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12 Day Southern Circuit

12 days 11 nights
Christchurch to Christchurch
from NZD$2,475pp
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From Christchurch this tour takes you along the foothills of the Southern Alps to Mt. Cook National Park. It’s then onto Dunedin where you have a whole day to discover the unique wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.  Continue south to Te Anau and Milford Sound for you Real Journeys Nature Cruise, then to the ‘Adventure Capital’ of Queenstown where you have time to enjoy the countless activities on offer here and explore the natural beauty of the region. On your return to Christchurch you journey up the West Coast, with the highlight being the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers which you can experience during a heli-hike or scenic flight if you choose.  You’ll return to Christchurch aboard the world famous Tranz Alpine Scenic Train.

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Tour full itinerary
Itinerary
Day One - Arrive into the 'Garden City' of Christchurch
Tour day 1
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

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

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

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You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass

Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style, enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.

Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

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Day Two - Collect your rental car this morning, then you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Tour day 2
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 2
Collect your rental car

Our rental car range includes the latest vehicles from the top suppliers. We have a fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige sedans and SUVs. Insurance can often be included with a small excess or deductible.

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.

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Big Sky Stargazing

Mount Cook is far from the city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand - perfect for viewing the night sky! Their fully trained guides are delighted to show you the beautiful southern night sky using the naked eye, state of the art astronomy telescopes and binoculars at the outdoor viewing platform or if the weather is not favourable then there will be an indoor alternative featuring New Zealand's first full dome digital Planetarium - high definition video images on a suspended 9m wide x 4.5m high full dome. Unleash your imagination as you discover the night sky including the Southern Cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and even our very own galaxy, the spectacular Milky Way!

Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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Day Three - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin
Tour day 3
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 3
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.

Accommodation: Motel on York
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. The property offers superior accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

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Day Four - Today is yours to explore the history of Dunedin or head out to the Peninsula for amazing wildlife encounters
Tour day 4
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 4
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock

An unforgettable experience viewing rare and fascinating wildlife. Board the Monarch Boat and take in the fascinating sight of the Northern Royal Albatross as it comes in to nest on spectacular cliffs of Taiaroa, Otago Peninsula. You'll also see eight other species of birds including sooty shearwaters and petrels as well as sea lions and fur seals - and if you're really lucky - dolphins and whales.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Penguin Place Conservation Reserve 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 an on-site rehabilitation facility. On your 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 to 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 habitat of this very shy bird without disturbing them.

Accommodation: Motel on York
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. The property offers superior accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants.

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Day Five - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Tour day 5
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 5
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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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
Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

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Day Six - Start early this morning so you have time to enjoy the spectacular Milford Road
Tour day 6
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 6
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came.

Milford Sound Cruise with Real Journeys

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.

Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Meals included: Lunch
Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

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Day Seven - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
Tour day 7
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 7
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.

Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Accommodation type: Apartments
The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

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Day Eight - You have today free to explore Queenstown and surrounds
Tour day 8
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 8
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
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. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - NZSki: One Day Lift, Lesson & Rental Pack

Available in winter (July-September) only.
This is a one-day product designed for anyone who has skied or snowboarded before, this package can be used at both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. This combo features two group lessons, full mountain lift pass, as well as rental equipment (skis, boots and poles or snowboard and boots). Under the expertise of your Snowsports instructors, you'll build on your basic skills, grow in confidence on challenging terrain and iron out any bad habits.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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
The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

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Day Nine - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Tour day 9
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 9
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation type: Motels - economy
Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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Day Ten - Explore the glacier region, we recommend a scenic flight for amazing views
Tour day 10
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 10
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Accommodation type: Motels - economy
Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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Day Eleven - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Tour day 11
12 Day Southern Circuit - Day 11
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey - the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's greatest train journeys, the TranzAlpine scenic train travels both ways from one coast of New Zealand to the other. From your carriage you'll see the vast windswept Canterbury Plains, spectacular gorges, river valleys and native beech rainforest. A highlight for many is the crossing of the Southern Alps, passing through Arthur's Pass National Park, before descending to the Canterbury Plains and arriving in Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel
Accommodation type: Motels - premium
Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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Day Twelve - Depart Christchurch today
Tour day 12
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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