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South Island 12 day luxury adventure 

12 days from Christchurch to Queenstown

The ultimate combination of luxury and adventure, this 10 day tour travels from Christchurch to the Wilderness Lodge in Arthurs Pass, the West Coast Glaciers and the alpine resort town of Wanaka. Further south to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula, then Te Anau gateway to Fiordland National Park, before Queenstown where your journey concludes. This itinerary offers a great balance of relaxation and adventure with plenty of time to enjoy other activities as you wish.

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 12 days/11 nights from Christchurch to Queenstown
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Luxury Lodges & hotels (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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Wanaka, New Zealand
Yellow-eyed penguin, Dunedin, New Zealand
 

South Island 12 day luxury adventure - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Welcome to Christchurch City
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

Day 2: Head inland to the Southern Alps and Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge
Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 122 kms / 76 miles : 1.5 hours

Day 3: Make the most of the activities on offer at the Wilderness Lodge or the many short walks in the area
Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge

Day 4: Descend to the ruggedly beautiful West Coast
Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 229 kms / 142 miles : 2.7 hours

Day 5: Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to Wanaka
Accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 283 kms / 176 miles : 3.3 hours

Day 6: Experience the thrill of flying high above Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains in a Tiger Moth vintage plane
Accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Day 7: Pass through historic gold mining towns and orchard valleys as you travel to Dunedin
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 273 kms / 170 miles : 3.2 hours

Day 8: Discover the wildlife that inhabits the Otago Peninsula or the history at Dunedin's museums
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

Day 9: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 387 kms / 240 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 10: Journey to the remote Doubtful Sound for a true wilderness experience
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge

Day 11: Head north through the rural landscapes of Southland to the 'Adventure Capital' of Queenstown
Accommodation: Sofitel Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 12: Depart Queenstown today

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

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 1

Day 1 - Welcome to Christchurch City

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Christchurch accommodation.

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch city, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago.  Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps.  Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - International Antarctic Centre General Admission

The International Antarctic Centre aims to recreate the atmosphere and environment of Antarctica, providing visitors with an interactive, fun and educational experience. Feel the full Four Seasons of Antarctica, where you'll experience a custom-built snow and ice experience, then warm up in the Scott Base interior exhibit, a replica Antartic field camp or other informative displays in the gallery. You'll also learn about life in modern day Antarctica, view real little blue penguins and experience a thrilling ride in a Hagglund all terrain vehicle.

Your accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

The George is the essence of supreme comfort. The award winning 5 star hotel is opposite Hagley Park and just a few minutes stroll from the Botanic Gardens. 2 superb award winning on site restaurants also feature.

Meals included: Dinner

The George Hotel, Christchurch

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 2

Day 2 - Head inland to the Southern Alps and Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge

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.

Christchurch to Arthur's Pass

Crossing the Canterbury Plains, the rich farmland that attracted and helped settlers prosper becomes apparent as you head out of the city and towards the mountains.
The drive through the Waimakariri offers some spectacular views of the braided river valleys. Castle Hill Scenic Reserve sits in limestone country and the area is dotted with remarkable rock outcrops. Today its a popular location for climbers to practice but in the past it was also an important place for Maori in past years as they provided shelter on their seasonal journeys between the coasts. There is a network of walking paths allowing you to explore. The high country lakes and mountain landscape is unique. Arthur's Pass National Park covers 114,500 ha right in the heart of the Southern Alps.

Short walks in Arthurs Pass National Park - suggested activity

Within the Arthur's Pass there are many short walks to suit all ages and abilities. Located in the Arthur's Pass Village is a Department of Conservation information centre where you can get updates on track conditions and track suitability as well as learning about the natural history of the area and its people.

Listed below are a selection of short walks.

