Awesome news! You’ve got a 10 day holiday and you’ve decided to take some time to explore the South Island starting off in the adventure capital of the world – Queenstown! This trip is going to take you on a real kiwi adventure through amazing landscapes from the Southern Alps to the southernmost tip of New Zealand at Stewart Island with plenty in between. So, there really is no time to waste – let’s GO!
- Route map with key locations
- Recommended vehicle for this trip
- Trip itinerary
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1Queenstown to Wanaka (68.6km – 1 hour 12 mins)
It’s only a short drive ahead of you today so you will have plenty of time to get involved in some activities in and around Queenstown but you’re going to have to pick your activity wisely from the action-packed to the more sedate – here are some of our top tips:
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 feint 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) – 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
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) Arrowtown (22.1km – 22mins) – head out in your new GO Rentals hire car and check out this small town which was at the heart of the NZ gold rush. There are lots of nice shops, bars and places to eat as well as relaxing walks.
After all the excitement and adrenaline of Queenstown it’s going to be time to hit the road but thankfully for you, it’s a short trip in your new best friend to your next stop off in Wanaka. Although Wanaka offers many of the same adrenaline fuelled adventures as Queenstown, from snowboarding to mountain biking, it’s also the perfect place to relax and chill out by the side of the lake.
Wanaka and around
Rob Roy Glacier
If you do fancy a stretch of the legs there are over 750km of walking tracks in and around Wanaka whether you want a short stroll or a full day hike. About an hour’s drive from Wanaka is Rob Roy Glacier, an ideal entry point to the Mt Aspiring National Park. From the Raspberry Creek car park, you will find a stunning walk up the valley brings you outstanding views of Rob Roy Glacier. It’s about a 4 hour round trip so this one is not for the feint hearted.
A trip to Wanaka is just not the same without a trip to Puzzling World and it’s a definite favourite of the GO Rentals team. With 1.5km of passages in the ‘Great Maze’, it’s a great place to get lost for a few hours and act like a big kid as you race your mates to the four corners and back to the middle. It’s also really funny when someone gets themselves lost! Throw in a few weird and wonderful illusions like water running uphill (what’s that all about?!) and this makes for the perfect start to any day.
Beer fans take note! For something a bit different, why not have a drive out to the Wanaka Beerworks where you can sample the local beers and ales as well as taking a tour and finding out about the history of beer making (it’s actually harder than you think!). Make sure you take home a sample selection to keep you going throughout the rest of your trip.
This small classic movie theatre located in Wanaka is a real find. With comfy old sofas and 3 seats in an old Morris Minor this is a truly quirky place to spend a few hours unwinding. There is a cafe and bar serving delicious meals before, during or after the movie, homemade ice cream and some world-famous hot cookies baked fresh for every intermission. Expect a warm and friendly welcome from the staff to boot.
Mercure Oakridge Resort
After another full on day, it’s great to relax and unwind and there’s no better place than the Grand Mercure Oakridge resort where you can make the most of the heated outdoor rock pools and spa complex. We’ve heard this sort of thing goes down really well with the ladies so why not treat the special one in your life to a day pass (you can always take the beer tour!) or even better, splash out and stay the night. Win win.
Speight’s Ale House
A perfect place to grab a bite to eat is at the Wanaka Speight’s Ale House. A traditional Kiwi experience awaits along with the full range of Speight’s ales. Highly recommended come the fish and chips served in a traditional paper bag washed down with a pint of Speight’s Summit Lager – delicious! You wanted the full on Kiwi experience – it doesn’t get much more Kiwi than that.
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2Wanaka to Mt Cook Village (206kms – 2 hours 17 mins)
After a busy first day in action-packed Queenstown and Wanaka, it’s time to hit the road and head for the hills! It’s only just over 2 hours to drive to Mt Cook Village though so you will still have plenty of time this morning to explore Wanaka and tackle any of the activities you may have missed yesterday. Heading out of Wanaka, there are some great stop off on the way up to Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Arrowtown (20.5km – 24 mins)
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 the 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.
Cromwell (47.6kms – 37 mins from Arrowtown)
Located on the shores of Lake Dunstan, the town has a modern feel but in fact has a rich history dating back to the 1800s and the gold rush. You can get a feel for what the town would have been like by taking a trip through Old Cromwell Town – a feature attraction for tourists that’s a fascinating look back in time.
