5 Road Trips from Christchurch
July 18, 2019
by Karen Rose Kingsbury
The South Island of New Zealand is an incredible place to enjoy a road trip adventure. On pretty much any road on the island you are guaranteed wide open spaces with little or no traffic and a beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Discover our five favourite road trips from Christchurch, the South Island’s main city, and get a taste for the very best parts of New Zealand.
A 2-hour 30-minute drive from Christchurch, Kaikoura is a beautiful and quiet coastal town. We recommend you visit in the summer and take a whale watching tour. Choose from a boat trip that will get you up close and personal, or splash out on the luxury of a whale watching helicopter flight in order to appreciate the sheer size of these majestic creatures.
Just under 4 hours drive, Punakaiki is an excellent road trip from Christchurch. Positioned over on the west coast, the journey will take you winding through Arthur’s Pass on scenic mountain roads. Punakaiki itself is home to Dolomite Point where you will find a series of ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes. On sunny days, the coastal waves crashing into the rocks will create incredible rainbows and make for wonderful South Island Instagram photos.
Nearly 3 hours from Christchurch, Lake Tekapo is ideal for a romantic road trip. This brilliant blue lake offers stunning scenic walks, especially in Spring when lilac lupins surround the nearby grass adding even more vibrancy and colour to this iconic spot. The town of Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve and a visit is not complete without an evening soak in the hot pools under a blanket of dark sky and brilliant southern stars.
Just 1 hour 20 minutes from Christchurch, Akaroa is a sleepy South Island town, perhaps most known for its population of Hector’s dolphins. Enjoy fantastic walks and viewing points as well as an unmissable dolphin spotting boat trip. When you’re not adventuring, shop in the small boutiques and enjoy delicious local food. Akaroa is close enough to enjoy the scenery that surrounds you outside of the city without having to venture too far from Christchurch.
Another enjoyable and not too far to travel road trip from Christchurch is a relaxing weekend in Hanmer Springs, home to thermal pools and a fantastic spa. A visit in winter is particularly magical when snow surrounds the pools and the heat from them allows you to spend time outside in the South Island’s fresh, crisp air. In Summer, expect to find the pools a little busier but still just as enjoyable.
Driving in New Zealand is easy and enjoyable. You’ll be hard pushed to find traffic on the South Island with only 23% of New Zealand’s population living here. If you are visiting in Winter, you may need winter tyres for specific mountain passes so plan your trip well. Alternatively, summer drives can be enjoyed in most areas with pretty much any vehicle type. Enjoy these fantastic road trips from Christchurch and see the breathtaking beauty that New Zealand’s South Island offers.