3 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island: Our Itinerary

We spent 3 glorious weeks (21 nights) in the South Island of New Zealand. We stayed in quite a few areas, including Marlborough, Nelson, Abel Tasman, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, and Fiordland (Milford Sound). Here are the highlights of those weeks! (You may want to make yourself comfortable; this post is kind of a monster)

road trip south island
The gist of our route through the South Island

Day 1: Wellington –> Renwick (Marlborough)


Ferry from Wellington to Picton: 3.5 hours

Started our tour of the South Island in the Marlborough region, the land of Sauvignon Blanc (our favorite white wine!)

Instead of sipping wine, we spent most of our day in Blenheim’sĀ Emergency Department. Pete got some debris in his eye from a strong wind while camping the night before (at least, that’s what we think happened…). Luckily, NZ has incredible healthcare and his visit for “foreign object in the eye” was totally covered!!

petes eye blenheim
Pete’s worst nightmare came true šŸ™


Ate (at our first restaurant in NZ!) at Cork & Keg, a super local English pub with great food.

Slept in a cute Airbnb in Renwick, where they had sheeps, cats, dogs, birds…even alpacas, our new favorite!

alpacas renwick marlborough
Pete’s favorite was Bernie, the adorable alpaca on the right

Day 2: Renwick (Marlborough)


Winery-hopped our way through Renwick and Blenheim, tasting as many wines as we could.

forrest winery marlborough

Pete had his eye checked out by an ophthalmologist – all good! (Again, totally free!)


Since it was Thanksgiving (November 24), we treated ourselves to a nice Italian dinner at Roccos.


Day 3: Renwick (Marlborough)


Got delicious pies from The Burleigh, the “famous” place in Blenheim

Did laundry, caught up on the blog…boring, housekeeping stuff

Couldn’t resist checking out a few more wineries


pizza renwick
Nothin like $3 pizza with some local wine!

Got ourselves a cheap pizza from the grocery store and went to bed early

Day 4: Nelson


Drove 1 hour 20 minutes from Renwick to Nelson

Hiked at Grampians Reserve: took the Mahoe track up to the viewing platform and the Kahikatea track back down

Got some brews at the Founders Brewery and then to the movie theater – saw The Arrival (and loved it!)

founders brewery nelson


Camped at Maitai Valley Camp and took a short walk behind the campsite

tent car new zealand
Our humble abode

Day 6: Abel Tasman


Drove 2.5 hours from Nelson to our campground in Abel Tasman National Park, including a very long drive up a narrow gravel road with a scarily steep drop-off


Stayed at the Totaranui Campground and had our first encounter withĀ the infamous sand flies of the South Island

Walked on the beach & explored the area

Kept awake by some incredibly loud birds all night

Sorry for the "graphic" image, but the size of the bird poop speaks volumes
Sorry for the “graphic” image, but look at the size of this bird poop right outside our tent. Now imagine the size of the bird responsible…!

Day 7: Abel Tasman


Enjoyed a 6 hour hike, part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk, which is one of NZ’s Great Walks: from Totaranui up to Gibbs Hill, then completed the loop along the coast

abel tasman
One of our favorite hikes – part of the Abel Tasman coastal track


I accidentally booked us a nice hotel in Granity instead of Murchison (or even Westport), so after our hike, we drove 5 hours to our hotel: Miners on Sea

Day 8: Greymouth


Super cold & dreary day that put us in a funky mood, so this turned into a day of indulgence

Blogged for a bit at McDonalds

Got some brews at the famous brewery Monteith


Stayed at Duke HostelĀ and got pretty drunk ate lots of candy in our warmest clothes until we felt better

Day 9: Arthur’s Pass


DevouredĀ our free breakfast at Duke Hostel (toast & jam)

Drove <2 hours to Arthur’s Pass; enjoyed incredible vistas

arthurs pass national park

Hiked the Bealey Spur Track that provided incredible panoramic views: 2.5 hours return

bealey track
Highly recommend this hike

Filled up our water bottles at the crystal clear river


Camped at a gorgeous, free campground: Lake Pearson (Moana Rua), where there were barely any sand flies, but it was bone-chillingly cold

campground lake pearson
One of our favorite camp grounds, and it was free!

Day 10: Arthur’s Pass –> Franz Josef


Hiked the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, which took under an hour return

devils punchbowl

Drove to Franz Josef, with a pit stop in Hokitika for groceries


Stayed at Chateau Franz, which had horrible (but free) wifi

sir cedrics chateau franz
Super cozy, and pretty affordable!