1. Millennium Walk - Time: 10 minutes return
2. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk - Time: One hour return
3. Arthur's Pass Walking Track - Time: One hour 20 minutes (one way)
4. Dobson Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
5. Old Coach Road Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
6. Cockayne Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return

Your accommodation: Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass is on its own 3,000 hectare nature reserve/merino sheep farm and surrounded by the mountains of Arthur's Pass National Park. Join nature guides to walk, canoe and discover kea parrots, giant buttercups, pygmy forests, alpine flower gardens and waterfalls.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Wilderness Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 122 kms / 76 miles : 1.5 hours

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 3

Day 3 - Make the most of the activities on offer at the Wilderness Lodge or the many short walks in the area

Wilderness Lodge, Arthur's Pass

Nestled in mountain beech forest, midway between Christchurch and the West Coast, Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass offers stylish accommodation, great food and warm hospitality in a spectacular mountain setting.

Set on a 4000 acre working sheep farm and nature reserve in the heart of the Southern Alps, a daily programme of guided activities will be the highlight of your visit. Join naturalist and farmer guides to hike alpine trails, kayak wildlife refuge lakes and experience life on a working farm.

Complimentary Guided Activities

Twice daily complimentary guided trips provide a wonderful introduction to the wildlife, landscapes and history of the Southern Alps. Some of the trips include:

  • Sheep Farm Discovery: Join a guide to watch sheep dogs in action, handfeed lambs, see traditional blade shearing and learn about growing merino wool for the fashion industry. This trip happens every second afternoon and is a highlight for many guests
  • Birds and Special Plants of the Mountain Beech Forest: Explore with a naturalist guide and learn the secrets of these remarkable moss forests surrounding the lodge
  • McKay Moa Forest Hike: Visit a special nature reserve on the Wilderness Lodge farm. Take in spectacular mountain scenery, see bizarre ‘moa plants’ and learn their fascinating history.
  • Stars of the Southern Night Sky: A gentle stroll after dinner to see the starry night sky. Identify planets, satellites and constellations including the Southern Cross.

Longer Charged Guided Activities

  • Upper Otira Glacier Adventure: A superb challenging summer hike. Climb high into a glacial basin and enjoy mountain panoramas, alpine flowers, cascades culminating in a mountain picnic below Mt Rolleston.
  • Limestone Castles & Easy Kayaking:  A relaxed guided tour/walk to a landscape made famous by the Narnia film 'The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe'. Paddle a gentle mountain lake and enjoy lunch amongst natural limestone castles.
  • Southern Alps Mountain Hike: Traverse beech forest to open mountain tops high above the Waimakariri River. Learn about alpine plants and enjoy lunch at a historic hut which once sheltered shepherds when this area was part of the Wilderness Lodge farm, now Arthur's Pass National Park.
  • Wonderful Waterfalls of Arthur's Pass: A special trip for waterfall and photography enthusiasts. Visit waterfalls and cascades throughout Arthur's Pass National Park and explore 'bonsai' mountain beech forests. Picnic beside a mountain stream.

Self-Guided Activity Options

  • Explore a 30km network of forest, farm and mountain walking trails. You hosts can provide maps and suggestions and you may like to order a picnic lunch
  • Explore neighbouring Arthur’s Pass National Park on your own.
  • Relax in peace and tranquillity and take in the spectacular mountain scenery

Your accommodation: Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass is on its own 3,000 hectare nature reserve/merino sheep farm and surrounded by the mountains of Arthur's Pass National Park. Join nature guides to walk, canoe and discover kea parrots, giant buttercups, pygmy forests, alpine flower gardens and waterfalls.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Wilderness Lodge