Your journey north will take you towards Twizel and over the Lindis Pass – a spectacular drive where you will often see snow down to the roadside throughout much of the year. If you’re making this drive in the winter months, be sure to check the conditions of the road before heading out as things can get a bit precarious and the weather can soon close in up above 900m.
Twizel (140kms – 1 hour 35 mins from Cromwell)
Twizel will be your final stop off point before you head into the Mt Cook National Park where you will spend your third 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 are 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.
3Aoraki/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 so choosing your activities carefully to maximise your time here is going to be crucial. We recommend planning your day when you arrive on Day 3 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:
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, chances are you can do it down here from fishing to golf, cycling to horse trekking and lots in between. You can visit the official Department of Conservation website for more ideas of things to do in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Whether you’re a sporting enthusiast, adventure junkie or a nature lover, this place is a truly special location to spend a day and night.
This part of the world also gives you the perfect opportunity to get involved in 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?!!
4Aoraki/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. There are plenty of interesting stop offs on the way though so let’s get GOing.
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 (284km – 3 hours 38 mins)
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 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 third day of this road trip.
From here it’s only another 18kms into Christchurch where you will stay for the night.
5Christchurch to Dunedin (361kms – 4 hours 36 mins)
It’s going to be a bit of a whistle stop trip of Christchurch but you should have time this morning to explore Christchurch before you hit the road for the trip south down the east coast to Dunedin. Christchurch is a city on the mend after the devastating earthquakes of 2011 and there is plenty to do here – you may decide to give yourself an extra day here and cut something out of this itinerary later down the line – we can’t blame you as it’s an awesome place to spend the day but for now, we’ve got to get going in order to fit everything in to these 10 days.
The tree-lined Avon River and Christchurch’s many parks and gardens give the city its reputation as the Garden City so make sure you check out the botanical gardens and the beautiful parks. 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.
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After spending a couple of hours exploring the city, it’s time to hit the road and the first big stop of the day will be Timaru.
Timaru (164kms – 2 hours 9 mins)
After passing through some of interesting towns and villages on the way including Ashburton and Geraldine, Timaru will be the first big stop off planned on this trip down to Dunedin. Timaru sits almost exactly half way between Christchurch and Dunedin and is Canterbury’s second largest city. As with any good pit stop location, there’s plenty to do in Timaru to pass a couple of hours and spend some time out of the car, from the beautiful Caroline Bay which is great for a dip in the warm summer months to the historic precinct which houses some grand old buildings like the old Customs House.
There are plenty of cafes and bars that link the beach with the main shopping area so grab a bite to eat – we still have a few miles ahead of us!
Oamaru (87.8kms – 1 hour 10 mins)
Although we may still have a few miles ahead of us, your next stop is only just over an hour away and marks the start of a busy run in to Dunedin with lots of interesting stops on the way. Oamaru provides you with an awesome opportunity to catch a glimpse of the blue penguin (Korora) up close. These little fellas head out before first light and return at the end of the day just as its getting dark. You can read more about the penguin colony at Oamaru and find out more about the town on of Explore New Zealand pages.
Totara Estate (8.4kms – 10 mins)
This old Mill House dating back to 1874 comes with quite a history. A working mill until the mid-1940s the estate was originally a farm for sheep, cattle and grain but a downturn in wool prices saw the first frozen meat shipment making its way from NZ to England successfully in 1882 and so began the start of a multi-billion dollar industry that formed the basis of New Zealand’s economy.
The old buildings were restored by the Historic Places Trust in the 1980s and are definitely worth a stop off.
Moeraki Boulders (29.2kms – 22 mins)
This is one of the quirkier detours on the trip to go and check out a bunch of rocks! To be fair, these are a pretty impressive collection of boulders which have been formed over a period of 4 million years. The large spherical boulders are scattered all along the Moeraki coastline and two were found to contain dinosaur bones which we think is pretty cool. The beaches are pretty stunning round these parts and very rugged so make sure you check out these ancient bad boys.
From here it’s a straight run into Dunedin which should take you around an hour.
