Your tour begins! This morning you have the option to explore the extinct volcanic crater of Banks Peninsula, with a drive around several stunning lookout spots recommended by us. Next, you will venture north via the alpine village of Hanmer Springs where you could enjoy a soak in at Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve and a nice lunch at a nearby cafe. Following this you will head into the wilderness of the Lewis Pass, where you will spend the night at Maruia Springs, a Japanese style onsen nestled in the mountains, surrounded by natural hot springs.
You’ll continue your journey down the western side of the Lewis Pass towards the wild west coast of the South Island. Here you will encounter rainforests dominated by ancient rimu, kahikatea, miro and totara trees and several varieties of native tree ferns. Perhaps take a detour to Cape Foulwind seal colony as you head North along the magnificent coastline. Head up and over the mountains to reach the peaceful town of Karamea at the very Northern end of SH6. Venture a little bit further along the road to enjoy a section of the beautiful Heaphy Track – untouched native forests and secluded beaches galore, then also explore the magnificent Oparara Basin Arches (no camper van access). Stay overnight in Karamea.
This morning you will head south back over the mountains and down the coast. A bit further past where you came from yesterday you will stop in at Underworld Adventures in Charleston. Here they will kit you up for the trip of a lifetime through their glowworm caves. The journey starts with a trip on their rainforest train, a walk through the rainforest and a journey into their large limestone cave. Following this, you will lie on a tube and drift under the light of thousands upon thousands of glow worms on the cave ceiling. This particular cave has more glowworms than any other cave in NZ and the experience is truly cathartic. Following this, you will continue south to Punakaiki where you can enjoy the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes!
In Punakaiki you can explore the pancake rocks and blowholes situated right next to the village; a bizarre, rugged, rocky landscape which impresses thousands of visitors each year with its powerful forces of nature. Next up, check out the beautiful Truman Track down to the beach, or a section of the Pororari River Track. Driving South down the coast from Punakaiki, check out the stunning Hokitika Gorge with its beautiful bright blue waters and surrounding native forest. Arrive in Franz Josef Glacier early afternoon, where you will spend the next night in the beautiful town surrounded by rainforest. Tonight you will have the chance to relax and unwind with a soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, each filled with pure water from the Glaciers (optional – extra cost).
This morning you will have the opportunity to enjoy a short scenic helicopter flight with snow landing on Franz Josef Glacier, or a 3 hour guided heli-hike on the ice of glacier itself! (Optional – Not Included in Quote). 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 you will 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 you can do one of or several walks, some of which feature spectacular waterfalls and deep blue coloured pools where it is possible to see trout swimming. One of our favourite spots at The Road Trip is Ship Creek, an isolated beach featuring native totara trees hugging the rugged coastline. Tonight you stay in Wanaka, one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday spots.
This morning in Wanaka there are several options. Perhaps enjoy a horse-back ride in the Cardona Valley, hire a paddleboat or kayak on the lake, climb up Mt. Iron for stunning 360-degree views, or try out Puzzling World. After further exploring Wanaka, your South Island tour takes you over The Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway to Arrowtown, an important location in the gold rush of Central Otago in the 1860s. Arrive in Queenstown where the afternoon is free to spend as you wish (all activities mentioned are optional – extra cost). Your tour concludes tonight.
“In every case and from every angle — Zeb, the route, the sights, the accommodations, the obvious meticulous planning, The Road Trip — you exceeded those high expectations with room to spare. We cannot thank you enough.”
John Griener group of 7 – USA, October 2018