10 day South Island NZ Self Drive Highlights
Christchurch – Kaikoura – Hokitika via Lewis Pass – Franz Josef Glacier – Wanaka – Queenstown – Lake Tekapo via Mt Cook – Christchurch
New Zealand’s South Island, dubbed by many as a ‘Paradise on Earth’. On this amazing 10 day South Island adventurer self-drive New Zealand tour you can expect to see mountains, glaciers, turquoise coloured lakes, waterfalls, beaches and stunning native rainforests.
The best part is that you won’t miss a beat with all the not to miss hidden photo spots, scenic walks, sightseeing and restaurant suggestions in each town marked down on easy to follow day by day route notes. Welcome to The Road Trip ‘Where your journey begins’.
Day 1 – Arrival and sightseeing Christchurch
You will be met at the airport by one of our representatives and transferred to your rental car of choice. In the afternoon we suggest taking a Christchurch city tour. Christchurch is known throughout New Zealand as ‘The Garden City’. This city tour includes a visit to ‘The Sign Of the Kiwi’, the most panoramic of Christchurch’s viewpoints, a stroll in the botanic gardens and drive around the bays of Christchurch taking in Lyttleton which was the gateway for many of Christchurch and the Canterbury region’s first settlers, we will mark these on your map for you. Tonight why not enjoy a meal in one of the central city’s many restaurants.
Day 2 – Christchurch to Kaikoura + Whale Watching Tour – 189km (2 hours drive)
Today you will head north through the wine growing area of north Canterbury to Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a sea life paradise which boasts whales, seals, albatross and dolphins. There are over 17 species of whale to be found in Kaikoura all within 8 km of the coastline. This afternoon you will take a whale watching tour of 3 hours. Keep a look out for Killer Whales and orcas as well as many species of Dolphin. An experience not to be missed.
Day 3 – Kaikoura to Hokitika via Lewis Pass – 370km (4.5 hours drive)
This morning you have the opportunity to visit a seal colony to view New Zealand’s native fur seal up close. One of The Road Trip’s favourite spots features waterfalls and baby seals. Your drive today takes you through the Southern Alps to Hanmer Springs. This is a thermal alpine village nestled in the mountains. You will get the opportunity to take a dip in the thermal waters and view the mountains from the hot pools. This afternoon you will head through the pass to the South Island’s West Coast known by many as an isolated paradise featuring rugged coastline and native bush. Your stop tonight is Hokitika known for its array of greenstone, gold and glassblowing shops.
Day 4 – Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier – 140km (2 hours drive)
Heading south through the majestic rainforest of the west coast you will encounter coast, beach and mountains all within 15km of each other. Franz Josef Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and only one of two places where you can view rainforest and glacier side by side. This afternoon you will have the option of doing a half day fully guided walk on the glacier, a heli-hike or a helicopter flight with a landing at the top of this majestic glacier.This is a highlight on any New Zealand tour. Tonight you can unwind and soak in the glacier hot pools. (flights and glacier activities can be booked by us in advance).
Day 5 – Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka – 280km (4 hours drive)
One of the prettiest and most dramatic journeys in the country is what you can experience on this tour over the Haast Pass through to Wanaka. En route visit Lake Matheson, otherwise known as ‘Mirror Lakes’ where on a clear day it is possible to see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain Mt Cook (3754m/12,316ft). The walking possibilities are endless today around Haast and Haast Pass and we you can do one of or several walks, some of our favourite walks that we will mark out for you feature spectacular waterfalls and deep blue coloured pools where it is possible to see trout swimming. Tonight you will stay in Wanaka, one of the most popular kiwi vacation hot spots situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Day 6 – Wanaka to Queenstown – 82km (1.5 hours drive)
This morning in and around Wanaka there are many options. For those feeling adventurous you can take a walk up one of our favourite look out spots featuring 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka, Aspiring National Park and the Clutha River, the breath-taking views are well worth the walk! Other options include a visit to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World or a kayak tour on the lake. This afternoon your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway to Arrowtown which was one of New Zealand’s most important towns in the gold rush to Central Otago in the 1860’s. From there it’s just a short drive to Queenstown ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’ and your base for the next 2 nights.
Day 7 – Queenstown
Today in and around Queenstown there are many possibilities. It is a day entirely for your leisure. For the adventurous among us there is skydiving, bungy-jumping, paragliding and white water rafting. For those of us who prefer to take a more relaxed approach to the day a cruise on the 100 year old TSS Earnslaw Steam Ship or a walk alongside Lake Wakatipu are not to be missed (we can book these for you at reduced rates).
Day 8 – Queenstown to Lake Tekapo via Mt Cook – 360km (4.5 hours drive)
You leave Central Otago today through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell where you can make a stop en route and visit a local fruit shop and a chance to try ‘Real Fruit Ice cream’ and sample a few of the New Zealand famous manuka honey products. From there you cross the Lindis Pass (965m) to the Mackenzie Country, known for its Merino Sheep and wool industry. Weather permitting you can take a short walk at the foot of Mt Cook- New Zealand’s highest mountain, we will suggest walks varying in length depending on your level of activity. Tonight you will stay in the town of Lake Tekapo and its turquoise coloured waters.
Day 9 – Lake Tekapo to Christchurch – 250km (3 hours drive)
In clear weather there is the possibility to take a one hour flight around Mt Cook and its spectacular surrounding valleys. There may even be time for one of the many short walks in the area each with its superb views. You can also take the trip to one of our favourite look-out spots with views over Lake Tekapo where one has the feeling of being on top of the world.
Day 10 – Departure Day
Today after returning your rental car, you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. We trust that you have had a memorable self- drive tour with us.
C. Lewis Pass
E. Franz Josef Glacier
H. Lake Tekapo