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8 Day - South Island Highlights Tour

8 Day - South Island Highlights Tour

Dramatic landscapes, rolling lush farmland and snow-capped mountain ranges; New Zealand's South Island is spectacular beyond belief.

Dramatic landscapes, rolling lush farmland and snow-capped mountain ranges; New Zealand's South Island is spectacular beyond belief. You will see the main highlights of the South Island and visit the best-known locations. Showcasing the best of nature’s assets where towering alps meet peaceful sounds and rugged coastlines merge with sweeping plains. Let’s not forget the backbone of the island - the most down-to-earth locals you’ll ever meet.

Plan Your Tour

Highlights

Private guided tour itinerary- 7 nights

Day 1: Christchurch arrival (Private airport transfer, day at your own leisure)
Day 2: Christchurch - Arthurs Pass - Punakaiki (Castle Rock, Pancake Rocks)
Day 3: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier (Treetops walk, rainforest and glaciers, helicopter flight and landing on ice)
Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier - Haast - Mt Aspiring National Park - Queenstown (Rainforest walks, wetlands, remote water-falls)
Day 5: Queenstown (Area tour, Arrowtown, Kawarau Gorge, Walter Peak Farm Tour)
Day 6: Queenstown - Fiordland National Park (Milford Sound Encounter Cruise, Mirror Lakes, Chasm)
Day 7: Te Anau - Mt Cook (Lindis Pass, Mt Cook area, dark sky stargazing)
Day 8: Mt Cook - Lake Tekapo - Christchurch late afternoon departure (Glacier Lake Explorer cruise)

Prices: We recommend the following guidelines for customized tour packages, excluding international flights:
4* (3* internationally) to 5*: From around NZ$ $400 - $1150+ 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 enquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.

Day 1: Christchurch arrival (Private airport transfer, day to your own leisure)

You will be met on arrival at Christchurch International Airport by your Aroha NZ Tours Representative, and transferred to your accommodation in our luxurious vehicle. You will then have time to relax or explore the city at your own leisure. Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. As the gateway to the South Island, it's a must on any itinerary. Described by Lonely Planet as a "vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively,” Christchurch's energy is evident wherever you go. The city has bounced back after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 with innovative new attractions, as well as some old favourites. Visit the Re:Start container mall, the transitional Cardboard Cathedral, and some of the many pop-up restaurants and bars. 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 of exotic and native plants. 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 visit the Canterbury Museum.

Accommodation: Christchurch City

Day 2: Christchurch - Arthur's Pass - Punakaiki (Castle Rocks, Pancake Rocks)

Driving distance 4h
Start off your private guided tour! You depart Christchurch through the scenic untouched areas and through Arthurs Pass. From your vehicle, you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Stop for a walk at Castle Hill Basin, characterised by its distinctive limestone rock formations, which are water eroded remnants of limestone formed during the Oligocene age 30-40 million years ago when much of present-day New Zealand was covered by the sea. Pass through Arthurs Pass Village, the South Islands highest settlement, surrounded by mountain peaks rising more than 2,000 meters. On arriving in Greymouth, your driver/guide will take you to the upper West Coast, New Zealand’s longest region – is a narrow 600km stretch of wild coastline, mountain peaks, glaciers, clear lakes and sparsely populated towns. We stop at Punakaiki the jewel of the West Coast, and 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. Optional: Tranz Alpine Train from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass: This is truly one of the world’s great scenic train trips through the dramatic contrast of dry beech forests and tussock land on one side of the Alps and lush green landscapes on the other. From Christchurch, cross the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury Plains, follow the Waimakariri River, climbing into alpine scenery on a series of spectacular viaducts.

