South Island Honeymoon Itinerary

South Island Sensations Honeymoon Package Itinerary

If you’re looking at spending your honeymoon in New Zealand and are looking for special places to go, the South Island has you spoilt for choice.

But if you’re also wondering what an ideal South Island honeymoon itinerary might look like, then look no further – we’ve got you covered!

Lauren & Phil on honeymoon West Coast South Island

Whether it’s an unforgettable, adrenaline-fuelled experience to share together, or simply a quiet, cozy romantic hideaway beneath the stars or in the wilderness you’re looking for, the South Island of New Zealand is littered with incredible honeymoon possibilities.

There is certainly no shortage of options or ideas, and couples choose to combine different destinations and experiences depending on their tastes and desires. But just to get you started, here is an example of what a perfect New Zealand honeymoon itinerary might look like:

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch – 1 night

The perfect New Zealand honeymoon should start with the perfect opening – and it’s hard to find a more romantic start than flying straight over the stunning Southern Alps into New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch.

In case you hadn’t already left all your worries behind you, you definitely can now. After being met at the airport and transported comfortably to your city accommodation, take advantage of the “Garden City’s” romantic, small-town charm as you settle in. 

Depending on your own particular way of “getting into the mood” on your honeymoon, Christchurch offers several different ways of seeing the city through a romantic lens on your first night:

You can take a private punting tour down the gentle Avon river, passing by the city’s most iconic Edwardian buildings, picturesque Botanic Gardens, and the buzzing post-earthquake revamp of the inner-city up close. Or, share a breathtaking panoramic view over the city and its stunning surrounding landscapes from inside a cozy, private cabin suspended 500 meters in the air on the Christchurch Gondola. This lets you take in the stunning sights of the snowy Southern Alps, expansive Canterbury Plains, undulating Banks Peninsula, pristine Lake Ellesmere, and rugged Pacific Ocean and Kaikōura Ranges all in one go.

Not a bad way to start, eh?

A romantic dinner and leisurely long evening is an idyllic way to finish the first day of your South Island honeymoon. But if you want to set a bit of your first night aside for a decent sleep and early start on Day 2 instead, then the rewards could be immediately evident: wake up early and take advantage of unforgettable 300km (186 mile) views over the full expanse of the Southern Alps and Canterbury Plains from a hot air balloon, topped off by a celebratory glass of champagne after landing in a local farmer’s field! 

Where to stay in Christchurch – The George Hotel

Only a stone’s throw from the city’s cultural precinct and overlooking beautiful Hagley Park and the River Avon, the George Hotel is a slice of boutique luxury in the heart of Christchurch. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, and they provide a bespoke, personalized stay catered to the particular preferences and tastes you are wanting for your honeymoon.

Day 2 - 3: Drive to Aoraki Mount Cook – 2 nights

Approximate Distance: 311 km | 193 mi  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 

The drive from Christchurch to Mount Cook could constitute an unforgettable New Zealand honeymoon itinerary in itself. 

This journey takes you through exquisite sub-alpine landscapes and charming rural towns, like Geraldine and Fairlie, which offer everything from quirky vintage shops to some of New Zealand’s best pies at the uber-popular Fairlie Bakehouse. You will also pass several jaw-dropping photo stops – none more impressive than the greystone Church of the Good Shepherd, perched on the rocky shores of Lake Tekapo and its impossibly glacial-blue waters, or the reflection of Australasia’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook, bouncing up into a sea-blue sky off of majestic Lake Pukaki.

Feel free to take your time on the drive, since there’s so much to see and enjoy. Once you arrive at the foot of Aoraki (meaning “Cloud-Piercer”), though, the Honeymoon Highlight Reel really starts running...

Spend the afternoon on a scenic Mount Cook Helicopter flight, which is the best way to take in this incredible landscape in its full beauty and glory. The area of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is part of UNESCO's Te Wāhipounamu (The Place of Greenstone) World Heritage region, and it takes in over 150 mountain peaks, hundreds of glaciers and dozens of mountain lakes and ranges. It’s hard to ask for a more romantic backdrop.

Where to stay in Mount Cook – The Hermitage Hotel

A grandiose and historic 19th-century alpine hotel, the Hermitage has hosted some of the world’s finest mountaineers since even before the days of Sir Edmund Hillary training for his world-first Mt. Everest ascent. Given the seclusion of Mount Cook Village and incredible, uninhabited mountain panoramas, the location is surely a major highlight for honeymooners. However, the Hermitage also does everything to offer all kinds of honeymoon comforts and services, thought anywhere from the full-pamper Premium Plus Suite to the cozy Motel Studio is an idyllic spot to cuddle up together.

Room with a view at the Hermitage Mount Cook

Day 3: Mount Cook – Take on the Hooker Valley Walk

5 Hours Walking, Distance 11 km (6.8 mi)

After waking up to the stunning alpine views of Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, take the next step by getting out there and getting amongst the landscape. 

