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.
'Boutique Hotel in the Heart of Christchurch’
The George Hotel is the essence of comfort and renowned for offering a personalised stay and attentive service. Its opulent rooms are elegant and stylish with sumptuous beds and luxurious furnishings. Located opposite Hagley Park and the Avon River, many attractions, including the Botanic Gardens and the Museum are within an easy walk. Dining is a highlight of the hotel and signature restaurant Pescatore, rated as one of New Zealand’s best dining experiences, is not to be missed.
‘Cosy Lodge Surrounded By Stunning Natural Beauty’
Manakau Lodge sits on five acres in the midst of mountains and groves of Manuka trees and enjoys panoramic views of the South Pacific. Despite the serenity of its surroundings the lodge is not completely isolated with the restaurants and shops of Kaikoura township a convenient ten minutes away. The purpose-built lodge rooms are constructed from New Zealand rimu, a native timber prized for its rich natural beauty and offer decks where you can sit out and take in the natural beauty. The guest lounge is a great place to spend the evenings in front of its roaring fire while the lodge dining room offers the perfect setting to enjoy hot and cold breakfast options and a special two or three-course Table d’Hôte dinner prepared using fresh local ingredients.
‘Impressive Accommodation, Perfect for Marlborough Vineyards’
Ideally located in the heart of one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions, the Chateau Marlborough enjoys beautiful surroundings overlooking Seymour Square Gardens and luxurious accommodation options. Choose from self-contained studios or boutique suites, each with plush furnishings and modern amenities, ideal for both couples and families. Dining at Quench Restaurant and Wine Bar is a delightful combination of international favourites and local delicacies, including fresh Marlborough Green Lip Mussels and Beef Fillet Mignon, all accompanied by local wines. On site, you’ll find a refreshing swimming pool with poolside bar in the summer, as well as a fully-equipped fitness centre, while wine and food tours of the region may also be arranged.
'A quirky, quaint getaway; Luxury heritage cottages'
An ideal base from which to explore the beautiful Nelson and Tasman region and relax in laid-back village style surroundings. 74 romos are spread over separate buildings featuring one- bedroom suites, two-bedroom terrace houses and 19 seaview and cosy rooms. The lobby bar is a welcoming place to relax with view of the Waimea inlet and the Monaco Peninsula.
'Eco-orientated, beach-side resort; A natural haven'
Punakaiki Rocks Resort; an eco-friendly, secluded hotel filled with a plethora of exciting activities. With eco-driven principals leading the resort to create its very own 'Sustainability Strategy', the resort is one of a kind in its strive to nurture the environment that it is surrounded in. The accommodation is modern and well equipped.
‘Outdoor Adventure In A UNESCO World Heritage Area’
The quaint township of Fox Glacier is at the foot of the magnificent Southern Alps in an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Area. It is also the home of Distinction Fox Glacier Te Weheka Boutique Hotel where you'll immediately feel at home with its unique upstairs lounge with a fireplace and comfortable armchairs and sofas. The peaceful hotel rooms continue this ambiance and comfort while offering fantastic views from private balconies. There’s also plenty to do for the adventurous and explorer whether that be enjoying a guide through the beautiful frozen landscape or scaling Fox Glacier on an ice climb or from the air via a helicopter on a special helihike. Finish the day warming yourself up on something delicious from the a la carte menu of Maud Moreland Restaurant, perhaps paired with a lovely New Zealand wine.
‘A favourite for families and friends’
The sparkling waters of Lake Wanaka gently lap only metres from your room and the magnificent Alps provide a distant visual backdrop. Providing spacious and comfortable suite or apartment accommodation and a good choice of on-site recreational facilities, the Edgewater Resort is a great all-round resort for visitors exploring this beautiful area of the South Island.
‘Lakeside Comfort and Beauty’
Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas sits just 200 metres from the South Island’s stunning Te Anau lake and just a stroll from Te Anau town. This area offers lots of great activities including scuba and snorkelling, surfing and water skiing, hiking, mountain biking and golf. There’s also lots to enjoy onsite with a wonderful outdoor pool, spa, sauna, fitness centre and massage services. Enjoy top quality South Island cuisine in The Mackinnon Room restaurant or something really special from the extensive drinks menu of The Explorer Bar as you gaze out over the beautiful Lake Te Anau.
‘Traditional Style Cruiser, perfect for the Fjordland of New Zealand’
The Fiordland Navigator is a purpose-built vessel designed to replicate a traditional trading scow and is perfectly suited to cruising the fiords. Sleeping just 72 passengers, this intimate ship offers private cabins with ensuite bathroom, features on board chefs who will cook evening dinner and a hearty breakfast while it also houses kayaks and tenders for exploring the secluded coves of Doubtful Sound.
‘Modern, unique and friendly Lakeside Hotel’
The Rees Hotel Queenstown is a hotel on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, with fantastic panoramic views of the lake. Being just a stroll from Queenstown’s centre, The Rees Hotel boasts a variety of accommodation options, restaurants, a world-class wine cellar, gymnasium, hot tubs, observatory and a private wharf. This property offers a variety of luxurious and spacious accommodation options including hotel rooms and apartments with private balconies. You can aslo enjoy socialising in the elegant lounge bar and then dine in the stunning 'True South Dining Room'.
Every Whale Watch tour is a unique experience and the sightings vary. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales, and Southern Right Whales. Orcas and Hector's dolphins are common sightings too.
Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms.
International flights in Economy
Accommodation as listed
Car hire including GPS
Whale watching excursion in Kaikoura
Meals unless otherwise stated
Car hire one way drop-fee
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We will use our destination expertise to plan an itinerary that will work for you – your personal specialist is happy to respond by phone, email or text. Your trip will be refined and reshaped until you love the way it looks, and it fits you perfectly!
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