Awesome 5 Days Itinerary for South Island New Zealand
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Awesome 5 Days Itinerary for South Island New Zealand

A beautiful lake surrounded by colorful lupine flowers in the foreground, with snow-capped mountains and a blue sky in the background. Stunning spot to start the five days in new zealand south island itinerary

Are you looking for a five-day itinerary for the South Island of New Zealand? Then you are in the right spot.

Five days might seem short, but with a little bit of planning, you can have a smooth and fun journey through the beautiful island. You can visit many stunning places in a short period of time – if you know how.

We are experts on all things New Zealand, we only seek out the best the island has to offer. Therefore, stick around as we uncover some of the best places to visit in New Zealand in 5 days in this ultimate guide.

Let’s get to it!

5 Days in New Zealand Itinerary – at a Glance

Located in the Pacific Ocean, South Island is famous for its indigenous Maori culture and its picturesque landscapes.

If you are an international traveler, you should definitely consider visiting the South Island whether you are ending your South East Asia cruise there or just for a combined trip with the North Island.

This itinerary includes a good mix of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation. Here’s our suggested itinerary for South Island:

⛰️ Day 1: Ōtautahi Christchurch

⛰️ Day 2: Christchurch To Tekapo

⛰️ Day 3: Tekapo to Queenstown

⛰️ Day 4: Queenstown

⛰️ Day 5: Queenstown to Fiordland

 Day 1: Visit Ōtautahi Christchurch

In the morning of our first day in South Island, you should head down to Christchurch. Upon arrival, you can explore the Botanic Gardens and the Cardboard Cathedral.

If you want to treat yourself to some cultural insight, you can join a 75 minute tour. I recommend the Ōtautahi Cultural Walk with Amiaki tours, which will cost approximately $ 65.

In the afternoon, you can visit the Canterbury Museum or take a punt ride on the Avon River.

The Canterbury Museum tells a story about the Waitaha Canterbury people and their migration to South Island. The story is filled with interesting adventures and lessons to be learned.

A punt ride on the Avon River offers a different experience than walking around the city. You can see the city in different perspective and enjoy a thrilling ride that you won’t find in any other places.

Once you are done with the tour in the evening, you can enjoy dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants. I would recommend eating at Zen Sushi and Dumplings, which is only 0.2 km from the museum.

Make sure to try their Cold sushi and hot dumplings. I love the beautiful roof and relaxing setting. Their delicious salmon dish is a must try because it is prepared with special spices. What a perfect end to our first day in South Island New Zealand.

A view of the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, featuring its unique triangular design with colorful stained glass windows, framed by trees in the foreground.

 Day 2: Christchurch To Tekapo

In the morning, you should drive to Lake Tekapo, which takes about 3 hours.

I suggest to make a stop at Rakaia Gorge on the way for stunning views. Do not forget to bring your camera because you might want to capture the moment.

The shallow water around the bay of the lake contains hidden gems as well. This is a truly awesome spot for landscape and wildlife photography.

You can spot many animals around the lake, such as scaup, black swan, pied stilt, black stilt, and crested grebe. If you are lucky, you can spot the Himalayan chukor hidden in the grasslands around the lake.

In the afternoon, you can visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and enjoy the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. If you got time, you can roam around the lake near the church and observe its beauty. You won’t be disappointed.

In the evening, you can enjoy some stargazing at Mt. John Observatory. It is one is one of the most rewarding activity that kids and adults can enjoy. You should definitely book your slot in advance – it fills up pretty quickly.

You’ll find yourself at the highest peak of Mount John, at 1,029 meter height. The tour guide can offer some interesting facts about the lake and its surrounding areas. You will also learn some facts about many stars in the Milky Way.

Rakaia Gorge on a clear spring day in Canterbury region of New Zealand

Day 3: Tekapo to Queenstown

You should rise early on the third day of the South Island itinerary – to make the most of this day.

Make sure to get on the road early and begin your drive to Queenstown, which takes about 3.5 hours.

I suggest to make a stop at Lake Pukaki for views of Aoraki and Mt. Cook. From there you’ll have a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. You may want to take some pictures – it is a pretty awesome spot.

