Getting to the South Island

There are a number of ways to get to the South Island; however, the most popular one is catching a flight to either Christchurch or Queenstown airport. Depending on where in New Zealand you're travelling from, it's generally cheaper to fly into Christchurch than it is to fly into Queenstown due to the fact that Queenstown is a more popular destination, especially during ski season.

Another way to travel to the South Island is by catching a ferry from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island.

Flying to the South Island 

While the main airports to fly into are in Christchurch and Queenstown, you can also catch a flight into Dunedin. Flights into Christchurch are often cheaper because it is centrally located and less popular than Queenstown. Dunedin also offers relatively cheap flights from several airlines. 

Car rental companies are located at each of the three airports in the international arrivals area and offer reasonable rates on rentals depending on what car you want and how long you need it for.

Taking a ferry to the South Island

If you're keen to travel across to the South Island by ferry then catching a ride on the 'Interislander' isn't a bad way to do it. Featuring a fleet of three ferries, the Kaitaki, Arahura, and Aratere, the ships sail between Wellington and Picton (located at the tip of the South Island) several times a day. The ships themselves are considered quite glamorous and offer impeccable views of New Zealand's mountain ranges as you journey across the Cook Strait. 

Ticket prices are divided into three tiers, one for infants (who travel for free), children, and adults but can differ whether you're travelling in peak or off season. You can also bring your vehicle on the ferry, but those tickets will be more expensive depending on what kind of vehicle you have. 

Road conditions on the South Island 

Once you've disembarked from the ferry you can continue on your South Island road trip. Making your way around by car is possibly the best way to see everything the South Island has to offer from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown.

In terms of weather, the road conditions on the South Island depend on what time of the year you're travelling in. If you're travelling during the spring and summer months it's unlikely you'll see any snow or ice on the roads or highways between destinations. Freak snowstorms and unexpected weather conditions can happen, though, so it's best to keep up to date with forecasts. However, if you're travelling during winter or autumn you can expect the roads to be slippery in the morning due to frosts overnight. 

Typically it only takes around half an hour for roads to thaw, but be mindful of roads that are quite shaded from the sun as they'll most likely still be icy. More importantly, leave plenty of time to travel between destinations as you might have to drive slower due to wet or snowy conditions.

Want to learn more about the South Island? Return to South Island FAQs

Our South Island tours