New Zealand is a top destination for backpackers and quite rightly so. You’ve got everything from the breathtaking scenery of places like Lake Tekapo to crazy adrenaline pumping activities like bungee jumping and white water rafting! Undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore this beautiful country is by hiring a campervan because the country is set up perfectly for campervan travel and nothing beats travelling at your own pace. There is so much awesome stuff to see and do here and we thought we’d start off with some top destinations in the South Island. Christchurch is a great starting point as most international airlines fly there and its location is the perfect place to set you off on your road trip

Quick stats

500km trip distance

5 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map


First Stop

Christchurch has some really cool cafes, bars and restaurants as well some awesome activities do like the Christchurch Gondola. Hop in a gondola (or you might call it a cable car!) and experience some seriously breathtaking views. You’ll see the Christchurch cityscape, over the Canterbury Plains way out to the mighty Southern Alps and Banks Peninsula. For only $28 you get to witness these incredible 360 views that take you all the way to the top of Mount Cavendish. For you adventurous souls you can hire a mountain bike and explore the terrain on two wheels or go for a hike on one of the trails. Christchurch doesn’t have a rep for being the ‘Garden City’ for nothing. The Botanic Gardens are definitely worth a visit and easy to access as it’s right in the heart of the city.

Lake Tekapo

Stop 2
Lake Tekapo NZ

Lake Tekapo features in Rough Guides Top 20 Lakes in the World… so it’s kind of a big deal. It’s gorgeous teal blue colour is the result of lots of tiny bits of rock washing down off the glaciers and those snow capped mountains in the background are simply breathtaking. There are some lovely hikes around the lake which you should totally follow with a dip in the thermal pools nearby. Lupin flowers surround the lake and look beautiful when they’re in full bloom towards the end of November.

Franz Josef Glacier

Stop 3

Franz Josef Glacier is located on the West Coast of the island and is surrounded by Te Wahipounamu (a world heritage site) and has the Waiho River running through it. It’s one of the fastest moving glaciers, travelling to the Tasman sea about one meter each day. Highly recommend going on a guided hike with one of the Glacier Guides, there’s the option for half day and full day hikes to suit your budget/ lust for hiking. A guided hike will see supplied with all the essential hiking gear like ice crampons and boots. Do keep in mind that you need to get dropped off at the glacier by a helicopter which costs around $325… yes a little bit pricey but if you’ve got the cash it’s totally worth it for this once in a life time experience.


Stop 4
Wanaka tree NZ

Wanaka is a beautiful, spotless town set at the southern end of Wanaka Lake, blissfully nestled among the mountains. Wherever you are in Wanaka you can pretty much always see the mountains and the lake which is why it’s got it’s rep for being the most photogenic town in New Zealand. It’s a beautiful, super safe, friendly and chilled town. Mt. Aspiring National Park is just one hours drive from town where you can go on … yeah you guessed it.. more hikes! hehe we know you love em’! There’s some great places to do some mountain biking too and make sure you check out Puzzling World ‘Wanaka’s Wonderful World of Weirdness’ and have your brain baffled and challenge your perceptions of reality!

Milford Sound

Stop 5

Milford Sound is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination, attracting approximately 1 million visitors per year and Rudyard Kipling even described it as the eighth wonder of the world! To get there you pass through the Homer Tunnel, 1.2km long tunnel through solid rock… pretty cool huh?! Before it opened in 1954 you weren’t even able to access Milford Sound by road. You can have your go at lots of different water based activities here such as canoeing, jet boat fishing and diving. Most tours will include a 2hr scenic boat tour where you get to see two waterfalls; Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.

Te Anau

Stop 6

Te Anau is the closest place to Milford Sound and is home to the seriously cool Glowworm Caves. It’s a mysterious underground world made up of winding limestone passages that you drift along down in a little boat. After passing a powerful underground waterfall you float into a hidden grotto deep inside the caves. Magically lighting up this space are thousands of glowworms, expect a mesmerising and blissful experience.


Final stop

Adventure capital of New Zealand, in Queenstown you can bungee jump, white water raft and zipline to your hearts desire. Along with breathtaking scenery the nightlife is pretty decent too… expect world class night clubs and pub crawls. Tons of backpackers pass through here so you can expect to have a lively time! Definitely go and get yourself a Fergberger, the burger that is Queenstown’s worst kept secret. Fergberger’s sweeter sister Fergbaker lives next door where you can get some sweet and savoury baked goods and mummy Mrs Ferg is close by too selling her delicious home made gelato!  There’s a the Skyline Gondola too that you can take to see Queenstown and it’s beautiful surroundings from way up high.

With so many sights to see and things to do, the road trip from Christchurch across South Island is a must for any explorer.

Hire a campervan out of Christchurch, hit the road, and soak up one of the most epic adventures in the world!

For more amazing road trips on the South Island, visit our South Island Road Trips.

Share this page

Find Your Nearest Travellers Autobarn Location