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Taste of the Magnificent South Island

8 days 7 nights
Christchurch to Christchurch
from NZD$3,671pp
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One of our most popular tours this 8 day scenic route will give you a wonderful taste of the South Island’s beauty and diversity. Visit its two largest cities, Christchurch and Dunedin, Mt Cook National Park, and stunning Milford Sound. Experience the excitement of Queenstown before heading north to the unique West Coast Glacier region. The finale of this tour is crossing the Southern Alps on board the TranzAlpine Scenic Train as you return to Christchurch.

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Itinerary
Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 1
Welcome to Christchurch City

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!

Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dinner onboard the Christchurch Restaurant Tram

A truly unique dining experience in the heart of Christchurch. You'll board New Zealand's only dining tram for an unforgettable moving four-course restaurant experience. Enjoy a curated fine dining-style menu while taking in the city sights on your journey through the streets of central Christchurch. Lasting two to two and a half hours, you'll complete 2.5 circuits of the city tram route passing New Regent Street, the Avon River, High Street, and Victoria Square.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometer to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano, which exploded six million years ago. Take in the spectacular panoramic views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains, and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex, enjoy a coffee or lunch in the cafe, and choose one of many nature walks to explore or visit the Christchurch Discovery Rice, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch. 

Christchurch Botanic Gardens - suggestion

Located just 15 minutes from the city centre, Christchurch's 75 acre Botanic Gardens host the finest collection of exotic and indigenous plants to be found anywhere in New Zealand. The impressive collection of plants provide a tranquil oasis, from the spring drifts of daffodils, spectacular summer roses and herbaceous border, stunning autumn leaf display and cosy conservatories to warm up in over winter, there's something to delight in every season. The New Zealand Garden also offers an accessible glimpse into the country’s unique wilderness to lose yourself in throughout the year.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - 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.

Christchurch to Aoraki 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 colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.
Please note: There are no food shops at Mt Cook, and dinner options are limited to one restaurant. If you wish to self-cater, you must stock up before arriving in Mt Cook, or make dinner reservations in advance.

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. Those with an interest in the night sky should take a stargazing tour with the Hermitage Hotel. 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. Due to the remote location of the property, there are no shops and limited supplies at Mt Cook Village. 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.

Walking tracks in and around Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mt. Cook Ultimate Scenic Helicopter Flight with Southern Lakes Helicopters

View the spectacular Aoraki, Mt Cook from above on this 50 minute scenic flight. See the incredible scenery surrounding New Zealand's tallest peak, including hanging glaciers, calved icebergs, rivers of ice, the forests of the West Coast and the renowned Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. You'll also land on the glacier itself - a truly unique experience.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - The Alpine Restaurant Buffet Dinner

The Alpine Restaurant located at The Hermitage Hotel offers sumptuous buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, accompanied by spectacular views of Aoraki Mount Cook from every seat. Enjoy a vast buffet including a wide range of foods such as soup, salads, seafood, hot and cold meats and desserts with tea and coffee to follow.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 3
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand, be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a quirky local cafe and souvenir store. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dunedin's museums - suggested activity

Otago Museum
Discover rare objects, special exhibitions and a live butterfly rainforest experience at the Otago Museum. Through the galleries, you'll discover the unique culture, heritage and wildlife of the Otago region. Highlights include the Tangata Whenua gallery which tells the story of the Southern Maori life and mythology. The Discovery World Tropical Forest is fun for young and old, you'll enter a rainforest filled with hundreds of beautiful butterflies. The special exhibitions are always fascinating and when you're ready for a break there's a great cafe to relax at. The museum is open 10am to 5pm daily, except Christmas Day.
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum
Encounter history at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Learn about the people whose character, culture, technology, art, fashion, and transport shaped New Zealand's First Great City, Dunedin. In the galleries you can trace the fascinating journeys from the earliest settlers, Kai Tahu and their ancestors, to the most recent arrivals. The themed galleries weave the stories of past and present with future thinking, featuring interactive displays with stunning visuals and powerful narratives. Admission is free and the museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 4pm April to September, 10am to 5pm October to March and Thursdays until 8pm.

