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15 BEST Stops when Driving from Picton to Christchurch

15 BEST Stops when Driving from Picton to Christchurch

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The drive between Picton and Christchurch is one of my all-time favorite ways to explore the northeast coast of the South Island. From scenic viewpoints to action-packed ATV rides, there are so many awesome stops and things to do on this drive, not to mention the bustling city of Christchurch that’s waiting for you at the end!

The best part about this road trip is you really get to experience quite a variety in a relatively short distance. For my fellow wildlife lovers, this drive showcases some of the best stops to see seals, whales, birds, and so much more.

The drive from Picton to Christchurch is just a little over four hours without stops, but I recommend giving yourself a full day to complete this road trip, so you can enjoy each stop at your leisure. After reading this blog, I think you’re definitely going to want to take your time.

Below, I’ve listed 15 of the best stops on the drive from Picton to Christchurch, as well as some other important information I couldn’t leave out. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

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About the Drive from Picton to Christchurch

The drive from Picton to Christchurch is 336 kilometers (209 miles) and should take around four hours without stops. The route follows State Highway 1 (SH1) the entire way, a super simple road trip, even those who are navigationally challenged (guilty!).

You can spend as much or as little time as you’d like at each stop, but I recommend allowing yourself at least a full day to experience each of these stops and what they have to offer.

If you have more than one day to allot to this road trip from Picton to Christchurch, I highly recommend stopping and staying a night in some of the towns I’ve mentioned. WaiparaGore Bay, or Blenheim town are all great options! There are also a few amazing wineries along this route, so be sure to book a place to stay near the wineries if you plan on drinking.

Another good thing about this road trip from Picton to Christchurch is you can do it in any season. Because it covers the northern part of the island, this section of the highway typically receives little snowfall. The snowfall that it does receive is usually cleared pretty quickly. That being said, you can still get some delays, so be prepared for that if you’re doing this road trip between June and August.

When you’re making your way through Kaikoura (around the middle of the road trip), there may be route delays due to roadworks. In 2016, an earthquake sadly destroyed much of the town of Kaikoura, as well as severely damaged 200 km (124 miles) of road in and around the area. Efforts are still being made to this day to improve the roads’ safety. You can check the latest updates on the NZ Transport website.

15 Best Stops on the Drive from Picton to Christchurch

1. Picton

Bailey poses for a photo on the Picton waterfront in New Zealand
Welcome to Picton!

Picton is a popular starting point for any road trip on the South Island, since it’s the small town where the ferry from the North Island arrives. Besides being conveniently located, there are plenty of fun things to do in Picton too!

The most popular activity is cruising the Marlborough Sounds from Picton. If you’ve got a bit of time to spare before your road trip, then this half-day scenic Marlborough Sounds tour would be my go-to choice! From the comfort of your boat, you’ll have the best view of the amazing scenery, glimpsing all kinds of marine life, including seals and dolphins as well as tons of rare birds.

The entire tour is so much fun from start to finish and will easily set your trip off to an amazing start. It’s one of the best activities on the South Island, with tickets costing just $96 NZD per person. You can check availability and book your spot online here.

If you’re traveling with kids, then Picton Beach should be a place you definitely visit. Here, you’ll find a pirate-themed playground, mini-golf, and a large shaded park – which is the perfect spot for a picnic. A short walk from Picton Beach is the Picton Marina, which is filled with luxury yachts and catamarans.

Looking to stretch your legs? The Tirohanga Track is a short 1.2 km (0.75 mi) track that leads through native forest up to a viewpoint with one of the best views of Picton and Waikawa. You can choose to start the track from Garden Terrace, just outside the town center, or Newgate Street. From my own experience, I’d say the track should take no more than 45 minutes to complete.

The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum on Dunbar Pier is the oldest merchant sailing ship in the world. You can actually climb aboard the ship to get a real feel of what life on a 19th-Century convict ship was like – this ship was used to transport convicts to Australia! I found it so interesting seeing where the ship’s staff slept – it made me appreciate the comforts of a nice big bed even more.

Related Read: Another popular road trip is the drive from Picton to Nelson – it’s stunning!

