Call us in NZ (freecall): 1855 979 6659 1855 979 6659 Enquire Now

South Island National Parks Tour

17 nights, Christchurch to Queenstown

South Island National Parks Tour

Explore the National Parks and natural areas of the South Island. You begin with a whale watching adventure in Kaikoura, before heading to Abel Tasman National park for a guided kayak and walk. Then you journey down the wild West Coast to Punakaiki, Franz Josef and Westland National Park. Take a heli-hike from Franz Josef before travelling to the alpine village of Wanaka. Mt Cook National Park is next with a full day to explore and a Glacier Explorers iceberg encounter. Heading east you reach Dunedin, before heading to Te Anau and Fiordland National park. You venture deep into the pristine forests and fiords with a Milford Track guided day walk and Doubtful Sound cruise. Then it’s onto your final destination of Queenstown.  

Tour map

Included in this New Zealand self drive holiday

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Kaikoura township, New Zealand
Lindis Pass from Christchurch to Queenstown, New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park
Tour map
 

Day 1 - Arrive Christchurch today

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Christchurch accommodation.

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 Christchurch City

Welcome to Christchurch City
Welcome to Christchurch City
Welcome to Christchurch City
Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch, New Zealand's self proclaimed garden city is a bright and vibrant destination. Known for its large green belt, the wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens make for a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights, or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Accommodation type: Motels - economy

Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room

Page top

Day 2 - Explore Christchurch City and surrounds

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.

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 Gondola - suggested

Christchurch Gondola
Christchurch Gondola
Christchurch Gondola
Christchurch Gondola

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch city, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago.  Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps.  Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

Christchurch Bike Tour - suggested

Christchurch Bike Tour
Christchurch Bike Tour
Christchurch Bike Tour
Christchurch Bike Tour

Take a two hour cycle tour around the top Christchurch attractions.You'll be guided at a relaxed pace to the Arts Centre, Antigua Boatsheds, Christ's College, Hagley Park, Riccarton House and Deans Bush, Deans Cottage and Mona Vale Garden. You'll also visit the Re:Start project in the Cashel street Mall. A predominantly flat city with many purpose built cycle-ways, Christchurch is perfect for biking.

Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Accommodation type: Motels - economy

Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Page top

Day 3 - Head north through Canterbury to the marine mecca of Kaikoura

Driving distance and time: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 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.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

Christchurch to Kaikoura
Christchurch to Kaikoura
Christchurch to Kaikoura
Christchurch to Kaikoura

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 15-20 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: On site paid access
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room

Page top

Day 4 - Travel to the idyllic Tasman Bay

Driving distance and time: 303 kms / 188 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.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch Kaikoura
Whale Watch Kaikoura
Whale Watch Kaikoura
Whale Watch Kaikoura

New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company, Whale Watch Kaikoura offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime up close encounter with the giant sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, is sometimes seen.
You'll be taken out in modern catamarans specifically designed for whale watching - featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park

Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park
Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park
Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park
Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. One of the best seal watching locations is Ohau Point (25km north of Kaikoura), where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in the waterfall, just a short walk from the road (signposted). As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards New Zealand's largest wine producing region.The vineyards surrounding Blenheim are a great place to stop for a wine tasting or lunch at one of the many fine restaurants, including the award winning Herzog Winery and Restaurant. A short drive from Blenheim you reach the busy port town of Picton, and it's here that the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The town centre is quite small with plenty of shops and cafes and the waterfront area is a very pleasant place to spend time watching the activity of the ships. The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre on the wharf is worth a visit with the star attraction being the vessel the Edwin Fox, reputably the 9th oldest ship in the world. It's also the starting point the for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. Queen Charlotte Drive travels the Marlborough Sounds coastline between Picton and Havelock. Magnificent views of the sounds can be had from many vantage points so allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The highway between Nelson and Picton also crosses the Pelorus River and just at this junction is the famous and historic Pelorus Bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks with the most popular the 30 minute loop through beech, rimu and totara forest to the swing-bridge. Crossing the Bryant Range you arrive onto Tasman Bay and the city of Nelson. Motueka is a further 45 minutes along the bay and from there it's just a short drive to Kaiteriteri and Marahau, all ideal spots from which to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.

Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 3 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • All rooms non smoking

Page top

Day 5 - Kayak the aqua blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park and walk the gentle coastal tracks

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the sounds or take a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. Enjoy the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals  - fur seals and dolphins.
 

Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch

Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch
Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch
Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch
Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch

This relaxing paddle explores the spectacular Kaiteriteri coastline with its golden beaches, and sculpted granite cliffs. Stop for lunch at a secluded cove before heading back to Kaiteriteri for your picnic lunch. Swap your kayak booties for walking shoes and join the Vista Cruise to Onetahuti where you'll have the chance to view the seal colony at Tonga Island on the way.
After arriving at the at the Tonga Island Quarry, disembark and walk the coastal track to Medlands Beach where you region the Vista Cruise back to Kaiteriteri. Time spent kayaking is 2.5 hours including breaks. The unguided walk is 7km and the minimum age is 10 years old.

Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Page top

Day 6 - Skirt Kahurangi National Park as you journey to the West Coast and Paparoa National Park

Driving distance and time: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.6 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.

Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

Abel Tasman  to Punakaiki
Abel Tasman  to Punakaiki
Abel Tasman  to Punakaiki
Abel Tasman  to Punakaiki

The drive today takes you along the Buller Gorge and offers some wonderful scenery as you follow this magnificent river. The town of Murchison is a quiet place and a great lunch stop. Underneath its sleepy farming facade is an adventurers paradise with white water rafting, kayaking, 4WD trips and some great trout fishing.
The first major town (by this regions standard) is Inangahua and a small museum tells of the earthquake that hit the region in 1968 leaving 70% of the buildings damaged or inhabitable. Further along the river one of the must stop places is Whites Creek and New Zealand's longest swing bridge. Crossing the river you get magnificent views of the gorge and once on the other side there are short bush walks, jet boat rides and some of the historic gold mining remnants.
The port town of Westport is the largest on the Northern West Coast. A history of gold mining, logging, fishing coal mining gives the town a hard working feeling. And to reward the hard workers the town has an extraordinary amount of pubs.
There are plenty of activities here such as caving, bush walks and surfing but one of the most popular is to take a trip to Tauranga bay and the seal colony. Just 15 kilometres south at Cape Foulwind (named by Captain Cook for the difficult sailing conditions and not the smell of the seals!), you will find a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals. A well marked and easy 10 minute walking track takes you to colony where you can see the creatures lazing around or swimming in the ocean.
The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki where a walk along the paths around the pancake rocks is a must. Please note there is no supermarket facilities in Punakaiki.

Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)
Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)
Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)
Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)

Accommodation features

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

Page top

Day 7 - Follow the rugged coastline south to the glacier region

Driving distance and time: 212 kms / 131 miles : 2.6 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.

Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier

Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier
Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier
Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier
Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier

The drive South on State Highway 6 takes you through many West Coast towns. The first is Greymouth, the commercial centre for the West Coast. Just south of the town is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear.
The next town is Hokitika and this is a great place to explore the craft and gift stores. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge, off the beaten track and inland a little is a spectacular detour. Turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings and workings remain. In fact Ross is still home to one of the few working gold mines left in New Zealand and the local information centre offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Continuing south Hari Hari is the township that Guy Menzies decided to land in (or rather crash land) as he became the first person to fly solo across the Tasman.
Whataroa, a small township on the main road is where you would head off to see one of the worlds rarest birds. The entire population (somewhere between 150 and 200 birds) of the New Zealand white heron or kotuku nest at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve and guided tours from October to March will take you there.
Arriving in to the Glacier region you catch your first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier from a few kilometres out as it flows from the Southern Alps. Franz Josef township is a lively place with a great atmosphere, plenty of choice to dine out and some wonderful activities to enjoy.

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Accommodation type: Motels - economy

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 5-10 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • All rooms non smoking

Page top

Day 8 - Explore the glaciers and walks of Westland National Park

Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. 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 operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef area

Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef area
Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef area
Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef area
Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef area

There are many walks and hikes in and around Franz Josef. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation. Located in Franz Josef village is a Department of Conservation information centre and you can get updates on track conditions and suitability plus you can learn about the area, its natural history and its people. Listed below are a selection of short walks but check with the Department of Conservation information centre for weather conditions, track suitability and conditions  first.

