South Island Odyssey –
This was an itinerary I did for a long stay visitor but shows a good deal of what is available everyone may get good use out of:
Wellington Ferry to Picton
Boarding the ferry is very simple and straight forward. They are very professional so just go with the flow. Lots of comfortable seating. Crossing over on the ferry takes about 3 1/2 hours. Good idea to take a book along to read and perhaps a pillow to rest with. There is a movie onboard. About a third of the trip is getting out the Wellington Harbour, another third crossing Cook Strait where if the weather is bad you will notice it. If you have a tendency for sea sickness good idea to get some pills for the trip. Since you have time if the weather is really horrible wait for a better crossing time. The reason I like Bluebridge is the fact they will let you cancel and re-book with no penalty for one thing. (www.bluebridge.co.nz ).
The last third of the trip will be within the Marlborough Sounds one of the most beautiful places on earth. The ferry enters at the heads into Tory Channel and cruises into the Queen Charlotte Sound all the way to the small town of Picton. Hopefully you will have a pleasant crossing so you can enjoy the beauty of the trip.
I will assume you leave the holiday park by 10am and head for Wellington using the boarding time of 1:00pm. This will provide you with ample time to get to the terminal and check in plus if you are at the Bluebridge terminal you are right down town in Wellington. You have time to take a walk along the waterfront all the way to the museum of Te Papa if you like and return or just walk over two blocks to the centre of town to look around.
After reaching and leaving the ferry at Picton go to the first roundabout and turn left. If it is late afternoon (4:30pm) I suggest you can go have a look downtown in this very small place, perhaps have a cuppa at LeCafe on the waterfront. If you feel like freedom camping on the waterfront on the backside by the “coathanger” bridge is a parking lot where you are welcome to park 24hours for $2.00. This is where we always stay when here. Right close in town also is the Picton Top Ten (www.pictontop10.co.nz ) and the Picton Motor Camp(www.pictoncampervanpark.co.nz ).
As you will notice there are a lot of Sounds related activities you can get involved in here so maybe you might want to stay another day? After all its leap year so you get an extra day! I have allowed the other day. Also you may wish to drive the 1/2 hour to the Marlborough Wine Country. If you do go to Blenheim and after getting into town on the left is the Information Centre on the left (plenty of room to park) where you can pick up a wine tour map. Go back to Rapaura Road turn left and enjoy. Return to Picton for the night.
Marlborough Sounds to Nelson
Now we leave the Picton area and take the scenic drive through the Marlborough Sounds. Go back to the roundabout by the Bluebridge terminal but this time go straight through and over the hill overlooking the harbour. Good spot to get a photograph. From here the Queen Charlotte Drive twists and winds along through the Sounds until you move inland just above Linkwater. There is a great look out at Collins Point you can actually drive up to. Continue along the road now until it drops down to connect with route 6 at Havelock the mussel capital of New Zealand. A drive down through the marina lets you find the Slip Inn cafe. back onto route 6 and about 15 kms along is a place you have to stop and see. After Canvastown you come to Pelorus Bridge. Just before there on the right is the Totara Flats picnic area you can pull into. It is one of the most picturesque spots to stop.
Also you an stop at Pelorous Bridge and walk over to the river to have a look under the one-way bridge. After th bridge the first dirt road on the right leads to the waterfalls.
You can park just across the road from there or go on past and walk back. Don’t try to drive down the dirt road.
After Pelorous Bridge you pass through Rai Valley and up and through the mountains of the Mt. Richmond Forest on your way to the Nelson region. From Picton to Nelson will be about a 2 1/2 hour drive but with all the stops quite a bit more. Don’t hurry....enjoy.
Tonight you can stay at the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park (www.tahunabeach.co.nz ). There is a fabulous beach cafe close by. On the way to the park after driving through Nelson on the right at the roundabout off route 6 is the World of Wearable Art & Cars museum worth a stop.(www.wowcars.co.nz ).
Nelson to Golden Bay
from Nelson we are heading to a place most tourists don’t go to, (except trampers) and even less Kiwis, the Golden Bay region. One of our most loved spots. We spend Christmas period in this area for instance. From Nelson we leave route 6 turning northwest on route 60. It is 33kms to Motueka. On the way you might want to take a short detour to the harbour at Mapua for a look around at the galleries and cafes. Motueka is a good place to stock up and they even have a dump station in the New World parking lot at the back.
