Queenstown is the most popular starting point for South Island adventures and it is here where we begin our road trip itinerary for EV owners and those who have rented a Tesla Model 3 from GO Rentals. The latest addition to our fleet, the Tesla Model 3 is such an exciting car to take on a New Zealand road trip and we can’t wait to hear from our customers after they experience the pure joy of driving the spectacular roads of the South Island.
In this itinerary, we have included some of the most popular hot spots around the South Island as well as including information about the location of Tesla chargers and superchargers. We’re so excited to add the Tesla Model 3 to our fleet and we hope you love the chance to explore the South Island in style. Let’s get GO-ing.
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1Queenstown and around
Whether you fly into Queenstown from the North Island or you are simply picking up your Model 3 from the city, it’s definitely worth staying a day or two if your schedule allows. The roads around Queenstown present the perfect opportunity to get familiar with the Model 3 – a beautiful car deserves beautiful roads and beautiful scenery and Queenstown has it all. Here are just a few of our highlights:
Adrenaline fuelled adventure
For those who have headed to Queenstown for adrenaline-fuelled adventure, these are our highlights of things to do in a day:
1) AJ Hackett Nevis Bungy – Australasia’s highest bungy at 134m, this is not for the faint-hearted – 8.5 seconds of freefall will have you screaming like a lunatic!
2) Skippers Canyon Jet – reaching speeds of up to 85mph this ride up the tight Shotover Canyon is sure to get your pulse racing. The 360-degree spins will get you closer to the wall than you feel comfortable with! Skippers Canyon Jet is also a GO Play partner. Bonus!
3) Coronet Peak ski resort (in season) – a fantastic resort for pros and beginners alike, Coronet Peak is a GO Rentals favourite in the winter where lots of fun can be had on and off the slopes
Queenstown Complete Guide
Something a bit more…relaxing
We know that jumping off mountains and flipping jet boats is not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s more to Queenstown than adrenaline-fuelled adventure. Here are our top three things for the more laid back traveller:
1) Ben Lommond – a 4-hour walk giving you some awesome views of Queenstown, the lake and surrounding mountains
2) Skyline gondola – take the gondola up Bob’s Peak and enjoy some award-winning cuisine and some amazing views. If you want to get down a bit quicker, the luge is a lot of fun!
3) Wine tasting – The Central Otago region is famous for producing world-leading Pinot Noirs – this one is not for the driver but passengers can enjoy sampling some fine wines from the region before hitting the road
4) Glenorchy – perhaps the most spectacular road in New Zealand, the drive to Glenorchy will take you along the shore of Lake Wakatipu with the stunning backdrop of snowcapped mountains all around.
Bendigo goldfields (80.3km – 1 hour 10 mins)
There’s something about old abandoned ghost towns that makes you reflect on the life that once was there. The Bendigo goldfields include a number of deserted towns from back in the days of the gold rush, surrounded by some of the most spectacular Central Otago scenery. From the town of Bendigo, you can drive up to the deserted towns of Logantown and Welshtown, with crumbling stone cottages to let your mind wander and imagine the days of digging for gold. Take SH8 out of Cromwell and follow this for about 20km until you hit Bendigo where you will find lots more info at the tourist information station.
Arrowtown/Cromwell (20.1km – 22 mins)
Unlike Bendigo, small Arrowtown is far from abandoned. The small historic village, a short 20-minute drive from Queenstown, is bursting with activity and includes a collection of beautiful old heritage buildings and miners’ cottages. The beauty of Arrowtown is that the heritage buildings are more than mere monuments of a time gone past – they’re still used for commerce and you get to experience life before modern days.
A number of hiking tracks start and end at Arrowtown so, if you feel like a walk, head to the Information Centre to find out more about these tracks.
At the end of a busy day, Queenstown is a great place to unwind with a huge range of bars to suit everyone. Depending on the time of year, you’ll either be welcomed in to a roaring fire or sit out enjoying the sun setting over Lake Wakatipu.
Check out our guide to Around Queenstown for plenty of ideas whether you’re an adventure junkie in search of bungy, rafting or maybe a trip up the gondola; there’s plenty to do for everyone.
If you spend a couple of days driving around, you will probably want to stop off at the supercharger** before you leave town the next day to get a full charge ahead of a huge return drive to Milford Sound. The supercharger in Queenstown is located at the Remarkables Park Town Centre. There are other charging options* in and around the city, you can view the full range of charging options here.
