Photographer capturing Giant Gate Fall on Milford Track

The Ultimate ‘Bottom of the South’ Itinerary

28 Jun 2021

Like many Kiwis, we’ve turned the current international border closures into an opportunity: to tick things off our domestic travel bucket list. And roaming around the beautiful Fiordland region always makes it to the top. In an earlier blog, we looked at the true New Zealand experience of completing parts of multiple Great Walks - in one go. But to make sure your next holiday includes a broader range of nature-loving, adventure-seeking activities, and locations to suit everyone in your party and to neatly fill a complete week in your calendar, we’ve got the ultimate itinerary below for your ‘bottom of the south’ adventure!

DAY ONE - Landing Pad: Either Queenstown or Invercargill (leave from here too)

Southland | Invercargill | Fiordland | A man and a woman looking at a motorcycle.

Discover the  museums of Invercargill. Credit: Venture Southland  

To start your ‘bottom of the south’ trip, you’ll need to fly in from Auckland, Wellington, or wherever home is! Queenstown is a common landing pad, as from there it’s only a two-hour drive down to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland. However, Invercargill is also a great choice to really reach the bottom. You’ll discover completely different landmarks, and then enjoy a similar drive time up to Te Anau or climb aboard a flight to Stewart Island (see more on that below!).

If your landing pad is Queenstown: Most commonly known as an adventure hotspot, Queenstown is also a great place to get up close and personal with native wildlife. Check out Kiwi Birdlife Park for a couple of hours, learning about their conservation efforts, and see 20 different types of native wildlife. Then, treat the tastebuds with a Boston cream donut from Fergbaker, the lesser-known little sister of the world-famous Fergburger. It’ll be a welcome snack for the drive ahead.

If your landing pad is Invercargill: Inspire the kids with a true sense of adventure, with the legendary success story of Burt Munro, a Southland superhero. Next, keep your own energy levels high with a caffeine boost courtesy of Black Shag Espresso Bar and Eatery, who use local milk in glass bottles for their town-famous flat whites and lattes. Then hit the road or the sky to continue your exploration.

DAY TWO (Optional) - Catch another short flight down to Stewart Island for some kiwi spotting
Stewart Island | Fiordland | A kiwi bird on the sand.

Spot kiwis in the wild. Credit: Stewart Island Experience 

Stewart Island is a nature lover’s dream destination. Tucked away beneath the South Island, it’s often overlooked by New Zealanders as a spot to mark on the map for holidays. But fans of the iconic Kiwi should look no further than this lush green gem. In fact, the likelihood of seeing our national icon day or night is so high, that if you book a Wild Kiwi Encounter with Stewart Island Experience you’ll be refunded 20% of your booking if you don’t see a one at all! Stewart Island has also recently been spotlighted for its pure, high-quality natural ingredients used in traditional Māori and Polynesian cooking by Gordon Ramsay on his National Geographic Unchartered series, and indeed, Church Hill restaurant prides itself on using locally-sourced food and drink to serve delicious gourmet creations to guests. You can stay there for the night, too.

DAY THREE & FOUR – Sink into Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound | Fiordland | Te Anau | Boat on still waters surrounded by mountains

Still, calm days on Doubtful Sound make for a stunning backdrop to your cruising experience.

Whether or not you did the Stewart Island leg of our itinerary, spend the night in Te Anau along the lake before heading into Doubtful Sound. Radfords on the Lake is a great couple or family-friendly option, and only a 20-minute drive to Manapouri, the start point for Doubtful Sound. Year-round, Real Journeys offer a Wilderness day cruise, a picturesque day tour on the still waters, and a great opportunity to spot some dolphins.
Alternatively, to really immerse yourself in the untouched serenity of Doubtful Sound, you need to spend the night right there. Southern Secret provides parents, children, and grandparents alike with the opportunity to see thunderous waterfalls and steep mountains, to get busy with some fishing, kayaking, and Fiordland lobster pot checking, and to catch a glimpse of dolphins, seals, and penguins. Sleeping on the fiord during this trip offers plenty of action and activities!

DAYS FIVE TO SEVEN - Great Walk Package with Trips & Tramps – Te Anau / Milford Sound / tracks of Fiordland
Kepler Track | Te Anau | Fiordland | 3 hikers walking up a mountain on rocky terrain

The Kepler Track offers the active traveler a wonderful hiking experience from Te Anau.

Last but certainly not least in the slightest – the Great Walks Package with us here at Trips & Tramps! It’s time to explore more of Fiordland by foot, and this moderate 3-day adventure is the best way to cover a lot of ground (quite literally)! To keep things interesting, though, we’ve included some helicopter time on the Kepler Track for day one, a well-earned Milford Sound boat cruise after walking part of the famous Milford Track, and on day three, the most picture-perfect picnic you’ll ever enjoy at the Key Summit on Routeburn Track. At every step along the way, our skilled local guides will keep you safe and keep you learning, with their wealth of knowledge about the Great Walks and the nature of the region. No matter whether you choose to follow some or all of our itinerary, we know you’re bound for an unforgettable adventure in the ‘bottom of the south’!

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