South Island Classic
This is a great round trip from Christchurch up the east coast and across to Nelson with whale watching, and winetasting on your way to the beautiful golden sand beaches of Abel Tasman National Park for a day of hiking, sailing or kayaking. Travel the length of the wild West Coast visiting pancake rocks and glaciers before staying in the lakeside resorts of Wanaka and Queenstown. Spend the night on spectacular Milford or Doubtful Sounds before visiting the Penguins and Albatross near Dunedin. Enjoy a scenic train journey in to the mountains before returning to Christchurch via Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain.
- Meet and Greet on arrival in New Zealand
- New Zealand Airport Transfers
- English/Foreign speaking guide depending on arrangements
- Quality hotel accommodation, twin/double rooms, (single rooms available with single supplement) all with private facilities
- Cooked Breakfasts (B) and Dinners (D) where indicated on the itinerary or to be included by arrangement.
- Tour admissions as per itinerary. (eg scenic boat cruises, cultural events). Please see itinerary for specifics.
- Touring in a modern air conditioned vehicle, type depending on arrangements
- Complimentary Travel Kit including travel vouchers, support documentation and a New Zealand Map.
Self Drive Rental Vehicle - Private Car & Driver/Guide (or a combination)
Day 1 - ARRIVE IN CHRISTCHURCH; NEW ZEALAND
Arrive at Christchurch International Airport where you will be met, and transferred to your Christchurch city accommodation. The balance of the day is free to rest and explore New Zealand's "garden city".
Day 2 - IN CHRISTCHURCH
Day at leisure. There is a lot to see and do in and around Christchurch City. Suggest a stroll through the city centre to the Canterbury Arts Centre and the Museum. The Botanic Gardens and the gardens in Mona Vale estate are also well worth a visit, and the International Antarctic Centre is a "must see" for most visitors. New Zealand's native bird the Kiwi and a variety of other wildlife can be seen at Willowbank and Wildlife cruises on Lyttelton harbour are another option. So too is some time exploring some of Canterbury Wineries and sampling some of the fine estate wines now produced here.
There are also half-day city tours and popular full day trips from Christchurch such as the Tranz Alpine to Arthur's Pass and tours to Akaroa where the rare Hectors Dolphins can be seen. There is also the opportunity for sporting activities such as golfing, salmon fishing, jet boating, sea kayaking or hot air ballooning.
Day 3 - CHRISTCHURCH / KAIKOURA / BLENHEIM (312 KMS)
This morning travel up the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura for a Whale watch cruise in a purpose built boat. The sea in this area is especially rich in nutrients, which attract a wide variety of sea life including Sperm Whales - the largest of all the toothed Whales, which can be seen in these waters on 95% of days year round. There are also pods of playful Dusky Dolphins, Seals, Penguins and occasionally Orca can be seen. Afterwards visit a Seal colony where the Fur Seals may be viewed at close quarters. Then drive up the Pacific Coast to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine district. (Note instead of Whale watching there is the option of Swimming with the Dolphins or a Pelagic Birds Tour).
Day 4 - THE MARLBOROUGH REGION
This morning visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum. The Knights of the Sky exhibit here occupies 3,000 sq metres and is one of the world's largest collections of WW1 aircraft and rare memorabilia including a mix of dramatically staged static displays along with flyable aeroplanes. The collection is owned by a trust chaired by renowned Film Director - Peter Jackson (Oscar winner for the Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy). In the afternoon take a tour of the Marlborough Wine Region. This is New Zealand's top wine producing area - its wines winning awards around the world. Among the leading wineries are Grove Mill, Hunters, Alan Scott Estate, Shingle Peak, St Clair, Wither Hills, Cloudy Bay and Montana. Some of these wineries have restaurants where you may wish to have lunch or dinner. Another option is to spend time exploring the lovely Marlborough Sounds or walking the Queen Charlotte Track.
Day 4 - BLENHEIM / NELSON (110 KMS)
Today drive across the top of the South Island to Nelson - a city renowned for its sunshine, lovely beaches, apples and life style. Suggest on arrival visit the interesting Wearable Arts Museum and Hoglund's Glass Blowing Studios.
Day 5 - ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
From Kaiteriteri Beach enjoy a day of exploring Abel Tasman National Park. Cruise by launch through the Marine Reserve and up the coast past beautiful golden sand beaches to Tonga Island. This is the site of a large Seal colony. There are also a variety of sea birds to be seen. The boat goes as far as Totaranui. Passengers can choose to stay aboard the whole day or to disembark at any of the several stops along the way to relax on a beach and swim in the sea. The most popular activity though is to disembark at one of the bays such as Onetahuti and then walk back through the native rain forest to Bark Bay or from Bark Bay to Torrent Bay where the launch will collect you on its return trip to Kaiteriteri. (Note instead of hiking you can choose to go sea kayaking).