2. Monkey Bay

Now it’s time to start the road trip! Heading south out of Picton, our first stop is actually a slight detour, around a 26-minute drive from Picton – but don’t worry, you’re heading in the right direction!

If I had to put together a list of the best parts of New Zealand’s South Island coastline to visit, then Monkey Bay would be on that list. There’s a convenient car park here that runs just off Rarangi Beach Road where you can pull up for a little break.

The Monkey Bay Walking track is a short and easy 20-minute return trail that starts at Rarangi Beach’s northern end and ends at the beach at Monkey Bay. There are exposed and rocky patches on parts of the track, so use caution and keep any kids with you close by.

There’s also a stunning viewing point towards the start of the track, which has excellent views out to Queen Charlotte Sound. You’ll find some information boards here that explain how Rarangi Beach was formed by sea currents over a period of thousands of years, pretty cool stuff!

If you’re on a budget and looking for a scenic place to spend the night, then Rarangi Campsite (near the beginning of Monkey Bay Walking Track) is ideal. It’s a relaxing place to sleep, as you can camp right next to the beach and wake to the sound of crashing waves – it sure beats an iPhone alarm!

You can pitch a tent or park up your self-contained vehicle here, as there are 55 non-powered sites available. The fee to stay here is $10 NZD per adult and $5 NZD per child per night.

3. Explore Blenheim

Seymour Square clock tower in Blenheim, New Zealand
Seymour Square Clock Tower in Blenheim, New Zealand

Known as the foodie capital of New Zealand – Blenheim is up next and is a must-stop for food and wine lovers!

As a tried-and-true foodie with a sweet tooth, one of my favorite things to do in Blenheim is visiting Makana Confections on Dwyers Roads, a short 8 km (5-mile) drive from the town center. The chocolate here is on a whole new level, and I can never turn down free chocolate tastings. There’s also the chance to watch (and smell) the chocolate-making in action – yum!

If you’re looking for a local restaurant to eat at, two of my favorite options are Gramado’s (serves Brazilian and New Zealand-style dishes) on Main Street and Rocco’s Italian on Dodson Street.

Now, no trip to Blenheim is complete without visiting one (or many!) of the nearby wineries. This is one of the best wine regions in all of NZ, after all. If you’re keen on a half-day tour that will whisk you around the Marlborough wine region with a stop for lunch at a winery, then look no further than this five-hour Marlborough wine tour.

I think that half-day experiences like this one are the perfect length, and I also love that this tour is capped at 11 people! Starting with a delicious lunch, it’s clear to see why this experience has received so much positive feedback. Tickets cost $160 NZD per person and can be booked online here.

Another great thing to do in Blenheim includes a walk or cycle through Wither Hills Farm Park, a working cattle and sheep farm that’s 5 km (3.1 miles) from the town. There are several walking tracks here, all varying in difficulty and length. The views from here are incredible, with rolling farmland and vineyards to be seen in the distance. For bike lovers, there’s a mountain bike park featuring grade 2, 3, and 4 tracks.

Some other great places for a walk in Blenheim include Pollard Park, which features 64 acres of wooded park as well as rose gardens. It’s very popular with local families! I love grabbing a coffee from Watery Mouth Cafe on High Street and taking my time to admire the gardens here.

One spot that I didn’t expect to like as much as I did was the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center in Blenheim, which was full of vintage planes set up in unique displays. These displays were put together by none other than famed movie director Sir Peter Jackson, so you know they’ll be nothing short of epic! The center is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Where to spend the night in Blenheim

Blenheim is a fantastic place to stay the night, especially if you’re planning on visiting a vineyard or two! Here are two of my favorite places to stay in Blenheim:

If you’re traveling on a budget, then the budget-friendly Cherylea Motel is a fantastic choice. It’s located just a 5-minute drive from town, and offers a pretty impressive range of rooms, from studios through to two-bedroom apartments. Rooms here start at around $139 NZD per night.

