|Duration||Flexible Transport Pass (Recommended 2-3 weeks)|
|Tour Style||Flexible transport pass|
The pass exposes you to all the striking beauty of New Zealand's precious South Island. Witness spectacular glaciers, snow-capped mountains and the stillest of glacier lakes as you get further off the beaten track.
Day 1: Christchurch to Kaikoura
Haere mai (welcome)! Your adventure kicks off in the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch. We depart from the Christchurch International Airport in the morning for a beautiful drive up the coast to Kaikoura. Enjoy an afternoon free for activities. Get out on the water and experience one of Kaikoura’s famous dolphin and whale spotting tours, see seals sitting right beside the road at Goose Bay or wander around the peninsula and check out the breathtaking views from the lookout. Accommodation: Warm modern hostel. Optional paid activities: Whale watching, swimming with dolphins (pre-booking is advised in summer for dolphin swimming). Go fishing and eat your catch or try the amazing fresh fish and chips! Free activities: Walk around the peninsula and up to the lookout.
Day 2: Kaikoura to Picton
Leaving Kaikoura in the morning we wind our way up the rugged coastal roads, with stops for photos and to visit a seal colony en-route. Your overnight stop tonight is the port town of Picton, where you have the afternoon free to check out the Queen Charlotte Sound walk or take advantage of the free fishing gear and mountain bikes at the accommodation. The spa pool at the accommodation is the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day. Accommodation: Cosy villa. Free activities: Seal colony, Queen Charlotte Sound walk, go fishing, bicycle around town, relax in the accommodation’s spa pool.
Day 3: Picton to Marahau (Abel Tasman)
Enjoy a leisurely morning getting to know charming Picton. You’ll meet your group at the accommodation at midday. Once on the bus, we’ll cruise through the world famous Marlborough vineyard area and, depending on the group, we may stop for a wine tasting to sample the region’s speciality Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the coastal town of Nelson. We make a supermarket stop in Motueka to stock up on supplies for the next couple days and then make our way to our amazing overnight destination Marahau, right on the edge of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 4: Marahau (Abel Tasman)
With a full day at your leisure, don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore this stunning, coastal national park on foot, by sea or from the air. Abel Tasman is famous for being one of the sunniest spots in New Zealand and, as home to one of NZ’s Great Walks, is a popular place to hop off for hiking enthusiasts. Even those short on time can still use this free day to hike, kayak, sail or take a water taxi to get a taste of the park’s natural golden sand beaches and brilliant blue waters.
Day 5: Marahau (Abel Tasman) to Westport
Today we head south towards the ‘wild’ West Coast, an area known for its beautiful untamed beaches and stunning sunsets. We pass through Buller Gorge and down a stretch of road that was once labelled one of the top ten drives in the world by Lonely Planet. We stop for a walk along the craggy cliffs at Cape Foulwind to view the seal colony at Tauranga Bay and then head for the historic coal mining town of Westport. This is the best place on the South Island to hit the waves with a surf lesson, and the sunset from our accommodation tonight is a ‘must see’ if the weather is clear.
Day 6: Westport to Franz Josef
An early start takes us further down the rugged West Coast to the geographic wonder of Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and blowholes. We’ll stop to take a short walk around these unique limestone rock formations before we head for the historic gold mining town, Greymouth. We do pick-ups in Greymouth and make a stop in Hokitika, one of the best places to pick up a piece of NZ greenstone. Then, we’re on our way to our next overnight stop in the quaint little town of Franz Josef, home to the mighty Franz Josef Glacier.
Day 7: Franz Josef
Enjoy a free day to get out and experience the Franz Josef Glacier, an iconic highlight of the West Coast. The best way to navigate the maze of ice and explore the incredible landscape on the Franz Josef Glacier is with a guided tour, which consistently ranks as a favourite activity amongst travellers. The most popular trip features a short heli-hop onto the glacier with a guided educational tour on the ice and includes entry to the hot pools afterwards. Other options include visiting the glacial terminal face for some spectacular photos or doing one of the many excellent bush hikes in the region. Accommodation: Lodge in the middle of the rainforest.