After Motueka and Riwaka take the circle route to Kaiteriteri and Marahau on the edge of the Able Tasman National Park. If you have any desire to so sea kayaking this is where it is king. Now back to Route 60 and over the marble mountain. make sure your water is topped up. This is a real mountain.Stop at the lookout before plunging down the other side into Golden Bay. From the base of the mountain to the town of Takaka is 22kms.
A fabulous little town that is the main centre of Golden Bay. I suggest you stay the night at the Pohara Beach Top Ten (www.holidayparks.co.nz/pohara ) right on Golden Bay with its beautiful beach out of Takaka a few kms. Spend at least two days here so you can visit the area and what it has to offer such as the Pupu Springs, Collingwood, Port Puponga and perhaps a ride out the Farewell Spit.
If you like to explore you will enjoy going from Seaford south to the Paturau River. I think you can go further but we never have. You can stay the night out there if you wish by the beach.
Golden Bay to Nelson Lakes -
So after several days in Golden Bay lets move on back out and head south. Over the mountain and to Motueka where we will go south on the Motueka Valley Highway meeting up with Route 6 at Kohatu but continuing south on the Motueka Valley Road
(it goes along a small distance with rout 6) to Golden Downs continuing south on the Kerr Hill Road all the way to Rout 63 and then St Anaud on Lake Rotoiti. (http://www.starnaud.co.nz/ ). and stay at the DOC camp on the lake. (no facilities).
Nelson Lakes to Westport north -
From St Arnaud we follow the Buller River west on route 63 and then route 6 to Murchison. From Murchison continue west on route 6 to the West Coast. You will pass through a very small place called Inangahua. There is an old building there the residents have put a lot of photos and information about the big earthquake in the area worth stopping to have a look at. You will continue to follow the Buller one of the most beautiful rivers in New Zealand in my opinion. It is 40kms from Inangahuna to Rt 67 junction and 113kms from St Arnaud to here. At Route 67 turn north to Westport and drive on through north to as far as Hector if you are a country music fan to the Country Music Museum there if not pass it. I do want you to experience Denniston though north of Westport about 20kms. take the road to the right at Waimangaroa and climb the Denniston mountain. It is rare I get the chance to show people this place. It has long been abandoned as a town but a few buildings are still there. Climb to the top.
(http://www.nzine.co.nz/features/dennistonincline.html ), eighth wonder of the world.
Westport North to Karamea –
North from Denniston to Granity and Hector and on to where route 67 takes a turn and crosses the Mokihinui River. Just across the river is a dirst road to the left to a remarkable campground called Gentle Annies. Good spot to park up. From there you take the Karamea Highway twisting and turning up the mountain and over through to Little Wanganui and on to the town of Karamea. Continue north all the way where the road deadends at a DoC camp on the Kohaihai River and the south end of the world famous Heaphy track. Fabulous place to stay. Dramatic when the river and the ocean fight for supemecy at the base of the Kohaihai Bluff.
Now we turn back to Westport and stay the night at the Seal Colony Top Ten
Westport. Blackball, Greymouth to Hokitika -
From you park stay in Westport go out to Cape Foulwind and have a look. From there you take a side road, Wilson’s Lead Road that is a shortcut back to Route 6 and then turn south. it is about 15kms to Charleston. After Charleston the road turns out to the coast to display one of those awesome scenes all the way to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks where you should stop and have a look. Great scenery when as you get to the sea off in the distance are the Southern Alps. The West Coast of the South Island is the only place in the world where a rain forest meets the sea and glaciers. From here we continue south toward Greymouth. If you want to take a side road adventure turn inland before Weymouth on the road marked to Blackball. A small isolated village where gold miners still do their thing. Stop and see the Blackball Hilton. This also is a place most visitors don’t get to experience and it is well worth the drive.
From Westport to Greymouth is a drive of 1/2 hours. From Greymouth to Hokitika where you will stay tonight is about 40 minutes so you got plenty of time to explore today. Just before Hokitika is the Shining Star Holiday Park (www.shiningstar.co.nz ) one of the best in the country.
Hokitika to Glacier Country -
Be sure to go into Hokitika, it is the real crafts centre of the country. Have a poke around town. Turn into Hokitika from Route 6 and drive until it dead ends on the last street, turn left and then first street on the right will take you to a park right on the beach. Enjoy your visit.
Now we are off to the Glacier Country and to the real rain forest. South of Hokitika on the left a few kms is Lake Mahinapua a great place to park overnight. It is a Dept of Conservation Camp.
Next place is Ross a famous gold mining town. Be sure to stop and have a look around at Pukekura, home to the giant sand fly, south of Ross. Two real characters own and run this place. A fun spot. Have a look in their museum and as to see the deer capture movie if you are interested in some real Kiwi history. This is about the beginning of domestic deer farming in the country.
From here we pass Lake Ianthe, also a place to stop perhaps for lunch. Next place of interest, especially to bird lovers, is the town of Whataroa where the Great Heron Colony can be visited. They also have spoonbills nesting there. One of the best jade stone carvings are there too at the Maori Art Gallery right on the road as you turn. Worth a stop.
After Whataroa you will pass Lake Wahapo and Lake Mapourika. An interesting 13km side road drive through Kiwi (the bird) country is to Okarito on the beach. An isolated small community that offers a camp ground for $7.50pp on the ocean. Looking ofr peace and quiet in your trip this is it. You might want to take advantage of the kayak trips offered too.
It is a 2 hour drive from Hokitika to Franz Josef so you got plenty of time today to explore. Stay at the Rainforest Retreat in the middle of Franz Josef.(www.rainforestholidaypark.co.nz ).(Wallace St. first on the left when you enter town). Wander around and get a feel for the place. I recommend a heli-flight to the top of the glacier and a walk around on it. One of the great thrills of life for me. You also can drive to a place to park at the south edge of town over the bridge and take a short walk up to the base of the glacier. That’s free.
Enjoy a leisurely day at Franz Josef and then to Fox Glacier. For your third night in glacier country let me recommend a place we stay and something special. Leave Franz Josef and go to Fox Glacier. South of town you can drive back to the base of the glacier and walk up to it also. By mid-afternoon or later take the Cooks Flat road west out of Fox Glacier (or before if you like just trying to get you settled in before nightfall and get the chance to see the sunset here.) until the Gillespies Beach Road on the right. take that all the way to Gillespies Beach. It’s a damn good bet you will be alone in this country other han perhaps a local or two. After the beach turn back the way you came out. After crossing the river on the left is a small picnic area. Here is where we usually stay the night.(have a look at the photo on my entry page- (www.newzealandtravelguide.net ) that’s us parked there). There is also the Fox Glacier Holiday Park (www.foxglacierholidaypark.co.nz . Now one of the reasons to be here is to get up real early before the wind gets up to get to Lake Matheson just back up the road you came in on the left. It is one of the finest small walks and scenery you will ever see. Park in the parking lot and take a walk around the lake. if you get there early the reflection of the forest and mountains in the lake are picture post card stuff. Just pure magic!
Glacier Country , Haast to Makarora -
From here we are off to Haast (2 1/2 hour drive) where we turn inland and through the Mount Aspiring National Park along the Haast River. Good café at McGuire’s in Haast over the bridge. Also if the weather was no good for a heli-flight at the glaciers ask here to get a flight to them. There is a World Heritage place at Haast you may wish to see.
For those with a lot of time take the drive from the turnoff by the Haast bridge out along the ocean to Jackson Bay where the road dead ends. You are welcome to stay the night out there. This is whitebait country with mostly fishermen living out here. This drive is up and through the Mount Aspiring National Park. Stop at Thunder Falls and just a short drive past the falls stop and see the Gates of Haast before the vertical climb after the bridge toward Haast Pass. Great drive through here being in the middle of the Southern Alps. Consider yourself lucky if it rained as there are dozens of waterfalls cascading from the mountains along this drive. We will stop at the Makarora Wilderness Resort (www.makarora.co.nz ) for the night. (1 1/2 hour drive from Haast). Ask about the glow worm walk. Also a place to get a helicopter ride. Lots of other walks too.
Makarora, Wanaka, Cromwell, Arrowtown
From Makarora route 6 winds along Lake Wanaka and cuts over along Lake Hawea on its way south. After Makaroroa there is a great spot to stop overnight or just to have a look at the Boundary Creek Camp. A DOC camp. Along this road beside the lake to the left the sheer cliffs provide two waterfalls one at Waterfall Creek and the other at Camp Creek. After Lake Hawea you will go by the Albert Town Camp by the Clutha River. It has a wide expanse to stay in but limited facilities. Take a right on route 84 a short few kms into Wanaka and have a look around. Be a good place to stock up at the supermarket. A lot of people like the Puzzling World.
