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Two Weeks in New Zealand – The Complete South Island Itinerary

Two Weeks in New Zealand – The Complete South Island Itinerary

Planning the perfect two weeks in New Zealand can be a challenging task – there’s so much to see you can’t really see everything. If you have two weeks we suggest spending it on one island, and we suggest two weeks on the south island. Honestly, three weeks to explore just the south island is better, but we did it in just two weeks and saw just about all of the highlights.

Our two-week itinerary of the south island is fast-paced, but this is the best way to see everything New Zealand’s South Island has to offer.

Christchurch is the hub of the south island and your two weeks in New Zealand will start here. The best way to tackle the south island is a loop route. We took this route clockwise starting from Christchurch heading south first, but this could be reversed easily too. If we had two weeks in New Zealand here’s what we would do after looking back at our time in this amazing country.

Two Week New Zealand Itinerary

kiwi krawl pre trip

Two Weeks in New Zealand – Daily Itinerary

Two weeks in NZ Destination Highlights Drive Distance Details
Day 1 Lake Tekapo Star Gazing Tour 225 km  Full Itinerary
Day 2 Lake Tekapo Exploring the Lake and Hiking  0 km   Full Itinerary
Day 3 The Catlins  Moeraki Boulders, Penguins, landscapes, and exploring 457 km   Full Itinerary
Day 4 Te Anau  The Glow Worm Cave 398 km   Full Itinerary
Day 5 Milford Sound The Famous Milford Sound Cruise 287 km   Full Itinerary
Day 6 Queenstown Skydiving, Jet boat- Dart river safari, Hang Gliding, Jet boat- Shotover jet, Bungy jump- The Nevis 134meters 0 km  Full Itinerary
Day 7 Glenorchy Glenocrhy Town and Lakes 99 km   Full Itinerary
Day 8 Queenstown Wine Tasting Tour 27 km   Full Itinerary
Day 9 Westside Glaciers Hiking Fox Glacier or Franz Joseph Glacier – Glacier Tour, and Hot Springs 426 km   Full Itinerary
Day 10 Able Tasman Great Walk of Able Tasman 499 km   Full Itinerary
Day 11 Able Tasman & Nelson Morning kayaking in Able Tasman Bay 116 km   Full Itinerary
Day 12 Nelson Nelson Market and Beer Scene 322 km   Full Itinerary
Day 13 Kaikoria Whale Watching & Wild Dolphins 30 km   Full Itinerary
Day 14 Christchurch Explore the City of Christchurch 212 km   Full Itinerary

Day by Day Detailed New Zealand Itinerary

Below is a day by day itinerary for a great two week trip to New Zealand. We listed in detail everything we did in our two weeks on the South Island, hopefully, it helps you plan your trip.

Day 1

Day 1 stats:

  • Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
  • Distance Driven: 224.9 k

Our day starts in Christchurch, well actually the day before never ends as we have an overnight layover in Auckland before really getting our trip started. We quickly, and most cost-effectively found our way from the airport to our rental van company via the city bus and a nice walk through the city.


We grabbed our camper van and went straight to fill the chilly bin as the Kiwis call it, the cooler or icebox. After getting past the sticker shock of the groceries, and a quick lesson on peanut butter from a friendly local, we settled on the American style, sorry but reports on the vegemite will have to wait.

Our backyard for the night: Lake Tekapo

This gorgeous turquoise lake surrounded by mountains was the rest stop for day one. For our first night we pre-booked a campground, but from here on out we plan to frequent the free DOC sites. I am glad we found this site, situated right on the water with great views and a beach. My only complaint would be that I would have wanted more time here.

The lake is amazing and photographed nicely, we didn’t have enough energy from traveling to tramp around too much (In case you didn’t know tramping is what New Zealanders call hiking, not what people in the US think of!).

The Main Event: Star Gazing!

We rallied ourselves with an afternoon nap before heading star gazing at 11:45 pm! Atop Mt. John, near Lake Tekapo, sits an observatory pointed at the southern skies. The crew of Earth & Sky took us up to the observatory and lead us through with their knowledgeable guides and astrophysicists.

They guided our gazing, pointing out everything from the moon to faraway galaxies with their high-powered telescopes.

This trip came at a perfect time because I have been excited to start pointing my camera toward the night skies for a while now, and finally got a chance. I even got some one-on-one time with the resident photographer for some tips on catching the stars. I’m excited to start shooting and sharing some night-scapes!