Accommodation: Punakaiki

Day 3: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier (Treetops walk, rainforest and glaciers, helicopter flight and landing on ice)

Driving distance 3h
Your day has an interesting flavour of mountains, and native flora and fauna, as you travel through the rugged terrain that divides the east from the west. Enjoy an exhilarating treetop adventure on New Zealand's first treetop walk among temperate rainforest giants as you experience life with the native birds, high in the ancient Rimu and Kamahi tree canopy. There is easy access for all to enjoy along a steel platform 20 meters high and over 450 meters long. Your journey continues and you visit the historical gold mining town of Hokitika. Nearby take a walk over a swing bridge to the Hokitika Gorge, this is truly one of the beautiful places in New Zealand! The beautiful turquoise water is quite breathtaking as is the gorge itself. We 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. In the afternoon experience awe-inspiring views of Mt Cook and Tasman, breath-taking views of the glaciers and neves. 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. Discover the gigantic expanse of the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier snowfields with a landing at high altitude. Step out of your helicopter and experience how it feels to stand in snow. The flight includes fantastic views of the Tasman Glacier and Mount Cook.

Accommodation: Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier

Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier - Haast - Mt Aspiring National Park - Queenstown (Rainforest walks, wetlands, and remote water-falls)

Driving distance 5h
In the morning visit nearby Lake Matheson. The forested path skirts the shores of the mist-shrouded lake and on a clear day, New Zealand’s highest peaks are spectacularly reflected in the mirror-like waters. 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 across tumbling rivers. A short 20 min drive from Haast you can take a 20 min walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall, an easy fern line walk takes you to the shores of the Haast River. Later make a short stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls and further down the road take a 30 min return walk to the Blue Pools. It features a carefully maintained gravel path and boardwalks that wind through a native silver beech forest and lead to a swing bridge strung high above the Makarora River. The views back to the mountains of the Main Divide are absolutely breath-taking. 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. We take you to the nearby town of Queenstown located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

Accommodation: Queenstown

Day 5: Queenstown (Area tour, Arrowtown, Kawarau Gorge, Walter Peaks Farm Tour)

In the morning you will have an opportunity to drive through the Gibbston Valley and visit some of the local vineyards. Central Otago is New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region and also the 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. You will drive through the famous Kawarau valley and gorge. Stop at, what is widely regarded as a safe spectator attraction, the famous Kawarau Gorge Bungy Jumping exhibition (this is free for spectators, however, if you desire to make a jump the charge is additional to your tour package). You may wish to stop in Arrowtown, a historic colonial village that takes you back into the Gold Mining days of the Otago region. Queenstown is the Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season lake and alpine resort. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, its stunning scenery is inspiring and revitalising. In the early afternoon get a taste of New Zealand’s farming lifestyle at Walter Peak High Country Farm. You board the iconic TSS Earnslaw steamship ad cruise across Lake Wakatipu’s to the south-western shores, the farm is the perfect place to spend a relaxing few hours. The Farm Tour itself is a wonderful, interactive experience for the whole family, with something to keep everyone entertained and happy. You rural host will meet you after you disembark from the TSS Earnslaw and take you for a walking tour of the farmyard. The first stop is the holding pens, where you can help feed the sheep and deer and even get up close to the Scottish Highland Cattle. Then stroll through the lakeside gardens to the charming Colonel’s Homestead for afternoon tea. Afterwards, the farmer will lead you over to the shearing shed where you can watch the farm dogs rounding up sheep from the hill paddocks, and see the farmer shear a sheep. You will then board the TSS Earnslaw for your cruise back to Queenstown. There’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. Recommended: (Optional) Jet boat ride: Take a unique breathtaking ride through dramatic and narrow canyons, and hold on tight for Queenstown’s only exhilarating full 360° spins. ‘Can you handle the canyons?’