2Queenstown to Milford Sound (288km – 4 hours 24 mins from Queenstown)
Described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world, Milford Sound is THE MUST DO for anyone visiting the south island. A great chance to give the GO Rentals hire car a run out, the 4+ hour drive from Queenstown is well worth the early start to check out the magnificence of this most spectacular fjord carved out by glaciers during the ice age (that’s a long time ago by the way!).
Hop out of your Model 3 and straight onto a boat as this is a must once you get down there. With a number of companies offering day or night cruises, you’ll not be short of options for exploring the water when you arrive. Find yourself ‘ooooing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the spectacular waterfalls, some of which are over 1000 metres high so be sure to pack the camera but also make sure you pack your wet weather gear as inevitably it rains down at Milford Sound. Some say this makes the waterfalls even more spectacular but we’re not too sure about that one!
This is a definite favourite of the GO Rentals team as you get to really explore the Sound as well as spending the night out on the water – saves you thinking about where to stay tonight as well! Some boats have underwater viewing observatories, and all give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the amazing geography and wildlife so get your cameras at the ready! Look out for penguins and dolphins, as well as whales – the occasional one makes it all the way into the fiords.
For those wanting a more hands-on experience of Milford Sound, why not give kayaking a go. There’s nothing quite like taking to the open water and paddling yourself out into one of the most inspiring places on planet earth. GO Play partner Real Journeys offer a 4-5 hour trip out onto the water taking in the serene Harrisons Cove and the magnificent Mitre Peak offering some spectacular views up to the Pembroke Glaciers.
Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory
Due to its unique underwater environment, Milford Sound is home to species of black coral usually found at depths of 500m or more, including magnificent 300-year-old ‘trees’ and the best way to check these old-timers out is at the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory.
The Discovery Centre will send you on a journey back through the history, geology and wildlife of the Sound where you will also learn about the culture and heritage of this awe-inspiring place from local guides.
There are a number of options at the end of this day in terms of accommodation. Many people choose to do an overnight cruise on Milford Sound which takes care of your accommodation whilst also giving you an experience of a lifetime under a starry sky. Alternatively, you may choose to stay in the lodge at Milford Sound which offers a luxury experience on the shores of the Sound. For many people, however, Te Anau is a great destination to spend the night with lots of accommodation options and some nice places to eat and drink.
Te Anau (118kms – 1 hour 57 mins)
If you do decide to head off to Te Anau, it’s about a 2-hour drive but it will set you on the road for the next day’s adventure.
There is a charging station in Te Anau* in case you didn’t manage to get a full charge in before you set off located at Anchorage Motel and Apartments.
3Te Anau to Invercargill via Southern Scenic Route (181 kms – 2 hours 19 mins)
After an amazing day spent at Milford Sound yesterday, today is all about the spectacular drive down through Fiordland to the very southern tip of New Zealand. Whether you stayed at Milford Sound or made the journey to Te Anau last night, it’s definitely worth spending a couple of hours in the town before you hit the Southern Scenic Route to Invercargill.
Te Anau is a picturesque township with lots going on in and around the town. There are some great walking tracks that take you to the shores of the lake and the glow worm caves are a must if you have never seen anything like this before.
Manapouri (21.4kms – 19 mins)
Lake Manapouri is New Zealand’s second deepest lake and features a hydropower station at its western end. The lakeside town is a great place for a stop off and exploring the lake by kayak or on some of the walking tracks around the shores is a great way to spend a few hours. For those not on a specific itinerary, there are some fantastic walking tracks such as the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ that come through Manapouri.
If you do have a bit more time, it’s also a great place to base yourself to explore Doubtful Sound, one of Fiordland’s hidden gems. Tucked away beyond Lake Manapouri, this is a truly magical, untouched beauty with very few crowds. You may decide that this is a great alternative to Milford Sound if you prefer something a bit more off the beaten track and we definitely wouldn’t blame you – it’s one of our favourite places on earth.
Exploring Doubtful Sound can be done in a number of ways but the best is probably on an overnight cruise. Stargazing at night whilst out on the water is simply out of this world and you will truly be blown away by the experience.
Clifden (66.9kms – 49 mins)
Hop back in your Model 3 and carry on south down the Southern Scenic Route where your next stop will be at Clifden. For you Brits, this is not to be confused with Clifton Suspension Bridge but Clifden is famous for its suspension bridge which spans the Waiau River. This is a pretty impressive structure built from totara and Australian hardwood and is the longest suspension bridge in New Zealand.
