Lake-Tekapo

The Most Epic Adventure Yet

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for quite some time now and I was so excited to finally travel to the South Island this past February. Prior to hopping on my flight, I didn’t have many expectations, all I knew was that I was in for one epic adventure!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time on the South Island, I based myself in Queenstown for two weeks where I participated in some awesome activities and adventures and also did wonderful day trips to the breathtaking natural wonders New Zealand offers.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

In this blog post, read all about the amazing day trips and adventures I did around the South Island as well as my experience staying at Sherwood in Queenstown.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.

Traveling to and Around Queenstown, New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Skyscanner is such a gem! Traveling from the United States to New Zealand could be quite expensive, so I was beaming with joy when I found great deals from Newark Airport to Queenstown with two layovers in Dallas, Texas and Sydney, Australia. (On the way home, my second layover was in San Francisco, California instead of Dallas.)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Honestly, I really wanted to rent a car during my time in New Zealand, but since I was traveling alone and have never driven on the other side of the road, I was a little nervous to venture out on my own. Another thing to note is that it gets pretty rural once you leave the Queenstown area, so cell phone reception tends to go in and out on the road. It is definitely recommended that you download Maps.me and put in your location before you start driving so that the GPS will still work even when you are offline.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Instead of hitting the road on my own, I booked day trips through various tour companies in Queenstown. What is great about staying in Queenstown is that you could arrive not having an itinerary and end up booking everything there last minute! It is so convenient and everything is in walking distance.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

If you do want to rent a car, there are various rental companies throughout Queenstown and you could also rent a campervan as well.

Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in Queenstown, I enjoyed staying at Sherwood for two nights. This wonderful hotel is the perfect place, to relax and rejuvenate. Offering a unique setting to unwind and reconnect with self and nature, Sherwood is set on an alpine hillside a few miles from downtown Queenstown. Throughout the hotel grounds are breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. In addition, everyone that works at Sherwood is super friendly and made sure my time there was awesome!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I stayed in the beautiful One Bedroom Apartment with a Mountain View. I absolutely LOVED my room! This one-bedroom suite has a limit to two adults, but you could also have a limit of two children with you as well since there are two single squab beds in addition to the queen-sized bed. In my room, the squab beds were pushed together to make up as a long couch. It was nice to sit on the squab beds in the evening and get work done with the most gorgeous mountain and sunset views. (The sunsets in Queenstown were so magical!)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What is also awesome about Sherwood’s rooms are that they are all up-cycled. Since my room was a suite, it came with a kitchenette, 100% woolen blankets from Aotearoa sheep, all-natural bathroom amenities, beautiful artwork, WiFi and a mini bar with organic New Zealand sodas, craft beers and bio dynamic tea. It also came with snacks, coffee and tea makers and more!

’s rooms are that they are all up-cycled. Since my room was a suite, it came with a kitchenette, 100% woolen blankets from Aotearoa sheep, all-natural bathroom amenities, beautiful artwork, WiFi and a mini bar with organic New Zealand sodas, craft beers and bio dynamic tea. It also came with snacks, coffee and tea makers and more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

When I first entered into my room, I was greeted with a lovely note! Māori is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand. Kia Ora doesn’t only mean “hello”; it also has a meaning of “be well or healthy”. This wonderful note also had three healing crystals next to it.

Sherwood Facilities:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I could go on and on about how much I loved hanging out at Sherwood. There were scenic walking trails where I found gardens, benches and tables to relax and take in all of the views. As I was walking around, I also spotted a beautiful teepee! As I took in all of the views, I also enjoyed a complimentary glass of sangria from the hotel’s bar, which was pretty awesome.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There were also bike tracks, fire pits with fireside tables, yard games and more! What I really loved was how much of an emphasis Sherwood placed on health and wellness. Located above Sherwood’s restaurant and bar is an eco studio that offers yoga, meditation and pilates starting at $15 NZD per class. During my second evening at Sherwood (which happened to be on a Sunday), I took a wonderful restorative yoga class that was everything my body needed after a long day of adventuring. In addition to working out, you could also get an Ayurvedic massage there.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What I also loved about Sherwood was their scenic farm-to-table restaurant and bar. Sherwood’s kitchen takes inspiration from nature as they provide a steady flow of fresh, flavor-filled, organic foods from which the ingredients required for each service are harvested. In addition, the Sherwood culinary team collaborates with local farms and independent growers that bring the finest sustainable produce that the Central Otago region offers. This same philosophy extends to Sherwood’s bar when it comes to wine, beer and crafted cocktails. On my first evening at Sherwood, I savored a delicious cod dish with pickled mussels, zucchini and seaweed with a glass of white wine on the side. It was amazing!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What is also awesome about Sherwood in Queenstown is that there is always an event going on. During one of the nights I stayed at Sherwood, there was a live music show featuring a local band. They also offer jewelry workshops, DJ nights, theater nights, festivals, champagne tastings and so much more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Since Sherwood has a lot of respect for nature, the hotel offers up-cycled fixtures, fittings and furnishings. They also have one of the largest private solar installs in New Zealand and the solar array is currently generating more electricity than Sherwood consumes. There are 248 high efficiency multi-crystalline solar panels across all roof surfaces that showed sufficient potential to efficiently capture solar rays. In addition, all food waste is run through Sherwood’s bio-digester and returned to the garden as compost.

