New Zealand: One week South Island itinerary

This is a New Zealand itinerary for travellers who are pressed for time and only have a week (8 days) to experience New Zealand, in which case you should focus on the South Island.

It is for tourists who want to see beautiful scenery, as well as enjoying a little wine tasting at New Zealand’s vineyards. There is quite a lot of driving involved in this itinerary but it will be worth it to see the best of New Zealand’s South Island.

Day 1 – Arrive in Christchurch and drive to Kaikoura (2 hrs). If time allows visit vineyards around Waipara on the way.


Day 2 – Whale watching/dolphin swimming in the morning. Drive to Blenheim (2 hrs) and spend afternoon visiting Marlborough Vineyards.

Day 3 – Drive to Franz Jozef (6 hrs) down the wild West Coast of the South Island.

Helicopter Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand

Day 4 – Dawn photos at Lake Mathieson and then take a helicopter ride up the glacier in morning. Drive to Queenstown via the Haast and Cardrona passes in the afternoon (4 hrs) stopping at the historic Cardrona Hotel for dinner.

West Coast scenery near Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Day 5 – Spend two days in Queenstown. From here you can enjoy wine tasting, jet boating, the gondola up to the scenic viewpoint, take the historic steam boat TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station.

Skyline Queenstown view New Zealand Photo by Natasha von Geldern

Make sure you do a day trip to Milford Sound, where you can do a short cruise on the fjord.

Moonlight Track Queenstown New Zealand Photo by Natasha von Geldern

Day 7 – Drive to Mt Cook (3 hrs), stopping for photos at the head of Lake Pukaki on the way. Take a scenic flight onto the Tasman Glacier.

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook, New Zealand

Day 8 – Drive to Christchurch (4 hrs) stopping for photos at Kelling Ponds, and Lake Tekapo on the way. Depart Christchurch.

By Natasha von Geldern

What would you recommend as a New Zealand itinerary if you only had a week?

Take a look at some of my other travel New Zealand itineraries: 

New Zealand with kids: A one-month itinerary for families

New Zealand itineraries: Two-weeks South Island

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