Step into the heart of New Zealand with our 11-day South Island journey. It’s not just about the views, though they’re unforgettable—from the mighty Franz Josef Glacier to the gentle shores of Lake Wānaka and the echoing serenity of Milford Sound. It’s about the stories these places tell, the memories they hold, and the laughter and wonder they inspire. It’s feeling the cool glacier breeze on your face, sharing a laugh under the southern stars, and sensing the deep connection the Maori have with this land. Come, let’s make some memories together, and let the genuine beauty of South Island touch your soul.
This tour can be easily enjoyed Privately Guided or Self-driven with our comprehensive route notes, complete with hidden spots to enjoy on the way. This allows you the freedom to explore them at your own pace on a self-drive tour if you prefer. Don’t feel like driving? We can provide a guide to! Remember you are in control! Rest assured, all our offerings are fully customizable and tailored to meet your specific preferences. Feel free to ask us to modify this itinerary to create the journey of your dreams! Learn more about our pricing: Personalized Pricing and Booking Process | The Road Trip New Zealand
Guided: Upon arrival at Christchurch Airport, a shuttle driver will be waiting for you as you clear customs. This driver will be holding a signboard with your name on it and will take you to your accommodation in the city. The day and night are free to spend at your leisure and your guide will meet you tomorrow morning.
Self Drive: Upon arrival at Christchurch Airport you will collect your rental vehicle within the airport terminal. Make your way to your inner city accommodation where the day and night are free to spend at your leisure and prepare for the adventure ahead.
Today you will drive through the mighty Southern Alps that divide’s the south island to Arthurs Pass National Park. Keep a look out for the Bealey River as well as the reflective waters of Lake Pearson and Lake Lyndon. Our favourite nature walk in this national park features a stunning 150 metre waterfall and spectacular views of the mountains as you peek through native beech forest. Be sure to keep a look out overhead for the Kea (New Zealand’s cheeky native alpine parrot)! Driving further you will reach the West Coast and the Tasman coastline. Head slightly inland where you can visit the stunning Hokitika Gorge to marvel at its beautiful bright blue waters and surrounding native forest. Continue further south through the rainforest to the town of Franz Josef glacier, nestled at the base of the towering alps and surrounded by dense native bush.
This morning you will fly over both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, soaring first over the townships and then following the ice of the glaciers high up into the upper reaches. Land in the snow at the head of one of the glaciers and survey the path the glacier has carved below you. Franz Josef Glacier is one of only three glaciers in the world to be surrounded by rainforest!
One of the most dramatic journeys in the country is what you can experience on your drive over the Haast Pass through to Wānaka. 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 Aoraki/Mt Cook (3754m/12,316ft). The walking possibilities are endless today around Haast and Haast Pass and you can choose from several nature 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 rugged coastline. Tonight you stay in Wānaka, one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday spots.
Today is a chance to explore the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka. Options include a walk up one of our favourite look out spots featuring 360 degree views of Lake Wānaka, Mount Aspiring National Park and the Clutha River, a visit to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World, kayaking on the lake, a visit to the Warbirds and Classic cars Museum or even fishing on the lake for some brown or rainbow trout. Perhaps take on the majestic Rob Roy Glacier hike or venture Roy’s Peak if you’re feeling especially fit!
This afternoon you will enjoy a cruise to one of Lake Wanaka’s five islands, Mou Waho. Mou Waho Island is the most remote and in our opinion, the most beautiful of the five. With its steep rocky coastline, small secluded beaches, diverse birdlife and a hidden lake (Arethusa pool) which sits atop the island. A knowledgeable guide will accompany you on the two hour island walk and share insights on the geology, history, flora and fauna and local culture of the region.
This morning your South Island tour takes you to the beautiful town of Arrowtown via The Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest highway. Arrowtown was an improtant location in the gold rush of Central Otago in the 1860s and is now a historic town with a very special vibe. Perhaps browse the preserved Chinese gold mining village or wander the boutique shops the town has on offer. Following this, perhaps enjoy a wine tasting at Amisfield Bistro & Cellar Door, overlooking the stunning Lake Hayes. This afternoon you will drive a further 2 hours to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.
Be prepared for one of the jewels of the New Zealand landscape! The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular in the world and certainly a highlight on any South Island tour. En route you will see spectacular valleys, breath taking mountains and hopefully spot the cheeky Kea (New Zealand’s mountain parrot). This morning you will experience all that the fjords have to offer with a boat cruise featuring pristine waterfalls and towering mountains plunging into the Tasman Sea. Keep a look out for dolphins, seals and the Fiordland crested Penguin. On your trip back to Te Anau there is the opportunity to enjoy several short walks in the Fiordland National Park.
This morning in Te Anau you will take a tour by boat across Lake Te Anau to the glow worm caves to view the shimmering light of thousands of luminous glow-worms in a 12,000 year old grotto. Following this, you will head to Queenstown, ‘New Zealand’s adventure capital of the world’. Skirting your way around Lake Wakatipu makes for some stunning photography and you will be amazed by the Remarkables Mountain Range, one of the most famous back drops for Lord of the Rings. The afternoon is free to spend as you wish in Queenstown, and there is plenty to see and do! Perhaps enjoy a walk around the botanic gardens on the lake, enjoy a drop of Central Otago pinot noir at a nearby winery, or sample some fresh local cuisine on offer on the lakefront.
Today is free to explore Queenstown at leisure and take part in some of the fantastic activities that this ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ has to offer. Options for the adventurous include: Skydiving, Bungy Jumping, Jet Boating, Canyon Swings, White Water Rafting, Flyboarding and Paragliding. If you feel like taking a more relaxed approach to the day, a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw 100 year old steam ship or a walk through Queenstown’s Botanic Gardens are not to be missed. Perhaps drive out to the head of Lake Wakatipu and experience the breath-taking scenery of the Glenorchy area.
You leave Central Otago today through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell where you can make a stop en route at a local fruit shop to try real fruit ice cream and perhaps sample New Zealand famous manuka honey products. From there, cross the Lindis Pass to the Mackenzie Country and travel alongside the stunning turquoise Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. Weather permitting you can take a short walk at the foot of Mt Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain. Our favourite walk ventures into the Hooker Valley and takes in some of the most impressive views in the country.
En route to Lake Tekapo, perhaps take a trip to the top of Mt John to experience the feeling of being on top of the world. The cafe at the top boasts stunning 360 degree views of the Mountains and turquoise coloured lakes in the area. Tonight you will enjoy a guided tour at Mt John Observatory where you can marvel at the spectacular dark sky reserve that surrounds you.
This morning you depart Lake Tekapo and continue on to Christchurch. The afternoon is free to explore The Garden City of Christchurch. You could enjoy a stroll in the botanic gardens and a drive around the bays of Banks Peninsula, taking in Lyttelton which was the gateway for many of Christchurch and the Canterbury region’s first European settlers. Cathedral Square and the remains of the Christchurch Cathedral are well worth a visit, as well as the revitalised central shopping area and Riverside Market.
Today you will transfer to your onward travel arrangements. We trust you have had a fantastic time in our beautiful country and wish you safe travels to your next destination.
Onward flight is not included.
Your entire adventure will be marked out so you can simply enjoy the scenery.
Sample all the major wine producing regions of New Zealand. Enjoy fine wine and local cuisine on your own terms throughout the diverse landscapes of this beautiful country. Taste wines from eight different growing regions while enjoying New Zealand’s scenery.
Free Phone: 0800 4 ROADTRIP (within NZ)
Phone: +64 3 668 1234 (inside and outside NZ all enquiries)
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