South Island Driving Holidays

christchurch avon river autumn

South Island is an awe-inspiring panorama of majestic snowy mountains, dripping rainforest, silent fiords and sounds, ancient glaciers, wide-open plains, and blue lakes and rivers. Home to only one quarter of New Zealand’s population, it is a place of grandeur and solitude, where visitors can truly be at one with nature. In parts, you can drive for hours before meeting another soul.

At its northern tip, the regions of Marlborough and Tasman enjoy New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours, while the Marlborough Sounds, a series of beautiful drowned sea valleys, is a boaties’ paradise of numerous inlets, islands, peninsulas, and deep sandy coves, many of which are not accessible by road.

The West Coast offers a wealth of contrasting scenery: in the north clusters of nikau palms sprout from glistening white sands, while to the south dense forests of beech cascade down to meet the sea. The rugged coastline features unique rock formations, deep fiords, and dense rainforests, as well as the icy tongues of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers poking from the snow-capped Southern Alps.

These mountains, a spine of jagged mountains running the length of the South Island, formed by a collision of tectonic plates, which, in a bid to outdo each other, force the mountains skywards by some 10mm per year. As it is, the Southern Alps rise to heights of over 3000 metres in places, with Aoraki / Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, dominating the range at 3,724 metres.

The small picturesque towns of Wanaka, Te Anau and Queenstown nestle amongst the alps beside shimmering lakes and provide a base for adventure and outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, jetboating and bungy jumping – just to name a few. To the east genteel towns bask amid farming plains beneath the Southern Alps and provide a home to most of the South Island’s inhabitants. The largest of these is the city of Christchurch, well known for its beautiful gardens set beside the clear waters of the Avon River, and an excellent starting point for any scenic tour of New Zealand.

Enjoy your South Island driving holiday from the comfort of an Apex rental car and explore at your own pace. Car hire is available from the following South Island rental locations; Christchurch Airport Car Rental, Christchurch City Car Rental, Queenstown Airport Car Rental, Queenstown City Car Rental, Nelson Airport Car Rental, Nelson City Car Rental, Picton Ferry Terminal Car Rental, Picton Downtown Car Rental, and Blenheim Airport Car Rental, so book your car today and start exploring.

Use the following South Island road trips to help inspire your next self-drive holiday: