New Zealand’s South Island: Our two week road trip itinerary

New Zealand’s South Island is full of some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. As we planned our road trip, we struggled with the question: How are we going to fit it all into two weeks?  It’s really impossible to do it all, as the South Island of New Zealand has so many amazing places, you would need months or years to really explore it fully. But you still can try to see as much as possible if, like us, two weeks is all you have.

During our trip we experienced some of New Zealand’s worst weather in years: rainstorms, hail, and flooding that sometimes left us stranded when the roads washed out. Despite of all that, we had one of the best two weeks in our life. The nature and wildlife of the South Island of NZ are so spectacular and on such an epic scale that it’s difficult to describe them in a way that seems adequate. Each place we’ve visited deserves its own article, but I’m not patient enough to wait that long. So here is a rough outline of our itinerary and the highlights of what we saw. I hope this gives you an idea of what there is to see and do, and can help you plan your own road trip around the South Island of New Zealand.

Our 2 weeks South Island itinerary

Our 2 weeks South Island route

With such a big island to explore, we wanted to make the most of our limited time and budget. The answer for us was to rent a campervan, from Jucy.  This lets you stay mobile so there’s no need to plan ahead or book accommodation: you can just stop and sleep almost anywhere! It really let us enjoy every minute of the day, as we never spent time checking in or out of motels or searching for a place to stay. We also were never forced to end our day early as sometimes happens if you’ve got a hotel prearranged and you get there ahead of schedule – if we had time and energy left, we could just keep on going.

We picked up our rental in Christchurch and got settled in. These campervan’s aren’t big, but have pretty much all you need: a bed, gas stove, cooler/fridge, and sink. It was remarkably cheap, too: 28.80 NZD/day, since it was the off season.

Our campervan!

Our campervan!

From there we drove southwest to the lakes area. Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Lake Wanaka, and Lake Hawea. These lakes promised great views to the Southern Alps on clear days, but unfortunately it was constantly cloudy when we were there. We counted ourselves lucky if it was just drizzling instead of pouring rain. My favourite moments here are salmon related. Salmon? Yes, the fish. Since the weather was really bad for sightseeing, we stopped in Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon in Lake Pukaki, the highest salmon farm in the world, they claim. The salmon live inside a pen in a hydroelectric canal where a strong current flows, making them really active and fit. And the result? The best fresh salmon sashimi we’ve ever had in our life! After trying the sashimi we had to buy some fillets for a lake side picnic the next day. With the enchanting background of lake and snow capped mountains, we pan fried the salmon only with salt and pepper, nothing else. The best tasting salmon we’ve ever had!

Lake side picnic at Lake Wanaka. Right: cooking the salmon.

Lake side picnic at Lake Wanaka. Right: cooking the salmon.

Living in a campervan we had to come up with a place to shower, and Lake Tekapo’s hot spring offered a great solution: beautiful hot pools overlooking the lake and hot showers!

Since the weather was not predicted to be better for the days coming, we gave up on our hope to see a clear view of the alps, and headed back to the east coast. The driving to the east was one of the gloomy one. It was winter, and the sun set quite early. It got dark fast. The mountain road was winding a lot, rain made the road slippery, and visibility was very low due to the very heavy fog. After hours of driving, we reached Palmerston in the east coast. Raining in the east coast was even worse than in the lakes area, many heavy floods covering the land and some roads. In fact, the roads going out from Palmerston to the north and south were closed. Only from where we were from was opened. We slept in a parking lot by the beach that night. It was very stormy, with strong winds rocking our campervan and whipping the trees around us into a frenzy. The whole night I tossed and turned worrying that the campervan would get swept to the ocean. Ryan, on the other hand, didn’t worry at all: he fell asleep instantly and slept peacefully through the night!

Left: Watch for the penguins! Right: Mouraki Boulders

Left: Watch for the penguins! Right: Mouraki Boulders

The east coast was still fun even with the stormy weather, though we missed some of the natural beauty. We got to see the famous Moeraki Boulders – naturally forming spherical rocks as tall as me. In Oamaru, we saw a colony of blue penguins (with height less than a foot, these are the smallest penguins in the world), a few of very rare yellow eyed penguins, and some seals. In Dunedin, we saw a gorgeous train station and drove along the misty peninsula. Even though we didn’t see any albatross that live in the area, we saw the stunning view from the cliff in the end of the peninsula.

