We had the most amazing 2 months in NZ’s South Island from May to August 2016. The whole South Island is glorious. I lived on North Island for the last 6 years and I loved it so much I didn’t even feel like going South. But then we did. And things changed.
I LOVED it. L-O-V-E-D I-T! From the beginning to the end, it was incredible. There are more stars, the rivers have this amazing shade of blue, the bush is so infinitely colorful, the towns and the roads are charming, the food was fantastic, the mountains contrasting with the sea were a poem.
I can’t see myself living up North ever again. When we come back, I want to stay in the South.
Here’s all about our 2-months-long road trip around NZ’s South Island with kids
3800km +/- driven
0 car repairs
8 full tanks of petrol
18 shops for groceries
8 animals encounters (kea, possum, sea lion, fur seal, whale, dolphin, albatross, fantail)
1 stuck in mud ‘problem’
0 beach swim
1 freezing lake swim
2 tech problems solved
1 play in the snow
1 outside toilet
1 hospital visit
0 serious injuries
1 killed bird (windshield)
5 mice in 2 consecutive houses
We arrived at the end of May in Picton and drove to Pohara. It was the most beautiful drive I’d ever been, but thanks to the ferry and its horrible sea sickness, I didn’t enjoy it enough. We took 4 hours (246 km) from the ferry to Pohara, where we spent 12 days. It’s a small town in Golden Bay, just by the Abel Tasman forest. We weren’t in our best shapes: I was sick for the first 3 days and everyone else was sick during the last 5 days. Still, we had a few glorious days there. The highlight was Totaranui Beach. If there was ever a perfect beach, it was this one.
Angelo fell sick on our last day there. Still, he managed to drive the 5 hours (and 352 km) from Pohara to Kaikoura. Kaikoura’s highlights were the fur seals. They are gorgeous and we all fell in love with them. Besides that, the Whale Watch was another great experience. We spent a week there and it was great. Kaikoura’s full of incredible wild animals, it was a great place for the kids, peaceful, small yet packed with activities. It was there that Angelo needed the hospital. Turns out, he had labyrinthitis.
From Kaikoura, we went to Christchurch. A 2 and half hours drive, 182 km and we got there. It was FREEZING! Kaikoura was warm around midday but Christchurch was freezing – and we got there at 2 pm. I was so scared of the earthquakes I didn’t want to spend a night there, but we stayed for a week. And I loved it. If I could, I’d move t Christchurch. It’s the perfect balance between all the amenities of a big city, the charm of a small town, all the glorious nature and landscape of the South Island and it was just perfect. The kids loved Imagination Station. I loved everything.
Then we went to Dunedin. It was a long drive, with a pitstop at the Moeraki Boulders. We took around 6 hours for the 365 km, counting the time we were playing by the boulders. The boulders were incredible, but it was kind of disappointing to see there were so few of them. Each of them was incredible, though.
Dunedin itself didn’t impress us much – it might have been due to the horrible weather we had there, or the outside toilet (not fun when it’s raining, dark and cold). It’s not that it’s not a great place, but we didn’t get to see much of it. We all loved playing at the sand dunes at Sandfly Bay – and there were sea lions.
Invercargill was a whole different story, though. We were blessed with amazing weather throughout the week, in an incredible house. The 3 and half hour (252 km) drive even felt short. It was super cool seeing Stirling Point (and the Foveaux Memorial, the southernmost place on the South Island) but Queens Park was where we had the most fun. It was the moment when it hit us that our South Island trip was more than halfway done! We were starting to go North again.
After Invercargill, we went to Kingston, where we spent 10 days. It was a bit over 2 hours and only 168 km away, but it was way too close so we decided to visit Milford Sounds. The drive was incredible but the fjord itself wasn’t what we expected. We might need to check on it next time.
I LOVED Kingston. Loved having Lake Whakatipu right there always. It was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen in my life. I mean, there’s the crazy blue lake, then the snow-capped mountains circling it, loads of different trees all around and very few people. My kinda place. Angelo loved Arrowtown – and it IS super pretty. The kids loved The Remarkable Sweet Shop.
From Kingston, we went to Whataroa. We spent 2 nights there only and after a 6-hour drive (415 km), we were tired, so we didn’t really see much. The drive there was the only place where we saw snow and it was so cool! Super quick, but we had a blast!
From Whataroa, we drove 20 minutes (28 km) to Franz Josef. Haha, yes, you read it right. We had a nice week there. We saw Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Peters Pool and Douglas Bridge. We saw Mount Cook and Mount Tasman (from afar). We had Jose’s 9th birthday there too.
It was not the best place for us because Coral couldn’t do anything besides walking there due to her age and we all decided not to do anything either. So we walked and walked and walked. I loved it, though.
And we got to our LAST place: Blenheim. It was a long drive. We took 7 hours to cover the 494 km. We spent 9 days there – the sunniest and warmest days we had on this adventure. Such a beautiful place! It was the best closure we could get from this part of the trip. The kids loved the house and the optic fiber internet, I loved the sun! Angelo loved it so much he wants to live there.
And he’s also made a little video! We hope you enjoy it! Six60 kindly allowed us to use their song for this video, thanks a lot!