We had a nearly full moon on the night we were gazing which hindered seeing some stars, but the views we got of the moon were out of this world (sorry bad joke). Then we also got to check out the observatory’s prized possession, a 24″ telescope worth $3 million, which just opened to the public just two days ago. Behind the viewfinder, we found what some call the ‘snow globe’, a galaxy comprised of over a million stars that look like a beautiful and brilliant, you guessed it, snow globe.

Day 2 – Lake Tekapo

Day 2 stats:
Distance Driven: 457.1 KM
Home for the night: Lake Pounawea Motor Camp GroundWe rose a little late this morning since we were up past 2 am the night before gazing at the stars. One of the critical supplies we picked up in Christchurch was a French press coffee maker. Super excited not to be drinking instant coffee this morning, oh and the lake in the background was nice too!

Lake Pukaki

As we pulled away from the rest stop from the first night we pointed toward the town of Twizel and Lake Pukaki. As soon as we caught sight of the aqua blue waters with Mt. Cook in the background we were more than happy to take the slightly longer route. This is what I came to New Zealand to see, well not just this but you know what I mean.

The lakes in this area are feed from the glaciers that we will be visiting later on this trip, and that’s also where they get their amazing blue color. As the glaciers move they are grinding up rock, making what they call here ‘glacier flour’ the suspended rock dust in the water is what makes the water look almost a fake color of blue.

OamaruWe pulled off to possibly sneak a peek of a penguin. There is a colony of yellow-eyed penguins that call Bushy beach in Oamaru’s home. However no one was home, and the only penguin we saw was on the sign, at least it was on a yellow sign.

Moeraki Boulders

These rocks aren’t just rocks they’re giant, near-perfectly spherical, boulders plunked in the Pacific. Several are nearly 7ft (2m) in diameter. I took a few shots with my brand new neutral density filter, with long 30 second exposures (with Hannah behind me screaming that the waves were going to carry my camera out to sea).

The Catlins

Sunset refections in the Catlins - Destination on Two Weeks in New Zealand Route
Our Backyard for the night:

We must have spent too much time hanging out by the lake, not seeing penguins, and taking pictures of rocks, because we didn’t get to our campsite til much later than we expected. We did pull in just in time to catch an awesome sunset just outside the grounds, over a near waveless pond.

Day 3

day 3 map

Day stats:
Distance driven: 398.3km
Campsite for the night: Cascade Creek DOC Site

It was a rainy morning drive from our campsite to Te Anau, rain clouds, green fields, and sheep were the scenery. Te Anau itself is a cute little town with shops, restaurants, a very large bird statue. Surrounded by the lake and mountains it was a nice way to spend a few hours before taking our tour.

Glow Worm Cave

Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Well if worms that glow in a giant cave in the side of a mountain are creepy to you, then yes it is.

The famous worms are located just a boat ride outside of Te Anau, about 25 minutes dock to the cave. We cruised the lake and went caving with Real Journey’s once inside the cave cameras had to go off in order to not disturb these glowing creatures of the night. Sorry for the lack of worm pics, but it’s for the good of the little guys.

The worms glow like a firefly or lightning bugs, but they use their special powers for evil. Well, I guess eating and catching flies isn’t exactly evil, but they use the light to draw their prey in, and what the fly or other bugs can’t see is the worms ‘fishing lines hanging down. The bug gets stuck like a spider’s web, the line also has a paralyzing agent, the result: a worm snack!

The Milford sound highway

Camper van near Milford sound - Two week itinerary for New Zealand

The highway from Te Anau has to be one of the prettiest stretches of road I have taken in a while. You can’t go more than a few minutes without being drawn off the road to snap a few landscape shots. We stopped at Mirror Lake, Eglinton River, and a bunch of others.

We intended to sleep at the furthest north campsite on the way to the Milford sound, Gunn’s Lake, but it was overcrowded and looked like a party scene. So we pulled out and head back to the next closest Cascade creek. It turned out to be a good decision because deeper into the sites the views were great, complete with a sunset over tall peaks. The site is also the starting point for a nice short walk along Gunn’s Lake and the surrounding forest.

Hannah held down the camper van as I braved the sandflies to cook up our sausage and cream corn dinner. Besides the pests and running out of gas before the corn was warm, our first cooked meal was good.

