NEW ZEALAND COMPLETE SOUTH ISLAND
SELF DRIVE

Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Dunedin, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, Punakaiki, Abel Tasman, Marlborough, Kaikoura

Overview

TOUR CODE: NZSIDG

Trip Type: Semi-Independent Journey

Journey through New Zealand’s stunning south island on this incredible six-day 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. See the unique wildlife and visit the Royal Albatross in Dunedin before driving 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, drive on the world’s most scenic coastal highway to Punakaiki, where we will see beautiful limestone formations formed 30 million years ago. From Punakaiki, we continue our drive to Abel Tasman National Park, known for its stunning landscapes. Head towards Motueka to Marlborough for the world-famous Sauvignon Blanc, fresh seafood, and diverse landscapes. We drive through endless rows of vines from Marlborough to Kaikoura for a memorable marine mammal encounter. Journey back to Christchurch via Kaikoura, where the tour concludes.

What’s Included

  • 2 nights in a Premium room at the George Hotel Christchurch
  • 1 night in a Suite room at Ranginui B&B Tekapo
  • 2 nights in a Luxury room at Fable Hotel Dunedin
  • 3 nights in a One-bedroom Lake View at The Rees Queenstown
  • 2 nights in a Deluxe room at Te Waonui Forest Retreat
  • 1 night in an Eco Suite at Punakaiki Resort
  • 2 nights in a Standard Plus room at Awaroa Lodge Abel Tasman
  • 2 nights in an outdoor Bath Suite at Marlborough Vintners Hotel
  • 1 night in a Deluxe room at Sudima Kaikoura Hotel
  • Daily breakfast
  • Arrival private transfer in Christchurch
  • Entrance fees and sightseeing tours based 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

AKAROA & BANK PENINSULA (B/L)

Today’s tour to Akaroa, the only settlement attempted by the French in New Zealand, passes through the beautiful landscapes of the Banks Peninsula. This region was formed following violent eruptions of volcanos over 6 million years ago, and the picturesque town of Akaroa sits in an ancient volcano crater. You will travel to Akaroa over the beautiful Banks Peninsula on a high summit route which gives glorious views of farmlands, the Canterbury Plains, and the distant Southern Alps, as well as remote bays indenting the coastline. Boats depart for a Nature Cruise on the harbor from the main wharf in Akaroa. See Hector Dolphins, little blue penguins, fur seals, and local birdlife. Learn more about the local history from your boat skipper and be awed by the volcanic cliffs that act as sentinels to the harbor entrance. You will have an opportunity to wander around the charming 175-year-old French harborside village of Akaroa with its museum of settler’s history, art and craft shops, and studios before enjoying lunch at an award-winning café. Stops along the way will include time and weather permitting, Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory, Little River Art Gallery, and Birdling’s Flat.

DAY 03

CHRISTCHURCH/LAKE TEKAPO (B)

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

Today you will experience one of the most scenic days 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 04

LAKE TEKAPO/DUNEDIN (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, turn onto State Highway 83 towards Oamaru and Dunedin. This less-traveled road follows the Waitaki River and past small lakes. The small town of Otemata is a kiwi holiday favorite, famous for its stunning lakeside location and spectacular landscapes. Next is Kurow, the Waitaki Valley wine region specializing in cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Riesling. After another 45 minutes, you reach the seaside town of Oamaru, home to New Zealand’s oldest public gardens and renowned Victorian architecture. From Oamaru, follow State Highway 1 south towards Dunedin. Stop at the picturesque and magical Moeraki Boulders, mysteriously spherical stones scattered across the beach. Each boulder weighs several tons and is up to 6.5 feet high. Scientists explain the boulders as calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. Māori legend has it that the boulders are gourds washed from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand several hundred years ago.

