This 9 Days Self-Drive New Zealand itinerary covers attractions, places to eat and accommodation in the glacier regions of West Coast, Wanaka, Mount Cook and Mackenzie. A lot of driving was involved in our fantastic road trip but we didn’t mind one bit because the sceneries were so stunning along the way.
Come to think of it, there were only 3 days (day 3, 5 and 7 ) that we did not drive and stayed put in one place. A tip for this road trip would be to pack some lunches along because there are many scenic spots and picnic tables to make pit stops.
If you need a cost break down of the trip, it was roughly RM 5578 per person (the cost is updated in 2016, using the exchange rate of NZD2.917 = RM1). Do see the cost breakdown at the end of the post.
Day 1 – Arrival in Christchurch. Drive Christchurch –> Greymouth.
Drive from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass Road. Arthur’s Pass is also known as the Great Alpine Highway with magnificent views. We went during the winter and the endless snow-capped mountains on the highway had us mesmerised all the way. The journey from Christchurch to Greymouth would take 3.5 hours if you drive non stop. With so many beautiful places such as Lake Lyndon, Castle Hill, Cave Stream Scenic Reserve and Arthur’s Pass Village to stop by, do plan for a few extra hours for the journey (it took us about 8 hours). If you would like to start the journey with a good breakfast, stop by Flavours Vineyard Cafe in Selwyn that’s enroute.
Day 2 – Drive Greymouth –> Punakaiki (Paparoa National Park)–> Hokitika –> Franz Josef
Greymouth to Punakaiki was an easy 30 minutes drive. We took a walk along the coast to see the Pancake rocks and blowholes at the Paparoa National Park. The rocks seriously resemble stacks of pancakes ! Plan for more time if you wish to do other activities at Punakaiki such as caving and canoeing. Picnic tables are available so pack your own lunch and enjoy the sea breeze.
We drove from Punakaiki to Hokitika after lunch, which took us about an hour plus. Hokitika is the home of the New Zeland Jade, the green stone, or “pounamou”. It’s a good place to stop by to see the clock tower and also to buy some souvenirs if you wish.
The last drive of the day was from Hokitika to Franz Josef, which took 2 hours .
Check in Alpine Glacier Motel.
Day 3 – No Driving. Full day hike at Franz Josef Glacier
Man Vs. Glacer. A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
We did a full day hike at Franz Josef Glacier and it was the most amazing experience ever ! Two companies offer the guided tour, Franz Josef Glacier Guide & Fox Glacier Guide. I think both would offer more or less the same things but we ended up going to Franz Josef Glacier. If you don’t hike or exercise regularly and you think it could be tiring, opt for the half day tour instead.
Day 4- Drive Franz Josef –>Wanaka.
On our way from Franz Josef to Wanaka, we stopped by Fox Glacier and Blue Pools.
Fox Glacier is about 30 minutes away from Franz Josef township and it’s more accessible than Franz Josef Glacier, meaning that you only have to do a 15 minutes walk to see the glacier (it takes about 40 minutes walk to see the beginning of the Franz Josef Glacier). Check out Fox Glacier if you did not get enough glacier beauty on your previous day !
The Blue Pools in Mount Aspiring National Park is located along the Haast Pass. The waters were crystal clear with an emerald hue. We spent about 1.5 hours (to and fro) walking to see the blue pools. You could trek further if you wish.
Million Dollar View at @lakewanakanz. A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
Day 5 – No Driving. Full day at Wanaka.
It was an easy day for us at Wanaka. We wanted to do an easy hike at the diamond lake conservation area, but the roads got icy as we walked along so we had to call it off. We them stumbled upon Rippon Vineyard, thinking that it would have a cafe for lunch. Only wine tasting was available but we left the vineyard totally dazzled by its beauty. Do check this Vineyard out if you are into wine tasting ! For the rest of the day, we walked about Wanaka town and also hung out at our motel. Do note that the next destination, Mount Cook is very secluded with only two restaurants and no convenience stores so if you would like to top up any food supplies, do so at Wanaka. Dinner at Capriccio Bar and Restaurant.
Day 6 – Drive Wanaka –> Mount Cook.
The drive from Wanaka to Mount Cook took us about 2.5 hours. Along the way, we stopped by Tarras Village & Peter’s Lookout. Tarras was a cute little village to top up some snacks. Don’t forget to check out “House of Shrek” at the village. Shrek is the hermit Merino wether from Tarras that avoided his hair from being shorn for six years. When he was found, he looked like a big ball of cotton candy !
