If you're after diverse landscape and exceptional experiences, plan to head north from Christchurch to discover the best of the top of the South Island.
You’ve probably heard people bandy around phrases like ‘natural wonders’, ‘stunning landscapes’ and ‘adrenaline centre’ when they talk about New Zealand, but it’s here, in the top of the South Island, where these terms really come to life. This neck of the woods has experiences, wildlife, food, wine, relaxation and just the right amount of thrills to tick every box on anyone’s list. From the quirkiness of Christchurch, that’s come back with a vengeance — better than ever and evolving in ways no one thought possible — to the whales and dolphins in Kaikoura, the vineyards and the hop fields of Nelson. With world-class food moments, natural hot springs and all kinds of outdoor adventures, you don’t really even need loads of time to do it all. You can experience some of the most memorable sights, sounds and tastes in just a short distance. That’s the beauty of New Zealand.
Read on to start planning and creating your own customised journey with our itinerary builder below.
Every season has its merits in New Zealand. The warmer months are great for making the most of the coast, lakes and rivers. And, of course, winter has its own glittering charm. But, autumn — which runs March through to May — is particularly sensational. With the changing leaves painting the countryside rich golds and reds. The days are warm and sunny, perfect for outdoor activities. Really, you just can’t lose.
Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and a charming experience in itself. There are 13 daily non-stop flights to Christchurch from Australia’s main airports. After taking time to explore the city, head north to Marlborough and Nelson via Hanmer Springs, an inland hot pool, sub-alpine and all around gorgeous village and return through the Lewis Pass to Kaikoura and back to Christchurch.
Allow $100–$150 a day for petrol, worthy entertainment and cheap and cheerful eats, and if you tend to enjoy the finer things in life, give yourself upwards of $250 a day to take some bigger adventures, find some luxe ways to relax and eat some truly sensational food.
Take time to wander the streets of Christchurch and see the prized street art. What started as a way of filling in the vacant lots and walls left when buildings fell in the quakes has now become an open-air gallery in itself. Local and international artists have filled walls with huge, impressive works.
Plan Your Journey Through the Top of the South
Track down the must-visit local haunts.
Venture Through the Top of the South
Do as the locals do.
From a greenshell mussel tour to a fancy degustation at Roots Restaurant, here's how to eat your way through the Top of the South.
1. Roots Restaurant
2. Greenshell Mussel Cruise
3. Hans Herzog Estate
4. C1 Espresso
5. Nins Bin
Go on a cellar door bike tour or have a whisky at The Last World — whatever tipple tickles your fancy, we've got you covered.
1. Nelson Beer Trail
2. The Last Word
3. Pegasus Bay Winery
4. Scotch Wine Bar
5. Cellar Door Bike Tour
For the thrillseekers, here's a list of adrenaline-charged activities designed to get your heart racing, including a scenic skydive.
1. Buller Gorge Rafting
2. Skydive Abel Tasman
3. Natural High
4. Cable Bay Adventure Park
5. Ballooning Canterbury
Spend the day soaking in a hot spring or stargaze from your own private glasshouse — here's how to rest, relax and rejuvenate around the Top of the South.
1. Magic Mail Boat Cruise
2. Hanmer Springs
3. Aquapackers Abel Tasman
4. Kahutara PurePod
5. Christchurch Gondola
Chase that fresh air and get back to nature. Kayak pristine aqua waters or stop and smell the cherry blossoms in the Miyazu Japanese Gardens.
1. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
2. Miyazu Japanese Gardens
3. Abel Tasman Kayaks
4. Abel Tasman Coast Track
5. Black Cat Cruises
Find a sculpture park, live music venues, a resilient art gallery and more. Get your arts and culture fix from Christchurch up to Nelson.