11D New Zealand South Island Self-Drive Itinerary (Winter 2022)

Staci S. Wright

New Zealand, better known as ‘Middle Earth’ and the land of the long white cloud. A country so rich with wildlife and out-of-this-world post-card scenery. It made us wonder why it took us so long to visit New Zealand. But we finally did! We chose to travel during early winter (June) to avoid the summer crowd when we hear it can get really busy! NZ is one of the countries who managed the COVID pandemic situations very well hence we were very assured that it is safe to visit with our children. Moreover, its medical facilities are top notch so should any of us needs to be quarantined, we are assured of the standard of healthcare we will receive. 

PRE-TRAVEL ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

All these COVID-related requirements are accurate as of today 13 June 2022. Please check the official NZ websites for your own dates of travel as regulations change dynamically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation worldwide. Even though New Zealand will fully reopen its international borders on 31 July 2022, being the cautious country it is, they may revert to stricter measures with new developments in COVID. In the meantime, if you are travelling to NZ before 31 July 2022, here are the steps to take:

ON-ARRIVAL COVID REQUIREMENTS

  • A pack of 2 ART Kits will be provided on arrival at the airport by the NZ government.
  • The first ART test must be conducted on the day of arrival or the day after, and the second ART test must be conducted on the fifth or sixth day after arrival.
  • Test results must be reported to the Ministry of Health, instructions will be provided via email once the ‘New Zealand traveller declaration’ has been completed at https://covid19.govt.nz/international-travel/travel-to-new-zealand/testing-requirements-after-arriving-in-new-zealand/
  • We used the Unlimited Data Roaming eSIM card (booked via Klook) to declare our negative ART results to the NZ authorities on Day 1 and 5 (as we didn’t receive any emails from them to submit our ART results online). The eSIM card also proved useful when we had to contact various restaurants to make reservations, and tour operators to confirm our tour bookings while on the go.
Book your Unlimited eSIM Data Roaming here.

Day 0: Singapore to Christchurch Flight

We booked our flight 3 months early in March 2022, just right after the NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the border reopening. It was a 9.5hrs direct flight from Singapore to Christchurch on Air New Zealand (Code Share with Singapore Airlines).

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch

Morning: Arrive Christchurch Airport at 9.30am, collect luggage, walk to domestic terminal, wait to be transferred to YESAWAY Car Rental (Which we booked via KLOOK) in a free shuttle bus to pick up rental car. We are travelling in a family of 2 Adults, 2 kids with 2 large luggage, 2 medium-sized luggage and a carry-on luggage so have decided to book a slightly larger 4WD – a Toyota Highlander for a more comfortable ride.

After collecting car, drive across to International Antarctic Centre (located next to the Airport). Includes Hägglund Field Trip, Storm Dome, Penguin Rescue, HD Theatre & 4D Theatre. Bring a jacket for the Strom Dome experience. Visiting huskies in centre Thurs – Mon.

Alternatively, drive to visit the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Or you can purchase a Christchurch Pass (via KLOOK) where you can explore the city with unlimited rides for a day on Christchurch’s Historic Tram, get amazing views of the region with the Gondola ride included in the pass and go for a 30 minute scenic punt ride on the Avon River.

Accommodation: Sudima Christchurch City (1 Night) booked via KLOOK.

Dinner: Use the FirstTable NZ Website to book your dinner at 50% discount (for max 4 diners). We chose this restaurant, 50 Bistro, based on reviews and enjoyed the food.

Day 2: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Morning: Check out of hotel at 10am. Drive onwards to Lake Tekapo (2 hrs). Scenic Photo-stop and coffee stop at Farm Barn Cafe. Photo Stop at Church of Good Shepherd.

Accommodation: Galaxy Boutique Hotel, Lake Tekapo (1 Night)

Afternoon: Indoor Multimedia Dark Sky Experience 45-mins Tour at Dark Sky Project Observatory. Then play time at NZ’s most beautiful playground at Lake Tekapo!

Dinner: Ramen Tekapo (Restaurant run by authentic Japanese and Thai chefs)

Late Evening: After dinner, drive back to Church of Good Shepherd for star gazing. Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserves, as such, the night skies around Lake Tekapo are perfect for photographing the Milky Way!

Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook National Park

Morning: After breakfast, check out to start our drive onwards to Mt.Cook National Park (1 hr 15mins). Photo Stop: Peter’s Lookout Point overlooking Lake Pukaki.

Accommodation: The Hermitage Hotel, Mt.Cook Village (1 Night)

Afternoon: Leave at 1.30pm to drive to Mount Cook Ski Planes and Helicopters to check in for our 2.30pm Ski Plane Flight + Glacier Landing Tasman Experience (45 Mins) booked via KLOOK. Unforgettable experience!

Late Afternoon: Return to hotel after the ski plane flight experience. Go for a short easy walking trail to Muller Lake Lookout (near hotel). Super scenic especially near sunset. Not to be missed!

Dinner: In hotel (Book the Bed, Breakfast and Dinner Package)

Day 4: Mount Cook – Wanaka – Queenstown

Morning: Meet at hotel lobby at 10.30am for the 11am Glacier Explorer Tour (NZ’s only Icerberg Tour) on Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s largest Glacier (2.5hrs). A chance to come up close and personal with a gigantic piece of iceberg, which took 300-500 years in the making. The bus will take you on a pleasant trip to the Tasman Valley, followed by a 25-minute alpine walk through the National Park. Guests will then board the MAC boat where the boat tour on the Tasman Glacier lake will begin. Expect to spend approximately one hour on the lake. Tour ends at 1.30pm.

https://www.facebook.com/GlacierExplorers/
https://www.facebook.com/GlacierExplorers/

Afternoon: Start long drive towards Lake Wanaka (2.5 hrs). Quick pit stop for fresh salmon sashimi at Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon Shop. Beautiful scenery here outside the shop.

7pm Quick Photo Stop: That Wanaka Tree at Lake Wanaka. If you wish, you can set the Google Map to bring you direct to Queenstown (skipping Wanaka). Alternatively, stay 1 night in Wanaka and drive to Queenstown the following day.

Caution: The roads from Wanaka to Queenstown are EXTREMELY winding with many sharp hairpins turns. Best to take motion sickness pill or get ready a plastic bag should anyone feel queasy.

Dinner: Speight’s Ale House Restaurant Wanaka

Drive from That Wanaka Tree to Queenstown (1 hr).

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Queenstown (2 Nights) booked via KLOOK. Chic and modern hotel with coin-operated laundry (washer and dryer) facilities! Love it!

Day 5: Queenstown

Morning: After breakfast, make our way to check-in at Shotover Jet Queenstown 11am ride booked via KLOOK. This adventurous boat ride through the Shotover River Canyons, at 85km/hour, with spins & spraying water, exceeded our expectations. It’s a MUST-TRY for every visitor to Queenstown!

Afternoon: Skyline Luge and Gondola at Skyline Queenstown (Open 10am to 6pm) booked via KLOOK. Enjoy an uplifting adventure on the iconic Skyline Gondola and marvel at the panoramic views of Queenstown 450 m above ground, onboard the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere!

As the gondola ride takes you up Bob’s Peak, see the iconic sights of Queenstown, such as Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables Mountain. Take the driving seat on the gravity-fuelled Skyline Luge ride where you control your speed across 1600 m of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. If you enjoyed the Luge at Sentosa, you’ll love this one even more! Once is never enough, that’s why we booked the 6 rides package!

Day 6: Queenstown to Te Anau

Morning: Check out early of Queenstown accommodation at 7am. Drive from Queenstown to Te Anau (2 hrs drive non-stop).

Arrive at Te Anau around 9am. Join the Milford Sound Coach and Cruise Tour at 9.45am at Southern Discoveries Visitors Centre (booked via KLOOK). Hop aboard the glass roof coaches with spacious seats. Discover the best photo op locations and sites as you pass by Lake Wakatipu, Lake Te Anau, and more. Enjoy a seamless sightseeing cruise along the calm waters of Milford Sound to cap off the tour.