The popular Hooker Valley Guided Hike is a great way to get up close and personal to New Zealand’s “Cloud-Piercer” and its UNESCO-protected mountain landscape. This stunning 11km (7 mile) hike passes over the gushing Hooker River (by swingbridge) and through flat, tundra-like landscapes to the beautiful Glacier Lake. Here, you can essentially touch icebergs bobbing in the foreground of Mount Cook’s southern face. In terms of romantic honeymoon lunch spots, you could do worse than sitting this close to the shadow of the highest mountain in Oceania.

Day 4 - 6: Drive to Queenstown – 3 nights

Approximate Distance: 241 km | 150 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 

You can choose to spend the morning exploring more of Mount Cook National Park and its many other walking trails, or simply relaxing and enjoying the alpine views over a leisurely brunch. Or your can get on the road to allow for a more leisurely drive over the stunning scenery and changing landscapes looming before you.

The drive from Mount Cook Village to Queenstown is like a kaleidoscope of South Island scenery, taking you on a journey from remote mountain ranges and pristine mirror lakes to rugged rocky gorges, lush forests, and expansive green farmland to the world-famous town of Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

Here, you can rest your hiking muscles and enjoy incredible mountain views across the Shotover River from the comfort of a private, secluded hot tub and spa at Onsen Hot Pools. With each private onsen having its own walled-off privacy and unique panorama, it’s an easy inclusion for any Queenstown honeymoon itinerary.

Onsen Hot Pools romantic setting

Where to Stay in Queenstown – Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel

Nestled into peaceful parkland but also handily close to the humming heart of New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel is a 5-star honeymoon haven blending sleek, stylish contemporary design with first-rate service and facilities. You can choose to cut off completely from the world and have your own in-house kitchen, or take advantage of gourmet offerings at their on-site cafe and restaurant.

Day 5: Milford Sound Scenic Flight and Boat Cruise

You can really make the most of all worlds today: wake up overlooking gorgeous Lake Wakatipu, then fly over the rugged Remarkables mountains and southern ranges towards the otherworldly fiord landscapes of Milford Sound. Enjoy a boat cruise through its vertical tree-lined rock faces towards iconic Mitre Peak, then jump in a helicopter and be whisked off to a remote glacier landing with sensational sunset views, before returning to Queenstown full of fabulous memories and photographs.

Milford romance

Day 6: Central Otago Wine Tour

A romantic Queenstown honeymoon itinerary wouldn’t be complete without making the most of sampling the area’s world-class wine. 

Head up the picturesque Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn wine regions, where an expert local guide can walk you through the different varietals and the wine region’s intriguing history. Visit New Zealand’s largest wine cave, maybe select a few bottles for a candlelit dinner later on, and then see the Kawarau suspension bridge (home to the world’s first-ever commercial bungy jump) and filming location of the River Anduin in The Lord of the Rings, on the Kawarau River, on your way back to Queenstown.

Bike the wineries

Day 7 - 8: Drive to Wānaka – 2 nights

Approximate Distance: 111 km | 70 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hours 20 mins

After a leisurely breakfast (either in-house at the hotel or out at one of Queenstown’s many brilliant brunch spots), make the short but scenic drive to the sleepy nearby town of Wānaka.

Although this isn’t a long drive, you won’t want to rush through it today, because there’s plenty of beautiful scenery and stops to take in. The road from Queenstown to Wānaka crosses the rugged Crown Range (the highest public road in New Zealand), then drifts through the golden, tussock-lined Cardrona Valley, home to an iconic 19th-century pub and hotel that showcases the region’s 1860’s gold-mining heritage. 

You might want to take a short detour to Arrowtown, the picture-perfect gold-mining town famous for its autumn foliage, historic buildings, quirky local cinema, and nationally famous bakery. You can spend the afternoon relaxing on the shores of Lake Wānaka or enjoying the spectacular fishing, kayaking, sailing, skiing or “flightseeing” opportunities that the area offers.  

Where to stay in Wānaka –  Tin Tub Luxury Lodge

Perched on a hill overlooking the lake and surrounded by gardens, Tin Tub offers an idyllic location just a few minutes from Wānaka township. With its solar-heated swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, roaring open fire, and even a drying room for wet or snowy gear, it provides perfect honeymoon comforts no matter what time of year you plan on coming.

Day 8: Waterfall Climb Lake Wānaka

After enjoying the laid-back morning vibes of Wānaka, enjoy an amazing experience that gets you into the heart of Central Otago’s rugged landscapes. 

An absolute must for any honeymooners looking to combine romance with a bit of thrill and adventure on their honeymoon, the Wild Thing Waterfall Climb starts with a scenic drive to the base of the Twin Falls Waterfall, from where an experienced guide leads you on a half-day walk and climb through the rocky landscape. 

