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9 Day Southern Explorer

8 nights, Queenstown to Queenstown

9 Day Southern Explorer

Starting and finishing in Queenstown this tour begins with a journey to the world famous Mt. Cook National Park, where Sir Edmund Hillary prepared to conquer Everest.  You then continue onto the evolving city of Christchurch, where you'll have a day to explore this remarkable city.  From Christchurch take the spectacular Tranz Alpine Scenic Train to Greymouth. The West Coast Glaciers are next and two nights allow time to enjoy one of the many guided walk options or scenic flights. Then back to Queenstown where you'll have time to relax or enjoy the countless activities on offer here.

Tour map

Included in this New Zealand self drive holiday

  • This New Zealand holiday starts at price per person (see details)
  • 9 days / 8 nights from Queenstown to Queenstown
  • Accommodation is Hotel 4 star (can be customised)
  • A superb range of rental cars to choose from
  • Rental car insurance with full coverage (variable excess/deductible)
  • Unlimited kilometres, GPS navigation, airport and ferry fees
  • Comprehensive tour pack on arrival
  • Can be fully customised to suit you
  • All breakfasts
  • Private airport transfers
  • TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth
A river in Haast on the West Coast
People watch the Christchurch Tram
Kiwirail Tranzalpine train going round a bend
Mt Cook
Tour map
 

Day 1 - Arrive into Queenstown

Private Transfer Queenstown Airport to your Hotel

Welcome to Queenstown. You will be met from your flight and transferred to your Queenstown hotel.

Your tour documentation pack and support

Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support
Your tour documentation pack and support

Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

Welcome to Queenstown

Renowned for its adrenaline inducing activities 'Queenstown' is synonymous with adventure. Parked on the shores of Lake Wakatipu this small alpine town is nestled below soaring vistas of The Remarkables Mountain Range. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. Spend time on the Gibbston valley wine trail and end with a meal at Michelin star chef Josh Emett’s restaurant, Rata. Take a trip down memory lane on a 100 year old steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Soak in the scenery on your walk around the lake, or venture further afield into Fiordland National Park. Head over the hill to resort town Wanaka, or re-live scenes from Lord Of The Rings by four wheel drive. But - if you really do want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon swing or Zip line the Gondola. Just be sure it's done on an empty stomach  – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Shotover Jet - Canyon Jet Boat Ride - suggested

Shotover Jet - Canyon Jet Boat Ride
Shotover Jet - Canyon Jet Boat Ride
Shotover Jet - Canyon Jet Boat Ride
Shotover Jet - Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the spectacular Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride - skimming past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breath taking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world famous Shotover Jet full 360 degree spins!

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour - suggested

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour
TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour
TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour
TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Enjoy a scenic cruise from central Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Farm on board the historic steamship, TSS Earnslaw. On disembarking, you'll be welcomed and escorted through the beautiful lakeside gardens to the Colonel's Homestead for dinner. Here, you’ll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare as you watch. Choose from the  seasonal menu which includes an expansive array of New Zealand meats and produce, followed by a delicious array of desserts, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration offers you a glimpse of life in the high country. On the magical night-time cruise home, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 30 mins +
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Breakfast service available
  • Dinner service available
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • Laundry facilities: Drycleaning service available
  • Gym/fitness centre

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Day 2 - The Kawarau Gorge leads you to Central Otago, before you cross the Lindis Pass towards the MacKenzie Country

Driving distance and time: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Collect your rental car

Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car

Our rental car range includes the latest vehicles from the top suppliers. Insurance is included with a small excess or deductible. All airport fees, additional driver fees and unlimited kilometres are also included. To help you navigate your way around New Zealand all rentals also come with GPS. Our range included small compact cars to mid-size saloons to large 4WD and people movers.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park
Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park
Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park
Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Today your drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook is a scenic one, so be sure to leave plenty of leeway for sightseeing. You'll go through the Kawarau Gorge and over the historic Kawarau Bridge - a popular bungy jumping location. Choose to participate in this daredevil sport or watch others instead. Continue on to the Gibbston Valley stopping at one of its many vineyards for tastings. Leaving the gorge you'll arrive in Cromwell, well known for its many fruit orchards. If you're a foodie at heart, we recommend taking a side trip to Bannockburn for a complete food and wine experience at one its many award-winning wineries and restaurants.

Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Completely submerged when the Clyde Dam was built and Lake Dunstan established in 1992, the remnants of the old Cromwell town provides a unique snapshot into this areas history. Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel - the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount. Cook Highway to arrive in the small village.

Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook - suggested

Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook
Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook
Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook
Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat.  These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Internet facilities: On site free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 3 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through the MacKenzie Country and across the Canterbury Plains

Driving distance and time: 327 kms / 203 miles : 3.7 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch
Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch
Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch
Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Leaving Mount Cook national park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the spectacular views of Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities of Lake Pukaki - making the waters a bright turquoise. You’ll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just marvel at the magnificent views. From here you travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley that surrounds Geraldine. Continue on across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch City, your destination for the night.

Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

Accommodation type: Luxury Lodges & hotels

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 11 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 5-10 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Room service available
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • Laundry facilities: Drycleaning service available
  • Gym/fitness centre
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 4 - Explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch

Explore Christchurch City

Explore Christchurch City
Explore Christchurch City
Explore Christchurch City
Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens. 

Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for a authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.

Christchurch Grand Tour - suggested

Christchurch Grand Tour
Christchurch Grand Tour
Christchurch Grand Tour
Christchurch Grand Tour

Hop aboard the Grand Tour luxury coach for an interactive guided journey around Christchurch. See the best of this port city including beautiful parks, gardens, seaside suburbs and hills. You will learn about its history and future plans for the well under way multi-billion dollar rebuild following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Included in the tour are four of Christchurch's premier attractions - punting on the Avon, the Caterpillar Botanic Gardens tour, the Christchurch Gondola and a hop-on hop-off ticket for the heritage Tram.

Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

Accommodation type: Luxury Lodges & hotels

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

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Day 5 - Cross the Southern Alps on board the TranzAlpine scenic train, then follow the coast south to Franz Josef

Driving distance and time: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Europcar rental car drop off Christchurch train station

This morning leave your car parked at the train station. Remove all personal items including GPS or Kruse units and lock the car. Make sure it is full of fuel to avoid any charges. Hand the keys to the train station check in staff and tell them Europcar will be collecting. Europcar staff will collect the rental car later from the train station.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth
TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth
TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth
TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Christchurch to Greymouth

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other. From your carriage you'll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth - a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the West Coast glaciers.

Collect your rental car

Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car
Collect your rental car

Our rental car range includes the latest vehicles from the top suppliers. Insurance is included with a small excess or deductible. All airport fees, additional driver fees and unlimited kilometres are also included. To help you navigate your way around New Zealand all rentals also come with GPS. Our range included small compact cars to mid-size saloons to large 4WD and people movers.

Greymouth to Franz Josef

Greymouth to Franz Josef
Greymouth to Franz Josef
Greymouth to Franz Josef
Greymouth to Franz Josef

Leaving Greymouth today you will head south to Franz Josef and Glacier Country. Pass through Hokitika and be sure to take a detour to the spectacular Hokitika Gorge, a turquoise coloured river surrounded by native bush-clad cliffs.

Continue on through Ross, a historic gold mining town where several buildings still remain intact. As you travel further down the coast you’ll also go through Hari Hari, the town where Guy Menzies, the first person to fly solo over the Tasman crash landed. Follow the coast through several small towns before catching a glimpse of the Franz Josef glacier as you arrive into the town centre.

Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 2-5 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Restaurant on site
  • Bar on site
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • All rooms non smoking

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Day 6 - Make the most of your day in this spectacular location, perhaps a guided walk or scenic flight

Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Explore Franz Josef Glacier
Explore Franz Josef Glacier
Explore Franz Josef Glacier
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Known for its 12 km long glacier, Franz Josef is a lively town in the heart of the West Coast. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains its township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice up-close, walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk - suggested

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

The Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk will take you up alongside the mighty Waiho River bed, following the glacier’s path as it winds its way through the remarkable landscape. Here you will learn about the glacier’s history and learn the legend of Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere. After a brief climb you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the glacier’s rapidly changing terminal face. Accessing some exclusive trails and including great storytelling from your experienced and well-trained guide.
Following on from your scenic walk enjoy access to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, the perfect end to an unforgettable day.

Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line - suggested

Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line
Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line
Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line
Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Glacier Hot Pools - suggested

Glacier Hot Pools
Glacier Hot Pools
Glacier Hot Pools
Glacier Hot Pools

Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquility. Unwind in one of the three main pools. Temperatures range from 36 to 40 degrees and the water comes directly from a glacial stream. Wash off the day and rejuvenate in this unique forest paradise.

Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

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Day 7 - Take the Haast Pass to Wanaka, then over the Crown Range to Queenstown

Driving distance and time: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.3 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)

Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)
Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)
Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)
Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)

Heading south you pass through the second glacier town of Fox Glacier. A short side trip to view the glacier is easy before heading along the coast and more classic West Coast bush scenery. At Knights Point Lookout elephant seals can often be seen basking on the sandy beaches at the far end of the point. Crossing the massive Haast River you turn inland and head into the valley climbing through mountains littered with waterfalls.

The Haast Valley offers a spectacular view of the river and its enormous power. The Blue Pools near Makarora are a great 30 minute walk. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea guide you into the township of Wanaka before you head over New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road before dropping into Queenstown. This drive should be planned as a whole day to really enjoy the scenery and to allow time to explore the walks, and many stops en route.

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

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Day 8 - The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Queenstown may be New Zealand's ‘adventure capital,’ but it offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday.  On the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath the soaring Remarkables Mountain Range, this small town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders. Head through Gibbston Valley to sample some of the region’s best wine. We recommend stopping at the Chard Farm cellar door, visiting the architecturally award winning Peregrine vineyard or taking a cellar cave tour at Gibbston Valley Winery. Cruise to Walter Peak station for dinner on board a 100 year old steamship -  the TSS Earnslaw. While you're there, a farm tour is a must do for those not familiar with rural living.

Take some time to wander the waterfront, and grab lunch at one of the many amazing cafes and restaurants on offer. Try Vudu’s Pantry and larder or for a holiday treat go to Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata. Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown - a disused gold mining settlement built in the 1800’s.Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. After all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or White Water Rafting.

Dart River Wilderness Jet - suggested

Dart River Wilderness Jet
Dart River Wilderness Jet
Dart River Wilderness Jet
Dart River Wilderness Jet

An hour and a half of thrilling high-speed wilderness jet boating skimming across the clear waters of the Dart River into the Te Waipounamu World Heritage Area. Hear about flora, fauna and history on a 30-minute rolling forest walk with your friendly guide. On a backroad tour of Paradise immerse yourself in scenes and backdrops from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Learn about the Pounamu (Greenstone) that made the Dart River a key trading route for early Māori. Tales of early settlers who carved rich farms from the rugged landscape.

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

Accommodation type: Hotel 4 star

Meals included: Breakfast

Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel
Accommodation: The Rees Hotel

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Day 9 - Depart Queenstown today

Driving distance and time: 8 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

Times are based on averages for this specific route and allow for stops. Use these times as guidelines and to assist in the planning for your day.

Depart Queenstown today

Explore more of Queenstown before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

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