Starting from Christchurch, we will take you on an adrenalin-fueled South Island experience that is bursting with optional activities to get your blood pumping. We include two days in Queenstown to maximise the rush. It all starts at 8am at our Haka accommodation in Christchurch and ends around 9am on day 12 in Wellington.
As with all our tours, we do include a few ‘must-do’ events, ranging from a pounamu pendant carving experience, and the chance to paddle a waka (Māoricanoe) with your group. We have a massive range of optional activities available to add, from bungy jumping and dolphin swimming to jet boating and scenic flights. None of these are compulsory; just add the ones you want.
Activities can also be purchased on the road – just let your tour guide know. We can’t always guarantee availability when booking on the road, so we suggest pre-booking any activities you especially want to do.
As the tour starts early in the morning, you can opt to stay at our Haka accommodation in Christchurch the night before the tour – only having to walk downstairs on the day the tour starts makes for a stress free morning.
Accommodation is included on the last night of your tour, but we can also book a few extra nights for you if you would like to extend your stay. The tour price includes dorm share accommodation but if you would prefer your own space you have the option to upgrade to a private room for the duration of your tour.
In this itinerary, you’ll find descriptions of the places you’ll be visiting and the inclusions that you’ll experience. We’ve also provided an example timetable for each day to help give you a sense of what your days on tour may look like. Keep in mind though, that every tour is unique, with each guide bringing their own special flavour to the trip.
Each day also has a list of our favourite Haka Highlights, and the add-on activities and experiences that are available in that location.
- Passionate Kiwi guides
- 11 nights in high-end hostel accommodation – dorm share, upgrades available
- Small groups, maximum 16
- Orientation tour of every location
- Comfortable bus transport
- Cross Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry
- Continental breakfast every day
- Carve your own pounamu (jade) necklace in Franz Josef
- Spend two nights deep in West Coast rainforest
- Discover NZ’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas
- Journey through multiple National Parks
- Plus many surprise stops on the way
- Get the blood pumping while Sky Diving, Bungy Jumping or Canyon Swinging
- Kayak on a glacial lake in Franz Josef past ancient rainforests, 900 year-old Kahikatea trees and the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary
- Take an optional day trip to Milford Sound with cruise – bus or fly options available.
- Gaze up at the stars at the largest dark sky reserve in the world in Lake Tekapo
- Explore primeval rainforest, enormous cave systems and the famous glowworms on an optional underground rafting trip in Punakaiki
Day 1: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
This morning we’ll explore iconic downtown Christchurch and your guide will show you the cool and creative ways the city is being rebuilt after the life-changing 2011 earthquake here. Christchurch folk are an innovative and creative bunch – the Transitional Cathedral, created from cardboard, is totally inspirational.
After lunch we leave the city behind and head for Lake Tekapo. The lake’s breathtaking turquoise colour and mountain backdrop is a photographer’s dream come true.
The tiny Church of the Good Shepherd stands right at the water’s edge, proving that small is definitely beautiful. Grab some confetti and congratulate any passing brides – couples travel from all over the world for wedding shots in front of the chapel!
Tekapo has been declared an International Dark Sky Reserve and the super clear skies make it the best place in New Zealand to see the stars and galaxies on a clear night. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
Day 2: Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
This morning if you’re feeling energetic, hike up to the summit of Mt John. With awesome views of the Southern Alps, you’ll feel on top of the world. Speaking of views, today’s scenic drive to Queenstown is a show-stopper.
From the golden tussocklands of Mackenzie country – where epic battles of Return of the King were filmed – to the dramatic peaks of the Southern Alps, it’s like you’re driving into a postcard.
We’ll pause for lots of photo stops en route to give your camera a workout, including a stop at the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. This also happens to be the World Home of Bungy, give it a go or enjoy watching the jumpers scream their way through the gorge!
Whether you’re an adrenalin junkie, an avid hiker, wine taster or scenery lover, Queenstown has something for absolutely everyone. With two nights and plenty of daylight hours here, get ready – this town certainly knows how to live life to the max!
Day 3: Queenstown
With a full day in Queenstown, let’s work on that bucket list! There are heaps of options to choose from: paragliding over the lake, mountain bike parks and trails to die for, bungy jumping while your Haka friends cheer you on, horse riding through Lord of the Rings scenery, and swinging through a canyon are just a few of our favourites.
Hikers: the Ben Lomond day walk (not for the faint- hearted) will be right up your alley. This is a firm tour guide favourite, and they can recommend great shorter walks too.
For scenery lovers, Milford Sound is a must-see. Whether you fly or drive, the scenery en route is as awesome as the destination. Once on the Sound, sailing beneath thundering waterfalls and towering cliff faces, you’ll understand why some call it the “8th Wonder of the World”.
Tonight you have around 40 bars to choose from – your guide will fill you in on their favourites – to share your adventures with your travel buddies, and party the night away.
Day 4: Queenstown to Wanaka
After the excitement of Queenstown, today is a chance to chill. Wanaka is Queenstown’s slightly quieter little sister, a mere one hour drive away. On the way we’ll stop in at charming Arrowtown, a historic gold rush village with heaps of old world character.
Blessed with towering peaks and a glacial blue lake, you’ll soon see why Wanaka’s considered to be one of New Zealand’s most beautiful mountain towns. There are stunning hikes and bike rides all around for a welcome chance to chill.
One of the best ways to admire Wanaka is from the air. Treat yourself to a skydive or a scenic flight in a vintage plane – you can even take a flying lesson, or if you prefer to keep your feet closer to the ground, stroll or bike around the lake and check out the famous Wanaka Tree, standing all alone in the water. As always, it’s your trip and your choice: you do you.