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

DAY 05

DUNEDIN & OTAGO PENINSULA (B)

The Otago Peninsula is home to rare and unique wildlife, including the Royal Albatross, the only place in the world on the mainland where you can view these majestic birds in their natural habitat. This full-day tour takes you on scenic drives across the Peninsula before you stop high on the hills for a self-guided tour at Castle Larnach, New Zealand’s only castle and a much-loved piece of history. Next, join a special one-hour tour at the Royal Albatross Center, where you can watch these giant birds soar on 10 feet wingspans and interact around their nests. Following these majestic birds, you will enjoy a 90-minute guided tour at the Penguin Place Conservation Centre, where you have the chance to see the rare yellow-eyed penguins and their nesting sites in their natural environment. Your wildlife day ends with a scenic cruise, where you learn more about albatross, fur seals, and other wildlife while your skipper expertly navigates the vessel around the spectacular Taiaroa Head. Enjoy uninterrupted views and, with some luck, spot sea lions or dolphins. Return to Dunedin in the late afternoon by boat.

DAY 06

DUNEDIN/QUEENSTOWN (B)

Follow State Highway 1 and 8 towards Gabriel’s Gully, near Lawrence. In the late 1860s, when the Otago gold rush was in full swing, gold miners from Europe, China, and Australia flooded this land. At Gabriel’s Gully, visit the old mine site and try panning for a piece of Central Otago Gold! Continue through Alexandra and take in the rocky landscape before you arrive in Cromwell, where you can visit the town’s historic precinct on the shores of Lake Dunstan. Central Otago’s brisk cold winters and hot, dry summers have helped create the unique Central Otago terrain which produces internationally acclaimed wines. Stop by one of the many vineyards around Cromwell and Bannockburn before continuing through the Gibbston Valley before you reach Queenstown.

Time permitting, we recommend a quick off from the main road and visit the charming heritage town of Arrowtown. Explore the Chinese miner’s settlement by the Arrow River and find a friendly café to soak up the surroundings.

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

DAY 07

DOUBTFUL SOUND (B)

After an early breakfast, your luxury coach will pick you up from your Queenstown hotel early in the morning. View evolving landscapes, from windswept alpine plains and turquoise lakes to vast mountain peaks and lovely lakeside towns. At Manapouri, just south of Te Anau, you start a cruise across Lake Manapouri, followed by another coach trip over the epic Wilmot Pass through Fiordland’s rainforest into the Sound. Here you will board a purpose-built vessel for a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound, a spectacular pristine fiord. The varied wildlife includes dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland crested penguins. During the cruise, knowledgeable and friendly guides will share with you their passion for the region. Return to Queenstown by cruise and coach around 7 pm.

DAY 08

QUEENSTOWN (B)

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

DAY 09

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.

 

The evening is free at your leisure in Franz Josef.

DAY 10

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 11

FRANZ JOSEF/PUNAKAIKI (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. From the West Coast’s main town, Greymouth, it is a mere 45 minutes until Punakaiki. Arguably one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, State Highway 6 offers stunning lookouts over the Tasman Sea, notably from Point Elizabeth lookout and Motukiekie Beach. Upon arrival in Punakaiki, enjoy a leisurely 30-minute walkout to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, beautiful limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago. The well-formed walkway is a loop track that winds from the main road, through the native rainforest, and out to the spectacular rugged coastline. This evening is free at leisure in Punakaiki.

DAY 12

PUNAKAIKI/ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK (B)

Drive on the highly scenic State Highway 6 towards Westport, a small coastal town on the banks of the Buller River. Gold mining initially gave Westport life, but now Coal mining keeps the settlement alive. The coal mining museum provides you with a feel for what it’s like to work underground. From Westport, proceed towards Nelson. You pass through the Buller Gorge, home to the Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure and Heritage Park, and a good stop for lunch. Time permitting, we recommend a 2hrs detour on State Highway 63 to the picturesque town of St. Arnaud, next to Lake Rotoiti, deep within the Nelson Lakes National Park, and a kiwi holiday favorite during summer. We arrive at Abel Tasman National Park in the late afternoon for a free evening.