Tuatapere (80.3kms – 1 hour 4 mins)
Sitting right on the edge of the Fiordland wilderness, Tuatapere is the first stop-off point of the day. Although this town is a stop-off point for many who are embarking on the Hump Ridge Track – a 3-day walk which will take you to the wilds of western southland including a visit to the Percy Burn Viaduct, thought to be the largest remaining wooden viaduct in the world – it is a great place to hop out of your car and stretch the legs. Located on the Waiau River, the town has a rich sawmilling history and the logging museum is worth a look in. There are loads of things to do here from fishing to walking to jet boating but our 15-day itinerary means we are going to have to crack on – a place to add to the list for a re-visit.
From here it’s a further 80kms to Invercargill which should take you just over 1 hour.
4Invercargill to Stewart Island (28.1kms – 25 mins plus a 1-hour ferry crossing)
Waking up in New Zealand’s southernmost city, you have a big day ahead of you as you head across to Stewart Island. Depending on the time of year will depend on how many ferry crossing there are but in the height of summer, there are 3 departures a day at 9.30am, 11am and 5pm from Bluff returning from Stewart Island at 8am, 3.30pm and 6pm. In winter, these crossings go down to 2 or sometimes 1 a day so be sure to check the website for more information.
If you’re visiting in summer, we recommend spending an hour or two in and around Invercargill before making your way to Bluff to catch the 11am ferry.
A trip to Queens Park is a must where you will find a lovely rose garden, a golf course and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, which has the claim to fame of being New Zealand’s largest pyramid structure! Invercargill is also a great place for sports enthusiasts and New Zealand’s only indoor cycling velodrome can be found here and one of New Zealand’s finest golf courses, Oreti Sands (recently voted as number 17 in the top 25 golf courses in New Zealand) is located nearby.
If you happen to be down here in November time, the Burt Munro Challenge is a great event to come along to. Immortalised in the film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, Burt Munro hailed from Invercargill and each year, a group of cycling enthusiasts get together to honour Burt by racing bikes down in Southland at a number of different locations including Oreti Beach. Check out the website and see if you can time your visit with this fantastic event.
A trip to Southland would not be complete without a visit to New Zealand’s third island. Stewart Island or Rakiura (‘the land of the glowing skies’ in Maori) is home to New Zealand’s southernmost National Park. Rakiura National Park accounts for over 80% of Stewart Island and as you can imagine, this is a land of unspoilt wilderness where unmodified ecosystems thrive. The park, therefore, provides an exceptional opportunity to see native wildlife in its most natural habitat.
If you are a keen adventurer and fancy a night out in the wild, there are a number of hiker huts within the park and this is one of the best places on earth to witness Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) as well as watching breathtaking sunsets that the Maori name is derived from.
If you are staying just for the day, there is still a great opportunity to see some amazing wildlife in its natural habitat and two or three times a week, a guided trip to Masons Bay provides the rare opportunity to see kiwi birds eating sandhoppers on the beach – that is definitely a trip not to be missed.
In addition to the amazing wildlife, Stewart Island is also home to 245kms of walking tracks so it a paradise for hikers. For people on a day trip looking to stretch their legs and explore the island, there are a number of short 2-3 hour return walks that will lead you through this unspoilt landscape and leave you wishing you had more time on this magical island.
However you choose to spend your day on Stewart Island, we promise you it will be worth the trip and the thought that this is the last place on earth before you hit Antarctica heading south is pretty special.
If you’re heading back across to Invercargill for the night, there are plenty of options for grabbing a drink and a bite to eat in the city centre. Local food specialities include oysters from Bluff and blue cod.
Invercargill is also home to the most southerly charging point for your Tesla* located at the Ascot Park Hotel so make sure you top up before you head off the next day on the next leg of this epic road trip.
5Invercargill to Dunedin via Catlins Coast (244kms – 3 hours 21 mins)
After a fantastic day exploring Stewart Island/Rakiura yesterday, it’s time to hit the road again and get back on the Southern Scenic Route as you head east along the Catlins Coast. The Southern Scenic Route is one of New Zealand’s gems and is truly a road less travelled. Conceived by the people of Tuatapere in Western Southland to share the delights of the lower South Island with those willing to make the journey down there, this trip from Invercargill to Dunedin will be one of the highlights of your trip.
It’s also a fantastic road to stretch the legs of the Model 3 which will love the winding roads and stunning views.