After Wanaka back to route 6 and off to Cromwell traveling along Lake Dunstan. You will pass the Warbirds Museum just out of Wanaka. The road continues along now following the Kawarau River an exciting drive through the Kawarau Gorge. I recommend a stop at the Gibbston Valley Winery and Cheese shop after the gorge on the left and then a stop to watch the bungy jumps not too far down the road on the right. This is where the original bungy jump began. Quite a building there now. When I first stopped in 1989 they were operating out of an old hippie bus. Worth it to stop and see and watch the jumpers.
From Wanaka to Arrowtown where we are going is about a 2 hour drive.
Arrowtown is one of our favourite places an old gold mining town with lots of history still maintaining its glory. There is a good Holiday Park in town though I can recommend. You will have passed it on your left coming in. We also park behind the town down by the river during the day. No camping at night anymore.
Arrowtown, Queenstown, Glenorchy -
Take the back road via Arthur’s Point for the best visual route to Queenstown next. If you are lucky you can find a parking spot and have a walk around. Great place but very busy!
The place to stay in Queenstown with a camper van is at the Queenstown Top Ten
(www.camp.co.nz) Qualmark 5 star plus the world’s first Green Globe 21 Environmetally Certified Park. Now with a gold rating.
After your fill of Queenstown now we go out the Glenorchy road along Lake Wakitipu
to Glenorchy one of our favourite drives for scenery. Not use how far it is? about 1 1/2 hours I think or less. After Glenorchy you return on the same road. On the way out after you leave Queenstown keep your eyes peeled on the right for the turn-off to Moke Lake. This is where you come back to and spend the night. It is a DoC camp ($5pp a night - no facilities except toilets). You drive the road on past the first lake and park wherever you want around Moke Lake. I guarantee you it won’t be crowded and only locals if any.
I won a photo award with a photo of Moke Lake! You also can cam at the 12 mile delta on the left going out to Glenorchy, another DOC camp.
Queenstown to Te Anau -
From Queenstown on to route 6 on around Lake Wakitipu straight south. If you like old steam trains at Kingston there is the Kingston Flyer. Turn into Kingston and go to the end at the lake or on past Kingston is the other end of the train trip at Fairlight just a few kms on. Thirty kms past Kingston we turn right at Five Rivers on a short-cut side road to route 94 and on to Te Anau. (2 1/2 hour drive). Here we go to the Great View Holiday Park (www.fiordlandgreatviewsholidaypark.co.nz for a few days.
From here you make the drive into Milford Sound. I recommend a boat ride for sure.
Have a talk to the owners at Great Views to get the up to the minute scoop on what’s happening. This is one of the top spots in the world to visit so don’t hurry. The Saunders will be a big help also and it is a primo camp. They have a small bus for taking people out there also if you don’t feel like driving. (I have a separate information page about the Fiords by Zappers of Trip Advisor to look at too).
Te Anau to Riverton -
After a great stay in the Fiordland National Park we must move on...... Ever south. From Te Anau take route 95 through Manapouri south on the Blackmount road to Tuatapere (sausage capital) route 99 and on south to the coast. If you feel the need to visit a farm and shear a sheep on the way through you can stop at the Waiau farm on the right.
After Tuatapere the road finally gets back to the ocean. You might even want to go out to Cozy Nook! Stop and pick up a few gemstones at Gemstone Beach(really!). Take the side road to Colac Bay coming back out on the other side on route 99 continuing along until you reach Riverton. Cross the bridge on the left and a short drive will be the Globe Hotel on the left. Pull around back to park for the night. Tell the owners Ron & Paula sent you. $10 a night with good showers. Join the locals in the pub and if you like pizza they do a real good one. This is a real small town local pub with some great Kiwi’s. Enjoy the evening! Maybe you can talk Tony into a helicopter adventure? (Driving time Te Anau to Riverton - 2 hours)
Before you leave make sure you go back across the bridge and turn left to go out to the”Rocks”. Good cafe on the hill too.
Riverton to Invercargill, Bluff, Stewart Island –
From Riverton we go on east to Invercargill. Take the drive to Bluff and the southern end of route one in New Zealand. Bluff is known for stay the night in Invercargill at the Lorneville Holiday Park (www.lorneville.kiwiholidayparks.com) Home to the “Fastest Indian” if you saw the movie. Drive out and have a look at the Oreti Beach where it happened.
