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South Island Loop

Circle the island in 3 weeks

This itinerary loops the South Island (Te Waipounamu) in 3 weeks – if you’ve less time, start in Christchurch or Queenstown with a one-way car rental, pick your South Island hotspots, and return the car in Queenstown or Christchurch. Both cities have airports with international and domestic flights, plus loads of rental cars. One-way rentals are common requests.

There are three ways to go - the east coast, the west coast or through the middle via Mt Cook Village.

Jetty Viewpoint Reflektion Am Lake Matheson

To add some context to this itinerary, a lot of people drive the 482km between Christchurch and Queenstown in a single day.

Days 1-9: Christchurch to Queenstown via the east coast & Milford Sound

Drive south from Christchurch on SH1, visiting Oamaru and Moeraki Boulders on the way to Dunedin. There’s top wildlife watching out on Otago Peninsula.

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Abel Tasman National Park

6okm or dayhike & kayak this coastal track

Fox Glacier

Walk on a glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Guided heli-hikes on the glacier

Marlborough Wine

NZ's largest wine-producing region

Milford Sound (Piopiotahi)

Make sure to take a cruise on the fiord!

Moeraki Boulders

Perfectly rounded boulders on the beach

Paparoa NP & 'Pancake Rocks'

Layered rocks & blowholes at Punakaiki

Text © Craig McLachlan

Images by craig, Thomas