For those with a little more to spend, the Scenic Hotel Marlborough lives up to its reputation, a 10-minute walk from central Blenheim. They also have an on-site restaurant and bar, which offers some seriously delicious a la à la carte dining! Rooms here are comfortable and modern, with a one-night stay starting at around $218 NZD per person.

4. Visit the wineries in the Marlborough Wine Region

Scenic view over the Blenhiem Wine Region in New Zealand on a tour from Picton
The most magnificent view over the Marlborough wine region!

The largest and most famous wine region in New Zealand is right here in the Marlborough. There are over 500 winegrowers in operation in Marlborough, across a massive area of 26,000 hectares (over 64,200 acres!).

The climate here is ideal for wine-growing, as it’s one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest regions. In fact, the weather gets so warm here (especially in summer) that the Maori refer to it as ‘Kei puta te Wairau’ which translates to ‘the place with the hole in the cloud’.

The most famous wine grown here is Sauvignon Blanc, and I’m almost certain you will have tried a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc before, as it is readily available in supermarkets worldwide! It’s one of my favorite wine varieties I’ve ever tried and typically has tropical fruit notes like passionfruit or melon. Yummy! Other popular grape varieties grown in Marlborough include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

As we carry on our drive towards Christchurch, you’ll likely spot many different signs for the vineyards along the way. Feel free to stop off at one and maybe even try a tasting (as long as you’re not the one driving, of course!). Some of my favorite cellar doors to visit in Marlborough include Nautilus EstateYealands Estate, and Saint Clair Family Estate.

If you’re looking for a guided experience, then there are tons of fantastic experiences in this neck of the woods. This full-day guided Marlborough wine tour is a popular favorite and includes transport to several local vineyards. I’d recommend booking a hotel in Blenheim, as this tour offers free hotel pick-up and drop-off!

Or why not hire a bike in nearby Blenheim and cycle between each cellar door (there are over 30), and all are just a few minutes bike ride from the next. It’s an easy flat cycle too!

Where to spend the night in the Marlborough Wine Region

There are lots of great hotels in the Marlborough Wine Region, perfect for resting your head after a busy day at the wineries! Here are a couple of my favorites:

Vintners Retreat offers self-contained villas which are perfect whether you’re traveling as a large group, or as a couple looking for somewhere cozy and romantic. The villas here are split into two and three-bedroom units, and all of them have access to the swimming pool, tennis courts, and the BBQ area! Villas here start at $420 NZD per night.

If you love the idea of living out in nature, away from the hustle of town and city life, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy staying at the Antares Homestay! The clean and spacious rooms are hosted by Mandy and Patrick, who do an amazing job at settling you in and introducing you to all the fun things there are to do in the Marlborough Region. Rooms here start at around $239 NZD per night.

Related Read: Check out the best wineries in Queenstown as well as the best Queenstown wine tours!

5. Ward Beach Boulders

Bailey sits on a round rock at the Ward Beach Boulders in New Zealand
How cool!
Bailey poses for a photo with a seal at the Ward Beach Boulders
New Zealand fur seal!

The unusual Ward Beach Boulders are several large spherical rocks dotted along Ward Beach. They are a little similar to those found at the famed Moeraki Beach, although not quite as impressive as the Moeraki Boulders, which are considered one of the best things to see in New Zealand!

The boulders are located an 800-meter (2,624 ft) walk from the parking lot at the end of Ward Beach Road. When you park, make sure to face the ocean and walk to your left along the beach. You’ll find the boulders towards the end of the beach in an area known as Chancet Rocks, best seen at low tide.

At the northern end of the beach, the 2016 earthquake unveiled something very cool and unique. This area exposes the K-T Boundary (also known as the Cretaceous-Palaeogene Boundary), which signifies the event that led to the extinction of dinosaurs! It is believed the rocks found here are over 65 million years old.

The 2016 earthquake also created a new surf break at Ward Beach, and so this spot has become very popular with local surfers. However, if you want to try surfing in New Zealand here, be sure to wear a wetsuit as the water here is cold!

Whilst exploring, be mindful of any fur seals lazing on the beach and keep your distance. When I was last there, I saw a few!

