Road Trip to Tekapo, Wanaka and Fox Glacier, South Island New Zealand Part 1

In Spring 2012 my best friend and I went on a four day road trip from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo and Wanaka, then over the Haast Pass to the West Coast’s Fox Glacier before returning to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass.
It was a fabulous drive and very scenic.

Lake Wanaka

Prior to leaving I checked out accommodation on Tripadvisor and and ended up booking through Wotif without any problems. It was easy to print of my invoice coupons and just present them to our hotels/motels on arrival.
I had my own car, but there are many car rental companies in Christchurch and it would cost you between NZD$35-100/day for four days, depending on what size and power car you choose.
At about 0930 we set out from Christchurch and drove South on State Highway 1 to the small town of Geraldine via Ashburton. When I say “highway” the road is actually one lane in each direction with frequent passing lanes every 5 km or so. I would recommend a more scenic route to Geraldine (SH 73, then 77 then 72) which takes you alongside the foothills of the Southern Alps via the beautiful Rakaia Gorge and adds an extra 30 km to your journey. You can check out the directions easily on Google Maps.
Geraldine is a great place to stop for lunch. Many artisans have settled in Geraldine so it has many arts and crafts shops and good eateries too. From Geraldine you travel inland passed beautiful farmland to the rural township of Fairlie on SH 79, and then onto Lake Tekapo.

Between Fairlie and Tekapo

Tekapo is famous for it’s lack of light pollution and on cloudless nights there are amazing views of the stars. There is a Observatory there that I would have visited if the weather had not been inclement the evening we arrived. The next morning the weather had improved and we enjoyed going for a walk part-way around the lake. A fun attraction for kids and adults alike is the ice-skating rink and hot pools at Tekapo.

Church of the Good Shepherd beside Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd beside Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Day 2 we drove passed the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki with it’s stunning views of Mount Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain), over the rust-coloured, tussock-covered Lindis Pass to Lake Wanaka.

Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in distance
Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in distance

Spring Colours

Lindis Pass
Lindis Pass

Wanaka is a popular destination in the Winter due to it’s excellent ski fields nearby, but it is fantastic to visit in all seasons. We stayed in a tidy little motel suite for NZD$110 that had great views down over the lake. Late next morning we drove a short distance around the lake to a winery where we enjoyed a glass of wine while taking in gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and across the lake.

Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka

The Hills are Alive
“The Hills Are Alive….”

Day 3 we set out from Wanaka before midday and drove North-West across the Haast Pass to the West Coast. For much of the first few hours the drive takes you along the shores of Lake Hawea (where we had a picnic lunch) and the top half of Lake Wanaka. We stopped mid-afternoon and did one of the many short native bush walks that are sign-posted along the route.


Bush walk

This was our biggest driving day as the roads are scenic and often winding. I think we were on the road for about 5-6 hours. It was worth it though – the prize, South Island’s West Coast!

Click here if you want to read more about our road trip, including one of my most embarrassing moments EVER!!

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