The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in Queenstown, I took unforgettable day trips all around the South Island. Click here to read about my experience at Milford Sound and click here to read about my adventures in Queenstown as well as my private wine tour through Central Otago, New Zealand. 

Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park with Pit Stops at Lake Pukaki and Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Mount Cook:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Known as the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park is a hikers heaven and the most sought after wilderness in the Southern Hemisphere. In total, Mount Cook is around 3.5 hours north of Queenstown, but I believe it is a MUST to visit.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I took the Intercity Bus (hop on, hop off bus) from Queenstown to Mount Cook. These buses run all throughout New Zealand. The only downfall to taking a hop on, hop off bus versus having a car is that you will have to stick to a timed schedule. I see it as it’s better than not going at all!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There are so many trails and nature areas to enjoy at Mount Cook no matter who you are. So, you do not need to be a world-class mountaineer to enjoy your time at Mount Cook! Since I am a travel blogger looking to get nice photos (admittedly), I came with my hiking clothes and also brought a lovely sundress to take pictures. It worked out great!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Because of my restricted time schedule, I couldn’t complete the full trail that I was on, but here are some awesome tracks that are recommended for those who are looking to take advantage of hiking in this national park:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
  • Governors Bush Walk (located right next to the village): Governors Bush Walk is the perfect place for all to enjoy the views of Mount Cook. I walked through this and saw so many beautiful birds! There are also gorgeous views of Mount Cook and also the Southern Alps.
  • Hooker Valley (the one I partially did): This trail is pretty flat and definitely the best one to take photos. If you continue to hike, you will reach the suspension bridges over the Hooker Glacial Lake that showcases the ultimate beauty of Mount Cook.
  • Tasman Glacier Lookout (located a few miles from the village of Mount Cook): The Tasman Valley is parallel to the Hooker Valley and lies on the other side of Mount Cook’s mountain range. On this trail, you could see the Blue Lakes, which are filled with glacial water. In this area, you could commonly see icebergs as well!
  • Sealy Tarns: This 2 to 3 hour hike is also very scenic and leads to a campsite. This route involves a lot of steps and it can be demanding on your knees, so hiking poles are definitely advised for this trail.
  • Mueller Hut: Known as a steep hike, this trail leads to a large boulder field. This hike will allow you to catch views of Ngakanohi Glacier as well as the Mueller Glacier. This hike is known as one of the best in New Zealand and takes around 6-8 hours.
  • Kea Point: If you are looking for a shorter hike where you could see views of Mount Cook and Mueller Glacial Lake, Kea Point is perfect.
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

For those looking to stay in Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, it is recommended that you book your accommodations way in advanced since the town is so small and the park attracts millions of visitors each year. In addition to staying in a hotel or hostel at Mount Cook, you could also camp out there since the park offers campsites throughout.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Since the village doesn’t have much besides hotels and houses, you could grab food and drinks at The Hermitage Hotel. It was at The Hermitage Hotel where I enjoyed scenic views with a nice glass of wine.

Lake Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Right near Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park is the glistening blue lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo. I also took an Intercity Bus to these stops and even though my time at both lakes wasn’t long enough either, I was so happy I got to see them!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Lake Tekapo is part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve making it the perfect spot for stargazing at night. It is also a prime location to catch the Aurora Australis, which are the Southern Lights. I was hoping to have seen them during my time in New Zealand, but since it was summertime, I unfortunately didn’t catch them.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

