Here is my recommended New Zealand South Island itinerary if you only have two weeks for your New Zealand vacation. If you only have two weeks my advice is to concentrate on the spectacular scenery of the South Island.
With two weeks you can see a little more and spend less time driving than with the one-week New Zealand South Island itinerary. You may like to look out for Hobbit and Lord of the Rings film locations as you go!
To get around you will probably need to hire a car and make it a New Zealand South Island road trip. Camper vans are also a popular way to tour around New Zealand.
If you’re trying to keep the travel budget under control the hostels/backpacker lodges are of a good standard everywhere and often have private rooms. If you are planning New Zealand travel in January make sure you book accommodation well in advance because this is peak New Zealand holidays.
Day 1 – Arrive Christchurch, stay the night and recover from the flight/s.
Day 2 – Drive from Christchurch to Mt Cook village (stop at Lake Tekapo for photos). From Mt Cook you can go on a glacier lake tour and there are a number of short walks. There is an expensive hotel here (the Hermitage) and a backpacker hostel…
Day 3 – Mt Cook to Queenstown – stopping at Kelling Ponds and Lake Pukaki for photos.
There are lots of fun activities to do around Queenstown including walking, wineries, horse riding, the Shotover Jetboat, the lake trip on the TSS Earnslaw paddlesteamer to Walter Peak Station, and taking the Skyline Gondola up the hill for views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. For an excellent day walk from Queenstown try the Moonlight Track.
Make sure you do a day trip to Milford Sound in Fiordland. This is a beautiful drive with lots of stops/little walks on the way then you can do a boat cruise on the fjord. Milford Sound is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.
Day 7 – Drive through to Wanaka via the Cardrona Valley (have lunch at the Cardrona Hotel). Wanaka is a smaller/quieter lakeside town with more walking opportunities.
Day 8 – Wanaka to Fox village via the Haast Pass. On the West Coast the glaciers are the big attraction. I recommend a helihike if you can afford it or the glacier walk. Go early in the morning to take photos of Lake Mathieson with its backdrop of mountains.
Day 9 – Then go to the Abel Tasman National Park where I recommend a seakayaking experience and some beach time here at the top of the South Island. I have stayed at The Barn a couple of times and it has good budget accommodation in a lovely setting. The kayak hire place is just down the road from here.
Day 11 – Drive through the Lewis Pass and stay a night at Maruia Springs to enjoy the hot pools in the forest.
Day 12 – Over to the Marlborough wine region. My favourite wineries are HighField Estate Winery (have lunch here), Cloudy Bay, Hunters, and Grove Mill.
Day 13 – Drive south to Kaikoura for whale watching. An undersea canyon lying just off the Kaikoura coastline provides rich nutrients for an array of marine life, including whales and dolphins and the whale watch tours go out several times each day depending on the weather. A gentle walk along the coast will show you basking fur seals.
Day 14 – Back to Christchurch for departure.
Have you travelled in New Zealand? What would you recommend for a two-week New Zealand South Island itinerary?
Take a look at some of my other travel New Zealand itineraries: