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South Island 21 day self drive tour 

21 days from Christchurch to Christchurch

This comprehensive tour carves a figure eight through spectacular South Island scenery.  From Christchurch travel through the Mackenzie Country to Mt Cook, then on to Otago and Dunedin. An exploration of the remote Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park follows, before heading north to Queenstown and then to the West Coast Glaciers. Crossing the Southern Alps enjoy a night in Arthur's Pass National Park before heading to the east coast and Kaikoura. Enjoy the Marlborough wine region and the golden sands of Abel Tasman National Park before turning south along the wild west coast. You return to Christchurch on board the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 21 days/20 nights from Christchurch to Christchurch
 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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Dunedin railway station, New Zealand
Wine, Marlborough, New Zealand
 

South Island 21 day self drive tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch today
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 2: Explore the ever changing city of Christchurch or maybe take a day trip to Akaroa
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 3: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 4: 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 5: Discover the wildlife of Otago Peninsula or stroll past the historic buildings of Dunedin
Accommodation: Motel on York

Day 6: 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 7: Take the journey to the 'Sound of Silence' for your overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound
Accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 18 kms / 11 miles : 0.2 hours

Day 8: 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: 166 kms / 103 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 9: The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown
Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 10: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 11: Take a scenic flight or walk to experience the glaciers of Westland National Park
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 12: Follow the windswept coastline north to the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki
Accommodation: Hydrangea Cottages (Self check in required)
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 212 kms / 132 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 13: Head inland and drive over the Otira Viaduct to Arthur's Pass National Park
Accommodation: Arthurs Pass Alpine Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 138 kms / 86 miles : 1.8 hours

Day 14: Descend to the coastline and pass through the North Canterbury countryside to Kaikoura
Accommodation: Anchor Inn Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.5 hours

Day 15: Drive the coastal road before reaching the vineyards of Blenheim
Accommodation: Bella Vista Blenheim
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

Day 16: Travel via the beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive to the idyllic Abel Tasman National Park
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 184 kms / 114 miles : 2.8 hours

Day 17: Explore Abel Tasman National Park home to aqua blue waters and playful seals
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Day 18: Pass between two national parks as you travel to the wild West Coast
Accommodation: Buller Bridge Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 236 kms / 146 miles : 3.1 hours

Day 19: Follow the rugged coastline south to Greymouth
Accommodation: Charles Court Motel, Greymouth
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 90 kms / 56 miles : 1.1 hours

Day 20: Cross the Southern Alps on the great scenic train journey, the TranzAlpine
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 21: Depart Christchurch today

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive Christchurch today

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.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Known as New Zealand's garden city, Christchurch is a vibrant metro area. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights, or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

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

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

The Bella Vista Motel and Apartments, Christchurch, offer accommodation in a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities.
Bella Vista Christchurch

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Explore the ever changing city of Christchurch or maybe take a day trip to Akaroa

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.

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 Triple Pass - Tram, Punting and Gondola

Experience 3 of Christchurch's iconic attractions in 1 day, the Gondola, Tram and Punting on the Avon River. The historic tram is a delightful way to explore the inner city, through the Spanish style buildings of New Regent St and the regenerating city centre. You'll also enjoy a bird's eye view of Christchurch and the Canterbury region including all the distant peaks of the Southern Alps when you ride the gondola to the top of the Heathcote Valley. Punting on the Avon River takes you through the city's green belt, a relaxing way to explore what is affectionately known as the 'Garden City'.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Bike Tour

Take a two hour cycle tour around the top Christchurch attractions.You'll be guided at a relaxed pace to the Arts Centre, Antigua Boatsheds, Christ's College, Hagley Park, Riccarton House and Deans Bush, Deans Cottage and Mona Vale Garden. You'll also visit the Re:Start project in the Cashel street Mall. A predominantly flat city with many purpose built cycle-ways, Christchurch is perfect for biking.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dinner on board the Christchurch Restaurant Tram

A truly unique dining experience in the heart of Christchurch. You'll board a historic colonial-style dining tram for an unforgettable moving four-course restaurant experience. Journey along the inner city tram loop taking in the regenerating central business district as you enjoy gourmet cuisine and a complimentary drink. Lasting two and a half hours, you'll take three laps of the tram line passing New Regent street, The Avon River, High Street and Victoria Square.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

The Bella Vista Motel and Apartments, Christchurch, offer accommodation in a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities.
Bella Vista Christchurch

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 3

Day 3 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Drive through the heart of the South Island today, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Stop for a breather in Geraldine before continuing into Mackenzie Country. As you head over Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.

Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, renowned for its incredible turquoise hue. Skirt the lake edge to arrive at your final destination Mt Cook Village.

 

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: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 4

Day 4 - 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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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 5

Day 5 - Discover the wildlife of Otago Peninsula or stroll past the historic buildings of Dunedin

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Speights Brewery Tour

Founded in 1876, the Speights Brewery still occupies its original Dunedin site - with several of its buildings dating back to the late 1800's. One of the only remaining 'gravity breweries' in the world, your 90-minute tour will take you through its inner workings. You'll also have a chance to taste six different beers as well as bottle, cap and brew your own personal Speights Gold Medal Ale - the brewery's flagship beer.

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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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 6

Day 6 - 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

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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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 7

Day 7 - Take the journey to the 'Sound of Silence' for your overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound

Te Anau to Manapouri

Head along lake Te Anau through lush southern farmlands to the township of Lake Manapouri, gateway to Doubtful Sound.

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise

Take in the tranquility of remote Doubtful Sound on this unique overnight wilderness cruise. Beginning in Manapouri with a short boat ride across the lake, you'll be taken by coach over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. Board the Fiordland Navigator, a purpose-built vessel designed like a traditional coastal trading scow. Be accommodated in a private cabin with an ensuite bathroom or a quad-share bunk room with shared bathroom facilities. The Navigator has a large spacious deck for viewing the scenery and wildlife as well as a dining saloon, bar and observation lounge. As you take in the stunning scenery of the Fiord, you'll be provided a running commentary of the area and its history, points of interest and wildlife. You'll have the opportunity to see dolphins, fur seals and - if you're lucky - rare Fiordland penguins. After anchoring in a sheltered cove, choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or stabicraft, or if you're really brave - take a dip in the water. In the evening enjoy a three course buffet dinner prepared on board and served in the dining saloon. Enjoy beer and fine wines from the licensed bar, and spend time star gazing on the upper deck. Following hearty cooked breakfast the next morning you will spend your remaining time exploring other parts of the fiord before returning to Deep Cove for the trip back to Manapouri.

Your accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.

Meals included: Lunch, Dinner

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 18 kms / 11 miles : 0.2 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown

Manapouri to Queenstown

Your Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise returns to Manapouri at midday.

Crossing the rolling tussocklands, pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. Continue north through lush Southland countryside towards Lake Wakatipu. The road now hugs the lake edge and the Remarkable mountain range towers over your approach to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

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.

Meals included: Breakfast

Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 166 kms / 103 miles : 2.0 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 9

Day 9 - The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown

Experience the wonders of Queenstown

Renowned as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital,’ Queenstown is not just an action destination. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath the (truly remarkable) Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is a melting pot of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders. Follow the vines through Gibbston Valley as you sample the region’s best wine. Stop at the Chard Farm cellar door, visit the award-winning Peregrine vineyard or take a cellar cave tour at Gibbston Valley Winery. Cruise to Walter Peak station for dinner on board a 100 year old steamship - the TSS Earnslaw. While you're there, a farm tour is a must do for those not familiar with rural living.

Take some time to wander the waterfront, and grab lunch at one of the many amazing cafes and restaurants on offer. Try Vudu’s Pantry and larder or for a holiday treat go to Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata. Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown - a disused gold mining settlement built in the 1800’s.Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. After all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or White Water Rafting.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Jet Boat the Shotover River

Take a ride on ‘Big Red’ through the spectacular canyon walls of the upper Shotover River.  Shotover Jet Boat is the only company allowed to operate in this remarkable location and their skilled drivers will take you on a wet and wild ride you’ll never forget.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Appellation Boutique Wine Tour

Go off-the-beaten-track with this unique Central Otago wine tour. Taste wines at four of the best vineyards in the Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell regions. The wineries you'll visit are selected from the following: Peregrine, Chard Farm, Carrick, Mt Difficulty, Felton Road, Akarua and Olssens vineyards. This tour also includes a delightful gourmet platter lunch at the award-winning Carrick Winery Restaurant.
Departing Queenstown, you'll go through picturesque valleys, dramatic gorges and rolling vine-covered hills. See the Otago Goldfields, Historic Old Cromwell Town and Lake Dunstan and the Kawarau Gorge.

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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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 10

Day 10 - Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast

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: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.
Punga Grove Motel & Suites

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

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 11

Day 11 - Take a scenic flight or walk to experience the glaciers of Westland National Park

Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Located in In the heart of the West Coast, Franz Josef is small but lively town. Known for its 12 km long glacier and surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains, the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To get close to the ice, walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk

The Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk will take you up alongside the mighty Waiho River bed, following the glacier’s path as it winds its way through the remarkable landscape. Here you will learn about the glacier’s history and learn the legend of Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere. After a brief climb you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the glacier’s rapidly changing terminal face. Accessing some exclusive trails and including great storytelling from your experienced and well-trained guide.
Following on from your scenic walk enjoy access to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, the perfect end to an unforgettable day.

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: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.
Punga Grove Motel & Suites

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 12

Day 12 - Follow the windswept coastline north to the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki

Franz Josef to Punakaiki

Driving north on State Highway 6 you pass through many small West Coast towns. 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. Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings remain. You can even pan for gold. The craft and gift stores in Hokitika are excellent with a great range of locally made items and if you want to explore further here then the Hokitika Gorge is worthy of a detour.

Just south of Greymouth is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear. Be sure to stop at the supermarket in Greymouth as there is none in Punakaiki. Punakaiki is a highlight of this drive so allow plenty of time to walk the paths and explore the formations.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Underworld adventures - glowworm cave tour

Delve into an ancient wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites and glowworms in the enormous Nile River Caves. At the Charleston Base you'll be equipped with caving helmets, coats and boots and the taken to the Nile River Rainforest Train where you'll travel through the forest before exploring the dry upper levels of the Aranui Entrance series. Recently discovered, the Metro cave is one of only several caves in the world left in a natural unspoilt state. This trip is suitable for anyone that can walk unassisted for two hours on uneven surfaces.

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: 212 kms / 132 miles : 2.6 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 13

Day 13 - Head inland and drive over the Otira Viaduct to Arthur's Pass National Park

Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass National Park

Today you’ll head south towards Greymouth, before turning onto State Highway 73 as you make your way to Arthur's Pass. Winding your way up and over the Southern Alps, this route takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country - even in the rain when hundreds of waterfalls cascade down the bush clad hillsides.

Originally the road was used as a pass by the Maori as they made their seasonal passage to collect Greenstone in the West Coast mountains. Following the 1800’s gold rush a road and railway was developed through the area. Today, the railway is used predominantly for the world renowned Tranz Alpine Scenic Train, transporting several hundred tourists per day from Christchurch to Greymouth - or the other way round. Continue on through the Otira Gorge, before arriving at your destination for the night, Arthur’s Pass.

Note: If you're feeling like a more leisurely drive, there is the option to take a more scenic route around Lake Brunner. Well signposted, this road begins just before the town of Kumara.

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: Arthurs Pass Alpine Motel

Located right in the village this is the ideal location to enjoy and explore Arthur's Pass National Park. Close to cafes and the visitor centre your accommodation is in comfortable self contained units.
Arthurs Pass Alpine Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 138 kms / 86 miles : 1.8 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 14

Day 14 - Descend to the coastline and pass through the North Canterbury countryside to Kaikoura

Arthur's Pass to Kaikoura

Travelling from the Southern Alps to the Coast, this drive offers spectacular views of braided river valleys. You’ll travel through Castle Hill Scenic Reserve, dotted with remarkable rocky outcrops  - popular for hiking.

Descending on to the Canterbury Plains, you’ll travel through the rich farmland surrounding Christchurch before turning North through the small towns of Rangiora and Oxford. You’ll then travel on State Highway 1 through the Waipara Valley. If you have plenty of time be sure to stop at Hanmer Springs for a soak in the hot mineral pools.

