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8 Day - South Island Cultural Experience

8 Day - South Island Cultural Experience

Experience the top highlights of New Zealand's South Island, showcasing the purest natural landscapes. From rugged coastlines to lush plains. Learn about of history over a local glass of wine and in spectacular surroundings.

Eat great local food and enjoy a good glass of wine in our award-winning wineries in Central Otago. The tour includes a helicopter landing on a glacier in the Southern Alps, a spectacular helicopter flight through Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park and an exhilarating ride through remote wilderness.

Plan Your Tour

Highlights

Private guided tour 7 nights
Category: Culture
Location:
South Island
Departing/Finishing: 
Christchurch - Queenstown (Itinerary can be reversed)
Accommodation: 
4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, luxury serviced Apartments, Premium Lodges
Next Departure: Departs Daily

LOCATION AND HIGHLIGHTS:
Day 1: Christchurch arrival
(Short tour of the city, afternoon to your own leisure, Or: an optional trip to Akaroa with Nature cruise)
Day 2: Christchurch – West Coast
(Tranz Alpine Train Journey, Pancake Rocks)
Day 3: West Coast – Franz Josef
(Rainforest and helicopter or a scenic flight over glaciers)
Day 4: Franz Josef – Wanaka
(Mt Aspiring National Park, Waterfalls, Plue Pools)
Day 5: Lake Wanaka  
(High country farm experience, local history)
Day 6: Wanaka – Queenstown
(Scenic flight/cruise Milford Sound, Central Otago wineries, Arrowtown), Or: an optional helicopter flight to Fiordland
Day 7: Queenstown - Lake Wakatipu
(Day to your own leisure)
Day 8: Queenstown departure

PRICE: We recommend the following guidelines for customized tour packages, excluding international flights: 4* to 5*: From around NZ$ $500 - $1250+ per person per day. The customized package will include accommodation, airport transfers and other transportation within New Zealand, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other customer preferences.

Day 1: Christchurch Arrival

Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. Contemporary art galleries, boutique shops and open-air markets add to Christchurch’s creative vibe. Traditionally known as the Garden City, Christchurch’s award winning Botanic Gardens are over 150 years old and boast an enviable collection. The Avon River flows gently through the city centre, making Edwardian punt rides an iconic way to sightsee. Alternatively, catch a ride aboard the Historic Tram or take a bicycle tour to learn about Christchurch's history.

Or: The most French town in New Zealand, Akaroa will have you entranced with its historic buildings, magnificent harbour and a passion for fine food. An easy drive south-east of Christchurch, Banks Peninsula is the South Island's most interesting volcanic feature. The best way to explore Akaroa is on foot. Visit local restaurants with their focus on French cuisine and head along to Barrys Bay Cheese, where they've persevered with original methods for over a century. Take a self-guided walk to see historic cottages. 

Voted the number 1 wildlife activity in New Zealand, your award-winning cruise is packed with highlights including the rare, NZ native dolphin - the Hector's Dolphin, as well as penguins and other seabirds. And you'll see giant volcanic sea cliffs and hear about Akaroa's fascinating past. Also, on the trip, you will catch glimpses of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world. There are many different bird species in the harbour, including five different cormorant (shag) species and the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. You'll also see New Zealand Fur Seals sunning themselves on the rocks near Seal Bay.

Accommodation: Christchurch or Akaroa

Day 2: Christchurch - Arthur Pass - West Coast

Experience the South Island’s striking natural landscape by taking the Tranz Alpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth. Along with this journey, you’ll see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest. The TranzAlpine is one of the world's great train journeys covering 223 kilometres (139 miles) one-way, taking just under 5 hours. You’ll traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains, to the backdrop of the mighty Southern Alps - the journey of a lifetime. 

From Greymouth you travel north and stop at nearby Punakaiki, the Jewel of the West Coast. Punakaiki is world renowned for its pancake rock formations and blowholes. Walk along some of the stunning and remote beach treks, through a dense rainforest with Nikau Palms and large ferns. 

The West Coast, or 'the Coast' as locals call it, is an untamed natural wilderness of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. Never more than 50 kilometres wide, the whole stretch down the West Coast is 600km long and there’s a lot to see. In fact, the Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.

Accommodation: West Coast

Day 3: West Coast - Glaciers

You will visit the historical gold mining town of Hokitika. Historic Hokitika is a place to appreciate the fascinating history of the West Coast. Hear about the shipwrecks, gold miners and pounamu hunters. Hokitika was first settled in 1860, after the discovery of gold on the west coast. There are some lovely old buildings on the town’s historic walk. You’ll also notice galleries specialising in pounamu (Greenstone) jewellery and artworks. The Arahura River, which enters the sea just north of Hokitika, is a traditional source of pounamu (greenstone). Gold jewellers, wood turners and potters provide other souvenir opportunities.  

Take a leisurely and scenic drive to the famous glacier region and your day’s itinerary will end in the tiny settlement of Franz Josef. The rugged West Coast is hemmed between the Tasman Sea and the imposing Southern Alps, making for spectacular contrasts in the surrounding scenery. Two glaciers are located only 25 km from each other and are unique in the world as they seem to nearly reach the ocean. The hospitable town of Franz Josef serves the glacier of the same name. Stay here while you explore this spectacular World Heritage Area.  The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 20-minute walk will take you to its terminal face. 

Enjoy a scenic helicopter flight as you fly over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers and land at the head of either the Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier. View the incredible natural phenomenon of the glacier as it winds slowly down the carved valleys from its origin in the mountains high above you. Enjoy the experience of landing on snow. 

Or: if you would prefer a scenic flight then the ‘Grand Traverse’ explores the Mt Cook and Westland National Parks and shows you the region like no other with the most memorable and breath-taking scenery.