Day 4kiwi krawl Day 4 Map

Day stats:
Distance driven:287.3km

Start your day with a morning with a hike around the Lake Gunn trail which winds through forests that looked straight out of The Lord of the Rings. I had to keep looking over my shoulder to see if the trees had grown faces and started talking to me. The calm Lake Gunn also held some amazing reflections of the distant mountains.

Camper van near Milford sound - Two week itinerary for New ZealandMilford Sound Highway

I thought the road from Te Anau was pretty, but it is nothing compared to this gorgeous stretch of pavement. If you take this road allow time for frequent picture stops. Staggering landscapes are around every corner, with huge rock falls with waterfalls pouring out.

Milford Sound taken on a two week itinerary trip through New Zealand

Milford Sound

It seems that if you talk to anyone that has traveled to New Zealand will tell you ‘Milford Sound is a must’, well I will let you decide from the pictures if they are right.

We cruised the sound with Real Journeys on their nature tour. Starting in the bay and sailing out into the Tasman Sea, we had a beautiful day and took more pictures than I could count. The scale and magnitude of the mountains surrounding the water are hard to catch, it’s one of those places you just have to see.

Day 5

kiwi krawl day 5 map

Day stats:
distance drove: 0 km!


Queenstown is like an amusement park within nature. There is no shortage of thrills to be had, or things to jump off, or out of. Today’s itinerary is jam-packed with adrenaline, starting with one of the biggest skydiving! Then why not follow that right up with a jet boat ride with a 700 HP boat, through a narrow canyon?

Tandem Sky divers over Queenstown New Zealand - Two week New Zealand Itinerary


One of the best things we did during our two weeks in New Zealand is jumped out of a plane! We went skydiving just outside of Queenstown with Nzone. Hannah jumped from 12,000ft over the beautiful Remarkables mountain range.

Shotover Jet boat tour a part of the best two week itinerary of New ZealandShotover Jet boat ride

Why not put a jet engine on a boat? Well, why stop there? Shotover Jet boat, the original jet boat, puts two jet engines on their boats! That’s not even the crazy part, they take you to a narrow stretch of river, not a wide-open lake. The boats have amazing control and the drivers carve their way down the river steering toward what looks like a sure crash, then the last second the driver veers the boat away (likely toward another canyon wall).

When the driver gives you a whirl of his index finger, that’s your cue to hang on. These amazing machines are capable of 360s in mid-stride, one second you are going straight ahead, then next you’re facing the same way, but with a rather wet 360 in between. These are a must-try if you find yourself in Q-Town.

It has already been a jam-packed day, full of adventure sports, but we had one more activity in us before returning to our campervan for the night. We took the gondola ride up nearly 600 meters to the top of Queenstown for sunset.

A View of Queenstown from above - Top things to do in New Zealand in Two WeeksQueenstown Mountain Hike

Amazing Views of the Remarkables, and a nice sunset spot. Depending on the time of the year the sun hides behind one of the ridgelines, but it was still nice to see all the mountains painted with the soft light of the setting sun.

It was nice not to drive anywhere today, peaches (our campervan) got the day off. We stayed in the same spot as Day 4 with amazing views of the Remarkable mountains.

Day 6

Day 6 map

Day stats:
Distance driven: 99 Km
NZ - Kiwi Krawl Day 5-9

Spend day 6 of two weeks in New Zealand in the cute little town of Glenorchy, located just under an hour away from Queenstown. A few major hikes start off here as well as some short, and day hikes. The town of 400 people is perched on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu with a great mountain backdrop.

Dart River Jet Safari

NZ - Kiwi Krawl Day 5-10

Today’s highlight comes in the form of a jet boat again, but this time more focused on the sights and scenery of the beautiful part of the country that we were in, not just for thrills. Our tour with Dart River Jet Safari started with a quick trip out to a very famous farm, featured in more than a few Hollywood films.

NZ - Kiwi Krawl Day 6

Part of the safari is a walk through a beech forest, a site that was said to be an inspiration for the walking trees in The Lord of the Rings series. Learning about the trees and the forest and the makeup of this unique part of the world was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

NZ - Kiwi Krawl Day 6-3 NZ - Kiwi Krawl Day 6-4

After our walk, we boarded the jet boat to cruise the very windy Dart River. As we cruised along at top speed our driver, who was also our knowledgeable guide, stopped along the way to show us the river system and how it changes frequently.

The river is a braided river that can be completely different day to day. The jet boats handle the river with ease, powering through strong currents and gliding over just inches of water. The boats were made for this kind of river, and a day trip on a jet boat isn’t complete without a few 360s!