Note: Ward Beach Road is a gravel road. When I was last there, it was well maintained, and I was easily able to drive my little 2WD car on it, but this is something worth nothing, especially if you have a rental car that doesn’t allow you to drive on gravel roads.

6. Kekerengu Beach and The Store

Kekerengu Beach and The Store
The view from The Store!

One of the prettiest sights on the drive from Picton to Christchurch is the black sand beach called Kekerengu Beach, about a 45-minute drive north of Kaikoura town.

The black sand is in stark contrast to the turquoise waters, and it almost looks like a scene from Hawaii. However, the water here is definitely not as warm as in Hawaii! The average seawater temperature in and around Kaikoura is 13 °C (55 °F).

This beach is made even more photogenic with the Kaikoura Mountain Ranges in the background and plenty of large pieces of driftwood strewn across the beach – perfect for photographers!

The black sand is pretty unusual, but it turns out that it’s surprisingly common on the South Island, as it’s formed by the run-off of heavy minerals from the Southern Alps, where it’s then built up on the beach by some pretty intense wave action.

The best place to park to explore this beach is at The Store parking lot, and then walk down to the beach from there. I recommend grabbing a coffee or bite to eat from The Store as well, it is a super cute restaurant with ocean views and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. They’re open daily from 8:30 am to 4 pm.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, there’s also a nice campground here, too. You can actually camp right on the beachfront, with hot showers and a delicious breakfast come morning. Booking is best done in advance on their website, with it costing $14 NZD per adult per night.

7. Paparoa Point Rest Area

Bailey climbs the steps at Paparoa Point Rest Area, Kaikoura, NZ
It’s a cool place to stretch your legs!
Paparoa Point Rest Area
The Māori carving!

A 20-minute drive from The Store, Paparoa Point is a culturally significant stop between Picton and Christchurch. It tells the story of Paikea – a whale rider popular in native Maori folklore. The viewing platform offers stunning views over the Hikurangi Trench and is incredibly photogenic on a windy day with the huge crashing waves on the rocky beach.

Interestingly, the viewing platform’s shape is based on the Hikurangi Trench’s strong connection between Kaikoura and the North Island’s east coast. Depicted on the viewing platform’s internal face is Ruaumoko (Maori god of earthquakes). It is there to honor the significant change of the coastline and the sea bed due to the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

The unique sculpture you see as you approach the viewing platform is of Tūteurutira (a historic Maori Chief). Each step leading up to the viewing platform displays a name from his whakapapa (family and ancestors). There’s also a beautiful, intricately carved picnic bench on display.

If you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance you’ll see some New Zealand fur seals here too!

8. Ohau Point

Bailey walks along Ohau Point
There are so many seals!
Two seals at Ohau Point, New Zealand
How cute!

Speaking of fur seals, Ohau Point is up next and is one of the best places to see these adorable animals between Picton and Christchurch.

The Ohau Point Viewing Platform is in a prime position to watch them as they laze about on the rocks below. There is also a large parking area nearby, so you shouldn’t have any problems with parking.

They typically don’t move around too much unless they’re heading out to hunt; however, summer is mating season, so you’re likely to see a lot more of Kaikoura’s most famous residents here on the shore. At certain times of year, you can actually see hundreds of fur seals here!

About 1 km (0.6 miles) from the viewing platform is the start of the Ohau Point Stream Walkway. It’s a short and easy 600 meter (1,968 ft) return track that leads to the waterfall. Here, at the Ohau Point Waterfall, is the only place in the world where you can watch little fur seal pups play in a waterfall – how cute is that?!

This happens every winter in New Zealand, and you’ll likely see many baby fur seals swimming up the stream and into the waterfall to play. They are adorable and love to play fight with each other. However, make sure to keep your distance, as they can be very inquisitive.

The Kaikoura earthquake in 2006 did cause minor damage to the pool beneath the waterfall, which you’ll see when you visit. The walking track was closed for a while as they worked to make it safe after the earthquake.

Unfortunately, it still remains closed, but you can still enter at your own risk. For that reason, this trail is not suited to children or those with mobility issues, as there is an area you need to scramble to get to the viewpoint.