When we arrived Mount Cook, we visited Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Museum, which is adjoined to the Hermitage Hotel. The museum is a tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, and also showcases the history of Mount Cook and mountaineering Check in Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge.
Day 7 – No Driving. Full Day at Mount Cook.
We spent the day at Mount Cook. We walked the Kea Point Walk to see the Mueller Glacier Lake. The walk was easy on flat terrains and took 2 hours to and fro.
Day 8 – Drive Mount Cook –> Lake Tekapo.
Lake Hawea. A photo posted by KJ Malaysia x (@atravelicious) on
We stopped by Lake Hawea, Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Farm on the way from Mount Cook to Lake Tekapo. Doesn’t the notion of salmon being reared in the mountains intrigue you ? The salmons are reared in hydroelectric canals where pristine waters run. Salmon sashimi were sold right at the farm but no utensils were provided. You could either bring your own chopsticks to eat the sashimi right there and then, or buy the sashimi and bring it along with you.
For lunch, we ate at Kohan Japanese Restaurant, not too far away from the farm. Salmon for sure was what we had at the restaurant !
When we arrived Lake Tekapo, we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd and Mount John Observatory.
The Church of the Good Shepherd forms an iconic scene with the turquoise-blue waters of Lake Tekapo at the side,and the southern alps as the backdrop.
For Mount John Observatory, we visited twice. Once during the day and once at night. Mount John is easily accessible during the day if you wish to drive up to see the panoramic view of the lakes and the southern Alps. Access is restricted at night. We went again at night for the Mount John Observatory Tour by Earth & Sky. Light pollution is minimal at this region so if you look up the sky at night, you will fall in love with the milky way and millions of stars up there. The tour offers viewing of stars (Saturn, Mars, etc) from the telescope dome.
Day 9 – Drive Lake Tekapo –> Christchurch –> Depart from Christchurch
Chill & Relax at Lake Tekapo before making the 3 hours drive to Christchurch
Cost Break Down for 2 people (Updated in 2016)
9 Days Car Rental Cost (Toyata Yaris)
NZD 35 x 9 = NZD 350
Total Car Rental NZD 315
Total Distance Travelled
Christchurch to Greymouth 250 KM
Greymouth to Punakiki to Greymouth 100km
Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier 177km
Franz Josef wanaka 288km
Wamaka to Mount Cook 200km
Mount Cook to Lake Tekapo 100km
Lake Tekapo to Christchurch 225KM
Total Distance 1340 KM
Total Estimate Fuel Cost NZD 160
8 Nights of Hotel
Alpine Glacier Motel NZD 99 x 1 night = NZD 99
Alpine Rose Motel NZD 145 x 2 nights = NZD 290
Lake View Motel NZD 180 x 2 nights = NZD360 (Rates used to be cheaper few years ago)
Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge 2 nights = NZD 160 x 2 = 320 (There are only three hotels in the area, this one, the Hermitage and the YHA. I found the Aoraki Mount Cook is pricey considering that it’s quite basic, I think it might be better to stay at YHA to lower the cost; I had a peek at the YHA, it looked clean & comfortable).
Tailor Made Backpackers NZD 85 x 1 night = NZD 85
Total Hotel Cost = NZD 1154
Meals Per Person
About NZD 230 per person, including about 5 meals in restaurants, and other meals we prepped our own food (ingredients bought from super market).
Tour Charges Per Person
1. Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike =NZD 379 / person
(I did my hike a few years ago, so I think the tour packages have changed. The one I did was full day and no helicopter ride, but it looks like now it comes with half day tour and heli ride)
2. Mount John Observatory Tour by Earth & Sky = NZD 145 / person
Total Tour Cost = NZD 524/ Person
To get a per person cost for the above,
Car Rental / Fuel / Hotel Costs = (315 + 160 +1154) /2 = 314.5
Meals = 230
Tour Charges (Optional) = 524
Total = NZD 1088.5 = RM 3020
Add in International Driver’s License = RM 180 /2 = RM 90
Add in Flight Cost (From Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch) = Around RM 2200
Previously when I travelled, I flew Air Asia when there was still a direct flight from KUL to Christchurch. Now the route is no longer available, so the RM2200 is based on the return route of KUL – Auckland by Air Asia, then Auckland to Christ Church by Jet Star.
Grand Total RM 3288 + RM 90 + RM2200 = RM5578 per person
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