Filled with adventure and astonishing vistas, this self-drive voyage around the South Island is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the excitement of New Zealand. The highlight may well be taking a cruise around stunning Doubtful Sound in Fjordland, but this tour takes in many sights around picturesque cities and towns such Christchurch and Nelson, includes the famed Marlborough wine producing region, the dramatic heights of Fox Glacier and the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park while your journey will end at charming Queenstown.
Our expert tour specialists can tailor this trip to exactly meet your needs. We make the suggestions but the decision is yours
Depart from the UK to Christchurch. The most direct route to this city on the east coast of South Island is with Singapore Airlines, offering just one stop en route. Other alternatives are available, usually with two stops using either Air New Zealand via LA and Auckland or via the Middle East and Australia with Emirates or Etihad.
After arriving at Christchurch International Airport, pick up your rental car and drive into the city. This stunning location on the east coast offers plenty of options for relaxing after a long flight, or head out into the Port Hills for some stunning scenery overlooking Lyttleton Harbour.
Drive distance – 192 km / 119 miles
Travel north along the coast to Kaikoura. A base for wildlife experiences, the village is caught between the rugged seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean and is the perfect spot to head out onto the water in search of whales.
Drive distance – 123 km / 77 miles
Continue the drive north from Kaikoura and into one of the worlds best loved wine producing regions of Marlborough. Stop in the enticing town of Blenheim and explore a wide range of tastes from the local wine and food culture, visit boutique shops or take a leisurely stroll down the Taylor River Reserve.
Drive distance – 122 km / 76 miles
Travel across Marlborough and take the opportunity to see the stunning north-eastern edge of South Island- The Marlborough Sounds - where the waters cut into the land creating 1500km of stunning coastlines to hike and enjoy. Arrive into Nelson, overlooking Tasman Bay, one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand with a special buzz to be found and located close to the geographic centre to this wonderful country.
Head out into the coastal paradise of Abel Tasman National Park today. A stunning mix of mossy valleys, thick forests, crystal clear steams and inviting sandy beaches make it a wonderful day trip. Using local water taxis visit Totaruni – a 1km long beach at the north end of the Park - Onetahuti, a sweeping bay in the middle of Tonga Island Marine reserve and walk through the ancient forests to Bark Bay before a water taxi will take you back to Kaiteriteri. Look out for Split Apple Rock as you sail in and out of the park!
Drive distance – 259 km / 161 miles
Travel across the rest of South Island heading towards Punakaiki, a small community on the West Coast of the South Island, located between Westport and Greymouth. The highlight and a must-see Nelson, New Zealand when in this location are the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, where the intriguing rock formations create a wonderful sight as the waves crash against them.
Drive distance – 239 km / 148 miles
Travel along the stunning West Coast, past Greymouth and into the foot hills of the Southern Alps. You will pass close to Franz Josef Glacier, well worthy of a stop too if you have time, on the way to Fox Glacier. At 13km long, Fox stands as the longest of the awe-inspiring New Zealand west coast glaciers. At its head, soaring peaks of over 10,000ft dominate the vista. You can join with experienced guides to walk on the ice or thrill at a helicopter flight to the beginning of the glacier, high above sea level.
Drive distance – 264 km / 164 miles
Continue along the coast overlooking the Tasman Sea a short while before heading inland towards to Lake Wanaka. The town of Wanaka is situated at the southern end of the lake adjacent to the outflow into the Clutha River and stands as the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, a vast wilderness of native forests, towering mountains and long valleys.
Drive distance – 231 km / 143 miles
Driving south from Wanaka, pass around Queenstown and follow the banks of Lake Wakatipu before heading west and into the stunning location of Te Anau, on the banks of the lake baring the same name. Located in Southland region, Te Anau is a fantastic gateway to exploring the Fjordland that boarders the west coast of South Island.
Travel by coach (or drive yourself if you prefer) from Te Anau to Manapouri. The adventure begins with a short cruise across Lake Manapouri before a coach continues the journey along the Wilmot Pass, through dense rainforest to arrive at Deep Cove, where you will board the majestic Fjordland Navigator for a night on the water. Cruise through some of the most amazing scenery in New Zealand, as the ships knowledgeable guides provide expert commentary on what surrounds you. After dropping anchor at a secluded cove, you could kayak around the shoreline, go exploring in the tender craft or simply relax on deck before a delicious three-course dinner prepared on board.
Drive distance – 172 km / 107 miles
The early morning is spent on board the Fjorland Navigator with a hearty cooked breakfast as the ship return along the fiord to Deep Cove, where the coach and boat will return you to Manapouri. Collect your car and head first east then north to amazing Queenstown.
A full day to explore Queenstown, a winter sports mecca that has plenty to offer for the summer adventurer or those who want to relax. Located on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, there is much to do around Queenstown from bird’s eye views atop Bob’s Peak, bike around the edges of the lake, indulge in more amazing Kiwi food and wine or head to the north edge of the lake and see stunning Glenorchy, famous as the back drop to the Lord of the Rings films.
Enjoy your final day around Queenstown before dropping the car off at the airport and catching an overnight flight back to the UK.