The Catlins (59.3kms – 49 mins to Tokanui)
The Catlins are often overlooked by travellers who avoid the longer route around the bottom of New Zealand for the faster route between Dunedin and Invercargill – don’t follow the masses, they don’t know what they’re missing out on! The Catlins are a remote and rugged area of natural beauty and the drive itself is pretty spectacular but don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing to do down this way as there are some great stop-off points between here and Invercargill. Here are a few of our favourites:
Curio Bay – famous for its petrified forest, the tree fossils can be seen at low tide and are over 180 million years old! There is also a small population of yellow-eyed penguins that nest nearby so potentially another one to tick off your penguin watchlist! Surfing is also pretty popular in Curio Bay so maybe this is your moment to shine – there won’t be many people around to watch if you wipe out!
Slope Point – this is the South Island’s most southerly point and the only thing between you and the Antarctic is a few uninhabited islands – now that’s what we call remote! It’s about a 20-minute return walk to get to Slope Point but this is a great photo op so send your best ones into our GO Snap Happy comp!
Nugget Point – this is one of New Zealand’s oldest lighthouses and it’s a really great 30-minute walk to get to it so hop out of the car and give your legs a stretch – you may even see some of those yellow-eyed penguins if you’re lucky!
Cathedral Caves – these magnificent 30 metre high caves are only accessible at low tide so be sure to check the website before venturing out to find them. It’s about a 30-minute walk through the forest and beach to get to them but well worth it if you catch the right tide.
Waikawa – one of the bigger townships down on this route is Waikawa. Stop in here to stock up on goodies for the rest of your road trip to Dunedin and check out the museum whilst your there which has numerous displays relating to the early settlers. There are a couple of nice walks that will take you around 20 minutes if you need to stretch those legs before the next leg of this trip.
Clutha Country (106 kms – 1 hour 30 min to Balclutha)
Balclutha is the biggest town in an area known as ‘Clutha Country’ and you can expect a warm welcome from the locals. Southland is notorious for the friendly welcome afforded to all those who travel through these parts and with such a wide variety of things to do in the area, it is a great final stop-off point for the day before you hit Dunedin. From the superb fishing on the Clutha River to the numerous trails and tracks that run through the rolling hills, it is great to get out and stretch your legs and soak in the fresh southern air.
From Balclutha, it’s a further 80kms to Dunedin and your resting point for the evening which should take you just over an hour.
With a big day of driving ahead of you tomorrow, make sure you find the time to charge up the Tesla overnight – there are a couple of charging options* in central Dunedin at the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross and The Victoria Hotel.
6Dunedin to Mt Cook Village (316kms – 3 hours 39 mins)
Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets and is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Often referred to as the ‘Edinburgh’ of the South, Dunedin is proud of its Scottish heritage and is steeped in history and culture. With such a tight schedule, you have got until the early afternoon to explore Dunedin so it’s best to get out there early to squeeze in as much as possible before you have to head north and onto the Southern Alps.
Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle and is often why Dunedin gets compared to Edinburgh. The magnificent castle is perched on the side of a hill overlooking the Otago Harbour. Named after its builder William Larnach, the castle has quite a history and regular tours of the castle run where you can learn about the scandal of Larnach’s three wives and six children.
Speights Brewery Tour
A trip to Dunedin would not be complete without a trip to the Speights Brewery. New Zealand has many iconic beers from Steinlager to Monteiths but down in these parts, Speights rules the roost. A great way to spend a couple of hours learning about the brewing process and obviously getting to sample some of their finest drops.
Dunedin Botanic Gardens
A great place to spend a few hours relaxing and unwinding at any time of the year. The colours in the autumn fall are spectacular but there’s nothing quite like a stroll through the gardens in the height of summer when everything is in full bloom. A definite favourite of the GO Rentals team for chilling out and getting lost in a good book.
Royal Albatross Centre
The Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head is the site of the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world making it a pretty spectacular place to visit. It’s not just the rare albatross that can be seen though as the world’s smallest penguins, the little blue penguins can also be found here on the Otago peninsula – double whammy!
We have only scratched the surface of things to do in and around Dunedin here so make sure you check out our Explore New Zealand section for more ideas.
Heading out of Dunedin, your drive will take you north up the coastline to Oamaru before cutting inland through the Waitaki Valley. There are some pretty cool stop-off points along the way including the impressive Moeraki boulders – large spherical boulders which are scattered along the coastline some of which have been found to contain dinosaur bones.
Oamaru (111kms – 1 hour 28 mins from Dunedin)
Oamaru is a great stop-off point just before you head west and inland towards the Southern Alps. If you didn’t make it to the Royal Albatross Centre this is another great opportunity to catch a glimpse of the blue penguin (Korora) up close. These little fellas had out before first light and return at the end of the day just as it’s getting dark. You can read more about the penguin colony at Oamaru and find out more about the town on our Explore New Zealand pages.