Dunedin Botanic Gardens

The Dunedin Botanic Garden is New Zealand's first botanic garden and is also a Garden of International Significance. It is home to more than 6,800 plant species and is spread across both rolling hills and flatlands. Wild native bellbirds, wood pigeons and tui can be heard on most days. The garden occupies 30.4 hectares in North Dunedin.  Its varying range of floriculture and horticultural includes roses, herbaceous and perennial borders, a rock garden, New Zealand native plants and four hectares of Rhododendron Dell. It also houses a New Zealand Native plant collection including cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species.

Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ NZ’s premier Steampunk experience is a museum and workshop situated in the historic Victorian precinct of Oamaru. It is crazy, quirky and unique; unlike any other visitor attraction in this universe!
Outside of the imposing free-standing Oamaru stone building, "steampunk" engine SP001 greets visitors by belching flames, smoke and eyrie sounds; whilst inside, a museum of two large darkened rooms and a basement presents a theme of a dark post-apocalyptic vision of a future "as it might have been". You can find out more about Steampunk HQ including opening hours and pricing here.

Your accommodation: Distinction Dunedin Hotel

Distinction Dunedin Hotel occupies the grand Chief Post Office built in the 1930’s. This art deco inspired building has recently been transformed into a 4 star hotel with elegant décor, set in the heart of the city.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 4
Dunedin to Queenstown

This drive takes you through the heart of the historical Otago Goldfields. The townships of Lawrence, Roxburgh and Alexandra, once booming mining towns in the late 1800's gold rush now sleepy sun-traps bearing little resemblance to their bustling past. However, some buildings do remain as do the original shafts and workings. In more recent times Alexandra has become the 'stone fruit capital' of New Zealand, with the ideal climate for the trees. It is also a great place to buy some of the local produce. The road follows the South Island's longest river, the Clutha River, and at Clyde, you will see one of the largest hydro power stations harnessing its energy before passing through Gibbston to arrive at your destination today, Queenstown.  
 

Queenstown

Known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is home to many adrenaline-inducing activities. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this alpine town is surrounded by towering mountains. Each of the seasons has its own special vibe, and most adrenaline-filled activities can be accessed year-round. Queenstown is home to jet boating, bungy jumping, rafting, skydiving, paragliding, and even indoor thrills. If you want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon Swing, or Zip line the Gondola. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, there are plenty of recreational activities, including hiking and biking trails to explore, guided tours, boat cruises, scenic flights, or spa and wellness options to help you get away. Head to the lakefront, eat at one of the al fresco eateries, and soak up the local vibes; catch a ride on the iconic 100-year-old steamship the TSS Earnslaw; or take the Skyline Gondola and enjoy bird's-eye views of the Remarkables mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu. Pack a picnic and go for a hike, only 20 minutes from Central Queenston, Coronet Peak opens for summer sightseeing. You can ride the Peak Gondola to the top for panoramic views and hike the trails, or go for a bike ride on many excellent biking trails. In winter, Queenstown becomes a world-class winter resort, with four ski areas and a range of activities, bars, restaurants, and ways to relax and unwind.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this spectacular landscape. Sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak and the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Gardens

The Queenstown Gardens are just a few minutes walk from central Queenstown and offer a beautiful and tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle. The landscaped gardens include plenty of places to sit down and admire the beauty of the gardens. Pristine lawns, a large water feature, a wide variety of trees and plants, a rose garden and a couple of significant memorials all combine to provide that perfect escape from downtown Queenstown.
The gardens are a popular place to take a picnic, relax with friends and family and enjoy the views of Lake Wakatipu. The most visible tree is the Douglas Fir which provides a protective cover around the gardens and seclusion from the lively downtown area of Queenstown.
The gardens are also a popular place for enthusiasts of disc golf where 18 holes are laid out for you to complete a round of 'golf' with your disc. Metal baskets act as the holes with 'pars' offered for each hole and tees adding to the experience. Frisbees can easily be purchased from most outdoor shops in the town centre.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Walking tracks in and around Queenstown

