If Gandalf could cast a spell of bewitching beauty the top of New Zealand’s South Island would have to be the result.

If you are a fan of the outdoors, love nature and are looking for an active and exciting holiday then New Zealand is the place to go.  With breath-taking scenery, wide open spaces and a veritable plethora of adventurous activities on hand New Zealand’s South Island will more than keep you busy and excited during your holiday. And with so much to see and do, as well as a lot of “distractions” along the road – taking the free and easy route in a cheap & reliable rental car is going to be your best option.

Known for its friendliness and its sparse population the South Island provides a fantastic alternative for the family to a frenetic “city holiday” and is something that the family will remember forever.

The Success of a New Zealand holiday will always depend upon your willingness to explore (driving your own hire car is best for this) and try new things, so it can easily be planned to fit your agenda. Safety tip: the key to traveling safely on New Zealand roads is to plan ahead and take careful note of traveling times and distances.

New Zealanders drive on the left and the speed limit on the open road is 100 km/h – although do take note that in many instances this speed will not be safe as most roads are dual carriageways and follow the contours of the scenery – meaning meandering roads with blind corners, hills and dips that provide a highly challenging drive for the unfamiliar.  When driving a rental car in New Zealand take care to stay within your own comfort levels and don’t try to rush your trip.

Choosing Your Rental Car

Rental cars are readily available upon arrival at Christchurch International Airport. At Pegasus Rental Cars we offer Airport Transfers during business hours, and can also cater to arrivals / drop-offs outside of our business hours with an After Hours Agent that is available 24 hours daily (including public holidays).

Make sure you do your research before renting a car and understand what you will be driving.  There’s nothing worse than renting a car and then arriving to find that you can’t fit, or that it is not what you expect.  We have a wide range of cars available, from small compacts all the way up to 12 seater minibuses, so can likely cater to whatever your rental car needs are.
Further: We LOVE questions, and are always happy to hear from you with any queries.

One important consideration to be kept in mind when traveling in New Zealand is to be sure to chose a car big enough to fit the family and luggage comfortably –  extended periods in a cramped car can be uncomfortable, particularly with the winding and undulating nature of the roads.

Things to see and do

Christchurch

Scenic Christchurch

As Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s three international airports, many start their South Island odyssey in this “Garden City.

The perfect way to spend your first day in Christchurch is at the Christchurch Museum – there’s a bunch of interactive exhibits for the kids and lots of New Zealand history on display.  Entry to the museum is via a gold coin donation.

Other alternatives would include a city tour via vintage trams, or for the aviation enthusiast, a visit to the Wigram Airforce Museum.

Kaikoura

 Located on the coast, Kaikoura or “meal of crayfish”.  is a simple 2 hour drive north of Christchurch. Here, Whale Watching is the order of the day.

The whale watching industry is closely regulated so as not to distress these giant mammals – because of this bookings are important if you don’t want to risk being disappointed.  During the tour you can expect to see Giant Sperm Whales as well as hectors dolphins frolicking in your boat’s wake and, if you’re lucky you’ll also spy a giant albatross.

Hanmer Springs

After an afternoon on the sea, and a feed of wonderfully fresh crayfish, Hamner Springs would be natural stop-off for the night.  This delightful township was formed around a natural hot spring and lies nestled at the base of a mountain range running the length of the South Island.

There is bungy jumping at the entrance to the town, so for the brave this may be a good option. At “only” 35 metres the Waiau Bridge jump is relatively unintimidating for the young or first time jumpers – but still scary enough for mums and dads.   Of course no holiday in New Zealand would be complete without going off-roading, so if you have adventurous children you can opt for one of the off road kart safaris to get down and dirty with the local terrain.  Naturally – with New Zealand being the birthplace of the jet-boat, there is also a thrilling jet boat ride on offer.

Afternoon, and into the evening would be a great time to slow down and relax in the hotpools, heated by volcanic activity and with high sulfur content the pools are reputed to have healing qualities.

Lewis Pass to Nelson

Driving up the Lewis Pass to Nelson, through native forest and national parks is breath-taking.  From Hanmer the drive to Nelson is about 300km – but do allow plenty of time to reach one of New Zealand’s wine producing regions and the scenery will be calling.

Lewis Pass Credit Ulrich Lange

There are wine tours available in Nelson, with friendly and knowledgeable guides who take care of all the driving (no “Drinking and Driving allowed in a rental car!), allowing you to enjoy the free wine tasting to its fullest.  There are also a whole tonne of beaches and some really beautiful day walks around the Nelson region for you to enjoy. If you have more time to spend – Nelson is a fantastic gateway to the unbelievably beautiful Marlborough Sounds.

For the marine enthusiast, imaginative teenager or simply if you like exploring one out of the way bay that not many know about is St Omer Bay where NZS Amokura, one of the New Zealand Navy’s training ships lies derelict and wrecked – now a part of the local ecosystem.

Back to Christchurch

Driving back down from Nelson to Christchurch we’d recommend taking the coast road. This will take you back down the east coast, past sheer cliffs as you follow the coast.  Along the way there are the “Salt Works” if you’d like to experience something a bit different.

At a little over 400 kilometres, you should plan for the drive took at least five hours.

Akaroa

Hectors Dolphin Near Akaroa Credit: Scott Thompson

One of the biggest reasons to come to New Zealand is for the scenery and nature – one place that epitomizes this is the marine reserve in Akaroa. Only 80km away in the basin of an extinct volcano, Akaroa provides yet more great photographic opportunities to an complete already packed photo albums!

One of the great attractions for Akaroa is “swimming with the dolphins”.  Being in the water with the gentle Hector’s dolphins would be, we believe a highlight of your South Island holiday.  It’s a memory to treasure for a very long time.

In Akaroa – you can sample one of New Zealand’s “traditional” foods in Fish & Chips.  Tapping on our local knowledge we’d strongly recommend a feed from ‘Murphy’s on the Corner” – their catch of the day is so fresh it’s almost flapping and is great to savour on outside on a beautiful sunny day.