Glenorchy Lagoon Circuit Walk

Across the lake from the town of Glenorchy sits some sharp and interesting peaks, along with the rainy day we had made for some interesting shots. We did the full circuit that winds through the lagoon with views of the mountain range.

Suggested Places to stay: Moke Lake DOC Site

We parked Peaches (our campervan) at the closest DOC site to Queenstown, Moke Lake. It was surprisingly empty, being 6 km down a gravel road must stop most from staying here. This was one of the best sites we stayed at if you find yourself in Queenstown in a campervan take the short trip out here to escape the city and surround yourself with green mountains and sheep.

Day 7

Day stats:
Distance driven: 99

Today is all about Queenstown classics! We challenge the home of the Bungy: AJ Hackett’s Nevis site (well maybe), and the giant burgers of Qtown: Fergburger!


The bridge

Hungover the Kawarau Bridge sits the home of Bungy. Started 25 years ago right here in Queenstown, since then countless people have made the 43 meters (134 feet) leap of faith. No one has ever met their fate on any of the Bungy Jumps at AJ Hackett’s, but it wouldn’t be a bad last view, the bright blue waters of the river below. They can even dip you in the water during your Bungy Jump.

The Nevis

43 meters not high enough for you? Then head up the road some more to the highest site in New Zealand the Nevis, at a dizzying 134 meters (440ft) from the bottom of the canyon below. Even getting out to the platform to jump is intimidating. Suspended between the canyon walls by steel cables. The only way out to the jump? A cable tram ride on the series of wires supporting the aluminum box from where you jump.

The Canyon Swing

One of the newer editions to the Bungy Jump adrenalin arsenal is the Nevis Swing. It is more of a combination of falling like Bungy Jump and flying. First, you are dropped 70 meters straight down from there your momentum carries you across the canyon in an arch for nearly 300 meters.

Bonus for all of those that want to jump but are too chicken, this one has the option for the Bungy operator to flip the switch and send you on your way. Any way you choose to Bungy Jump it is sure to get your heart pumping.


Most of this New Zealand two-week itinerary is reversible, but not today. We do not recommend consuming a giant Fergburger prior to jumping off a bridge.

A wide range of meats can hop on your bun including venison, chicken, and fish all with creative names. I stuck with the beef, which was the best part of the burger for me, awesome patties. Double up for just $3 more, making a large enough to easily split, but locals will argue you need to tackle it yourself (keep in mind these are the same people telling you to jump off of everything in their town).

All in all, it was a good burger my only complaint the cheese was a bit lacking, the blue cheese was dressing not crumbles, and secondly, the price was a little steep with the cheapest starting at $12.50 (sides separate).

Fergbaker: an alternative to the burgers, next door to Fergburger, this small shop serves up creative spins on the classic meat pies including Thai Curry, Guinness pot roast, and a bunch more. The pies would fill you up if you’re not starving, or a nice snack to share coming in at $5-6 each.

Happy hour!

In Q-town we found a few of our favorite watering holes with good specials to unwind after adventurous days. The bar 1867 has $3.50 pints of Monethies (5 flavors), from 5-6 every day, $4 any other time.

Next door the Pig & Whistle has what they call a jug, about a liter of beer, served in a pitcher to share for $7. There were a few other places offering deals sound early evening but we found our favorites and didn’t venture much further.

Day 8

Day 8 MapDay stats:
Distance Driven: 26.9

After all the excitement and adventure sports of the past few days in Queenstown, we planned a chill-out day, to enjoy the softer side of this beautiful part of the country.

Wine Tasting

We explored the relatively young wine region around Queenstown with the knowledgeable guides of The Queenstown wine trail. We sampled our way around four excellent wineries just outside of the city.

The region is best known for its Pinot Noir, being at a similar latitude to other successful Pinot Regions in the world, they have their very own version. The conditions are right for the thin-skinned Pont Noir grape as well as several other grapes including Pinot Gris.

The Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and a Rose were available for tasting at all of our stops on the trail. Pinot Noir being one of my favorite styles, I had a great afternoon learning about what goes into making the red goodness, and what makes it unique.

I enjoyed the Point Noirs, Hannah the Gris, and we both like the CHEESE!


A day in Queenstown wouldn’t be complete without some kind of adventure, so we strapped Hannah in, and had her run off a cliff with wings!

