New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

21 day South Island Encounter

This comprehensive tour carves a figure eight through spectacular South Island scenery.  From Christchurch travel through the Mackenzie Country to Mt Cook then on to Otago and Dunedin. A detailed exploration of Fiordland National Park follows, before heading north to Queenstown and then to the West Coast Glaciers. Crossing the Southern Alps enjoy a night in Arthur's Pass National Park before heading to the east coast and Kaikoura. Enjoy the Marlborough wine region and the golden sands of Abel Tasman National Park before turning south along the wild west coast. You return to Christchurch on board the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train.

Tour summary and feature

About this NZ Road Trip

Self Drive - South Island

This suggested tour costs from NZD$3,889 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

21 days/20 nights


 Rental car included

 Viewed 5 times in the last 7 days

Also included in this package
- Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation
- Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
1 lunch
price pp from


twin share/double
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Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Welcome to Christchurch

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 1
Itinerary information by App & in-country support

Access to our exclusive Touring App. The smart phone app includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts, and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch, New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore is to take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights - or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass

Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style, enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

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Day 2 - Take the day to explore the ever changing city of Christchurch

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 2
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation

Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names.  The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover.  In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.

Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.  

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - International Antarctic Centre General Admission

The International Antarctic Centre aims to recreate the atmosphere and environment of Antarctica, providing visitors with an interactive, fun and educational experience. Feel the full Four Seasons of Antarctica, where you'll experience a custom-built snow and ice experience, then warm up in the Scott Base interior exhibit, a replica Antarctic field camp or other informative displays in the gallery. You'll also learn about life in modern day Antarctica, view real little blue penguins and experience a thrilling ride in a Hagglund all terrain vehicle.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Nowhere else in New Zealand will you find such a wide range of New Zealand wildlife so close to you. Willowbank provides you with a "Kiwi Guarantee" and is home to New Zealand's largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area. With this unique experience, you will see New Zealand's natural splendour first hand, and view Kiwis that are not hidden behind glass.  You will explore one of the most complete selections of New Zealand native and introduced wildlife in natural bush surroundings. Much of the Willowbank wildlife wander free and is able to be petted and fed.

Choose to explore the reserve yourself, or for an up-close Kiwi experience, you can take a guided tour.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

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Day 3 - Over the hill to Bank's Peninsula and the charming village of Akaroa

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 3
Christchurch to Akaroa

The Banks Peninsula offers a great contrast to the South Island's largest city. Just around a 1 1/2 hours drive from the city centre are rolling green hills, streams, golden sand beaches and small settlements that offer a unique insight into New Zealand's history and development.
Just on the other side of the Port Hills is Lyttelton, a busy port town that was crucial to the development of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains. Following the road around the beautiful natural harbour the names, such as Magazine Bay, Battery Point, Corsair Point and Governers Bay, remind of the importance the navy placed on this harbour.
The Banks Peninsula itself is actually the remains of a long extinct volcano, the rim of which collapsed some time ago allowing the sea to flood into and create what is now the Akaroa Harbour. In 1840 French colonists settled in Akaroa in a bid to stake a claim for the South Island. Unbeknown the British had already declared sovereignty and a long drawn out dispute ensued with the British eventually being given government. However the French stayed and made this stunning part of the South Pacific their home and still to this day the town boasts French street names and every year a French Festival is held.
The Harbour itself is teeming with wildlife and a nature cruise is a must do activity. One of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, hectors dolphin, are often seen and cruises also offer excursions with the chance to swim amongst them.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Akaroa Swimming with the Dolphins Cruise

Akaroa Harbour formed as a result of an extinct volcanic crater being flooded by the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful place with sheer cliffs and the picturesque township of Akaroa at its heart. New Zealand's only native dolphin, Hectors dolphin, makes this sheltered harbour its home and its here you can take a 2 ½ tour to see and if you wish actually swim with these incredible creatures. Following a ½ hour briefing you depart on a 2 hour cruise of which around 1 hour is spent in the water with the dolphins. Black Cat Cruises has been operating since 1985 and their success rate at sighting dolphins is over 98%. Swimming with dolphins is not always possible either due to sea conditions, the dolphins' willingness to stay and play and other environmental reasons such as not swimming when there are babies around. You still manage to swim though on over 80% of their tours.