Accommodation: Glacier area 

Day 4: Glaciers - Haast - Wanaka

Go as far South as the township of Haast. Nearby take a gentle walk following the slow flowing Ship Creek Tauparikaka. A creek-side viewpoint allows easy observation of the forest plants and wildlife. Deep in the swamp forest, are views of New Zealand's tallest tree, the Kahikatea. Explore a part of New Zealand that's splendidly isolated - there are more resident seals and penguins than people. 

A spectacular and scenic road links Haast and Wanaka. It reaches beyond wind-whipped Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, through golden tussock-covered hills, to wind among steep mountains cloaked in lush rainforest and crosses tumbling rivers. Just 20 minutes from Haast take a short walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall, an easy fern line walk will take you to the shores of the Haast River. Stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls or take a 30-minute return walk to the Blue Pools. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the colour of deep azure blue, and so clear that you can see right to the bottom, making the resident brown trout look like they are suspended in the air. 

As you exit Mt Aspiring National Park you will travel through what is known as “The Neck” a formation of land that separates two of our great South Island lakes Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. 45 kilometres long and covering 193 square kilometres, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka are perfect for jet boaters, sailors and kayakers to explore. 

Accommodation: Lake Wanaka or Lake Hawea

Day 5: Wanaka - Mt Aspiring National Park

Nestled below towering mountains, Lake Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. is much more than a winter destination. Year round activities include fishing, hiking, canyoning, climbing and skydiving. Lake Wanaka is the source of New Zealand's largest river, the Clutha River.

Lake Hawea feeds into the Hawea River, which joins the Clutha at Albert Town. Ringed by pebbly beaches and with magnificent views to the surrounding peaks, both lakes offer a variety of adventures, especially during the long, hot months of summer.

Named for Mt Aspiring, one of New Zealand's highest peaks, this park is a dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. A hiker's paradise, Mount Aspiring National Park offers a large number of short walks that are mostly concentrated at the end of the park's access roads. 

Come experience New Zealand's most authentic 4WD adventure. The perfect mix of incredible scenery, history, heritage and farming life. Explore remote and seldom travelled back roads of an authentic New Zealand High Country farm overlooking sparkling Lake Wanaka. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, glaciers and wild river valleys you'll see farm animals including Red Deer, cattle and sheep up close and in their natural environment. Visit historical sites and experience what life was like for Wanaka's first farmers while taking in breath-taking scenery.

Accommodation: Lake Wanaka or Lake Hawea

Day 6: Wanaka - Flight to Fiordland - Queenstown

Milford Sound is an area of extraordinary beauty. It offers a majestic fiord, dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery and prolific flora and fauna. Some of the scenic highlights likely to be encountered include the famous Skippers Canyon, the Paradise region (recently made popular as film locations for Lord of the Rings/Hobbit Trilogies), and the Donne glacier among many other awe-inspiring features. Your 35-minute flight concludes with an overflight of the fiord of Milford Sound, prior to landing. The second half of the adventure begins in Milford Sound, where you board a boat to enjoy your Milford Sound Cruise.

Central Otago is New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region and also it's most scenic. Take the time to explore these incredible vineyards set in small micro-climates in a landscape dominated by high snow-capped mountains, and tussock clad slopes. 

In the city treat yourself to some boutique shopping and be sure to experience the excellent local food and wine. A popular holiday spot at any time of the year, Central Otago is renowned for its four distinctive seasons. Winter brings crisp, blue-sky days, spring retains the snow but blooms into longer, warmer days, summer offers sunshine and long twilights, and autumn a burst of brilliant red and gold.   

One of the most picturesque settlements in New Zealand, Arrowtown sits alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River. The town was established in 1862, during the height of the Otago gold rush. The settlement grew quickly as pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches, more than 60 of which can still be seen today. A special highlight is a Chinese settlement at the edge of the river. Built by Chinese miners from 1868, this area of restored shelters and buildings paints a picture of earlier times.

Accommodation: Queenstown 

Day 7: Queenstown - Day to your leisure

Queenstown has transformed into a sophisticated cosmopolitan town, tucked into a picturesque bay on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, beneath majestic mountains. There’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. 

For a leisurely walk visit the Botanic Gardens or try a little boutique shopping and souvenir buying as you wander around the town!

Queenstown also has a rich Maori heritage—in Maori mythology, Lake Wakatipu itself was formed when the indentation left by a sleeping giant was flooded. Members of South Island tribes ventured into the Wakatipu Basin in search of food and New Zealand’s precious pounamu (jade), long before the first European settlers arrived. 

Accommodation: Queenstown

Day 8: Queenstown departure

Your private chauffeur will take you to your departing flight at Queenstown airport.

 

Experiences in this tour

Christchurch

Christchurch

The South Island's biggest city - Christchurch, is one of the world’s most unique destinations, combining urban regeneration and innovation with heritage, culture and exhilarating activity. The city’s award-winning Christchurch Botanic Gardens offer a relaxing inner-city escape and are found near The Arts Centre.
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Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph

The Franz Josef Glacier offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience a dynamic glacial environment. There is something truly spectacular about the sight of the blue glacier set against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks.
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Central Otago

Central Otago

Discover vivid seasons and rocky, mountainous landscapes; friendly townships; a growing arts culture and well-preserved gold heritage. Whatever you choose to do when you travel to Central Otago will be unforgettable.
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Queenstown

Queenstown

Queenstown sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu among dramatic alpine ranges; it’s rumored that gold prospectors - captivated by the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers - gave this now cosmopolitan town its name. Queenstown’s natural beauty can rarely be competed with, but there is more to Queenstown than just a pretty face.
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