Just like the name suggests, this New Zealand South Island tour showcases this spectacular island in-depth. Find yourself exploring South Island’s cities, gliding across Milford Sound, exploring the rugged beauty of the wild West Coast, topped off with the TranzAlpine train and beyond in 10 incredible days.
Welcome to Christchurch
Welcome to Christchurch! (Flights to arrive prior to 4pm). Kick off your New Zealand South Island tour in this city that is rebuilding itself after the devastating 2011 earthquake. There’s plenty to see and your hotel near Cathedral Square in the heart of the city is the perfect jumping off point. Meet your Travel Director and travel mates before a free evening to get to know Christchurch as you like, perhaps exploring the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, and Cashel Mall.
Through Scenic Wonderland to Twizel
Begin your day with a sightseeing tour of Christchurch featuring the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Earthquake Memorial, Bridge of Remembrance, and streets lined with bars, cafes, and riverside markets. Then go from city to country as you make your way to the quaint farming town of Geraldine. Grab a tasty sample at the famous Talbots Forest Cheese, sit down for lunch, and pop in the cute shops before journeying through the Canterbury Plains to the shores of Lake Tekapo. Next up, you’re in for a treat as you pull into the lakeside home to Connect With Locals Angie and Stan Taylor for a Be My Guest experience over afternoon tea, scones, and stories. Enjoy the Taylors’ insights from a lifetime of farming as well as a bit of real New Zealand hospitality as Angie invites you into her kitchen. You’ll get to watch and learn as she prepares the New Zealand specialty dessert, Pavlova before having a taste for yourself. After this sweet visit, you’ll make a scenic stop at the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd before arriving in Twizel for the evening. Soak up the vibe of this cute town and popular holiday destination dining on classic New Zealand fare.
Dunedin, City of Scottish Heritage
A day of epic natural landscapes and cute colonial towns await on our journey to Scottish inspired Dunedin making your first stop along the Waitaki River at the Waitaki Hydro Power Scheme and Benmore Dam. Take a look at the waters rushing below you before moving on to the quirky town of Oamaru. You'll feel like you’re stepping back into the Victorian era as you stroll the tree-lined streets past white limestone buildings and 19th century architecture. Take a tea break and browse the shops and galleries of traditional crafts before continuing your journey to New Zealand’s southernmost city of Dunedin, built as a “mini Edinburgh” and vibrant university town. You have the rest of the day free to explore more of Dunedin town, or select from some tempting Optional Experiences. You could explore farther out a wildlife cruise to Otago Peninsula, visiting the famous Speight's Brewery, or touring Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle. Later tonight swap stories with the group over dinner in the heart of the city where you’ll be spoilt for choice of fresh seafood or a specialty from the butcher’s block.
Te Anau, Gateway to Fiordland
Enjoy plenty of stunning scenery as you make your way through farmlands to Te Anau. Visit Gore, a small town that attracts those with an appreciation for nature and rural life as well as art lovers and country music fans. Although Gore is now famous for hosting the Tussock Country Music Festival, it also has a fascinating history of secret whiskey production during the prohibition era. Go from small town to farm life traveling through sheep farms into forested, rugged mountains into the Fiordland National Park and the South Island's largest lake to Te Anau. A truly memorable thrill awaits you next, exploring the islands on a jet boat ride down the Waiau River to Lake Manapouri savouring its many tranquil spots. Take in the birds and swimming trout as you learn about this unique environment’s history. This MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience is not only scenic but supports the Pomona Island Charitable Trust’s conservation efforts to restore the largest inland island in New Zealand to its natural state where native birds can thrive. End a delightfyl day with dinner at your hotel, and if you’re still keen to see more, you could learn more about the area on an Optional Experience to the fascinating, glittering glowworm caves.
