South Island Highlights

South Island Highlights

This self-drive tour aims to cover the best of South Island's scenic and historic attractions. Explore the stunning 19th-century city of Christchurch, hike the Abel Tasman coast, weigh anchor in the Milford Sound, and pay a visit to the Scottish settler town of Dunedin. The itinerary can easily be adapted to focus on walking, adventure activities or historic attractions, according to your preferences.

Outline Itinerary

  1. Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch

    You will be met on arrival at Christchurch International Airport by our airport representative. They will give a short introductory briefing, hand over your tour documents and vouchers, and then escort you to the hire car desk.

  2. Day 2: Christchurch – Kaikoura – Blenheim

    Depart Christchurch this morning and begin your journey northwards (2-3 hours) along the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura, where you embark on a whale-watching cruise in a purpose-built boat.

  3. Day 3: The Marlborough Region

    This morning, you may like to visit Blenheim’s Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, home to the largest collection of World War I aircraft in the world. Or, if aviation history isn’t your cup of tea, use the time to extend your tour of the surrounding wine region.

  4. Day 4: Blenheim – Nelson (110 kms)

    Depart Blenheim this morning and continue across the northern coast of South Island to reach Nelson, a lively harbour city that is renowned for its beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches, and easy lifestyle.

  5. Day 5: Abel Tasman National Park

    After breakfast at Trailways, drive to Kaiteriteri Beach, about one hour from town.

  6. Day 6: Nelson – Punakaiki – Franz Josef (498 kms)

    Depart Nelson this morning and travel south via Murchison to the western coast. You will pass some of South Island’s most beautiful scenery along the way, as you drive through the Golden Downs Forest and into Buller Gorge. There are any number of possible picnic spots!

  7. Day 7: Franz Josef – Wanaka (287 kms)

    Continue south towards Wanaka, travelling via Haast. Today’s journey will take you through stunning forests and past picturesque lakes and the crystal-clear rivers that flow from the Southern Alps. The highlight of the day comes as you cross the beautiful Haast Pass, and witness a dramatic change in the scenery as you descend into Central Otago.

  8. Day 8: Wanaka – Queenstown (116 kms)

    Today will see you travel across the Central Otago farmlands and along the shores of spectacular Lake Dunstan to Cromwell, a centre of wine production. The best wineries are in the region of Gibbston Valley and Bannockburn.

  9. Day 9: Queenstown

    Today is at leisure to explore Queenstown at your own pace. There is plenty to do. We recommend a leisurely cruise on a vintage Lake Steamer, or, if you prefer a quicker pace, a jetboat ride! There are a number of walks in the region of Queenstown, including the famous Routeburn Track at Glenorchy.

  10. Day 10: Queenstown – Milford Sound (292 kms)

    Leave Queenstown this morning and drive to Fiordland National Park, travelling via the beautiful town of Te Anau.

  11. Day 11: Milford Sound – Dunedin (408 kms)

    Take breakfast on board the Milford Mariner. Disembark later this morning and then return to Te Anau, perhaps stopping at Cleddau Gorge along the way.

  12. Day 12: Dunedin

    Dunedin was founded as a Scottish settler town and has retained much of its original ‘tartan’ character to this day. The city boasts some marvellous Victorian architecture, earning it the unofficial title of “the Edinburgh of New Zealand”.

  13. Day 13: Dunedin – Mt Cook (330 kms)

    Begin your return journey north, driving along the Pacific Coast and to Mt Cook village. It’s another beautiful drive, with a number of landmarks to see along the way—the Moeraki Boulders, Benmore Dam, Lake Pukaki and the Mackenzie Basin.

  14. Day 14: Mt Cook – Christchurch (330 kms)

    Return to Christchurch, with a detour en route to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Takapo.

  15. Day 15: Departure

    Morning at leisure. When ready, transfer to Christchurch Airport, where you return your vehicle and check in for your international flight home.

Price guide

Price based on two travellers in shared double/twin accommodation and subject to availability at the time of booking.

15 days from £1595pp


15 days from £1595pp

Family adventure in New Zealand

G&M stepped in at short notice and put together a great trip. We did everything we wanted to do, and more.

Valerie C.N. and family

Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari

Just wanted to check in with you. I'm at my last night at Buffalo Camp. I have had a truly amazing time!