Head to this land that finds its home in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, and be prepared to be immersed in breathtaking landscapes: verdant valleys, shimmering lakes, peaks of the Southern Alps, and more await you.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next getaway, look no further than this 7D6N itinerary covering some of the best places to visit and stay on New Zealand’s South Island.
Arrive in Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island, in the morning and spend a few hours checking out what this city has to offer. Foodies will find that the dining scene here is one that’s filled with innovative culinary ideas, new and exciting flavours, and of course, farm-to-table experiences. Wander in and out of the eclectic mix of boutique shops, then explore the city in various ways: by foot, vintage bicycle, gondola, tram, bus, or from an Edwardian punt.
The latter is a unique way of getting acquainted with the city – sit on a small, flat-bottomed boat that’s poled by a guide, while relaxing and admiring the sights as you drift along the Avon River, past leafy banks and weeping willows that sit alongside the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Once you’ve had your taste of the biggest city on this island, and are ready to head out to see some of nature’s best creations, pick up your rental car in the city, and drive to Lake Pukaki, which is 3.5 hours southwest.
Check-in to Lakestone Lodge, a five-star off-grid boutique accommodation which sits at the edge of the southern shores of Lake Pukaki.
Its exclusive location means that all of its six guest rooms enjoy scenic views of the shimmering bright blue alpine lake, with Mount Cook as its stunning backdrop. Enjoy your luxurious room before tucking into dinner at the in-house restaurant, and call it an early night after a long day.
Lakestone Lodge is located at 4589 Tekapo-Twizel Road, Twizel 7944, New Zealand
If you’d prefer a more relaxing day, consider exploring the surrounds on one of the free bicycles at the Lakestone Lodge, and be treated to stunning vistas around every corner. Go fishing at the nearby rivers and lakes, and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.
For something more adventurous, sign up for a heli hike on the Tasman Glacier.
This trip starts with a helicopter ride, before you embark on a guided hike through an out-of-this-world landscape composed of fascinating and monumental ice features, formations and caves – the shades of blue in the latter are unparalleled. This hike on New Zealand’s longest glacier might just be the biggest highlight of your trip!
Lake Pukaki is one of the few gateways to Mount Cook, so for your final day in this area, head out to Mount Cook National Park. One of the best things to do in this region is to hike the Hooker Valley Track, which is an out-and-back trail that’s about 10km in length.
It may seem long, but the total elevation gain is only about 100m, making this track, which encompasses gravel trails, wooden boardwalks, and swing bridges, an easy one for people of various fitness levels. Don’t turn back without making it to the end, for a visual reward awaits: Hooker Lake, where the majestic views of large icebergs floating in the glacial lake is sure to leave you in awe.
At night, bundle up and head out for a spectacular stargazing experience – when you stay at Lakestone Lodge, you’re situated in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which is touted as one of the best places in the world to see the Milky Way!
Leave Lake Pukaki in the morning and make the 2-hour drive to Wanaka. This quaint yet enchanting town appeals to the adventurous as well as those who prefer to sit back and relax.
For something slower-paced, take a leisurely stroll around Lake Wanaka, and find its famous lone tree which is one of, if not the most, photographed tree in all of New Zealand.
If you’re visiting in the right season, swing by Wanaka Lavender Farm for large fields of well-manicured lavender rows, and pop by their cafe where you can indulge in some lavender ice cream.
In the afternoon, check-in to Wanaka Haven for a night’s stay.
This cozy accommodation features chic interior decor juxtaposed with uninterrupted mountain views. In winter, warm up by the roaring fire, and in the summer, dine on the outdoor patio while taking in the peaceful mountain scenery.
Wanaka Haven is located at 42 Halliday Road, Wanaka 9382, New Zealand.
Hit the road for an hour and make your way to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Skydiving, shotover jets, bungy jumps, canyon swings, catapults, and more – you name it, you have it.
If you’re someone who loves thrills, you’ll be spoilt for choice, and likely short of time. But if not, you can always watch as the daredevils in your travel party have the time of their life, and capture these exhilarating moments on video for them to relive over and over again.
Alternatively, hike the Ben Lomond Track, which is one of New Zealand’s most famous.
This is a challenging hike with an 1,438 m elevation gain, but all who persevere are rewarded at the summit with spectacular panoramic views. Conquered all 11km of this track? Head to Azur Luxury Lodge, which will be your base for the next few nights.
This luxury boutique hotel is set on a steep hillside, allowing its nine contemporary private villas to command stunning panoramas of Lake Wakatipu, the majestic Remarkables range and Cecil and Walter Peaks, that can be enjoyed from the cozy interiors which feature floor-to-ceiling windows. Prefer taking in the fresh air of the great outdoors? Every villa is fit with glass doors that open out onto a spacious deck, and comes with a spa bath designed to make you feel like you’re bathing outdoors.
Azur Luxury Lodge is located at 23 MacKinnon Terrace, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand.
Reward yourself on your last full day in the South Island, and treat yourself to a soak at Onsen Hot Springs, which promises a rejuvenating soak, complete with sweeping views of the Shotover River below.
Immerse yourself in one of their private cedar-lined hot pools, which are spring-fed, and take in the peace and tranquility of this region. And if you’d like to indulge even further, this establishment is also home to a tranquil day spa with a myriad of face and body treatments, for a full day of bliss.
In the evening, make time to explore the city of Queenstown. Gastronomic experiences are abound in this city that’s known for having the best restaurants and bars in New Zealand, so pick a number for an evening of great food and wine.
On your last day in Middle Earth, spend a lazy morning lounging on property at Azur Luxury Lodge. For the ultimate indulgence, have your sumptuous breakfast delivered straight to your private villa. Kick back and relax, with the knowledge that any item you pick from the restaurant’s menu features ingredients that are locally sourced, and carefully prepared in the lodge’s open kitchen.
In the afternoon, check-out and make your way back to Christchurch, for your flight back home. Note: you might be tempted to book yet another trip to explore more of New Zealand, for there’s just too much natural beauty to be admired in this corner of the world.
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