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A 5 day introduction to the South Island including Mt Cook National Park, Queenstown. Fiordland, Milford Sound and the West Coast Glaciers and the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train journey.An ideal tour to customise to your own schedule.
Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park to Queenstown with Great Sights
Today you head into the heart of the South Island. First crossing the vast Canterbury Plains , then you enter the MacKenzie Country home to large high country sheep stations. The picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, is the first of the large Southern Lakes on your journey and you’ll enjoy a short stop here to take in the picturesque lake and one of the most photographed buildings in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd. Continue on to Lake Pukaki where on clear days you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mt Cook towering over the lake. The scenic drive along the lake delivers you into the heart of the national park and Mt. Cook Village. At Mt Cook Village you’ll enjoy a three-course lunch at the famous Hermitage Hotel. After lunch you’ll have time to explore the village and soak up the view. Alternatively you can experience a scenic helicopter or ski plane flight for incredible views of mountain peaks and glaciers (additional cost, weather permitting – this flight can be arranged with your driver guide on the day). Twizel, just south of Mt. Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama where a short afternoon tea stop is available (own expense). Crossing the Lindis Pass this is one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres, you pass from the Mackenzie Basin into Central Otago. The next major town is Cromwell, a major fruit growing region, which sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge. If time allows you’ll visit the Jones Family Orchard, where you can sample the local produce from Cromwell and surrounds. Follow the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge towards Queenstown and the Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand’s premier wine growing regions. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range come into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head towards the adventure and activity capital of New Zealand.
Free day in Queenstown
Queenstown is a destination for all seasons with entertainment and activities to suit everyone. Situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, one of the more popular cruises is on board the TSS Earnslaw steamship to Walter Peak High Country Station for a barbeque dinner. During the day you could take a guided tour of the Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn wineries with Appellation Wine Tours or for some 4WD fun, Nomad Safaris can take you to historic Mace Town or Skippers Canyon. Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies were partly filmed in the region so a Safari of the Scenes tour is great for lovers of beautiful scenery as well as fans of the movies. If you want to get you blood pumping a bit more, the iconic Shotover Jet Boat Ride is a must, or venture into Mt Aspiring National Park for a journey into pristine wilderness first on a jet boat ride up the Dart River, then a short walk through magnificent beech forests. Queenstown is known as the ‘Adventure Capital’ of NZ, so for maximum thrills you can try bungy jumping, skydiving or white water rafting. For a great introduction to the region the Queenstown Highlights Tour explores Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley as well as taking in some remarkable photo stops. Queenstown is also the perfect base from which to explore Fiordland National Park. Take the Real Journeys luxury coach to Milford Sound, one of the most breath-taking journeys in the world, then cruise the pristine waters of the fiord with its bountiful waterfalls, there’s also the option to return back to Queenstown by aeroplane for a bird’s eye view of the this breath-taking region.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Shotover Canyon River Jet Boat Adventure
Riding the iconic ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat through the narrow Shotover Canyon is an exhilarating experience not to be missed. Your skilled jet boat driver pushes the boat to 85 kph, skimming across shallow water and past towering canyon walls. This 25 minute white water ride includes 360 degree spins and maximum thrills.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Skyline Gondola
Marvel at the stunning views as you ride the Skyline Queenstown Gondola – the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of the must-do activities in Queenstown! Sit back and relax as the best views in the region unfold before your eyes and the Gondola carries you 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak. En route you will enjoy a spectacular 220 degree panorama, with breath taking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak and over Queenstown. On arrival the purpose built viewing platforms and outdoor terraces provide great photo opportunities and you can enjoy a meal at the Market Kitchen Cafe.
Milford Sound Nature Cruise with return luxury coach transfers from Queenstown
Return luxury coach transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with an extended 2½ hour Nature Cruise along the full length of the fiord.
On boarding a Real Journeys luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown, you will enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Te Anau. The coach driver provides an informative commentary. After a morning tea break in Te Anau, where you have the option of purchasing refreshments, the coach continues along the spectacular Milford Road. There is time for photo stops and short walks along the way.
On reaching Milford Sound, you board the Milford Mariner for a leisurely extended cruise of the fiord. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rain forest, mountains and wildlife with extensive commentary by the on board nature guide. Includes picnic boxed lunch.
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier
Depart Queenstown by coach passing through Cromwell, Wanaka and Hawea before travelling over the magnificent Haast Pass into Westland. On arrival transfer to your accommodation. A local shuttle is available to take you to the glacier base where you can enjoy some short walks and magnificent views. Perhaps take a scenic helicopter flight for the ultimate view. Spectacular photo opportunities abound of these huge ice masses. Watch out for keas (native parrots) and their inquisitive cheeky play.
Glacier Valley shuttle
You will be met at your accommodation by a representative from Glacier Valley Eco Tours and taken on a short tour to view the glacier. Your shuttle vehicle will transfer you up the Franz Josef valley to the road end. Here you will have the opportunity to walk to view the glacier from a viewing platform. Or enjoy one of the short walks available in this area. You will be returned to your accommodation by the Glacier Valley Eco Tours shuttle.
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station with Intercity
This morning travel north through the small townships of Whataroa and Harihari. Stop at the Bushman’s Centre for refreshments and a chance to experience a bit of West Coast humour. Continue through the township of Ross, which in the late 1800s was the centre of one of New Zealand’s richest alluvial goldfields. In 1903 the largest gold nugget ever found in New Zealand was discovered at Jones Creek, not far from the town centre. It weighed 2807 grams. The New Zealand Government later purchased the nugget and presented it as a coronation gift to King George V. On arrival into Hokitika there is time to purchase lunch, walk around the town centre, to view the greenstone factories, visit the woodworking studio, or just relax and enjoy the windswept coast. Hokitika is the administrative and commercial centre for this part of Westland. The major primary industry is timber milling. Dairy and sheep farming, commercial fishing, white baiting and eel processing being the other major industries. Continue onto Greymouth Railway Station from where you catch the world famous Tranz Alpine train across the Southern Alps to Christchurch.
Tranz Alpine Scenic train Greymouth to Christchurch
Considered one of the world’s great train journeys, the Tranz Alpine scenic train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You’ll travel from the Tasman Sea through Arthur’s Pass National Park to the Pacific Ocean. From the comfort of your carriage you will rise from the lush rain forest of the West Coast to the spectacular mountains of the Southern Alps. Traveling through gorges and the river valley of the Waimakariri River you’ll descend to the farmland of the Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.
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