Your accommodation: Criterion Motel

The Criterion Motel offers studio apartments with spectacular views over Akaroa Harbour. You're also just a short walk from the fantastic cafes and restaurants that Akaroa offers.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

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Day 4 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 4
Akaroa to Twizel via (Aoraki Mount Cook National Park)

Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route, Geraldine offers an ideal stop before you head into Mackenzie country. Ascending Burkes Pass, you'll enter New Zealand's high country. The picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, is the first of the large Southern Lakes on your journey. Enjoy the magnificent views from the shore, boat or air by taking a scenic flight. On arriving at Lake Pukaki, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular views of Aoraki Mount Cook, towering over the lake. Driving along the lake, you'll find your destination, Mount Cook Village. Enjoy Aoraki Mount Cook National Park by having a glacier landing with ski plane or helicopter, kayaking on a glacial lake or by walking one of the many tracks. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre is a must see. Return along the shores of Lake Pukaki to Twizel, your base for the evening.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Explorer Pass

A tribute to New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary - humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers - the centre showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people within a comprehensive museum as well as a 126-seat custom-designed theatre and Digital Dome Planetarium.

Your accommodation: Mountain Chalet Motels

Mountain Chalets is situated in Twizel, just 40 mins drive from Mount Cook. This picturesque site is on the doorstep to some of New Zealand's finest scenery. All units are equipped with kitchenettes and air conditioning.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 448 kms / 278 miles : 5.4 hours

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Day 5 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 5
Twizel to Dunedin

The next town south is Omarama and the wrinkly rams cafe makes an interesting coffee stop. Heading down the Waitaki valley, from Omarama, you follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. The town of Oamaru is most famous for its white stone buildings, constructed with the local 'Oamaru Stone'. From the harbour, you can see blue penguins come ashore at dusk as they return from their day at sea. Further south the Moeraki Boulders are a unique geological feature and worth the short detour to the beach to view. Arriving into Dunedin, you can appreciate the city's Edwardian and Scottish heritage through its fine buildings particularly around the Octagon.

Your accommodation: Cable Court Motel

Situated in the heart of Dunedin, Cable Court Motel offers quality self contained accommodation close to the city centre. Only a ten minute walk to the Octagon, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 249 kms / 155 miles : 2.9 hours

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Day 6 - Explore the historic city of Dunedin or discover the unique wildlife of Otago Peninsula

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 6
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock

An unforgettable experience viewing rare and fascinating wildlife. Board the Monarch Boat and take in the fascinating sight of the Northern Royal Albatross as it comes in to nest on spectacular cliffs of Taiaroa, Otago Peninsula. You'll also see eight other species of birds including sooty shearwaters and petrels as well as sea lions and fur seals - and if you're really lucky - dolphins and whales.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Penguin Place Conservation Reserve Tour

Learn about the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin when you visit Penguin Place - a private conservation reserve dedicated to ensuring the survival of this unique species. The project is entirely funded by guided tours which allows the conservation team to engage in habitat restoration, predator control, a research program and an on-site rehabilitation facility. On your tour, you will learn about the issues the Yellow Eyed Penguin faces, their life cycle and how the project is carried out. You'll take a short bus trip over to the reserve and be led on foot by your guide through a system of covered trenches to viewing hides which allow access to the living and breeding habitat of this very shy bird without disturbing them.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Larnach Castle and Gardens

Larnach is New Zealand's only Castle, built in 1871 by politician and merchant, William Larnach, a man of great vision who helped shape New Zealand's early history. It was built for William's beloved first wife Eliza; it took 200 workmen three years to build the shell and a further twelve years were spent by master craftsmen to embellish the interior. The Castle is located high up on the Otago Peninsula and looks down on Dunedin city giving beautiful views. The gardens have an International Garden of Significance status and have a unique collection of specialised areas for you to explore. The Ballroom cafe is a fantastic place to rest and reflect on all you have seen while enjoying a delicious range of refreshments. As with the entire castle, the ballroom had an interesting and varied history prior to its beautiful restoration, uses ranged from a lunatic asylum, antique sales room to the penning of sheep.