(One of the best apps to download when you are trying to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand is Aurora. It tells you the percentage of cloud coverage, predicted solar activity, the areas where there is the highest Southern Light activity and more!) You could also book an astronomy tour during your time at Lake Tekapo. Click here to learn more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During the day, Lake Tekapo is absolutely breathtaking! The lake gets it’s aqua blue color from the fine rock flour, grounded by glaciers. The area in and around Lake Tekapo is known to be the prime location in New Zealand to see the famous lupin flowers from September through February. As I was meandering around the lake, I did see a few lupins, but since it was mid February at that point, most of them were already dead. Even though I visited Lake Tekapo in the middle of the day, it is recommended to check out the lake during sunrise or sunset as well.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Some other fun activities to do at Lake Tekapo is see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd; visit the Mount John University Observatory; relax at the Tekapo Springs; taking a lake cruise on Cruise Tekapo; horseback ride; hike and ski in the winter months. Here are the hikes to do at Lake Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
  • Cowans Hill Track: This trail follows the Tekapo River from the southern end of Lake Tekapo before joining the Pukaki River.
  • Peninsula Walk: If you are looking for a breathtaking walk with gorgeous nature views, the Peninsula Walk is the way to go!

Lake Pukaki:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Lake Pukaki is the largest lake in the Mackenzie region of New Zealand. Just like Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki offers glistening blue water that will have you gazing at it for hours. In addition, you could also see the peak of Mount Cook from this stunning area. The color of the water also comes from glacial flour.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Throughout Lake Pukaki are stunning accommodations, campsites and spas. Here is what else you could do at Lake Pukaki:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Eat at Mount Cook Alpine Salmon: For my fellow salmon lovers, during your time at Mount Cook Alpine Salmon, savor the delicious taste of the famous Freshwater King Salmon. They also have a great smoked salmon and sashimi from their Aoraki Smokehouse.

Run through the Lavender Fields at New Zealand Alpine Lavender: This lovely organic lavender farm is nestled under the Ben Ohau mountain range and is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Here you could walk through the lavender fields and buy lavender products. (I also enjoyed the lavender fields in summer 2018 during a trip to Provence, France. Click here to read my blog post.)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Enjoy an Evening at Pukaki Wine Cellar and Observatory: For a unique experience at Lake Pukaki, take a tour of the universe using the latest technology for stargazing and astrophotgraphy. (I SO WISH I DID THIS.) You will begin this fun adventure in the wine cellar where you will taste local wines from the region while being introduced to the night sky.

Wanaka and Arrowtown with Pit Stops in Cromwell, Lindis Pass, Cardrona and Crown Range Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in New Zealand, I booked a full day tour through Remarkable Scenic Tour to Wanaka and Arrowtown with various pit stops. Below is everything we saw along the way:

Cromwell:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Located in Central Otago, the town Cromwell is known for having the best fruit in New Zealand along with wine! As you road trip north of Queenstown, definitely make sure you stop at Jones Family Fruit Stall located on Kawarau Gorge Road.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in New Zealand, I stopped at Jones Family Orchard a few times and I loved how tasty their fruit was! As you enter into the market, you will find a huge array of fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, honey products, vegetables, chocolate, ice cream, coffee and more! In addition, you will find a tasting section where you could try all different types of Jones’ fruits!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

An addition to the fruit stall is Mrs. Jones’ beautiful English-style rose garden that is open to the public. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and a perfect place to walk through. The garden contains hundreds of different colored roses as well as beautiful statues and more.

Kawarau Gorge

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Kawarau Gorge is where the AJ Hackett Bungy suspension bridge is located. AJ Hackett, a Kiwi, is the man who popularized bungy jumping. In fact, he set records when he bungy jumped off of the Eiffel Tower in 1987. He then founded the first bungy site (Kawarau Gorge) a year later.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

In addition to being a bungy center, Kawarau Gorge was also used as a Lord of the Rings location.

45th Parallel and Lake Dunstan:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

A great quick stop is the 45th Parallel Track in Cromwell. Standing on the 45th Parallel in the Southern Hemisphere means that you are halfway between the Equator and South Pole. It is also in this location where you could enjoy the stunning views of Lake Dunstan.

Lindis Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The perfect road trip stop and photo opportunity is Lindis Pass! This breathtaking area links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Located 971 meters (3186 feet) above sea level, Lindis Pass is an alpine area of tall, tussock-covered mountains. A lot of the times, you could see snow, which makes the experience even more enchanting. Since I visited during the heart of summer, I didn’t get to see any snow.

Wanaka:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Just like Queenstown, Wanaka is another great city to enjoy beautiful views, great restaurants and epic adventures. Here is a list of fun things to do in Wanaka:

See #thatwanakatree:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

It’s almost like traveling to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, #thatwanakatree is one of the most photogenic willow trees in the world that cannot be missed on a road trip through the South Island. This crooked willow tree grows near the shore of Lake Wanaka in Roys Bay. The tree started out as a fence post around 80 years ago and sprouted into a wonderful tree. Depending on the tide or lake level, this tree can also be walked out to. Since it was high tide the day I was in Wanaka, I couldn’t walk out to it. In addition to seeing the tree, there is a beautiful beach area where you could take a stroll and admire the views.

