7 Day South Island Explorer
7 days starting in Auckland
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information
Thrifty Tours

7 Day South Island Explorer

This tour starts with the famous Northern Explorer train from Auckland to Wellington, followed by a scenic ferry ride from Wellington across the Cook Strait. This tour explores 3 major destinations along the way, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown and includes an experience in mighty Fiordland at Milford Sound.

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About this NZ Road Trip

Seat-in-Coach Touring

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,080 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Auckland, finishes in Christchurch

7 days/6 nights

Hotel 4 star

 Customisable? YES

 Viewed 6 times in the last 7 days

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Detailed itinerary for this New Zealand Road Trip
7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 1
Auckland City

Straddling two natural harbours, New Zealand's 'City of Sails' is the country's largest. Encircled by wine regions, native bush, rainforests and beaches - this urban paradise is also known for its world-class shopping, designer boutiques and gourmet cuisine. Dotted with volcanoes and ringed by islands, Auckland is a playground for both the city savvy and those with an eye for adventure. Explore the suburbs of Parnell and Ponsonby with their upmarket galleries, back-alley wine bars, and trendy eateries or wander up high High St or Vulcan Lane to snag a boutique bargain. Venture further afield to the rural community of Clevedon to experience the delights of the country and make time to explore one of over 800 regional parks with deserted beaches, waterfalls and forest walks.
What makes Auckland so special is its vibrant cultural melting pot, a diversity reflected in the cuisine, festivals, art and music. Auckland has always attracted many people of many different cultures. By the 1890s, the city was very cosmopolitan with people from Europe, China and India making this place their home. This theme continued throughout the 20th century, particularly in the 1950s when the post-World War II baby boom boosted the population. A significant number of indigenous Maori moved to the city, followed by pacific islanders in the late 1960s. European immigrants from places such as Hungary, Yugoslavia and Holland began what is now a thriving and diverse food culture. Today, Auckland is the world's largest Polynesian city. Resident Aucklanders come from all around the world, just over half of its residents are of European descent, 11% are Maori, 13% are of Pacific Island descent and there is a growing Asian population of around 12%.

The Northern Explorer Scenic Train: Auckland to Wellington Scenic Plus

Great Journeys New Zealand's Scenic Plus carriage provides comfort and vast panoramic views as you journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, to Wellington, New Zealand's arts and culture capital. Along the way, you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world-famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from panoramic windows or open-air viewing decks. Scenic Plus offers an all-inclusive experience and the dedicated Scenic Plus carriage features large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation Carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge-style seating. The lounge-style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass-backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Northern Explorer experience.

Your accommodation: Naumi Hotel Wellington

Naumi Studio Wellington, an iconic heritage landmark in the heart of the Cuba Street precinct. After an extensive renovation, this 116-room property has transformed into visual feast for the senses, enthralling guests with eclectic spaces inspired from seafaring, the library world and enduring love.

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 2
Interislander Ferry Wellington to Picton with exclusive access to the Premium Plus Lounge

The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 kph (167 mph). From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many sea birds are often seen.
Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the Marlborough Sounds - and this region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays is a remarkable photographic opportunity. At the end of Queen Charlotte Sound the cruise comes to an end in the picturesque town of Picton.
When you're not out on the deck enjoying the amazing views, you can retreat to the exclusive Premium Plus lounge which is the most comfortable and relaxing way to travel across the Cook Strait. You'll enjoy complimentary beverages, light snacks, lunch or breakfast, internet access, magazines and newspapers and the most comfortable seating, so you can sit back and enjoy the journey.

Picton to Christchurch by Intercity Coach

From Picton you head south on State Highway 1 towards Blenheim which sits right at the heart of the New Zealand's largest wine producing region, Marlborough. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling little place with many cafes, restaurants and shops. Arriving into Christchurch City puts you close to the airport and the International Antarctic Centre and 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.

