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Experience the highlights with our New Zealand tours of the South Island. This 14-day self-drive package includes accommodation, must-do activities, and a rental car for ultimate convenience.
Visit top destinations such as Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Lake Tekapo. In addition, indulge in activities ranging from Central Otago wine tours to scenic flights. Our New Zealand tours of the South Island encompass a staggering diversity of scenery and experiences.
Read on for the full details of the 14 Day South Island Highlights Package.
Arrive in Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Collect your rental car from the airport and make your way to your accommodation.
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 3 nights in Queenstown.
Today, experience a full day Gourmet Wine Tour around Central Otago.
Enjoy a relaxed day of fine cuisine and good company, sampling local cheeses and tasting premium cool-climate wines in one of the world’s great Pinot Noir wine regions.
In the evening, relive the elegance of turn-of-the-century travel with a cruise aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, the only coal-fired passenger vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Step aboard – watch the stokers fueling the fireboxes and hear the hiss of the steam engines working as the TSS Earnslaw takes you on a nostalgic cruise over beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Disembark at Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you will enjoy a stunning four-course meal. An entertaining after-dinner farm show provides a glimpse into high country farming life. On your return cruise, relax with a drink from the bar or join a fun sing-along with the ship’s pianist.
Driving time Queenstown to Te Anau 171 km / 106 miles, 2.5 hours
Journey alongside Queenstown’s stunning Lake Wakatipu and then through lush green farmland to reach Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.
In the afternoon, join Southern Lake Helicopters for a spectacular 30 minute scenic helicopter flight and sample the grandeur of the Fiordland scenery. Venture into the untamed Kepler Mountains and see what lies beyond the Te Anau horizon! Views of the Kepler Track (one of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks) and the Hidden Lakes spread out before you. Land at a mountain tarn to enjoy the vista and ruggedness of the Main Divide.
Stay 2 nights in Te Anau.
Driving time Te Anau to Milford Sound 116 km / 72 miles, 1.5 hours
Today, enjoy the stunning Milford Sound Nature Cruise! The Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest, and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand’s alpine zone.
Upon reaching Milford Sound, you will enjoy a 2.5 hour Milford Sound Nature Cruise. With specialist nature guides on board, Real Journeys Nature Cruises offer a close-up experience of Milford Sound’s rainforest, soaring rock walls, and wildlife. Throughout the cruise, the guides share stories of the fiord’s history and are happy to answer your questions.
Relax and explore Te Anau for the afternoon.
Driving time Te Anau to Dunedin 291 km / 180 miles, 4 hours
Travel to Dunedin, one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere. Dunedin offers a diverse range of experiences including the Speight’s Brewery, Larnach Castle and of course the stunning Otago Peninsula. Explore Dunedin and visit attractions of interest.
Stay 2 nights in Dunedin.
Today, join the Taieri Gorge Railway for one of the world’s great train trips, an experience not to be missed. Departing from Dunedin’s beautiful railway station, the Taieri Gorge Railway begins its scenic journey into some of New Zealand’s most rugged, ever-changing scenery. The train travels into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep canyon carved out over aeons by the ancient Taieri River. Negotiating the gorge with ease, the train travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts. The train will stop or slow down at various scenic points along the way, and you will get the chance to take photos or disembark to look around. Stand on the open-air platforms while the train moves, or enjoy a quiet drink and food from the onboard café while the train manager tells the story of the nature and history of the area.
Driving time Dunedin to Lake Tekapo 286 km / 177 miles, 4 hours
The drive to Lake Tekapo is stunning. On the way, you will first come across the Moeraki Boulders, between Moeraki and Hampden, where you will see unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast. Next, you will pass through Oamaru, which is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and also features some of New Zealand’s best 19th century architecture. From there, follow braided rivers and glacial lakes to reach Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo presents many world-class attractions such as the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, the luxurious spa complex Tekapo Springs and of course the world-famous Mt John Observatory.
Stay 2 nights in Lake Tekapo.
Today, enjoy a spectacular scenic flightseeing tour of Mount Cook and Westland World Heritage National Parks. Explore the alpine wonderland of New Zealand’s highest mountains as you fly over mighty alpine glaciers and lush coastal rainforest. View turquoise glacial lakes, golden tussock lands and braided rivers of the Mackenzie basin, plus remote high country sheep stations. Highlights include Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier! Every passenger has a window seat, and all aircraft have wings above for optimum viewing.
Relax in Lake Tekapo for the afternoon, exploring walking tracks and attractions of interest.
Driving time Lake Tekapo to Christchurch 227 km /141 miles, 3 hours
This far-reaching road adventure takes you from the mountains to sea level. Climb through the tussocky wilds of the Mackenzie Country before reaching the flat green tranquillity of the Canterbury Plains on your way to Christchurch.
In the afternoon, experience all four of Christchurch’s must-do activities: Christchurch Gondola, Tramway, Punting on the Avon River and Botanical Gardens Tour.
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Driving time Christchurch to Greymouth 250 km /155 miles, 3.5 hours
The Arthur’s Pass Highway through Porters Pass and Arthur’s Pass National Park is one of the most stunning drives in New Zealand. This coast-to-coast route traverses the Southern Alps. Highlights include passing the impressive Waimakariri and Otira River gorges, driving along the Otira Viaduct and exploring natural wonders like the rocks at Castle Hill and the narrow limestone cave at Cave Stream Reserve.
Explore Greymouth for the afternoon. You have the option to visit the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, which look like giant pancakes. The curious limestone formations are especially spectacular at high tide in a westerly sea. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.
Stay 1 night in Greymouth.
Driving time Greymouth to Franz Josef 173 km /107 miles, 2.5 hours
Continue south through dense rainforest towards New Zealand’s most famous glaciers. Stay at Franz Josef Glacier township.
While in Franz Josef you may wish to soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, nestled in
This evening, you have the option to visit the Glacier Hot Pools for a relaxing spa under the stars.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Wanaka 285 km / 177 miles, 4.5 hours
The change in landscape will amaze you as you travel down the West Coast, with glimpses of the Tasman Sea showing beneath rugged cliffs. Take the Haast Pass Highway inland and admire waterfalls and many viewing points and short walks along the way before reaching Wanaka, an alpine paradise with views so good it’s hard to put down your camera.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Relax and explore Wanaka – 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.
You could also visit Rippon Vineyard and Tasting Room to sample local wines, or catch a film at Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka’s quirky local theatre.
Driving time Wanaka to Queenstown 68 km / 42 miles, 1 hour
Drive over the Crown Range, one of New Zealand’s highest alpine roads, and admire the fantastic views along the way before arriving back in the stunning alpine resort of Queenstown. Drop your rental car off at Queenstown Airport and depart Queenstown.
Our New Zealand holiday packages are fully customisable. In other words, you can change the schedule, inclusions, or accommodation level to suit your preferences. Your personal travel consultant will work with you to tailor your itinerary.
We offer a range of alternative New Zealand tours of the South Island for inspiration:
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser today to begin planning your self-drive South Island tour.
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