Enjoy Some of the Best Food in New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Wanaka is known to have some of the best restaurants in all of New Zealand. Here is a list of places you should check out if you are in Wanaka:

Hike Roys Peak:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

One of the most famous and scenic hikes in New Zealand is Roy’s Peak track. This hike features all-encompassing views that lead up to a 1578-meter (5177-foot) summit that offers views of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding mountain ranges and Mount Aspiring.

Sip Some Wine with Views:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

One of the most scenic wineries in the world is Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka. As a maker of biodynamic wines, Rippon Vineyard is a family-owned lakeside winery offering tastings, a gorgeous wedding venue and amazing views. Definitely make a stop here if you are in Wanaka.

Do Some Epic Adventures:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Just like in Queenstown, there are so many adventures you could sign up for when you are in Wanaka. Below is a list of activities you could do here:

  • Rockclimbing
  • Skydiving
  • Canyoning
  • Off Roading
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Wildlife Cruising
  • Jet Boating
  • Ice Climbing (In the Winter)
  • Parasailing
  • Skiing and Snowboarding (In the Winter)
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

You could also take scenic helicopter and plane rides around the area.

Cardrona:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Another great stop to take on a road trip through the South Island is to the small town of Cardrona. When you enter Cardrona, you will find a fence with hundreds of bras on them. The bra movement in Cardrona began in 1999 when four bras mysteriously appeared overnight on a fence along the Cardrona Valley Road. It wasn’t until an unknown bra thief began cutting them away that more bras were then added. Nowadays, colorful bras in all shapes and sizes are placed along the fence. In 2015, this iconic spot was named Bradrona and became an icon to raise awareness for breast cancer. Shortly after, Bradrona started collecting donations and raised over $30,000 NZD to breast cancer.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The Cardrona Hotel is another great place to stop at during a New Zealand road trip! Known as one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels, The Cardrona Hotel is rustic, haunted and offers an award-winning restaurant, biergarten and charming hotel rooms. During my time here, I enjoyed a great Speight’s beer (New Zealand’s famous beer brand) out in the biergarten. It was a beautiful day, so it was nice to sit outside, listen to the music and enjoy the company of good people.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The history of Cardrona Hotels goes back to the 1920s. James Patterson (Jimmy) was the owner of the Cardrona Hotel. At the bar, he controlled the amount of alcohol he would serve people. Most men were only allowed one to two drinks. Women weren’t served at all. His ghost supposedly continues to reside at the Cardrona Hotel.

Crown Range Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Known as the highest main road in New Zealand, Crown Range lies between Queenstown and Wanaka. With an altitude of 1121 meters (3678 feet), you could catch some of the best mountain views here. One thing to note is that in the wintertime, the road is often covered with snow and ice, making it dangerous driving conditions.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Another fun fact about Crown Range is that Oprah Winfrey made her way to this point as she was filming “A Wrinkle in Time” in New Zealand. She took this infamous photo, so I tried to replicate it!

Arrowtown:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Located 20 minutes from Queenstown is the historic gold mining town called Arrowtown. This quaint town was established in 1862, during the height of the Otago gold rush. Nowadays, it is a popular attraction and the perfect day or half day trip from Queenstown.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There are beautiful parks, courtyards, shops, restaurants and ice cream stands. During the afternoon I was in Arrowtown, I enjoyed some shopping for myself as well as savoring an ice cream cone from New Zealand’s Patagonia.


MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experiences around New Zealand’s South Island. If you have any questions about my time in New Zealand, please send me an email at info@browneyedflowerchild.com.

Basic Facts of New Zealand:

Currency: New Zealand Dollar, Capital: Wellington

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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4 Comments

  1. World of Lina on April 6, 2019 at 3:57 am

    New Zealand is the Nr. 1 country on my bucket list. Your blog post and all the amazing photos make me wanna go there even more!!!

    • Taylor Deer on April 9, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      You would definitely love it Alina! It’s so beautiful. 🙂

  2. Charu Goyal on May 15, 2019 at 6:12 am

    This is such a great guide Taylor. You really make me want to visit New Zealand ASAP. Definitely going to pin this blog for when I do 💗

    • Taylor Deer on May 15, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Thank you so much Charu! It is such a magnificent place. Everywhere I went was so breathtaking.

