Starting and ending in the “Garden City” of Christchurch, we show you the ultimate highlights of New Zealand’s stunning South Island over 7 action-packed days. From turquoise lakes to towering mountains and glaciers, the South Island’s scenery will blow your mind, and the nation’s adventure capital, Queenstown, has all the adrenalin activities on offer that you could possibly wish
Included in your tour is a unique opportunity to carve your very own pounamu (greenstone) pendant with local carvers on the West Coast.
Activities can be pre-booked or purchased on the road – just let your tour guide know. We can’t always guarantee availability when booking on the road, so we suggest prebooking any activities you especially want to do.
As the tour starts early in the morning, you can opt to book accommodation in Christchurch with us the night before the tour – only having to walk downstairs on day 1 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
- 7 nights in high-end hostel accommodation – dorm share, upgrades available
- Small groups, maximum 16
- Orientation tour of every location
- Comfortable bus transport
- Continental breakfast every day
- Carve your own pounamu/jade pendant in Franz Josef
- Discover NZ’s most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas
- Journey through multiple National Parks
- Plus many surprise stops on the way
- Skydive over Lake Wanaka, NZ’s 4th largest, and some would say the most beautiful, lake
- Get the blood pumping in Queenstown with a bungy jump, canyon swing or jet boat ride
- Option to do a Heli-Hike on a glacier in Franz Josef
- Take an optional day trip to Milford Sound with cruise – bus or scenic flight options available
- Kayak in Franz Josef past ancient rainforests, 900 year-old Kahikatea trees and the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary
- Take a phenomenal scenic flight from Lake Tekapo to see two World Heritage National Parks and 200 km of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery
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 Christchurch
Before you know it, it’s your last day! After breakfast we head further along the beautiful west coast on another of the most spectacular drives in the country (and, some would say, the world): a rugged, primeval landscape of luxuriant rainforest juxtaposed against breathtaking beach and ocean waves.
We stop at Hokitika and visit a greenstone factory, a great place to stock up on souvenirs for your friends and family back home. Time permitting, we may also visit the National Kiwi Centre where there is guaranteed viewing of rare kiwi birds in their nocturnal house.
On the way back to Christchurch, you’ll traverse the South Island on the stunning TranzAlpine Train Crossing. Travelling across the Southern Alps through Arthur’s Pass, you’ll arrive in Christchurch around 6.30pm before transferring to your accommodation.
Your tour officially ends in Christchurch, so feel free to party on with your new travel buddies for as long as you like – your accommodation tonight is included so you can treat yourself to a lie-in in the morning!