Full Day Tour: 10am to 5pm. Inclusive of: Informative commentary by drivers in English. 1 hour 45 minutes Milford Sound Nature Cruise. Extra-wide glass-roof for unobstructed viewing. High-comfort, reclining seating with spacious legroom. Seamless coach and cruise connections. Plenty of photo stops including short walks. Complimentary accommodation pick up and drop off.

Accommodation: Radfords On The Lake, Te Anau (2 Nights) booked via KLOOK. This is a very charming accommodation with splendid view of the lake. Cosy, stylish and well-kept with luxurious Grohe bathroom fixtures. We had a most comfortable and enjoyable stay here. The beds are heavenly!

Dinner: Redcliff Restaurant & Bar, Te Anau

Day 7: Te Anau

Morning: Visit Kepler Mountain View Alpacas Farm. One of the highlights of our trip! Must visit.

Lunch: Bao Now, Te Anau

Afternoon: Assemble at the Lakefront, for the 2pm Glow-worm Spotting Explorer Tour booked via KLOOK. This activity to observe glow worm is located in Cavern House, an impressive young cave structure estimated at 125,000-year old. Your trip begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on one of our purpose-built scenic cruise vessels. The ferry ride takes about 40min each way. Other than the glow-worm, which is unique to New Zealand, you will be amazed by the network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools, and a roaring underground waterfall. Tour ends at 4.15pm.

Dinner: Radhas Indian Restaurant, Te Anau

Day 8: Te Anau to Queenstown

Morning: Check out of Te Anau Hotel. Drive back from Te Anau to Queenstown (2 hrs).

Accommodation: Kamana Lakehouse (2 Nights) booked via KLOOK. From our stay, we feel this hotel is more for honeymooners, not kids-friendly so we wouldn’t recommend it for families. We drove past Rydges Lakeland Resort and found it more central with million-dollar lakefront views.

Lunch: Fergburger, Queenstown

Afternoon: Drive to Kawarau Bungy Centre (25mins) for the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump and Kawarau Zipride. Alternatively, you can book Sky Diving with NZone which you can book via KLOOK.

Dinner: Saigon Kingdom, Queenstown

Day 9: Queenstown

Morning: Pick up at 7.30am at hotel for the 8.30am Queenstown Hot Air Balloon Ride with Sunrise Balloons. If weather does not permit hot air ballooning, go to Lake Hayes or Coronet’s Peak. Scenic places where every turn is a photo-op!

Afternoon: Lord of the Rings Scenic Tour to Glenorchy (4 hrs) booked via KLOOK. Journey deep into Middle Earth and explore Lord of the Rings locations from Queenstown to Glenorchy. On your LOTR guided tour, you will discover breathtaking and iconic LOTR scenery from Isengard, Amon Hen, Lothlorien Forest, The Misty Mountains and Ithilien! Kiwi style picnic included.

Dinner: @Thai Restaurant, Queenstown

Day 10: Queenstown to Singapore

Morning: Last minute shopping for souvenirs in Queenstown Town Centre.

Lunch: King Made Noodles, Queenstown

Check out of hotel at noon. Return rental car at 2pm. Check in for our flight back to SG (transit via Auckland) at 3pm.

Day 11: Arrive at Changi International Airport. Home Sweet Home.

FREE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR OUR READERS!

  • You may download this EXCEL Spreadsheet where I’ve included the 11D Itinerary for you to customise your NZ road trip according to your family’s travel preferences.
  • Feel free to use this interactive Google My Maps to build your own NZ Self-Drive Trip!
  • Remember to follow our FB @Life’s Tiny Miracles and Instagram accounts: @lifestinymiracles and @doting_dad for more tips on travelling with kids.

Till the next trip, Kia Ora New Zealand. We shall return!

Next Post

Supermom In Training: I've reached a new level of exhaustion | Parenting 101

I am fatigued. But not yawn-and-stretch weary. Like numb. I dunno why. Maybe it is the transform of seasons. Even though we’ve experienced amazingly warm drop weather, I’m emotion blah.  We have experienced a whole lot of people currently, and hockey season retains us heading 3-4 times a week at […]
Supermom In Training: I've reached a new level of exhaustion | Parenting 101

You May Like