From Oamaru, it’s time to leave the coast behind and head inland. The next stop is the Benmore Dam.
Benmore Dam (100kms – 1 hour 13 mins)
Benmore Dam is the largest artificial lake in New Zealand and holds back a 7900ha lake. This place is more than just an impressive dam though – there’s plenty to do year-round including fishing and some fantastic trails. The Benmore Track is probably the best of these tracks taking you up to a lookout point with views across the Waitaki Valley towards your final destination for the day, Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Omarama (29.5kms – 21 mins)
This is not something you see every day. In the distance, you can make out the strange shapes of the clay pinnacles that have been formed by the active Osler fault line which continually exposes the clay and gravel cliffs. The pinnacles are a unique sight and definitely worth a stop off as you continue to head west.
Omarama is also the home to a supercharger so this is the perfect chance to give the car a full top-up ready for the driving ahead over the next few days before you hit Christchurch.
Twizel (30.7kms – 22 mins)
Twizel will be your final stop-off point before you head into the Mt Cook National Park where you will spend the sixth night of your trip. The town was purpose-built in the 1960s to provide homes for workers on the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme and it now offers a great base for people looking to head off into the National Park. There is a good range of shops here to stock up on goodies for the rest of your journey into the National Park.
Your journey from Twizel takes you up the shoreline of Lake Pukaki with some stunning views of the Southern Alps and Aoraki/Mt Cook which will leave you breathless. It’s a further 63.9kms from Twizel to Mt Cook Village which should take you just under an hour.
7Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
This is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular National Parks (and we have some amazing ones!) so spending the day here is going to be one you never forget. There is so much to see and do in the park that choosing your activities carefully to maximise your time here is going to be crucial. We recommend planning your day when you arrive on Day 7 leaving yourself the whole day today to take it all in and soak up that fresh mountain air. With so much to do here, we have pulled together some of our personal favourites:
Walking – it kind of goes without saying that the walking in these parts is pretty special. With walks to suit every degree of fitness, explore the national park’s rich flora including the Mount Cook ‘lily’, the world’s largest buttercup.
Skiing and snow sports – obviously this is an activity for the winter enthusiasts but many descend on Mt Cook Village as the winter sports down here are pretty awesome! There’s plenty for those who are not into skiing through from snowshoeing to climbing so there is plenty to do down here in the winter months.
Scenic flights and heli-hiking – If you have a few dollars to spare we can definitely recommend taking a scenic flight around these parts. For something extra special, try one of the ski planes which can land up on the Tasman Glacier – now that is cool! For those true adventurers, you can also take a helicopter ride to go hiking or even ski the virgin snow up high on the mountains.
Best of the rest – no matter what you’re into, the chances are you can do it down here from fishing to golf, cycling to horse trekking and lots in between.
Whether you are a sporting enthusiast, adventure junkie or nature lover, this place is a truly special location to spend a long weekend.
This part of the world also gives you the perfect opportunity to get involved and enter our GO Snap Happy competition – just send us your best photos for the chance to win back the cost of your car hire – how good is that?!!
8Aoraki/Mount Cook to Christchurch (330kms – 3 hours 53 mins)
After an awesome day spent exploring the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, it’s time to hit the road and head off towards the east coast and the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch. Make sure you leave plenty of time today as there are some really great stop-off points and we don’t want you to miss anything!
Mt John Observatory/Lake Tekapo (107kms – 1 hour 13 mins)
Stargazers all over the world know Mt John and Lake Tekapo, in the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, as one of the absolute best places to look at the stars (and even catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights – Aurora Australis).
Lake Tekapo is also famous for its unique turquoise colour, as well as its beautiful starry nights – if you can park here for the night, you will not regret it. Mt John, just above the Tekapo township, is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world, home to 6 telescopes, including New Zealand’s biggest telescope, which can observe 50 million stars each clear night (yes, you read that right).
Akaroa (280km – 4 hours 10mins from Lake Tekapo)
Located 75km from Christchurch and known by locals as the ‘Riviera of Canterbury’, Akaroa is a great stop off as you head towards the big city. This village is located on the Banks Peninsula within a harbour of the same name and is considered “the most French town” in New Zealand, as it was the only French settlement in the country. Spend some time exploring the small town and then head to the harbour for the best fish and chips meal of your life (at least that’s Akaroa’s claim so you be the judge and let us know). Black Cat Cruises, a GO Play partner offer an awesome opportunity to swim with the rare Hector’s dolphins which are only found in these waters – a must if you have never done this type of thing before.
