A Taste of the South Island
8 day Self Drive Touring Itinerary starting in Christchurch
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

A Taste of the South Island

This 8 day scenic route will give you a wonderful 'taste' of the South Island’s beauty and diversity. Visit its two largest cities, Christchurch and Dunedin, Mt Cook National Park and Te Anau the gateway to Fiordland National Park. You then experience the excitement of Queenstown before heading north to the unique West Coast Glacier region.

Tour summary and feature
Itinerary overview

Self Drive Touring Itinerary

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,546 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

8 days/7 nights

Boutique lodges & hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 7 times in the last 7 days

This itinerary also includes
- Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation
- Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
Tour full itinerary
Detailed itinerary
Day 1 - Arrive into Christchurch
A Taste of the South Island - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore is to take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights or ride the historic trams across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass

Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.

Your accommodation: Orari & Orari Apartments

Orari Bed and Breakfast offers elegant and inviting accommodation in the heart of Christchurch city. This heritage building has all the charm of a grand Victorian home, but with modern comforts providing for an enjoyable stay.
Day 2 - Enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
A Taste of the South Island - Day 2
If you are self driving, collect your rental car.

We have an extensive range of late model cars and 4WD vehicles from the top suppliers. See the range here or chat with your consultant about special needs or requests.

GPS navigation

Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. 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 Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mount Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mount Cook Village.
Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier The Tasman.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Big Sky Stargazing

Mount Cook is far from the city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand, perfect for viewing the night sky! Their fully trained guides are delighted to show you the beautiful southern night sky using the naked eye, state of the art astronomy telescopes and binoculars at the outdoor viewing platform. If the weather is not favourable then there will be an indoor alternative featuring New Zealand’s first full dome digital Planetarium, a high-definition video images on a suspended 9m wide x 4.5m high full dome. Unleash your imagination as you discover the night sky including the Southern Cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and even our very own galaxy, the spectacular Milky Way!

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 3 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country follow the Waitaki River to the coast then turning south for Dunedin
A Taste of the South Island - Day 3
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand, be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.
Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre The Octagon.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Speights Brewery Tour

Founded in 1876, the Speights Brewery still occupies its original Dunedin site - with several of its buildings dating back to the late 1800's. One of the only remaining 'gravity breweries' in the world, this 60-minute tour explains its inner workings. There is an opportunity to taste six different beers as well as bottle, cap and brew your own personal Speights Gold Medal Ale - the brewery's flagship beer.

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Dinner is offered in a Castle Dining Room, and is only available to Camp Estate guests. They do not operate a conventional restaurant, but in keeping with the historic setting of Larnach Castle, offer a three-course table d’hôte menu served house party style to all guests at one sitting – a chance to meet our other guests.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house, situated 500m from Larnach Castle. The house is built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate offers total privacy, with entry to Larnach Castle and grounds included.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 4 - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
A Taste of the South Island - Day 4
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound, renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival, you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

Your accommodation: Dunluce Bed and Breakfast

Dunluce offers boutique Bed and Breakfast accommodation with panoramic lake and mountain views. Situated in a quiet location Dunluce is an architecturally designed home with a private guest wing.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 5 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
A Taste of the South Island - Day 5
Te Anau to Queenstown

Today you’ll cross vast tussock lands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world-famous Shotover Jet full 360-degree spins!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. You'll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.
Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: The Dairy Private Hotel by Naumi

The Dairy Private Hotel – a unique blend of exquisite design, rich history and warm hospitality in the city centre. Beginning as Queenstown’s original ‘dairy’ (corner store) in 1920, it has now transformed into an interiors masterpiece after an exquisite refurbishment that features wallpapers from British luxury interiors brand House of Hackney.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 6 - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
A Taste of the South Island - Day 6
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in New Zealand to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast, a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night Franz Josef township.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Westwood Lodge

Westwood is a purpose built lodge, crafted entirely from wood and exquisitely decorated throughout. The lounge is the place to meet to watch the Southern Alps turn a soft pink in the setting sun.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 7 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
A Taste of the South Island - Day 7
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

Your private transfer driver will meet you on arrival into Christchurch train station and take you to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Orari & Orari Apartments

Orari Bed and Breakfast offers elegant and inviting accommodation in the heart of Christchurch city. This heritage building has all the charm of a grand Victorian home, but with modern comforts providing for an enjoyable stay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 8 - Depart Christchurch today
A Taste of the South Island - Day 8
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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