Not hoping to get nicer weather there, we continued driving south to the Southland. If you ever have the chance to drive around the South Island, make sure to go here. At Curio Bay in the Caitlins we saw a petrified forest 180 million years old. Purakaunui Falls, is reputed to be a delicate and beautiful waterfall…but because of the heavy rainfall, it looked like a frightening torrent of muddy water!

Southland. Left: sheeps everywhere! Quite valid anywhere in New Zealand's country side. Right: Puranakui Fall after heavy rain falls.

Southland. Left: sheep everywhere! A typical scene anywhere in New Zealand's countryside. Right: Puranakui Falls after heavy rain

Our next stop was Milford Sound. For those you that haven’t heard of it, Milford Sound was voted as #1 in the 101 things to do in NZ by AA group, and we totally agreed with that result. The drive toward the Milford Sound is the most beautiful drive we’ve ever taken and the sound (actually a misnamed fjord) itself is the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen! Just imagine cruising along the fjord where gorgeous mountains plunge straight down to the water, waterfalls pour down everywhere, and fur seals playing all around. We had perfect weather that day, not a cloud in the sky. Perfect reflections of the mountains in the water. The experience of being there can’t be replaced with words, photos, or videos. But with the next photo, here’s my attempt…

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

After Milford Sound we headed back to the lakes area to Queenstown. It’s a popular town, quite charming but also very busy and touristy, which overlooks the lake. Near Queenstown we visited Arrowtown, to get a glimpse of a gold rush town in the past, with many historical buildings preserved well and still being used at the present. The scenic route between Queenstown and Lake Wanaka is a must, if you want to experience driving “on” the snow capped mountain. Yes, right up the mountain and above the snow line. It was pretty well plowed and gritted so driving here wasn’t a worry. But perhaps our favourite moment was going to Glenorchy, a little town near Queenstown. The drive there was incredible with stunning views from the scenic route along the lake and river. We had a nice picnic with a breathtaking view in front of us.

Lunch picnic at Glenorchy

Lunch picnic at Glenorchy

West coast was next. The Haas pass took us through the mountains to the west coast. We took this drive at night and had to contend with possums running all over the road. It was quite a challenge to avoid hitting them!  First stop on the west coast was the Fox Glacier. It was our glacier day and we had perfect weather for it, with almost no clouds in view! We flew above the Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps on a helicopter ride, circling around the alps’ highest and most iconic peak, Mt. Cook, and even made a stop high up on the snowy alps. We walked around Lake Matheson to view the perfect reflection of Mt. Cook on the lake water. Then we did the hike through an empty lake bed, approaching the face of the Franz Josef Glacier up close.

Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps

Fox Glacier and the Southern Alps

Another must drive scenic road is in the west coast between Greymouth and Westport. In one side, you have the majestic mountains, and on the other side, you have the serene ocean. Along the water, you will see many strange rock formations that add the mystery of this drive. Perhaps the strangest and most iconic rock formation is the Punakaiki Rock, where the rock formations look like piles up of gigantic pancakes.

Punakaiki pancake rocks at the gorgeous west coast.

Punakaiki pancake rocks at the gorgeous west coast.

We drove all the way north to Nelson, but unfortunately ran out of time to visit the Abel Tasman National Park. However we still had the time to enjoy the famous green mussels in its capital in the world: Havelock. Truly tasty! The best mussels we’ve ever had! We saw a glimpse of Queen Charlotte Sound, and continued driving to the south along the east coast.

Kaikoura was our next stop. There we had our best experience ever observing the sea mammals in their natural habitat! We took the whale watching cruise and along the tour we saw: 4 sperm whales, several dusky dolphins, many fur seals playing on the rocks and water, and many rare ocean birds including the albatross.

Kaikoura whale watching trip. Left: Sperm whale. Right: A seal on a rock.

Kaikoura whale watching trip. Left: Sperm whale. Right: A seal on a rock.

It was almost time to return our trusty campervan and say goodbye to the South Island. As we headed back to to Christchurch, we took a detour to Hanmer Springs, because the car rental company gave us a 2-for-1 coupon to the famous hot springs there.

