The snow has melted, the nights are getting longer and the sweet scent of New Zealand summer is just around the corner. Normally I am not a huge summer fan due to being from the northern hemisphere where a big coat is most certainly always required and the summer months last from August 21st to August 30th. However, this year is different I can already feel it. Why now? Why at the ripe old age of 30 have you suddenly changed tact and are seemingly excited for summer?
Introducing the Jayco JRV campervan in all its glory. This, THIS is the exact reason I am excited about summer. We have a van, we have the open road and we have an ample amount of adventure opportunities right on our doorstep. It has been a lifelong dream to pack up, shut down the laptop lid, and hit the road on a summer vacay, and that my friends is exactly what we will be doing over the summer here in New Zealand.
However, I don’t want to leave you stranded and lost for ideas so I have popped together my top 5 South Island road trip locations for summer. Van or no van you can enjoy these epic spots and we are hungry to return with our trusty steed and soak up all the summer goodness Jayco style.
Do any of these tickle your fancy? Drop a comment below or head over to my Instagram account to follow along on what will be one of the best road trips ever!
Fiordland National Park
In no particular order (who am I kidding, we all know Fiordland is a personal fave) is Fiordland National Park. 1.2 million hectares of natural beauty awaits, although with only one access road we are limited to certain areas unless you are keen for a helicopter experience around the place. For the road trippers among us head to Te Anau and start your adventure here. Stay a few days, I promise it’s worth it. With the Kepler Track and Doubtful Sound right on your doorstep, it’s easy to stay occupied here. Hit the road, the Milford Road to be exact, and enjoy the most scenic drive in Southland. Allow plenty of time for activity, hikes, and photo stops along the way before reaching the iconic Milford Sound. Check out my Fiordland blog here.
Who is with me in agreeing that Southland is the most underrated area of New Zealand? It has seals, surf, and sunshine (mostly in summer) honestly it’s epic. We love it down here and you will too. It has its quirks and it’s cool and weird and unpredictable, everything you need to make the perfect road trip right? Stretching from the Catlins right down into Fiordland, the Southland region is pretty awesome and I for one will advocate for this region until the cows come home. We love a freedom campsite for the self-contained and Monkey Island not only delivers the views, the surf, and the ocean but also has newly refurbed toilets, yey. Pitch up and stay as long as you like. The awesome town of Riverton is good for a second-hand shop and also a good portion of ‘Fush & Chups’ (fish and chips to the rest of the world) and good coffee from the new vegan café Jacobs River bakehouse.
West Coast & Arthurs Pass
Okay, if you are avoiding the West Coast because of the temperamental weather then stop, turn around and head down this epic coastal road. The West Coast is a mecca for incredible beauty. Honestly, one of the best places in New Zealand but also one of the most ‘forgotten areas’ as it’s a little far from the hot spots. However, Franz Josef, Punakaiki, and Haast are beyond insane. We fell in love with the quaint little town of Okarito and cant wait to stay the night in the beachfront campground this summer. Continue on the road and cut through the Arthurs Pass, I have a thing for national parks and this one is pretty special. The road is epic, the views are outstanding and the hikes and waterfalls… I will leave you to explore.
Mount Cook National Park
Sharing my New Zealand top spot with Fiordland is Mount Cook National Park. Aoraki, Mount Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain and he is possibly the best looking pointy peak I have ever laid eyes on. Home to the most famous day hikes in the country, Hooker Valley and Sealy Tarns and epic overnighters this national park sure knows how to turn it on for road-trippers alike. The White Horse campground is a DOC-operated campground, perfect for any vehicle type, and comes with complimentary Kea wake-up calls. The mountains surround you here and the night sky is truly spectacular.
Where the mountains meet the sea, Kaikoura is a special place to be. Located on State Highway 1, down from the Picton ferry Port and linking with Christchurch, this town deserves more than an overnight stay on your way South. Full of adventure, stoke, whales, and the best Kai Moana (seafood) in the south, Kaikoura has a firm place on any South Island road trip itinerary and in my heart. Get amongst the Dolphin Swimming, whale watching, and quad biking along with seal spotting and hiking Mount Fyffe. The people are as beautiful as the views and as far as classic kiwi hospitality goes, they know how it’s done.
Are you inspired to hit the road? See you out there adventure folk!