South Island New Zealand self drive itineraries for independant travellers including Christchurch, Kaikoura, Nelson,Hanmer Springs, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Wanaka, Tekapo, Arrowtown, Akaroa, Methven and Dunedin.
7 day top of the south
7 day South Island Circle
7 day South Island - the road less travelled.
7 Day top of the South Island
A leisurely trip with short driving distances and maximum time for sightseeing.
Day One Arrive Christchurch
Normally we would welcome you to stay in beautiful Christchurch, but due to the devasting earthquake in Feb we suggest you head to Hanmer Springs. Surrounded by mountains, this village has been blessed with natural hot thermal waters, making it the ideal venue for a spa complex. You can simply wallow in the warm waters or take advantage of the many therapy treatments available. Your accommodation for the next two nights is at Clear Ridge Apartments, just a short walk from the pools complex. View Christchurch, Hanmer Springs and Canterbury attractions
Day Two Hanmer Springs
Take time for a walk or bike ride in the forest surrounding the township, or you can bungee off the bridge. Jet boat rides and white water rafting trips are also available, plus skiing in the winter. Enjoy a forrest walk or return to the geothermal pools.
Day Three Kaikoura
Drive north to this seaside town best known for its offshore residents. There are always whales, dolphins and sharks here as they have a great food source from the deep offshore trench. Young male sperm whales live here year round, and migratory whales of other species call in on a regular basis to bulk up for their journey. So whale watching is a “must do” in this area. Swimming with the dolphins is also a popular pastime which must be booked well in advance. For the more adventurous, cage diving to view sharks is also available. Tonight your accommodation is at the Waterfront Apartments or the Waves on the Esplanade Apartments both properties are located just across the road from the beach. View Kaikoura attractions
Day Four Nelson
Follow the coastline north to the town of Blenheim. This is the centre of one of the main wine producing regions in the country, where arguably the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world originate. Take time to visit some of the numerous wineries and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Continue on to the city of Nelson and your base for the next three nights at 404 Trafalgar These modern apartments housed in a heritage building are just a five minute walk from Nelson’s best shopping and restaurants.
Day Five Nelson
Venture into the Abel Tasman National Park for the day. You can sit on the beach at Kaiteriteri, take a cruise, a walk, go kayaking or go sailing. This area boasts golden sandy beaches, lots of wildlife and well formed tracks through the bush. If the tides are right you can drive out to Collingwood and join a tour of Farewell Spit. This narrow finger of land is home to numerous sea birds and fossils.
Day Six Nelson
Back in Nelson, visit the World of Wearable Arts and Collectable Cars Museum. The quirky pastime of creating art which can be worn was born in Nelson and this museum exhibits past award winners. There is also an excellent collection of vintage cars on display. The Hoglund Glass centre is also well worth a visit. Set in 7 acres of tranquil gardens, the centre is home to internationally renowned glass artists Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg Hoglund. You can watch them at work, enjoy the café and visit the large gift shop. Take a drive out to Happy Valley for a quad bike adventure. Follow one of the scenic tracks through the hills and stop off for a ride on the Skywire, suspended high above a steep sided valley. End the day with dinner at a winery. View Nelson attractions
Day Seven Christchurch
Make your way South to Christchurch, take the inland scenic route through the Lewis Pass. Stop off at Maruia Springs hot pools. Stay at Terra Vive Motel on the outskirts of the central city or Airport Delta Motel a few minutes from the airport, ready for your departing flight the next morning.
7 Day South Island Circle
Covers the highlights of the Island in a circle trip.
Day One Arrive Christchurch
Normally we would welcome you to stay in beautiful Christchurch, but due to the devasting earthquake in Feb we suggest you head to Akaroa for the day, a 1 hour drive. Explore this historic, quaint French settlers village, stroll the waterfront cafes, restaurants and shops. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Banks Peninsula on your return to Christchurch in the evening and stay at Terra Vive Motel on the outskirts of the city.
Day Two Franz Josef
Take the world famous Tranz Alpine rail journey from Christchurch to Greymouth on the West Coast. From here you can pick up a rental car and continue your journey south. Stop off in Hokitika to admire the local Pounamu (greenstone jade) industry. Tonight stay at the comfortably furnished Glenfern Villas just outside the little township of Franz Josef at the foot of the glacier.
Day Three Wanaka
Take a guided walk on the glacier before heading south through the spectacular “Gates of Haast”. Stop off along the way for a closer look at the densely rich Beech forest which thrives in the damp West Coast climate. Spend tonight in Wanaka at the Wanaka Luxury Apartments, located in the town centre, close to the shores of the very picturesque lake.
Day Four Queenstown
It is just a one hour drive this morning to the renowned alpine resort of Queenstown. The activity options here seem endless with jet boating, bungy jumping, four wheel driving, lake cruising, white water rafting, gondola, luge and helicopter rides, paraponting and parachuting, wineries and historic township visits to name a few. Make the most of your day enjoying the spectacular surroundings. This evening take the gondola trip to the top of Bob’s Peak and enjoy a Maori concert followed by a sumptuous buffet dinner. Stay for the next two nights at the Glebe Apartments. Located within a short walk of the town centre, these well appointed apartments provide a comfortable base for your explorations.
