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21 day South Island Grand Tour 

21 days from Queenstown to Queenstown

This comprehensive tour of the South Island begins in Queenstown with the Dart River Safari, setting the scene for the adventures to come.  You’ll travel a figure 8 across the South Island taking in the spectacular scenery of mountains, glaciers, aqua blue lakes, white sandy beaches and lush rainforests.  Along the way you’ll have many opportunities to get up close to the wildlife and have some wild times of your own.  With fantastic self-catered accommodation this is the ideal choice for families.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 21 days/20 nights from Queenstown to Queenstown
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Motels (Can be customised? YES )
 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible
 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers
 Tour pack: Includes detailed driving instructions, maps, guide books and much more
 This tour can be customised to suit you precisely - just request here
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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, New Zealand
 

21 day South Island Grand Tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 2: Take the ultimate jet boat adventure along the Dart River into Mt Aspiring National Park
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 3: Cross the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Aspen Court Franz Josef
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 4: After a short helicopter flight you'll venture onto the ice with your glacier guide for a once in a lifetime experience
Accommodation: Aspen Court Franz Josef

Day 5: Follow the coastline north to Greymouth then over the Lewis Pass to the alpine village of Hanmer Springs
Accommodation: Clear Ridge Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 381 kms / 236 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 6: Its a short drive today to the Pacific Ocean and seaside community of Kaikoura
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 127 kms / 79 miles : 1.7 hours

Day 7: Explore Kaikoura home to an abundance of marine wildlife
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

Day 8: Travel via the coastal road onto the vineyards of Blenheim
Accommodation: Lugano Motor Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

Day 9: Skirt the Marlborough Sounds, then through the Rai Valley to Nelson and Tasman Bay
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 184 kms / 114 miles : 2.8 hours

Day 10: Explore Abel Tasman National Park home to aqua blue waters and playful seals
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Day 11: Travel through the Motueka Valley and Buller Gorge to the windswept West Coast beaches
Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 12: A short drive south to Greymouth where you'll board the TranzAlpine scenic train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 42 kms / 26 miles : 0.6 hours

Day 13: A free day to explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch
Accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

Day 14: Follow the winding rural roads to Bank's Peninsula and the French influenced village of Akaroa
Accommodation: Criterion Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

Day 15: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country to the Southern Alps
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 16: Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin
Accommodation: Motel on York
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 17: Discover the delightful wildlife that inhabits the Otago Peninsula
Accommodation: Motel on York

Day 18: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 387 kms / 240 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 19: You'll journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound for your nature cruise
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 20: Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 21: Depart Queenstown today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 8 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Welcome to Queenstown

Welcome to Queenstown

Renowned for its adrenaline inducing activities 'Queenstown' is synonymous with adventure. Nestled below soaring vistas of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this small alpine town is parked on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. Spend time on the Gibbston valley wine trail and end with a meal at Michelin star chef Josh Emett’s restaurant, Rata. Take a trip down memory lane on a 100 year old steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Soak in the scenery on your walk around the lake, or venture further afield into Fiordland National Park. Head over the hill to resort town Wanaka, or re-live scenes from Lord Of The Rings by four wheel drive. But - if you really do want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon swing or Zip line the Gondola. Just be sure it's done on an empty stomach  – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Your tour documentation pack and support

Once you touch down in New Zealand your detailed tour pack will be hand delivered by one of our trusted representatives. The pack contains everything you need for the duration of your stay. It will include a comprehensive, printed and bound version of your itinerary as well as clear driving instructions and maps for each leg of your journey. It also contains all the reservation details for your accommodation and activities - along with relevant brochures and information. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support - details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.