The flight started in the clouds that were perched on the hillside takeoff point. With a few quick steps, Hannah was in the air with the skilled and highly accomplished pilot of SkyTrek. Actually was attached to Ian, who happens to be the 2011 NZ Hang Gliding National Champion…No big deal!

If you can’t get up the courage to jump out of a plane or Bungy Jump then hang-gliding might be your thing. Fly like a bird, high above the hills outside of Queenstown. Hang-gliding was super smooth, yet still fast enough to get your heart going (in a good way)!

Suggested Campsites: Queenstown Lakeside Holiday Park

We made sure to park the campervan in Queenstown before we went wine sampling. Driving a brightly colored camper van on the wrong side of the road, after trying a lot of good Queenstown wine… probably not a good idea! Friends don’t let friends drink and Campervan!

Day 9

day 9 map

Day stats:

Distance Driven: 426.1 km

A big day of driving was in store for us today, so with an early rise and a big pot of coffee we were off to explore the west coast.

Blue pools & Waterfalls

It seems around every other corner here in New Zealand there is a park, attraction, or natural wonder, so we found ourselves pulling over all the time with the camera in hand. Today was no different, as we came across several interesting sites in the Blues Pools Park and a massive waterfall.

Beach Walk

5+ hours of driving in a campervan need to be broken up and we have found the best way to do this is to get out and walk it off. Today’s big stop-off was a beach walk just, as we came from the interior to the west coast. It ended up being a much longer stop than anticipated, as most road sidewalks are under a half-hour, this one was nearly 1:30, worth it though, for me it was the best part of the day.


We have tried a few times now to sneak up on the little tuxedo-clad birds, but until today they have evaded us. Today we caught a few hanging out on the beach. They were a bit shy, and the sandflies were not, so as cute as they were we only stayed long enough to see them do their thing for a just a little while.

Hot springs

We jump at (and in) the opportunity to check out the hot spring park located in the town of Franz Josef. We had our pick of several temperature pools going from 36C to 40C. We soaked away the drive and got ready for the next day of Glacier hiking in the pools of Glacier Hot Pools in the village of Franz Josef.

Suggested Places to stay – MacDonald’s DOC Site

Day 10

Map day 10

Day stats:

Distance Driven: 498.9 km

We took off on the half-day Fox Trot with Fox Glacier Guides where we got on top of a living and moving glacier.

When it comes to exploring New Zealand’s glaciers there are a few things you should know before you go, or decide where to spend your time.

First: (and most important) If you want to get on the ice, you need a guide. No one is permitted on the glacier itself without supervision, there are lots of signs talking about how many tourists died doing something they shouldn’t have on the glaciers. In order to get the real deal experience, you need an official guide.

Second: The 2 main glaciers for tourists are Fox and Franz Jozef. Fox you can easily hike, but Franz isn’t that easy, and you won’t see as much. We only made it up to Fox, but this was the recommendation from everyone we talked with that had done both.

Blue ice on Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The leading edge of the glacier, where you can walk, is dense compacted ice but in summertime, the air temperature is around 70F (20C). So it’s a rare opportunity to be that warm while standing on ice.

As soon as we hopped off the mountain we were headed to the north-west corner of the island to explore Able Tasman National Park. Before we left we needed a local snack: Fish & chips, and some more. After over 400 Km of driving and several hours of hiking, we stopped just short of Able Tasman.

Day 11

day 11 map nz kiwi krawl

Day stats:

Distance Driven: 116.2 km

Able Tasman Kayaking Tour

What better way to start the day than some sea kayaking in a national park? From the town of Marahau, we paddled about 12 km up the coast and into the park with Able Tasman Kayaks.

Some of us were better kayakers than others, no names but I didn’t see someone’s paddle in the water very often. From our little yellow vessels, we got some great coastal views as well as some penguins and seals to sail by.

Great Walk: Able Tasman Coastal Track,

Since first planning our time in New Zealand I have wanted to get my feet on a few of the great walks. The kayak and walk combo let us do a bit of both, and see this beautiful coast from both sides.

Day 12

kiwi krawl map day 12

Day stats
Distance driven: 322.2 Km

Today was a day without a set time to be anywhere, nothing to climb, jump out of, or formal tours. So what did we do? Drink Beer! Well, that’s not all we did…

Nelson Weekend Market

Every Saturday and Wednesday the town of Nelson and surrounding communities find their way to the center of town for fresh food, arts, and local crafts.

