South Island Highlights
This tour takes in many of the sights synonymous with the travel bites of New Zealand – the Abel Tasman’s golden beaches, whale watching, New Zealand’s highest mountain, Queenstown our adventure capital, glaciers and the Tranz Alpine Train Journey.
- Abel Tasman
- Whale watching / Dolphin swimming
- Mt Cook
- Tranz Alpine Scenic Train Journey
Day 1 Fly into Nelson
Sunniest city in New Zealand (or a very close contender)! Food, wine, craft beer, arts, beaches and mountains – Nelson has it all. Spend a day exploring this, the most liveable city in New Zealand and its hinterland.
Day 2 Abel Tasman
Up to you how you visit the Abel Tasman – cruise, kayak, walk or a combination of all of these, guided or unguided the choice is yours – the golden beaches, the azure waters and lush bush – it is impossible to resist.
Day 3 Drive to Kaikoura
Head east from Nelson, over the Whangamoas to the Scenic Reserve at Pelorus. This is a great spot to get out and stretch your legs. It is an easy run into Blenheim and the Marlborough wine country from here. Have a sample, or enjoy a vineyard lunch before heading down the East Coast to Kaikoura – home of dolphin swimming, whale watching, and the albatross encounter.
Day 4 Kaikoura to Christchurch
The dolphins and whales are at their best in the early morning, so steal yourself to get up in time for an early start this morning. Any of these is an experience you will never forget. If you are a ‘birder’ try the Albatross Encounter boat trips where you will not only see albatross, mollyhawk but other pelagic birds – you may also see dolphins.
Spend the rest of the morning wandering around Kaikoura – maybe take in the Peninsula Walkway and head of to Christchurch in the afternoon.
Day 5 Christchurch
This is a city on the up – coping remarkably well with the savage effects of the recent earthquakes. Visit the Transitional Cathedral, the Re:Start Mall, the Canterbury Museum, or the Antarctic Centre.
Day 6 Mount Cook
From Canterbury farmland, the dairy hub of New Zealand and into the Mackenzie country and the blue blue waters of Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki– the landscape will certainly change today.
Aoraki Mount Cook at 3754m is New Zealand’s highest mountain. It unlikely that you will be looking to climb it, but an afternoon spent walking the many trails, particularly the 2.5 hour return up the Hooker Valley to Hooker Lake with its soaring alpine views is the best way to appreciate the area.
Day 7 Drive to Queenstown
Drive through merino sheep country – dry, stark, hills set against blue sky. Today’s drive will take you over the Lindis Pass, through Tarras, lovely little village with a great café and store, along Lake Dunstan, through Cromwell with its really interesting historic old town and through the Gibbston Valley and its wineries and into Queenstown. As we said on our website, and say again – everywhere you go in New Zealand, the scenery is varied and stunning.
Day 8 Queenstown
Adventure, adrenalin but so much more. When it comes to crazy adrenalin fuelled adventures – if you dreamt it – you can probably do it here. But if this isn’t your thing, we have heaps of suggestions for scenic drives, walks, winery visits, scenic flights, mountain biking, 4WD tours, Lord of the Rings film sites. Take a trip to Arrowtown, head up the Lake to Glenorchy. You do what you want at your pace. Round off the day in one of the many world class restaurants, drinking some of the best pinot noir in the world – or if you are into “best in the world’ don’t go past a Ferg Burger!
Day 9 Drive to Franz Josef
Over the Crown Range to Wanaka, past the Cadrona Hotel into Queenstown’s sleepy neighbour, Wanaka. Spend an hour by the lake, before taking on the stunning drive to the glaciers on the West Coast. The dry scenery gives way to dense beech forest as you head up the Makarora Valley towards Haast Pass. Stop at the Blue Pools, the many waterfalls, walk the many short tracks through nikau palms and drooping ferns, alive with birdsong and emerge at Haast on the Wild West Coast. The drive from Haast to Franz heads both inland and along the coast. Again, we have heaps of suggestions for walks, pitched to your ability, which will break your drive and get you into this country. You will first pass through Fox Township before the final 40 minutes to Franz Josef.
Day 10 Franz Josef
Your choice – walk to one of the varying viewpoints or take a scenic helicopter flight with snow landing or join a heli-hike where you fly up onto the glacier and spend a couple of hours on a guided walk, through ice caves and glacial formations before climbing back on board your helicopter and returning to Franz.
You are not far from the Okarito Lagoon, so for a complete change of pace, you may choose a bird watching tour, kayaking trip or visit to the white heron sanctuary. You can even join a night time kiwi walk.
Day 11 Drive to Greymouth
Travel up the Wild West Coast, stopping in the coastal town of Hokitika, greenstone (jade or pounamu) capital of New Zealand, before dropping off your hire car and boarding the Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch.
Day 12 Christchurch
Fly back to Auckland and on to your next destination.
Some alternatives you may consider:
• Spend a bit longer in Queenstown and take in a Milford Sound trip
• Drive to Te Anau and do an overnight trip on Doubtful Sound
• Spend a night in Wanaka and walk out to the Rob Roy Glacier
• Drive instead of train over Arthur’s Pass, taking in many of the walks including the Punchbowl Falls
• Head back to Nelson from Greymouth, via Punakaiki and the Buller Gorge
Remember – our knowledge, your journey – so mix and match bits of these itineraries so that they suit you – nothing is fixed! We will talk and email as much as you wish until you get what you want – this is YOUR holiday.