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 4

Day 4 - Descend to the ruggedly beautiful West Coast

Arthur's Pass to Franz Josef Glacier

Travel through the Otira Gorge towards the wild West Coast. The next town is Hokitika and this is a great place to explore the craft and gift stores. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge, off the beaten track and inland a little is a spectacular detour. Turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings and workings remain. In fact Ross is still home to one of the few working gold mines left in New Zealand and the local information centre offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Continuing south Hari Hari is the township that Guy Menzies decided to land in (or rather crash land) as he became the first person to fly solo across the Tasman.
Whataroa, a small township on the main road is where you would head off to see one of the worlds rarest birds. The entire population (somewhere between 150 and 200 birds) of the New Zealand white heron or kotuku nest at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve and guided tours from October to March will take you there.
Arriving in to the Glacier region you catch your first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier from a few kilometres out as it flows from the Southern Alps. Franz Josef township is a lively place with a great atmosphere, plenty of choice to dine out and some wonderful activities to enjoy.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. 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's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Nestled amongst native West Coast rainforest at Franz Josef is a very special five-star retreat. Designed with utmost care of its precious environment, guests at Te Waonui Forest Retreat will find themselves encircled by rainforest and accommodated in natural and sustainable luxury.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 229 kms / 142 miles : 2.7 hours

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 5

Day 5 - Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to Wanaka

Franz Josef to Wanaka

Heading south you pass through the small town of Fox Glacier. A short side trip to view the glacier is recommended before heading along the coast and through more classic West Coast bush scenery. At Knights Point Lookout, elephant seals can often be seen basking on the sandy beaches at the far end of the point. Crossing the Haast River you’ll turn inland and through the mountainous valley littered with waterfalls. Continue on past lakes Hawea and Wanaka into the alpine township of Wanaka.

Your accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Set on a ten acre estate just outside Lake Wanaka, Lime Tree Lodge offers luxury boutique accommodation with stunning 360-degree uninterrupted mountain views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Lime Tree Lodge

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 283 kms / 176 miles : 3.3 hours

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 6

Day 6 - Experience the thrill of flying high above Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains in a Tiger Moth vintage plane

Wanaka

The alpine village of Wanaka sits on the shores of the third largest lake in the Queenstown Lakes District and is surrounded by the southern alps. Wanaka draws those seeking adventure, spectacular scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.

During winter the town's population more than triples as snow sports enthusiasts flock to the local ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona. Known as the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is a walker's paradise of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. For those seeking an adrenaline rush try skydiving, rock-climbing, jet boating or choose a scenic flight over Wanaka in a historic Tiger Moth aeroplane.

Your accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Set on a ten acre estate just outside Lake Wanaka, Lime Tree Lodge offers luxury boutique accommodation with stunning 360-degree uninterrupted mountain views.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Lime Tree Lodge

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 7

Day 7 - Pass through historic gold mining towns and orchard valleys as you travel to Dunedin

Wanaka to Dunedin

Onto Cromwell via Lake Dunstan which was created when the valley was flooded in 1992 as part of the hydro electric scheme. As a result much of the original town is now submerged but a few historic building were relocated to "Old Cromwell Town'. Roxburgh, Cromwell and Alexandra also have the ideal climate for stone fruit,  along the main highway near Roxburgh there are plenty of places where you can buy local produce direct from the grower.  Continuing on this drive takes you through the Otago Goldfields of yesteryear. The townships of Alexandra, Lawrence and Roxburgh once had populations 3 times their current, at the height of late 1800's gold rush. Many of the old settlements and some buildings remain as do the original shafts and workings. Time permitting there are plenty of opportunities to explore life as it was in particular Gabriel's Gully in the township of Lawrence.
 

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house, situated 500m from Larnach Castle. The house is built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate offers total privacy, with entry to Larnach Castle and grounds included.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 273 kms / 170 miles : 3.2 hours

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 8

Day 8 - Discover the wildlife that inhabits the Otago Peninsula or the history at Dunedin's museums

Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruises Half day tour and Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve

A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour and the wading bird wetlands.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house, situated 500m from Larnach Castle. The house is built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate offers total privacy, with entry to Larnach Castle and grounds included.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 9

Day 9 - 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.