Transfer from Queenstown Airport to your accommodation

Welcome to the Adventure Capital of Queenstown.  You will be met at the airport and driven to your accommodation.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Hop aboard the historic steamship TSS Earnslaw for an iconic Queenstown experience. Take in the local scenery as you cruise Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station, a working sheep farm. On your arrival at Walter Peak you'll stroll through its stunning lakeside gardens to the homestead for a gourmet barbeque dinner. Watch your chef prepare your meal from a delicious seasonal menu and choose from a tempting selection of New Zealand meat and local produce. Complete your meal with an indulgent dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea & coffee. Following dinner enjoy an entertaining demonstration of life on a high country farm. The return cruise offers a chance to enjoy a singalong with the ship’s pianist or simply breathe in the crisp night air on the moonlit decks as the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Take the ultimate jet boat adventure along the Dart River into Mt Aspiring National Park

Dart River Wilderness Jet

An hour and a half of thrilling high-speed wilderness jet boating skimming across the clear waters of the Dart River into the Te Waipounamu World Heritage Area. Hear about flora, fauna and history on a 30-minute rolling forest walk with your friendly guide. On a backroad tour of Paradise immerse yourself in scenes and backdrops from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Learn about the Pounamu (Greenstone) that made the Dart River a key trading route for early Māori. Tales of early settlers who carved rich farms from the rugged landscape.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Garden Court Suites and Apartments

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 3

Day 3 - Cross the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast

Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday

Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.  To help you on your way GPS is included with all rentals.

GPS navigation system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

Leaving Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - and pass through Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring national park. Following the shoreline of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you'll come to the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools, a ten minute walk through native beech forest to an icy glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Aspen Court Franz Josef

Aspen Court Franz Josef is set amongst native bush providing a very peaceful ambience. Internally the motel units are large, practical and modern with all containing quality furnishings and fittings.
Aspen Court Franz Josef

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 4

Day 4 - After a short helicopter flight you'll venture onto the ice with your glacier guide for a once in a lifetime experience

Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Aspen Court Franz Josef

Aspen Court Franz Josef is set amongst native bush providing a very peaceful ambience. Internally the motel units are large, practical and modern with all containing quality furnishings and fittings.
Aspen Court Franz Josef

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Follow the coastline north to Greymouth then over the Lewis Pass to the alpine village of Hanmer Springs

Franz Josef to Hanmer Springs via the Lewis Pass

The drive north from Franz Josef takes you through the historic gold mining region of Ross and the town of Hokitika, a great place to explore the craft stores, in particular the jade or greenstone.  You then turn east and travel along the Lewis Pass, the least travelled of the 3 main routes over the Southern Alps. A scenic journey passing through forests and the famous Maruia Hot Springs. Springs Junction is the starting point of the pass and just after is Lake Daniells Track.  Maruia Springs has been attracting travellers for years and the natural hot springs are now located within an authentic Japanese themed resort. Outdoor hot pools are a great way to relax.  The alpine village of Hanmer Springs has been a favourite holiday destination for New Zealanders for many years. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is a major attraction, but the alpine environment with its rivers and mountains make it appealing year round. Gentle pursuits include forest walks, thermal pools, massage therapy, health treatments and golf as well as pure relaxation in the alpine atmosphere.  For more excitement try jet boating on the Waiau River, horse trekking, mountain biking, or bungy from the historic bridge. Hanmer Springs is also surrounded by forests offering over 50km of walking and mountain bike tracks. The seasons bring amazing colours, particularly in autumn and spring, while in winter Hanmer Springs takes advantage of its proximity to Hanmer Springs Ski Area and Mt. Lyford Ski Area.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Jet Boating Hanmer Springs

Experience the adrenaline rush of going 80km per hour, skimming the river below!  Cut corners as turquoise snow melt churns out behind you. White knuckles as the landscape spins 360°. Our experienced drivers will twirl the boat around in just milliseconds. Thrillseekers jet boating is the ultimate way to rocket through the beautiful Canterbury plains whilst absorbing adventure. Buckle up your life jacket, strap in to the boat and get ready to feel exhilarated.  Travelling up the stunning Waiau Gorge, there’s no shortage of excitement on this ride. The boat only needs inches of water and the power of the engine thrusts forward. Drama and action are the stuff of movies – until you ride in a jet boat. This is the perfect adventure for those who like a challenge or want to push their limits.