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9. Lavendyl – The Kaikoura Lavender Farm

Bailey enjoys the lavender at Lavendyl - Kaikoura Lavender Farm in New Zealand
I love the smell!
Bailey at Lavendyl - Kaikoura Lavender Farm
Watch out for the bees!

Lavendyl Farm, a Lavender Farm growing over 50 different varieties of lavender, is just a 15-minute drive from Ohau Point, and it’s our next stop! Not only is the bright purple lavender so pretty, but the farm is surrounded by Mount Fyffe and the Kaikoura Peninsula. So it’s the perfect backdrop for that Instagram-worthy shot.

I just love the smell of lavender, don’t you? If you want to bring a lavender memento home to remember your trip, you can purchase lavender oils, bath products, hair products, and even lavender-flavored honey at the on-site shop. There’s also a cute on-site tearoom serving up tea, coffee, and delicious cakes.

It’s also worth noting that you can watch the distillation process in action in January and February (when the lavender is at its peak for oil production). During this process, they extract pure lavender oil as well as rosemary oil to make up the oils and other products they sell at their shop.

You can visit the gift shop for free, but if you want to wander amongst the lavender, you’ll have to pay $5 NZD per person. Their opening hours do vary depending on the time of year, so it’s best to check online before you visit.

You can even spend the night at the Lavender Farm in the attached Dylan’s Cottages, which offers two rustic-style cottages suitable for two people. The best time to visit is when the lavender is in full bloom in January and February; however, you can visit as early as November and still see some flowers.

Related Read: If you want to visit my favorite lavender farm in NZ you need to check out the best things to do in Wanaka!

10. Kaikoura

Bailey on Kaikoura Lookout, New Zealand
I spent a lot of time up here!
Bailey on Kaikoura Beach during summer in New Zealand
Kaikoura Beach!

Kaikoura is probably one of the prettiest places in New Zealand. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and backdropped by the Kaikoura Mountain ranges – it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations on the South Island. That’s because it’s teeming with wildlife with the opportunity to see hundreds of fur seals, dolphins, blue penguins, and even whales.

Whale watching in Kaikoura is super easy, and one of my favorite things to do whenever I’m in town! It’s here that I tried a helicopter whale watching tour for the first time, and got to see these amazing animals from the sky.

If you’re keen on giving this a go, then I highly recommend this 40-minute helicopter whale watching tour. I’ve been on a lot of whale watching tours on a boat, and I was super shocked when we spotted whales almost instantly from the helicopter – you often have to wait for a while before you see them when on a boat!

Or, if you’re after another truly unique experience, why not swim with dolphins? Yep, you can tick this bucket-list-worthy activity off your list with this full-day swim with dolphins experience, fun for all the family. At $395 NZD per person, I wouldn’t put this as the cheapest activity on this list, but if you’re looking for that one trip-defining activity, then this can easily be it!

Sticking to water-based activities (when you visit Kaikoura you’ll understand why all the best things to do in Kaikoura involve the water) – one of my favorite things I’ve done in Kaikoura is a half-day kayaking tour to see the native dusky dolphins and blue penguins.

We did this sunset kayaking tour, and it was magical! The wildlife is typically more active at sunset/dusk, so we saw lots of dolphins and whales. On this tour, we also learned a lot about the history of Kaikoura and the Maori culture here. Easily worth the $140 NZD price tag, if you ask me!

The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway to Point Kean is a 50-minute (each way walk) that starts at the South Bay parking lot and ends at Kean Bay. There are many information boards along the way which tell about the wildlife in the area. This walk is one of the best opportunities to see fur seals.

People from all over the world come to Kaikoura to surf, which surprises me because the water here is cold, averaging about 13 °C (55 °F)! So, make sure to pack a cold water wetsuit! Some of the best surf spots are only known to locals, so ask at popular local cafés like Beach House Cafe or Food Company Kaikoura (both on Beach Rd) for their tips.

I have heard that Mangamaunu to the north of the town is one of the best surf spots for intermediate to expert surfers – so head on over if this sounds like you!