The road hugs the coast for the final stretch of this drive, before arriving into your destination, Kaikoura. Keep a lookout for dolphins as they are often seen swimming just off the coastline as well as New Zealand fur seals basking by the roadside.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.5 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 15

Day 15 - Drive the coastal road before reaching 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: Bella Vista Blenheim

In a quiet location, close to town you are staying in the heart of Blenheim, surrounded by the world famous Marlborough wine growing area and just a few minutes’ walk from a wide variety of restaurants & bars.
Bella Vista Blenheim

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

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 16

Day 16 - Travel via the beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive to the idyllic Abel Tasman National Park

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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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 17

Day 17 - Explore Abel Tasman National Park home to aqua blue waters and playful seals

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the sounds or take a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. Enjoy the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals  - fur seals and dolphins.
 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Split Apple, Seals and Walk day trip including picnic lunch

This relaxing paddle explores the spectacular Kaiteriteri coastline with its golden beaches, and sculpted granite cliffs. Stop for lunch at a secluded cove before heading back to Kaiteriteri for your picnic lunch. Swap your kayak booties for walking shoes and join the Vista Cruise to Onetahuti where you'll have the chance to view the seal colony at Tonga Island on the way.
After arriving at the at the Tonga Island Quarry, disembark and walk the coastal track to Medlands Beach where you region the Vista Cruise back to Kaiteriteri. Time spent kayaking is 2.5 hours including breaks. The unguided walk is 7km and the minimum age is 10 years old.

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

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 18

Day 18 - Pass between two national parks as you travel to the wild West Coast

Abel Tasman to Westport

Today travel along the Buller Gorge home to spectacular scenery. Head through the sleepy town of Murchison, a great place to stop for lunch then continue on to Inangahua, the first major town in the region. You’ll then come to Whites Creek - where New Zealand’s longest swing bridge is located. As you cross the river take in the magnificent views of the gorge before drive a short way further to arrive in Westport, the largest town the Northern West Coast.

Your accommodation: Buller Bridge Motel

Ideally located in Westport this well equipped motel is adjacent to the Buller River and Millennium Walkway but also just a few minutes walk from the town centre
Buller Bridge Motel

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 236 kms / 146 miles : 3.1 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 19

Day 19 - Follow the rugged coastline south to Greymouth

Westport to Greymouth

Cape Foulwind just south of Westport is home to a seal colony and the short walk provides some spectacular scenery. The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki. A stop at the pancake rocks is a highlight of this drive so allow plenty of time to walk the paths and explore the formations.
Greymouth sits on the Grey River almost at the western end of State Highway 73. It's the largest town on the coast and as such is the commercial centre. A fine small town centre with some interesting buildings makes it a pleasant place to stroll or if you are feeling a little more adventurous then there is almost every activity you can think of available here. In the centre of town you will also find the Monteith's brewery and a tour is highly worthwhile. Greymouth is also where the Tranz Alpine train arrives and departs. Just south of Greymouth is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shantytown Heritage Park Experience

Shantytown is a faithfully restored replica of an 1860's West Coast gold mining town. It is a living monument to the hardy pioneers who forded the wildly exotic rivers and streams and scrambled through the rugged subtropical rainforest in search of their fortunes. A 20 minute ride on one of the original bush steam trains takes you deep into gold country. Among the collection of pioneer relics and Kiwiana that has come to comprise Shantytown's unique and valuable collection are some true gems. This vast and significant collection is housed in over 30 historic buildings, enabling you to wander your way through the town as interlopers into a bygone era. You'll also get to try your hand at gold-panning under the helpful tuition of the highly experienced gold claim staff.

Your accommodation: Charles Court Motel, Greymouth

Located just south of the city centre Charles Court Motel features 1,2 and 3 bedroom units all with kitchen facilities. Also access to the beach is easy and other facilities include a swimming pool, BBQ area, and children's playground.
Charles Court Motel, Greymouth

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 90 kms / 56 miles : 1.1 hours

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South Island 21 day self drive tour - Day 20

Day 20 - Cross the Southern Alps on the great scenic train journey, the TranzAlpine

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: Bella Vista Christchurch

The Bella Vista Motel and Apartments, Christchurch, offer accommodation in a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities.
Bella Vista Christchurch

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Day 21 - Depart Christchurch today

Private transfer to Christchurch airport

You will be collected from your accommodation and a private transfer will deliver you to Christchurch airport in time for your departing flight.

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