Julie Itinerary, New Zealand Leave a Comment

If you are planning your two week South Island New Zealand itinerary, we have three exciting road trip routes to share with you.

Two of these are done point-to-point from Queenstown to the Cook Strait, perfect for those who also plan to visit the North Island on the same trip. The main difference between these two itineraries is whether you visit Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park or Glacier Country (Franz Josef and Fox Glacier).

The third itinerary is a loop that starts and ends in Queenstown and includes Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and the Southern Scenic Route.

Each of these itineraries are done as a road trip, so you will need to rent a car or campervan.

These itineraries can be done all year. The best time to go hiking is spring through fall (September through May) and the best time to go skiing is in the winter (June through August).

Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 3 Routes

 
Below you can see all of these itineraries in detail. Itinerary #2 is very similar to #1 in that they are both point-to-point, from Queenstown to Picton. What you are choosing between is Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and the east coast of the South Island versus Glacier Country (Franz Josef and Fox Glacier) and the west coast of the South Island.

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park or Franz Josef / Glacier Country?

The Southern Alps separates Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park from the towns of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier (an area referred to as Glacier Country). On a map, it looks like they sit side by side. However, because of the mountain range that sits between them, it is a 480 km, 6-hour drive to get from one area to the other.

Which is better? It really depends on what you want to do and how else you plan to spend your time on the South Island.

Visiting Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park from Mount Cook Village is more popular. You get the scenic drive along Lake Pukaki and can easily add on Lake Tekapo. It’s also the best place to get the iconic view of Aoraki / Mount Cook.

Franz Josef and Glacier Country is less popular. The main thing to do here is to take a flightseeing tour with a glacier landing, getting a bird’s eye view of Aoraki / Mount Cook and Mount Tasman (you can do that from Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park as well), hiking to glaciers, and seeing the rainforest along the west coast. On the drive north, you also get to see Hoktika Gorge and the Pancake Rocks.

With two weeks on the South Island, in my opinion it is worth visiting one or the other. If you try to fit in both Mount Cook Village and Glacier Country, the itinerary either gets extremely busy or you have to give up another spot on the island.

Both are phenomenal experiences. However, I only think it is worth driving to Franz Josef if you plan to do a flightseeing tour, since that is one of main things to do here.

Franz Josef in April | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

The view on a flightseeing tour from Franz Josef

Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary #1

Queenstown, Aoraki / Mount Cook & Picton

HIGHLIGHTS: Queenstown, Milford Sound, Wanaka, Aoraki / Mount Cook, Christchurch, Akaroa, Kaikoura, Abel Tasman or the Marlborough wine region

This itinerary is done point-to-point from Queenstown to the northern end of the South Island. This sets you up to take the ferry across the Cook Strait to the North Island on day 15.

On this itinerary, you also spend two days in beautiful Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and get to spend some time on the Banks Peninsula before heading north. End your visit on the South Island by hiking and kayaking in Abel Tasman or wine tasting in Marlborough.

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, drive to Te Anau
Day 2: Milford Sound
Day 3: Queenstown
Day 4: Queenstown
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Queenstown
Day 7: Wanaka
Day 8: Wanaka
Day 9: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Day 10: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Day 11: Lake Tekapo & Christchurch
Day 12: Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
Day 13: Drive to Blenheim, Nelson or Motueka
Day 14: Abel Tasman or Marlborough wine region

10 Day South Island Itinerary

Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary Map: Queenstown, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Christchurch, Picton

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, Drive to Te Anau

It may seem odd to arrive in Queenstown and immediately travel to Te Anau. This is what we did on our first trip to New Zealand and it actually works very well. By immediately driving to Te Anau, you set yourself up to follow it with several action-packed days in Queenstown.

Plus, the drive between Queenstown and Te Anau is gorgeous.

There are two main ways to visit the Milford Sound: from Te Anau (much closer) or as a day trip from Queenstown (a super long day trip with over 8 hours in a car, bus, or van). It is a much better experience to visit the Milford Sound from Te Anau and with two weeks on the South Island, you have plenty of time to do it this way.

At the Queenstown airport, pick up your rental car and then it is a 165 km, 2-hour stunning drive to Te Anau. You’ll drive along beautiful Lake Wakatipu, past farms filled with sheep, and countless amazing views of this part of New Zealand. It’s a great introduction to the beauty of the South Island.