Your accommodation: Cable Court Motel

Situated in the heart of Dunedin, Cable Court Motel offers quality self contained accommodation close to the city centre. Only a ten minute walk to the Octagon, restaurants, cafes and bars.

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Day 7 - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 7
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival, you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

Your accommodation: Anchorage Motel, Te Anau

The Anchorage Motel in Te Anau is located just 10 minutes walk from the town centre and 2 minutes from the lakefront. Well equipped 1,2 and 3 bedroom units are complimented by a cooked and continental breakfast service, guest laundry and barbeque area.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

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Day 8 - Journey along the magical Milford Road, one of New Zealand's great road trips

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 8
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came.

Milford Sound Cruise with RealNZ

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.

Your accommodation: Anchorage Motel, Te Anau

The Anchorage Motel in Te Anau is located just 10 minutes walk from the town centre and 2 minutes from the lakefront. Well equipped 1,2 and 3 bedroom units are complimented by a cooked and continental breakfast service, guest laundry and barbeque area.

Meals included: Lunch

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

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Day 9 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 9
Te Anau to Queenstown

Today you’ll cross vast tussock lands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

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Day 10 - The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 10
Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world-famous Shotover Jet full 360-degree spins!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Skyline Gondola Queenstown and 3 Luge Rides

In the heart of Queenstown, located 450 metres above town in the Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve is the Skyline Complex. A gondola ride to the summit makes for awe-inspiring views of the city surround. Arrive at the complex and wander the outside viewing decks for a picture perfect outlook. Then onto the Luge! The 800 metre luge track offers an exhilarating journey through banked corners, tunnels and dippers.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience – a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting.
Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambiance of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

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Day 11 - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 11
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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Day 12 - Get up close to the glaciers of Westland National Park

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 12
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Nature Tour

Nestled in thick historic West Coast forest and a stone's throw from wild black sand beaches, this is one of the world's most unusual glaciers. Beautiful blue skies or magical misty rain - whatever the weather - you will feel like you are in Narnia or LOTR.
With easy walking at your pace, information on glaciology, geology, geomorphology, flora and fauna, local legends, history, and small guided groups with fantastic guides, you will experience this glacier in style and in the best hands with the only local company. Wander past glacier rivers and streams and through beautiful podocarp forest; discover hidden natural treasures such as native snails, wild native mushrooms, and dozens of species of native orchids; listen to native bird song and waterfalls; see if you can spot a Chamois or a Tahr on the huge snow-capped mountains above while drinking a cup of tea and talking one-on-one with your guide. This tour will be a highlight of your travels in New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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Day 13 - Travel between mountains and the Tasman Sea as you head north along the West Coast, then inland to the Southern Alps

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 13
Franz Josef to Arthur's Pass National Park

Driving north on State Highway 6 you pass through many small West Coast towns. Hari Hari is the township that Guy Menzies decided to land in (or rather crash land) as he became the first person to fly solo across the Tasman. Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings remain. You can even pan for gold. The craft and gift stores in Hokitika are excellent with a great range of locally made items and if you want to explore further here then the Hokitika Gorge is worthy of a detour.

State Highway 73 is the main road between the West Coast and Christchurch and the scenery is spectacular - even in the rain - and there is pretty good chance of rain in the high alpine mountains. With hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the bush clad hillsides it's not a road to be rushed. Originally the road was a pass used by Maori as they made their seasonal passage to look for the greenstone abundant in the West Coast mountains. When the gold rush hit the West Coast in the late 1800's then a road was quickly developed and not soon after the train. Today the main use for the track is transporting coal to Lyttelton Harbour but once a day the now world famous Tranz Alpine Scenic Train takes a few hundred tourists and visitors between the two oceans.

