Having driven around the whole of New Zealand’s South island I felt like a Top 5 road trips list was inevitable. As I am sure you know the scenery is absolutely incredible on the South island, so pretty much everywhere you look is a gorgeous sight! Therefore narrowing it down to only 5 road trips was difficult but I have given it a go. So here we are:
Top 5 road trips:
1. The road to Mount Cook
Truly an amazing drive! The road to Mount Cook takes you alongside (in my opinion) New Zealand’s most beautiful lake which is the most gorgeous turquoise colour – Lake Pukaki. Driving up to Mount Cook you constantly feel the desire to stop, jump out of your car, take loads of pictures and just take a breath to soak in the beauty around you. The scenery is just really breathtaking! Make sure to stop at Peter’s Lookout on the way up for an excellent vantage point over the lake with Mount Cook beautifully framing it. As you get closer and pass the lake the incredible Mount Cook dominates the skyline providing awesome 360 degree views. A drive not to be missed!
2. Queenstown to Glenorchy
The road from Queenstown up to Glenorchy was a real highlight of our whole trip for me. The weather was a little moody and mysterious but this added to our journey as we headed into Lord of the Rings Country. The road winds alongside Lake Wakatipu creating a stunning setting of the lake with snowcapped mountains as the backdrop. The scenery constantly changes along this drive as the road twists and turns and has plenty of ups and downs as well. There are a few lookout points to stop along the way which are an absolute must. Many say this is the most beautiful drive in the whole of New Zealand and based on our experience it is hard to argue with that!
3. Wanaka to Queenstown – the Crown Range road
There are two diferent routes to drive from Wanaka to Queenstown and I would highly recommend going via the Crown Range road – which takes you along the highest main road in New Zealand! This is a shorter route than going through Cromwell (although not quicker) but also much more scenic. From Wanaka make sure you take the Crown range road, where you will pass through the historic Cardrona. The road then steeply ascends up to the summit to a view of Frankton, some of Lake Wakatipu and as far as Queenstown itself. From here the road zigzags steeply downhill and from there you have a magnificent vantage point to look down to Arrowtown, and across to the Remarkables – and you then join up with Highway 6 on into Queenstown.
4. Queen Charlotte Drive – Marlborough Sounds
Queen Charlotte Drive is a real highlight of the Marlborough Sounds area. It is the access road for vehicles heading into/out of Picton. Its reputation certainly precedes it and it is an incredible winding road – taking you past lots of hidden bays (our favourite being the isolated Governor’s Bay) and through native forest. The views along the road are some of the best you will see on the road in New Zealand. There are many lookout points along the way – Cullen’s point being the best signposted, as well as one close to Picton with a small car park. The road really does twist and turn uphill and downhill, but you don’t meet many vehicles and have lots of time to take in the wonderful views.
5. The West Coast drive
The West Coast is another incredible drive. During most of our journey along it the weather was wet and wild but that just added to the atmospehere! It does remind me in parts of driving along Highway 1 in America – as you drive right along by the coast at various times. There are lots of places to stop, little hidden bays and places to take in the scenery. Leaving inland just past Westport you head down the coast passing Punakaiki (at which we stopped overnight and took in the stunning Pancake Rocks and Blowholes). Keep heading south for more stunning views along the way, take in the wildlife and stop at windswept beaches. We headed for Fox Glacier, passing through Franz Josef, and eventually on to Wanaka through Haast pass (with many great walks including the Blue Pools walk – a personal favourite of ours).
If you have really enjoyed any stunning road trips on South Island I would love to hear from you and thanks for reading!