Day 6 - NELSON / PUNAKAIKI / FRANZ JOSEF (498 KMS)
This morning drive south down through the Golden Downs State Forest to Murchison and through the Buller Gorge to the West Coast. The scenery is splendid with high mountains and lush rainforest. There are some delightful picnic places along the way. Continue south through Inangahua Junction and follow the Buller River out to the coast. Time permitting you may want to see the Seal colony at Cape Foulwind near Westport, before driving down the coast to Punakaiki to see the unusual pancake rocks. These unusual appearance of these rocks have been caused by wind and wave action on different rock strata. In the afternoon continue down the Tasman Sea coast to Greymouth, which is the largest centre on the West Coast. Stop at Shantytown to try your hand at gold panning and visit the Greenstone Studios at Hokitika where a local Jade crafted into tradition and modern ornaments and jewellery. Continue south witht he Southern Alps to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West, through forests and farmlands to Franz Josef.
Day 7 - FRANZ JOSEF / WANAKA (287 KMS)
The Franz Josef Glacier is a huge river of snow and ice that flows from vast snowfields high in the Alps almost to sea level. There are half and full day guided tours on to the ice and scenic flights with snow landings available. Morning at leisure for your choice of tours and activities. In the afternoon drive south through magnificent rainforests and past pretty bush fringed lakes and clear rushing rivers. At Haast turn inland and cross the Haast Pass through the Southern Alps. The alpine scenery is awesome. Descend past glacial Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to Wanaka.
Day 8 - AT WANAKA
Wanaka is a very popular resort. It is located on the shores of a beautiful lake with a stunning backdrop of the Southern Alps. Day at leisure for your own choice of tours and activities. Among your options is a drive out to the Matukituki Valley, a lake cruise, mountain biking, golf, trout fishing or river rafting. A visit to Landsborough's Puzzling World to find your way out of the maze and to see some of the puzzling things there is always fun. Time and energy permitting you may also like to take a hike to the top of nearby Mt Iron from where there are wonderful panoramic views across Lake Wanaka to Mt Aspiring and the Southern Alps. There are also scenic flights, and an interesting War birds collection of vintage warplanes at Wanaka Airport, along with a vintage car and toy collection.
Day 9 - WANAKA / QUEENSTOWN (116 KMS)
Travel on through the Central Otago farmlands and around Lake Dunstan to Cromwell which is an important fruit growing and wine making area. If you have an interest in wines recommend a visit to The Big Picture and some of the wineries in the Bannockburn area. From here pass through the rugged Kawarau Gorge into Queenstown.
Day 10 - IN QUEENSTOWN
Day at leisure for your own choice of tours and activities. There is plenty to do in this wonderful alpine resort. Suggest a cruise on the 1912 vintage lake steamer TSS Earnslaw or the thrill of a Shotover Jetboat ride. Another option is to drive out to Glenorchy for a popular Dart River Safari or a day walk on the famous Routeburn Track. Dine this evening at the Skyline Restaurant from where there are panoramic views across the lake and surrounding mountains. Access is by aerial gondola.
Day 11 - QUEENSTOWN / MILFORD SOUND (292 KMS)
Today drive around Lake Wakatipu and through Te Anau and into Fiordland National Park. The scenery is stunning with high mountains and deep valleys carved out by ice age glaciers. There are clear rushing streams and cascading waterfalls set in magnificent native rainforest. Stop en route to view the Mirror Lakes and The Chasm. In the late afternoon board the MV Milford Mariner for an overnight adventure cruise on Milford Sound. Seals, Penguins and Dolphins are often seen. Sea kayaks available for guest use. En suite cabins. Dinner and breakfast served aboard. (Or you may instead chose to do the overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound aboard the MV Fiordland Navigator)
Day 12 - MILFORD SOUND / DUNEDIN (408 KMS)
Breakfast aboard. Disembark and return to Te Anau travelling via the Cleddau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and lovely Eglinton Valley. From Te Anau it is a half day drive across the Southland and Otago countryside to Dunedin.
Day 13 - DUNEDIN SIGHTSEEING
Dunedin was originally settled by the Scots and retains a good deal of tartan character. Today drive out to the Otago Peninsula for a visit the Royal Albatross Colony -- the only mainland nesting place in the world for these magnificent seabirds. The Observatory is closed mid September to mid November however Albatross can be seen from a Monarch Wildlife Cruise during this time). Next travel on to see the rare Yellow Eyed Penguins from especially constructed "hides". New Zealand's only castle is also located on the Peninsula. Another recommended option is the Taieri Gorge Excursion train, which operates daily deep into the hills behind Dunedin following the trail of 19th century gold prospectors.
Day 14 - DUNEDIN / MT COOK (330 KMS)
This morning drive north across the hills and up the Pacific Coast. See the Moeraki Boulders on the beach and then drive inland up the Waitaki Valley past the Aviemore and Benmore hydro lakes Omarama and the Mackenzie Basin. Continue through Twizel and around glacially formed Lake Pukaki and into Mt Cook. There are 17 peaks above 10,000 ft in Mt Cook National Park. The scenery is spectacular. Time this afternoon to walk some of the shorter alpine trails near the hotel or a scenic flight with glacier landing.
Day 15 - MT COOK / CHRISTCHURCH (330 KMS) / DEPART
This morning drive down from Mt Cook to Christchurch Airport travelling via Lake Tekapo and crossing the sheep and crop farmlands of the Canterbury Plains.