Fiordland Lodge

Set on a superb site with commanding views out across Lake Te Anau this is a rural setting with rolling grass lands surrounding the Lodge, Lake Te Anau being a mere ten minute walk away. Across the lake to the west lie the mountains of Fiordland National Park, an area of over three million acres of untouched wilderness and part of the much larger South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

Dining at Fiordland Lodge

The enjoyment of food and wine is integral to the experience on offer at Fiordland Lodge and the use of quality ingredients being seasonal and regional and largely organic are fundamental to their cuisine philosophy.  Food is a focal point at you'll be hard pressed to find something on the menu that isn't homemade or locally grown. Every item on the menu hails from the surrounding land, as an example within five minutes of the lodge there are at least 10 rivers that have fresh watercress sprouting and wild black berries. Items such as the breakfast jams will have been plucked from the onsite garden, venison and rabbit sourced from the local hunters themselves. Fresh organic vegetables, greens, herbs and eggs are harvested daily from the huge onsite vegetable garden so each season nature offers a new palette for the kitchen team to create dishes. Chef Loughnane is dedicated to sourcing the freshest of ingredients, creating relationships with local farmers and smaller producers and saturating the dishes he creates with local Fiordland and Southland ingredients.  A changing evening menu also means that guests get to experience as much of New Zealand’s wonderful food as possible.

Activities available from Fiordland Lodge – enquire for current pricing

Guided Fly Fishing - Fiordland is world renowned for the quality of its fly fishing in New Zealand. The crystal clear unpolluted waters are managed as a wild fishery producing good stocks of large Brown and Rainbow trout. Fiordland Guides specialise in upstream sight fishing and all fishing is catch and release. Over 40 uncrowded rivers and streams are within 1.5 hours drive of the Lodge.

Guided Nature Walks -there are a wide choice of scheduled trips available from half day walks every day of the week to interesting local areas, some of which are rich in local history, to hikes of a number of days or more into the remoter regions of Fiordland.

Conservation Gold Sponsor - donations of $400 or more towards the Kepler Peninsula conservation project.  Beginning with the ‘box seat’ in an early morning helicopter ride, you will join a local volunteer for a day on the Kepler Peninsula checking the pest trap line. You will be required to assist as a scribe, noting any wildlife along the way.  This is a unique full day experience walking the 8km track through pristine native beech forest, checking traps along the way.  The walking is leisurely with frequent stops.

Your accommodation: Fiordland Lodge

Set in a World Heritage area Fiordland Lodge offers the discerning traveller comfort and privacy. The elegance and splendour of the Lodge is mirrored in the breathtaking views of Lake Te Anau and Fiordland. Private and serene, the Lodge is perfect for relaxation, or as a base for your Fiordland experience.

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Fiordland Lodge

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

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 10

Day 10 - Journey to the remote Doubtful Sound for a true wilderness experience

Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Manapouri

From Pearl Harbour, Manapouri, you cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri to West Arm and then travel by coach over Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest. There are opportunities along the way to examine the plant life and view the spectacular scenery. Once at Doubtful Sound you board the catamaran, Commander Peak, for a 3 hour cruise of beautiful Doubtful Sound to the Tasman Sea. On board there is excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. Rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered in the right season. An interesting on board commentary keeps you informed and on the return journey, the vessel's engines are turned off and visitors are treated to the 'Sound of Silence'. Includes picnic boxed lunch.

Your accommodation: Fiordland Lodge

Set in a World Heritage area Fiordland Lodge offers the discerning traveller comfort and privacy. The elegance and splendour of the Lodge is mirrored in the breathtaking views of Lake Te Anau and Fiordland. Private and serene, the Lodge is perfect for relaxation, or as a base for your Fiordland experience.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Fiordland Lodge

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South Island 12 day luxury adventure - Day 11

Day 11 - Head north through the rural landscapes of Southland to the 'Adventure Capital' of 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.

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: Sofitel Queenstown

The stunning five-star Sofitel Queenstown is located in the heart of New Zealand's premier four season lake and alpine resort. New Zealand's very first Sofitel, this luxury boutique hotel occupies one of the best locations to get the most from the vibrant town.

Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Sofitel Queenstown

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

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Day 12 - 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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