The Otira Gorge on the Western side of Arthur's Pass features a remarkable piece of engineering with the road passing high on a viaduct through this large valley. This is a recent addition to the route as the old road was washed away in a rock fall a few years ago. There are numerous lookout points giving great views of the valley and its engineering feat but watch out for the local residents, the kea. this bird is the worlds only alpine parrot and can be extremely cheeky.

Arthur's Pass Township is bustling place in the peak season with many walkers and adventurers using it as a base for the forays into the mountains of Arthur's pass National Park. The Department of Conservation centre here has an excellent display of the local history and is a great source of information for the many short walks in the area.

Walking tracks in Arthurs Pass National Park

Within the Arthur's Pass there are many short walks to suit all ages and abilities. Located in the Arthur's Pass Village is a Department of Conservation information centre where you can get updates on track conditions and track suitability as well as learning about the natural history of the area and its people.

Listed below are a selection of short walks.

1. Millennium Walk - Time: 10 minutes return
2. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk - Time: One hour return
3. Arthur's Pass Walking Track - Time: One hour 20 minutes (one way)
4. Dobson Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
5. Old Coach Road Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
6. Cockayne Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return

Your accommodation: Arthurs Pass Alpine Motel

Located right in the village this is the ideal location to enjoy and explore Arthur's Pass National Park. Close to cafes and the visitor centre your accommodation is in comfortable self contained units.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 2.8 hours

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Day 14 - Descend to the coast and the seaside village of Kaikoura

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 14
Arthur's Pass to Kaikoura

Travelling from the Southern Alps to the Coast, this drive offers spectacular views of braided river valleys. You’ll travel through Castle Hill Scenic Reserve, dotted with remarkable rocky outcrops  - popular for hiking.

Descending on to the Canterbury Plains, you’ll travel through the rich farmland surrounding Christchurch before turning North through the small towns of Rangiora and Oxford. You’ll then travel on State Highway 1 through the Waipara Valley. If you have plenty of time be sure to stop at Hanmer Springs for a soak in the hot mineral pools.

The road hugs the coast for the final stretch of this drive, before arriving into your destination, Kaikoura. Keep a lookout for dolphins as they are often seen swimming just off the coastline as well as New Zealand fur seals basking by the roadside.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Kaikoura

Bella Vista Kaikoura is located within walking distance to Kaikoura Whale Watch and just 5 minutes from the bustling town centre. Well equipped units offer every convenience you will need for your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.5 hours

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Day 15 - Explore Kaikoura home to an abundance of marine wildlife

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 15

The Kaikoura Coast is renowned for its abundant marine life, and this is huge visitor drawcard. Due to the teeming food supply in its icy seas, whales, seals and dolphins are frequently spotted year round in the area. Observe the fur seal colony basking in the sun at the tip of the peninsula and be sure to take a trip by boat to view the whales.

If you prefer, hop aboard a 30 minute scenic flight and see the coast by air. But if you're feeling really adventurous take a dip with the resident seal population on either a land or boat based trip. Kaikoura township has a charming feel and after a day of marine adventures is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. not to be missed is a meal of fresh crayfish - the town's signature dish. Before you leave, visit historic Fyffe House for insight into the region’s Whaling Past.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Experience New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company. Whale Watch Kaikoura offer a once-in-a-lifetime, up close encounter with the giant Sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, occasionally make an appearance.
Cruise in style on modern catamarans, specifically designed for whale watching - Featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Kaikoura

Bella Vista Kaikoura is located within walking distance to Kaikoura Whale Watch and just 5 minutes from the bustling town centre. Well equipped units offer every convenience you will need for your stay.