Wow New Zealand

The view on the drive to Te Anau

Once in Te Anau, check into your hotel. Take a stroll along the waterfront and drive up to Lions Lookout Point for a panoramic view over the town.

Tonight, sleep in Te Anau. Recommended hotels include Annies on Milford (we stayed here and it’s one of the highest rated properties in town), Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments, and Bob & Maxine Backpackers. For dinner, we recommend Redcliff Restaurant & Bar.

Day 2: Milford Sound

Today you will visit one of New Zealand’s most famous natural attractions, the Milford Sound. Since you are staying in Te Anau, you have plenty of time for the scenic drive to the Milford Sound, a longer Milford Sound cruise, and the option to add on the Key Summit hike.

For full details on how to plan your day, check out our Guide to the Milford Sound.

Milford Sound | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Milford Sound | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

 

Key Summit Trail | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Key Summit Hike | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Tonight, sleep in Te Anau. Have dinner at Ditto, Sandfly Café, or the MacKinnon Room.

Days 3, 4, 5 & 6: Queenstown

On the morning of day 3, drive to Queenstown (170 km, 2 hours). Spend the rest of the day in Queenstown.

On this itinerary, you have four days in Queenstown. That may sound like a lot of time, but there is a long list of things to do here.

Here is a list of the top things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, check out our article Best Things to Do in Queenstown.

  • Bungy jumping
  • Jet boat rides
  • Skyline Queenstown & The Luge
  • Onsen Hot Pools
  • Paragliding
  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking
  • Day trip to Arrowtown
  • Wine tasting in Cromwell
  • Day trip to Glenorchy
  • Cruise Lake Wakatipu

With almost four full days in Queenstown, you have plenty of time to engage in all of its action-packed adventures, indulge in its fabulous food scene, and day trip to nearby destinations. Whether you are a foodie, a family, or an adventure seeker, you will not run out of things to do.

For advice on how to plan your time, read our Queenstown Itinerary.

Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

 

Routeburn Track | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Routeburn Track | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Since you have so much time in Queenstown, you have the option to hike the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks. This 32 km/20 mile point-to-point hike takes hikers from The Divide (near the Milford Sound) across the Southern Alps to the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy). It’s typically done in 2 to 3 days but can be done in one day if you are fit, fast, and an experienced hiker.

To add in the Routeburn Track, it’s best to do it on day 3, starting at The Divide and ending at the Routeburn Shelter. Get the full details on the hike and arranging your transportation in our Guide to the Routeburn Track.

For recommendations on where to stay and eat, check out our article Best Things to Do in Queenstown. You will sleep in Queenstown for four nights.

Days 7 & 8: Wanaka

On the morning of day 7, check out of your hotel and drive to Wanaka. There are two driving routes to choose from.

Via Crown Range Road: This drive is 70 km and takes an hour. On this drive, you will cross the Crown Range. At the highest point, make a pitstop and enjoy the views from the scenic overlooks. Then, descend to Cardrona, see the bra fence, and continue to Wanaka. This is the most scenic route but it is also the windiest.

Crown Range Road View

View from Crown Range Road

Via State Highway 6: This drive is 110 km and takes an hour and a half. It goes through Cromwell and skips the switchbacks and curves of Crown Range Road. This route is not as scenic but it is a better option for those who have issues with motion sickness.

On this itinerary, you will spend two days in Wanaka. If you are a hiker, we recommend Roy’s Peak Track and the Rocky Mountain Track to Diamond Lake. On the Wildwire Via Ferrata you will climb a waterfall and there are several options depending on your adventure level, experience, and how much time you want to dedicate to this experience.

Rocky Mountain Track Wanaka | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Rocky Mountain Track | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

 #ThatWanakaTree

#ThatWanakaTree | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

In Wanaka, you can also go wine tasting, see #ThatWanakaTree, go for a cruise on Lake Wanaka, and watch a movie in Cinema Paradiso.

For dinner, we recommend Bistro Gentil (wine bar and French food with views of Lake Wanaka) or Big Fig (healthy Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine).