Your accommodation: Clear Ridge Apartments

Designed with comfort and style in mind, the modern decor and spacious luxury apartments that Clear Ridge has to offer complement the spectacular alpine surroundings. This luxury accommodation complex offers a variety of fully-furnished apartments, with kitchen and laundry facilities as well as large private balconies or courtyards.
Clear Ridge Apartments

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 381 kms / 236 miles : 4.6 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 6

Day 6 - Its a short drive today to the Pacific Ocean and seaside community of Kaikoura

Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura

On the drive from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura you will be introduced you to the South Island's most numerous inhabitant, the sheep. As you head towards the east coast you will travel through North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley.
Kaikoura Township is a bustling little place with many cafes, restaurants and shops but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife. Whale Watch Kaikoura is New Zealand's only marine-based whale watching company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year. Kaikoura is New Zealand's world famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round while depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales.
Another great Kaikoura activity is Swimming with the Seals. Donning a wet suit you have the opportunity to interact with these inquisitive creatures on their terms. Wings over Whales also offer tours from fixed wing aircraft to view the whales and other marine creatures from 500 feet in the air.

Your accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

The Anchor Inn is a luxury motel superbly located on the Kaikoura waterfront with most rooms enjoying magnificent sea and mountain views.
Anchor Inn Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 127 kms / 79 miles : 1.7 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Explore Kaikoura home to an abundance of marine wildlife

Kaikoura

The Kaikoura Coast is renowned for its abundant marine life, and this is huge visitor drawcard. Due to the teeming food supply in its icy seas, whales, seals and dolphins are frequently spotted year round in the area. Observe the fur seal colony basking in the sun at the tip of the peninsula and be sure to take a trip by boat to view the whales.

If you prefer, hop aboard a 30 minute scenic flight and see the coast by air. But if you're feeling really adventurous take a dip with the resident seal population on either a land or boat based trip. Kaikoura township has a charming feel and after a day of marine adventures is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. not to be missed is a meal of fresh crayfish - the town's signature dish. Before you leave, visit historic Fyffe House for insight into the region’s Whaling Past.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company, Whale Watch Kaikoura offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime up close encounter with the giant sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, is sometimes seen.
You'll be taken out in modern catamarans specifically designed for whale watching - featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Your accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel

The Anchor Inn is a luxury motel superbly located on the Kaikoura waterfront with most rooms enjoying magnificent sea and mountain views.
Anchor Inn Motel

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Travel via the coastal road onto the vineyards of Blenheim

Kaikoura to Blenheim

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. One of the best seal watching locations is Ohau Point (25km north of Kaikoura), where you can observe the adults on the shoreline and the pups frolicking in the waterfall, just a short walk from the road (signposted). As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Blenheim sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. A great way to do this is to take a guided wine tour with Sounds Connection Wine Tours.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Sounds Connection Half Day Wine Tour

An afternoon among the vines! Be immersed in the Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You'll be collected from your accommodation and taken through three or four hand-picked wineries to taste the award-winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through. A lunch stop is not included in this tour so we do advise you have something to eat prior to this activity. 

Your accommodation: Lugano Motor Lodge

Located right across the road from picturesque Seymour Square, the Lugano Motor Lodge welcomes you to their outstanding motel located in the heart of Blenheim within walking distance of many great cafés and restaurants. Enjoy the use of golf club sets, mountain bikes, daily newspaper and the DVD library.
Lugano Motor Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 9

Day 9 - Skirt the Marlborough Sounds, then through the Rai Valley to Nelson and Tasman Bay

Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive

Take a short drive to the small port of Picton where the interislander ferry connects with Wellington. A bustling seaside destination, Picton is well equipped with shops, cafes - and is also the starting point for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. You’ll travel along Queen Charlotte Drive, traversing the length of the Marlborough Sounds coastline. Magnificent views are abundant - so be sure to make time to stop and enjoy the scenery as you go.