Private transfer Lichfield St stop to your accommodation

A private transfer will collect you from the coach stop and transfer you to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch

This luxury hotel is centrally located in the revitalised Cathedral Square in the heart of the city, a short stroll from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Christchurch Convention Centre.
Meals included: Breakfast

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 3
Private transfer accommodation to Intercity stop Lichfield St

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to the coach stop.

Christchurch to Dunedin by InterCity Coach

Leaving Christchurch early, you will cross the vast Canterbury Plains as you head South, crossing many braided rivers that start their life as glacial melt water high in the Southern Alps. New Zealand's longest bridge at Rakaia crosses such an example. Pass through the towns of Timaru followed by Oamaru, most famous for its buildings constructed with the unique locally quarried white stone. Continue along the coast and into the city of Dunedin.

Dunedin Coach Stop to Accommodation Transfer with Iconic

On arrival into Dunedin you will be met from your coach and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Distinction Dunedin Hotel

Distinction Dunedin Hotel occupies the grand Chief Post Office built in the 1930’s. This art deco inspired building has recently been transformed into a 4 star hotel with elegant décor, set in the heart of the city.
Meals included: Breakfast

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 4
Dunedin to Te Anau Transfer

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farmland scenery. Pass through the tranquil river town of Balclutha, the largest town in South Otago, which hosts a range of shops and services. Balclutha is memorable for its arched concrete bridge, under which flows the mighty Clutha River. The river is open for salmon and trout fishing all year round.
As you head inland, you will pass through the small rural town of Clinton before reaching Gore, the official home of country music. It's also known for great fly fishing, with the Mataura River and many other productive streams close by. Take time to enjoy the lush farmland scenery as you journey east towards your lakeside destination of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Your accommodation: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

The Te Anau Hotel and Villas offers a range of accommodation from hotel rooms and suites to villas. Ideally located on the lake front this hotel is just a few minutes stroll from the shops, cafes and many activities Te Anau has to offer.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 5
Milford Sound Cruise with return luxury coach transfers from Te Anau, and onto Queenstown

From Te Anau, you travel by coach along the spectacular Milford Road. Photo stops are made on the way into Milford, with additional photo stops and a short walk on the return journey. RealNZ experienced drivers enjoy sharing their knowledge of the area. On reaching Milford Sound, you join a Cruise for a leisurely cruise the full-length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and the wildlife. During the cruise your friendly crew provide commentaries in several languages and point out the sights such as Mitre Peak and the Pembroke Glacier.

Your accommodation: QT Queenstown Hotel

Incomparable views over the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu and breathtaking peaks of the Southern Alps set the scene at QT Queenstown. Sitting pretty in nature’s playground, this lush lakeside resort emulates nostalgic alpine and après-ski ambiance – perfect for the pleasure seeking adventurer.
Meals included: Breakfast

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 6
Free day in Queenstown

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. Whether you are looking for a scenic short walk or a longer one, you will find the perfect hike or bike trail in Queenstown. Explore Queenstown Gardens, or try out more challenging trails up to Ben Lomond Walkaway or Queenstown Hill Walking Track. Enjoy iconic views and take Queenstown Gondola up 450 metres to Bob's Peak, or 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 al fresco restaurants, try out the famous Fergburger, or grab a dessert at Patagonia Chocolates.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this spectacular landscape. Sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak and the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

Your accommodation: QT Queenstown Hotel

Incomparable views over the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu and breathtaking peaks of the Southern Alps set the scene at QT Queenstown. Sitting pretty in nature’s playground, this lush lakeside resort emulates nostalgic alpine and après-ski ambiance – perfect for the pleasure seeking adventurer.
Meals included: Breakfast

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7 Day South Island Explorer - Day 7
Queenstown to Christchurch via Mt Cook & Lake Tekapo with Cheeky Kiwi

This small group, fully-guided day trip combines all of the key highlights in the area with magnificent views of the famous Lake Tekapo, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and Tasman Glacier. The ultimate way to get from Queenstown to Christchurch. Led by famously passionate tour guides, notorious for bringing your journey to life by sharing their stories and rich background knowledge and run in modern, comfortable minibuses packed with extras ensuring your comfort and safety.

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