Spend two nights in Wanaka. We recommend Wanaka Homestead Lodge & Cottages, Wanaka Heights Motel, and Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park.

Day 9: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

In the morning, check out of your hotel and drive north to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park (205 km, 2.5 hours). The drive along Lake Pukaki is one of the most iconic scenic drives on the South Island of New Zealand.

Lake Pukaki | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Lake Pukaki | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

This afternoon, we recommend hiking the Hooker Valley Track where you get spectacular views of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki / Mount Cook. In the evening, have dinner in Mount Cook Village.

Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley Track | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

You will spend two nights in Mount Cook Village. We recommend the Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, Haka House Mt Cook, and White Horse Hill Campground.

Day 10: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

On this itinerary, you get to spend a second day in Aoraki / Mount Cook. With two days here, you have a better chance of seeing Aoraki / Mount Cook (sometimes it likes to hide behind the clouds).

Ideas of things to do today include hiking the Tasman Glacier View Track, taking a flightseeing tour, heli-hiking, hiking to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut, and stargazing. See the full list in our Guide to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park.

Day 11: Lake Tekapo & Christchurch

This morning, check out of your hotel and drive to Christchurch (330 km, 4 hours).

On this drive, you’ll repeat the scenic drive along Lake Pukaki. About an hour into the drive, you will reach Lake Tekapo. This is a great spot to get out of your car, stretch your legs, and capture this stunning blue lake on your camera. The Church of the Good Shepherd is a popular photography spot here. You can also grab a snack or cup of coffee before resuming the drive.

Lake Tekapo in Fall | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Lake Tekapo in March

This afternoon and tomorrow, you have the option to spend your time in Christchurch or on the Banks Peninsula.

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. A series of devastating earthquakes rattled the city in 2010 and 2011, and these events have left their mark on the city. Top experiences here include visiting Quake City (a museum about the earthquakes), Punting on the Avon, and visiting the museums in town. Get the full list in our Guide to Christchurch.

Banks Peninsula is a small, volcanic peninsula and sitting in the center of this mountainous landscape is Akaroa Harbour and the small town of Akaroa. We recommend Banks Peninsula for those who like scenic drives, wildlife experiences, and the charm of a small, coastal town.

This afternoon, you can do a few things in Christchurch, have dinner, and then drive to Akaroa and spend the night here. Or, drive straight from Lake Tekapo to Akaroa, have dinner in Akaroa, and spend the night here.

For hotel and restaurant recommendations, take a look at our Guide to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula. You will spend two nights in Akaroa.

Akaroa Banks Peninsula

Banks Peninsula | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

 

Akaroa New Zealand | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Akaroa | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Day 12: Akaroa & Banks Peninsula

Spend the day on the Banks Peninsula. Take a wildlife cruise to see Hector’s dolphins (the smallest dolphins in the world), go on a scenic drive on Summit Road and/or to Misty Peaks Reserve, and meet the Shamarra Alpacas.

Tonight, sleep in Akaroa.

Day 13: Drive to Blenheim, Nelson or Motueka

Today’s driving route depends on what you plan to do tomorrow. On the final day of this itinerary, you can either visit Abel Tasman National Park or the Marlborough wine region. They are both located on the northern part of the South Island but what you plan to do impacts the best location to stay.

If you prefer to visit Abel Tasman, sleep in Nelson or Motueka. If you prefer to go wine tasting, stay in Blenheim.

Akaroa to Abel Tasman National Park

  • Akaroa to Motueka: 500 km, 6.5 hours
  • Akaroa to Nelson: 495 km, 6.5 hours

If you choose to visit Abel Tasman, from Akaroa you will drive through the mountainous interior of the South Island.

You have the option to spend the morning in Akaroa before starting this drive, doing it in the afternoon, or immediately hitting the road and spending the afternoon in Nelson and Motueka. Sleep in Nelson or Motueka (Motueka is slightly closer to Abel Tasman National Park).

Akaroa to Blenheim

Akaroa to Blenheim: 390 km, 5.5 hours

If you choose to visit the Marlborough wine region, you will drive State Highway 1 along the east coast through Kaikoura, giving you the option to take a cruise to see and swim with dolphins.

