The South Island's spectacular and beautiful landscape includes vast mountain chains, rugged coastlines, deeply indented fiords and lush rainforest.
You will see the main highlights of the South Island and visit the best and most scenic locations. Experience our wildlife on some excursions into remote areas, view many of our natural wonders and have some fun at unique local activities.
Location: South Island
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality hotels, Boutique B&B’s, Serviced Luxury Apartments
Next Departure: Departs Daily
Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. Described by Lonely Planet as a "vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively,” Christchurch's energy is evident wherever you go. 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.
Experience the South Island’s striking natural landscape by taking a 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
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 (or wing plane) 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.
Accommodation: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
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.
Take a jet boat up a remote backcountry river into UNESCO South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. Walk through an ancient beech forest untouched by man for thousands of years. Travel to the top of the river and listen to us impart our intricate knowledge of the area. Learn about the introduced animals, visit the Kiwi sanctuary and learn about Kiwi breeding program. Pass through the Alpine Fault-line and watch the truly dramatic scenery unfold before you.
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. 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.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand's top visitor destinations and if you come to the region you'll understand why. Queenstown sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu amidst dramatic mountain ranges; this stunning location will blow you away.
Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown
Central Otago is New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region and also its 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.
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.
The journey takes you past the Eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu to Fiordland National Park. 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.
Nestled on the edge of a lake, Te Anau is the perfect town to base yourself from to visit Milford Sound. The picturesque township is the main visitor base for the glacier-carved wilderness that is Fiordland National Park.
Accommodation: Te Anau
Situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is a fusion of spectacular natural features with amazing visual cues around every corner. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. Milford Sound is breathtaking in any weather. The fiord's cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards, some as high as 1000 metres. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect. To learn more about the local marine life, visit the underwater observatory at Harrison Cove and marvel at the black coral, 11-legged sea stars and delicate anemones.
Take a scenic cruise and get up close and personal with this pristine environment on our small boat, Encounter Nature Cruise. Reach out and touch sheer rock cliffs and drink pure glacial water straight from the waterfalls, see seals sunning themselves on the rocks, dolphins riding the bow wave or if you’re lucky, spot rare Fiordland crested penguins (in season).
Or: Experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of hundreds of glowworms. On the tour of the caves, our friendly guides will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Accommodation: Te Anau
From the Fiordland National Park, the journey will take you back to the East Coast of the South Island.
The splendour of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
Flanking the southern edge of Dunedin's extensive harbour, Otago Peninsula is high and rugged on the ocean side; warm and sheltered on the harbourside. Volcanic in origin, the peninsula is part of the crater wall of a large, long-extinct volcano. As a scenic drive, Otago Peninsula is spectacular.
Nestled on the spectacular Otago Peninsula, Larnach Castle is Dunedin's must-see visitor attraction and New Zealand's only castle. You can visit the castle and discover its rich history that dates back to 1871 as well as explore the exquisite gardens, which have attained a Garden of International Significance award from the New Zealand Gardens Trust.
Take a wildlife tour around the Otago Peninsula. You will see a lot of animal activity, particularly during the late afternoon arrival from the sea of Yellow-eyed penguins during this 5 to 6-hour 'wildlife-packed' tour on the beautiful Otago Peninsula. The Peninsula encounters tour operates during the late afternoon/evening to coincide with a great penguin, sea lion and seal activity which will provide you with absolutely unrivalled wildlife viewing, particularly within our conservation area.
Or: Penguin Place is a private conservation reserve dedicated to helping the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin survive. Tours begin with a short introduction outlining the issues Yellow Eyed Penguins are facing and how our conservation work is carried out. A short bus ride takes you to our reserve where you will continue on foot. Wild Yellow Eyed Penguins, or Hoiho, are often seen in our reserve. Your guide will also point out other native wildlife and interesting flora along the way. Highlights include plentiful native bird species, New Zealand fur seals, nesting or moulting blue penguins, beautiful native forest, regenerating wetlands and a visit to our rehabilitation facility for penguins.
You simply can't drive along the North Otago coast without stopping to stare at the Moeraki Boulders. Moeraki is now most famous for its boulders; mysteriously spherical stones scattered across a beach. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres high.
The whitestone townscape of Oamaru contains some of the best-preserved heritage buildings in New Zealand. In the late 19th century, the town prospered through gold mining, quarrying and timber milling. The Harbour-Tyne Street area is particularly special and after exploring the Victorian precinct, swing by the steampunk playground and museum.
Travel inland and set eyes on Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snowfields, all set under a star-studded sky. Stop at the edge of the spectacular blue waters of Lake Pukaki.
Join us on our famous observatory tour. Spend the evening discovering what the southern sky has to offer, and experience the thrill of looking deep into the cosmos with our powerful telescopes.
Or: Visit New Zealand's Tasman Glacier terminal lake for a fascinating glacial encounter. Cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size, periodically tear away from the glacier allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500-year-old glacial crystals.
Accommodation: Mt Cook
Lake Tekapo is in the Mackenzie Basin. The township faces north across the remarkable turquoise coloured lake to the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water. On the shores, on the lake, you'll see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, where the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps beyond the lake.
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 take a bicycle tour to learn about Christchurch's history.
We return you to the airport.