Lauren Jones takes a week-long roadie that crams in heaps of South Island beauty spots
It's the middle of winter, it's cold wet and quite frankly we're all sick of it. Though instead of another trip to the sun have you ever thought of staying in New Zealand? If anywhere looks beautiful and even more majestic in the winter it's our South Island.
What's the best way to see it? A good, old-fashioned road trip. The great thing about road trips is you can tailor them however you want. Here's a roadie that crams most of the South Island's beauty into a single week.
Christchurch first stop, Tekapo, 1 night:
About an hour out of Christchurch, we stopped in Geraldine, home to a beautiful cheese shop. We bought $25 worth of cheese. I fully suggest you do the same, because it's incredibly tasty. For lunch we stopped in Fairlie, a cute little town surrounded by mountains and home to a bloody great pie shop. I went simple with a mince and cheese and was not disappointed.
We then reached Tekapo in what seemed like no time and the lake surrounded by snow-blanketed mountains is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. If you need relaxation, a trip to the hot pools is a must — the views are breathtaking. Next morning we decided to get up before sunrise to see the Church of the Good Shepherd. It's usually crowded with tourists, but we shared this historical site with about four other people — an unreal, must do experience.
Wanaka, 1 night:
It I had to pick a favourite drive it is the one to Wanaka. We detoured on the way to Mt Cook. You can't miss this detour — it is the most stunning road I have driven on, winding alongside the lake leading up to Mt Cook. The view gets better around every corner and there are three drive-in lookouts you can stop at along the way.
We drove right underneath Mt Cook, took some killer photos in the surrounding mountains and played in the snow.
From there it's a pretty straight road to Wanaka where you can visit the famous lone tree, walk along the waterfront and grab a wine in one of the many beautiful lakefront bars.
Wanaka is also a beautiful place to ski or snowboard if you're any good at that; safe to say I'm a learner.
Queenstown, two nights:
Out third destination — Queenstown — is a personal favourite. The drive over the Crown Range Road from Wanaka is tough, especially in icy conditions, so be extra careful or consider the slightly longer route through Cromwell.
Once in Queenstown — after spending about 45 minutes trying to find a park, which really is the place's only downfall — we wandered the town. A stroll along the waterfront is stunning and there are endless places to eat.
For dinner we settled on Ferg Burger, another must-do. Though we called and ordered half an hour ahead, we still had to wait 20 minutes in the cold. However, the burgers were amazing, huge and worth a try if you don't mind the wait. The next morning we set out for Arrowtown, a 20-minute drive away.
Even in the middle of winter the trees surrounding Arrowtown are every possible shade of red, yellow and orange. We got a superb breakfast at Bonjour, a French cafe. For around $20 I got a croissant, three slices of baguette, two eggs, salmon, a chocolate croissant and a hot chocolate, all of which was absolutely delicious.
That night we did a bar crawl in Queenstown which for $15 (from bookme.com) was incredibly good value — but for the more classy among you I would suggest one of Queenstown's many wine tasting tours.
The gondola is also a must do — make sure you go on a clear day. It's one of my favourite views in the world.
Dunedin, two nights:
Our last stop was Dunedin. We decided to stay here for two nights but in hindsight could've cut back to one.
There is however quite a bit to see there. We decided to stop off at Tunnel Beach, Baldwin St and the Chocolate Factory.
We didn't do the tour of the chocolate factory but it's definitely worth getting a specialised hot chocolate from the cafe there. If you like historic buildings, Dunedin is the place for you: make sure you check out the train station as well as St Pauls and St Joseph's cathedrals.
Dunedin also does really great penguin- and albatross-watching tours, if wildlife is your thing.
We expected the drive back to Christchurch would be be quite boring, but boy, were we proved wrong. The coastal road was spectacular.
Make sure to stop off at the Moeraki Boulders, about two hours' out of Dunedin.
The trip was a huge tick off my bucket list — and I can't wait to do it again.
For information on South Island road conditions, go to