Day 5: Wanaka to Franz Josef
After a relaxing morning in Wanaka, the journey to Franz is an another stunner – many of our Haka Guides rate it as their favourite drive in New Zealand.
As we hit the road, we’ll stop at one of our favourite lakeside lookout points at Lake Hawea or Lake Wanaka. Your guide will keep an eye on the weather and pick the best option.
From the cascading waterfalls of Haast Pass to classic Kiwi coastal views, you won’t want to nap on the bus in case you miss anything. Your guide will have some epic surprise photo stops and short walks along the way.
Between September and December it’s whitebait season (a small fish that’s a delicacy in New Zealand). Fried up with eggs and served on toast, it’s a local treat and shouldn’t be missed. We’ll stop at one of the local spots for a taste during the season.
We roll into Franz Josef around late afternoon/early evening. This UNESCO World Heritage area is famous for its spectacular glacier, just 5 kilometres from town, which is begging to be explored tomorrow.
Day 6: Franz Josef
With Aoraki/Mount Cook (New Zealand’s highest mountain) twinkling behind the glaciers, Franz Josef is about as beautiful a setting as you can find in New Zealand.
Te Wahi Pounamu (which means ‘the place of greenstone’ in Māori) is the name given to the this part of the West Coast because of the abundance of pounamu (greenstone/jade) to be found here. Included in your tour today is a special opportunity to carve your very own pounamu pendant at a local gallery.
There are heaps of ways to enjoy Franz Josef Glacier; weather permitting, to get up onto the bluest ice you can take a scenic helicopter flight and hike onto the glaciers. Maybe you’d prefer to kayak on a glacial lake; or just relax in the steamy hot springs down below.
As well as the awesome glacier activities you could also try out quad biking, horseback riding and even a bit of group karaoke tonight in Franz Josef!
Day 7: Franz Josef to Punakaiki
Driving along the incredible coastal road and exploring the lush forests around Punakaiki, it almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s a rare treat to experience such remote prehistoric landscapes, so make the most of this awesome opportunity to unplug from the outside world.
Get excited; our trusty guides always have some surprises up their sleeves for this part of the trip, including a spot or two to get your feet wet.
We’ll visit one of the famous artisan greenstone factories in Hokitika as we make our way north, as well as passing through some old gold mining towns before arriving in Punakaiki. One of Punakaiki’s many natural wonders is the subtropical rainforest – and we are staying in the heart of it for the next two nights!
Cook up a group dinner in this rainforest paradise, and be sure to end the day watching the sun set over the ocean tonight.
Day 8: Punakaiki
Whether you decide to soak up the sun on the unspoilt beaches or stroll through the rainforest to a chorus of birdsong, you’ll shed your cares in this magical place.
A short walk to see a giant stack of pancakes is a must-do today: Punakaiki’s limestone Pancake Rocks developed over 30 million years ago. You’ll see what water pressure can do when the waves power through some seriously impressive blowholes – watch out for that spray!
Today you could try your hand at kayaking or exploring the region’s underground caves by tube. There are also opportunities for horseback riding in Paparoa National Park. Or simply chill by the beach near your rainforest home.
On a clear night, head to the beach with your buddies and watch the stars come out to play – seriously, is there a better way to end the day?
Day 9: Punakaiki to Abel Tasman
Cruising up north from Punakaiki, the scenery gets better and better. The powerful, untouched coastline gives way to rivers and gorges before we drive over the hills and down towards the bayside town of Nelson, to stock up on supplies before our next remote hideaway.
Marahau, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, boasts golden beaches, tranquil lagoons and crystal clear waters. Abel Tasman is the perfect contrast to the wildness of the rainforests and mountains.
Why will you fall in love with Abel Tasman? Lush forests, sandy beaches, sheltered bays, and jaw-dropping views… not to mention the resident wildlife. Get ready to lose your heart to the most popular National Park in New Zealand.
Day 10: Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman… you beauty. Lush forests, golden sandy beaches, sheltered bays, and jaw-dropping views… not to mention the local seals, dolphins and bird life…
You might like to hike part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track – one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks – or paddle a kayak to Split Apple Rock. You could jump, slide, abseil, float and zipline your way through the park on an awesome canyoning adventure.
Fancy a relaxing day instead? Choose yourself a golden beach and make yourself at home.
In the warmer months we’ll stay another night at the edge of the national park. In winter we’ll drive a little further and stay in quirky Nelson with its cosy pubs, cool craft beers and artsy vibes.
Day 11: Abel Tasman to Wellington
Today you’ll start things off by learning to paddle a traditional waka (a Māori war canoe). Experience a karakia (blessing for protection), and learn tikanga (waka etiquette) all while getting out on the water to enjoy this unique included activity.
Our road trip continues along the northern edge of the South Island this afternoon. We’ll stop for tasting at a local winery, and there’s a chance to taste some famous New Zealand mussels in Havelock as we wind our way towards Picton to catch the evening ferry to Wellington.
As the lights of Picton Harbour fade into the night, relax on board together for a chilled evening.
Day 12: Wellington
There is also the option of a transfer drive from Wellington to Auckland, which is super handy if you have booked your return flights from the City of Sails. Crank up your favourite tour tunes and enjoy reflecting on the awesome time you have had in New Zealand while the North Island passes you by.
But if you’re keen to check out Aotearoa’s capital city, then now’s the time to do it! Your Haka tour guide will have a whole lot of recommendations to make sure you get the most out of your time.