New Zealand // South Island - 2.5 Weeks



MAP LEGEND

Yellow Icon: Food

Red House Icon: Where we stayed

Blue Shopping bag ICON: places to get unique souvenirs

Green Lightning bolt ICON: Notable Activity

Black Camera ICON: Photography locations

Purple ICe Cream Icon: sweet tooth spots

itenarary overview

Fly into Christchurch, rent a car for your epic road trip! We used JUCY car rental because it was insanely cheap.

Christchurch: 1 Night

Hotel: Airbnb

(Our specific Airbnb is no longer available)

Franz Josef Glacier: 2 Nights

Hotel: Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef

Wanaka: 1 Night

Hotel: Airbnb

This was by far our favorite place we stayed our entire trip!! We constantly are thinking back to this cute little cabin. We wish we could just go and spend a weekend here. They also have a sheep named Lily and two alpaca’s that they will let you feed anytime you want. The hosts are so nice and very accommodating.

Mt. Cook National Park: 1 Night

Hotel: Hermitage Hotel Mt. Cook

Lake Tekapo: 1 Night

Hotel: Lake Tekapo Hotels and Holiday Park

This was quite the change from our accommodation in Mt. Cook the night before haha. We had a cabin that shared a bathroom with the rest of the campers. It wasn’t by any means the most comfortable places to stay but it was really cheap and just one night so we decided to rough it. They do have a few cabins with bathrooms if you book far enough in advance there might be one available. This Holiday Park was completely sold out the night we were there. It is a very popular stop for travelers to stay at.

Milton: 1 night

Hotel: Airbnb

We only stayed here for this specific Airbnb. We would suggest Dunedin as a good option if you are wanting to stay in town.

Queenstown: 7 nights

Hotel: 3 Nights Airbnb, 4 Nights Scenic Hotel Queenstown.

We had a 4 day multi-day hike planned but Connor got a bad chest infection so we had to cancel it. That gave us a lot of time here but it was perfect for all the activities we did.

Fly home from Queenstown.

TOTAL: 14 Nights

FOOD

Christchurch

Mumbaiwala - Upscale Indian food. The inside is beautifully decorated and the food was amazing. 

Hello Sunday Cafe - Cutest Breakfast/Brunch cafe located in an 18th century post office. Serves breakfast daily. 

Bacon Brothers - One of the best burgers and fries we had on our trip. If you aren't a fan of burgers it’s located in a really hip building filled with multiple street food choices with a friendly community seating area. To add to the quirkiness of the environment, Bacon Brothers will ask you a random question depending on what you order so be prepared if the cashier asks you, "What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life?”

Franz Josef

Okay, I'm going to preface this by saying Franz Josef is a VERY small town so there isn't a TON of food options. Nonetheless, we had great meals here!

King Tiger Eastern Eating House - This place has Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai...normally we’d be suspicious of a restaurant that has such a wide variety of cuisines, but both our meals here were delicious! 

The Landing - Breakfast cafe. We loved this place and had breakfast here every morning during our stay because of our obsession with their Full English Breakfast plate. Also, they have AMERICAN COFFEE with free REFILLS…I know super exciting!!

Wanaka

The Cow - Pizza and Italian restaurant. Step back in time and get cosy beside their huge open fireplace. This was our favorite restaurant on our trip! Menu Suggestion: Her Majesty's Pleasure Pizza

Relishes Cafe - Yummy breakfast. 

Mt. Cook National Park

This town is really remote and your food choices are pretty scarce. We were staying at The Hermitage Hotel and rolled into town during a snow storm so we ate in the Panorama Room for dinner and then had the hotel’s breakfast buffet the next morning. 

Honestly, these meals were more of a splurge than we would normally eat. If there were more than 2 of us we probably would have ventured elsewhere just to keep costs low. 

Lake Tekapo

Run 76 - Fast Breakfast/Brunch (Location might be closed)

Tin Plate Kitchen and Bar - Pizza, Ice Cream, Drinks. After having The Cow, this pizza was just okay but it was a good cheap dinner option! 

