Most summertime New Zealand holidays through the South Island wind up in wonderful Wanaka at some stage. It’s only natural – the tourist-heaven area has a gravitational pull, attracting people of all shapes and sizes to explore its panoramic mountain ranges, sparkling lakes and gloriously good cafes.
The same can be said for Te Anau, too, mind you. So what’s a budding NZ traveller supposed to do when torn between the two? Visit both! This road trip itinerary will take you on a journey like few others.
Begin in Wanaka
Start by spending a few days exploring the Wanaka region in your rental car, using affordable accommodation such as Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park as a base. This motel/camping ground combo can offer you free unlimited Wi-Fi during your stay, perfect for looking up road trip holiday planners online!
The town is famous for its lake in the summer. You’ll find the swimming sensational, with plenty of kayak hire facilities nearby to encourage further aquatic investigation.
A quick wine tour before you go
You can’t leave Central Otago without tasting its sumptuous wine first, though. From Wanaka down to Cromwell (40-minute drive) and then over to Queenstown (50-minute drive from Cromwell), there are more spectacular winemakers here than you could shake a bunch of grapes at. It’s hard for us to choose any specifically that we love more than the others, so we recommend driving the main roads and simply popping into whichever label you like the look of!
Speaking of Queenstown…
When you set off on your trip, Queenstown is where you’ll be heading. Before you enter the Kawarau Gorge, pull into the Goldfields Mining Centre to experience one of the quintessential Kiwi tourist experiences: jet boating. The Goldfields Jet Boat Ride roars up and down the Kawarau River on a 40-minute thrill ride, performing harrowing 360-degree turns and coming within inches of towering cliff walls. Now that’s something to talk about back home!
Stop in Kingston
From here, you’ll make your way down the southern arm of Lake Wakatipu, passing by sapphire-blue waters that are flanked on almost all sides by dramatic peaks. There are many tourist stops to take photos, which you absolutely must take advantage of.
When you reach the tip of the lake, at Kingston, pop into this small settlement to find the Lakefront Track. This is about 30 minutes both ways, hugging the shores so you can stretch your legs and witness the view at a slower, more relaxed pace.
The final stretch
Now it’s just an hour and a half to Te Anau, turning off State Highway (SH) 6 at Five Rivers Cafe to join SH97 and the road over to Fiordland. You’ll pass through many heritage towns with friendly locals, and meander through the heart of giant valleys amid rolling farmland.
In no time at all you’ll be pulling into your Te Anau accommodation and preparing for the next stage of your South Island adventure holiday. Our friends at both Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park and Te Anau Holiday Park are welcoming hosts, offering you fantastic facilities whether you need a roof over your head or just tent canvas. If you need somewhere to stay, these locations are where you can turn.
Now that you have a base, what will you do next? A fantastic meal can be found at The Fat Duck restaurant if it’s time for a feed, as well as The Ranch Cafe and Bar. The next day, drive immediately to Milford Sound, having booked a boat excursion with Jucy Cruises. We could literally write an essay on how beautiful this tour is, including how the Sounds’ waterfalls produce luminous rainbows in the sun, or how the seals and penguins so often frolic in the waters near the boat.
No matter what you choose to do in Te Anau, you’re in for a treat.