Arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Collect your rental car from the airport, discover the city or relax in your accommodation.
Christchurch is a vibrant, energetic city where urban regeneration, creativity, and innovation thrive. Picture amazing street art, innovative projects, a booming hospitality scene and state-of-the-art architecture that is changing the way the city looks, feels and functions – all the while staying true to its heritage and traditional English feel.
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 and 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 the luxurious spa complex Tekapo Springs and of course Mt John Observatory.
In the afternoon, 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, mightiest alpine glaciers and lush coastal rainforest. View the turquoise glacial lakes, golden tussock lands & braided rivers of the Mackenzie basin, plus remote high country sheep stations. Highlights include Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier! Every passenger has a window seat, and all aircraft have wings above for optimum viewing.
Stay 1 night in Lake Tekapo.
Driving time Lake Tekapo to Dunedin 286 km / 177 miles, 3.5 hours
Continue your journey south, following a series of braided rivers to Oamaru. You may wish to stop in Oamaru, which is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and also features some of New Zealand’s best
After you have discovered the boulders, carry on to Dunedin, one of the
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. The train negotiates the gorge with ease as it 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 Te Anau 290 km / 180 miles, 4 hours
Relax and take in the views of heartland New Zealand while you travel to Te Anau. Nestled on the edge of a lake, the picturesque township of Te Anau is the main visitor base for the glacier-carved wilderness that is Fiordland National Park.
While you relax in Te Anau, you may wish to visit Fiordland Cinema and watch Ata Whenua – Shadowland, which was filmed by helicopters flying over the remote reaches of Fiordland National Park. You could also visit the Department of Conservation visitor centre for displays on the natural wonders of the region. Take a stroll along the lakefront to the Wildlife Park, where you can view endangered native birds, or visit the nearby Lake Manapouri for even more impressive views.
Te Anau is known as the walking capital of New Zealand, so the hiking options are endless! Enjoy the walk to the top of Key Summit for stunning views over Fiordland National Park, take a full day to explore the Kepler Track, or stroll along the lakefront esplanade.
Stay 3 nights in Te Anau.
Today, explore a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of thousands of glowworms. Your Te Anau Glowworm Cave adventure begins with a cruise across beautiful Lake Te Anau on board the catamaran Luminosa to the western side of the lake.
On arrival, there is time to view the interesting displays at Cavern House before your friendly guides accompany you underground in small groups. As you explore by path and small boat, your senses will be overwhelmed. In this mysterious underground world, discover fossils and rock formations, and view rushing waterfalls and whirlpools. Learn how the caves are still being carved out by the incredible and relentless power of nature before gliding through silent darkness to the glowworm grotto. The delicate incandescence of thousands of tiny glowworms is a magical sight!
Driving time Te Anau to Manapouri 21 km / 13 miles, 20 minutes
Doubtful Sound and the Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise is the next step up from Milford Sound! In Manapouri, board your luxury catamaran and cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri before making a trip across Wilmot Pass, pausing along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view Doubtful Sound glistening far below.
In Doubtful Sound, you will board another catamaran for a three hour cruise through this pristine fiord. During the cruise, your knowledgeable and friendly nature guides will share with you their passion for the region through their commentary. They will answer questions, point out landmarks and provide you with information about the varied wildlife you may encounter, including dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland crested penguin.
Driving time Te Anau to Queenstown 174 km / 108 miles, 3 hours
Venture past Lake Wakatipu, a picturesque glacial lake. Queenstown awaits you, New Zealand’s adventure capital.
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 fuelling 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 evening meal. An entertaining after-dinner farm show provides a glimpse into high country farming life. Then on your return cruise to Queenstown, relax with a drink from the bar or join a fun sing-along with the ship’s pianist and make a toast to a fantastic holiday!
Stay 4 nights in Queenstown.
Today, join Nomad Safaris for their half-day heritage Skippers Canyon adventure that follows the rugged and once treacherous Skippers Road. The Skippers Canyon 4WD tour departs from Queenstown, heading out towards Coronet Peak.
Follow in the footsteps of many adventurers and discoverers as this old winding road brings you to the historic Skippers Bridge, which provides a stunning photo opportunity. After carefully negotiating the bridge, your tour continues into the historic township of Skippers. Though the town is long since abandoned, many original buildings still remain for you to explore. Indulge in morning tea at the Skippers Schoolhouse and immerse yourself in the history of this stunning place through photos and artefacts from the early days of this settlement. On the return journey, you will stop at Deep Creek, where you can turn your hand to a spot of gold panning. Some may also recognise spots along the Skippers Road as being featured in The Lord of The Rings.