Day Five Queenstown
Take a full day excursion to Milford or Doubtful Sound. It is advisable not to self drive, so all party members can enjoy the rugged scenery, and also because the roads can be treacherous. Milford Sound is the most famous of the two, but the lesser known Doubtful is quieter and every bit as spectacular.
Day Six Tekapo
Bid farewell to Queenstown and follow the road inland through the beautiful Mackenzie Country, named for a colourful European settler with a penchant for sheep rustling. The turquoise colour of the canals and lakes in this region will take your breath away. Take a side trip along Lake Pukaki to the township of Mount Cook, perched high on New Zealand’s highest mountain. If the weather is fine, take a ski plane trip around the summit and land on a glacier. Tonight is spent at the tiny township at the edge of Lake Tekapo. Visit the tiny lakeside chapel and the statue in honour of one of the most important founders of modern New Zealand, the sheep dog. Enjoy a swim and spa at your luxurious accommodation in the Residence Mantra Apartments.
Day Seven Methven/Christchurch
Make your way back towards the East Coast and the rolling Canterbury Plains. Spend a night in the popular country resort town of Methven at Whitestone Cottages or continue on to your departure from Christchurch airport. Methven, located just 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch airport, provides an enduring memory of country living for your final night in New Zealand.
7 Day South Island – The Road Less Travelled
Ideal for those who want to experience some of the quieter towns of New Zealand and travel at a leisurely pace.
Day One Akaroa
After arrival in Christchurch, take the short drive to Akaroa. Originally a French settlement, this pretty little town is located on a picturesque harbour on Banks Peninsula. Here you can take a harbour cruise, swim with the little Hectors dolphins, take a walk and admire the pretty historic houses, watch artisans at work or shop in the many galleries. Visit French Farm Winery or dine in one of the excellent restaurants. Spend the night at the Bruce Apartments right on the waterfront and watch the world go by from your balcony.
Day Two Methven
Bid farewell to the sea and head for the hills. Soon the mighty Southern Alps are looming ahead as you cross the Canterbury Plains. Travel as far as Arthur’s Pass for spectacular views of the mountains. The excellent visitor centre there will direct you on walks in the area if weather permits. Travel south to the country town of Methven. Very popular with skiers and snow boarders in winter who travel daily to the nearby Mt Hutt ski field, the town is calmer in the summer. Play golf at the magnificent Terrace Downs course, go fishing, take a jetboat or helicopter ride or just enjoy the cafes and galleries. Accommodation tonight is in the spacious Whitestone Cottages. Set in 2 acres of landscaped gardens, this complex has a tennis court, sauna and spa.
Day Three Tekapo
Greet the dawn floating over the landscape in a hot air balloon. Then head into the heart of the island to the small town set on the edge of Lake Tekapo. Take a tour of the nearby Mt John Observatory and view the stars. Visit the tiny lakeside chapel and the statue in honour of one of the most important founders of modern New Zealand, the sheep dog. Enjoy a swim and spa at your luxurious accommodation in the Residence/Mantra Apartments.
Day Four Queenstown/Arrowtown
On your drive south, take a side trip along Lake Pukaki to the township of Mount Cook, perched high on New Zealand’s highest mountain. If the weather is fine, take a ski plane trip around the summit and land on a glacier. Travel through the beautiful Mackenzie Country, named for a colourful European settler with a penchant for sheep rustling. The turquoise colour of the canals and lakes in this region will take your breath away. Your arrival in tiny Arrowtown is like stepping back in time. This town, built at the height of the gold rush era, has wonderful old buildings and the main street is faithfully preserved in the character of the time. Spend the rest of the day exploring the history of this fascinating “town of gold”. The museum and original huts of the Chinese gold miners are well worth a visit. Dine tonight at the award winning “Saffron” restaurant in Arrowtown. Drive onto Queenstown in the evening and stay the next two nights at The Glebe Apartments
Day Five Queenstown
Wake up in the resort of Queenstown is just twenty minutes drive from Arrowtown. The activity options there seem endless with jet boating, bungy jumping, four wheel driving, lake cruising, white water rafting, gondola, luge and helicopter rides, paraponting and parachuting and wineries to name a few.
Day Six Dunedin
Travel along Lake Dunstan towards Alexandra and follow State Highway 8 to the east coast once again. The city of Dunedin is known as the “Edinburgh of the South” and the many old stone buildings are testament to this. Take a drive around the Otago Peninsula and visit Larnach Castle. This impressive stately home was built in 1871 by merchant baron and politician William Larnach for his beloved first wife Eliza. The peninsula is also home to frolicking seal pups and lazy sea lions, thriving populations of rare yellow-eyed penguins and the only accessible mainland colony of Northern Royal Albatross in the world. Spend tonight at St Clair Beach Resort and enjoy the sea views and restaurant from this beachfront property.
Day Seven Christchurch
If time permits, take an Otago Harbour cruise this morning, then follow the coastline north. Stop off to enjoy the historic precinct of Oamaru, and then visit the craft shops of Ashburton. Make your way direct to Christchurch International Airport for your onward flight this evening, or stay a night in the Garden City at West Fitzroy Apartments.