Driving in the South Island of NZ is a truly breathtaking experience. Mountains and valleys, rivers and the gorges, the alps and the lakes, beaches and cliffs, green fields of sheep everywhere, the native forests and wild life. Two weeks is way too short to experience the South Island of New Zealand, but we are happy that we did so much in this short time. One of our favourite places on earth. We are looking forward to returning there again as with our brief visit we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Many thanks to BackpackingMatt, MobileLawyer, CrisCampos, and TravelDudes that gave us so much insight about the South Island.

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60 Responses to “New Zealand’s South Island: Our two week road trip itinerary”

  1. ayngelina
    8 July 2010 at 9:57 am #

    I went to New Zealand a few years ago and did it by backpacker bus but a campervan looks amazing.
    .-= ayngelina´s last blog ..The difference ten years makes =-.

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:21 am #

      Hi Ayngelina! Was it the Kiwi Experience bus? We saw those buses several times during our trip!

  2. Mike Hedge
    8 July 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    sososo fun! I did NZ by RV a couple years back. fun!

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:30 am #

      Hi Mike! Totally fun! NZ is too amazing, will be very difficult not to have fun there! By RV, eh. I wonder is it difficult to maneuver some of those NZ winding mountain road with a big RV?

  3. Cris Campos
    8 July 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    Aaaahhh the South Island!
    I’ve done this same route three times so far and I’m never tired of being amazed with the landscapes.
    It feels like “have I died and come to heaven?” hehehe

    Fiordland (including Milford Sound) was one of the few places in the world that actually made me cry.

    Next time you guys come to NZ (there will be a next time, right? ;) ) make sure to include the Golden Bay (top northwest) in your S. Island travels. But it has to be during summer then. No more nasty weather! :D
    .-= Cris Campos´s last blog ..Braaasiiil- Ronaldo- =-.

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:35 am #

      It is heavenly, isn’t it! My eyes were teary too, several times, when I was there. So out of this world… Especially the Milford Sound. Too bad we didn’t have time to visit other fiords, we really want to see the Doubtful Sound too.

      I will remember the Golden Bay for the next time. Soooo hoping to have a next time! And hope it’s in the summer :)

  4. Sabina
    8 July 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Wow – this is quite the spectacular scenery. That does seem like quite a lot to accomplish in two weeks! I think we have NZ weather right now in OZ – pure rain.

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Sabina, spectacular indeed! Glad to know you are in Oz already, we just arrived in Sydney yesterday :) And it’s nice that the weather looks calm down (and warming) now.

  5. Earl
    9 July 2010 at 12:41 am #

    That’s quite an extensive route you took! And are you sure a stove, sink, fridge and bed fit into that tiny vehicle????
    .-= Earl´s last blog ..Thank You Scented Candles- =-.

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:42 am #

      Hahaha Earl, yep, they are all there!!! But well… Ryan, being a tall person, had his feet above the sink and the fridge when sleeping! The bed was not very long. I’m short enough though, to fit in the bed :)

  6. Dave and Deb
    11 July 2010 at 8:56 am #

    Wow! Excellent trip. Great information on things to do on the South Island. Love the shot of the sperm whale. When we finally make it to New Zealand, we can add you to the great list of experts that you listed to help us out with our planes:)

    • Dina
      11 July 2010 at 9:45 am #

      Hi Dave and Deb, watching the sperm whale was a terrific experience! We were afraid no whale in sight, but instead we had 4 of them!
      We will be happy if you would mention us :D. And of course, please feel free to ask anything at all about NZ. We’ve been in the North Island too. Any plan to be there anytime soon?

  7. Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
    11 July 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Great pic on Milford Sound. I was there about 6 months ago in the summer, and although the weather was much more reasonable, it was much harder to photograph. Also be sure to hit Doubtful Sound on your 2nd trip, I enjoyed it more than Milford.

    I spent 7 weeks on the South Island, you must have been flying to do all that in 2!
    .-= Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last blog ..Photo of the Day – Side Streets of Hoi An =-.

    • Dina
      13 July 2010 at 9:51 am #

      Love Milford Sound so much! Thanks for the compliment, it’s Ryan in the picture. Now that we already saw Milford Sound, the Doubtful Sound is the highest in the places to visit in NZ list! Too bad we didn’t have the time to do both, bad weather slowed us down.

      Do you mean it was harder to photograph because of the crowd of people in high season? That’s the nice thing about going off season, the whole view is just for ourselves.