Lyttelton (77.5km – 1 hour 18 mins from Akaroa)
As you head into Christchurch, a stop off at Lyttelton is well worth the detour and it’s a great place to grab some dinner if you’re arriving in the early evening. Hit by the earthquakes, Lyttelton has now rebuilt and is a thriving village with lots of bars and cafes – the road from Lyttelton to Christchurch offers you some fantastic views looking down to the city and the harbour as well as down to the Southern Alps – a great way to end the twentieth day of this road trip.
From here it’s only another 18kms into Christchurch where you will have a day out of the car before continuing north and back across to the North Island.
This is a day to carefully map out in terms of monitoring your range. Whilst it is only 330kms to Christchurch on the most direct route, the detours we have included above will add 140kms to your journey. There is a supercharger in Christchurch so you will be able to quickly charge your vehicle when you arrive but keep an eye on your range and plan your journey before you set up. There are other charging options along the route so you can plan stops there if required.
A day out of the car today is just what the doctor ordered and Christchurch is a great place to explore.
Christchurch Complete Guide
The garden city
Christchurch was named as number 2 on the New York Times top 50 places to visit in 2014 and there are plenty of reasons for that. Following the earthquakes of 2010-11, the city has now emerged as a vibrant city with plenty to see and do. Known as the Garden City, Christchurch has an abundance of parks and gardens including the gorgeous botanical gardens. Add into this mix the tranquil Avon River and you can see why people rave so much about the city.
Eat | Drink | Shop
Christchurch is a vibrant place for eating and drinking whether you’re looking for 5-star opulence or a backstreet café. Re:START is an outdoor retail space opened in late 2011 made from shipping containers. Scattered with a mix of premium brands and homegrown products, Re:START is a quirky experience that tells of the cities resilience and ability to come back following the destruction of the earthquakes. Located within Re:START you will also find Quake City, a multi-media attraction that tells the story of the earthquakes that hit Christchurch and the Canterbury region.
Check out the several Gap Filler projects that volunteers have created to temporarily “activate” sites left empty by the earthquakes – you’ll be able to see some unique and really creative work that is proof of Christchurch’s charm and resilience.
10Christchurch to Nelson (409kms – 5 hours 4 mins)
After a day out of the car exploring Christchurch yesterday, we have a big drive ahead of us today as we head to Nelson. It’s just over 5 hours to drive to Nelson with no stops but make sure you leave plenty of time as there are some great places to visit on the way up the east coast.
Amberley (46.4kms – 44 mins)
Although you are only just under an hour into your road trip, Amberley is a great little stop-off point to grab a coffee in one of the local cafes which serve the farming and wine-growing community. There are also some great little craft shops or you may even fancy a wander to the beach.
Waipara (11.9kms – 9 mins)
Carry on north for another 10 minutes and you will come across Waipara, one of the South Island’s great wine-producing areas famed for some lovely pinot noirs, rieslings and chardonnays. The region has the highest summer temperatures and lover rainfall of any of the New Zealand wine growing regions making it the ideal spot to pick up a bottle or two for your trip away.
Kaikoura (123kms – 1 hour 31 mins)
A great stop off on the way north is Kaikoura which is a whale watchers delight. Not only that, this is a great opportunity for you to take a dip and swim with the dolphins at the right time of the year – this must be on a few wish lists so let’s get it ticked off!
GO Play partner Encounter Kaikoura offers a brilliant opportunity to get in the water in the south Pacific and swim with these amazing animals with tours operating three times a day.
It’s not just dolphins that pass through the waters around Kaikoura though and if you time things right, there is also the chance to see various species of whale as well as seals and birds.
Use your GO Play card here
Cellar View Café and Restaurant
Kaikoura is one of New Zealand’s best locations for seeing marine life including whales and dolphins. It is also the home to the Cellar View Cafe and Restaurant. This place serves up some pretty amazing dishes matched only by the stunning views out to the pacific. It’s easy to let an afternoon drift by, enjoying the delicious food and admiring the endless view. Nice.
If you get the chance, try and fit in a lunchtime stop here as the seafood up in Kaikoura is some of the best in NZ (the Crayfish are a GO Rentals favourite).
Ohau Point (26.4kms – 22 mins)
Shortly after leaving Kaikoura, you will come across Ohau Point which is a great spot to go for a walk and if you are lucky, spot some seals and their pups basking on the rocks below.
Blenheim (103kms – 1 hour 15 mins)
Marlborough is a world-famous wine region and it would be rude not to sample some of the local delights on your way through. At the heart of the region sits Blenheim, a town that offers much more than just a drop in point for those picking up the local produce. Blenheim is full of character and the accommodation options here are full of quirks which you don’t get in many countries but everywhere offers a warm welcome to visitors. The town has a lively café and restaurant scene which means if wine is not your thing, there is still plenty to keep your taste buds tantalised!