Did a quick walk to see the glowworms when it finally got dark out at 10pm…! The trail is calledĀ Terrace Walk, and if you did the whole thing it’d take 30 minutes return

Day 11: Franz Josef –> Haast Pass


Hiked the Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk, which was very touristy, to get a good view of Franz Josef glacier; took about an hour

franz josef glacier walk

Did a few more short walks:Ā Douglas Walk & Peter’s Pool (1 hour), Lake Wombat (1 hour)

Lake Wombat
Lake Wombat

Drove a half hour to Fox Glacier

Did a 1.5 hour walk by Fox Glacier called the Lake Matheson circuit, which gives gorgeous reflective views of the mountains

Pondering life at Lake Matheson

Drove 2 hours to our campsite


Camped at Pleasant Flat Campsite (yes, that’s really the name lol), where the sand flies sounded like rain upon our tent

sand flies
ATTACK OF THE SAND FLIES – not so pleasant

Day 12: Albert Town


Took a leisurely drive to Albert Town, stopping at many sites along the way, including the Blue Pools

blue pools new zealand
Blue Pools
Views along the road


Cooked up a nice meal and stayed at our own Airbnb Cottage in Albert Town

airbnb albert town

Day 13: Albert Town & Wanaka


Hiked Mount Iron (1 hour return)

Enjoyed a free wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard

Rippon Vineyard
Probably the prettiest vineyard in the world


Stayed at the Airbnb; Pete cooked us up a feast!

After weeks of sandwiches, we were excited for some home cooked meals!

Day 14: Albert Town & Wanaka


Went for an hour walk: the Lake Wanaka Outlet track

lake wanaka outlet track

Visited Puzzling World for some entertainment; were highly amused

chair puzzling world


Stayed at the Airbnb

Day 15: Albert Town & Wanaka


Hiked Roy’s Peak (shout out to Will D for the suggestion!) – estimated time 6-7 hours, so we were really smug when we finished under 4 hours! We weren’t so smug when we could barely walk the next day…

The views (and the abundance of sheep along the way) were absolutely worth it

roy's peak
Itty bitty Pete giving praise that our assent was over

Went to the adorable Cinema Paradiso to see Fantastic Beasts; highly recommend this theater if you’re ever in Wanaka

The one-room theater had a hodgepodge of seating options, including a comfy couch, and sold warm cookies during intermission
The one-room theater had a hodgepodge of seating options, including a comfy couch, and sold warm cookies during intermission


Stayed atĀ Albert Town Campground

Day 16: Arrowtown


Enjoyed the Albert Town campsite; contemplated staying another night, but decided it was time to leave Wanaka šŸ™

Drove just under an hour to Arrowtown

Used the McDonalds wifi for a few hours


Slept at Holiday Park Arrowtown

Day 17: Arrowtown (Dec 8)


Pete wants me to include his “glorious” shower in the campground as a highlight (I gotta say, he really was glowing afterwards)

Did a not-so-enjoyable, 1.5 hour long walk – Tobins Track (wouldn’t recommend – very steep, out-and-back trail, with only decent views at the top)

tobins track arrowtown
So it’s actually pretty hard to take an ugly picture in NZ…

Walked around Arrowtown, bought post cards


Slept at Holiday Park Arrowtown

Day 18: Queenstown


Drove the quick 15 minutes to Queenstown

Pete went BUNGY JUMPING from Nevis, the highest bungy in New Zealand! I paid to be a spectator and was more nervous than he was

Had our first, glorious Fergburger – Pete got the Big Al; I decided to break my no-beef rule just for this restaurant and got the Fergburger with brie cheese



Had some drinks by the lake and watched the sunset

Went to Cowboys..and then Ferburger again

Slept at Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde for $50 (just for a tent site!!)

Day 19: Queenstown –> Fiordland


Drove to Fiordland National Park

It was pouring rain and freezing cold, so we read/ate/watched movies in our car


Slept at Cascade Creek at made it through our final attack of the sandflies

Day 20: Fiordland National Park


Did the two walks by Milford Sound; took about 30 minutes total. Not super impressive

Hiked Lake Marian – muddy, but highly recommend

Drove 4 hours to Arrowtown


Slept at Arrowtown Holiday Park

Day 21: Queenstown


Rode up the gondola; took 3 (chilly) rides on the luge and giggled like kids

Made a third and (possible) final appearance at Fergburger (not even ashamed about that)


Blogged, utilized the free wifi at our hotel:Ā Alpine Lodge Backpackers

Day 22: Queenstown


Returned our rental car & went to the airport, where we said “See ya later” to NZ and flew to Sydney!

Have any questions about our itinerary? How about suggestions? Let us know below!

2 Comment

  1. Janice THOMPSON says: Reply

    Awesome!! And I can see why Pete loved Bernie…<3

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      The cutest alpaca ever!

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