Continue through the small port town of Havelock, home to a variety of cafes and restaurants. The highway between Nelson and Picton crosses the pelorus river, and at this junction you’ll find the famous pelorus bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks - the most popular - a 30 minute loop through beech, rimu, and totara forest. Traverse Tasman Bay passing through Motueka to arrive on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.
Ocean View Chalets

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 184 kms / 114 miles : 2.8 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 10

Day 10 - Explore Abel Tasman National Park home to aqua blue waters and playful seals

Beaches, Bays and Seals Guided Sea Kayaking Trip Including Picnic Lunch

Combining the best of the Abel Tasman, this trip showcases incredible beaches, coastal walks and native wildlife. First you'll meet your guide and join the 9.30am Vista Cruise along the magnificent coastline to Torrent Bay. You'll then arrive at Torrent Bay Lodge and complete a full training session and safety briefing before moving on to the water in kayaks to discover beautiful beaches, tidal estuaries and rivers.
Stop for a picnic lunch in a sheltered cove and take some time to swim, explore or sunbathe on the sand. On your return trip, if the winds are favourable, sails will be hoisted and you'll sail back via Pinnacle Island to view the seal colony there - if you're lucky, you may even see some resident blue penguins at the same time. Arriving back at Torrent Bay Lodge, freshen up with a hot shower and re-join the vista cruise back to Kaiteriteri, arriving at 4.10 pm.
During the summer there is the option to enjoy an unguided two hour coastal bush walk after the kayaking trip. Walk around the picturesque Torrent Bay Lagoon - via Cleopatra's Pool - to anchorage where you will re-join the boat back to Kaiteriteri.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

Meals included: Lunch

Ocean View Chalets

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 11

Day 11 - Travel through the Motueka Valley and Buller Gorge to the windswept West Coast beaches

Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

The drive today takes you along the Buller Gorge and offers some wonderful scenery as you follow this magnificent river. The town of Murchison is a quiet place and a great lunch stop. Underneath its sleepy farming facade is an adventurers paradise with white water rafting, kayaking, 4WD trips and some great trout fishing.
The first major town (by this regions standard) is Inangahua and a small museum tells of the earthquake that hit the region in 1968 leaving 70% of the buildings damaged or inhabitable. Further along the river one of the must stop places is Whites Creek and New Zealand's longest swing bridge. Crossing the river you get magnificent views of the gorge and once on the other side there are short bush walks, jet boat rides and some of the historic gold mining remnants.
The port town of Westport is the largest on the Northern West Coast. A history of gold mining, logging, fishing coal mining gives the town a hard working feeling. And to reward the hard workers the town has an extraordinary amount of pubs.
There are plenty of activities here such as caving, bush walks and surfing but one of the most popular is to take a trip to Tauranga bay and the seal colony. Just 15 kilometres south at Cape Foulwind (named by Captain Cook for the difficult sailing conditions and not the smell of the seals!), you will find a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals. A well marked and easy 10 minute walking track takes you to colony where you can see the creatures lazing around or swimming in the ocean.
The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki where a walk along the paths around the pancake rocks is a must. Please note there is no supermarket facilities in Punakaiki.

Your accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)

On the South Island's rugged West Coast rests a slice of Kiwi heaven just waiting to be explored. The Hydrangea Cottages offer secluded, spacious and stylish accommodation within a stone's throw of one of New Zealand's most treasured and spectacular coastal landscapes - the Pancake Rocks.
Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.6 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 12

Day 12 - A short drive south to Greymouth where you'll board the TranzAlpine scenic train to Christchurch

Punakaiki to Greymouth

You have plenty of time to explore Punakaiki this morning and to enjoy the scenic drive back along the coast to Greymouth to catch the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train to Christchurch. Just south of the town of Greymouth is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear and a great place to spend a few hours.  Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located inside the train station building before checking in for your train journey at 1:15pm.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monteiths Brewery Personalised Bottle & Tour

From humble origins in 1868, the Monteith's family-owned Phoenix Brewery became the West Coast's most popular brewery for its strong tasting, full-bodied ale. The Phoenix Brewery later merged with a group of small breweries to form Westland Brewing Company, predecessor to today's Monteith's Brewing Company. In this informative brewery experience, you will learn about the heritage and traditions of the brewing business. Witness the making of a fine beer in open fermenters by coal-fired boilers, using only the finest ingredients. Watch the brewers carefully hand craft the beer in small batches to develop the full natural flavours. When each batch is ready, the brewers employ a brilliant time honoured tradition for quality control - they taste it.

