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The Southern Circuit self drive tour 

12 days from Christchurch to Christchurch

From Christchurch this tour takes you along the foothills of the Southern Alps to Mt. Cook National Park. It’s then onto Dunedin where you have a whole day to discover the unique wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.  Continue south to Te Anau and Milford Sound for you Real Journeys Nature Cruise, then to the ‘Adventure Capital’ of Queenstown where you have time to enjoy the countless activities on offer here and explore the natural beauty of the region. On your return to Christchurch you journey up the West Coast, with the highlight being the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers which you can experience during a heli-hike or scenic flight if you choose.  You’ll return to Christchurch aboard the world famous Tranz Alpine Scenic Train.

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 This suggested tour costs from per person (twin share, low season) (get instant quote here)
 12 days/11 nights from Christchurch to Christchurch
 Accommodation suggested on this tour is: Hotel 4 star (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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Driving through a tree tunnel, Cromwell, Otago
Yellow Eyed Penguins in Dunedin
 

The Southern Circuit self drive tour - at a glance (See detailed itinerary)

Day 1: Arrive into Christchurch City
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch

Day 2: Collect your rental car this morning, then you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 3: Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 4: Today is free to explore the history of Dunedin or the wildlife on Otago Peninsula
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

Day 5: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 387 kms / 240 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 6: Te Anau to Milford Sound for a nature cruise then back to Te Anau
Accommodation: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 7: Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 8: Explore the alpine playground of Queenstown
Accommodation: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

Day 9: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 10: Explore Westland National Park and the remarkable glaciers
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Day 11: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel, Christchurch
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 12: Depart Christchurch today

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 1

Day 1 - Arrive into 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.

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.

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.
The George Hotel, Christchurch

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 2

Day 2 - Collect your rental car this morning, then you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country

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 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD Tour

A rugged back road 4WD adventure accessing awe inspiring views over the Tasman Glacier and its gigantic moraine wall. You will get to stop at several vantage points and have the opportunity to walk up to the top of the Tasman Glacier moraine wall to view some of the most spectacular photographic opportunities within the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Your professional guide has a wealth of knowledge of the Aoraki/Mt Cook area. Learn about the area, its unique geology, local flora and fauna and get an entertaining insight into the rich pioneering history and stories of the past 150 years.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

The Hermitage Hotel ringed by magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, is a world-renowned tourist destination and has been an icon of superior accommodation and dining since 1884.
Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 3

Day 3 - 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: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

The Scenic Hotel Southern Cross provides stylish inner city accommodation and is the perfect location from which to explore Dunedin. Just a short walk to the Octagon, Railway Station, theatres, shops, and close to Otago University.
Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

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

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 4

Day 4 - Today is free to explore the history of Dunedin or the wildlife on Otago Peninsula

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 - Otago Peninsula Wildlife Premier Tour

Enjoy a scenic Otago Peninsula tour by bus seeing various species of wading birds in their natural habitats. Experience a guided tour at the Royal Albatross This premier package includes the full Otago Harbour and Taiaroa Head wildlife cruise, scenic Otago Peninsula bus tour, and guided tours of the Royal Albatross Colony, the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve and a visit to wading bird habitats.

Your accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

The Scenic Hotel Southern Cross provides stylish inner city accommodation and is the perfect location from which to explore Dunedin. Just a short walk to the Octagon, Railway Station, theatres, shops, and close to Otago University.
Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 5

Day 5 - 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: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

The Te Anau Hotel and Villas offers a range of accommodation from hotel rooms and suites to villas. Ideally located on the lake front this hotel is just a few minutes stroll from the shops, cafes and many activities Te Anau has to offer.
Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

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

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 6

Day 6 - Te Anau to Milford Sound for a nature cruise then back to Te Anau

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: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

The Te Anau Hotel and Villas offers a range of accommodation from hotel rooms and suites to villas. Ideally located on the lake front this hotel is just a few minutes stroll from the shops, cafes and many activities Te Anau has to offer.

Meals included: Lunch

Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas

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

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 7

Day 7 - 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.

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: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

The 4 star deluxe Millennium Hotel Queenstown is located in the heart of Queenstown within minutes of the central shopping and entertainment area.
Millennium Hotel Queenstown

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

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 8

Day 8 - Explore the alpine playground of 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: Millennium Hotel Queenstown

The 4 star deluxe Millennium Hotel Queenstown is located in the heart of Queenstown within minutes of the central shopping and entertainment area.
Millennium Hotel Queenstown

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 9

Day 9 - 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: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Located in the heart of Franz Josef Village the hotel offers all the amenities you would expect and is close to the shops, restaurants and activities on offer.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

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

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 10

Day 10 - Explore Westland National Park and the remarkable glaciers

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 - 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: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

Located in the heart of Franz Josef Village the hotel offers all the amenities you would expect and is close to the shops, restaurants and activities on offer.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier

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The Southern Circuit self drive tour - Day 11

Day 11 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch

Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Your drive today takes you north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. This seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s and is known for its Greenstone (Pounamu). Take in the endless sea-views from the coast and pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops before moving on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey - the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot

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: 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.
The George Hotel, Christchurch

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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Day 12 - 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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