Day 8: Franz Josef to Wanaka
It’s time to leave the West Coast behind. We stop in the morning for pick-ups at Fox Glacier before heading to the amazing mirror-like Lake Matheson to stretch our legs with a short walk. Then, we’ll travel inland through the mountainous Haast Pass and Makarora towards Wanaka. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever do and we’ll stop for plenty of photo ops along the way as we drive from rainforests to mountains, through beech forest and past great lakes. We’ll pass by the beautiful Lake Hawea and arrive in Wanaka late-afternoon in time to enjoy this picturesque lakeside town.
Day 9: Wanaka to Queenstown
Kick start your day with a brisk walk up Mt Iron, an early morning skydive or learn to fly a stunt plane over Wanaka. At mid-morning we’ll pack up and make our way to Queenstown, known in New Zealand as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ and the spiritual home of bungy jumping. We stop on our way into town at Kawarau Bridge, the first commercial bungy jumping site in the world, for your chance to take the big leap of faith. Queenstown offers an optional big (make that huge!) night out with plenty of excellent restaurants, pubs and live music to check out.
Day 10: Queenstown
You need at least one free day in Queenstown to make the most of the wide range of activities on offer. With a buzzy nightlife, beautiful mountain scenery and an exciting outdoor lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why passengers often hop off here to spend extra time exploring. Options include: bungy or swing, zipline tours, canyoning, jet boating, skiing, skydiving, local bush walks, or just enjoy the stunning scenery and do nothing.
Day 11: Queenstown to Gunn’s Camp
Today you are in for a treat. It’s an early start as we make our way to Milford Sound, one of NZ’s most famous destinations, sometimes referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. You won’t want to nap on this leg of the journey as we drive past Lake Wakatipu and watch the landscape change from farmland to mountains, glacier-carved valleys and fiords. There is time to do an afternoon boat cruise around Milford Sound to soak up this untouched world. Known for its rich marine ecology, it’s likely you’ll spot a few wild dolphins, seals and penguins.
Day 12: Gunn’s Camp to Invercargill/Stewart Island
We start the morning with a short riverside stroll through beech forest on the Viewing Gantry walk. Fiordland is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Te Wahipounamu (which incorporates four national parks including Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland and Fiordland) and you’ll understand why as you marvel at the spectacular surrounding landscape. This afternoon we travel further south via Te Anau to Invercargill and on to Bluff, where you can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. NZ’s third largest island, Stewart Island, has an abundance of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, such as fishing, kayaking, diving, bird watching and tramping tracks. Those not going to Stewart Island will spend the night in Invercargill.
Day 13: Invercargill/Stewart Island to Queenstown
The morning is yours to explore the island, meet the locals, go fishing or enjoy some of the walks. We catch an afternoon ferry back to the mainland. For those who chose not to venture onto Stewart Island your bus departs mid-morning to head out to Waipapa Point, Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay for some sea lion, penguin and dolphin spotting in the Catlins. On the chance we can’t find any wildlife, we can visit the 180 million-year-old fossilized forest and grab a milkshake. Afterwards, we return to Bluff Hill to meet up with the island-goers before we express back to Queenstown.
Day 14: Queenstown to Aoraki/Mt Cook
Today we head over the Lindis Pass through the beautiful Mackenzie Country and past picturesque Lake Pukaki on the way to our amazing stop at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook. We arrive in the early afternoon with time to do a 4WD & Argo Tour, check out the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre or do one of the many great short walks in the park. If you want to hop off the bus for a few days there are some incredible longer walks you can do (we’d recommend leaving climbing Mt Cook to the experienced mountaineers though).
Day 15: Mt Cook to Christchurch
Leaving Mt Cook we make our way through a landscape made famous in the Lord of the Rings films. We make a stop at turquoise Lake Tekapo to walk along the lake and visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. Next, we head on to Geraldine, where we will drop off any thrill seekers wanting to raft the top-notch Grade 5 whitewater on the Rangitata River. Those not rafting will continue on to Christchurch for a mid-afternoon arrival, giving you time to explore parts of the South Island’s largest city. The rafters will rejoin the group at the accommodation in Christchurch this evening. We hope you had a blast! *Winter only: We stop longer at Lake Tekapo for ice-skating, snow tubing or a swim in the hot springs.
Start where you like, but most people begin in Christchurch, Picton or Queenstown.