Get ready, wanderlusters! New Zealand’s South Island has majestic mountains, picturesque fjords and spectacular glaciers to win you over. Trust us; the scenery is so beautiful that it’s impossible to take a bad photo.
From exploring Christchurch on a tram to bungy jumping at the adventure capital of Queenstown, this one-week itinerary will take you on the trip of your lifetime!
Fly from Singapore to New Zealand’s South Island
- Take a non-stop flight to Christchurch to start your South Island journey with Singapore Airlines!
- Before heading to the airport, download the SingaporeAir mobile app (available on iOS and Android) to book your ride to the airport, check-in on your mobile, view your boarding pass and get flight updates, all at your fingertips!
- Besides reading unlimited international magazines and newspapers from the app, we spent our long flight glued to our screen thanks to the huge variety of movies, TV shows, music and games on Singapore Airlines’ inflight entertainment system, KrisWorld!
- Before we know it, our delicious inflight meals arrived! Complete with fragrant rice, chicken curry, mixed salad and sweet dessert, we savoured every bite. Don’t forget to book your Muslim meal when making your reservation.
Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch
- After you’ve landed at Christchurch Airport, purchase a Vodafone’s NZ Travel SIM ($49) at the International Arrivals Hall to stay connected! You’ll get 4GB of data and unlimited use of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for 30 days.
- To self-drive on South Island, there are many car and campervan rental companies within the International Arrivals Hall, next to the domestic baggage reclaim area. It includes Avis, Budget, Europcar, Ezi Car Rental, Hertz and more.
- You can choose an economy car (for couples), SUV (for a small family), campervan (for a family with kids), and more. For our trip, we rented a Premium Minivan from Budget New Zealand, which is perfect for a group of five adults.
- For international travellers, you need to provide your passport, an international driver’s licence, credit card and reservation number to collect your car.
- #HHWT Tip: Remember to bring your international driver licence (or driver permit) and book your vehicle in advance during the busy summer season (December to February)!
- P.S. Christchurch Airport also has a prayer room that is located next to the domestic baggage reclaim area, which is open to visitors of all faiths.
The Christchurch Trams (3 hours)
- Kickstart your trip with a Christchurch tram tour!
- Hop on the heritage tram and explore sightseeing spots such as Cathedral Junction, Canterbury Museum, Victoria Square and more! The tram also stops conveniently at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Gondola Shuttle bus, and Canterbury Museum stop (close to Punting on the Avon River!)
- Look out the window and take in the city views as the friendly driver shares fun facts about Christchurch.
Punting on the Avon River (1 hour)
- If you’re taking the Christchurch Tram, alight at the Canterbury Museum stop and walk five minutes to Punting on the Avon River.
- Let the Edwardian punter glide the boat along the sparkling Avon River. Just sit comfortably on the velvet cushion and admire the serene garden city around you. Look out for the 130-year-old Weeping Willows and native trees like Kōwhai and Kahikatea!
- Gush over adorable Paradise shelducks, also known as Pūtangitangi in Maori. Did you know these ducks are inseparable from their mates? Spot the male (black head) and female (white head) ducks swimming together!
- During winter, you’ll be given hot water bottles and blankets to keep you warm.
- If you wish to explore at your own pace, you can choose to kayak or canoe too!
Christchurch Mosque (1 hour)
- Masjid Al Noor Mosque is located at the edge of the stunning Hagley Park, about 10 minutes from the city centre. Built in 1984, it was the South Island’s first mosque.
- Following the events of March 15, Christchurch showed enormous support for their Muslim community, and continue to value Kiwis of all faiths.
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve (3 hours)
- Enjoy a 25-min drive to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, the home of New Zealand’s Big 5 wildlife.
- Meet Kaka (rare bush parrot), Kea (mountain parrot), Takahe (endangered flightless bird), Tuatara (ancient reptile), and the famous Kiwi (New Zealand’s iconic bird).
- Since Kiwis are nocturnal creatures, it’s tricky to find them in the dark, red-lit enclosure. To spot them, listen out for its high-pitched call and foraging sounds! Remember, you’re not allowed to take pictures.
- Next, head over to Ko Tane for an interactive Maori cultural experience.
- Step foot into the village to experience a lively pōwhiri (Maori welcome) and wero (warrior challenge) where a Maori warrior puts a small branch on the ground. If you pick it up, it signifies that you arrive in peace.
