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Discover the highlights of the island with this New Zealand South Island itinerary for 10 days. Fast-paced and action-packed, this itinerary includes must-see destinations such as Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Franz Josef, and the Abel Tasman.
Often the highlights of the South Island are the scenic drives. This New Zealand self drive holiday includes countless stunning drives, from the Milford Road and the Mackenzie Basin to Haast Pass.
Read on for more details on the 10 Day South Island Wonders Package.
Arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Collect your rental car from the airport and make your way to your Christchurch accommodation.
Discover the vibrant and picturesque garden city, renowned for its natural beauty, lively entertainment scene, and strong cultural heritage. With its stunning botanical gardens and tree-lined avenues, Christchurch is both a sophisticated city and beautiful place to relax.
Your options include visiting the Canterbury Museum, where you can find rare Maori artefacts; the stories behind them will fascinate you. The museum has a frequent range of special exhibitions, a café and a gift shop for you to browse. Other recommended activities include the Christchurch Gondola, Tramway, Punting on the Avon River and the Botanical Gardens Tour.
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Driving time Christchurch to Lake Tekapo 230 km / 143 miles, 3 hours
Depart Christchurch and travel south across the Canterbury Plains. Make your way inland towards the Southern Alps to reach Lake Tekapo, an amazing turquoise lake. Tekapo presents many world class attractions, from the famous Church of the Good Shepherd to scenic flights exploring NZ’s highest mountains and largest glaciers (including Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier, and Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers).
At night, join Dark Sky Project on their famous observatory tour at the top of Mt John! See the wonders of the southern night sky, and experience the thrill of peering through powerful telescopes. When the stars are hidden from view, take a journey to discover the nocturnal world of an astronomer. See a range of research equipment that is out-of-bounds to the general public and experience the working environment of an astronomer.
*Please note this tour is not suitable for children under 5 years old.
Stay 1 night in Lake Tekapo.
Driving time Lake Tekapo to Queenstown 254 km / 158 miles, 3 hours
Travel through the dramatic Lindis Pass, which links the Mackenzie Basin to Central Otago. Stop in Cromwell if you wish, where you can visit orchards and fruit farms to buy some delicious fresh fruit, fruit ice creams, juices and ciders. Continue on to Queenstown, New Zealand’s stunning alpine resort and adventure capital.
Relax and explore Queenstown, with the option to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park, the Underwater Observatory, or the Ivan Clarke Gallery; ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin, or simply enjoy a lakefront stroll or a bit of boutique shopping.
Stay 2 nights in Queenstown.
Enjoy a scenic coach journey through heartland New Zealand to reach Milford Sound, where you will enjoy a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. As you cruise through the spectacular fiord, you won’t be able to tear your eyes from the wonders of Milford Sound! Sheer cliffs, towering snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, hanging valleys, sub-tropical rainforests, marine life… words just don’t do it justice, you have to see it for yourself! After your cruise, relax while your coach returns through stunning scenery before delivering you back to your Queenstown accommodation.
Driving time Queenstown to Wanaka 70 km / 43 miles, 1 hour
Drive over the beautiful Crown Range, one of New Zealand’s highest alpine roads, and admire the fantastic views along the way. Be sure to stop at the historic Cardrona Hotel for a refreshment before your arrival into Wanaka, an alpine town boasting panoramic views, a relaxed atmosphere and myriad walking tracks.
Relax and explore Wanaka this afternoon. You may want to visit Puzzling World, Wanaka’s illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include strolling along one of Wanaka’s stunning walking tracks, relaxing on the lake’s edge or browsing through Wanaka’s boutique shops.
Stay 1 night in Wanaka.
Driving time Wanaka to Franz Josef 285 km / 177 miles, 4 hours
Enjoy the journey up the West Coast to reach Franz Josef. There are many short walks and viewing points to take in along the Haast Pass Highway, which will help break up the journey. A scenic walk to the Blue Pools is highly recommended. Other points of interest along the way are Ship Cove and Bruce Bay. Continuing along the West Coast, you may like to visit to Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier, where you can take a 20 minute walk (one-way) to the jetty, to admire the reflected views of the Southern Alps on the surface of the lake.
In the afternoon, discover Franz Josef with the highly recommended Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk. Hike the ancient path of where the glacier once stood; through lush rainforest and alongside the Waiho river. Discover the legends and history of the glacier and learn all about the flora and fauna you encounter along the way. Your guide will lead you on an informative journey through this unique valley, with plenty of opportunities to explore the remarkable landscape and see what the glacier has left behind. Experience pristine waterfalls, ancient temperate rainforest and the dynamic Waiho River. After a brief climb you will be rewarded with views of the glacier’s constantly changing terminal face and enjoy a well-deserved hot drink.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Hokitika 136 km / 85 miles, 1.5 hours
Discover the West Coast’s beauty in Hokitika, famous for its wild beach and arts and crafts scene. Watch a masterpiece being crafted from gold, silver, molten glass, paua, bone, silk or greywacke or carve your own creation from wood or jade (pounamu). Take in Hokitika’s natural beauty, enjoy its expansive beach, or venture down one of the many walking and mountain biking tracks.
Stay 1 night in Hokitika.
Driving time Hokitika to Abel Tasman 359 km / 223 miles, 5 hours
Journey towards the Abel Tasman, an area renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, unmodified estuaries, long sunshine hours and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. In the afternoon, relax on one of the many golden beaches.
Stay 1 night in Abel Tasman.
Driving time Abel Tasman to Nelson 65 km / 40 miles, 1 hour
In the morning, enjoy a boat cruise into the Abel Tasman National Park where you can relax
In the afternoon, make your way to Nelson. Enjoy New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours and discover the creative paradise that is Nelson, with artists, galleries, local markets and gourmet cafés.
Stay 1 night in Nelson.
Driving time Nelson to Hanmer Springs 308 km / 191 miles, 3.5 hours
Travel on to Hanmer Springs, a year-round holiday destination offering a variety of outdoor activities, great cafés and of course the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. Visitors have been travelling to bathe in the rejuvenating hot mineral pools for over 120 years! Relax in open-air thermal public and private pools and de-stress with spa therapies.
Stay 1 night in Hanmer Springs.
Driving time Hanmer Springs to Christchurch 145 km / 90 miles, 2 hours
Travel to Christchurch at your leisure, drop your rental car off at Christchurch Airport and depart.
This South Island road trip package is fully customisable. In other words, you can change the schedule, inclusions, and accommodation level to suit your preferences. Your personal travel consultant will work with you to tailor the itinerary to match your interests.
As you begin planning your New Zealand self drive holiday, let us know if you have any special interests or must-see destinations.
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser today to begin planning your unforgettable South Island holiday.
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