      Lucky you to have 7 weeks. We indeed were zooming here and there with the campervan. I hope in the future we can go back there and do it slower.

      • Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
        13 July 2010 at 10:29 am #

        Crowds were a problem, yes. I was there just after xmas as well so that’s when it really gets nuts, Milford especially. I was able to get on a small-ish boat (by Milford standards) near the end of the day so it was about as good as it could get.

        From a photography standpoint, summer = haze. I watched a film about the fiordlands in Te Anau with dramatic shots from a helicopter. They were almost all shot in the winter.

        Doubtful Sound was great for a couple of reasons.

        1) It’s tough to get to, and expensive so there are very few people.
        2) I was on a small 12 person boat
        3) Weather was varied, so there were ample waterfalls, blue skies, dark clouds, and rain to round out the entire time.

        You can see my photos from Fiordlands here. Hope it helps you get back there soon :)
        .-= Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last blog ..Photo of the Day – Side Streets of Hoi An =-.

        • Dina
          18 July 2010 at 3:05 pm #

          Hehe, there were only a few people when we were there. We just jumped in the first boat, didn’t need reservation, and there’s a lot of space in the boat.

          Haze, eh, I didn’t foresee that. I guess then we were lucky to experience this on a clear, quiet and peaceful winter day. Your photos are incredible though, even with the haze!

          You make me even want more to go back there, to do the Doubtful Sound. Your photographs are so beautiful, even just by seeing the pictures, I can feel again what I felt in Milford Sound

  8. Jennifer Barry
    11 July 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Cute campervan! I can’t believe you fit all that stuff in there. How cold was it on your trip? After living in Texas for several years I’m a wimp when it comes to freezing temperatures.

    Even though you wanted more it seems like you saw a lot. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate! Those flash floods can be dangerous.

    • Dina
      13 July 2010 at 10:03 am #

      Hehe, the campervan was quite compact. The bed length was actually shorter than Ryan’s height, so his legs were sitting on the fridge and sink when we slept.

      It was about 5-10 degree Celsius. I guess after living in Canada for several years, where the winter was about 0 to -10 normally, this is not that bad. But the wind here was often making it worse!

      Yeah, the flood could be more dangerous than it seems. We heard a couple with a car tried to drive through a road that was closed due to flooding. Not sure about the details, but they got stuck and ended up getting hypothermia and needing to be rescued.

  9. Suzy
    11 July 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    You guys certainly covered a lot of terrain! I am dying to go to New Zealand. It looks so rich in natural attractions, especially Milford Sound. I can only go off of your picture but it looks like one of those “most beautiful places”.
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..The Taj Mahal Wishes You Were Here =-.

    • Dina
      13 July 2010 at 10:08 am #

      New Zealand ends up being my favourite country so far, for its natural beauty! Milford Sound is magical, the whole road goes to it and the cruise tour. Ryan and I agree that it’s the most beautiful place we’ve seen so far!

  10. Amanda
    12 July 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    *Sigh.* I love New Zealand. I’m sorry to hear you had such unfavorable weather. But at least you had nice days for Milford and the glaciers! Visiting Milford on a beautiful day like that is rare (although I got lucky enough, too!).

    You guys sure packed a ton into just two weeks! But you’re right – you could probably spend months in the South Island and still not be able to see everything. There’s gorgeous scenery and friendly people literally around every corner.

    All your photos bring back so many memories of my own time in New Zealand. I’m dying to go back!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..My favorite funny finds from my cruise vacation =-.

    • Dina
      13 July 2010 at 10:18 am #

      I love NZ too! We were lucky indeed with the weather when we were in Milford and Glaciers, it erased our disappointment about the weather early on.

      Seems like you had a great time in NZ too :) When and how long was it?
      I wish to go back there as well, doing what we haven’t done, doing longer walking routes, and if the weather is bad time to time, we will be able to wait until it clears up!

  11. Dave
    13 July 2010 at 11:14 am #

    I thought it was tough fitting North Island into 10 days. I think there’s a lot more to see in South Island, though. Nice work! I plan to go there in summer sometime.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Learning the Streets of Tokyo =-.

    • Dina
      18 July 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      Hi Dave, North Island in 10 days is quite an accomplishment! We did North Island for a short time too. Definitely I want to come back to both Islands some day, we could spend months there! Are you going there this summer? I hope you have more time than I did, as well as better weather!

