NEW ZEALAND ESSENTIAL SOUTH ISLAND
SELF-DRIVE

Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, Arthur’s Pass

Overview

TOUR CODE: NZSISD

Trip Type: Semi-Independent Journey

Journey through New Zealand’s stunning south island on this incredible nine-day Self-Drive tour. Begin in bustling Christchurch, admiring the resilient city and its immense natural beauty. Drive through the stunning countryside and rolling hills before arriving at Lake Tekapo with its views of Mount Cook and venturing onto relaxing Lake Wanaka. Journey through historic Arrowtown and onto the adventure capital of Queenstown, with its amazing views, fascinating wildlife, and many adventure activities on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. It is an excellent base for exploring the magical Milford Sound Fjord, as well as the jaw-dropping Fox Glacier. After taking in these incredible views, journey back to Christchurch via the spectacular Arthur’s Pass, where the tour concludes.

What’s Included

  • 1 night in a Premium room at The George Hotel Christchurch
  • 1 night in a Suite at Ranginui B&B Tekapo
  • 1 night in a Linden Suite at Lime Tree Lodge Wanaka
  • 3 nights in a One-bedroom Lake View Apartment at The Rees Queenstown
  • 2 nights in a Deluxe room at Te Waonui Forest Retreat Franz Josef
  • A medium-sized SUV or similar for seven days from Christchurch to Christchurch, including unlimited mileage, standard excess insurance
  • 8 breakfasts and 1 lunch
  • One-way arrival private transfer from airport to hotel in Auckland
  • Entrance fees and sightseeing tours on a shared basis as specified in the itinerary
  • Hotel taxes and GST

Itinerary

DAY 01

ARRIVE CHRISTCHURCH

Upon arrival at Christchurch Airport, meet our local representative for a city orientation tour and transfer in a luxury vehicle to your selected Christchurch City hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore the ‘Garden City’ as Christchurch is known.

DAY 02

CHRISTCHURCH/LAKE TEKAPO (B)

After breakfast, pick up your rental car from a nearby station.

Today you will experience one of the most scenic drives one can take in New Zealand. Leave Christchurch on the “Scenic Inland Route” on State Highway 73 & 77 via Waddington to Windwhistle. Here you travel through rich pastures of the crop, dairy, and sheep farming land – the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains. After Windwhistle, cross the Rakaia River and through the scenic Rakaia Gorge. Make sure to stop for a coffee or lunch in quaint Geraldine with its art and craft shops and home to one of New Zealand’s best cheeseries. Continue on State Highway 79 towards Fairlie. After Fairlie, turn right onto State Highway 8 in the direction of Lake Tekapo. From here, the landscape changes as you ascend towards Mackenzie High Country, home to some of the most evocative hill countries in the world. The Mackenzie High Country is different from any other region in New Zealand. Unique weather patterns dry out the soil and grasslands, creating their desert-like landscape. This is a unique and mystical place of outstanding natural beauty, breathtaking backcountry wilderness, surrounded by the majestic Southern Alps. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure in Tekapo.

DAY 03

LAKE TEKAPO/WANAKA (B)

From the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo, follow State Highway 8 towards Queenstown & Wanaka. You will soon spot the distinctive milky blue waters of Lake Pukaki. Sir Peter Jackson chose this part of the Southern Alps as the setting for ‘Lake Town’ in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ and a backdrop for major location scenes in all Lord of the Rings Hobbit movies. Time permitting, turn off State Highway 8 just after the Visitor Center at Lake Pukaki onto State Highway 80 towards Mt Cook. Stop at “Peter’s lookout” for magnificent views of Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain at 12,217 feet. Return to State Highway 8 and turn right towards Queenstown. Stop at Omarama to visit the famous Omarama Clay Cliffs (private land, donations appreciated). These otherworldly formations are made up of layers of gravel and silt, initially formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. From Omarama, the road is ascending through the Lindis Valley towards Lindis Pass, one of four major alpine crossings in New Zealand. Descending on the other side, you arrive in Central Otago, and you will notice a change in scenery and vegetation. Central Otago is known for its vibrant sky colors, hot and dry summers, and cold winters. After the small historic settlement of Tarras, turn right onto State Highway 8A and travel along Clutha River. Rejoin State Highway 6 just before Wanaka Airport. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure in Wanaka.