There are many other family activities in Queenstown that you may like to try. At Thrill Zone in central Queenstown you can experience a Vortex 12D Motion Theatre, Laser Tag, Drift Karting and more. Another great family option is visiting the Below Zero Ice Bar where everything is carved from ice! Queenstown also offers many other family-friendly activities such as ice skating, mini golf, ten-pin bowling and the “Time Tripper” experience. “Time Tripper” is an immersive state-of-the-art animated show situated under Lake Wakatipu, that tells the Māori Legend of the Lake and the story of the creation of the Wakatipu region, starting 90 million years ago taking the viewer through to present day Queenstown.
Relax in Queenstown, with the option to take a day trip to Arrowtown. You’ll be enchanted by Historic Arrowtown, a New Zealand treasure located 20 minutes from Queenstown. Arrowtown is charming and quirky – a delightful gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a procession of heritage buildings that stretches into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miner’s cottages. The buildings in this lovely precinct house shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants – many classy, most individual, not one from an international chain.
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 vistas from fantastic viewing points. 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.
Wanaka has the buzz of a genuine alpine town and is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures, and with Mount Aspiring National Park located close by it’s the perfect destination for exploring the Southern Alps.
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 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
In the afternoon, you could add on a highly recommended scenic helicopter flight to view and land on Franz Josef Glacier.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Driving time Franz Josef to Hokitika 136 km / 85 miles, 1.5 hours
Enjoy your journey along the West Coast to Hokitika, famous for its arts and crafts. Watch a masterpiece being crafted from gold, molten glass, paua or bone 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.
While in Hokitika, you may wish to make the scenic drive to Hokitika Gorge, where an impressive turquoise river flows through a narrow canyon, or Lake Kaniere, a beautiful lake nestled beneath the mountains.
You could also visit the National Kiwi Centre, where you will be able to see a rare kiwi; view New Zealand’s living dinosaur, the Tuatara; and participate in feeding the giant eels. Or make a drive north to Shantytown, where you can explore the heritage village, ride the steam train, try your hand at panning for gold, and take old-time styled photos.
Stay 1 night in Hokitika.
Driving time Hokitika to Abel Tasman 359 km / 223 miles, 4.5 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-sand beaches.
Stay 3 nights in Abel Tasman.
Today, take a boat cruise into Abel Tasman National Park, where you can relax on the hot golden sand, enjoy a day walk, or simply remain aboard for a return boat cruise.
Soak in the natural beauty and enjoy! This trip allows you to explore sections of the Abel Tasman Coast Track; the boat will stop at scenic points along the way where you can get off and walk a section of the track. The boat will then collect you later in the day. You could also just pack a picnic lunch and beach towels and laze on the beach for the day.
Today make the most of Golden Bay, boasting golden beaches, alpine valleys and tranquil fishing rivers that share a close proximity with the sea. Soak up the breathtaking scenery, arts and crafts, and walking tracks.
You might like to add a must-do kayaking adventure to your package or experiencing the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. This track is the perfect way to explore the beauty of Nelson’s Abel Tasman National Park.
Driving time Abel Tasman to Nelson 65 km / 40 miles, 1 hour
Journey to Nelson, a seaside town enjoying New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. Nelson is a creative paradise, with artists, galleries, local markets and gourmet cafés.
Explore Nelson today. You can walk the sun-drenched sands or take a sea kayaking tour around the coast and see a seal colony and little blue penguins bobbing in the water. Taste your way around the region by bicycle on Tasman’s Great Taste Trail or get your daily dose of adrenaline with a visit to one of the region’s world-class mountain bike parks.
The attractive walking mall at the heart of town is filled with galleries, gourmet cafés, and local shops. Visit the art studios, explore the craft markets, taste the delicious locally made artisan products and find something extraordinary to take home with you.
Stay 1 night in Nelson.
Driving time Nelson to Hanmer Springs 308 km / 191 miles, 3.5 hours
Travel on to Hanmer Springs, a
Stay 2 nights in Hanmer Springs.
Today, relax in Hanmer Springs plus experience the adrenaline rush of going 80 km per hour, skimming the river below with Thrillseekers Jet! Cut corners as turquoise snowmelt churns out behind you and experience 360° spins while you travel up the stunning Waiau Gorge.
Enjoy a family meal on your last evening in Hanmer Springs and raise a glass to a fantastic New Zealand holiday!
Driving time Hanmer Springs to Christchurch 134 km / 83 miles, 2 hours
Travel to Christchurch at your leisure, drop your rental car off at Christchurch Airport and depart Christchurch.
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