On completion, you will receive a tasting a 3 beers of your choice from the tap at the Brewery bar, plus your very own personalised Monteith's 500ml bottle with your name on it - a personalised endorsement from the head brewer himself.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Crossing the south from Greymouth to Christchurch, the Tranz Alpine is considered one of the worlds greatest train journeys. You'll travel from east to the west of the south island through Arthur's Pass National Park.

From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private transfer Christchurch train station to your accommodation

On arrival into the Christchurch train station you will be met by a private transfer driver and taken to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

Terra Vive offers luxury apartment accommodation complex in the heart of Christchurch City. Situated in a prominent central city location on the grand Bealey Avenue it is within walking distance of the Christchurch city centre, casino and vibrant cafes and shops of trendy Victoria Street.
Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 42 kms / 26 miles : 0.6 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 13

Day 13 - A free day to explore the ever-changing city of Christchurch

Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday

Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.  To help you on your way GPS is included with all rentals.

Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens. 

Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for a authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Grand Tour

Hop aboard the Grand Tour luxury coach for an interactive guided journey around Christchurch. See the best of this port city including beautiful parks, gardens, seaside suburbs and hills. You will learn about its history and future plans for the well under way multi-billion dollar rebuild following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Included in the tour are four of Christchurch's premier attractions - punting on the Avon, the Caterpillar Botanic Gardens tour, the Christchurch Gondola and a hop-on hop-off ticket for the heritage Tram.

Your accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

Terra Vive offers luxury apartment accommodation complex in the heart of Christchurch City. Situated in a prominent central city location on the grand Bealey Avenue it is within walking distance of the Christchurch city centre, casino and vibrant cafes and shops of trendy Victoria Street.
Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 14

Day 14 - Follow the winding rural roads to Bank's Peninsula and the French influenced village of Akaroa

Christchurch to Akaroa

The Banks Peninsula offers a great contrast to the South Island's largest city. Just around a 1 1/2 hours drive from the city centre are rolling green hills, streams, golden sand beaches and small settlements that offer a unique insight into New Zealand's history and development.
Just on the other side of the Port Hills is Lyttelton, a busy port town that was crucial to the development of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains. Following the road around the beautiful natural harbour the names, such as Magazine Bay, Battery Point, Corsair Point and Governers Bay, remind of the importance the navy placed on this harbour.
The Banks Peninsula itself is actually the remains of a long extinct volcano, the rim of which collapsed some time ago allowing the sea to flood into and create what is now the Akaroa Harbour. In 1840 French colonists settled in Akaroa in a bid to stake a claim for the South Island. Unbeknown the British had already declared sovereignty and a long drawn out dispute ensued with the British eventually being given government. However the French stayed and made this stunning part of the South Pacific their home and still to this day the town boasts French street names and every year a French Festival is held.
The Harbour itself is teeming with wildlife and a nature cruise is a must do activity. One of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, hectors dolphin, are often seen and cruises also offer excursions with the chance to swim amongst them.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Akaroa swimming with the dolphins cruise

Akaroa Harbour formed as a result of an extinct volcanic crater being flooded by the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful place with sheer cliffs and the picturesque township of Akaroa at its heart. New Zealand's only native dolphin, Hectors dolphin, makes this sheltered harbour its home and its here you can take a 2 ½ tour to see and if you wish actually swim with these incredible creatures. Following a ½ hour briefing you depart on a 2 hour cruise of which around 1 hour is spent in the water with the dolphins. Black Cat Cruises has been operating since 1985 and their success rate at sighting dolphins is over 98%. Swimming with dolphins is not always possible either due to sea conditions, the dolphins' willingness to stay and play and other environmental reasons such as not swimming when there are babies around. You still manage to swim though on over 80% of their tours.