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Day 16 - Drive via the coastal road to the vineyards of Blenheim

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 16
Kaikoura to Blenheim

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. One of the best seal watching locations is Ohau Point (25km north of Kaikoura), where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in the waterfall, just a short walk from the road (signposted). As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Blenheim sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. A great way to do this is to take a guided wine tour with Sounds Connection Wine Tours.


An afternoon among the vines! Be immersed in the Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You'll be collected from your accommodation and taken through three or four hand-picked wineries to taste the award-winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through. A lunch stop is not included in this tour so we do advise you have something to eat prior to this activity. 

Your accommodation: Lugano Motor Lodge

Located right across the road from picturesque Seymour Square, the Lugano Motor Lodge welcomes you to their outstanding motel located in the heart of Blenheim within walking distance of many great cafés and restaurants. Enjoy the use of golf club sets, mountain bikes, daily newspaper and the DVD library.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

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Day 17 - Follow the Queen Charlotte Sound to Havelock, then on to Tasman Bay

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 17
Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive

Take a short drive to the small port of Picton where the Interislander ferry connects with Wellington. A bustling seaside destination, Picton is well equipped with shops, cafes - and is also the starting point for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. You’ll travel along Queen Charlotte Drive, traversing the length of the Marlborough Sounds coastline. Magnificent views are abundant - so be sure to make time to stop and enjoy the scenery as you go.

Continue through the small port town of Havelock, home to a variety of cafes and restaurants. The highway between Nelson and Picton crosses the pelorus river, and at this junction, you’ll find the famous pelorus bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks - the most popular - a 30-minute loop through beech, rimu, and totara forest. Traverse Tasman Bay passing through Motueka to arrive on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 184 kms / 114 miles : 2.8 hours

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Day 18 - Explore Abel Tasman National Park home to aqua blue waters and playful seals

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 18
Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Why not enjoy a scenic cruise through the Sounds or take a kayaking tour around its many sheltered bays? Relax to the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals - fur seals and dolphins.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Seals, Beach Cruise and Walk

Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. Cruise into the Tonga Island Marine Reserve and pause to watch the antics of the Resident Fur Seal Colony. After landing at the historic Tonga Quarry Beach, take a two hour, fifteen minute walk over forested land and around the spectacular Bark Bay Estuary - renowned for its cascading waterfalls. Rejoin the cruise at the sheltered golden cove on Medlands Beach.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

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Day 19 - Pass between Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi National Park as you approach the West Coast

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 19
Marahau to Westport

Today travel along the Buller Gorge home to spectacular scenery. Head through the sleepy town of Murchison, a great place to stop for lunch then continue on to Inangahua, the first major town in the region. You’ll then come to Whites Creek - where New Zealand’s longest swing bridge is located. As you cross the river take in the magnificent views of the gorge before drive a short way further to arrive in Westport, the largest town the Northern West Coast.

Your accommodation: Buller Bridge Motel

Ideally located in Westport this well equipped motel is adjacent to the Buller River and Millennium Walkway but also just a few minutes walk from the town centre

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 236 kms / 146 miles : 3.1 hours

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Day 20 - Drive south along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 20
Westport to Greymouth

Cape Foulwind just south of Westport is home to a seal colony and the short walk provides some spectacular scenery. The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki. A stop at the pancake rocks is a highlight of this drive so allow plenty of time to walk the paths and explore the formations.
Greymouth sits on the Grey River almost at the western end of State Highway 73. It's the largest town on the coast and as such is the commercial centre. A fine small town centre with some interesting buildings makes it a pleasant place to stroll or if you are feeling a little more adventurous then there is almost every activity you can think of available here. In the centre of town you will also find the Monteith's brewery and a tour is highly worthwhile. Greymouth is also where the Tranz Alpine train arrives and departs. Just south of Greymouth is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast through Arthur's Pass National Park. From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 90 kms / 56 miles : 1.1 hours

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Day 21 - Depart Christchurch today

21 day South Island Encounter - Day 21
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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