Dunedin

Speight's Ale House - Pub Food. This was the original Speight’s Ale house to open in New Zealand so the ambience was very rustic. GREAT BEER. We didn't have reservations so we got a small bar table, but it filled up quickly so reservations would have been MUCH better especially if there is more than two of you. Also, parking can be difficult so leave time to find a spot. 

Milton

Kelly's Kitchen - Breakfast/Brunch. This was a nice surprise in a teeny tiny town. 

Cardrona

Cardrona Hotel - Lunch/Dinner. If you are taking the Crown Range Road or traveling between Wanaka and Queenstown then definitely eat at the Cardrona Hotel. Built in 1863, this is one of New Zealand's oldest and most iconic hotels. 

Queenstown

Connor and I both had a bad cold so we couldn't do the Routeburn Track like we had planned so we ended up having a full week in Queenstown….so we basically ate through the entire city.

Bespoke Kitchen - Breakfast/Lunch. Super hip restaurant with amazing food and tons of Gluten Free, Vegan, and Vegetarian options. 

Ivy and Lola's - Breakfast. Great food with a rad retro 60's atmosphere and of course they had our Full English Breakfast plate. 

Joe's Garage - Breakfast. Good ole' diner style breakfast foods with large portions and the prices won't break the bank! It is a bit small inside and can be busy but the wait is totally worth it.

Halo Forbidden Bite - Breakfast. Good quaint place to get a bite for breakfast for those slower mornings.

Fergburger - Lunch/Dinner. One of the most popular eateries in NZ. Burger and fries are all they do. You won't have a hard time finding this place, just look for the big crowd of people. Although the burger was great, the atmosphere was loud, crowded and IF you get a seat there are people standing around waiting on you to finish so they can take your seat. If lines and crowds aren't your thing, just go to Devil Burger because it’s JUST AS GOOD and there was always a spot for us to sit and peacefully enjoy our burger. 

Devil Burger - Lunch/Dinner. Alternative to Fergburger...in our opinion better than Fergburger. Also, you HAVE to get the aioli for dipping.

The Taj Indian Kitchen - Dinner. This place was super good. We ate here twice because we loved it so much.

The Coyote Grill - Dinner. In case you are craving Mexican food like we were this might be the only Mexican restaurant in NZ. 

The Cow - Dinner. Yes, this place again..but this is their original restaurant. The concept is something out of a fairytale it seems. As you walk down the alleyway named Cow Lane, you will pass cooks on their smoke break, restaurant employees taking out trash and wonder if you are on the wrong street. That is until out of nowhere a little wooden cottage that looks 100 years old with a smoking chimney is seen nestled on the shoulder of the narrow alley. It’s a really cool experience finding this place and dining here as well.

Tanoshi - Lunch/Dinner. Authentic Japanese Restaurant. Menu Suggestion: Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)

Farelli's Trattoria - Dinner. Casual, rustic Italian restaurant


SOUVENIRS

All Blacks Rubgy Gear - Buy official All Blacks rugby gear at the store named Champions of the World. Locations in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown.

Svord Knives - The best store for finding this New Zealand carbon steel knife brand is at Hunting and Fishing New Zealand. These beautiful knives are handmade by a local Kiwi Bryan Baker. Many locations all over, but easier to find in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown.

HikersWool - HikersWool is made from 100% pure New Zealand lambs wool. You roll it into a ball and put it into your shoe on the blister prone areas. Its ability to absorb excess moisture and provide extra cushion helps keep those pesky blisters away. This product is easy to find a store called Bivouac Outdoor. Locations in Christchurch and Dunedin.

Mons Royale - Founded in Wanaka, this merino wool activewear brand became a favorite of ours. You can find a large selection of products at a store called Base located in Wanaka and in Queesntown.


