5 Must-See Places To Visit On New Zealand’s South Island

With so many amazing and beautiful places to see on New Zealand's South Island it's hard to come up with such a short list - but we gave it a shot for our fellow campervan hire brethren to use.

Queenstown

queenstown

Photo by Paul Bica

Located in the Southwest of the South Island, Queenstown is one of NZ’s most popular premiere tourist destinations. Both in winter, when the snow covered peaks are reflected in the still, clear waters of Lake Wakatipu, or in summer, where there’s a huge variety of thrill seeking activities to do! For many travellers, the cost of a visit to Queenstown can break the budget - as a resort town, accommodation can tend to be on the expensive side. Luckily, campervan hire folk don’t have to worry about that, and you can spend as much time as you like in this picture perfect location! Queenstown is a nature lovers and thrill seekers dream destination with dozens of activities to choose from. 

In June (winter in NZ), Queenstown hosts the well-known Queenstown Winter Festival, so according to your personal preferences; you will either want to plan to visit at this time or avoid it! 

Although you can’t park your campervan in the CBD, there are dedicated spaces available at the Boundary Street Carpark for motorhomes, and a wide variety of camping grounds within the Queenstown Lakes District that are low cost and convenient to get to. 

Milford Sound

Milford Sound New Zealand.

Photo by Bernard Spragg

Milford Sound is a spectacular location with endless natural beauty and landscapes that will make your jaw drop. Located on the upper west coast of the South Island, it is full of glaciers and fiords that rise majestically above the crisp water of the sea. As part of Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, there are waterfalls to gaze at, and an abundance of outdoor activities to make the most of the gorgeous surroundings. Kayaking, trekking and hiking are popular, or take a boat cruise around the Sound.

Although it is one of the most visited tourist spots within NZ, it can still be a peaceful getaway. The benefits of campervan tourism mean you won’t need to book far in advance for an expensive hotel room! This method of travel also means you can leave early to avoid the mass influx and exit of tourists who arrive from nearby areas in the middle of the day and head back in the mid-afternoon.

Te Anau is only a few hours drive away, and Queenstown 300 kilometres. The drive into Milford Sound is a stunning journey, as you pass through mountainous landscapes and lush rain-forested valleys. There are many scenic viewpoints to stop and rest for amazing photo opportunities.

There are some free Department of Conservation campsites between Te Anau and Milford Sound, or you can park up at the Milford Sound Lodge in their Rainforest Campervan Site if you’d like to stay in the heart of it all.

Christchurch

So Calm and Beatuiful

Photo by Jocelyn Kinghorn

Almost more famous now for the devastating earthquake of 2011 than for anything else, Christchurch is a beautiful place to visit on your trip around the South Island. Known as The Garden City for its extensive parks and green areas, it is the largest city in the South Island, and has an international airport for exit and entry. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the central city are a 75-hectare slice of heaven.

The central city is beautiful, with Cathedral Square at the heart of the city. The Cultural Precinct is home to the Arts Centre, the Canterbury Museum and the Art Gallery. There’s always something to do in Christchurch, from checking out the surf at the beach, to hiking the nearby Port Hills. Check out the delicious fresh produce at the farmer’s markets or time your visit to coincide with the World Buskers Festival in January. If you’re feeling adventurous, leave the comfort of your campervan for a day and go canyoning, white water rafting or jet boating.

Christchurch is also a great base camp to set off on various day trips to places like Kaikoura, Arthur’s Pass, Hamner Springs, or the wine region of the Waipara Valley.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook 020

Photo by Sandra Vallaure

Also known as Mount Cook, Aoraki is New Zealand’s highest mountain. Part of the imposing Southern Alps, the Mount Cook National Park has an ethereal beauty that can’t be missed. There are some jaw-droppingly beautiful tramps here, ranging from two - three day walks only for expert trampers, full day hikes, or shorter walks around the Mount Cook village and through the alpine bush. If you’d like to settle your campervan in amongst some amazing alpine scenery, check out the Department of Conservation Campground: White Horse Hill Campground. It has basic facilities such as running water and toilets, and is very affordable. For fully powered sites, check out Glentanner Park Centre, which is located within a fully operational high country sheep station! Here you can enjoy hot showers, kitchen and dining areas and amazing views of the national park. Glentanner also offers horse trekking.

Getting to Mount Cook is easy; around a four-hour journey including breaks from Christchurch, or three hours from Queenstown. 

Greymouth

DSC_0973

Photo by Brendan Campbell

Greymouth has a rich history well worth exploring. Once the base for collecting jade, coal mining and gold mining, this wild west coast town has plenty of tales to tell. 

The town itself is situated at the mouth of the Grey river, on the coast near the foot of the Southern Alps. 

The Great Coast Road between Westport and Greymouth is known worldwide to be one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world. Curving around the gorgeous limestone cliff faces (home to the world’s smallest penguin), it takes 90 minutes to travel the length of it without stopping. You’ll want to take your time along this gorgeous stretch of tarseal however, as there are numerous places to stop, picnic and explore; such as the Mitchells Gully Gold Mine or the limestone caves of Charleston, and the stunning Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki.

Visit the Monteith’s brewery and experience the taste of a beer that has been brewed here since 1868.

Immerse yourself in the past at Shantytown, a living replica of an 1880s gold mining town.

If you are coming from somewhere other than Westport, you can reach Greytown from Christchurch (about 3.5 hours drive) or Fox Glacier, 2.5 hours drive. 

Greymouth also happens to be the South Island’s first official Motorhome Friendly Town, with plenty of Freedom Camping sites to choose from, or several campsites to choose from in the town itself.

Carly.D