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Lake-Tekapo

The Most Epic Adventure Yet

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for quite some time now and I was so excited to finally travel to the South Island this past February. Prior to hopping on my flight, I didn’t have many expectations, all I knew was that I was in for one epic adventure!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time on the South Island, I based myself in Queenstown for two weeks where I participated in some awesome activities and adventures and also did wonderful day trips to the breathtaking natural wonders New Zealand offers.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

In this blog post, read all about the amazing day trips and adventures I did around the South Island as well as my experience staying at Sherwood in Queenstown.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.

Traveling to and Around Queenstown, New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Skyscanner is such a gem! Traveling from the United States to New Zealand could be quite expensive, so I was beaming with joy when I found great deals from Newark Airport to Queenstown with two layovers in Dallas, Texas and Sydney, Australia. (On the way home, my second layover was in San Francisco, California instead of Dallas.)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Honestly, I really wanted to rent a car during my time in New Zealand, but since I was traveling alone and have never driven on the other side of the road, I was a little nervous to venture out on my own. Another thing to note is that it gets pretty rural once you leave the Queenstown area, so cell phone reception tends to go in and out on the road. It is definitely recommended that you download Maps.me and put in your location before you start driving so that the GPS will still work even when you are offline.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Instead of hitting the road on my own, I booked day trips through various tour companies in Queenstown. What is great about staying in Queenstown is that you could arrive not having an itinerary and end up booking everything there last minute! It is so convenient and everything is in walking distance.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

If you do want to rent a car, there are various rental companies throughout Queenstown and you could also rent a campervan as well.

Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in Queenstown, I enjoyed staying at Sherwood for two nights. This wonderful hotel is the perfect place, to relax and rejuvenate. Offering a unique setting to unwind and reconnect with self and nature, Sherwood is set on an alpine hillside a few miles from downtown Queenstown. Throughout the hotel grounds are breathtaking views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. In addition, everyone that works at Sherwood is super friendly and made sure my time there was awesome!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I stayed in the beautiful One Bedroom Apartment with a Mountain View. I absolutely LOVED my room! This one-bedroom suite has a limit to two adults, but you could also have a limit of two children with you as well since there are two single squab beds in addition to the queen-sized bed. In my room, the squab beds were pushed together to make up as a long couch. It was nice to sit on the squab beds in the evening and get work done with the most gorgeous mountain and sunset views. (The sunsets in Queenstown were so magical!)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What is also awesome about Sherwood’s rooms are that they are all up-cycled. Since my room was a suite, it came with a kitchenette, 100% woolen blankets from Aotearoa sheep, all-natural bathroom amenities, beautiful artwork, WiFi and a mini bar with organic New Zealand sodas, craft beers and bio dynamic tea. It also came with snacks, coffee and tea makers and more!

’s rooms are that they are all up-cycled. Since my room was a suite, it came with a kitchenette, 100% woolen blankets from Aotearoa sheep, all-natural bathroom amenities, beautiful artwork, WiFi and a mini bar with organic New Zealand sodas, craft beers and bio dynamic tea. It also came with snacks, coffee and tea makers and more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

When I first entered into my room, I was greeted with a lovely note! Māori is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand. Kia Ora doesn’t only mean “hello”; it also has a meaning of “be well or healthy”. This wonderful note also had three healing crystals next to it.

Sherwood Facilities:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I could go on and on about how much I loved hanging out at Sherwood. There were scenic walking trails where I found gardens, benches and tables to relax and take in all of the views. As I was walking around, I also spotted a beautiful teepee! As I took in all of the views, I also enjoyed a complimentary glass of sangria from the hotel’s bar, which was pretty awesome.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There were also bike tracks, fire pits with fireside tables, yard games and more! What I really loved was how much of an emphasis Sherwood placed on health and wellness. Located above Sherwood’s restaurant and bar is an eco studio that offers yoga, meditation and pilates starting at $15 NZD per class. During my second evening at Sherwood (which happened to be on a Sunday), I took a wonderful restorative yoga class that was everything my body needed after a long day of adventuring. In addition to working out, you could also get an Ayurvedic massage there.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What I also loved about Sherwood was their scenic farm-to-table restaurant and bar. Sherwood’s kitchen takes inspiration from nature as they provide a steady flow of fresh, flavor-filled, organic foods from which the ingredients required for each service are harvested. In addition, the Sherwood culinary team collaborates with local farms and independent growers that bring the finest sustainable produce that the Central Otago region offers. This same philosophy extends to Sherwood’s bar when it comes to wine, beer and crafted cocktails. On my first evening at Sherwood, I savored a delicious cod dish with pickled mussels, zucchini and seaweed with a glass of white wine on the side. It was amazing!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

