Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Great Kiwi Road Trip: Let’s Go Places! The Ultimate NZ Roadie – Off the Beaten Track and a Slightly Weird Route in the South Island

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In the latest in our Ultimate NZ Road Trip Series, Kelly Bertrand picks up a fancy little Toyota Corolla, bundles in way too much stuff (oh, including her fiancé) and hits the road for a perfect roadie around Te Waipounamu. Here’s her perfect itinerary for the best South Island road trip!

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While I’d love to be that person who jumps into a car and drives ‘wherever the wind takes me’ without a care or idea in the world where I’ll end up, let’s be realistic – I’m WAY too Type A for that and I need a pinnacle event to base the trip around. For me it was finally visiting Lake Tekapo (how am I 33 and haven’t been?) and squeezing in some time off-grid with my partner before the insanity of the year kicked off. So, after landing in Queenstown, we spent a few days enjoying the town before our roadie began up to Tekapo, back to Kurow for some glamping and then finally through the gorgeous Canterbury Plains towards Christchurch. Yup, this roadie is all about views!


Perfect roadie cars don’t have to be big – in fact, the smaller and zippier you go, the more fuel you save for snacks so that should be your priority right then and there. But, small can also be mighty (and faaaancy). We picked up the Corolla Hatch ZR Hybrid for our trip which was immediately christened Raspberry Beret due to the colour and the fact the chic two-tone paint makes it look like it’s wearing a little hat.

The first thing you need to know is that we drove more than 800kms and only spent $146 on fuel, so yeah, the hybrid thing works. Secondly, this bad boy is the safest little car I’ve ever driven – it has a five-star ANCAP rating, but the coolest thing is the fact that this thing can drive itself in an emergency – it can turn around corners if you miss the line, the All-Speed Radar Cruise Control keeps a pre-set distance between the car in front of you (yup, it’ll brake for you) and will automatically speed up or slow down. Technology man, it’s wild.

And as for the fun stuff, man it’s cool to drive – plus you’ve got all the usual Apple Car Play and Bluetooth connectivity which means there was no gaps in my renditions of Total Eclipse of the Heart, which I’m sure my partner absolutely frothed over.


Honestly, the route – from Queenstown we headed over the Crown Range (the most fun and nerve-wracking road to drive in the whole country, I reckon) and through the Lindis Pass towards Lake Tekapo. Views! Scenery! Sheep! The lakes – Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo itself – really do have to be seen to be believed. The colour is wild and the most impossible shade of blue, and I found myself having a moment on the shore of Tekapo as I looked out to the beauty of the lake (well, past the hordes of tourists of course.)

But as we double-backed a little to get to our accommodation in Kurow, it struck me how much roadies aren’t just about the destinations, it’s the stuff that happens inside the car. It’s the only time when you and your road-trip buddies can put your phones away, crank up your favourite music (click here for our road trip podcast and playlist recommendations and for the love of god don’t skip You’re a Single Mom in the 90s Cleaning Her House. My partner and I had silly chats, deep chats, those beautiful stretches of comfortable silence and rousing (ok fine, terrible) singalongs. I do have to say he does a mean Billy Joel though.

The stretch I was most surprised at though was the trip from Kurow to Christchurch, when the windy, mountainous corners give way to beautiful long stretches of road, gorgeous plains and a whole other kind of New Zealand landscape. Damn, we’re lucky to live here!

Also, on your way from Queenstown to Tekapo it is WELL worth a stop at Queenstown’s newest food and beverage offering, Ayrburn. Located just outside of Arrowtown, Ayrburn is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous complex and hospitality development that offers multiple establishments – a restaurant, cocktail bar, pub, casual pasta and pizza restaurant, dairy and a soon-to-open fancy-pants high-end restaurant – and there’s so much going on you could spend an entire day here. It has playgrounds for the kids, markets, music and so much more, and if you’re the passenger of your roadie, the best cocktail I have ever had – go to the Burr Bar and ask for a Green Lady. You’re welcome!


Don’t hate me, but Arrowtown. Apart from containing Aosta, which is one of the best restaurants of all time (try the Kina Pappardelle even if you’re like me and hate seafood) I have to be honest and say I don’t get what the hype is – it’s one street and it’ll take you half an hour to walk up and down due to the crowds… and then you’re done. However if you do stop in, the pies from the bakery are definitely worth it.  


For our Queenstown leg we opted for our favourite hotel – the QT Queenstown – because honestly you can’t get a better lakefront view mixed in with a hotel that’s just a little bit different and quirky (they have the best top-floor bar, art gallery and even martini stations in each room!) and it’s a seven-minute walk into the heart of Queenstown so you don’t have to worry about parallel parking your fancy loan car (clearly I’m not talking about me). PLUS, their breakfast buffet is the best in the country. Prove me wrong.

And for our second part of the roadie, we decided to head off grid (literally, we had NO cell reception) and duck into a Canopy Camping hut in Kurow, complete with a little swimming hole, outdoor bath and the best stargazing you could ever want. If you need some reconnection time with your partner, or you just want to mute your ever-beeping phone notifications, I can highly recommend it – we go on at least one or two of these a year and you can’t beat it (just take one more bottle of red than you think you need!).

This story has been produced with the support of our partner Toyota. Every click, like, share and comment supports Capsule’s work and our commitment to keeping our content free. Thank you for supporting independent, female-owned media.

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