The South Island Explorer

Estimated time: 10 to 20+ days, distance 4200km

Auckland to Wellington

This route will take you out of Auckland and down the middle of the North Island to Wellington. Once in Wellington jump on the inter island ferry across to Picton at the top of the South Island.

You could combine this route with any one of our other North Island routes like the East Coast Explorer or the West Coast and Wellington Explorer.

Picton to Christchurch

From Picton it is off the ferry to Blenheim, the heart of the Marlborough wine region. With plenty of wineries to visit and a world class aviation museum it is a great place to be.

From Blenheim our route takes you down the east coast of the South Island to Kaikoura. I recommend taking time out and going whale watching.

This part of the country was hard hit by a big earthquake in 2016 which dramatically changed parts of this coastline.

From Kaikoura it is onto Christchurch with lots of long straight open roads along this route.  There are plenty of small rural communities that you will pass through on your way to the South Island’s biggest city.

While in Christchurch be sure to explore the area. Visit the Port Hills and travel out to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula.

Christchurch to Bluff

From Christchurch you travel south passing through Temuka, famous for its pottery, then Timaru and Waimate. Our route then takes you up the Waitaki River to the large hydro dams at Aviemore and Benmore.

Back down the river and onto State Highway 1 to the Steam Punk capital of New Zealand, Oamaru.

From Oamaru our route takes you to Dunedin and on the way be sure to check out the Moeraki Boulders. These perfectly round rocks are scattered along the beach and have only been found in a few countries around the world.

From Moeraki it is onto Dunedin the Scotland of New Zealand with plenty to see and do around this city. Our route then takes you to Invercargill, New Zealand’s most southern city. Be sure to take the road out to Bluff, the furthest point south in the South Island.

Invercargill to Westport

From Invercargill our route takes you via Lake Manapouri and then onto Te Anau and up to Milford Sound (be sure to pack your insect repellant). Leaving Milford Sound you travel back to Te Anau and then up to Queenstown the adventure capital of the South Island. Be sure to explore the area, just remember no riding our bikes on the Crown Range Road.

From Queenstown you travel through Arrowtown and Wanaka and out to the wild west coast of the South Island and Haast. The route takes you up the coast to Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier, then onto Greymouth.

From Greymouth you continue to follow the coast all the way up to Westport through some rugged scenery and amazing roads.

Westport to Nelson

Leaving Westport you will head inland and over the hills to Motueka and then up to Golden Bay. Explore the very top of the south island before riding back through Motueka to Nelson.

After exploring this part of the country it is just a short ride back over to Picton and back on the ferry to the North Island.

This loop could take you two weeks to a month depending on how long you want to stay at the various locations along the way, it is up to you.

The map has lots of suggested spots to visit and there are many accommodation options available to you. (Motel, Hotel, Airbnb, Book a bach)

View our West Coast & Wellington Explorer

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