MUST DO THINGS

Franz Josef Glacier 

Franz Josef Glacier Guides - We had booked the "Glacier Heli Hike,” but unfortunately our tour got rained out which is very normal for this type of tour. Since the location is in a rainforest, rainfall comes very rapidly and heavily so the guide companies are very understanding about refunding your missed tours. Also, when you get a full refund, it should show back up in your account in about two weeks so just be prepared for that. We were so bummed this got rained out for us, but we’d love to see your pictures if you guys get the chance to take the tour!!

Queenstown

The Helicopter Line - We did the "Heli, Cruise, Heli" to Milford Sound. This was a huge highlight of our trip, if not our favorite activity! We wanted to get to Milford Sound but driving from Queenstown is 3 hrs and 46 minutes one way and at this point we were so tired of driving. This was a perfect way to see The Remarkables mountain range, the Mt. Aspiring mountain range, go to Milford Sound, tour the sound on the water, and make it back before dinner! The ride to and from Milford is about an hour long and they do an alpine landing on the top of one of the mountain ranges. The cruise in Milford Sound was about an hour long and was absolutely beautiful. Quickly find a seat on the front of the boat for the best view! 

Fun Fact: The Helicopter Line was used to film all the aerial shots of Lord of the Rings as well as transporting the actors to and from the sets!!

Real Journeys TSS Earnslaw and Walter Peak Farm Tour - Take a ride on the oldest remaining commercial passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere. This would be a fun day for the entire family! We did the lunchtime cruise and farm tour. The TSS Earnslaw takes you to the end of the lake where you enjoy a huge buffet lunch on a private sheep farm. Afterward, you are invited to watch a sheep shearing and dog herding demonstration. When you are done walking the grounds or shopping for wool souvenirs, hop back onto the TSS Earnslaw for your voyage back to Queenstown. 

Aj Hackett Bungy - Gather up all of your courage and take the leap! We did the Nevis Bungy because YOLO. If falling horizontally rather than vertically is more of your thing then check out the Nevis Swing. You can also tandem swing with a friend. If you want to go all out you can do the Nevis Bungy and Swing package! Budget ahead of time to buy the media package because it's a once in a lifetime experience!

Naturally, we (and our parents) were most concerned with safety. We picked AJ Hackett because he was a pioneer of bungy jumping and really made it into what it is today. They have been doing business for 29 years with a 100% safety record. So wake up ready to rock that morning and know it’s going to be the TIME OF YOUR LIFE.

Skyline Luge Queenstown - This was hilarious and SO FUN! Take the Skyline Gondola up the mountain to find a walking path up to the luge area as well as a great panoramic view of Queenstown. The Luge cannot be controlled without both hands (it's literally not possible) so bring your GoPro helmet mount or chest mount. For the funniest pictures, put it on the back of your helmet so you can get your friend flying down the mountain behind you.

PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS

Hokitika Gorge - The river flowing into the gorge has breathtaking blue-green water. The swing bridge that crosses the river is incredibly photogenic as well. We arrived just before sunset and had the place completely to ourselves. Cross the bridge and turn left to follow a path along the river until you find a clearing down to the water. You will get an awesome view of the swing bridge as well as long stretch of blue-green river and mountain views. This is a very easy walk with a wide path and huge ferns. You are walking a bit downhill and then uphill on the way back but it is not a difficult walk.

Note: BRING INSECT REPELLENT. We cannot stress this enough. The Sand Flies were TERRIBLE. We couldn’t stand still or take a single photo without getting completely covered in them. Their bite is annoying and the bumps stayed our entire trip!

Hike Duration: 10-15 minutes one way. Easy Hike

Westland Tai Poutini National Park (Franz Josef Glacier Walk) - Since our Glacier Heli-Hike got cancelled we did this walk to see the glacier instead. There were waterfalls everywhere!! It rained the entire time we were walking so that probably added to the waterfalls but there was still a lot of heavily flowing ones on the way. The fog, rain, mist, waterfalls, and black and green rock walls surrounding us made for some of the most breathtaking scenery on our trip. Don’t forget to bring waterproof gear and insect repellent!