Three species of dolphins are found in the water near Kaikoura, including dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, and common dolphins. Orca can also make an appearance from September to April.

Dolphin Encounter runs tours all year. You can either simply view the dolphins or, for about double the price, swim with dolphins.

Tonight, sleep in Blenheim. We recommend 14th Lane Urban Hotel and Ellena Court Motel (we have stayed in both of these and had great experiences at both of them). For dinner in Blenheim, we recommend Gramado’s, a Brazilian restaurant that gets rave reviews (try the Brazilian cheese bread and I loved the Feijoada, a Brazilian black bean stew).

Day 14: Abel Tasman or Marlborough Wine Region

Abel Tasman National Park

Spend the day in Abel Tasman National Park. A great way to spend the day here is to do a cruise and hike combo. Learn more in our article How to Spend One Day in Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Abel Tasman National Park | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Tonight, sleep in Motueka (a 180 km, 2.5-hour drive to Picton) or sleep in Havelock, Blenheim, or Picton to have a shorter drive to the ferry port in Picton the following day.

Marlborough Wine Region

The Marlborough wine region is the largest wine region in New Zealand. This region produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world, along with Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Framingham Wines Charcuterie Board | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Framingham Wines

For information on how to plan your day, and to get recommended wineries, read our Guide to the Marlborough Wine Region.

Tonight, sleep in Blenheim.


Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary #2

Queenstown, Glacier Country & Picton

HIGHLIGHTS: Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Wanaka, Glacier Country, Hoktika Gorge, Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Abel Tasman National Park, Marlborough Wine Region

This itinerary is similar to the one above, in that it starts in Queenstown and ends on the north end of the South Island. However, you take a different route to get there. After Wanaka, you drive to and spend a few days in Glacier Country, and then continue north to Abel Tasman National Park and the Marlborough Wine Region.

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, drive to Te Anau
Day 2: Milford Sound
Day 3: Queenstown
Day 4: Queenstown
Day 5: Queenstown
Day 6: Queenstown
Day 7: Wanaka
Day 8: Wanaka
Day 9: Drive to Glacier Country
Day 10: Glacier Country
Day 11: Glacier Country
Day 12: Drive to Nelson
Day 13: Abel Tasman National Park
Day 14: Marlborough Wine Region

10 Day South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary Map: Queenstown, Glacier Country, Picton

Days 1 through 8: Queenstown, Milford Sound & Wanaka

Days 1 through 8 are identical to the itinerary above (Itinerary #1).

Day 9: Drive to Franz Josef/Glacier Country

From Wanaka, it takes 4 hours to drive the 290 km to Franz Josef. Along the way, there are a few places to pause, enjoy the view, and even do a short hike.

From Wanaka, head north on State Highway 6. About 30 minutes into the drive you’ll reach The Neck, a narrow strip of land that sits between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. There are two scenic viewpoints here: Lake Hawea Lookout and Lake Wanaka Lookout.

Thirty minutes (35 km) north of The Neck is the Blue Pools Track. This 3 km out-and-back hike takes 30 minutes to an hour and takes you to viewpoints of vibrantly blue pools on the Makarora River.

Blue Pools New Zealand | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Blue Pools

Continue the scenic drive to Franz Josef. Once in Franz Josef, check into your hotel. If you still have time and energy, you can go on a short hike. For a full list of things to do and where to stay, take a look at our Guide to Glacier Country.

Day 10 & 11: Franz Josef/Glacier Country

Two full days in Glacier Country gives you plenty of time to go hiking and take a flightseeing tour (or even a heli-hiking tour) of Aoraki / Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Taking a flightseeing tour is, without a doubt, the best experience to have in Glacier Country.

Franz Josef Snow Landing

Lake Matheson Hike

Hiking around Lake Matheson
 

Lake Matheson Photo | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Lake Matheson | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

It is possible to spend just one full day here, rather than two. The second day gives you some extra time just in case you get rain or the mountains are clouded in. Helicopter flights will not run if the weather is poor (rain or wind can shut down flights) so it’s best to have at least two days in the area, just in case you can’t fly on your first day here. This is one of the rainiest spots in New Zealand so some amount of rainfall is a very good possibility on your visit.

