” of our lives. But what I’m finding is that vacation is just a state of mind. It’s permission to stop, to pause, to do something fun, and to do something that’s not productive.  While we’re settling into our new normal lives, I hope you can find moments to “go on vacation” without actually going anywhere. I highly recommend it. 
  • Lockdown Austria.  We’re so excited to get back outside and start exploring our neighboring mountains: “Wiener Hausberge.” 🏔 The last few weeks have been long and taxing at times, but rewarding in so many ways as well.  We’ve baked more than we ever have (shout out to @lazycatkitchen), we’ve read a lot (thank you @katecraigbrown and @sigrids.sonnenherz for your book recommendations), we’ve established some healthy routines, and prioritized learning over doing.  Cheers to new beginnings.  Photo of Kati in a neighborhood field. Haircut by Sabrina 👍😆
  • Happy Earth Day! So grateful to call this beautiful planet home. 🌍