  12. Rebecca
    13 July 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    I know how it is to do a whistle stop tour! When my family came to visit me, we did CHC to AKL (via Qtown/West Coast) in 12 days! And I did alll the driving as everyone refused to drive on the other side (so easy!). Since we did it so fast, I went back the following year and did some missing pieces in about 18 days. I’ve been lucky enough to do both my trips during the summer months, but the weather in Mt. Cook is still hit or miss!

    And I def. want to do the camper van thing!!
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Chunnel-Eurostar =-.

    • Dina
      18 July 2010 at 2:56 pm #

      Hi Rebecca, CHC to AKL (with detour) is quite intense! Ryan was like you, had to drive the whole way, since I can’t drive (yet). Lucky you can go back there. I need to go back there as well, want to visit the places we missed, and hopefully in more relaxed timing so we can actually do the longer walks!
      Was Mt Cook a hit or a miss for you?
      (and yeah, try campervan, you will love it :D )

  13. Rebecca
    19 July 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    re: Mt. Cook: The day I arrived, the weather was fab and I had made a reservation to go kayaking on a glacier lake the following day. But the weather the following day was total crap, so the trip was canceled! And this was New Years (summer)! I had to leave the next day so just another reason to go back:-).
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Hawaii Activities =-.

    • Dina
      23 July 2010 at 11:30 am #

      That’s a bummer! So hopefully you will go back there in the future! But at least you had a great look of it :)

  14. Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
    20 July 2010 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks for the kind words and the stumble Dina!
    .-= Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last blog ..Photo of the Day – Reminders of Life &amp Death =-.

    • Dina
      23 July 2010 at 11:31 am #

      You’re welcome, it’s a nice post with terrific pictures :)

  15. Camila
    29 July 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Beautiful pictures! Looking at them brought back beautiful memories of my own trip to S. Island… although it was heavily raining when I went to Milford Sound :( …must visit again!

    • Dina
      15 August 2010 at 8:15 am #

      Thank you! Somebody told me though, going to Milford in rainy time meaning the waterfalls will be more impressive! Weather was great when we were there, but I bet you saw more waterfalls then we did! :)

  16. Debbie
    14 August 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    We’r (husband myself and 18 year old daughter)about to set of on a 11 day campervanning trip around the south island in september/october, we are hiring a Maui so it will be equiped with toilet and shower facilities, I was wondering is freedom camping still OK over there and is it safe? and does anyone know what the weather would be like at the end of sept begining of oct?? just not sure what to pack??? So many questions, Oh and if I were to take my laptop computer what would be the best way to get internet access while we are travelling??
    many thanks

    • Ryan
      15 August 2010 at 7:04 am #

      Hi Debbie,

      We found freedom camping to be easy and safe pretty well everywhere in New Zealand. There are lots of rest stops, natural park sites, and parking lots where you’ll have no problems camping, as long as you make sure there aren’t any “NO CAMPING” signs around. Usually you’ll only see this in larger cities.

      In most places you’ll find an i-SITE information center. Usually they can point you towards a place where you can get internet access. But we found wifi hotspots few and far between. This was a real challenge because I had to get online frequently for work and there just aren’t that many hotspots in some parts of the South Island.

      It’ll probably be cool and rainy late Sept, so make sure you have a good rain jacket. Our camper wasn’t heated or anything so we really relied on having longjohns and thick wool socks. Wool products are a good value in New Zealand, so that could be a good way to stay warm and also make a great souvenir.

    • Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker
      18 August 2010 at 1:52 pm #

      Your best bet for internet will be the libraries, especially in the smaller towns.
      Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker´s last post…Mr Eds African Cousin

      • Dina
        24 August 2010 at 10:49 am #

        Ah! We haven’t tried that! I’ll remember that for our next journeys there, thanks!

  17. Nancie (Ladyexpat)
    21 August 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Wonderful trip Dina, and great photos. I was in NZ for a week many years ago and spent it on the North Island. I loved every moment. I have always said that I want to go back.
    Nancie (Ladyexpat)´s last post…Saying &8220I Do&8221 in Tradtional Wedding Garb

    • Dina
      24 August 2010 at 10:56 am #

      I love North Island too, soooo gorgeous! You have to come back here one day and do the South Island :)

  18. Alison
    8 July 2011 at 6:28 am #

    Wow, this trip is exactly what I’m looking to do in 3 weeks time and I’m so glad you published this itinerary. Though, I was wanting some advice: I am a 23 year old female doing it alone, would it be a bad idea to do as you did and rent a camper van and drive all by my lonesome? Also: what month did you do this in?