What is also awesome about Sherwood in Queenstown is that there is always an event going on. During one of the nights I stayed at Sherwood, there was a live music show featuring a local band. They also offer jewelry workshops, DJ nights, theater nights, festivals, champagne tastings and so much more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Since Sherwood has a lot of respect for nature, the hotel offers up-cycled fixtures, fittings and furnishings. They also have one of the largest private solar installs in New Zealand and the solar array is currently generating more electricity than Sherwood consumes. There are 248 high efficiency multi-crystalline solar panels across all roof surfaces that showed sufficient potential to efficiently capture solar rays. In addition, all food waste is run through Sherwood’s bio-digester and returned to the garden as compost.

The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in Queenstown, I took unforgettable day trips all around the South Island. Click here to read about my experience at Milford Sound and click here to read about my adventures in Queenstown as well as my private wine tour through Central Otago, New Zealand. 

Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park with Pit Stops at Lake Pukaki and Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Mount Cook:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Known as the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park is a hikers heaven and the most sought after wilderness in the Southern Hemisphere. In total, Mount Cook is around 3.5 hours north of Queenstown, but I believe it is a MUST to visit.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I took the Intercity Bus (hop on, hop off bus) from Queenstown to Mount Cook. These buses run all throughout New Zealand. The only downfall to taking a hop on, hop off bus versus having a car is that you will have to stick to a timed schedule. I see it as it’s better than not going at all!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There are so many trails and nature areas to enjoy at Mount Cook no matter who you are. So, you do not need to be a world-class mountaineer to enjoy your time at Mount Cook! Since I am a travel blogger looking to get nice photos (admittedly), I came with my hiking clothes and also brought a lovely sundress to take pictures. It worked out great!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Because of my restricted time schedule, I couldn’t complete the full trail that I was on, but here are some awesome tracks that are recommended for those who are looking to take advantage of hiking in this national park:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
  • Governors Bush Walk (located right next to the village): Governors Bush Walk is the perfect place for all to enjoy the views of Mount Cook. I walked through this and saw so many beautiful birds! There are also gorgeous views of Mount Cook and also the Southern Alps.
  • Hooker Valley (the one I partially did): This trail is pretty flat and definitely the best one to take photos. If you continue to hike, you will reach the suspension bridges over the Hooker Glacial Lake that showcases the ultimate beauty of Mount Cook.
  • Tasman Glacier Lookout (located a few miles from the village of Mount Cook): The Tasman Valley is parallel to the Hooker Valley and lies on the other side of Mount Cook’s mountain range. On this trail, you could see the Blue Lakes, which are filled with glacial water. In this area, you could commonly see icebergs as well!
  • Sealy Tarns: This 2 to 3 hour hike is also very scenic and leads to a campsite. This route involves a lot of steps and it can be demanding on your knees, so hiking poles are definitely advised for this trail.
  • Mueller Hut: Known as a steep hike, this trail leads to a large boulder field. This hike will allow you to catch views of Ngakanohi Glacier as well as the Mueller Glacier. This hike is known as one of the best in New Zealand and takes around 6-8 hours.
  • Kea Point: If you are looking for a shorter hike where you could see views of Mount Cook and Mueller Glacial Lake, Kea Point is perfect.
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

For those looking to stay in Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, it is recommended that you book your accommodations way in advanced since the town is so small and the park attracts millions of visitors each year. In addition to staying in a hotel or hostel at Mount Cook, you could also camp out there since the park offers campsites throughout.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Since the village doesn’t have much besides hotels and houses, you could grab food and drinks at The Hermitage Hotel. It was at The Hermitage Hotel where I enjoyed scenic views with a nice glass of wine.

Lake Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Right near Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park is the glistening blue lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo. I also took an Intercity Bus to these stops and even though my time at both lakes wasn’t long enough either, I was so happy I got to see them!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Lake Tekapo is part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve making it the perfect spot for stargazing at night. It is also a prime location to catch the Aurora Australis, which are the Southern Lights. I was hoping to have seen them during my time in New Zealand, but since it was summertime, I unfortunately didn’t catch them.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