Accommodation: Queenstown

Day 6: Queenstown - Fiordland National Park - Te Anau (Encounter Cruise, Mirror Lakes, Chasm)

Driving distance 5h We are heading for the spectacular Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” which was carved out during successive ice ages and, at its deepest point off Mitre Peak, plunges to a depth of 265 meters. The awesome splendour of this region is unsurpassed anywhere else in the World, a daring claim in a country which offers extraordinary beauty around every corner. Getting there is half of the experience; we take you through the Fiordland National Park, past staggeringly beautiful valleys, lakes and creeks. If the time allows we will stop at the “Mirror Lakes”, before entering the narrow and dark 1km long Homer Tunnel. You may encounter Kea’s, New Zealand’s cheeky alpine parrots and we stop and explore some of nature’s wonders on the way. At Milford, you board a vessel and cruise on the Fiord through sheer cliffs covered with vegetation that plunges into the sea. View the Bowen Falls, hurtling 165 meters into the sea, and the Stirling Falls further down the sound, set amidst the towering cliffs and dwarfed by Mitre Peak. On the drive back take a boardwalk into the “Chasm” to see surreal, water-hewn rock sculptures. In the evening the journey takes you to Lake Te Anau. Here you will be visiting one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. The extraordinary scenic beauty has earned this region a reputation as a significant sightseeing and walking destination, and a 'must see' for anyone travelling to New Zealand. The scenery is spectacular and the track passes through many landscapes of the Fiordland National Park ranging from rocky mountain ridges to tall mossy forests along the lake shores.

Accommodation: Te Anau

Day 7: Te Anau - Mt Cook (Lindis Pass, Mt Cook area, dark sky stargazing)

Driving distance 5h
After we have passed Lake Wakitipu and Queenstown again, we can view the “Lord of the Rings” misty mountains plus the Pelennor Fields and cross one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets, The “Lindis Pass”. Our trip will take us through some of the most evocative hill country in New Zealand. The Mackenzie Country accounts for a large percentage of New Zealand’s sheep population. We travel deep into the heart of the Southern Alps and to the southern slopes of Mt Cook National Park. The region is renowned for its incredibly clear starry nights, brilliant sunny days, and remarkable turquoise blue lakes, valleys of emerald green and snow-capped mountains. Shaped by the giant forces of nature, massive glaciers have scoured the land leaving a trail of lakes and rivers across the landscape. You will encounter an array of spectacular mountain ranges including Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, which rises 3,700 meters. As Mount Cook is far from the city lights it has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand and the world - perfect for viewing the southern night sky! Experience a mesmerising journey through space in the full dome digital Planetarium. Then explore the southern skies with your informative astronomy guide using purpose-built telescopes. Optional - Glowworm Caves: Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of thousands of glowworms. Your trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on a purpose-built scenic cruise vessel.

Accommodation: Mt Cook

Day 8: Mt Cook - Lake Tekapo - Christchurch late afternoon departure (Glacier Lake Explorer cruise)

Driving distance 4h
Last day with a private guide! In the morning we take you on a small boat trip to the bottom of the Tasman Glacier. The only tour of its kind in New Zealand, and one of three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of these are accessible to the average person. Your driving tour continues through to Lake Tekapo. The lake shines all year round in a beautiful turquoise colour and reflects the surrounding mountains. Relax at this mystical, tranquil place and take a stroll along the lake’s shores. Late afternoon we drive you through Canterbury to Christchurch airport. Optional - Tasman Valley 4WD & Agro Tours: A unique 4WD & Agro adventure with magnificent views of the Tasman Glacier and its gigantic moraine wall. A short walk to a vantage point overlooking the Tasman Glacier and its terminal lake provides one of the most spectacular photographic opportunities in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

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.
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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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Queenstown

Queenstown

Queenstown like any great love is easy to fall for and difficult to get over. Queenstown’s natural beauty can rarely be competed with, but there is more to Queenstown than just a pretty face.
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Mount Cook

Mount Cook

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. At the foot of the mountain sits the village of Mount Cook - a comfortable haven in one of the most unforgiving parts of New Zealand.
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Tekapo

Tekapo

Picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect spot for stargazing.
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Arthur's Pass

Arthur's Pass

Arthur’s Pass National Park is in the heart of the Southern Alps. Its high mountains with large scree slopes, steep gorges and wide braided rivers straddle the main divide and are the ‘backbone’ of the South Island.
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