Douglas Walk

The Douglas Walk is an easy one-hour forest walk that passes by the Peters Pool viewpoint and crosses several moraines before descending to the bridge across Dolly Creek on the way back to the road.

Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr return

Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk

The 40-minute walk to the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier follows a rocky path over riverbed. Only experienced and prepared visitors should attempt climbing on the glacier.

Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 30 min return

Lake Wombat Track

The Lake Wombat Track leads you through a lush rimu forest to the idyllic Lake Wombat.

Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 30 min

Okarito walking tracks

North of the Franz Josef Township sits the coastal settlement of Okarito and the Okarito Lagoon. The lagoon is home to more than 76 species of native birds including the kōtuku/white heron and royal spoonbills.

Category:  Walking track.

Peters Pool Walk

The spectacular view at Peters Pool includes Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, and the Fritz Range, including Mt Moltke and Mt Roon.

Category:  Easy access walk. Completion Time:  25 min

Sentinel Rock Walk

Just a short distance south of the Franz Josef Township you will come to the Glacier and Sentinel Rock walks. The Sentinel Rock Lookout offers impressive views of the glacier, the valley and Waiho River.

Category:  Short walk. Completion Time:  20 min

Tatare Tunnels Walk

The 80-minute return Tatare Tunnels Walk follows an old 4WD road to a junction with the Callery/Waiho Walk. From there follow the track to the old water tunnels.

Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 20 min return

Terrace Walk

Follow the Terrace Walk as it winds through forest and goes by remnants of past gold mining operations.

Category:  Short walk. Completion Time:  30 min

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Accommodation type: Motels - economy

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Page top

Day 9 - Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast

Driving distance and time: 283 kms / 176 miles : 3.3 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 Wanaka

Franz Josef to Wanaka
Franz Josef to Wanaka
Franz Josef to Wanaka
Franz Josef to Wanaka

Heading south you pass through the small town of Fox Glacier. A short side trip to view the glacier is recommended before heading along the coast and through 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 Haast River you’ll turn inland and through the mountainous valley littered with waterfalls. Continue on past lakes Hawea and Wanaka into the alpine township of Wanaka.

Siberia Experience - suggested

Siberia Experience
Siberia Experience
Siberia Experience
Siberia Experience

The Siberia Experience is a 4 hour wilderness adventure in Mt. Aspiring National Park. Leaving from Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka you will enjoy some of New Zealand's untouched scenery from the air, on land and from the water. Mountains, rivers, glaciers, alpine lakes, rain forest, waterfalls and more - this is your chance to see it all. This unique adventure incorporates a 25 minute unforgettable scenic flight with Southern Alps Air, a 2 1/2 hour walk beginning in the remote Siberia Valley in Mt. Aspiring National Park and a 30 minute exciting Jet Boat ride with Wilkin River Jets.

Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 1-2 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Breakfast service available
  • Tea/coffee facilities in room
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: In room
  • All rooms non smoking

Page top

Day 10 - Cross the Lindis Pass towards the MacKenzie Country

Driving distance and time: 201 kms / 125 miles : 2.2 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.

Wanaka to Mt. Cook National Park

Wanaka to Mt. Cook National Park
Wanaka to Mt. Cook National Park
Wanaka to Mt. Cook National Park
Wanaka to Mt. Cook National Park

Passing through the Clutha River valley you arrive into the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café.  You then traverse the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres. The tussock covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from Central Otago into the Mackenzie Basin. The towns of Omarama and Twizel are the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mt. Cook Highway along the shores to the village. In Mt. Cook Village a myriad of activities are available from scenic flights with glacier landings, to kayaking on a glacial lake and a host of walks to suit all abilities. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is a must see. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Accommodation features

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

Page top

Day 11 - Explore Mt Cook National Park and Surrounds

Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park

Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park
Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park
Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park
Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park

At 3754 metres Aoraki-Mt. Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, located deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. From the Visitor Centre at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of this immense peak. As well as its impressive beauty, Mt. Cook National Park is also home to a huge range of awe-inspiring sights and activities. Take to the air with Mt. Cook Ski Planes for a scenic flight that includes a glacier landing. At around 27 kilometres long the Tasman Glacier is New Zealand's longest and a Glacier Explorers tour will give you the opportunity to see its unique features.

