Campervan driving on road in South Island, New Zealand

Whether you’re heading to New Zealand for the trip of a lifetime or you’re a citizen looking to explore more of what this amazing country has to offer, the road trip from Christchurch to Franz Josef is one that any intrepid explorer should take.

Below, we’re going to take you through some of the most popular sightseeing locations you’ll find along the road from Christchurch to Franz Josef. There’s something for everyone to enjoy as well, from families enjoying a road trip vacation to solo travellers. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get exploring!

What is the Driving Distance from Christchurch to Franz Josef?

The distance from Christchurch to Franz Josef is 380km and, without stopping, takes around 5 hours to complete. However, with so much to stop and see along the road, we recommend allowing some more time for your trip.

Caravan parks and campsites are available throughout this road trip that offer a safe place to pull up in your campervan for the night and give you the opportunity to spend more time exploring.

What Are Some Places We Recommend Checking Out Along the Way?

Below, you’ll find a list of thirteen fantastic places to stop and visit as you head from Christchurch to Franz Josef.

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380km trip distance

day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

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Sightseeing #1: Porters Pass Viewpoint

Porters Pass Viewpoint

Around an hour into your Christchurch to Franz Josef road trip, you’ll find Porters Pass Viewpoint. This is one of the very best places to see mountain views in New Zealand, and it’s particularly beautiful just after sunrise as the mist rolls through the hills. While you won’t have been on the road for very long, this is definitely one of the places you should stop if you want to take some memorable photos of your road trip.

Sightseeing #2: Castle Hill Conservation Area

Castle Hill Conservation Area

Also known as Kura Tawhiti, Castle Hill Conversation Area is another fantastic place to stop after you’ve visited Porters Pass. Here, you’ll find some incredible rock formations that date back millions of years and feature markings that prove they were formed under the ocean. They have since been eroded by rain and wind to create the amazing shapes they are in today.

Sightseeing #3: Cave Stream

Cave Stream

One for the adventurous traveller, Cave Stream Scenic Reserve is a cave that runs for 594 meters and has a stream running through the middle. You are able to walk the entire distance of this cave, but it should really only be attempted by those who are experienced and confident with hiking trails, as you’ll need to scale rocks and wade through waist-deep water in places. For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to do this at the end of the driving day, too!

Sightseeing #4: Lake Pearson

Lake Pearson

For those looking for a relaxing, scenic place to stay overnight in their campervan, Lake Pearson is ideal. Here, you’re offered the opportunity to spot local wildlife, enjoy some scenic walking trails, and admire the surrounding mountainous scenery. This is also a fantastic place to enjoy stargazing, as the skies are typically clear and dark.

Sightseeing #5: Arthur's Pass National Park

Arthur's Pass National Park

Arthur’s Pass National Park is one of the very best places to stretch your legs as you make your way towards Franz Josef and is a particularly good destination if you’d like to spend an entire day hiking. The Avalanche Peak route is one of the most popular hiking trails at Arthur’s Pass National Park, and it runs for 6km through steep terrain and has a 1,100-metre elevation.

Sightseeing #6: Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Beach

After you’ve explored the walking trails at Arthur’s Pass National Park, you may want to spend time in a slightly more relaxing environment! Hokitika Beach is ideal for this and offers a sandy shore with an ocean view to chill out on. There are also several cafes and restaurants here, providing a great place to stop and refuel on your journey, as well as a place to unwind with a drink ahead of the next day’s drive.

Sightseeing #7: Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge

One place you absolutely must visit as you head along the West Coast is Hokitika Gorge. Here, you’ll find incredible, close-up views of the Hokitika River and its vivid blue colouring provided by the glacier melt. The river here is quite powerful, so while it isn’t a good place to stop for a quick dip, it remains a reminder of the force of nature and makes another idyllic photography location.

Sightseeing #8: West Coast Treetop Walk

West Coast Treetop Walk

Set 20 meters above the forest floor, the West Coast Treetop Walk offers both an exciting experience and a place to spot some of New Zealand’s South Island’s birdlife from a different vantage point. It takes around 40 minutes to walk the 450m walkway, making it a good place to stop along the road to grab some fresh air and get the feeling back in your legs.

Sightseeing #9: Lake Lanthe

Lake Lanthe

Those looking to combine a couple of sightseeing stops into the same day should definitely visitLake Lanthe after exploring the West Coast Treetop Walk, as it is only 30 minutes away. This is a really lovely place to stop for a picnic while enjoying views of the lake and the surrounding forest.

Sightseeing #10: Pakihi Walk Lookout

Pakihi Walk Lookout

The Pakihi Walk Lookout can be found at the end of the Pakihi Walk 1km walking trail and offers incredible views of the Southern Alps, surrounding forest, and even Mount Cook. This is a must-visit stop if you’re attempting this drive in one day but want to stretch your legs, as it only takes about 20 minutes out of your trip.

Sightseeing #11: Okarito Lagoon

Okarito Lagoon

Okarito is one of the most scenic places you can visit as you head towards Franz Josef, and within this small town, you’ll find Okarito Lagoon, which is one of the most beautiful bodies of water you’ll find along your trip. Not only does this make the perfect, romantic place to watch the sunset, but it’s ideal for paddle boarding or kayaking. Or, if you simply want to relax, it offers amazing views and a chance to spot wildlife.

Sightseeing #12: Lake Mapourika

Lake Mapourika

New Zealand’s South Island is home to some beautiful lakes, and Lake Mapourika is considered one of the most scenic. While it is located very close to Franz Josef, and you may be tempted to pass it by, we recommend taking some time to visit this idyllic place, especially if you’re interested in spotting the local wildlife. It’s also a fantastic place to enjoy kayaking or fishing, or if you want an even more memorable experience, you can book a scenic boat tour of the lake.

Sightseeing #13: Franz Josef

Franz Josef

As you reach your final destination of Franz Josef, you’ll find a small town with plenty to offer. For those who like to get out and about, there are loads of walking and cycling trails to explore, with some of the most popular located within the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve. The super adventurous can also hike the Franz Josef Glacier, or if you prefer your creature comforts, the town offers some great places to drink, dine, and relax.

Final Thoughts

Campervan parked next to lake in New Zealand

While the road from Christchurch to Franz Josef doesn’t take too long to drive if you’re not stopping, it would be a shame not to explore some of the magical areas along the way. For this reason, it remains a popular road trip for those looking for a bit of escapism and is certainly one that we recommend any keen explorer should take at some point.

The best way of discovering everything this road trip has to offer and allowing you the time to do so is by hiring a campervan in Christchurch. Talk to the team at Travellers Autobarn today to get a free online quote, and you’ll be a step closer to embarking on this memorable journey. Or, if you want some more inspiration on South Island road trips, click here.

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