Queenstown is well known for its adventure sports and activities but it also a great network of walking tracks and trails to suit all abilities and time frames. The department of conservation office located on Shotover Street can offer local advice on the conditions of walking tracks.
Some of the more popular walks are listed below.
Queenstown Hill - around 3 hours return (4 kilometres). Gravel path and then trail. A 500 metre climb through pine forest to the summit of Te Tapu-nui (mountain of intense sacredness). The climb is well rewarded with 360 degree views of Remarkables Mountain Range, the Kawarau River, Cecil Peak, and of course Lake Wakatipu. The track starts on Belfast Terrace which is just 1 km from the city centre.
Ben Lomond - around 2 hours (4 1/2 kms return). Take the Skyline Gondola ride to the terminal and the track is signposted from here. This is quite a steep climb and not recommended for children. Also take note of weather forecasts as the summit sits at 1748 metres. The effort is rewarded with spectacular views and on clear days you can see Mt Earnslaw and Mt Aspiring.
Bobs Cove - 20 minutes of easy lakeshore walks. Bobs Cove is 14 kilometres from Queenstown along the Glenorchy Road. Take the drive along the road and Bobs Cove is signposted.

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.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 270 kms / 168 miles : 3.3 hours

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 5
Milford Sound Coach, Cruise, Fly small group tour from Queenstown

Experience Milford Sound from the road, sea and air on this full day journey. Ride in a premium Mercedes van with panoramic windows to fully enjoy the stunning scenery, then head to the water on a cruise of the fiord before taking to the air for the journey back to Queenstown over the breathtaking Southern Alps.

Your accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, the Millennium Hotel is just minutes from Queenstown's central shopping and entertainment district. Outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating are just some of the easily accessible activities nearby in New Zealand's adventure capital.
Meals included: Breakfast

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 6
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 the 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 highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beaches occasionally. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. Keep heading North and be sure to enjoy the view of the ever-changing towering snowcapped Southern Alps Mountain Range. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night Franz Josef township.

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.

Franz Josef

Franz Josef is the name of the local village and the nearby glacier, the Maori name being Ko Roimata o Hine Hukatere which translates to The Tears of the Ice Maiden,
The main attraction is the rare glacier which is one of three in the world that transcends from alpine into temperate rainforest and almost sea level, New Zealand is home to two, the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, these are also some of the most accessible in the world which is why they are so popular. The best way to see the glacier is either a scenic flight or for the more adventurous a Heli Hike, you are able to view the glacier by a short 5-minute drive south out of the village and a short easy walk to a viewing platform
As amazing as the glacier is, Franz Josef has plenty more to offer visitors, including adventure activities, an abundance of forest and alpine walking tracks

Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cruise & Nature Walk with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours

Take a cruise on Lake Mapourika, the largest lake in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Journey across the Lake and enjoy exclusive access to the private rainforest trail through the kiwi sanctuary. Step off the boat & into another world of Jurassic rainforest and meet curious native bird-life. The nature walk follows a track thoughtfully carved by your skipper Dale and his team, ensuring minimal impact on the area. Experience the pristine beauty of old-growth rainforest, untouched and preserved in its natural state. This haven is home to abundant birdlife, including the graceful white herons and New Zealand’s native bush birds.

Your accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Only a breath away from the Franz Josef Glacier, Scenic Hotel is located in the heart of Franz Josef Village. Here you will find all of the amenities you would expect, as well as being close to the shops, restaurants and activities on offer in the beautiful Westland region.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 7
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today head north along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beach occasionally. Whataroa is the next town where you can see one of the world's rarest birds, 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. 
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 center offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Hokitika is a great place to explore craft and gift stores and head to the coast and take in the endless sea views. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge is located 45 minutes inland and offers turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
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 at the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

Return Car to City Depot

Spend some time exploring before returning your rental car to the city depot.

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.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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Taste of the Magnificent South Island - Day 8
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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