    • Ryan
      11 September 2011 at 11:29 pm #

      Hey Alison,

      Sorry for the slow reply. I would definitely do the drive, even solo. But a lot of it will depend on how comfortable you are by yourself, and how easily you find new friends. Of course, you could probably find some traveling companions at hostels along the way.

      We did it in winter, and definitely benefited from having someone warm to cuddle up to during the cold nights.

  19. Chitra Balachandran
    10 September 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    How difficult was it to drive the camper van? I have not driven a camper van before….I am going to the South Island in the last 2 weeks in November with my parents, and am wondering if I should rent a camper van too

    • Ryan
      11 September 2011 at 11:34 pm #

      Hi Chitra,

      It was very easy. The van we rented was just a re-purposed minivan with a bed and fridge in the back instead of seats. No more difficult to drive than any other car, really.

      If you’re going with parents you might want a bit more space and a larger vehicle. But even so I don’t think you’d have a problem. There’s very little traffic and lots of parking everywhere you’ll be.

      The only thing to know is that some of the vehicles on offer will have a manual transmission. So if you’re not comfortable driving manual, like me, make sure you shop around and get one with automatic.

      Have fun!

  20. Tom Carlier
    27 October 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Hi Folks
    I am travelling round the world with my wife and daughter who is 11 years old. We have been to India, Nepal and Indonesia. At the moment we are in Cairns following a road trip up the East coast. We have a month in Sydney and Melbourne and then head to NZ.
    Your site has been very informative and as a young couple you have obviously had a great time. We would like a bit of advice if you have the time? We arrive in Christchurch and will stay there for a couple of nights to see the city. We then pick up a car and have a few days to travel to Queenstown where we have a place booked for 10 days. Following that we travel north to Blenhem for Christmas where we have a river cabin booked for the Christmas period.
    Apart from your great recommendations anywhere else we should visit? The time we are in Queenstown can we get a trip to Doubtful and Milford Sound?

    Many thanks

  21. Esteban
    31 October 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Hello Dina & Ryan!

    Your article is great and it gives us a very good overview of what to do when being in South Island, NZ. My girlfriend, a friend and I are travelling to NZ next month and, since we are 3 people, I was wondering about the camper. I have noticed in the Explore More website ( that campers are for 2 adults only. Is that true? Do we really need to rent a 2nd van just for our friend?

    Thanks for your reply! Hugs!

    • Ryan
      31 October 2011 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi Esteban,

      I checked out the campervans offered by Explore More, and they are all Toyota Hiaces with only 2 seat belts. If you try to drive around with 3 people you could get a ticket as not everyone will be belted in.

      I’d suggest going with a van that sleeps more people. The two companies we like, Jucy and Spaceship, both have vans that sleep 4 – two inside, and two in a pop-up pod on the roof. They’ve also got seatbelts for 4 people. I like their vans because they’re small, just refitted minivans really, so they’re easy to drive and park. And they’re quite cheap too.

      Another one to try would be Wicked. They’ve got bigger vans that sleep 3 inside which could be a good option for you. They’ve got space for a table inside so you can sit there if you want to. But honestly, there are so many beautiful parks and places to see that you shouldn’t be spending your time sitting in the van.

      I know you’ll have a great trip. Let us know how it goes!


  22. Keith
    2 November 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Hi Dina and Ryan,

    Thank you so much for sharing your travels as you explore the world so we can benefit from your experience. I am so envious that you are traveling every day. It is amazing!

    Well, I get a couple of weeks off a year working in a regular job and my next trip is New Zealand.

    I am thinking of renting a Campervan from Jucy after reading your blog. Can you give some advice as to whether it is easy to find places to shower? Are there public baths where you pay for single use, etc?