(One of the best apps to download when you are trying to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand is Aurora. It tells you the percentage of cloud coverage, predicted solar activity, the areas where there is the highest Southern Light activity and more!) You could also book an astronomy tour during your time at Lake Tekapo. Click here to learn more!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During the day, Lake Tekapo is absolutely breathtaking! The lake gets it’s aqua blue color from the fine rock flour, grounded by glaciers. The area in and around Lake Tekapo is known to be the prime location in New Zealand to see the famous lupin flowers from September through February. As I was meandering around the lake, I did see a few lupins, but since it was mid February at that point, most of them were already dead. Even though I visited Lake Tekapo in the middle of the day, it is recommended to check out the lake during sunrise or sunset as well.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Some other fun activities to do at Lake Tekapo is see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd; visit the Mount John University Observatory; relax at the Tekapo Springs; taking a lake cruise on Cruise Tekapo; horseback ride; hike and ski in the winter months. Here are the hikes to do at Lake Tekapo:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown
  • Cowans Hill Track: This trail follows the Tekapo River from the southern end of Lake Tekapo before joining the Pukaki River.
  • Peninsula Walk: If you are looking for a breathtaking walk with gorgeous nature views, the Peninsula Walk is the way to go!

Lake Pukaki:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Lake Pukaki is the largest lake in the Mackenzie region of New Zealand. Just like Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki offers glistening blue water that will have you gazing at it for hours. In addition, you could also see the peak of Mount Cook from this stunning area. The color of the water also comes from glacial flour.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Throughout Lake Pukaki are stunning accommodations, campsites and spas. Here is what else you could do at Lake Pukaki:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Eat at Mount Cook Alpine Salmon: For my fellow salmon lovers, during your time at Mount Cook Alpine Salmon, savor the delicious taste of the famous Freshwater King Salmon. They also have a great smoked salmon and sashimi from their Aoraki Smokehouse.

Run through the Lavender Fields at New Zealand Alpine Lavender: This lovely organic lavender farm is nestled under the Ben Ohau mountain range and is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Here you could walk through the lavender fields and buy lavender products. (I also enjoyed the lavender fields in summer 2018 during a trip to Provence, France. Click here to read my blog post.)

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Enjoy an Evening at Pukaki Wine Cellar and Observatory: For a unique experience at Lake Pukaki, take a tour of the universe using the latest technology for stargazing and astrophotgraphy. (I SO WISH I DID THIS.) You will begin this fun adventure in the wine cellar where you will taste local wines from the region while being introduced to the night sky.

Wanaka and Arrowtown with Pit Stops in Cromwell, Lindis Pass, Cardrona and Crown Range Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in New Zealand, I booked a full day tour through Remarkable Scenic Tour to Wanaka and Arrowtown with various pit stops. Below is everything we saw along the way:

Cromwell:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Located in Central Otago, the town Cromwell is known for having the best fruit in New Zealand along with wine! As you road trip north of Queenstown, definitely make sure you stop at Jones Family Fruit Stall located on Kawarau Gorge Road.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

During my time in New Zealand, I stopped at Jones Family Orchard a few times and I loved how tasty their fruit was! As you enter into the market, you will find a huge array of fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, honey products, vegetables, chocolate, ice cream, coffee and more! In addition, you will find a tasting section where you could try all different types of Jones’ fruits!

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

An addition to the fruit stall is Mrs. Jones’ beautiful English-style rose garden that is open to the public. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and a perfect place to walk through. The garden contains hundreds of different colored roses as well as beautiful statues and more.

Kawarau Gorge

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Kawarau Gorge is where the AJ Hackett Bungy suspension bridge is located. AJ Hackett, a Kiwi, is the man who popularized bungy jumping. In fact, he set records when he bungy jumped off of the Eiffel Tower in 1987. He then founded the first bungy site (Kawarau Gorge) a year later.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

In addition to being a bungy center, Kawarau Gorge was also used as a Lord of the Rings location.

45th Parallel and Lake Dunstan:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

A great quick stop is the 45th Parallel Track in Cromwell. Standing on the 45th Parallel in the Southern Hemisphere means that you are halfway between the Equator and South Pole. It is also in this location where you could enjoy the stunning views of Lake Dunstan.

Lindis Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The perfect road trip stop and photo opportunity is Lindis Pass! This breathtaking area links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Located 971 meters (3186 feet) above sea level, Lindis Pass is an alpine area of tall, tussock-covered mountains. A lot of the times, you could see snow, which makes the experience even more enchanting. Since I visited during the heart of summer, I didn’t get to see any snow.

Wanaka:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Just like Queenstown, Wanaka is another great city to enjoy beautiful views, great restaurants and epic adventures. Here is a list of fun things to do in Wanaka:

See #thatwanakatree:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

It’s almost like traveling to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, #thatwanakatree is one of the most photogenic willow trees in the world that cannot be missed on a road trip through the South Island. This crooked willow tree grows near the shore of Lake Wanaka in Roys Bay. The tree started out as a fence post around 80 years ago and sprouted into a wonderful tree. Depending on the tide or lake level, this tree can also be walked out to. Since it was high tide the day I was in Wanaka, I couldn’t walk out to it. In addition to seeing the tree, there is a beautiful beach area where you could take a stroll and admire the views.