We stayed in town for a bit of shopping outside the storefronts surrounding the market. Nelson was slightly larger than I imagined it, with a good amount of restaurants, pubs, and to Hannah’s delight, shops!

Nelson, NZ – Craft Beer Scene

The latitude that New Zealand finds itself happens to be ideal for growing the little green goodness that makes beer… beer: hops! They are at a similar distance from the equator as Portland and Washington state, where a majority of US hops are produced (just on the bottom half of the globe).

While in town we made sure to check out some local flavors and do a quality check of the hops. Yep, they were good!

The first stop was a building that used to have a less sinful purpose, it was at one time a church. The Free House these days preaches in good beer and swapped out the wine and wafers for a lineup of locally brewed ales and lagers. Alongside the taps, they also have a set of pump beers that gush English-style cask beer along with some hoppier takes on pump beer.

The next stop was one of the originals that started the craft beer movement in New Zealand: Mac’s, or officially McCashin’s. The only trouble is they don’t make Mac’s here anymore, a few years back after the beer caught on, it was sold to one of the big breweries in NZ. Not to worry the originator of the popular Macs is now making the Stoke line of beers that are pretty tasty. We settled in for sampling after taking the 2 pm tour. The 14 beer sample covers most of but not all this mid-size craft brewery puts out, of all the tours this was my favorite.

Another stop on the beer trail was the new kid on the block, Hop Federation. We sampled all 4 of their taps, and I was surprised to find two were American-style beers, an American Red IPA, an American Brown Ale. Nice hop profiles on all of them and worth a stop if you find yourself between Nelson and Able Tasman.

We made sure to not oversample so we could stay near Kaikoura, where our next day’s activities would take us out to see the amazing marine life off the shores there. Oh, and we of course brought some of our new found favorite beers to camp too!

The Drive to Kaikoura

The drive from Nelson to Kaikoura along the coast is a beautiful drive and a nice way to finish the day!

Day 13

Day 13 map kiwi krawl

Day stats:
Distance driven: 29.5

Today is all about one of the cutest (and smartest) marine mammals out there, the Dolphin. We are headed out with Dolphin Encounter to go swim with the dolphins!

Now, this is New Zealand, not Sea World or Mexico where you jump into a pool of captive dolphins to pose for a few cheesy photos. These are wild, there is no fish snack waiting for these guys after the pictures. As for the pictures, you need to earn them!

The boat drops you into the 15C (55F) water just as the captain pulls out in front of a massive pod of wild Dusky Dolphins. Right then you find yourself in the middle of a few hundred dolphins. That’s the easy part.

Getting them to stay and play around with you, that’s the hard part. Since they aren’t trained and don’t have a lot of experience with humans you need to make an effort of some goofy tactics to get them to hang out with you for a few seconds. The methods involve making some funny noises and trying to make yourself swim like a dolphin. It might have been just as entertaining if someone had the camera on me instead of the dolphins.

Peninsula Cliff Hike in Kaikoura

We rounded out our day with a hike around this beautiful peninsula. Where the road ends, a footpath starts. Great views of the bay and peninsula of Kaikoura backed by snow-capped mountains.

Kaikoura is truly a special place in the world and should be part of any South Island itinerary.

Day 14

kiwi krawl map day 14

Day stats:
Distance driven: 212.2

Start the last day of your two weeks in New Zealand with an early wake-up call for sunrise. Head down to the beach to catch a great sunrise over the rocky shoreline in Kaikoura.

Being our last day we got up before the sun did and headed down to the water for sun up. We had just enough gas for the camp stove to heat up some water for coffee while we waited for the sun.

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

The Kaikoura peninsula is home to some of the best year-round whale watching opportunities in the world. They owe it to the massive canyon system just under the surface off the shores here. This system sustains a high-powered underwater food system that keeps the whales, and many other species coming back.

Whale Watch Kaikoura boasts a hard-to-believe 95% success rate on their trips, and they even have an 80% money-back guaranty on the rare day when you don’t get to see a whale.

The whales tend to hang out just a short boat ride from shore, in the massive canyon system. Using high-tech sonar detecting instruments the crew tracks down where, and an idea of when, the whales might pop up. We cruised with them the day after a storm and the whales were playing a little hard to get, but they tracked down a large male sperm whale toward the end of our tour and he was worth the wait.