DAY 13

ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK (B)

Enjoy a day at leisure in Abel Tasman National Park. Optional recommended activities are available.

DAY 14

ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK/MARLBOROUGH (B)

Head towards Motueka, from where we recommend taking the more scenic inland route on the Lower Moutere Road, leading you through fruit orchards and vines. Moutere is a quaint, small village and home to New Zealand’s oldest pub as well as many artisan producers of food and crafts – definitely worth the slight detour! From Moutere, head back to State Highway 60 right into Nelson. Nelson has some of New Zealand’s sunniest weather and an incredible selection of excellent cafés and boutiques, an ideal place to stretch your legs and have lunch. From Nelson, continue on State Highway 60 in the direction of Havelock and Picton. The road will soon gently climb towards the Whangamoa Saddle before you reach the historic town of Havelock – the Greenshell Mussel Capital of the world. Once a gold mining settlement, the town has many quaint colonial buildings that house boutique galleries and eating places today. State Highway 60 will bring you to Marlborough less than 30 minutes from Havelock. Rest of the afternoon at your leisure in Marlborough.

DAY 15

MARLBOROUGH (B)

Today you join a small, expert-guided “Taste of Marlborough” tour. This is an ideal full-day tour for anyone who loves great wine and wants to learn more about the region, the wineries, the wines, and the people who create them. You will get a “Taste of Marlborough” through a select number of boutique and iconic wineries, a group of wineries selected for their history, fabulous service, and stunning range of wines. They are also a group of wineries where you will meet great people who know wine and love sharing their passion for wine. Wineries regularly included in the tour are Forrest Estate, Cloudy Bay, and Fromm.

DAY 16

MARLBOROUGH/KAIKOURA (B)

Leaving Marlborough on State Highway 1 towards Kaikōura and Christchurch, the road passes through seemingly endless rows of vines. Time permitting, pause at Lake Grassmere, a coastal lake with large pink ponds and mounds that sparkle white against the light-brown, hillside pastures and is New Zealand’s only locally produced food-grade sea salt offers a great lookout just off State Highway 1. From here, you pass through a quintessentially rural New Zealand scenery with only small towns along the way. After crossing the Waima River, State Highway 1 becomes a highly scenic coastal road to Kaikoura. Stop at Ohau Point lookout for great views over the Pacific, and with some luck, you can spot resident New Zealand Fur Seals. Rest of the afternoon at your leisure in Kaikōura.

DAY 17

KAIKŌURA/CHRISTCHURCH (B)

This morning, join the last highlight before you leave New Zealand! Embark on a whale-watching cruise offers you an exciting up-close encounter with the world’s largest toothed predator, the Giant Sperm Whale, in their natural environment at all times of the year. The main focus of your tour is to locate and view the Giant Sperm Whale. The average is between 1-2 whale sightings per tour due to the length of the time whales can stay submerged. Around 80% of the world’s whale and dolphin species migrate past the coastline of Kaikoura; hence, there is the opportunity for other marine mammals to be sighted, such as Blue, Humpback, Orca, or Orca Bottlenose dolphins. Whale Watch Kaikōura is considered New Zealand’s ultimate marine life experience.

 

Leaving Kaikōura on State Highway 1, the road perched between the cliffs and the ocean. This part of the road was completely damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes and has been closed for 13 months, cutting the lifeline of the South Island and main arterial route between Christchurch and Picton. Continue south towards Christchurch. You arrive in Waipara wine country. The Waipara is a small boutique wine-growing region and home to 90+ wineries, most of them independently owned by local families. Head south and cross the mighty Waimakariri River at Kainga. From here, you will travel through rich pastures of the crop, dairy, and sheep farming land – the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury plains before you arrive in Christchurch. Return your rental car at Christchurch Airport before boarding your flight home.

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$6,899
    2023
    Jan 08 - Mar 31$6,899
    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, and standard excess insurance (optional zero excess insurance available at extra cost). GPS optional at extra cost. (LO/030422/C-10)

    Click on Terms & Conditions for important information.

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