There are many short hikes in and around the park and these are well signposted. For a fascinating guided tour the Mt. Cook Encounter Guided Walk is a must-do and those with an interest in the night sky should take a stargazing tour of the Mt. John Observatory. The region is considered to have one of the clearest night skies in the world and is one of the few gold-rated dark sky reserves worldwide.

The Hermitage Hotel complex offers fine dining, multiple cafes and a bar. Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre for insight into this region's mountain climbing history. You'll also learn of Sir Ed's incredible achievements and his dedication to helping others around the world.

Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

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.

Short walks in and around Mt. Cook Village

Short walks in and around Mt. Cook Village
Short walks in and around Mt. Cook Village
Short walks in and around Mt. Cook Village
Short walks in and around Mt. Cook Village

There are many short scenic walks beginning in and around the Mt. Cook Village, suitable for all ages and abilities. Located within the Mount Cook Village is the Department of Conservation information centre, where updates on the track conditions and suitability is available as well as information on the history of the area and its wildlife.

Below is a snapshot of some of the walks available:

 - Bowen Bush Walk  - 10 minute return

 - Glencoe Walk - 10 minute return

 - Red Tarns Track - Two hour return

 - Kea Point Walk - Two hour return

 - Hooker Lake - Four hour return

Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing - suggested

Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing
Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing
Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing
Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing

Take in the spectacular Southern Alps - including New Zealand's highest peak Aoraki Mount Cook - and the constantly changing glacial landscape. See the Hochstetter Icefall as you fly beneath the face of Mount Cook then along the length of the Tasman glacier before landing on the glacier itself. Experience the silence of the mountains, broken only by the rumbling of an avalanche and creaking of the snow and ice beneath your feet. You'll take off again for another incredible flight over peaks, ice falls, alpine lakes and climbing huts.

Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Page top

Day 12 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin

Driving distance and time: 318 kms / 197 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 Dunedin

Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama - gliding capital of New Zealand - but be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast.

Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.

Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.

Short walks on the Otago Peninsula

Short walks on the Otago Peninsula
Short walks on the Otago Peninsula
Short walks on the Otago Peninsula
Short walks on the Otago Peninsula

There are a number of short walks to enjoy on the Peninsular. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation .

Sandfly Bay

Walking Time: 1 hr return walk from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 25 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road, then right onto Seal Point Road. The carpark is at the end of this road. A path crosses farmland to the top of the sand dunes. Go down the sand hill - which can be rather testing on the return, uphill journey - and walk about a kilometre along the beach. Near the southern end a marked track leads up to a hide to view the locals, yellow-eyed penguins. Please keep at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, 20 metres from active animals and if you are in a group don't surround them. With penguins, please don't linger on the beach below the hide, or anywhere else where they may come ashore. If you encounter a penguin on the beach keep well away and crouch down. If they feel threatened they will not come ashore.

Sandymount

Walking Time: Lovers Leap 50 min return walk from carpark or Sandymount Circuit 1 hr return walk from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 30 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road and the carpark is at the end of the road. The loop track begins at the carpark at the end of Sandymount Road. This walk via The Chasm and Lovers Leap - with a side track to Sandymount summit - gives spectacular views of Otago Peninsula's coastline and cliff tops. Another marked route provides alternative access to Sandfly Bay. The Lovers Leap and Chasm tracks are closed for lambing, 1 August - 31 October.

Allans Beach

Walking Time: 5 min walk to the beach from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 40 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

From Portobello turn onto Allans Beach Road. The carpark is at the end of the road.

Special wildlife such as sea lions and penguins frequent this wild ocean beach. Please respect their needs by keeping at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, and 20 metres from active animals. Do not linger on beaches where penguins may come ashore.