    Thank you so much,

    • natasha
      22 November 2011 at 6:07 pm #

      hi i traveled the south island in a jucy camper last year, we roughed it in a few dodgy campsites for about 7 dollars a night each, this gives u a place to legally park (u will find many places campers are not allowed to park over night.. and u will get asked to move or fined) but after a few nights of these rough campgrounds with nothing but a hole in the ground for a toilet we were more than happy to pay around 20 a night each to park in the top10 caravan parks, these have kitchens and showers and everything u could need to feel refreshed but u just sleep in your camper still, its a good compromise for travellers that dont want to look and feel like travellers inbetween! we couldnt find any public places to shower otherwise just public toilets which are quite awkward to have a wash in the sink with people looking at you very strangely…

  23. Sam
    1 January 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Hi Dina & Ryan,

    May i ask what was budgeted for your 2 weeks on the road covering south island of NZ for 2 pax?

    • Ryan
      12 February 2012 at 12:19 am #

      Hi Sam,

      Our budget was about 80 NZD / day for both of us. Since it was the off season our campervan was only 28.80 NZD / day. Fuel was around 20-30 a day. There aren’t a lot of expenses in terms of admissions or fees, since most of the activities are free, but we did spend a bit on doing a helicopter ride at Fox Glacier. And then for food we mostly cooked and tried to stick to produce we bought from farms or markets along the way which were good value.

      Your budget can easily go up or down depending on how many activities you want to do, and how much excellent New Zealand wine you want to drink, but it can be done quite inexpensively.

  24. Adam @ PergiDulu
    25 May 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Ok, this is a great article to get us in the mood for the south island and it’s great to know about your budget! We want to do a couple of things like the whale-watching but weren’t sure if it was going to break the budget or not.

    • Dina
      25 May 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      yeah, money was one of our limitation too from doing amazing activities in NZ. Going off season and doing campervan helped a lot. But still many amazing activities that cost over $100 each person. Are you guys going to do bungee etc?
      Don’t skip Milford cruise! Doubtful, we haven’t been, no time to do both at that time. undoubtly, will do doubtful one next time!
      (what, pun? no, there’s no pun!)

  25. Ronwyn Roper
    21 June 2012 at 2:42 am #

    Hi, my boyfriend and i are doing a similar trip to what you have done in December this year. We just have a few questions for you if you don’t mind answering. How much was the helicopter ride? and how much was the boat trip? Are the destinations clearly marked as well or do you have to look for them yourselves?

  26. Adam - Tropical Nomad
    12 March 2013 at 3:32 am #

    Hey Dina and Ryan!
    I am living in Queenstown at the minute, and must say I love the South Island of New Zealand. We went to Milford Sound last week, with Juicy cruises. They are a great company to use. However, I am looking to buy a Hiace camper to travel the South Island, as the old Toyota’s are the bomb!

    All the best

    Adam – Tropical Nomad´s last post…Working in Australia – My Summary

  27. Ross
    27 August 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Great post, your pictures are very good. It brings back a lot of memories for me. I did it in a spaceship (exact same as Juicy) but there were 4 of us, 2 of us slept on the roof so when it got windy there was some amount of noise like you describe. I loved it but there can be a bit of tension after 4 wks on the south island where all 4 of us have to do everything together, getting up, dinner, bed etc. We got good at swimming from all the swimming pools we visited for showers!
    Your right about Milford Sound, a super location.
    Ross´s last post…Tomatina Festival

  28. Lynnelle
    13 October 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Hi, we’ve just returned from our road trip around the south island and I found your image of your map on google images. I am trying to do a similar thing for our trip but can’t find where to do it. I’ve tried Google Maps but the lines between each point come out straight and don’t follow the road. Hoping you can help. Plus your photo’s are beautiful…such a beautiful place. xx
    Thanks Lynnelle

  29. meghan
    17 December 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Hi! Planning on doing NZ by camper van next summer.. what time of the year did you go? The only time we could go was the 1-2 week in june.. is that when the weather is horrible? Also how did you guys shower?? I am a complete clean freak and showers are a necessity!

    • Ryan
      7 January 2015 at 11:57 am #

      Hi Meghan.

      Our little campervan had no shower, of course – but luckily there are lots of public showers available. Campgrounds have them, but you’ll have to pay of course. You can find them free/cheap at many beaches and at public pools which exist in almost every little town you’ll pass through. And failing that we had a tub of baby wipes to freshen up a bit.

      June will be winter in New Zealand, so it’s a little chilly, but as long as you have someone to cozy up with you’ll be fine. If you enjoy winter sports it’s a good time to go. We were there in the winter and loved it – campervan rental is very cheap and you will have the sights all to yourself!


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