However, if you want to take your chances and only spend one day here, rather than two, you can do that. This is a good option for someone who has 13 days rather than 14, or if you prefer to put an extra day into Queenstown or Te Anau (the extra day here allows you to visit both the Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound).

For a full list of things to do in Glacier Country and how to spend your time, read our Guide to Glacier Country.

Day 12: Drive to Abel Tasman National Park

Today, drive to Motueka. This small town is a great place to stay to explore Abel Tasman National Park. To get here, it is a 6-hour drive (465 km) without stops. Like the drive on day 4, today is another scenic drive.

Hoktika Gorge is a short detour off of State Highway 6. You’ll reach this point about 2 hours into the drive from Franz Josef. This aquamarine gorge is a fantastic hiking and swimming spot on the South Island. A 2 km walking trail loops around the gorge, crossing several suspension bridges along the way. It takes about 45 minutes to do the walk, longer if you pause for a swim.

Hoktika Gorge

Hoktika Gorge | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

About an hour and a half drive north of Hoktika Gorge are the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. On this small peninsula sits stacks of limestone rocks, that with a little imagination, looks like stacks of pancakes. This view of the rocks and the coastline is one of our favorite coastal views on the South Island of New Zealand. To see the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, it is a 1.1 km walking loop that takes about 20 minutes. It is free to visit.

Pancake Rocks New Zealand | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

Continue the drive to Motueka and check into your hotel. We stayed at the Terraced Chalets and had a wonderful experience but the Abbey Court Motel and the Avalon Manor Motel also get great reviews.

Day 13: Abel Tasman National Park

Spend the day in Abel Tasman National Park. A great way to spend the day here is to do a cruise and hike combo. Learn more in our article How to Spend One Day in Abel Tasman National Park.

In the late afternoon, drive to Blenheim (175 km, 2.5 hours), have dinner, and check into your hotel.

Day 14: Marlborough wine region

Spend the day wine tasting in New Zealand’s largest wine region. For recommended wineries and tips on how to plan your day, read our Guide to the Marlborough Wine Region.

New Zealand Guide


Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary #3

Queenstown & the Southern Scenic Route Loop

HIGHLIGHTS: Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula, Southern Scenic Route, Nugget Point Lighthouse, Cathedral Caves, Bluff, Invercargill, Te Anau, Milford Sound

This itinerary is done as a loop, starting and ending in Queenstown. Rather than traveling north, on this itinerary, you travel to the southernmost part of the South Island along the Southern Scenic Route.

This itinerary is a good option for those who want to visit a few of the South Island’s most popular destinations (such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park) but also go off the beaten path, exploring gorgeous coastal sites and quaint towns.

Since this itinerary starts and ends in Queenstown, if you also have plans to visit the North Island, you can fly there from Queenstown or add on two to three days to drive to Picton.

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, drive to Wanaka
Day 2: Wanaka
Day 3: Wanaka
Day 4: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Day 5: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
Day 6: Drive to Dunedin
Day 7: Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula
Day 8: Drive to Invercargill (Southern Scenic Route)
Day 9: Drive to Te Anau (Southern Scenic Route)
Day 10: Milford Sound
Day 11: Queenstown
Day 12: Queenstown
Day 13: Queenstown
Day 14: Queenstown

10 Day South Island Itinerary

Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary Map: Queenstown & Southern Scenic Route

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, drive to Wanaka

Arrive in Queenstown, ideally in the first half of the day, pick up your rental car, and drive to Wanaka (not to worry…you have plenty of time in Queenstown at the end of this itinerary and it’s a great spot to wrap up two fabulous weeks on the South Island).

Spend the rest of the day in Wanaka, get settled into your hotel, and have dinner. You will spend two nights in Wanaka.

Days 2 & 3: Wanaka

Spend two days in Wanaka. Hikers can do both the Roys Peak Track and the Rocky Mountain Track to Diamond Lake. You can also go wine tasting, climb a via ferrata, rent bikes and cycle around Lake Wanaka, see #ThatWanakaTree, go for a cruise on Lake Wanaka, visit a lavender farm, and watch a movie in Cinema Paradiso. Learn more in our Guide to Wanaka.