Invercargill through the Catlins -
Now we head through an isolated part of New Zealand - the Catlins. Pick up the info at the Lorneville Park for the drive through. To see is the prehistoric forest in the ocean. It is 176 kms(2 hrs) across so lots of time. Tonight you stay at the Newhaven Holiday Park at Owaka on the other side of the Catlins (www.newhavenholiday.com ). A day in the Catlins!
Catlins, Balclutha, Lawrence to Alexandra -
From the Catlins we head north to connect with route one at Balclutha. At Clarksville turn inland on route 8 to Lawrence. Pleasant small town. Stop by the Information Centre.
Continue along route 8. This again no visitor takes the time to see any of this area and it is a great shame but you will. We love it up here in what they call Central. Stay the night in Alexandra at the Alexandra Holiday Park.
Central Otago – Alexandra, St Bathans, Naseby
Take route 85 out of Alexandra inland. Make sure you pull off the main road to St. Bathans and have a good look around. In fact we take a lot of side roads through this country just exploring. Go to Naseby for the night. Visit the indoor curling rink and the Naseby Hotel and the Museum. A historical area totally.
From Naseby we continue on route 85 to the Art Deco town of Ranfurly.
Central to Dunedin & the Otago Peninsula -
Take route 87 south to Dunedin. Stay at the Aaron Lodge Park(www.aaronlodgetop10.co.nz). Stay in the area a couple of days. Go to the Otago Peninsula to the Albatross Colony and Larnach Castle. Check out the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. Maybe take the Monarch Cruise. Stay at the Dunedin Holiday park (www.dunedinholidaypark.co.nz .
Dunedin north to Oamaru
from Dunedin we head north on route one. North of Palmerston on the right you will see a sign to Shag Point. Take the road to the end. Here is a colony of adult young male fur seals. You can really get up close to these on overhead rocks so as not to be in danger.
Great photographs available.Not too many people told about this.
From here e go to the small fishing community of Moeraki. The number one restaurant in New Zealand for fresh fish is here at Fleurs. When Rick Stein was offered a free trip to anywhere in the world this is where he came.
Next stop is Moeraki Boulders on the right. North of Moeraki is Oamaru home of the Little Blue Penguin (www.penguins.co.nz). Be sure to go by and try to come back at night to see them come ashore. Stay at the Kelcey’s Bush (www.kiwicamps.com) in Waimate north 35 minutues..
Waimate to Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo (Mckenzie Country) -
From Oamaru take route 83 inland to Omarama and then route 8 and on to visit Mt. Cook. Stay the night at Glentanner Park Mt Cook.(www.glentanner.co.nz) Good idea to spend two days here if you want to do some of the trips. Go on to Lake Tekapo and stay at the Lake Tekapo Park (www.laketekapo-accommodation.co.nz on the lake and spend the day in this area. Go up to the top of M. John if not too windy.
Great café by the observatory – say hi to manager Fraser Gunn.
Mckenzie Country to the Methven area -
Route 8 to route 79 through Geraldine. Stop here for a night at the Geraldine Holiday Park (www.geraldineholidaypark.co.nz) Go to the Berry Complex and the Easyway Café and also walk down the street to see the top Maori artist Peter J Caley’s art studiohttp://www.tourismonline.net.nz:80/media/447
After Geraldine on to route one to Ashburton turning inland on route 77 through Methven to Darfield. Turn left toward Springfield. Stay at the Abisko Lodge Campground. (www.abisko.co.nz ).
Now you are on a fantastic drive the Arthurs Pass turning off to Lake Brunner where you ca stay the night at the Lake Brunner Camp Grounds (www.holidayparks.co.nz/lakebrunner ) One of the primo drives in New Zealand. Enjoy! Be sure to stop at the historic Jackson’s Pub and also stop to see the Otiri Gorge bridge……….
Lake Brunner , Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs
from Lake Brunner it is north now taking route 7 inland all the way across the Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs where you can stay at the Mountain View Top Ten (www.mountainviewtop10.co.nz ) and soak in the hot tubs at the resort and enjoy Hanmer Springs.
Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura
From Hanmer continue east on route 7 to route 70 and on to Kaikoura. Here is a fascinating place to see whales, seals and enjoy the place. Stay at the Peketa Beach campgrounds.(www.holidayparks.co.nz/kaikourapeketa )
Kaikoura to Christchurch and Akaroa –
From here it is south back to Christchurch and out to Akaroa for a day or two our only French town. Stay at the Akaroa Top Ten (www.akaroa-holidaypark.co.nz .