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Which is the better island in NZ to visit?

That's a fair question, but impossible to answer, other than to say 'both'.  But with only a week, maybe you are better advised seeing one island well, rather than both islands in a very superficial manner.

 
 
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South Island Self-Drive Itineraries

Seven Day Driving Modules
 

This is a classic image of NZ's South Island - a still pure lake perfectly reflecting the snow capped mountains in the background.

Is there a more beautiful country, anywhere in the world?  Perhaps not.

Part of a series on travel to and in New Zealand - click the links in the right hand column for more articles and click here for the master listing of New Zealand driving itineraries.

 

 

New Zealand's South Island is much less populated than its North Island, and has the more remarkable scenery.  The Southern Alps chain of mountains, the fiords, the glaciers, stunning coastlines and beautiful native forests - there's so much to see that you'll struggle to fit it all into a week.

Indeed, it is absolutely not possible to do justice to the area in such a short time, but better seven days than none at all.  Hopefully the following itineraries will help you work out how to get best value from the short time available to you.


Sample Itineraries for touring the South Island, with a seven day travel time.

If you decide you want to focus a short stay in New Zealand on only the country's South Island, these suggestions of possible ways to spend seven days on a self-drive itinerary around the South Island will be helpful.

See our separate page of seven day North Island self-drive itineraries for more suggestions if you wish to spend time in the North Island too.

And if you have more time to spend, consider combining itineraries, or spending more time in the places featured, and perhaps traveling shorter distances each day.

We'll also be releasing suggested driving itineraries for longer time periods in the near future.

 

Click on map to open a larger map in a new window

 

Queenstown and Fiordland

Day

Activities

Overnight

1

Arrive Christchurch, collect car, drive to Dunedin.

Approx 355km/220 miles, 5hrs driving time.

Dunedin

2

Morning in Dunedin, then drive to Te Anau.

Approx 290km/180 miles, 3.8 hrs driving time.

Te Anau

3

Touring to Milford Sound and cruise on Milford Sound, then drive back to Queenstown.

Approx 400km/250 miles, 5 hrs driving time, plus cruise on Milford Sound.

Queenstown

4

A day in and around Queenstown.

Queenstown

5

Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch via Arrowtown, Wanaka and Mt Cook.

Approx 610km/380 miles, 8.2 hrs driving time.

Christchurch

6

A day in and around Christchurch.

Christchurch

7

Fly on from Christchurch today.

 

 

Total distance driven :  1660km/1040 miles plus local touring


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Click on map to open a larger map in a new window

 

One Week South Island Only - Northern South Island

Day

Activities

Overnight

1

Arrive Christchurch, collect car, drive to Nelson via Picton.

Approx 450km/280 miles, 6 hrs driving time

Nelson

2

Drive from Nelson to Greymouth via Motueka and Westport.

Approx 375km/235 miles, 5.2 hrs driving time.

Greymouth

3

Touring around Greymouth, perhaps down to Hokitika

Greymouth

4

Drive from Greymouth to Hanmer Springs.

Approx 210km/130 miles, 2.7 hrs driving time.

Hanmer Springs

5

Drive from Hanmer Springs to Christchurch.

Approx 130km/80 miles, 1.9 hrs driving time.

Christchurch

6

A day in and around Christchurch.

Christchurch

7

Fly on from Christchurch today.

 

 

Total distance driven :  1165km/730 miles plus local touring


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Click on map to open a larger map in a new window

 

The South Island's West Coast

Day

Activities

Overnight

1

Arrive Christchurch, collect car, drive to Greymouth via Hanmer Springs and Westport.

Approx 450km/280 miles, 6 hrs driving time.

Greymouth

2

Drive from Greymouth to Haast, stopping at Fox Glacier.

Approx 315km/195 miles, 4.1 hrs driving time.

Haast

3

Drive from Haast to Queenstown via Wanaka and Arrowtown.

Approx 220km/135 miles, 2.9 hrs driving time

Queenstown

4

A day in and around Queenstown.

Queenstown

5

Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch via Mt Cook.

Approx 590km/370 miles, 7.5 hrs driving time.

Christchurch

6

A day in and around Christchurch.

Christchurch

7

Fly on from Christchurch today.

 

 

Total distance driven :  1575km/985 miles plus local touring


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Click on map to open a larger map in a new window

 

Christchurch inland to Dunedin

Day

Activities

Overnight

1

Arrive Christchurch, collect car, spend day sightseeing around Christchurch.

Christchurch

2

Drive from Christchurch to Queenstown via Mt Cook, Wanaka and Arrowtown.

Approx 610km/380 miles, 8.2 hrs driving time.

Queenstown

3

A day in and around Queenstown.

Queenstown

4

Drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound for a cruise, then to Te Anau.

Approx 405km/255 miles, 5.1 hrs driving time

Te Anau

5

Drive from Te Anau to Manapouri, then to Dunedin.

Approx 315km/195 miles, 4.2 hrs driving time

Dunedin

6

A day in and around Dunedin.

Dunedin

7

Fly on from Dunedin today.

 

 

Total distance driven :  1330km/830 miles plus local touring


Return to Itinerary Menu Page
 

Part of a series on travel to and in New Zealand - click the links in the right hand column for more articles and click here for the master listing of New Zealand driving itineraries.

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 22 Aug 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

 
 
 
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