Roys Peak Viewpoint | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Roy’s Peak Track

Day 4: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

In the morning, check out of your hotel and drive north to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park (205 km, 2.5 hours). Enjoy the scenic drive along Lake Pukaiki. Spend the day hiking in the national park. You can also go flightseeing and stargazing.

Tonight, sleep in Mount Cook Village.

Day 5: Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

On this itinerary, you have another full day in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. This gives you plenty of time to do another hike and go flightseeing. Plus, the extra day gives you some contingency time, should it be raining or Aoraki / Mount Cook is hidden behind the clouds on the day you arrive.

Tonight, sleep in Mount Cook Village.

Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley Track | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Day 6: Drive to Dunedin

Today, drive to Dunedin.

There are several routes to Dunedin. I recommend first driving to Lake Tekapo, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes. It takes about an hour to drive here from Mount Cook Village. Get out of your car, stretch your legs, and capture the lake’s brilliantly blue color on your camera or smartphone. It’s worth the little bit of extra driving distance and then head to Dunedin.

Continue the drive along State Highway 8 through Burke’s Pass and out to the east coast. Once you hit State Highway 1 in Pareora, you’ll head south to Dunedin.

Burkes Pass Three Creeks

Burke’s Pass

Along this drive, another worthwhile detour is the Moeraki Boulders. These boulders are a popular photography spot on the South Island.

Moeraki Boulders New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

The Moeraki Boulders are located on Koekohe Beach (Moeraki Boulders Beach on Google Maps). Park at the Moeraki Boulders Café and it is a short walk out to the beach. At low tide, it is easy to walk right up to and photograph the boulders. At high tide, the bottoms of the boulders will be covered with water. Our visit was near low tide.

Continue the drive to Dunedin. Check into your hotel and have dinner. You will spend two nights in Dunedin. For hotel and restaurant recommendations, take a look at our Guide to Dunedin (coming soon).

Day 7: Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula

Dunedin is the second largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. Sitting next to Dunedin is the Otago Peninsula, a small peninsula filled with scenic overlooks, deserted beaches, and several places to see little blue penguins and yellow eyed penguins.

Spend the morning visiting the sites in Dunedin and the afternoon on the Otago Peninsula, where you can tour a castle and go on eco tours to see yellow eyed penguins and little blue penguins.

For more information, read our Guide to Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula (coming soon).

Otago Peninsula New Zealand

Otago Peninsula | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Day 8: Drive to Invercargill (Southern Scenic Route)

Today is your first day on the Southern Scenic Route. The Southern Scenic Route is a 600+ kilometer driving route that connects Dunedin to Queenstown. Most of this drive is along the coast, with options to add on short hikes and waterfalls.

Today you will drive 240 km of this route. Without stops, it takes just over 3 hours of driving. With detours, this will take a full day.

We have a detailed guide to the Southern Scenic Route which I recommend referring to. Here is a brief overview on the sites to visit between Dunedin and Invercargill.

Tunnel Beach: Just a short drive south of Dunedin, this picturesque beach is home to dramatic cliffs and a sea cave. To get to the beach, it is a steep, downhill, 0.8 km (0.5 mile) walk to the beach. Once at the beach, you can descend farther through the tunnel for a different view of the coastline. Then, repeat the walk, uphill this time, to get back to your car.

Tunnel Beach New Zealand

Tunnel Beach | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Nugget Point Lighthouse: This lighthouse is one of the most picturesque places to visit on the Southern Scenic Route. From the car park, it is a 0.8 km/0.5 mile walk (about 15 minutes) to get to the lighthouse.

Nugget Point Lighthouse

Nugget Point Lighthouse | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Purakaunui Falls: Purakaunui Falls is a beautiful, multi-tiered waterfall. To get here, you’ll have to do a little bit of hiking. It takes 10 minutes to walk to the waterfall and this entire hike is through a dense forest. The total distance for this walk is 0.6 km.0.4 miles round trip with 30 meters/100 feet of total ascent.

Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

Florence Hill Overlook: For a sweeping view of Tautuku Beach, it’s worth the quick stop at Florence Hill Lookout.

Cathedral Caves: These caves can only be visited at low tide, since they are located on a beach, but they are one of the most interesting places to visit on the Southern Scenic Route. Get the full details here.

Tim in Cathedral Cave

Cathedral Caves

Curio Bay: Visit this spot for scenic views along the coastline.

Slope Point: Slope Point is the southernmost point of the South Island of New Zealand. It is a 1.8 km (1.1 mile) out-and-back walk to the point, with 100 meters (325 feet) of total ascent. Plan on spending about 30 to 45 minutes here, which gives you enough time to do the walk and take photos.

End the day in Invercargill. Have dinner and get checked into your hotel. We recommend staying at The Lodges at Transport World.

Day 9: Drive to Te Anau (Southern Scenic Route)

Today’s drive is 190 km and will take just over two hours, without stops. However, we have a few detours and scenic places to visit along the drive.

Before leaving Invercargill, you have the option to make the detour to Bluff, for scenic views over the town and a view of nearby Stewart Island.

Then, on the drive to Te Anau, visit Cosy Nook (a quiet, scenic, secluded spot), Gemstone Beach, and McCracken’s Rest.

Cosy Nook New Zealand

Cosy Nook | Two Week South Island New Zealand Itinerary

As you enter Te Anau, make the quick stop at the Lions Lookout Point for panoramic views of the town.

Spend the afternoon in Te Anau. You have the option to visit the Te Anau Glowworm Caves today. Have dinner and check into your hotel. You will spend two nights in Te Anau.

Day 10: Milford Sound

Today, spend the day visiting the Milford Sound with the option to add on the Key Summit Hike. Learn more in our Guide to the Milford Sound.

Days 11, 12, 13 & 14: Queenstown

On the morning of day 11, drive to Queenstown (completing the Southern Scenic Route) and spend the rest of your time in Queenstown. Get recommendations on things to do in our Queenstown Bucket List.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is two weeks enough time on the South Island?

Two weeks is a wonderful amount of time to spend on the South Island of New Zealand. With two weeks, you can road trip through some of the South Island’s most popular cities and stunning landscapes, such as Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, the Milford Sound, and Abel Tasman National Park. It is possible to spend less time on the South Island (for example, one week or 10 days), but 2 weeks is the minimum amount of time we recommend if you want to explore the highlights of the South Island without feeling like you are in a race.

Why is the South Island of New Zealand so popular?

With its mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and rugged coastal scenery, the South Island is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. These dramatic landscapes were used as filming locations for a long list of movies, include the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Bungy jumping and jet boat riding also got their start on the South Island.

When are the best months to visit the South Island?

The South Island can be visited all year.

Summer (December through February) is generally the best time to be here, with warmer, drier weather. However, it is also the busiest time of year to be here.

In autumn (March through May), temperatures cool off, as do the crowds, but rain chances increase. Fall colors make an appearance.

In the winter (June, July, and August), many alpine trails close once the snow begins to fall. This is the best time to visit the South Island if you plan to go skiing.

And finally, in the spring (September through November), temperatures warm up and flowers begin to bloom. In late spring, rainfall goes down but crowds start to rise.


If you have any questions about these two week South Island New Zealand itinerary options, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to New Zealand

SOUTH ISLAND: On the South Island of New Zealand, visit Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, spend a day or two in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, visit Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, go on a helicopter flight to see Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers from the sky, and learn about the best things to do in Queenstown. For the full list, read our article Best Things to Do on the South Island.

SOUTH ISLAND ITINERARIES: Whether you have one week or three on the South Island of New Zealand, plan your visit with our one week itinerary and 10 day itinerary. Each itinerary lists multiple ways to plan your road trip, depending on your interests.

NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP: With 3 weeks in New Zealand, visit the highlights on a road trip to the North Island and South Island. If you have less time, you can shorten this itinerary by spending 2 weeks on the South Island.

NORTH ISLAND: Top experiences on the North Island include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (one of the best day hikes in the world), spending a day or two in Auckland, visiting Waiheke Island on a day trip from Auckland, touring Hobbiton, a visit to Rotorua and Taupō, and spending a day or two in Wellington. For the full list, read our article about the Best Things to Do on the North Island.

We have TONS more information about New Zealand in our New Zealand Travel Guide, including Auckland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Franz Josef, Christchurch, Wellington, Taupō, and the Milford Sound.

 

South Island New Zealand Itinerary

 

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