Hiring a car in New Zealand is a great way to explore the country’s islands, especially if you’re visiting from Australia because they drive on the same side of the road as us. New Zealand isn’t a very large country so no matter where you’re staying, day trips can take you across the entire country, literally! Here are a couple of day trips David and I took from Christchurch:
*Note: We shared the driving so that we could cover greater distances. Remember, it’s always important to obey road rules and take plenty of breaks when driving around New Zealand.
Drive time: 1.5 hours each way
Known for its thermal pools, Hanmer Springs is a popular alpine village. There are plenty of mapped bush walks in the area, including a walk to the top of Conical Hill which takes around an hour to complete. From speed boats and river rafting to family-friendly animal parks and spas, Hanmer Springs has plenty of activities all year round.
Drive time: 1.5 hours each way
Known as the most French town in New Zealand, Akaroa is a short 1.5 hour drive through farm towns and mountains. The harbour-side town features 19th century British and French colonial heritage buildings, heritage gardens and colourful mosaics and sculptures.
Drive time: Just under 3 hours each way
Picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Lake Tekapo is worth the six hour round trip. Located in the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo is characterised by its turquoise coloured lake, hot pools and dazzling night sky. Be sure to stop at the Church of the Good Sheppard for views of the lake and southern alps beyond. If you have the time, spend the night and stargaze in the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve or head up to the observatory for a more compete lookout.
Drive time: 3.5 hours each way
This one’s more about the journey than the destination. Although it’s a long way to drive in a single day, there are plenty of spots to stop and admire on the way to Greymouth and back. You’ll want to start the drive early in the morning so you have time to fit everything in – you’re driving across the entire island after all! The drive will take you through beautiful Arthur’s Pass where there are multiple look out points and picnic spots to stop and stretch your legs.
- First stop – Castle Hill
Similar to Stone Henge in England, Castle Hill is a scattering of rocks which you can walk up to and get among.
- Second stop – Arthur’s Pass
With a small town providing shops and toilets and multiple lookout points, you have choice aplenty here. The town will be a popular stop for tourists as the Arthur’s Pass train also makes a stop here but there you will find cafes, an information centre and bathrooms.
- Third stop – Londonderry Rock
The large rock isn’t very well marked out by maps so you’ll have to keep an eye out for this one. Located just before Kumara, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the rock. On the drive to Greymouth the short road will be on the left. There’s a steep ditch to drive down before reaching the car park so it might be an idea to leave the car on the road and walking the entire way.
- Fourth stop- Greymouth
Enjoy lunch and a spot of shopping in Greymouth. Don’t forget to stock up on more drinking water, petrol and snacks!
What’s your favourite day trip drive in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below!