Penguin Place Yellow Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve - Evening Tour - suggested

Penguin Place Yellow Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve - Evening Tour
Penguin Place Yellow Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve - Evening Tour
Penguin Place Yellow Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve - Evening Tour
Penguin Place Yellow Eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve - Evening Tour

Learn about the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin when you visit Penguin Place, a private conservation reserve dedicated to ensuring the survival of this unique species. The project is entirely funded by guided tours which allows the conservation team to engage in habitat restoration, predator control, a research program and on-site rehabilitation care for the sick starving and wounded birds.
When you take a tour, you will learn about the issues the Yellow Eyed Penguin faces , their life cycle and how the project is carried out. You'll take a short bus trip over the reserve and be led on foot by your guide through a system of covered trenches to viewing hides which allow access to the living and breeding grounds of this very shy bird without disturbing them.

Accommodation: Motel on York

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Motel on York
Accommodation: Motel on York
Accommodation: Motel on York
Accommodation: Motel on York

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
  • Breakfast service available
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities: On site
  • All rooms non smoking

Page top

Day 13 - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland

Driving distance and time: 387 kms / 240 miles : 4.7 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.

Dunedin to Te Anau

Dunedin to Te Anau
Dunedin to Te Anau
Dunedin to Te Anau
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf.  Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves - suggested

Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Accommodation features

  • Check in time: 2 pm
  • Check out time: 10 am
  • Walk time to shops/restaurants: 5-10 mins
  • Parking: onsite free parking
  • Internet facilities: In room free access
  • Breakfast service available
  • Kitchen/kitchenette in room
  • Hairdryer
  • All rooms non smoking

Page top

Day 14 - Encounter one of the greatest walks in the world - The Milford Track

Driving distance and time: 0 kms / 0 miles : 0.0 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.

Milford Track Guided Day Walk

Milford Track Guided Day Walk
Milford Track Guided Day Walk
Milford Track Guided Day Walk
Milford Track Guided Day Walk

Get a taste of the famous Milford Track on a one-day guided adventure. The Milford Track, long regarded as the 'finest walk in the world' is a four day trip through the heart of Fiordland National Park. If you don't have the time to do the full walk, a Milford Track Guided Day Walk is the only way to go. Join your guide in Te Anau and take a short coach trip to Te Anau Downs. Enjoy a hot drink as you cruise across Lake Te Anau to the start of the Milford Track. Your guided walk takes you along the Glade Burn to historic Glade House where you'll stop for lunch and a hot drink. The path then follows the stunning Clinton River, across a swing bridge into a mystical beech forest. On your trip, you will experience the tranquility of strolling beneath ancient beech trees, witness emerald waters and listen out for native birdsong. Along the way, your knowledgeable nature guide will help you interpret the magical surroundings, providing you with information about the track's history and the unique native birds and plants around you. This walk is easy, there are no big hills and the group is small (12 people per guide), making for a fun day out amidst amazing surroundings.

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Page top

Day 15 - Take a journey to the 'Sound of Silence' where you'll cruise on the remote Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri

Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri

From Pearl Harbour, Manapouri, you cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri to West Arm and then travel by coach over Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest. There are opportunities along the way to examine the plant life and view the spectacular scenery. Once at Doubtful Sound you board the catamaran, Commander Peak, for a 3 hour cruise of beautiful Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea. On board there is excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. Rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered in the right season. An interesting on board commentary keeps you informed and on the return journey, the vessel's engines are turned off and visitors are treated to the 'Sound of Silence'. Includes picnic boxed lunch.

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Accommodation type: Motels - premium

Meals included: Lunch

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Page top

Day 16 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown

Driving distance and time: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 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.

Te Anau to Queenstown

Te Anau to Queenstown
Te Anau to Queenstown
Te Anau to Queenstown
Te Anau to Queenstown

Your drive today takes you from Te Anau to Queenstown through vast alpine tussocklands. Pass Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation then continue on through the southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge. Marvel at the Remarkables mountain range as you begin the final leg of your journey to the adventure capital of New Zealand.

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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Accommodation features

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

Page top

Day 17 - 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: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Accommodation type: Apartments

Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Page top

Day 18 - Depart Queenstown today

Driving distance and time: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 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

Drop your rental car at the Queenstown airport today and farewell New Zealand.

Page top