Your accommodation: Criterion Motel

The Criterion Motel offers studio apartments with spectacular views over Akaroa Harbour. You're also just a short walk from the fantastic cafes and restaurants that Akaroa offers.
Criterion Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 15

Day 15 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country to the Southern Alps

Akaroa to Mt. Cook National Park

Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route the first township of Geraldine offers an ideal refreshment stop before you head into Mackenzie country.

Passing through places such as Beautiful Valley it's not hard to understand where the names originate. Ascending Burkes Pass and onto the high country plateau and the picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, the first of the large Southern Lakes. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just enjoy the magnificent views.

Lake Pukaki is just another 30 minutes from Lake Tekapo and its from here you can be rewarded with spectacular views the full length of the lake and into Mt. Cook National Park. In Mt. Cook Village a myriad of activities are available from glacier landings by ski plane or helicopter, kayaking on a glacial lake and a host of walks to suit all abilities and time frames. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is a must see. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Explorer Pass

The Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre pays tribute to one of New Zealand's greatest characters - humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers. Showcasing the Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people within a comprehensive museum as well as a 126-seat custom-designed theatre and Digital Dome Planetarium. this informative experience is one to remember.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat.  These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

Your accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.
Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 16

Day 16 - Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin

Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama - gliding capital of New Zealand - but be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a great local cafe also offering sheep shearing demonstrations. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast.

Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.

Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.

Your accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.
Motel on York

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 17

Day 17 - Discover the delightful wildlife that inhabits the Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Premier Tour Including Larnach Castle

This premier package gets you closer to our unique southern ocean wildlife. See the worlds= only mainland nesting place for the Northern Royal Albatross. NZ fur seals also breed here and the impressive NZ Sealions may be seen on sandy beaches. Often seen are other albatross species, petrels, penguins, dolphins and more. You will also take a tour of Larnach Castle, one of Dunedin's great landmarks where the expert guides take you on a journey back in time; into the rich, turbulent and scandalous lives of the Larnach family. Enjoy the history and superb craftsmanship of New Zealand's only castle. Climb to the parapets for 360 degree views of the Otago Peninsula and explore the stunning gardens of international significance.

Your accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.
Motel on York

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 18

Day 18 - Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland

Dunedin to Te Anau

Go through classic Southland farming scenery as you make your way to Te-Anau. Follow the coastline instead of the inland route for a more scenic drive. Pass the The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point for a spectacular view of majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Bypass Invercargill en-route to Riverton and Colac Bay, then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Your accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Lakefront Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 387 kms / 240 miles : 4.7 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 19

Day 19 - You'll journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound for your nature cruise

Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

Today, see some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country when you take the road to Milford Sound. With crystal clear lakes, towering mountains and lush glacier formed meadows, this area is abundant with picture perfect scenes and countless photo opportunities. Take the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls. Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford, you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord.

Milford Sound Nature Cruise

A two and a half hour nature cruise of spectacular Milford Sound. On board one of three purpose built vessels you'll experience tumbling waterfalls, towering peaks, lush rainforest and native wildlife. Learn about the region, its history and natural surroundings while enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. As you cruise, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins - frequent visitors to the fiord. Includes picnic boxed lunch.

Your accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Stylish self contained motel units less than one minute walk from Te Anau Lakefront. Close to shops, cafes and restaurants.

Meals included: Lunch

Lakefront Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

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21 day South Island Grand Tour - Day 20

Day 20 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown

Te Anau to Queenstown

Today make your way to Queenstown across vast tussocklands. Head through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation then continue on through rolling southland countryside. Soon the road skirts the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range makes for an impressive welcome to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.
Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

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Day 21 - Depart Queenstown today

A final morning in the Adventure Capital before dropping your car at the airport

Explore more of Queenstown before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 8 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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