Enjoy Some of the Best Food in New Zealand:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Wanaka is known to have some of the best restaurants in all of New Zealand. Here is a list of places you should check out if you are in Wanaka:

Hike Roys Peak:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

One of the most famous and scenic hikes in New Zealand is Roy’s Peak track. This hike features all-encompassing views that lead up to a 1578-meter (5177-foot) summit that offers views of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding mountain ranges and Mount Aspiring.

Sip Some Wine with Views:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

One of the most scenic wineries in the world is Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka. As a maker of biodynamic wines, Rippon Vineyard is a family-owned lakeside winery offering tastings, a gorgeous wedding venue and amazing views. Definitely make a stop here if you are in Wanaka.

Do Some Epic Adventures:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Just like in Queenstown, there are so many adventures you could sign up for when you are in Wanaka. Below is a list of activities you could do here:

  • Rockclimbing
  • Skydiving
  • Canyoning
  • Off Roading
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Wildlife Cruising
  • Jet Boating
  • Ice Climbing (In the Winter)
  • Parasailing
  • Skiing and Snowboarding (In the Winter)
MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

You could also take scenic helicopter and plane rides around the area.

Cardrona:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Another great stop to take on a road trip through the South Island is to the small town of Cardrona. When you enter Cardrona, you will find a fence with hundreds of bras on them. The bra movement in Cardrona began in 1999 when four bras mysteriously appeared overnight on a fence along the Cardrona Valley Road. It wasn’t until an unknown bra thief began cutting them away that more bras were then added. Nowadays, colorful bras in all shapes and sizes are placed along the fence. In 2015, this iconic spot was named Bradrona and became an icon to raise awareness for breast cancer. Shortly after, Bradrona started collecting donations and raised over $30,000 NZD to breast cancer.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The Cardrona Hotel is another great place to stop at during a New Zealand road trip! Known as one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels, The Cardrona Hotel is rustic, haunted and offers an award-winning restaurant, biergarten and charming hotel rooms. During my time here, I enjoyed a great Speight’s beer (New Zealand’s famous beer brand) out in the biergarten. It was a beautiful day, so it was nice to sit outside, listen to the music and enjoy the company of good people.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

The history of Cardrona Hotels goes back to the 1920s. James Patterson (Jimmy) was the owner of the Cardrona Hotel. At the bar, he controlled the amount of alcohol he would serve people. Most men were only allowed one to two drinks. Women weren’t served at all. His ghost supposedly continues to reside at the Cardrona Hotel.

Crown Range Pass:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Known as the highest main road in New Zealand, Crown Range lies between Queenstown and Wanaka. With an altitude of 1121 meters (3678 feet), you could catch some of the best mountain views here. One thing to note is that in the wintertime, the road is often covered with snow and ice, making it dangerous driving conditions.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Another fun fact about Crown Range is that Oprah Winfrey made her way to this point as she was filming “A Wrinkle in Time” in New Zealand. She took this infamous photo, so I tried to replicate it!

Arrowtown:

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

Located 20 minutes from Queenstown is the historic gold mining town called Arrowtown. This quaint town was established in 1862, during the height of the Otago gold rush. Nowadays, it is a popular attraction and the perfect day or half day trip from Queenstown.

MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

There are beautiful parks, courtyards, shops, restaurants and ice cream stands. During the afternoon I was in Arrowtown, I enjoyed some shopping for myself as well as savoring an ice cream cone from New Zealand’s Patagonia.


MUST SEE Spots in New Zealand’s South Island – The Perfect Day Trips from Queenstown

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experiences around New Zealand’s South Island. If you have any questions about my time in New Zealand, please send me an email at info@browneyedflowerchild.com.

Basic Facts of New Zealand:

Currency: New Zealand Dollar, Capital: Wellington

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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4 Comments

  1. World of Lina on April 6, 2019 at 3:57 am

    New Zealand is the Nr. 1 country on my bucket list. Your blog post and all the amazing photos make me wanna go there even more!!!

    • Taylor Deer on April 9, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      You would definitely love it Alina! It’s so beautiful. 🙂

  2. Charu Goyal on May 15, 2019 at 6:12 am

    This is such a great guide Taylor. You really make me want to visit New Zealand ASAP. Definitely going to pin this blog for when I do 💗

    • Taylor Deer on May 15, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Thank you so much Charu! It is such a magnificent place. Everywhere I went was so breathtaking.

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