DAY 04

WANAKA/QUEENSTOWN (B)

This morning, join a local expert guide and climb aboard a comfortable all-terrain 4WD vehicle and experience a taste of Wanaka’s spectacular lakeside scenery and insight into authentic farming life. West Wanaka Station (=high country farm) is a 30’000 acres property, otherwise not accessible to the public, and offers some of the finest scenery in New Zealand with a fascinating history, both human and natural. Enjoy the glorious views of the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mount Aspiring National Park and Lake Wanaka. You can feed alpaca, sheep, and horses, see Red Deer Angus in their natural environment, and listen to your local guide’s storytelling.

In the afternoon, continue towards Queenstown (we recommend the scenic Crown Range Road, weather conditions permitting).

 

The Crown Range Road is a scenic alternative to State Highway 6, which runs from Wanaka through Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. Follow the road up to tiny Cardrona, 15.5 miles south of Wanaka, where gold was discovered in 1862, and today it is one of New Zealand’s prime skiing fields. From here, the road twists uphill through bald, mica-studded hills to the high tussock country of Central Otago. At the 3,530 feet pass, an excellent viewpoint overlooks Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu before switching towards State Highway 6 to Queenstown. Make sure you stop in Arrowtown, a beautifully restored historic town and easily the best-preserved of New Zealand’s Chinese communities, erected when gold was found in 1862.

 

The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure in Queenstown.

DAY 05

QUEENSTOWN/MILFORD SOUND/QUEENSTOWN (B/PL)

Your luxury coach will pick you up from your central Queenstown hotel early in the morning. View evolving landscapes, from windswept alpine plains and turquoise lakes to vast mountain peaks and lovely lakeside towns. Highlight stops include Lake Te Anau, Eglinton Valley, Lake Marian, and Mirror Lakes before traversing the Homer Tunnel. In Milford Sound, you take to the water for a 1.45-hour boat cruise to marvel at towering cliffs and peaks, including the iconic Mitre Peak. Get close to waterfalls and vibrant rainforests and keep an eye out for wildlife, including fur seals, dolphins, and yellow-crested penguins. We have chosen one of the smaller and family-run vessels for you to maximize your experience in this truly stunning part of New Zealand. Weather permitting, you have the option to fly back to Queenstown by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft and take in the grandeur of this unique landscape from above (cost on request). Return to Queenstown around 6:00 pm.

DAY 06

QUEENSTOWN (B)

Today is a free day at leisure in Queenstown. Optional recommended activities are available.

DAY 07

QUEENSTOWN/FRANZ JOSEF (B)

Following State Highway, you will soon enter Gibbston Valley, known for some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. From here, you pass through the scenic and narrow Kawarau Gorge before arriving in historic Cromwell. We continue on State Highway 6 until just before you reach Wanaka. Turn right and follow State Highway 6 in the ‘West Coast’ direction. Your next pass is “The Neck,” a formation of land that separates two of New Zealand’s great South Lakes, Lake Hawea on your right and Lake Wanaka on your left. North of Makarora is the World Heritage list Mount Aspiring National Park. Experience the Blue Pools Walk, a world-renowned 30-minute loop-walk through native silver fern to a series of crystal-clear pools carved out of rocks by centuries of erosion. From here, proceed towards Haast, where you reach the South Island’s wild and remote West Coast. Haast is one of the most remote settlements in New Zealand, with a population of just 84. The road leads through the thick native rainforest and rich dairy pastures, passing several scenic bridges over alpine rivers before reaching Knights Point lookout, offering spending views over the Tasman Sea. Next up is Bruce Bay, with stunning views over the empty beaches and the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, an ideal spot to stretch your legs for a short stroll. From Bruce Bay, the road reaches inland, and you soon arrive in Glacier Country. Enjoy the evening at leisure in Franz Josef.

