Sometimes you have those trips that just don’t go as you would like. For us, the road trip across the South Island of New Zealand was one of them. Our itinerary looked much more extensive until two things started to throw a spanner in the works. First of all, we never expected New Zealand to be so beautiful, so we took a slower journey to take in everything we saw. And second, there was such heavy rainfall on the west coast at the time that a bridge had collapsed on the only access road making it impossible for us to complete the entire route we wanted to drive.
The Travelers New Zealand sunset
But the part that we have seen is definitely worth a visit, and travelers as we are we would like to share that route with you. And we promise to publish the entire itinerary after we return. For real!
Our trip starts in Christchurch where we quickly pick up our Jucy Camper. New Zealand is not known for beautiful city trips, so we immediately started driving. And road trips make you hungry. This makes no sense, but this is how we arrive at our first stop, the picturesque village of Fairlie. And actually we cheat a bit here because we got this tip from a local from Wanaka. So we went here on the way back to Christchurch.
Fairlie is known for its beautiful post office, grocery store, and gas pump. If you have visited it and are a little disappointed, go straight to what we drove about 100 meters for (really!). If you do not take the exit towards Christchurch, but drive into the village for a short distance, you will see the Fairlie Bakehouse on the left. And here you have to be because they have the very best ‘pies’ from NZ. Handmade with fresh and local products. And also great coffee! So just refuel before you start the real trip. Tip: take something with you on the road because the bizarre beautiful landscape really starts from here!
Chances are this will be your first real stop. Because driving past Lake Tekapo is actually not an option. The lake is surrounded by mountains and is so terribly clear blue, you don’t want to miss that view. You can park your car in the parking lot, find a nice spot, and enjoy the view. Are you a real stargazer? Lake Tekapo seems to be the spot to see the starry sky because of the minimal light pollution.
Need some refreshment? Then take a dip. Not for cold conditions! Or are you more of the flora? The Lupins bloom here between late November and mid-January. No idea what it is? It is a beautifully colored plant that attracts people from all over the world who want to see them grow in the wild. So really a thing.
If you like cozy freedom camping this is a very nice place. Make sure that you are somewhat on time because more people know how to find this to park their camper for one or more nights.
Since New Zealand does not have many roads, it is very important that you get Lindis Pass under the wheels. And this part of the South Island is exactly what makes a road trip a road trip. Think of beautiful winding roads, mountains, fantastic views, and enough places for a walk or coffee moment. And it doesn’t matter if you drive the route from Omarama to Cromwell or vice versa, the views remain ‘to die for’.
Lumsden was our base for the trip to Milford Sound. Since you are dependent on campsites or hotels at Milford Sound, we decided to go for an alternative. And soon our app indicated that there is a great place to stay in Lumsden. And that was not a lie!
At the old train station, the residents have built a super cool wild camping spot. You can park your camper around the platform, where the cars that are not self-contained may be closest to the toilet building. The rest is a little further away, but it’s never more than a 3-minute walk before you get to the toilet. Which, incidentally, remains open all night.