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Self-Driving: Our 3 Essential Free South Island Must See’s

Holidays cost money. It’s an inescapable fact of travel, whether you’re pinning down the best prices for flights and accommodation or sampling the tastiest eats your selected region has to offer, you and your hard-earned savings will part ways somewhere. Unlike many other global destinations, however, New Zealand comes pre-loaded with a singular and definitive advantage – a lot of the highlights across both islands are free. Sure, there are paid tours, but most places only require time, a sense of adventure and petrol. Pack a picnic, strap in and discover why the South Island is what self-drive dreams are made of.

Biking along Queenstown lakefront – Photo: Destination Queenstown

1. The Queenstown Botanical Gardens and Lake Walk

Leave the bungy jumping to the hoards and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Queenstown Botanical Gardens. Perched on the banks of Lake Wakitipu, this collection of native and imported fauna will satisfy every sense, tantalising your eyes, ears and even nose… who doesn’t love the smell of roses? After chowing down on a pre-prepared lunch (unless you prefer to stop at one of the many restaurants and cafes), why not take an amble along the lake? Photo opportunities abound in the most unexpected places!

Inside Tip: Don’t forget about the shoulder seasons! Autumn boasts the clear weather of summer, cooler temperatures and leaves of gold, green, pink as well as red.

Haast, West Coast – Photo: Fraser Clements

2. Haast Pass Road

Check out Thunder Creek Falls and the Blue Pools in one seamless hit, as the wonders of New Zealand remain pristine and free for all to see, savour and capture on their chosen device… let’s be honest, are you really not going to take a picture of water so blue and clear? You can even see the bottom in the deepest sections. Of course you are, and so you should! Haast Pass Road is an escape in itself, hemmed by native forest and wild scenic spots – keep an eye out for parking to make the most of the experience and proceed on foot.

Inside Tip: No traffic pull-out or designated parking? Do not park on the side of the road. Locals are quick to point out how dangerous this can be for obvious reasons.

Milford Sound, Fiordland – Photo: Graeme Murray

3. The Road to Milford Sound (including Te Anau)

There are not enough words in any language to quite describe the splendour of Milford Sound (and let’s not forget Doubtful Sound), you’ve got to see it in real time to believe it… but don’t rush through Fiordland National Park on your way. Magical, haunting and extremely stunning, make your way to the lakeside town of Te Anau, refuelling in more ways than one before diving into the untamed wilderness of southern New Zealand. If there’s anywhere that lives up to the original meaning of awesome, this is it!

Inside Tip: Pack an all-weather jacket, even in summer. When rain appears, it pours… but don’t let it put a damper on your plans. Milford Sound is gorgeous by rain, cloud or shine!

Set your wanderlust free in New Zealand. Need help planning the best holiday for your budget, including getting more bang out of the conversion rate? Contact New Zealand Holidays today and get started!


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