Milford Sound Contrasts With Queenstown
Begin your day traveling through Fiordland National Park past native rainforests, beech forests, alluvial flats, and meadows. At your first stop in Mirror Lake, enjoy a walk on the boardwalks as the surrounding mountains are reflected in the water. Wind your way through the Homer Tunnel, where the sheer rocky ranges have been cut through, to the Cleddau Valley. The alpine scenery unfolds on your way to the Chasm where you’ll stop to see the roaring Cleddau River carve its way through rock. Then get right in the middle of the stunning scenery cruising the tranquil waters of the Milford Sound. Watch Bowen and Stirling Falls cascade from hanging valleys into the sea and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak rising from the deep waters of the fiord. With photo ops at every turn and maybe a dolphin or two popping up, it’s a gorgeous afternoon on Milford Sound and a must-do experience on your New Zealand South Island tour. On arrival, excitement is sure to be at an all-time high as we arrive in the adventure capital of Queenstown at your picturesque hotel on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown, It's All Yours
Explore Queenstown that you’ve been dreaming of today with plenty of adventure-filled Optional Experiences to choose from. Join a tour to Skippers Canyon, or go for maximum adventure riding the adrenaline pumping Shotover Jet. This evening it’s time to Dive Into Culture and relax on a cruise aboard New Zealand's oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. You’ll be warmly greeted at the Colonel's Homestead by a gourmet barbecue dinner piled high with ribs and fresh vegetables. Sit back and be entertained by an after-dinner farm show, complete with sheep dogs in action and sheep shearing, that will give you a glimpse into high-country farm life. After a fun-filled evening at the homestead, board the Earnslaw and head back to Queenstown, maybe taking a spin on their polished wooden dancefloor.
Spectacular Franz Josef
It’s a day of epic scenery into untamed wilderness as you head through Central Otago to the West Coast. Your first stop is the restored gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. As you walk down its tree-lined avenues and have a look at the 19th-century wooden buildings, you’ll feel as if you’re in a movie set of the Old West. You’ll then travel to Cromwell on the shores of Lake Dunstan for a visit to a local orchard. Take a break sampling of some of the town's juicy stone fruit including apricots, nectarines and peaches before journeying further into Central Otago where the vivid blue waters and willow-lined shoreline of Lakes Hawea and Wanaka call. Take to an ancient greenstone trail, cross Haast Pass, and bid farewell to the alpine scenery of the Southern Lakes as you meet the rainforests of the West Coast for the first time. Here in the “wild west,” you’ll be greeted by the dramatic drop of Thunder Creek Falls and the staggering sight of Mt. Hooker, flanked on three sides by expansive glaciers. Stunning scenes await as you approach your destination of the famous Franz Josef Glacier. Join an optional helicopter flight for unforgettable views of take in its majesty from the ground.
Punakaiki, Coastal Forest
Awaken to a day filled with natural and manmade beauty. You have time to explore Franz Josef, perhaps visiting the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see kiwi birds, before traveling to Hokitika. In this home of jade greenstone, visit the family-owned Greenstone Factory to learn from a Local Specialist how jade is carved, its significance, and watch a jewellery demonstration as talented artisans turn local stone into beautiful pieces. Then soak in the natural surroundings as you head to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Standing at the water’s edge, you’ll be amazed at how these eroded limestone foundations that began forming 30 million years ago really do look like a stack of pancakes! As you marvel at nature’s creation, listen closely for a “whoosh” of water—that's a burst of sea spray coming through the blowholes. Take in the sights, sounds, and sea air before making your way to the eco-friendly, Stays With Stories waterfront Punakaiki Resort where you’ll dine on seafood and local specialties and wine as the surf rolls and churns just outside your window.
Christchurch, City of Contrasts
The grand adventures continue on your last full day in New Zealand. Begin at Greymouth’s Monteith's Brewery where a Local Specialist shares the history and stories of this iconic brand founded in 1868. Sample some of their ever-changing, innovative brews like the summer ale and crushed pear cider before sitting down to a pub-style lunch. Full and happy, it’s “all aboard” the scenic TranzAlpine train to Christchurch - one of the world’s most famous train trips. This 223-kilometre journey across the South Island along the Waimakariri River and across the Southern Alps takes you through tunnels and over viaducts with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, icy rivers, beech forests, gorges, and river valleys. What better way to conclude your scenic travels across the South Island? This evening, celebrate a wonderful journey through the South Island at a Farewell Dinner with your Travel Director and travel companions.
It’s been a beautiful time but sadly all good things must come to an end. Your New Zealand South Island tour concludes this morning after breakfast with a fond farewell before your transfer to the Christchurch Airport (flights anytime).