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Motorhome Republic Bucket list road trips - South Island, New Zealand

  • 18.0°C, Broken clouds
  • Dec 5, 2014 by Alex

NZ South Island – For as long as you can…

It’s called Godzone for a reason – and we are so blessed here in New Zealand. Lord of the Rings has undoubtedly helped put Aotearoa on the international tourism map, but the South Island has always been a jaw-dropping destination.

I flew into Christchurch to collect my motorhome. The largest city down south, it’s obviously undergoing a period of regeneration following the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. But it was remarkably named second-best city to visit in the world by the New York Times, as recently as January 2014. Enjoying a “rebirth of creativity and wit”, you just can’t keep a strong community down.

You may wish to take in ‘The Garden City’ for a day and night, with its extreme sports, extensive walking routes and numerous other attractions, but I was desperate to get on the road – and my first port of call was a route through the heart of the island.

State Highway 73 takes you to Arthur’s Pass Village. Key watchwords here are limestone, Porters Pass, skiing areas and single-lane bridges. A deep beech forest will accompany your arrival and I highly recommend parking up at the hugely popular Jacksons Retreat. Take advantage of the wonderful hospitality of Bevan and wife Donna for a night’s shut-eye in the forest.

Continue north and head for Greymouth or Hokitika on the west coast. One option is to journey upwards to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes of Punakaiki, then drive back down to the beach town of Hokitika. This is your opportunity to regroup and refresh before the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.

Throughout this route, I am not exaggerating when I describe the most incredible scenery I have ever come across. From tropical forest, to serene waterways, to glaciers in the distance, stars in their millions and a real sense of becoming one with nature.

The glaciers themselves are easily accessible and you can splash out on a helicopter trip if you feel like high-rolling. Camping areas are commonplace as you continue down south towards Mount Aspiring National Park, before arriving at yet another must-see: Wanaka and then Queenstown further south. A hotspot for winter sports, these are massively popular regions for international tourism.

My trip was in May, so the autumnal change of the leaves on the trees, set against a backdrop of snow-topped mountains was a truly remarkable sight. There may have even been some skinny-dipping, but that’s just a rumour. The lakes of Wakatipu, Wanaka, and Hawea are prime examples of nature’s delights on your doorstep. You will require a couple of days in the region, before the dramatic conclusion…

Te Anau and Milford Sound are truly awe-inspiring. Believed to have been discovered by Maori a thousand years ago, the Sound is an accessible fiord that demands a boat trip. Just take a few hours out into the open sea. Rainfall has led to dozens of waterfalls and, much like most of your stop-off points, one day might not be enough. Get to the South Island…it’s number one on our list. 


Other destination not to miss in New Zealand include Nelson, Taupo, Rotorua and Auckland.

Other New Zealand cities and town guides

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