- Get blown away by their powerful song performance and a grand speech from the Maori chief. Next, witness a ceremonial greeting called Hongi, where the chief and visitor will gently press their noses and foreheads together, believed to be the exchanging of the breath of life.
- We loved the interactive performance which features poi (Maori ball dance) and haka (ancient Maori ritual) where we got to understand their way of life and culture better.
- End your night with a traditional Hangi dinner where meat and vegetables are cooked in an underground pit for three to four hours. Served in a buffet-styled dinner, it’s perfect for large groups. Our favourite was the lemon & kawakawa chicken which was really tender!
- Halal status: While the kitchen cooks pork and other meats, it’s prepared and wrapped separately to prevent cross-contamination.
Day 2: Christchurch
Lake Tekapo (1 hour)
- Take a 3-hour drive to Lake Tekapo where The Church Of The Good Shepherd is located.
- Make your way to this beautiful picturesque stone church overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo.
- There are many large rocks and pebbles surrounding the lake. Watch your step if you’re planning a great lakeside shot!
Earth & Sky Stargazing And Observatory Tours (2 hours)
- Take a 5-min drive to Earth & Sky Stargazing and Observatory Tours.
- Experience a magical night at Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of the eleven Dark Sky Reserves in the world!
- There are two stargazing tours: Mount John Observatory Tour (perfect for astronomy fans) and Cowan’s Observatory Tour (great for a relaxing stargaze).
- We went for the Cowan’s Observatory Tour which took around 75 mins.
- When we arrived, it was almost pitch black, and we were only given red LED lights to navigate the pebbled pathways. Since white lights are not allowed in the area, we were not allowed to use our phones or torch lights.
- It was surreal to see the Milky Way, Orion constellation and shooting stars before our very eyes. Since we live in the city, we’ve never seen anything like this before!
- With our hot chocolate in hand, we saw many star clusters like The Jewel Box through a powerful telescope. Our astronomy guide shared many fascinating stories about constellations too.
Day 3: Canterbury
Tasman Glacier (3 hours)
- Enjoy a scenic 1-hour drive to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
- Our morning began with a scenic 25-min walk to the Tasman Lake Jetty for our jet boat ride.
- Hop on board the jet boat because it’s time to get up close with the huge icebergs at the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier!
- We were lucky to find ice crystals along the way. If you put the same ice in your drink, it’ll take seven times longer to melt.
- We were lucky to spot a block of huge glacial ice! It has the prettiest shade of blue because it recently turned over.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park (6 hours)
- There are many great walks in New Zealand, and the famous Hooker Valley track is one of them!
- Since it has a moderate difficulty level (3 hours return), wear comfortable shoes as the path is filled with elevated slopes, small steps and rocky pathways.
- While hiking, take in the national park’s mountainous landscapes, beautiful glaciers, gushing river and clear blue skies.
- You know you’ve completed the track when you’ve crossed all three swing bridges!
- P.S. The sunset times differ as the seasons change. In winter, the sunsets slightly before 5.30PM and in summer, it sets between 8.30PM and 10PM. Since there are no lights along the hiking trail, bring a torchlight if you’re hiking in the evening.
Day 4: Wanaka
NZ Alpine Lavender Farm (1.5 hours)
- Enjoy a 30-min drive to NZ Alpine Lavender Farm.
- Known as the largest organic lavender farm in the Southern Hemisphere, you can get New Zealand’s award-winning lavender oil right here!
- The lavender farm opens only from mid-Dec to mid-Mar.
- P.S. We went to the farm in early March only to find that the lavenders have been harvested, so do visit in January to enjoy the flowers in full bloom.
- Since it’ll be warm and sunny at the farm, cool down with lavender flavoured ice cream from the purple ice cream truck. We tried lavender blueberry, and it was nice and sweet!
- P.S. The ice cream is made of vanilla, lavender oil and natural fruit flavouring.
- Right next to the ice cream truck, there’s a mobile souvenir shop where you can buy lavender oil, body lotion and tea sachets. We even bought the roll-on lavender oil, which is super convenient and very soothing!
High Country Salmon (1.5 hours)
- For a quick lunch, take a 15-min drive to High Country Salmon.
- Walk around the salmon farm that floats above the glacial waters of Wairepo Arm. You can also feed the salmon fishes for free (your kids will love this one!).
- We’re here for one thing: Fresh salmon! While the cafe offers everything from salmon burgers to poke bowls, we loved the sashimi the most. It tasted fresh and great on its own.