Where to spend the night in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is the perfect place to stop and spend a night or two along your road trip from Picton to Christchurch. I love staying at the Dolphin Lodge when I’m looking to save a few dollars. They offer bunks in dorms as well as private rooms, all of which are cheap and comfortable!

For high-end travelers, there are a lot of great options in Kaikoura. The Shearwater Apartments really stand out if you want to be close to town. Imagine luxury apartments right on the water with ocean views! This is the ideal spot if you’re traveling as a couple and looking for a romantic place to spend the night.

If you’d prefer a stay nestled closer to the mountains, then the Manakau Lodge is one of the best-rated hotels in Kaikoura. It’s situated in a super peaceful area, and offers luxury villas perfect for a quiet retreat.

11. Kaikoura Marine Resting Area

Two New Zealand Fur Seals at Kaikoura Marine Resting Area
The seals are so cute!

There’s no such thing as too many fur seals! One of the best places to see these lovable animals (and lots of them) in New Zealand is the Kaikoura Marine Resting Area, approximately a 20-minute drive from the center of Kaikoura. From the viewpoint, you get fabulous views – think turquoise water in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background.

Take your binoculars with you to see whales or dusky dolphins in the ocean beyond. The best time to spot them is from October to March. The famed fur seals are much easier to spot, and you will likely see dozens of them resting on the rocks here.

The Kaikoura region is known as a wildlife mecca in New Zealand. What, you may ask, attracts so much marine life to Kaikoura? Well, there’s a continental shelf in the ocean, around 500 meters (1,640 ft) from the shore. This shelf plunges 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) below the surface and provides the ideal deep water that marine life thrives in.

12. Glenstrae Four Wheeler Adventures

Glenstrae Four Wheeler Adventures
You’ll get amazing views! Photo credit – Glenstrae Four Wheeler Adventures

Just 20 minutes outside Kaikoura is the perfect activity for adrenaline junkies. This 2.5-hour quad biking tour with Glenstrae Four Wheeler Adventures, explores farmland with stunning coastal views. You may even spot fur seals on the beaches below during your tour! It’s a fast-paced tour, with the quad bike reaching speeds of up to 45 km (28 miles) per hour!

The tour also includes refreshments at a hidden wooden cabin (about halfway through your tour). It’s an incredibly scenic stop-off point that deserves more than a couple of photos!

If you’ve never driven a quad bike before, fear not, you will be given a briefing and shown how to effectively operate the vehicle at the on-site training course before departing. If you’re still not confident, you can hop in their 8×8 vehicle driven by an experienced guide. This vehicle is used for younger family members (or those who can’t drive).

Worth noting – no driver’s license is required for this activity! However, I do recommend being comfortable behind the wheel as this is a high-powered vehicle, and a little experience does go a long way.

Tickets for this tour cost $169 NZD per rider and can be booked online here.

13. Gore Bay

Cathedral Cliffs at Gore Bay, New Zealand
Cathedral Cliffs at Gore Bay, New Zealand

A short detour off State Highway 1 (SH1) is the small coastal village of Gore Bay, a very popular spot with surfers! Gore Bay is especially favored by Christchurch locals who escape to one of the many beachside bachs (holiday homes) for a break from city life.

Make sure to stop at the weird and wonderful Cathedral Cliffs on your drive in. These cliffs are siltstone pillars formed by erosion and are a great example of the American “badlands’ landscape we commonly see in Western movies.

The Jed Vale Cemetery Walk is a short and easy (just 45 minutes return) walking track that starts from the Children’s Playground in Gore Bay. The trail begins with a beach walk and then along an estuary, where you will see waterbirds before reaching the cemetery. The cemetery has a few information boards and marked graves. Please remember to be respectful here. 

The beach at Gore Bay is a great place to stretch your legs too, and at low tide, you can collect stunning Paua shells on the beach’s southern end. There are no shops or facilities (besides toilets) at Gore Bay, so why not buy some food in Cheviot (the closest town) and have a picnic on the beach or at one of the picnic benches near the parking lot?

If you have a self-contained vehicle, Gore Bay is a great place to spend the night at the Gore Bay & Buxton Camp Grounds. Otherwise, Broadview Motel in nearby Cheviot (a 5 km/3.1 mi drive away) is a great option.

