South Island, New Zealand

I have a very sassy younger brother who thinks he’s older than me (he used to tell guys at my college that he was my older brother so they would stay away), but really he’s always a couple steps behind. I studied in Australia, then my sister studied in Australia… finally little bro decides to follow in our footsteps and do the same. The good thing about his late arrival? It means he’s filtered out all our mistakes, tested the waters, and discovered the absolute best way to get away with murder. For example, instead of worrying about my own pre-2011-earthquake experience in Christchurch and surrounding areas, I’ve copied below my brother’s tried and true itinerary for navigating the South Island of New Zealand today.


  1. Christchurch: Pick up car from Jucy Rentals, then go to Point Break Backpackers.
    1. Note: Don’t spend a lot of time in Christchurch.
  2. Queenstown: Drive to Adventure Queenstown Hostel and go out in Queenstown that night.
    1. Note: the bar crawl for NZ$25 as a way to meet new people and see bars that you could never stumble upon on your own.
  3. Try skydiving in the land of extreme sports, but only if you have the spare cash because it’s pricey.
  4. Hike Ben Lommond off Power House Road.
    1. Note: This is both the most beautiful and most difficult hike you will experience, even for an avid hiker. It goes to a very high altitude and there will be snow on top so be sure to bring both warm layers and plenty of food. It is approx. 16 miles roundtrip OR you can pay NZ$30 to take the gondola down from the top.
  5. Visit Queenstown Gardens and eat at the best NZ chain restaurant: Ferg Burger.
  6. Milford Sound: Drive to Milford Sound Lodge and do the Twilight Kayak that evening.
    1. Note: Call before 5pm the day before you arrive to confirm. Local phone number: 0800 476-726. Bring snacks onto the water and arrive with your printed ticket. And force yourself to kayak under the waterfall because it’s worth it.
    2. Another note: Milford Sound is spectacular and not to be missed, but the Lodge is the only place to stay so it will be a bit expensive and the best way to save money while you are there is to bring your own groceries.
  7. Lake Marian Hike up into a valley surrounded by peaks.
  8. Franz Josef: Drive to Montrose Hotel, where you can get affordable private rooms. Make sure to visit the glaciers, because this is why you’re here.
  9. Do the Okarito Trig walk at Mount Robert, which is a 30 person village and a beautiful walk along a private beach and through the forest.
  10. Lake Matheson is the most photographed spot in New Zealand, and this is where you can do a Glow Worms walk
  11. Nelson: Drive 2 hours north from Lake Matheson to see the Pancake Rocks, and then another 3 hours north to Nelson where you should check into the Paradiso Hostel because it is by far the best hostel you will stay at.
    1. Note: Other things to do in and around Nelson include the Haast Pass Blue Holes, Westport, vineyards (25 in the area), camping & kayaking at Abel Tasman, Cable Bay is a 25 minute drive from Nelson with a pebble beach and a lookout, Rabbit Island has a beach and mountain biking trails where bikes are for hire, golf courses with clubs for hire.
  12. Just outside of Nelson and 5 hours west of Christchurch is Maitai Valley, a great last stop before driving back to Christchurch to fly out.
    1. Note: pack a picnic and drive to Abel National Park; take a scenic drive up Lee Valley, Aniseed Valley or Maitai Valley to find swimming spots.


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