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South Island Budget Road Trip Ideas

The South Island of New Zealand is home to some of the most scenic visuals in the world. When you think of road tripping around the South Island, what comes to mind is probably impressive snow-capped mountains, glaciers and impeccable national parks, and guess what? You couldn't be more correct. It can be intimidating to think that you can road trip around New Zealand's South Island on a budget when accommodation, food and activities come to mind however, there is no need to stress - VroomVroomVroom is going to show you how it's possible.

Money Saving Tips

  • Take the scenic route: Filled with stunning scenery, a South Island road trip is the best way to check out nature at its finest. The great thing about this? Nature is free. Explore to your hearts content and save money at the same time - sounds good to us!
  • Rent an economy car: Rent an economy car that is not only cheaper but also fuel efficient. Figure out your daily spend budget for a car and see how many days you can afford. The drive from Christchurch to the Fiordlands is around 5 days where you can extend or decrease the amount of time you spend on the road depending on your budget and needs.
  • Get insurance: It's a no brainer - make sure to get insurance! Yes, it's an upfront cost however, the price to fix your vehicle if anything happens will be a lot more. Click here to learn more about insurance.
  • Swap activities for exploring: Places such as Queenstown are known for their array of activities including bungee jumping, jet boating, skiing and white water rafting however, the cost to do a range activities adds up. We recommend picking one or two you really want to try and swap the rest for exploring nature instead.
  • Food and drinks: When you are in Christchurch, stock up on essentials. You can go to the Farmers Market and purchase the food you need or go to Countdown to save even more money. Some places on your road trip including Mount Cook and the Fiordlands don't have many cheap places to eat so ensure you bring your own food. You can cook at campsites, parks and rest stops along the way.

Recommended South Island Road Trip Itinerary

Day One: Explore the stunning city of Christchurch

christchurch city at sunset


  • Christchurch Farmers Market
  • Brighton Pier
  • Hagley Park
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Brockworth Street Art
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
  • Port Hills
  • Sumner Beach
  • Riccarton House and Bush
  • Victoria Park

Where to stay:

  • Camping: North South Holiday Park and South Brighton Motor Camp
  • Hostel: YHA Christchurch Backpackers and Around the World Backpackers

Cheap eats: Base Woodfired Pizza and Dimitris Greek Food

Day Two: Experience Lake Tekapo's purple lupin flowers and hot springs

majestic mountain tekapo lake


  • Tekapo Springs
  • Purple Lupin Flowers
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Star gazing
  • Nature

Where to stay:

  • Camping: Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park and Freedom Camping on Hayman Road
  • Hostel: Tailor Made Tekapo Backpackers Hostel

Cheap eats: Reflections Cafe and Restaurant and Thai Tekapo

Day Three: Discover Aoraki Mount Cook, Fox, and Franz Josef Glacier

mount cook landscape new zealand


  • Scenic drive to Mount Cook
  • Lake Pukaki - aqua lake
  • Hike the many tracks around Mount Cook
  • Glaciers
  • Peter's lookout
  • Hooker Valley track - most popular track
  • Fox Glacier
  • Franz Josef Glacier

Where to stay:

  • Camping: Glentanner Holiday Park Mount Cook, White Horse Hill Campsite and you can also camp at Mount Cook National Park
  • Hostel: YHA Aoraki Mount Cook Backpackers and Fox Glacier Inn and Pod Hostel

Cheap eats: Make sure to bring your own food on this part of the road trip as there are not many places to stop and eat.

Day Four: Stop in at the Remarkables, Lake Hayes, and the Holyford Walking Track in Queenstown

mountain cityscape and lake of queenstown


  • Botanic Gardens
  • Bob's Cove
  • Bennett's Buff
  • Lake Wakatipu
  • The Remarkables
  • Holyford Walking Track
  • Skippers Canyon
  • Lake Hayes
  • Queenstown trail
  • Glenorchy
  • Gibbston Valley

Where to stay:

  • Camping: Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park
  • Hostel: Nomads Queenstown Hostel, YHA Queenstown Lakefront and Tahuna Pod Hostel

Cheap eats: Devil Burger and Taco Medic

Day Five: Explore the stunning Fiordland National Park

high mountain glacier at milford sound


  • Bowen Falls
  • Milford Sound
  • Humboldt Falls
  • Lake Marian
  • The Chasm
  • Glow worm cave in Te Anau
  • Doubtful Sound
  • Routeburn Track
  • Milford Track
  • Mount Aspiring National Park
  • Lake Te Anau

Where to stay:

  • Camping: Gunns Camp, Walker Creek Campsite, Brod Bay Campsite
  • Hostel: YHA Te Anau Backpackers and Milford Sounds Lodge

Cheap eats: Naturally Fiordland and La Toscana Pizzeria

Map of Christchurch to Fiordland National Park Road Trip

Do you know that you can download this map directly to your phone? Press the box symbol located on the top-right corner of this map to open in your Google Maps app. Now you can easily access this map on your next road trip adventure from Christchurch to Fiordland National Park.

Travel time and distance: 9 hours and 15 minutes / 706 km

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