Lockdowns are not fun (let’s be honest), but what better way to get through them then making plans for all the amazing things we want to do when we get out. Summer road trips are our thing, so lets plan to make the most of future freedom by jumping in the car with some mates and hitting the road (cheesy Spotify playlists included).

Here are out top south island road trip ideas for when we get out of lockdown:

Nelson to Abel Tasman: 1hr

Around an hour’s drive from Nelson you’ll find the golden beaches and lush forests of the Abel Tasman. Whether you drive top down, or bottom up, there are multiple campsites along the way. The water taxis can drop you up and down the coast line so you can make the most of the amazing walks, or why not hire a kayak and paddle from bay to bay with a picnic in the sunshine. Make sure to make a detour into Mapua on the way.  This gorgeous inlet town has a number of beautiful boutiques and galleries, as well as one of the best fish and chip shops in the country (The Smokehouse).

Thrifty Tip:  If you are keen to go further, head over Takaka Hill and into Golden Bay. You won’t regret it.

Christchurch To Queenstown: 5hrs 50min

The well travelled road from Christchurch to Queenstown has an abundance of beautiful vistas and interesting stops along the way. Get off the main drag and take Thompson’s Track through the Canterbury Plains. If vintage is your thing make sure you stop for a forage through the collection at Mayfield’s Secondhand shop. Tekapo is sure to delight with its picturesque views and its quaint church on the waterfront. If you time your trip to arrive around lunch time, then book at table at Kohan Japanese Restaurant, a regular foodie favourite. Dotted in and around Tekapo you’ll find Lupins growing wild in the spring. The pink and purple blooms decorate the countryside and offer some spectacular photo opportunities. 

From Tekapo the trip offers some beautiful views, whether it is the canals around Twizel, or the incredible mountainous views through Lindis Pass. Closer to Queenstown, why not stretch your legs at AJ Hacket bungy, you can stroll down to the viewing platform for a look or if  you’re feeling adventurous make the jump!

Thrifty Tip: Pick up some fresh Salmon for dinner from High Country Salmon between Twizel and Omarama. 

Hokitika to Wanaka: 5hr30min

The west coast of Te Waiponamu is frequently overlooked, but trust us you’re missing out.  The drive from Hokitika to Wanaka is a photographer’s dream, bordered by wild coastline and rugged mountain terrain, it features some of the most breathtaking scenery New Zealand has to offer.  We recommend a stop in the glacier towns Fox and Franz Josef for the night or lunch, taking advantage of the cosy eateries and amazing adventure activities on offer.

From there you head south up over the Haast Pass (be sure to stop at the Blue Pools) and down into the Otago lake district. The views along Lake Hawea are stunning, and there are a few spots suitable to stop and rest before arriving in Wanaka.

With ski fields, vineyards, hiking, boating and more, Wanaka is the ultimate all round holiday destination.  Quieter than its big sister Queenstown, Wanaka is the perfect spot to relax at the end of a long drive.

Blenheim to Hanmer Springs: 3hrs 28min

From incredible winding coastal roads to the sweet little mountain village of Hanmer Springs, the drive from Blenheim to Hanmer Springs makes a lovely weekend getaway. 

From Blenheim you’ll head down the South Island’s East Coast. It’s hard to find the words to do this stretch of highway justice. The winding road, with the sea to your left and the hills to your right, offers spectacular views, and some great spots to stop along the way. If you’re a crayfish lover then you’ll definitely want to stop in at Nin’s Bin, an iconic and Kiwi-as business operating north of Kaikoura.  Nearby you’ll also find the resident seal colony, which is sure to delight nature lovers and kids of all ages. 

Kaikoura is world renowned for its whale watching, depending on your itinerary you might like to book a boat trip, or scenic flight, to get up close to these incredible creatures. From Kaikoura you’ll begin the inland trip to Hanmer Springs, there are a couple of routes you can take, either way you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the North Canterbury countryside. 

For a tiny town Hanmer Springs has plenty to offer for a weekend getaway, including a number of adventure tourism operators and a range of activities like jet boating, quad biking, hiking and mountain biking. After a long day of activities, the only option is to rest your weary bones with a trip to Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa

Want to plan a roadie around the North Island instead? Head to our blog for more inspiration.

Thrifty have branches in the main South Island cities – Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown as well as regional locations for your convenience. To book a vehicle for your road trip – click here.