South Island 5-Day Itinerary with a Toddler

By Hand On The Hip - 4/15/2024

Hello there!

It's been a hot minute! I have so much to catch you guys up on. I nearly forgot that I even owned a blog! Well, that's what happens when life happens! Anyway, the last time I wrote here, my little one was too little and now, he's nearly 4! Geez, where did the time go! This is his last year before he officially begins school next year. We wanted to take complete advantage of that and decide to hop on a spontaneous trip to New Zealand. We have traveled with our boy before, but this time it was a lot more relaxed that it has been otherwise. And I really just want to give you guys this super quick update! So let's get started?

It was a couple of weeks before the Easter holidays kicked in and staying home for 4 consecutive days with my over-energetic toddler was not an option. I looked up flights and they were about $800 per person, which was still reasonable considering the holidays. We booked it straight away and decided to fly into Queenstown from Sydney. Our goal was to explore South Island and we literally landed there with no itinerary, only a rental car and accommodation booked. We landed on a Monday night and rushed to the bnb as it was pouring cats and dogs. It took us forever to find our rental car, but luckily we made it.

Day 1 - Exploring Queenstown and Arrowtown

The following morning, we woke up at our own pace and planned to have a chill day. Some of our friends happened to be there as well. We grabbed some coffee and decided to head to Queenstown Gondola which took us all the way to the top to savor in some breathtaking views of the city. The boys also participated in the Luge rides and my son had the best time. 

We grabbed some pizza and wine in this cute little town called Arrowtown and just walked around a river, wandered into cute little stores and cozy bookshops. 

Day 2 - A day trip to Milford Sound

Our Day 2 was dedicated to driving to and from Milford Sound. It basically has a cruise that goes through mountains and waterfalls. The cruise tickets were about 130 NZD. The drive each way took us nearly 5 hours and this is something I really do not recommend with small kids. The drive was also windy and my son did not have a great time as he got sick three times! We even missed our cruise and luckily, were allowed to take the next one. The cruise is really nice, but definitely not worth all the trouble as kids don't really enjoy it. We ended up spending the whole day on the road for a 1 hour cruise!

Day 3 - Road trip to Lake Tekapo

Our next destination was Lake Tekapo which is about 2-2.5 hours away from Queenstown by road. This time we were better prepared for the motion sickness. We stopped at many different view points and in multiple small villages on our way there. We went to Twizel for lunch and it seemed like a really cute town with a nice playground that my son really enjoyed at. Our bnb was at a super quiet town called Kimbell where we had sheep for neighbors! A few kms away from Kimbell was Lake Tekapo (about 30 min drive) and on the other side was another little village called Fairlie. 

Day 4 - Exploring Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook and Tekapo Springs

We spent the morning at Tekapo Springs, which is basically a heated pool and not a great idea if your toddler gets exhausted with the heat. The club also had a mini golf area. In the afternoon, we drove to Mount Cook which is an hour away from Lake Tekapo. Mount Cook was surreal and probably the most beautiful part of my trip! The snow-capped mountains completely took my breath away. There was a tiny playground there as well that kept my bub excited. We returned to Lake Tekapo to grab some dinner and Neel spotted another playground that he got a chance to spend some time at!

 Day 5 - Hello Christchurch

We started our journey towards Christchurch. On the way there, we stopped at Fairlie to grab breakfast and found another cute playground for bubba to burn his energy before the long drive. The wonderful thing about New Zealand is that it is so child-friendly that it's not uncommon to find playgrounds every few meters! We reached Christchurch after a few stops on the way and had booked a hotel that upgraded us to a 2 bedroom suite! The hotel looked magnificent! We spent the rest of the day at a really popular playground called Margaret Mahy Playground, walked around this street full of hippie cafes and rode the tourist tram that showed us a few spots around the city.

Day 6 - A trip to The New Brighton Pier and a stroll at Cashmere

We had a few hours before we had to board our flight back to Sydney. We started the day by going back to Margaret Mahy Playground since Neel wanted to spend some more time there. We then drove to The New Brighton Pier which had a pier and a beach and of course, a massive playground! Needless to say, bubba was super satisfied! We ended our trip by checking out the beautiful view at this small suburb called Cashmere.

We had a pleasant trip and it wasn't as exhausting as expected. Every drive was so scenic and was like driving into postcards. The fresh air and the stunning views really elevated our moods. I usually tend to pack a ton of things for Neel when we travel and I'm always obsessing over what he should eat. All over South Island, there were plenty of options for him to eat at all the cafes and restaurants. The fact that there were so many playgrounds wherever we went was a big bonus! The drives were also smooth as bubba realized that he needs to nap in the car to not feel nauseous. It was a good break from the routine and we definitely wished we could have spent more time there. However, it's quite an expensive country and certainly not someplace you could go without having a big budget.

Hope you liked this post!

Until next time...


Hand On The Hip

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