Hike Duration: It took us about 2 hours round trip. That is including time to take photos and admire the scenery. Moderate Hike

Lake Matheson Jetty Viewpoint - Take a short walk to “mirror lake” to see the mountains reflect off the water. The lake water does have to be pretty still for you to be able to see the reflection but the walk is very beautiful. Matheson Cafe is a great place to grab lunch and the gift shop has unique items.

Hike Duration: 90 mins (if you do the entire thing). We only walked back far enough to see the lake (about 15-30 mins one way)

That Wanaka Tree - One of the most photographed spots in Wanaka. This leaning tree sits in the water off the shore of the lake. Cute spot to sit with lunch or just relax by the lake.

Peter’s Lookout - This is the ideal postcard photo! There is a pull-off for Peter’s Lookout on Mount Cook Road. It’s very hard to miss because you will see tons of tourist vehicles parked there with people running around the field taking photos with Mt. Cook in the background. This is the perfect view of Mt. Cook and the lake!

Tasman Lake Overlook - This is a leisurely walk. The lake is a beautiful shade of milky blue that makes for great photos. I wish we would have brought lunch or a snack with us to sit by it and have a picnic. If you want to avoid crowds and find the panoramic photo location of us in front of the lake and mountain from our Instagram then park at the Tasman Lake Car Park take the path that goes right instead of left. Follow that until you get close to the water and you should see yellow lake tour boat stacked up at a dock.

Hike Duration: 25 minutes one way. Easy Hike

Hooker Valley Track - DO THIS HIKE. There are three swing bridges that are stretched over beautiful water and they are just super cool. The hike ends at Hooker lake, but we hiked to the second swing bridge and then turned back. This trail does get very busy so we would recommend doing it earlier rather than later.

Hike Duration: 6.8 mile hike. 3 hours round trip. Moderate Hike

Yellow Flower Field Picture - This was a farmer’s flower field that we randomly came across. We marked the approximate area on the map and keep in mind this could also have been perfect timing for the flowers to be growing, but it looked like the perfect computer desktop background photo. We were there in November.

Moeraki Boulders Beach - This beach has unique rocks that are shaped like perfect spheres. This is a great stopping point to stretch your legs, get lunch, and see the ocean on the way to Dunedin.

Sandfly Bay - People say that Yellow-eyed Penguins are sometimes seen swimming up onto the shore here! It also has great shoreline panoramic views.

Nugget Point Lighthouse - Beautiful but narrow drive along the coast to this old lighthouse. The water was picture perfect and the coastline views were amazing.

Crown Ridge Lookout - Great place to get a family photo or get a great panoramic photo of Cecil Peak. It’s kind of tricky to spot this location from the map, but there should be a little pull-off spot on the road where you can park. Hop the fence and follow the foot path out to a small point that makes it seem as if you are standing on a cliff edge.

Historic Arrowtown Chinese Settlement - Cute little forested park area with old historic Chinese settlement cottages and a pretty river where some Lord of The Rings scenes were filmed.

Ben Lomond Saddle View - This was probably one of the most strenuous hikes that we did. You have to take the Skyline Gondola up and you start walking uphill from there. Online it calls it a “quick pop” up the mountain. It was more like a a slow crawl up a stairclimber. We just hiked up high enough to see a panoramic view of Queenstown (About 30-45 mins). If you want to reach the spot from our Instagram then hike up until the steep switchbacks stop and there is a little flat spot on the top of the ridge line. There should be a few paths to choose from, but turn right and follow the path that goes very steeply uphill in the direction of Queenstown and the lake. You should be walking toward the lake not away from it, but still gaining in elevation.

Hike Duration: 3-4 hours around trip ( If you do the entire hike) Moderate-Hard hike

Glenorchy Boathouse - We headed out to Glenorchy after dinner to catch the sunset around the lake. This is a very popular drive for photographers. Glenorchy is a VERY small town, but had some good dining options and a super chill atmosphere. The Restored Red Fisherman Barn and the dock nearby are popular photo spots.

Milford Sound - Waterfalls, birds, seals, and penguins…all of Milford Sound is a photographers dream. The Cruise is by far the best way to see all Milford Sound has to offer.