Road Trip Guide to Driving New Zealand-Day 1 Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

On an unseasonably cool December day we arrived in Christchurch to begin what was to be a very actioned charged twelve day itinerary. The four hour direct flight from Melbourne to Christchurch was our family’s first overseas trip all together, making the moment more exciting than any other trip to date.


Arriving in Christchurch airport, we made our way towards the many car rental companies located within the terminal. Influenced by the positive reviews I’d read, and impressed with the professionalism during the planning process, I pre-booked our hire car with Touchdown Car Rentals, prior to arriving in NZ.  Touchdown Rentals work in conjunction with The Commodore Hotel Christchurch, which offers a 24/7 hotel shuttle bus service. The mini bus collects you from the airport within moments of arrival, transporting you to the Commodore Hotel car park where your  hired car is ready and waiting. I preferred this as it meant there was no surcharge for an out of business hours pick up or drop off, (many other car hire companies charge these additional costs as they are not a 24/7 business), ideal if your flight is extra early or late at night.  

Within a few minutes the private shuttle bus had arrived at the Commodore Hotel, our Subaru was ours (ready and waiting with a tank full of petrol), and complete with GPS. Just bear in mind, like Australia, in New Zealand you drive on the left. 

For ease of planning I think it pertinent to mention that the cost of petrol in NZ is astoundingly expensive and costs approximately $2 NZ per litre. The roads are in fabulous condition, which makes a driving/road trip holiday ideal. To assist with planning I’ll write a separate post on “tips for a smoother  NZ road trip holiday” which will include budgets, equipment , weather advice/clothing etc, but for now,  let’s explore New Zealand’s South Island as we journey towards Lake Tekapo for the night. 


Driving  along State Highway 1, from Christchurch towards Rangitata ensured for the most scenic and shortest route. From there we took State Highway 79, passing through Geraldine and Fairlie to get onto State Highway 8 towards our destination, the beautiful Lake Tekapo.

Within approximately 90 minutes of the journey, the scenery will gradually change, intensifying in beauty. If you wish to continue on through Lake Tekapo and head towards the idyllic lakefront town of Wanaka, the Lindis Pass and State Highway 8 route is the most picturesque driving option. Be warned, you will want to stop several times, the journey is breathtaking as the road winds through tussock grasslands, lupines along the roadside in Summer, (snow in Winter), and mountains all around.


Three hours from having left Christchurch we arrived in Lake Tekapo around 6pm. 

Check in at Peppers Bluewater Resort was effortless, and the unpretentious five star apartment style accommodation is a seamless tonal fusion with the surrounding environment and resort’s façade.  Having vetted the establishment on TripAdvisor prior to booking, I knew that reviews were widely mixed, and yet upon checkout 24hours later we were more than happy with our choice on all accounts. Service, cleanliness, proximity to the main Lake Tekapo attractions, were all ideal. A comprehensive guide and review to all our NZ accommodations will be available soon.


 (My kiddies stretching their legs upon arrival – the resort façade at rear of apartments) 

Once settled we drove just five minutes (yes we could have walked but the weather was turning), and made for the iconic Church of The Good Shepherd. This stone church, beautiful in it’s simplicity, was built in 1935 and attracts a crowd. Standing alone and slightly elevated, it is surrounded by pink and purple lupines that will send one into a paparazzi frenzy. Situated overlooking the turquoise waters of  Lake Tekapo,  you will begin to question what the hell took you so long to visit New Zealand. It truly is other worldly. 


We could have spent hours just walking, sitting and savouring the beauty, but as night began to fall, and the demands of what was to be a relentless itinerary in the days ahead, we made our way back to Peppers for room service and sleep. 


 The following morning time was of the essence, thankfully breakfast was served from 6:30am in the restaurant. A full buffet breakfast offered more than adequate provisions with several options available. Checking out at 8am we drove straight towards Mount Cook National Park. Lake Tekapo’s proximity to this National Park is ideal, and Hooker Valley Track is one walk that you definitely should not miss.  But more about that on day two’s (soon to be posted) itinerary as we drive towards Wanaka.

NB: This is not a sponsored post. All companies mentioned we paid for independently.  


Categories: Destinations, Miscellaneous, New Zealand, Travel Stories, Travel TipsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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