If wine is your thing, there are plenty of wineries who will gladly take you through their wide range of vinos from a fruity pinot noir to the flagship wine of the region, Sauvignon Blanc. There are some famous vineyards down here like Cloudy Bay but we recommend sampling some of the more boutique wineries – a great way to get around is on a bike although be careful if you have a few vinos on the way as you may get a bit wobbly! Wine tour by bike offer bike hire or guided tours which helps as they will transport you back to Blenheim.
If wine is not your thing, there are also lots of microbreweries in the region so this is the perfect place to stock up for the road trip ahead.
There have been plenty of wine stops on the way north today and this is obviously not for the driver to get involved with and sample. We suggest passengers on this road trip should shout the driver a nice bottle or two for driving you all the way around this beautiful country!
From Blenheim, it’s a further 120kms to Nelson which should take you around 2 hours and round off a mammoth day of driving. There are no charging stations in Nelson so we recommend using your time in Blenheim to charge the Tesla* as much as you can in preparation for the days ahead. There will be no option to supercharge until you get back to Queenstown now, so planning ahead and making use of the charging stations on route to keep the battery topped up is advisable as you explore the remote West Coast of the South Island.
11Abel Tasman National Park (59.7km – 1 hour from Nelson)
From Nelson, you will have an early start to head off to the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. The roads are windy so make sure you allow enough time to drive the relatively short distance of 60kms. Once you get to the park there are so many activities to choose from it really is up to you how you plan your day – these are some of our top tips:
Cruise and water taxi
If you’re after a fairly relaxed, laid back day, there is no better way to see the park than on a cruise or in a water taxi. The crystal clear waters of the Abel Tasman are a sight to behold to getting out on the water is a must.
if you are feeling a bit more energetic, we highly recommend hiring a sea kayak for the day and heading out into the park. You will be amazed at what you can see over the side of the kayak as you peer down into the depths of the sea. Park up (is that even a saying for a kayak?!) on a secluded beach and enjoy a spot of lunch – spectacular.
Cruise and walk
The best of both worlds if you want to get out on the water as well as walking through this beautiful national park. Take a cruise and get dropped off deep into the park before following the route back along the rugged coastline.
The Abel Tasman is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world so make sure you soak it all up. Just sitting on one of the golden sandy beaches can be the most relaxing experience as the peace and tranquillity descend over you, washing away all those stresses of day to day life. Sounds pretty good eh?
There is a charging station within the National Park at the Abel Tasman Lodge in Marahau so you may have the opportunity to charge whilst you are out exploring the park.
One thing not to forget is that Nelson is the microbrew capital of New Zealand with many independent breweries making some fantastic kiwi beers around these parts. Whatever you choose to get up to around these parts, you’re in for a cracking day.
Nelson Complete Guide
12Nelson to Greymouth (287km – 4 hours 9 mins)
World of Wearable Art Museum
Before you leave Nelson, be sure to check out the World of Wearable Art (WoW) Museum – a New Zealand institution in its own right. The first-ever show was held in Nelson in 1987 and has since grown (and moved to Wellington where it is currently held). The museum displays some of the supreme winners of the shows. Whether you’re interested in clothes and fashion or not, this is an important slice of New Zealand’s culture – one that you should not miss.
After a day of exploring in the Abel Tasman National Park, it’s time to hit the road again and get a bit more familiar with your new GO Rentals car. The first stop of the day is not too far away however as you head out on SH6 towards the west coast.
Mapua is a very picturesque village situated on a wharf on the Abel Tasman coastline. With a huge range of shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes, this makes the perfect stop off for breakfast and a bit of retail therapy before you hit the road proper. From the Jellyfish Café and Bar to Forest Fusion Functional Art, there is lots to see and do in Mapua as well as taking in the lovely surroundings.
Buller Gorge Swing Bridge (165km – 2 hours 23 mins from Mapua)
Heading out of Mapua keep following SH6 heading towards the west coast. After a relatively short drive, there is another chance to stretch the legs and get the adrenaline pumping at the Buller Gorge Swing Bridge. From big thrills to big spills to serene walks, Buller Gorge offers some of the best adventure activities this side of Queenstown. From the comet line, a 160m flying fox zip line to jet boating on the Upper Buller Gorge with GO Play partner Ultimate Descents, there’s plenty to keep the most adventurous happy. If you’re of a less adventurous disposition the Buller Gorge is also a great place to explore on foot with some lovely trails and falls to discover.