Three suspension bridges and a via ferrata cable route (built for transporting troops during WWI) allow access to an otherwise remote and inaccessible area, and a picturesque trail on the way back ensures that you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take in the stunning surroundings, instead of focusing on keeping your grip. No climbing experience is required. And romantic hand-holding is encouraged.   

waterfall wire walk at Wanaka

Day 9 - 10: Drive to Franz Josef Glacier – 2 nights

Approximate Distance: 285 km | 177 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 36 mins

Leaving Wānaka behind with one last lakefront coffee, drive 10 miles northeast over the Hāwea Flat to make a short stop at Lake Hāwea. This is (yet) another stunning sub-alpine lake with a reputation for attracting plenty of cool, creative types to its secluded shores. 

Although barely 3 and half hours, the drive from Wānaka to Franz Josef is one that feels like it’s transporting you through different worlds: the rugged alps and mountain passes of Central Otago peel away to ancient rainforests and the wild, windswept beaches and gushing rivers of the West Coast, before trailing back towards the heart of New Zealand’s “Glacier Country” at the village of Franz Josef: gateway to the Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

This diverse landscape has been scraped and carved out by glaciers over the millennia, with rocky valleys and cascading waterfalls interspersed with lush woodlands and the imposing sights of the glacier faces themselves. After settling in at Franz Josef village, make the most of this landscape with anything from a walk through the forest to a romantic horseback ride or kayak on photogenic Okarito Lagoon. In the evening, relax at the Glacier Hot Pools, or simply soak up the surroundings with a glass of wine on the balcony.

Where to stay in Franz Josef – Rainforest Retreat

Huddled among 6 acres of pristine native forest with precipitous mountains overhead, Rainforest Retreat encapsulates everything about the surrounding landscape in a peaceful, secluded location. It is still handily close to the center of Franz Josef village, and it offers a full range of accommodation options – from a simple motel room to Tree House cabins and deluxe Tree Lodges, boasting a private hot tub and a private balcony leading directly onto the forest canopy. Not bad for a love nest.

Day 10: Franz Josef Glacier Heli-Hike

This is bound to be a highlight on any South Island itinerary – honeymoon or otherwise. Begin with a thrilling scenic helicopter flight, which takes you high above the rugged glacial terrain to see the entire region in all its awe-inspiring splendor. After landing on the glacier (and maybe posing for a “wedding thank-you card” photo or two), your expert guide will lead you on a 3-hour hike through the incredible glacial landscape. 

Just like no two couples are the same, no two glacier walks are exactly the same here. Instead, your guide will pick out a route along the way, since constantly occurring natural changes to this landscape mean that eye-catching ice formations and accessibility to different areas are changing all the time. What we can guarantee is that there’ll be no shortage of towering ice towers, cave-like crevices, and stunning, crystal-blue ice formations to explore.


Day 11 - 12: Drive to Greymouth and TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch – 1 night

Approximate Distance: 173 km | 107 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 18 mins

Whether this counts as “saving the best til last” on a South Island honeymoon or not depends greatly on who you ask: if you ask a couple who love trains, then finishing with what is constantly included on lists of the World’s Greatest Train Journeys is hard to beat.

Still, you don’t have to know or like trains particularly well to be blown away by this experience. 

Start the day off with a gorgeous drive along the rugged coastline to the funky town of Hokitika, known for its spectacular pounamu (greenstone) jewelry and oversized food servings (thank the famous hospitality of the local “Coasters”). Continue on to Greymouth, return the rental car, and then board the TranzAlpine Train – a simply spectacular 5-hour journey, cutting straight through the ‘Great Divide’ of the Southern Alps, to Christchurch on the East Coast. 

It’s a designated scenic train, built for comfort and ability to take in the sights. So viewing platforms and high-glass windows provide every opportunity to take in an ever-changing landscape of rainforest, mountains, narrow gorges, gaping valleys, semi-arid plains, racing rivers, and other breathtaking landscapes traversed via a network of viaducts, bridges and tunnels. 

The picturesque journey is a popular choice for proposals. So it seems quite a fitting way to end a romantic South Island honeymoon itinerary!

Day 12: Departure from Christchurch

Having spent another night and morning enjoying the Garden City, be driven to Christchurch International Airport, at your own leisure, to catch either a homeward-bound flight or an onward transfer to continue your New Zealand honeymoon adventure!

Do you like the sound of this South Island honeymoon itinerary? Click here to find out more. You can also see a number of other South Island and New Zealand honeymoon itineraries on First Light Travel.

If you’re ready to start planning your bespoke New Zealand honeymoon, you can message FLT’s New Zealand honeymoon experts directly


David Mckenzie
David Mckenzie
: 8 Nov 2023 (Last updated: 14 Dec 2023)

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