Ideal for those wanting to get off the beaten track away from the tourist centres. Spectacular scenery in some of the South Island's most picturesque spots! Well, to be honest, we could say that about pretty much every tour, the place is that good! Punakaiki to the glaciers, beautiful Wanaka, and majestic Aoraki Mt Cook. Stunning New Zealand at its best!Family touringWildlife & nature
On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.
Christchurch New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore the city or easy way to see the sights or ride the historic trams across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral, that's right it is built of cardboard!
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, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.
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 an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.
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.
Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.
The drive north from Christchurch takes you through some fine rolling farmland and North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. You then head inland and over the Lewis Pass where the landscape changes to a sub alpine zone with large forests of red and silver beech. Near the summit a short walking track, the Tarn Nature Walk, is an ideal place to break your journey. Maruia Springs has been attracting travellers for years and the natural hot springs are now located within an authentic Japanese themed resort, a great place to stop for a soak if time allows. Reefton sprung to life in the 1870's when gold was discovered (as did many other West Coast towns) but the mining here was so successful and the town became so prosperous that it became the first place in Australasia to have electric lighting. The visitor centre tells a great tale and also has a replica gold mine.
Continuing onto Greymouth and then a short drive along the wild west coast to Punakaiki. Punakaiki is most famous for the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Visitors are often less aware of the great many other experiences available. Located in the heart of the Paparoa National Park, the area offers guided beach, forest and mountain walks, canoeing, wildlife, horse trekking, surfing, gemstone hunting, caving and climbing, heritage sites. There are taverns, cafés and restaurants, and a great range of accommodation. The area also boasts a vibrant arts and crafts community and a cooperative gallery.
The drive South on State Highway 6 brings you first to 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. Continue south and you arrive at Kumara Junction and then along the wild surf coast to Hokitika. Hokitika is a great place to explore, especially the craft stores as 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.
Come and enjoy a leisurely 45 minute to one hour stroll through the beautiful West Coast rainforest tree tops. Experience an exhilarating tree top adventure amongst temperate tree top giants. Experience life with the birds high in the ancient Rimu and Kamahi tree Canopy. There is easy access for all to enjoy along a steel platform 20 metres high and over 450 metres long.
Following your walk, relax in their alfresco dining area, where you can enjoy the view with a wide selection of meal choices off the menu for lunch.
Leaving Hokitika you’ll go through the old gold mining town of Ross where some of the original buildings and workings remain. Ross is also home to one of the few working mines left in New Zealand. Continuing South you’ll pass through Harihari, the township Guy Menzies crash landed in after he became the first person to fly solo across the Tasman. Continue on through Whataroa, a small township, home to some of the world's rarest birds - the New Zealand White Heron and the Kotuku. Arriving into the glacier region you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Franz Josef glacier before coming into the township - a lively place with a great atmosphere.
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.
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.
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.
Kayaking is by far the best way to enjoy the flora, fauna and scenic grandeur of New Zealand's largest unmodified coastal wetland. Previous experience is not necessary. Okarito Lagoon covers more than 3240 hectares of shallow open water and is well known for its outstanding bird life, including white heron and royal spoonbill. Exploring the open water and river channels that lead you deep into the heart of the rainforest is like stepping back in time to pre-European conditions and on a clear day you enjoy fantastic views of Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps. Your guide will take you to their favourite spots where you'll discover the flora, fauna and history of the lagoon.
Heading south you will climb over the Fox hills before arriving at the small town of Fox Glacier. If it's a nice day enjoy spectacular reflections of snowcapped mountains in Lake Matheson, located just 5 minutes west of Fox. Heading south from fox enjoy the amazing scenery of the Southern Alps, and sneak peeks of the rugged beaches while winding through ancient temperate rainforests. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. 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. A great suggested stop along this route is the Blue Pools. Continue on past lakes Hawea and Wanaka into the alpine township of Wanaka.
The alpine village of Wanaka sits on the shores of the third largest lake in the Queenstown Lakes District and is surrounded by the southern alps. Wanaka draws those seeking adventure, spectacular scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.
During winter the town's population more than triples as snow sports enthusiasts flock to the local ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona. Known as the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is a walker's paradise of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. For those seeking an adrenaline rush try skydiving, rock-climbing, jet boating or choose a scenic flight over Wanaka in a historic Tiger Moth aeroplane.
Lying close to the centre of Lake Wanaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. A unique glacial remnant of the last ice age, the island is also the historic site of early shipbuilding and used to be a stopping place for the steamers and log rafts that once plied the lake. Accessible from Wanaka by a 35-minute boat cruise, the landing is on the eastern side of the island where the remnants of the early settlement remain; a stone wharf and a hut. A well-formed track leads from the landing and climbs steadily through native bush to near the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. Just before the top, we see Arethusa Pool, a small lake on the island with small islands in it - very intriguing! From the top, we have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka, its surrounding mountains and valleys, and below Arethusa Pool. The perfect spot to stop for tea or coffee. Going back down the track gives us more time to take in our surroundings, listening to and watching the lively bird-life, and just enjoying this unique wildlife reserve. You will feel well rewarded as you re-join the boat for the cruise back to Wanaka. Total cruise time is 1.5 hours. The trip runs subject to weather and lake conditions. Depending on the planting season, you can help The Reforestation of Mou Waho by planting a tree.
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.
The Matukituki River is one of New Zealand's great jet boating rivers. Powerful and braided, the Matukituki flows from the glaciers and mountains of the Mount Aspiring National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. Travel past Lord of The Rings film locations beneath stunning views of Mount Aspiring and Glaciers on this half day, glacier focused jet boat journey. During several photo stops on the river, learn from your guide how this amazing landscape was carved by ice and of Maori heritage special to this area. Deep in the mountains, disembark for a 50 minute wilderness walk into native beech forest, beneath the towering mountains and waterfalls of the Matukituki Valley. This is a great introduction to the New Zealand wilderness while walking easy terrain suitable for people of all ages.
Experience the rugged beauty and solitude of the spectacular high country, bordering a World Heritage Area with this exclusive 4WD journey exploring the private farm tracks on an historic Wanaka sheep, cattle and deer station. From the site of Nehenehe, an ancient Maori settlement abandoned in the 1830’s, to the ruins of one of Wanaka’s first European settler’s farmhouses (1880’s). This journey offers an unique insight into Wanaka’s rich history, heritage and modern-day farming life. This trip is a photographers dream.
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 Mount Cook Highway along the shores to the village. In Aoraki Mount 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 shops at Mount Cook, and dinner options are limited to one restaurant. If you wish to self-cater, you must stock up before arriving in Mount Cook, or make dinner reservations in advance.
Located inside the Hermitige Hotel, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre pays tribute to humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers, Sir Edmund Hillary. The centre showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people within a comprehensive museum as well as a 126-seat custom-designed theatre and Digital Dome Planetarium.
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.
Leaving Aoraki 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 Mount 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.
Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.