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This itinerary is one of our most popular South Island tours. In just 9 days capture the essence of the South Island’s cities, lakes, mountains, fiords, glaciers and many more attractions.
Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation
You will be met on arrival from your flight and a private driver will deliver you to your Christchurch accommodation.
Your tour documentation pack and support
On arrival into New Zealand your tour pack is hand delivered to you by our representatives. The pack contains all the documentation you will need for your tour including a printed and bound detailed version of your itinerary with driving instructions and maps for each leg and all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities. You’ll also receive a wonderful New Zealand picture atlas and lots of relevant brochures and information on the destinations you’ll be visiting. While travelling throughout New Zealand we offer 24 hour support and help should you need it.
Welcome to Christchurch City
Christchurch is New Zealand’s evolving city, reinventing itself into an exciting and funky destination surrounded by green spaces. Get acquainted with the city by taking the double decker hop on, hop off scenic bus, or for a nod to historic Christchurch take the Tram across town to the Botanic Gardens. The range of fantastic dining options is growing steadily, so be sure to talk to the locals for their recommendations.
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY – Discover Christchurch Double-Decker Bus Tour
Join the tour on a classic 1960’s London Open Top Double Decker buses for a fun and informative Tour of Christchurch. Learn about Christchurch’s fascinating history from the pioneering days through to modern day times and learn how Christchurch is recovering from the devastating February 22 earthquake which has now become a major event in New Zealand’s history. On Tour you will view some of the areas affected by the earthquakes, see how Christchurch is preserving some of its iconic heritage buildings and hear about the exciting vision to rebuild and restore the inner city. Your experience includes a 1 hour Tour around central Christchurch on New Zealand’s only Open Top Double Decker and a 2 hour Tour on a closed top Double Decker visiting places of interest in greater Christchurch. You’ll also have the opportunity to hop off the bus at Mona Vale Gardens, Sumner Seaside Village and the Port Hills where you’ll have time for photos and to take in the views.
Collect your rental car
This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV’s.
GPS navigation system
Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.
Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park
Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route, Geraldine offers an ideal stop before you head into the Mackenzie Country. Ascending Burkes Pass, you’ll enter New Zealand’s high country. The picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, is the first of the large Southern Lakes on your journey. Enjoy the magnificent views from the lake shore or for an even better view take a scenic flight. On arriving at Lake Pukaki, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Mt Cook, towering over the lake. Continue along the lake as it guides you to your destination, Mt. Cook Village. There are many ways to enjoy Mt Cook National Park, by ski plane or helicopter with a glacier landing, kayaking on a glacial lake or by walking one of the many tracks. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre is a must see.
Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook
An up close amazing encounter with icebergs, on a glacial terminal lake. Glacier Explorers is the only tour of its kind in New Zealand, and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of these are accessible to the average person. By using a boat you get close to towering icecliffs and huge floating icebergs. The boats provide a safe way to unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand’s largest glacier. Being able to view, touch and taste 500 year old ice is a new experience for most people! Departing from Mount Cook Village outside The Hermitage Hotel you board a small bus for a pleasant trip to the Tasman Valley, followed by an easy 30 minute stroll through the National Park. Then board your MAC boat, and enjoy the ever changing ice face of the Tasman Glacier icebergs on the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. The 2.5 hour trip (45 min to 1 hour on the lake) enjoys a commentary throughout provided by your experienced guide.
Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Explorer Pass
A tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world’s greatest explorers, the centre showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region, its people and its place in the universe. The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre’s 126-seat custom-designed theatre is the world’s only theatre with 2D, 3D and world-class deﬁniti Digital Dome Planetarium, contained within the same space. In the foyer of the theatre you’ll find our museum showcasing the history of the Mount Cook region through transport, climbing, The Hermitage Hotel and pioneer extraordinaire, Sir Edmund Hillary himself.
Mt. Cook National Park to Queenstown
Twizel, just south of Mt. Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand. Wrinkly Rams is a local café and also offers an informative sheep shearing demonstration. The Lindis Pass is one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres. The tussock covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. The first Central Otago settlement you reach is the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café. A short drive further along is the historic and scenic Bendigo Reserve, which was one of Otago’s original gold mining settlements. Well marked paths will guide you to the remains of stone cottages and other buildings from this bygone era. Cromwell sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the historic old town is well worth the visit, the buildings are now home to quaint shops and cafes. The old town buildings were relocated from the valley that now sits deep under Lake Dunstan. Continue on through the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge as they guide you towards the Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand’s premier wine growing regions. At the famous historic Kawarau Bridge you can take a bungy jump or sit back and enjoy the drama as visitors hurtle off the bridge. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range comes into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head towards Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.
TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour
Enjoy a return scenic cruise from downtown Queenstown to Walter Peak High Country Farm on board the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. On disembarking at Walter Peak you are warmly welcomed and escorted through the beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming Colonel’s Homestead. Relax in the unique ambience of the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, the heart of the stately homestead at Walter Peak. Here, you’ll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The delicious seasonal menu includes an expansive array of New Zealand and local produce, from succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie or grill, a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Then finish your meal with our irresistible desserts, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country. On the magical night-time cruise home, you can enjoy the camaraderie of a sing-a-long with the ship’s pianist or breathe in the fresh night air on the moonlit decks as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Queenstown offers adventure for all tastes and abilities. From some of the more well know adrenalin sports such as bungy jumping and skydiving to the more sedate such as sampling the local wines or exploring the nearby historic gold mining regions, there is something for everyone. With the town’s prime location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu there are many water based activities to enjoy. The TSS Earnslaw is a vintage steamship that still plies the placid lake waters taking visitors to Walter Peak Station daily to enjoy a high country sheep farm experience, lunch or a farmhouse dinner. The Kawarau and Shotover Rivers offer speed and white water thrills, try the popular Shotover Jet Boat Ride or Kawarau white water rafting. The Gibbston Valley is a short drive from Queenstown and home to vineyards producing some of the finest wines in New Zealand, particularly the Pinot Noir. Award winning Appellation Wine Tours offer intimate and knowledgeable tours to Gibbston and Bannockburn vineyards. For adventures further afield Nomad Safaris offer 4WD excursions in and around Queenstown to otherwise difficult locations such as Skippers Canyon and Mace Town. Informative guides share local stories of the region, including the filming locations for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. For more majestic Middle Earth scenery, the Dart River Wilderness Safari is by far the most scenic jet boat excursion in the country. A short walk amongst native beech forest plus a 4WD bus journey is capped off with over 1 1/2 hours and around 35 kilometres of exhilarating jet boat action as you head deep into Mt. Aspiring National Park.
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 – Nomad Safaris, Safari of the Scenes Wakatipu Basin tour
For those with an interest in the Lord of the Rings epics, we will take you on a scenic adventure through the locations used in the filming. No sets are left behind, just the gorgeous scenery featured in the films. And if you haven’t seen the movies, it doesn’t matter, the scenery will still take your breath away. In safari-equipped 4WD vehicles, you will be taken on a true off-road adventure. Experienced guides will host you on a truly breathtaking excursion through the diverse scenery on offer in the Wakatipu Basin.You travel through historic Arrowtown and put the Land Rovers through their paces as you make a number of crossings over the Arrow River. View the stunning lake and mountain views from The Remarkables road and the Skippers Canyon Saddle. Some of the Lord of the Rings sites you will visit during this tour includes a glimpse of the Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings and the Ford of Bruinen.
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Queenstown
On boarding the luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown, enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Manapouri. From Pearl Harbour, Manapouri, you cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri to West Arm and then travel by coach over Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest. There are opportunities along the way to examine the plant life and view the spectacular scenery. Once at Doubtful Sound you board the catamaran, Commander Peak, for a 3 hour cruise of beautiful Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea. On board there is excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. Rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered in the right season. An interesting on board commentary keeps you informed and on the return journey, the vessel’s engines are turned off and visitors are treated to the ‘Sound of Silence’.
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)
Crossing the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in the country, you arrive into the alpine town of Wanaka, the gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park. The route follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the village of Makarora. The Blue Pools, just outside Makarora, are a wonderful 30 minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Driving towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600 kilometre stretch of bush, rainforest and podocarp forest. First Fox Glacier welcomes you to the glacier region and Franz Josef township is just a further 45 minutes.
Glacier Hot Pools
Nestled in lush rainforest, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of natural tranquility and the perfect way for visitors to unwind and experience a blissful state of pure relaxation after travelling along the coast or enjoying one of its many attractions. The Glacier Hot Pools are situated in a heavily wooded rainforest, beneath mature 30 metre tall trees. The temperatures of the three main pools and three secluded private pools range from 36 to 40 degrees. Amid this tranquil and enticing setting, the natural water features and call of native birds calm the mind and nourish the spirit.
Explore Franz Josef Glacier
The glacier is the main attraction in Franz Josef and what makes it such a unique feature is that this 12km glacier flows down through lush temperate rainforest, finishing just 300 meters above sea level. You can walk along the valley floor to the glacier’s terminal face without a guide, but you must take a licensed tour to get any closer than 100 metres of the glacier. Franz Josef Glacier Guides have a great choice of guided interpretive walks to and onto the glacier, including the new Ice Explorer tour and a Heli-hike option where you fly onto the glacier to explore the ice flows, caves and crevasses. Other scenic flights with short glacier landings are available with The Helicopter Line. The township, although small, has a lively atmosphere during its busy seasons and there is plenty of choice for dining out and to help you wind down from the day’s adventures a soak in the glacier hot pools is well recommended.
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike
An exciting scenic flight over all three icefalls of the Franz Josef Glacier. Landing high up on the glacier, you undertake a two hour guided trip amongst some of the most beautiful terrain available. Your guide chooses the route as you go and with an eye for the most spectacular ice formations you’ll soon be making your way through a wonderland of towering pinnacles and brilliantly blue ice. The panoramic views of the glacier and surrounding mountains are supreme. With plenty of opportunities for the perfect photograph and the chance to learn more about glaciers, this will almost certainly be the most memorable experience you will have while in New Zealand.
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station
The drive north from Franz Josef takes you through the historic gold mining region of Ross and the town of Hokitika, renowned for its pounamu (greenstone) its also a great place to explore the craft stores. You’ll then arrive at the West Coast’s largest town, Greymouth, which is also the starting point for the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building.
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.
Private transfer Christchurch train station to your accommodation
A private transfer will meet you on arrival into Christchurch train station and drive you to your Christchurch accommodation.
Private transfer to Christchurch airport
You will be collected from your accommodation and a private transfer will deliver you to Christchurch airport in time for your departing flight.
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