DAY 08

FRANZ JOSEF (B)

After breakfast, board your helicopter, and adrenaline levels start to spike as you fly over the jaw-dropping landscape – an opportunity to take in the full panoramic majesty of some of New Zealand’s highest mountain peaks. After landing on the glacial ice, your highly trained mountain guide will find the safest and most spectacular route available on the glacier. Because the glacier is so fast-moving, its features are constantly changing – you might find yourself sliding through a narrow crevasse or between towering walls of ice, crawling through blue ice tunnels, hanging out in the ice caves, or witnessing the glacier calving. During your hike, your guide will share with you the story of Ka Roimata and Hine Hukatere, their knowledge of the glacier and surrounding area, and insight into what makes Franz Josef Glacier unique. A short scenic helicopter flight will bring back to the helipad. An average fitness level for all participants is required. No Mountain climbing experience is required. Hiking equipment will be provided. The total duration is about three hours, with 2.5 hours on the glacier. Admission to public hot pools after your tour is included. The remainder of the day is free at leisure in Franz Josef.

DAY 09

FRANZ JOSEF/CHRISTCHURCH (B)

Following State Highway 6 north towards Greymouth, you will pass idyllic small lakes like Lake Wahapa and Lake Mapourika. From here, you are now leaving Glacier Country. Here the scenery changes to rich dairy pasture farms and a series of small settlements – Ross, Pukekura, and Harihari. Cross the Arahua River, the birthplace of the precious New Zealand jade, which early Māori settlers were searching long before the gold rush came to the West Coast. Continue your journey towards Hokitika up the rugged and wild West Coast. Hokitika is an old gold mining settlement. Today, New Zealand’s center for jade trade and carving (New Zealand Green Stone or Pounamu in Māori) and a decent selection of handicraft shops and restaurants is the ideal place for a lunch stop.

Time permitting, we recommend a short detour to Hokitika Gorge, famous for its magnificent green and blue waters and a recently upgraded 40 minutes loop track. Time permitting, we recommend a short detour via idyllic Lake Brunner before heading east towards Christchurch. Soon the landscape changes from the lush greens of the West Coast’s rainforests to dry high-country bush as you ascend towards Arthurs Pass. Just before reaching the peak, the road climbs steeply across the Otira Viaduct, a vast concrete gash completed in 1990 to span the tumbling river below. Side streams carry so much water that one is diverted over the roadway in a kind of artificial waterfall and a small lookout provides the best views. At 2,953 feet above sea level, Arthurs Pass is the most dramatic of the three Southern Alps crossings linking Christchurch with the South Island’s West Coast. Before Castle Hill, the road starts to slowly descend with gentle turns before you arrive in the Canterbury region, where you travel through rich pastures of the crop, dairy, and sheep farming land. Travel through the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains with long stretches of entirely straight and primarily quiet roads before you reach Christchurch. Return your rental car at Christchurch Airport before boarding your flight to your onward destination.

Meals: B= Breakfast        L=Lunch      D=Dinner

Contact us at (800) 988-4833 or Email us to Book this Trip NOW!

Dates & Prices

Per person, based on double occupancy

    2022Land Only
    Oct 01 - Dec 10$3,999
    2023
    Jan 08 - Mar 31$3,999
    Prices listed are per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. This is a land-only package without airfare. Tour prices include hotel taxes and service charges. The package includes a medium-size rental car (Tokyo Rav 4 or similar) from Christchurch to Christchurch, unlimited mileage, standard excess insurance (optional zero excess insurance available at extra cost), GPS optional at extra cost. (LO/030222/C-10)

    Click on Terms & Conditions for important information.

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