Mt Cook National Park

Milford Sound Explorer

Starting in Christchurch, travelling into Mackenzie county to Mt Cook. From Mt Cook journey south via Queenstown to Te Anau.  From Te Anau you can take the day to drive the return trip along the stunning Milford Road to reach Milford sound, where you will take a scenic nature cruise. Next day you will travel through Southland to Otago, stopping in Dunedin before heading back to Christchurch.

About this NZ Road Trip

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$1,367 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

7 days/6 nights

Hotel 3 star

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 17 times in the last 7 days

Also included in this package

6 breakfasts

Private airport transfers

Tour map
Lady Bowan Falls, Milford Sound
Boat cruise through Fiordland
Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip

Day 1 - Welcome to Christchurch

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 1
Welcome to Christchurch City

On arrival into Christchurch airport you will be met from your flight and a transfer will deliver you to your accommodation.
The rest of the day is yours to explore at your leisure. Christchurch City is the largest city in the South Island. Often referred to as the Garden City it boasts one of the largest public parks in the country and the city centre is full of very impressive stone buildings reminiscent of the English university towns.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

Access to our exclusive New Zealand Touring APP. The 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.

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered 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: Heartland Hotel Cotswold

The Heartland Hotel Cotswold is just a few minutes walk to boutique shopping at Merivale and Hagley Park. The distinctive architecture of the Heartland Hotel Cotswold reflects Christchurch's image as the most English of cities outside of England.

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Day 2 - Collect your rental car this morning, then you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country

Milford Sound Explorer - 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 system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat.  These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel Room Mount Cook View

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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Day 3 - Follow the dry hills to the Lindis Pass, into Central Otago. From here you follow the Kawerau Gorge to Lake Wakatipu then south towards Te Anau.

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 3
Mt. Cook National Park to Te Anau

Twizel, just south of Aoraki/Mt. Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand. Wrinkly Rams is a local café and also offers an informative sheep shearing demonstration. The Lindis Pass is one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres. The tussock covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. The first Central Otago settlement you reach is the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café.  A short drive, further along, is the historic and scenic Bendigo Reserve, which was one of Otago’s original gold mining settlements.  Well marked paths will guide you to the remains of stone cottages and other buildings from this bygone era. Cromwell sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the historic old town is well worth the visit, the buildings are now home to quaint shops and cafes. The old town buildings were relocated from the valley that now sits deep under Lake Dunstan. Continue on through the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge as they guide you towards the Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing regions. At the famous historic Kawarau Bridge, you can take a bungy jump or sit back and enjoy the drama as visitors hurtle off the bridge. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range comes into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head south. The lake guides you into Southland through its rich farming pastures and into Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

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: Distinction Luxmore Hotel

The perfect base for all your Fiordland travel, Distinction Luxmore Hotel provides comfortable accommodation right in the heart of Te Anau.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 421 kms / 261 miles : 5.0 hours

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Day 4 - Journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound where you'll take a scenic cruise on the fiord before returning to Te Anau

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 4
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 Nature Cruise

A two hour nature cruise of spectacular Milford Sound. On board one of three purpose built vessels you'll experience tumbling waterfalls, towering peaks, lush rainforest and native wildlife. Learn about the region, its history and natural surroundings while enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. As you cruise, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins - frequent visitors to the fiord.

Your accommodation: Distinction Luxmore Hotel

The perfect base for all your Fiordland travel, Distinction Luxmore Hotel provides comfortable accommodation right in the heart of Te Anau.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

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

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Day 5 - Cross the Southland countryside towards Otago and Dunedin

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 5
Te Anau to Dunedin

The drive from Te Anau to Dunedin  takes you through classic Southland farmland scenery but if you want to spend the whole day exploring a little off the beaten path than taking the Southern Scenic Route through The Catlins is highly recommended. Following the incredible Otago coastline to Invercargill the route passes through Manapouri and onto Tuatapere before Colac Bay and the fishing town of Riverton. From Invercargill the route hugs the coastline and there are many side-trips to secluded and deserted beaches and bays to explore before you arrive into the remarkable Edwardian City of Dunedin.

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 - 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: Heritage Dunedin Leisure Lodge

Nestled in landscaped gardens, the Heritage Dunedin Leisure Lodge is located within two acres of beautifully kept garden, and just a short drive to the city centre.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 285 kms / 177 miles : 3.3 hours

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Day 6 - Follow the east coast north, then across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 6
Dunedin to Christchurch

Heading north from Dunedin your first stop should be Moeraki to explore the famous and unique Moeraki Boulders strewn on the beach. Following a look at these incredible and unique geological features don't miss a visit to Fleur's Cafe in Moeraki Township for the freshest seafood you'll experience. The town of Oamaru is most famous for its buildings constructed with the unique locally quarried white stone. Explore the old quarter or if you don't mind a late arrival into Christchurch then stay longer to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk. The port town of Timaru is next and then the vast Canterbury Plains. Crossing New Zealand's longest bridge at Rakaia you can view some great examples of the South Island's famous braided rivers.  Arriving into Christchurch City puts you close to the airport and the International Antarctic Centre, a visit is highly recommended. Here you can get as close to experiencing life on the frozen continent without actually visiting plus see New Zealand little blue penguins and ride in a Haaglund Tracked vehicle.

Your accommodation: Heartland Hotel Cotswold

The Heartland Hotel Cotswold is just a few minutes walk to boutique shopping at Merivale and Hagley Park. The distinctive architecture of the Heartland Hotel Cotswold reflects Christchurch's image as the most English of cities outside of England.

Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 346 kms / 215 miles : 4.2 hours

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Day 7 - Depart Christchurch today

Milford Sound Explorer - Day 7
Depart Christchurch today

Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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