- Halal status: All the food is either vegetarian or seafood except for pastries, which are brought in by various suppliers and not prepared in the kitchen. We recommend that you dine at your own discretion.
Mount Aspiring National Park (3 hours)
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- It’s going to be a long 2.5-hour drive to Mount Aspiring National Park, but it’ll be worth it!
- Immerse yourself in nature as you marvel at the spectacular mountains and river valleys of New Zealand’s third largest national park.
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- For hiking enthusiasts, you’ll enjoy the breezy half-day hike along Rob Roy Glacier, where you’ll see alpine lakes, river valleys and majestic mountains.
- The Lord of the Rings fans would definitely recognise Dan’s Paddock, the same spot where Gandalf makes his way to Isengard.
- Besides hiking, this national park is also great for camping. Park your vehicle or campervan at Pleasant Flat (for Mount Hooker view) or Sylvan (next to the scenic Routeburn River) Campsites.
Day 5: Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu (2.5 hours)
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- Get ready for a 2-hour scenic drive to Lake Wakatipu, the third largest lake in New Zealand
- Look around and admire the majestic mountains, alpine valleys and glaciers surrounding the lake.
- Up for an adventure? You can paddle board or take a paraflight! If you prefer sightseeing, you’re going to love exploring the lake on a vintage steamship.
Walter Peak High Country Farm (3.5 hours)
Credit: @kadazan_in_aotearoa on Instagram
- From Lake Wakatipu, take a 15-min drive to Real Journeys Visitor Centre at Beach Street for your next activity.
Credit: @akaluck.th on Instagram
- Board the vintage TSS Earnslaw steamship to visit Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Your day begins with a sheep shearing demonstration and farmyard walking tour where you’ll visit a holding pen to feed sheep, deer and the Scottish Highland cattle.
Credit: @erikomis_ on Instagram
- Lastly, enjoy your afternoon tea at the old woolshed before exploring the beautiful lakeside garden.
Day 6: Queenstown
AJ Hackett Bungy (3 hours)
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- Are you ready to tick bungy jumping off your bucket list? Conquer your fear at AJ Hackett Bungy!
- Known as the adventure capital of the world, face your fears with a bungy jump, swing, catapult or zipride in Queenstown.
Credit: AJ Hackett Bungy
- If you can’t decide, we challenge you to try the world-famous Nevis Swing! Known as the most famous swing in the world, you will swing forward and backwards in a 300-meter arc.
- Next, there’s the Kawarau Bridge Bungy that is 43 meters high. The best part about the bridge bungy is that you can leap and touch the water at the Kawarau River!
- Similar to other AJ Hackett Bungy activities across New Zealand, their friendly and enthusiastic instructors will provide the best safety gear and make you feel at ease before your jump!
Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve (3-4 hours)
Credit: @returningweasel on Instagram
- Take it slow with a 5-min drive to Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve.
- The walk along the Ben Lomond Saddle track will take you 3-4 hours. Do note that this walk has a moderate level of difficulty!
Credit: @benamies on Instagram
- Take your time to admire the breath-taking view complete with stunning lakes and mountains. You can also catch a glimpse of Mount Earnslaw and Mount Aspiring from here!
Day 7: Queenstown
Milford Sound (2.5 hours)
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- Hit the road early because it’ll be a 4-hour drive to the famous Milford Sound.
- Surrounded by cascading waterfalls and rising mountains, you’ll see why Rudyard Kipling described this paradise as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.
Credit: Tourism New Zealand
- It usually takes four days to complete New Zealand’s famous walk, the Milford Track. When completed, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of alpine valleys, mountains and glacier-shaped fiord.
- If you’re pressed for time, take in the scenery with a nature cruise, guided kayaking adventure or underwater observatory experience.
Day 8: Fly back home
- Start your day early because it’s going to be a 4-hour drive back to Queenstown Airport.
- You can take a domestic flight from Queenstown to Christchurch and connect your flight back home seamlessly on Singapore Airlines.
- Don’t forget to drop your keys at the rental counters at the terminal building.
- Shop for last minute souvenirs at Aelia Duty Free. You can buy Whittaker’s chocolate, Lanolin hand cream or Rotorua mud facial scrub for your loved ones.
Whether you’re taking a leap of faith in Queenstown or counting stars at Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, make the most of your South Island trip with this ultimate one-week itinerary. Ready for your adventure? Time to book your flight now!
This article is brought to you by Tourism New Zealand and Singapore Airlines.