Bev’s Dolls (46.2km – 41 mins from Buller Gorge)
In a converted garage at 35 Main Street in Reefton, you’ll find Bev’s Dolls – a collection of over 2000 dolls, including a 180-year-old German stone doll and popular contemporary dolls such as the Harry Potter doll collection. Check that Bev is home and, for a fee, she’ll show you her impressive collection.
Formerly the Blackball Hilton Hotel (56.9km – 1 hour from Reefton)
At first glance, it might look like you’re just in a quiet small town in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand but, in fact, you’re standing in front of a hotel that was subject to global controversy. Well, sort of.
The hotel was built in 1910 and named The Dominion at the time. In the 1970s, the name was changed to The Blackball Hilton. Threats of legal action by you-know-who who owns a big hotel chain with the same name in the US forced the Blackball Hilton to add “Formerly” to the name in order to continue to operate.
The hotel is located on 26 Hart Street and offers both food and accommodation if you feel like a break.
From here it’s a short drive to your final destination in Greymouth (23.1km – 31 mins) where you will find a couple of charging options* at the Colerain Suites and Apartments and the Alpine Rose Motel and a chance to top up the battery for tomorrow’s adventure.
13Greymouth to Franz Josef (via Punakaiki) (262.1km – 3 hours 31 mins)
Pancake Rocks (45.1km – 37 mins from Greymouth)
Although your journey is taking you south along the West Coast, a slight detour north is well worth it to check out the pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki and let’s face it, you love driving your GO Rentals car that much by now that this is a great excuse to get some more miles under your belt! Get your camera ready because this is one of those places you’ll want to tell everyone about. The pancake rocks are heavily eroded limestone, layered like pancakes. Who doesn’t love pancakes? Exactly. These particular ones were formed 30 million years ago out of dead marine creatures and plants.
Ross (110km – 1 hour 31 mins from Punakaiki)
It’s about a 3-hour drive from Greymouth to Franz Josef and the perfect stop-off point on the way is the small gold-mining town of Ross. In 1909, Ross became famous across New Zealand when the largest gold nugget in the country was found weighing in at an impressive 99 ounces. There is some conjecture over the origin of the nugget however with some claiming it was in fact mined in Australia and smuggled over to Ross to inflate the gold prices. Either way, it was purchased by the New Zealand government and presented to King George V as a coronation gift.
From Ross, it’s a short hop down to your final destination of Franz Josef (107km – 1 hour 23 mins)
After the longish drive down the West Coast the previous day, you’ll be glad to be out of the car (the car will surely have a name by now) and stretching the legs and what a sight to wake up to – the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. The Glacier was first explored in 1865 by Austrian Julius Haast and it has been advancing and retreating ever since.
Exploring the glacier
There are several ways to explore the glacier from independent walks to heli-hikes but however, you choose to take in the sights and sounds of the stunning glacier, make sure you pack your bag for all weathers as things can change quickly up at the glacier.
There are a number of independent walks you can make which provide great viewpoints of the glacier. The best is probably Sentinel Rock which is 10 minutes from the car park or the Ka Roimate o Hine Hukatere walk which is a more energetic 40-minute walk that leads to the terminal of the glacier.
There was a time when you were able to access the glacier on foot, however, due to safety reasons, that is no longer possible. All glacier walks now begin with a helicopter ride to get you higher up the glacier where the ice is much more stable and what a fantastic opportunity that offers to take a trip in a helicopter if you have never done it before. With your crampons on and your ice picks at the ready, this is another great snap for Facebook to show you as the true ‘explorer’ so don’t miss out on this one. Franz Josef Glacier Guides are also a partner of GO Play, offering a 10% discount for guided tours on the ice – cool!
Use your GO Play card here
Taking things one step further, Mount Cook is within reach of Franz by helicopter with a number of companies running tours to see the highest peak in NZ. These tours can often be combined with a heli-hike on either Franz Josef or Fox glacier and are the ultimate Southern Alps experience. If you do head out on one of these amazing trips, be sure to let us know so we can all be super jealous in the office!
Glacier Hot Pools
Once you’re finished, how about a dip in the glacier hot pools, right in the middle of the rainforest? It sounds just as stunning as it is. The pools are located in the Franz Josef township on Cron Street and open between 1pm to 9pm all year round and if all this sounds too perfect, it’s about to get better! Glacier Hot Pools are a GO Play partner so you can sit back and relax with a few extra bucks in your pocket.