He stayed and let us take shots for nearly five minutes, but before we knew it, he was tail up and diving down, not to return for nearly an hour. After our tour in Kaikoura and saying goodbye to the whales, it was time to say another goodbye, this time to our trusty and colorful campervan that we have come to call “Peaches”.

After our tour in Kaikoura and saying goodbye to the whales, it was time to say another goodbye, this time to our trusty and colorful campervan that we have come to call “Peaches”. She took us 3225.2 Km (2015.8 Miles) in our short 14 days in New Zealand together. We are going to miss her, well kinda. I am happy to be sleeping in a real bed again, and not living in a van down by a river.

New Zealand 2 weeks itinerary Cost

We spent 14 days driving ourselves around the entire South Island of New Zealand. We rented a camper van to do a big loop around the South Island, the van took us everywhere we went.  We spent way too many hours in “Peaches” (yes, we named our campervan), we were happy to hand her back over to the rental company after 14 days.

We were in sticker shock in New Zealand at several items. Gas was around $8USD a gallon.  My beloved Coke was $25USD a case, and Adam’s beer was a lovely $50 a case.  We settled in for Pepsi Max $2 for 1.5 liters and $10 bottles of wine.  Eating out would easily be $15-30 per person, we ate all meals in the van except for lots of McDonald’s ice cream cones ($0.50!) and our one trip to Fergburger ($32 for 2 burgers and 1 fry).

We really wish we would have had another week or two in the South Island, and time to do the North Island.  Maybe next time.  Now onto the money, all prices have been converted to USD.

Total Spent in New Zealand $3,434.72 average of $245.34 a day

  • Lodging $350.83
  • Van Rental with Insurance: $1013.33
  • Gas: $668.50
  • Flights $786.40
  • Activities $78.33**
  • Food $341.92
  • Alcohol $107.50
  • WiFi $60.83
  • Supplies $4.17
  • Laundry $10.83

**Our activities were low because we partnered with a local travel company that sponsored most of our activities.

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Susan Bivens

Sunday 20th of January 2019

Loved your post. We are heading to South Island for two weeks in February. Family with two kids ages 4 and 6. We won't do the super adventure sky diving or bungee jumping, but loved a lot of your itinerary. Do you think you need to book the dolphin swim/whale watching and Milford Sound before you go, oh and the hot springs? Do you know if February is super packed as kids are back at school in Oceana? Looks like there are plenty of free sites to camp so maybe don't need the conservation pass?


Monday 4th of February 2019

February is still peak traveling season in NZ - I would book in advance if your schedule is tight. Free camping is not as easy as it sounds I would have backup plans in case you are unable to free camp in your desired location. In order to free camp, you need a self-contained bathroom, not just a standard campervan. Happy planning!


Sunday 25th of November 2018

.Ienjoyed reading your trip post. Can that be done also with a hop on, hop off bus pass and hostels, for 3 weeks?

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Sunday 2nd of December 2018

Yes you could do this trip on the hop on hop off bus in New Zealand but you just wouldn't be able to necessarily get to all the places. It is my understanding they have set pick up and drop off points. We personally haven't taken that bus but do know they are a great option for solo travelers and are priced right.


Monday 27th of August 2018

were planning to spent about 19 to 20 days in New Zealand, do you can recommend us for the itinerary? it can help us so much . Thanks !!! :))

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Monday 3rd of September 2018

If you have 20 days in New Zealand we would recommend our 2 weeks in New Zealand itinerary but going slower and taking your time. We wish we would have had at least 4-6 weeks for our trip.


Wednesday 27th of June 2018

HI ,

Great Post.Looks like you really enjoyed your trip.

I am planning for 2 weeks New Zealand South Island trip. We are family with 2 kids. I really like your itinerary but i think with kids i need to slow down. I am planning to few places like Dunedin, Oamaru ,Nelson. Can i try day trip Kaikoura from Christchurch and then continue to Mt Cook -> Queenstown -> Mildford -> Franz Glacier -> Arthur Pass->Christchurch.

Thank You,


Sunday 1st of July 2018

If I were to cut down on destinations I would start in Christchurch and head south and to a loop around the bottom half and then come back to Christchurch through the Arthur Pass road. Like you said Kaikoura could be a day trip. The northern half of the South Island has great sights, but not as many as the south IMO. Have a great trip in New Zealand.


Thursday 21st of June 2018

May I know what do you normally cook in the van?

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Wednesday 27th of June 2018

We cooked a lot of tacos, pasta, sausages, burgers, mac and cheese, basically simple things.