Discover New Zealand's South Island with Avis
Drive the south island from christchurch to queenstown with avis and enjoy some of the world’s most splendid alpine scenery.
New Zealand is made for driving. Its roads are uncluttered, its drivers courteous, and there is scarcely an inch of passing scenery that isn’t spellbinding. Fields are greener than green, lakes a distillation of blue, and white mountains fang the horizon. Even better, for all the wilderness that surrounds you, you’re never far from an outrageous adrenaline-inducing activity, cellar door, gourmet meal or good hotel.
New Zealand is one of the world’s most beautiful countries, and you can help keep it that way via a greener driving experience with electric car hire. Avis has added over 100 such vehicles to its New Zealand fleet at Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington airports, ranging small SUVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 to the Tesla 3 and Tesla Y. If you’re a first timer, Avis gets you going with simple operating instructions and a quick-start guide to take with you on your journey.
Start Planning your trip
DAY 1: CITY TO SKY
Christchurch is a forward-looking city that has bounced back from its 2010 and 2011 earthquakes – minimise contact, speed up collection process and get there quicker from the airport with Avis’ innovative Digital Check In. The city bustles with eateries and pop-up shops, features a lovely botanic garden, and has good art galleries and museums; the International Antarctic Centre is particularly worthwhile.
You have three hours’ drive today, so have a big brunch at sleek, industrial-chic Child Sister, where breakfast classics come with a Korean influence with the likes of kimchi omelette or beef-and-pork meatballs with mushroom and spinach – fantastic fuel for your journey.
Following this repast, get going to Rakaia Gorge along scenic Highway 77 rather than the obvious Highway 1. Here the beautiful landscapes that accompany you for the rest of your New Zealand journey begin: a crystal-clear river, forest, and surrounding snow peaks. Stop to hike part of the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, or take to a jet boat for a thrill ride.
The stylish Hyundia Ioniq 5 will get you where you need to go
Heavenly views from Mt John Observatory
Don’t dawdle too long though: your destination Lake Tekapo is even more scenic, and redefines the definition of blue. This is a quiet place to soak up the scenery and relax in hot springs. One of the best outlooks is from Mt John Observatory, and you’ll want to return after dark to goggle at the moon’s craters and a fabulous swathe of Milky Way.
Stay overnight in Peppers Bluewater Resort Lake Tekapo, which has terrific water and alpine views from many of its guestrooms. You can dine with the scenery too at its Rakinui Restaurant, which showcases the region’s farm-to-table ingredients in dishes such as beef fillet or salmon laksa. If you’re in the mood for Japanese, head to Kohan in town for sushi, sashimi or a classic bento box with aged salmon, crumbed chicken and tiger prawns.
DAY 2: LAKES AND LANDSCAPES
Today you have a two-and-a-half-hour drive, but may well want to go slower, as this is the most scenic section of your trip. First you slide past Lake Pukaki, whose water is almost neon blue. Squeeze in an extra day, and you could be tempted to detour north along the lake into Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park. Luckily the Avis App allows you to extend your car rental with ease – if you decide you need to see more of New Zealand’s loveliness, a few clicks will make it happen.
Further down the road, Omarama Clay Cliffs is an amazing contrast: you might almost think you’re in the Wild West amid its towering, barren cliffs. Recover from your hike afterwards at Omarama Hot Tubs and enjoy the panorama.
Middle-of-nowhere Omarama isn’t going to wow you with restaurants, but The Wrinkly Rams will set you up with a seafood chowder, rib-eye steak or other café fare before you tackle the Lindis Pass, which has stunning views all the way for your eyes to feast upon.
A hearty breakfast at Child Sister
Wanaka, your ultimate destination, is perhaps best known as a ski resort. However, hiking and mountain biking is great the rest of the year, and you can take in cellar doors, lavender farms and various family-friendly attractions such as Puzzling World and the National Transport and Toy Museum.
Just before arriving in Wanaka you could check into luxury, boutique Lime Tree Lodge, set on an estate with glorious mountain outlooks. Alternatively, Edgewater Hotel in town lives up to its name and supplies suites and apartments, as well as a day spa and putting green.
Wanaka has abundant dining options. Kika has won multiple awards for its contemporary tapas – think confit duck, gnocchi or sourdough with goat’s curd – matched with local wines. Otherwise, tuck into hearty sustainable-oriented bistro fare at Alchemy, where the pork belly, short ribs or roasted butternut come matched with craft beer.
DAY 3: TASTE TREATS
New Zealand is well provided with charging stations. If you’re in an electric vehicle, charge up at any of six in Wanaka. You can travel roughly 300 kilometres at 80 per cent charge and be purring noiselessly along as soon as you’ve finished your breakfast at local favourite The Federal Diner.
The drive today is only 90 minutes, but has plenty to delay you. The Crown Range Road is New Zealand’s highest main highway but an easy and spectacular drive where you’ll be tempted to stop at viewpoints and at Cardrona Distillery, which makes whiskey, vodka and gin.
Fly fishing on the Lindis Pass
The sleek dash of the Hyundai Ioniq 5
As you leave the mountain heights and wind down towards the Gibbston Valley, you’ll find yourself in Central Otago wine region, especially notable for Pinot Noir, but also Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnays, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. You’ll want to make a slight detour for lunch or wine tastings at cellar doors.
Peregrine Wines’ ultra-modern building, half sunk into the ground, is said to resemble a bird’s wing and has an interior as chic as any urban bar. At Gibbston Valley Winery you can tour the cave cellars, learn about production and sample the wine before tucking into an antipasto plate. Amisfield has perhaps the most scenic outlook, gazing onto snowy mountains from its Italian-style terrace; its bistro is outstanding.
Hike through the Omarama Clay Cliffs
Soak away the day's walking in the Omarama Hot Tub
Just before arriving in Queenstown, stop at Arrowtown, a former gold-mining town turned heritage village. Consider having dinner here: start off with a cocktail or whiskey at speakeasy-style Blue Door Bar, which features live music. Then head on to Aosta for an Angus scotch fillet, premium venison or Canterbury duck breast, followed by dark chocolate torta or salted caramel tiramisu.
Queenstown lies just down the road, but really your holiday is just beginning. Take your time: find something on the radio dial and drive on, before eventually winding back on another scenic route towards Christchurch.
Experience the electrifying sights of New Zealand's South Island and be driven by better at avis.com.au