Home Adventures Getting around New Zealand’s South Island for those afraid to drive on the left side

Getting around New Zealand’s South Island for those afraid to drive on the left side

by Paulina Dao

My trip to New Zealand was my first ever international solo trip. Well, my first real big solo trip, ever. The idea of figuring out transport from destination to destination was really daunting. Really, really daunting. Normally I’d be okay with renting a car but factor in hours and hours of driving and the whole driving on the other side of the road thing and that idea died pretty quickly. I hate driving, except for the fact that I can sing along to my favorite country songs.

I considered hopping on the Kiwi Experience for a good period of time as it touched a little bit of everything I wanted to do. As I kept researching, my itinerary ended up diverging from the trip’s itinerary, and frankly, I like the outdoors more than I like being outgoing. After booking my huts for the Routeburn track, I said hell with it, I’ll figure out how to travel around the South Island without a car. To my surprise, it was surprisingly easy.



InterCity operated by Newmans Coach Lines is the way to go from big city to big city. This is slightly slower than hitching a ride with friends, but it’s a great, stress-free way to amble about the Southern Island. The bus drivers are full of information about the surrounding area. Buses stop every hour of half hour or so for bathroom breaks. Thirty minute lunch and snack breaks are included too.

Christchurch to Queenstown: $39
Wanaka to Fox Glacier: $43
Fox Glacier to Greymouth: $46

KiwiRail Scenic Journeys

The TranzAlpine train across the Southern Alps is a must do. Plus the Last Adventurer hasn’t done it; I had to one up him somehow on this trip. This railway traverses the Southern Alps giving you awe-inspiring and spectacular views of peaks and gorges and rivers. It can’t be described in words. Just do it.

Greymouth to Christchurch: $99

Day 3 Routeburn Track Lake Mackenzie to Divide Shelter


TrackNet is the transportation answer to all of your tramping in and around Fiordland dreams. Use TrackNet to get to/from destinations like the Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Milford Sound and more. The drivers are incredibly friendly, incredibly knowledgeable, and customer service-oriented.

Queenstown to Routeburn Shelter: $47
Divide Hut to Milford Sound: $35
Milford Sound to Queenstown: $90

Alpine Connexions

Alpine Connexions is the way to go from Queenstown to Wanaka. From Wanaka, they offer shuttles to prime destinations like Mount Roy, Mt. Aspiring National Park, and other track/tramping destinations. Don’t expect an enormous bus; it’s an intimate van affair.

Queenstown to Wanaka: $35

Fox Tours and Shuttles

I found myself slightly stranded in Fox Glacier after my Extreme Fox: Heli Hike was canceled. Fox Tours and Shuttles operates a little shuttle between Lake Matheson and Gillespie Beach. I think this operation might just be an old man with a van. For parties of one, you can catch the shuttle to Lake Matheson. Gillespie Beach requires more people as the old man was very adamant on not taking one person there. It’s approximately a 30 minute drive each way, though he kept insisting it was an hour and that he would end up driving for four hours. Who knows. If your party is greater than one, you have more options!

To schedule a pickup, give them a call at 0800 369 287.

Fox Shuttle to Lake Matheson: $10 return

In the future, I’ll definitely end up renting a car. For the obsessive planner in me and for my own sanity, it makes it so much easier and gives you so much more freedom in smaller towns and cities.

Last updated on December 4, 2017.

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