Dunedin and around
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. On such a tight time schedule, you will only have a few hours today and a couple of hours in the morning to explore so we have tried to include as many highlights as possible below so don’t be shy – get out there and explore:
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 a 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!
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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.
6Dunedin to Invercargill via Catlins Coast (244kms – 3 hours 21 mins)
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 Dunedin to Invercargill will be one of the highlights of your trip.
Clutha Country (80 kms – 1 hour 1 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 first stop off point for the day. 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.
The Catlins (186kms – 2 hours 33 mins to Tokanui)
The Catlins are often overlooked by travellers who avoid the loner 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 in to 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 Invercargill 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 final stint of this trip.
From Tokanui which is midway along this stretch, it’s another 60kms to Invercargill which will take you around 50 minutes.
7Invercargill 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 crossings 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.
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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 breath taking 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, guided trips to Masons Bay provide 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 your 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.
8Invercargill to Milford Sound via Southern Scenic Route (296kms – 3 hours 57 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 north into Fiordland country. There is a more direct route to Milford Sound but this is a trip of discovery, it’s about the road less travelled and it’s about adventure so let’s stick to the Southern Scenic Route which only takes about half an hour longer anyway!
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 10 day itinerary means we are going to have to crack on – a place to add to the list for a re-visit.
Clifden (12.5kms – 10 mins)
Hop back in your GO Rentals car and head 10 minutes north before your next stop 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.
Manapouri (66.9kms – 52 mins)
Lake Manapouri is New Zealand’s second deepest lake and features a hydro power 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 10 day 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 fiorldland’s hidden gems. Tucked away at 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.
For those of you who resist the temptation to head to Doubtful Sound, we will carry on our journey north to what Rudyard Kipling once described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ – Milford Sound.
Te Anau (21.7kms – 18 mins)
There is one final stop off before we get to Milford Sound and this is a good place to base yourself for the night as accommodation options down at Milford Sound are limited. Te Anau is a picturesque township with lots going on in and around the town if you made it down here in good time. There are some great walking tracks which 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.
There are loads of accommodation options in Te Anau and plenty of restaurants to choose from in the evening making this a perfect stop off on your way up to Milford Sound.
For those who may be staying in Milford Sound lodge for the night, it’s another 118kms which will take you just short of 2 hours so make sure you leave plenty of time.
Milford Sound is THE MUST DO for anyone visiting the South Island. As you know, Te Anau is only 118kms from Milford Sound but even this relatively short trip will take you close to 2 hours. We recommend getting up early and getting down to Milford Sound as early as possible – it’s 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!).
Once down here, there is plenty to see and do so make a Milford Sound Bucket list and get ticking things off. Here are some of our favourites:
Hop out of your GO Rentals hire car 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 on to the water taking in the serene Harrisons Cove and the magnificent Mitre Peak offering some spectacular views up to the Pembroke Glaciers.
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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.
If you decide not to do the overnight cruise, preferring instead to head out in a kayak or explore the observatory, there are accommodation options at Milford Sound or you can make your way back to Te Anau but be aware that the road back out gets pretty busy with day trippers on their way back to Queenstown.
10Milford Sound to Queenstown (287 kms – 3 hours 43 mins)
Well, after what will hopefully have been an awe-inspiring day down at Milford Sound, it’s time to hit the road and head back to Queenstown. Thankfully if you stayed down here for the night, the traffic shouldn’t be as busy as you head back this morning – make sure you take your time – the roads are windy and will still be busy so stick to the speed limit and get back to Queenstown safe and sound.
Amazingly your route back to Queenstown will see you continuing to following the Southern Scenic Route which you have been on since you left Dunedin and has been a mainstay of your trip to the lower South Island.
The journey today will take you close to 4 hours and depending on traffic it could be more so make sure you leave plenty of time to get the car back to Queenstown. If you arrive back in Queenstown in good time, there is always the opportunity to get involved in any of the activities you may have missed out on day one before it’s time to bring this epic adventure to an end.
We hope you have had an amazing time and crammed in as much activity as possible – there is so much to see and do down here that you could spend 10 years never mind 10 days exploring and still not see it all. If you stumbled on any hidden gems on your trip, let us know via our GO Explore Facebook page and we can make sure we add them in for future adventurers!