Christchurch to Timaru
Plan a road trip across New Zealand's South Island
There’s nothing better than hitting the open road and seeing where the journey takes you – and there are few better places than New Zealand to bring your sense of adventure to life. But in amongst the impromptu detours, you’ll want to make sure you don’t pass by the main pit stops. After all, New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience, so make sure you don’t miss a thing with our guide to the ultimate South Island road trip.
Rent a car to explore your own way
The first step in seeing everything the South Island has to offer is a comfortable and reliable rental car. Check out our range of car hire deals now and choose the set of wheels that’s perfect for your trip, from zippy compact cars to spacious SUVs.
A region of contrasts, Canterbury is where you can spot whales in the Pacific Ocean, scale the Southern Alps, relax in a volcanic hot pool and enjoy stylish bars and restaurants all in one day. Amble through the North Canterbury wine region, then change the pace with a trip through the lakes, glaciers and mountains of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
Lindis Pass 347 km
One of New Zealand’s must-do drives, Lindis Pass is a dramatic mountain pass that links Canterbury’s Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. With towering peaks, grassland and wildlife stretching as far as the eye can see, this area is a nature lover’s dream – and the dusting of snow in the colder months makes this mountainous drive even more enchanting.
Wanaka 81.5 km
It’s best known as the gateway to the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park, but Wanaka has much more than skiing to offer adventurous travellers. Visit any time of year to explore the wilderness and go hiking, fishing, climbing, skydiving and much more. Once you’ve had your adrenaline fix, settle in and enjoy the warmth and tranquillity of Lake Wanaka.
Queenstown 67 km
The ultimate destination for adventure seekers, Queenstown is home to the kind of scenery that really needs to be seen to be believed. As much as its famed for being a winter wonderland, there are exhilarating experiences for every season here. Go river rafting and try a bungee jump or escape altogether with a luxury spa treatment and a local food and wine tour.
Invercargill 187 km
Packed full of old-world character, Invercargill is an ideal base for exploring the great outdoors of Southland. Check out the coastal playground of Oreti Beach or taste your way around the region’s local producers, from cheese tasting at Blue River Dairy to chocolate making at the Seriously Good Chocolate Company.
Dunedin 205 km
Known for its Scottish roots, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere – but New Zealand’s city of the south is anything but stuffy. A young population keeps the city buzzing, while the beautiful Otago Peninsula puts rugged beaches and rare penguin colonies on its doorstep. Be sure to visit the Royal Albatross Centre to see Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat.
Timaru 197 km
Before you start your return trip to Christchurch, stop off at Timaru to enjoy the beachside attractions of Caroline Bay. This is the place to wind down at the end of your trip, with beaches, walks and relaxed restaurants aplenty. If you’re still feeling energetic, explore the Timaru Botanic Gardens and check out the huge collection of indoor and outdoor art at the Aigantighe Art Gallery.
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