A tailor-made road trip taking in the dramatic landscapes of New Zealand's South Island
- Explore the stunning fjord landscapes of Doubtful Sound on an overnight cruise
- Board the TranzAlpine train for a spectacular journey across the Southern Alps
- Take to the ice of the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers on a heli-hiking tour
- Join a whale-watching tour in Kaikoura
- Hit the adventure trail in Queenstown
- 2 Nights Christchurch
- 2 Nights Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
- 2 Nights Queenstown
- 1 Night Doubtful Sound
- 1 Night Wānaka
- 1 Night Tekapo
Best of holidays | City | Food & wine | Natural world | Rail holidays | Self-drive | Wildlife
This is your chance to showcase New Zealand’s South Island finest highlights on a compact, self-drive tour. Beginning in the charminh city of Christchurch, you’ll head up the coast to Kaikoura before crossing the country on one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys – the TranzAlpine Express. Next, collect your hire car in Greymouth to explore the caves and crevasses of Fox Glacier, the peaks of Queenstown’s Remarkables, the majestic landscapes of Fiordland and the electric blue of luminous Lake Tekapo. Along the way you’ll enjoy everything from whale-watching tours to glacier heli hikes and an unforgettable overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. If you've got more time, why not combine this itinerary with our Highlights of the North Island fly-drive?
Day by day itinerary
Begin your holiday in style with included airport lounge access, leaving you relaxed for your flight to Christchurch, which arrives on day three.
Arrive into charming Christchurch and transfer to your hotel. It's long been regarded as New Zealand’s most ’English’ city, with its botanical gardens, weeping willows and summertime punting on the Avon River. For further respite, perhaps make a jaunt to next-door Arrowtown, a historic town that's still living off its mining town riches.
Stay: Orari Bed and Breakfast (Superior) or The George (Deluxe)
Kaikoura Whale Watch
Take a day trip to the whale-watching capital of New Zealand, Kaikoura, for our highly recommended tour. Every trip is a unique experience, and, as you head out on a purpose-built catamaran, complete with outside viewing deck and plasma screen displays, you'll look out for giant sperm whales, migratory humpbacks (Jun to Jul), orcas (Dec to Mar), fur seals, and both hector and dusky dolphins. That's not to mention mainland New Zealand’s largest variety of sea birds, including albatross, petrels and shearwaters. What's more, passenger numbers are kept to a minimum to ensure the best possible experience. Return to Christchurch after the tour.
Stay: Orari Bed and Breakfast (Superior) or The George (Deluxe)
Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
Transfer to Christchurch railway station to begin one of the world’s great scenic rail journeys. The TranzAlpine Train crosses the country from east to west, heading first through the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury Plains before crossing a series of spectacular viaducts and climbing into the snow-dusted landscapes of the Southern Alps. After stopping at Arthur’s Pass, you’ll emerge from the Otira Tunnel and descend through subtropical rainforest past beautiful Lake Brunner, finally reaching Greymouth. Then, having collected your hire car, you'll drive down the coast to Fox Glacier (Superior) or Franz Josef (Deluxe) for an exhilarating heli-hike. These thrilling excursions combine a short scenic flight with a guided walk among the glaciers' caves, crevasses and blue-tinted pinnacles.
Your destination today is Queenstown, set against a backdrop of the Remarkables mountain range and the deep blue of Lake Wakatipu. This is New Zealand at its adventurous and beautiful best, where everything from skydiving to winery visits make the most of the town's uniquely beautiful setting. It's also the gateway to one of the region's most spectacular walks, the Hollyford Track, which we can include on a guided three-day extension.
Stay: Browns Boutique Hotel (Superior) or Hotel St Moritz (Deluxe)
Following a short cruise across Lake Manapouri, two hours' drive from Queenstown, and a coach trip on the remote sub-alpine route over Wilmot Pass, you'll board the Fjordland Navigator for an overnight wilderness cruise amid the unspoilt beauty of Doubtful Sound. Your ship is purpose built for sailing New Zealand's fjords and offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining room, a licensed bar and an observation lounge. As you travel, knowledgeable nature guides will point out the pod of resident dolphins, fur seals and rare penguins before you drop anchor in a sheltered cove. Here, you'll explore the dramatic coastline by kayak, tender boat or – for the brave – an icy swim. Warm back up with an indulgent three-course buffet dinner. Please note: the cruise does not operate during winter.
Stay: Fjordland Navigator (Superior)
Meals: B D
After a night spent marvelling at the twinkling night sky and a morning spent further exploring the fjord, disembark and make your way to Wanaka, a small town on the edge of a stunning lake surrounded by the towering peaks of the Southern Alps. Spend the day exploring this gateway to the spectacular glaciers of the Mount Aspiring National Park. It's a more relaxed side to Queenstown, with equal opportunities for skiing and walking.
Stay: Te Wanaka Lodge (Superior) or Edgewater Resort (Deluxe)
Travel north towards Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest elevation. The peak’s permanent cover of snow and ice contrast vividly with the turquoise, glacier-fed lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, which stretch beneath its eastern flanks. Though surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Tekapo is little more than a roadside ribbon of buildings; its true draw is its setting. That said, you should certainly make the trip to the Church of the Good Shepherd. Overlooking the lake from a small raised platform, the tiny stone building was built as a memorial to the pioneers who opened up the region. Behind the rough-hewn Oamaru stone altar a square window perfectly frames the lake and surrounding hills and mountains.
Stay: Peppers Bluewater Resort (Superior) or Lake Tekapo Lodge (Deluxe)
Meals: B (Deluxe)
Return your hire car at Christchurch airport in time to catch your flight home, arriving the following day. Alternatively, extend your stay in New Zealand with a tour of the country's beautiful North Island.
Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.
- Complimentary UK airport lounge access
- Return flights from London to Christchurch
- Private airport arrival transfer, TranzAlpine rail journey and 8 days fully-inclusive medium car hire with GPS
- 8 nights accommodation in 4* (Superior) hotels on mostly B&B basis, see itinerary for details
- Overnight Doubtful Sound cruise on a half-board basis
- Whale watching day tour and Glacier heli-hike
Terms & Conditions
Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.
Meet our experts
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Adjust your itinerary with our recommended extensions
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