The Best Of The South Island

After four months travelling round the South Island it certainly left an impression on both of us. So before we head away again and before Alzheimer’s takes over I thought it was time to jot down what we thought were the best places we visited. Those that we would consider a must see or do. The best of’s are in no particular order and are just some of the highlights that we experienced along the way.

Otago Central Rail Trail

Done to death, I know but there is a reason so many people take part in this activity and that’s because it is just such a great thing to do. With each days ride offering stunning scenery and mostly clear blue skys it’s something we will definitely do again.

Meeting up with our new friend Brian in Middlemarch It took seven days to complete the trail with us effectively riding it in both directions. As we needed to ride forward then return to the motorhome then move the motorhome forward and repeat the process. The scenery was amazing the weather fantastic and the ride a definite highlight of the trip.

I covered this over four blogs as there was so much to cover but if you only have limited time or just want the best days ride then the ride from Lauder to Auripo Station which is 11kms covers probably the best scenery has one bridge and two tunnels. Sadly it’s all uphill on the way there but obviously downhill on the way back. This section of the track is covered in my blog Otago Rail Trail Part 4


After being stuck in the motorhome for 3 days due to cyclone Gita we finally had the chance to explore the area and stumbled across the historic Victorian buildings in the port area of this town.

The town also contains the amazing steam punk museum which is an absolute must to visit with the room of lights quite the sensory experience.

A wander around the warehouse area and port district takes you past some amazing buildings constructed out of the local stone. This area has quite a distinct feel to it and makes it stand out from other small towns we visited. You can read about our time here by clicking on my Awesome Oamaru blog.

The Heaphy Track

By the time we arrived here we had been doing quite a bit of walking so we were able to cover a much greater distance than we could have at the start of our trip. This allowed us to really feel that we had done part of one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.

From the DOC campsite at the start of the track we walked about 2 1/2 hours into the track reaching the Katipo Creek shelter with the track mostly following the coast the unspoiled beaches and lack of people together with the different stands of native bush made this a really pleasant walk.

This walk made me think about the challenges of doing one of the complete great walks but realised when we got back to the motorhome that my knees would never stand for this. Click here to read the Blog about this walk

Godley Head

This was my first experience of being really nervous driving the motorhome as we navigated the cliff edges on the narrow road leading to the DOC camp ground at Godley Head.

This fabulous camp on the outskirts of Christchurch is well worth the rather hair raising drive along the cliff edges to bring you to this rather remote camp that has the most amazing views back over the water towards New Brtighton Beach one way and Lyttleton the other.

The headland had lots of walking and cycling trails as well as old gun emplacements from the WW2. It’s a terrific place to lose yourself for an hour or a couple of days. Read about our time here by clicking on our blog of this area.

Milford Sound

One of two places that we didn’t explore with our motorhome as everyone had said parking is a real issue in Milford secondly the road in has so many things to see you are better off not driving.

We were staying at the NZMCA camp in Te Anau when we came across the brochure for the trip with Fiordland Tours and spent the day under the guidance of our tour driver Jono who proved to be an absolute marvel with knowledgeable commentary and a great sense of humour.

What an amazing day with the tour bus stopping at numerous places giving us the chance to see so much more than we would have seen if we had driven ourselves or gone with one of the larger tour companies. Click here to read the blog about this stunning trip.

Haast Pass

Probably the most remote part of New Zealand but still part of the State Highway network. The road through Haast Pass takes you past some wonderful walks and waterfalls. It’s well worth stopping at some of these places to explore.

Remote almost doesn’t describe this place when we walked a couple of the trails and met nobody coming the other way and you are surrounded by dense native bush that encroaches right onto the path it takes you back to what it must have been like for the early explorers.

With no cellphone coverage for 300 kms till you get to Fox Glacier it’s a chance to spend some time without being troubled by the world outside. Click here to read the blog that relates to this visit.


We came here twice and stayed at the new NZMCA camp which is really handily placed only about 1km from the city and right on the local cycle and walking trails. The second time we came back to help with planting trees at the grand opening of the park.

The first time we visited we had the chance to meet Adrian and Sally who surprised Sarah the night before her birthday by decorating the front of our motorhome as pictured, they did however get caught in the act!

We also explored a large amount of the area on our bikes using the extensive cycle trails in the area. Motueka is really well set up for motorhomers who enjoy the same things as we do. Read about our time here by clicking on this link to my blog about our visit. Covered in two parts with the second part here.

The Catlins

At the bottom of the South Island and almost as remote as Haast are the Catlins a part of New Zealand known for it’s rugged coastline that is dotted with lighthouses all making interesting viewing  along with stands of native bush and spectacular waterfalls.

We really enjoyed our time here and probably didn’t spend as long here as we should but I think we managed to see most of the major attractions with the exception of Cathedral Cove as we missed the tide times.

The Southern most point in the South Island is a rather remote spot called Slope Point and our visit here and the other areas of the Catlins that are covered in two blogs that you can read by clicking part one and part two here.

Alexandra and Clyde

Home to the beginning of the Rail Trail (if you start there) Clyde and it’s near neighbour Alexandra are two towns that we came to love Clyde because of it’s history and Alex because it’s such a welcoming place.

Being located on the Rail Trail there are plenty of cycle routes around here with plenty of places to cycles away from the traffic it’s a great chance to be able to get out and about and explore all that the area has to offer.

This is an area of NZ that we would both strongly recommend that you visit and I don’t think it would matter if you come spring, summer or autumn that there is so much to see and do. You can read about our visit to this area here

There are so many more things that I probably could have written about including all the terrific people that we met and the fantastic places that we stayed, not to mention some of the fantastic sunsets and sun rises that we saw.  The temptation to get away again is huge and it won’t be long before we are curing the itchy feet syndrome.
If you would like to see all the places we have visited click here

If you would like to see the ratings of the places we have stayed click here

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

5 thoughts on “The Best Of The South Island

  1. Great to read your follow up thoughts on your four month South Island trip. We enjoyed travelling along with you both. Like you, we have recently been down South, spent ten weeks over summer. These trips are never long enough, are they.

    1. Thanks Jenny and Robin it’s great to have been able to share the journey, another one is about to start although it will be a lot shorter and we are headed in totally the opposite direction.. keep an eye out for the first post

  2. Your blog made gret reading and you got to see some of the most beautiful areas of NZ, (Well in my opinion anyway) will be watching for further travels from you

    1. Thanks Dan yes pretty happy with the trip and the places we got to visit. Sure we missed some spots but there is always next time. Those itchy feet are getting to me already so further blogs before you know it

Please feel free to make comments they will help future posts