If you got time, you can spend a day to hike to the summit of Mt. Cook. The Mt. Cook National Park offers many beautiful landscapes and is a great place to have a picnic.

Once you arrive at the final destination, you can explore Queenstown Gardens or take a ride on the Skyline Gondola. Both activities can be fun but it really depends on your preference.

In the evening, you can have a dinner at a lakeside restaurant in Queenstown. I would recommend Lakeside Palace Chinese Restaurant. It is one of the most outstanding restaurants in Queenstown.

They even have special banquet options you can book. You can treat your loved one or travel partner to an awesome dinner experience.

stunning road in new zealand with lush orange flowers and fields on both sides and stunning snow covered mountain in the background

Day 4: Queenstown

Option 1: Adventure Day

There are many recreational activities in Queenstown that you can choose from.

If you like adrenaline, you should check out activities like bungee jumping, jet boating, or skydiving.

My favorite activity is skydiving, because it offers an adrenaline boost, and you get to see Queenstown town from a bird’s eye view.

Option 2: Scenic Day

If you’d rather enjoy the beautiful things in life at a slower pace, you should do some sightseeing instead.

Drive to Glenorchy for stunnpng landscapes or take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu. Both options are amazing and best suited for nature photographers, hikers and slow travelers.

A scenic hiking trail in New Zealand's South Island, with a winding path leading through grassy hills and rocky terrain, overlooking a lake and distant mountains

Day 5: Queenstown to Fiordland

On day five of this South Island to New Zealand itinerary we’ll travel on to Fiordland.

In the morning, start the drive to Milford Sound, which takes about 4 hours.

You can roam around Fiordland National Park to enjoy its natural sceneries. It is surrounded by mountain ranges, alpine lakes, and a dense forest. This makes it a hiking paradise that tourists and locals totally love.

What also makes this National Park so special is that it contains beautiful fiords, snow-capped peaks, and spectacular waterfalls. It also has shimmering lakes – which I absolutely love.

You cannot explore the national park in one day, but hiking to a waterfall is the best experience that you can do in your trip.

There are many hike trails you can choose from, but I would recommend to hike Stirling Falls Hike Trail, which lead to Stirling Falls.

In the afternoon, you can take a scenic cruise on Milford Sound. It is a super rewarding experience, and you can see a lot of scenery and wilflife here.

In the evening, you can drive back to Queenstown or stay overnight in Te Anau. This brings us to an end of our South Island journey.

Are 5 Days Enough For New Zealand South Island?

Five days in South Island, New Zealand is enough for a quick trip, allowing you to visit a few famous places. You can see highlights like Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Mount Cook.

It is enough to enjoy some outdoor activities like hiking or bungee jumping if you crave a thrill. The scenic drives between stops will also provide great views.

However, having more days would be better as it allows for more exploration of smaller towns and hidden gems. Also, you could probably do it in a more relaxed pace without feeling rushed.

When having more time, you can get the chance to try more activities like glacier tours, wine tasting, and beach visits. T

o see most of the island, it’s best to plan for at least 10-14 days. This way, you’ll have enough time to enjoy both the popular and lesser-known spots.

Conclusion: 5 Days South Island New Zealand Itinerary

This itinerary will give you an idea of what you can see in South Island New Zealand in only five days.

Ultimately, you can adjust the itinerary based on your interests and the season you are traveling in.

You should definitely consider booking activities and accommodations in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons.

There are a lot more things to see and discover in South Island, these attractions are really only the tip of the iceberg.

I hope you enjoy your visit to South Island. Make sure to share this itinerary and let me know about your experience.

If you need more travel inspiration for Australia and New Zealand, keep on reading:

Perfect 1 Day Blue Mountains Itinerary (Local’s Guide)

North Island New Zealand Itinerary 5 Days: Hidden Gems

One Day in Sydney From Cruise Ship: The Perfect Itinerary

One Day in Brisbane (From Cruise Port) – Awesome Things to Do

About the Author

Justin is a military pilot and travel blogger. Due to his job, he splits his time between the US, Curacao, and Europe.

Justin enjoys discovering the world together with his wife and venturing out with his drone to take magical shots.

The post Awesome 5 Days Itinerary for South Island New Zealand appeared first on Shades of Summr.