14. Waipara (wine region)

Grape vines in the Waipara Wine Region
This is one gorgeous place to taste wine!

Just an hour’s drive from Kaikoura is one of the best wine regions in New Zealand. The climate here is perfect for grape growing because it has the highest summer temperatures and lowest rainfall of any of the country’s wine regions. Some of my favorite New Zealand wine is from Waipara with the best varieties grown here being Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.

Waipara is considered to be the country’s “fastest-growing wine region.” Would you believe the first vines here were planted in 1975 and today, there are over 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) of vines – that’s impressive! What I love too is that most of the wineries here are family-run. Of the 90 wineries in Waipara, most are smaller, family-run businesses.

My favorite wineries in Waipara include Waipara Springs (which also has an excellent on-site restaurant), and Terrace Edge Vineyard. If you want to taste the delicious wines, why not join a guided winery tour (so you don’t have to drive)?

Most tours depart from Christchurch and last around 4 to 5 hours. These boutique wine tours typically include a light lunch like a sharing platter to be enjoyed at one of the scenic wineries! If this sounds like your kind of thing, I’d recommend continuing on to Christchurch, then grabbing a guided tour from there.

This half-day tour from Christchurch combines everything that makes a wine tour here fantastic, with lunch, wine tastings, and transport included. There’s also a maximum of 6 people per tour, so you’ll have a personalized tour from start to finish. Considering everything that’s included, I think that the $199 NZD price tag is pretty fair!

Alternatively, you can rent a bike from Action Bicycle Club and cycle the 10 km (6.2 mi) winery bike trail, stopping at several wineries along the way. The track is relatively easy, with only a few uphill sections.

Where to spend the night in the Waiapara Region

As for accommodation options in the Waipara region, there are plenty of good choices! Here are a couple of my favorites:

The very stylish Black Estate B&B offers a very reasonably priced stay, nestled in the rolling Waipara hills. With free bike rental, the most gorgeous mountain views you can imagine, and incredibly comfortable rooms, you’ll spend your days exploring out in nature before coming home to snuggle up in the warm. A stay here starts at $295 NZD per night.

For a similar price point, the luxurious Waipara River Estate offers a spacious and peaceful stay just a 10-minute drive from town. Surrounded by gardens, the continental breakfast is the perfect start to a day full of wine tasting and adventure! One night here at the Waipara River Estate starts at around $310 NZD per night.

15. Christchurch

Bailey on the Godley Head Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand
Godley Head Trail in Christchurch, New Zealand
Bailey at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand

And here we are, arriving at our final destination on this epic road trip! Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and the second largest in New Zealand (with Auckland taking first place). This incredible city has a population of just under 400,000 people, and as you can imagine, there are loads of great things to do in Christchurch and excellent places to eat.

For the ultimate introduction to the city, I’d recommend going on this historic tram tour, where you can hop off at one of the 17 different stops at attractions around the city, and then jump back on to finish your tour.

I love that you can follow this tram tour entirely at your own pace, and the on-board commentary is a great stepping stone to exploring the gems that this city has to offer! Tickets are also super affordable at only $35 NZD per adult and can be purchased here.

Riverside Market is also a great place to go to eat lots of different food! This indoor market is located right in the CBD and has everything from breweries to specialty cookie shops. There are also some unique boutique shops to check out. Wander around and see what catches your eye!

And while I’m speaking of places to eat, one of my favorite restaurants in the city is 5th Street on Elgin St in Sydenham. I love the southern fried chicken, and if you dare, their 700g (24.7 oz) rib eye.

For your coffee fix in ChristchurchC1 Espresso can’t be missed. Your food is delivered by pneumatic tubes, which you can watch overhead. It’s one of the trendiest coffee shops I’ve ever been to!

The National Antarctic Center is a must-see and offers a unique insight into life in Antarctica – not something you get to experience every day! It is one of the most popular attractions in Christchurch and is a great day out with kids. Stepping into the Storm Dome will give you the feel of the freezing cold weather in Antarctica.

There’s also a Penguin Rescue Center here, a 4D Cinema, and the opportunity to ride a Hagglund (an amphibious Antarctic vehicle). Admission is $59 NZD and can be booked online here.

Just a short drive from the Christchurch CBD, you’ll find the Christchurch Gondola, which I think is pretty underrated! It offers spectacular 360-degree views and is a great family-friendly activity too. Once at the top, there are some cool hiking trails as well as a café to relax at.

Tickets for the gondola start from $40 NZD for adults and $18 NZD for children.

I’m also a big sucker for outdoor adventure activities, and although Christchurch is a big city, it still has a range of fun adventure experiences to try. This Christchurch ziplining tour is a firm favorite, including no less than 4 epic zipline rides, and amazing views of the city as you go.

Note: Christchurch is a huge hub for campervan companies. This is a great place to rent a campervan and start or end your road trip in New Zealand.

Want to continue on another road trip? Why not rent a car in Christchurch and drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, or a shorter option, Christchurch to Lake Tekapo or Christchurch to Mount Cook?! All of these are awesome road trips well worth your time.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Crowne Plaza Christchurch
The Crowne Plaza Christchurch is a beautiful centrally located hotel. Photo credit: Crowne Plaza Christchurch

Although not a large city by international standards, Christchurch is big for New Zealand. As with any large city, picking the right place to stay is really important.

There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Christchurch. To help you narrow it down, I’ve included my top choices near the airport, in the city center, and just outside the city.

By the airport

One of the best places by the airport is the Lylo Christchurch. It’s actually within walking distance of the airport! It’s also 2 minutes from a retail center and the International Antarctic Center. They have luggage storage, laundry, and a communal area with a kitchen. There are a variety of rooms with prices starting at $117 NZD. You can book this super convenient hotel through Booking.com.

Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away, it has a free shuttle, free parking, and amazing reviews. Rooms come with a balcony or garden access to get that fresh air before a flight. They also have a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool. You can expect to pay between $250-$350 NZD per night. For luxury right by the airport, reserve a room at the Commodore Hotel online.

City center

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for a luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city. You can grab a coffee at the on-site cafe or cozy up by the bar’s fireplace with a cocktail. It has a gym, restaurant, and spacious rooms. You can snag prices as low as $209 NZD when you book in advance online.

For budget travelers, the social but comfortable Urbanz is a good option. Although cheap, it’s located in the heart of the city and only a couple of minutes from Hagley Park and New Regent Street, which is full of bars and restaurants. It’s a trendy, modern space with a pool table, kitchen, laundry, and on-site bar. Dorm rooms cost about $41 NZD, and private rooms are $109 NZD. You can book this budget-friendly hotel on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Just outside the city

If you don’t mind staying a few minutes outside of the city center, I recently stayed at Tasman Holiday Parks Christchurch and loved it! It’s a holiday park, so perfect for those with a campervan or motorhome, but they also have newly renovated rooms and apartments available for a great price! There are plenty of facilities, including kitchens, BBQs, and a pool. Stays start at $114 NZD and can be booked online here.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses for a photo on the Tirohanga Track in Picton, NZ
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, your road trip from Picton to Christchurch will be full to the brim with amazing stops! Charming towns, adorable wildlife, stunning viewpoints, and fun adventures await you! Even if you don’t do all of the stops listed in this post, I hope you do take the opportunity to explore this coast of the South Island.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, and hopefully, it took care of much of the planning process for your road trip from Picton to Christchurch. Here are some other blogs you might be interested in:

40 Best Hikes on the South Island of New Zealand

5 BEST Wine Tours in Picton – One of NZ’s Top Wine Regions!

20 BEST Stops on the Drive from Christchurch to Milford Sound

15 Best Stops on the Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch

David

Friday 1st of March 2024

Thanks for sharing the wonderful trip.

Bailey

Friday 1st of March 2024

Hey David,

Glad I could help!

Thanks Bailey

Daphne

Wednesday 8th of June 2022

Thanks for this blog. This truly guides our trip from Picton to Christchurch. We also tried the recommended sights and restaurants. Great Job!πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