21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza
21 day South Island Self Drive, from Queenstown to Queenstown
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza

This tour is a celebration of the beautiful places, natural wonders and outstanding lodge retreats that the South Island is home to.  In remote and unspoilt locations you’ll discover what makes this part of the world so special and why our luxury lodges are so well regarded.  With many amazing inclusions from breath-taking hot air balloon flights to glaciers and cruises through the azure blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park, you’ll have something to look forward to every day.  In the evenings you’ll dine and relax at welcoming lodges situated in unique and wondrous locations.

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Tour summary and feature
Itinerary details at a glance

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$23,645 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Queenstown

21 days/20 nights

Luxury Lodges & Hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 33 times in the last 7 days

This South Island Self Drive tour idea includes:

- Private Transfer Queenstown Airport to your Accommodation
- Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation
20 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 16 dinners, 2 special dinners
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown
Accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown

Day 2: Wake early to watch the sunrise from hot air balloon!
Accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown

Day 3: You car is delivered this morning, then drive over the Crown Range to Wanaka
Accommodation: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 60 kms / 38 miles : 0.9 hours

Day 4: Spend some time exploring Wanaka, then the afternoon discover the Central Otago pinot noir
Accommodation: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge

Day 5: Allow plenty of time for photo stops during your drive to the West Coast
Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 282 kms / 175 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 6: Get a bird's eye view of the breath-taking Westland National Park and glaciers
Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Day 7: Head north along the rugged coast, then inland to Arthur's Pass National Park
Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge, Arthurs Pass
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 2.8 hours

Day 8: Explore the many great walks within Arthur's Pass National park
Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge, Arthurs Pass

Day 9: Arthur's Pass to Kaikoura with time for a wildlife encounter if you choose
Accommodation: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 287 kms / 178 miles : 3.5 hours

Day 10: Kaikoura to Blenheim home to the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards
Accommodation: The Marlborough Boutique Hotel & Vineyard
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 116 kms / 72 miles : 1.4 hours

Day 11: Leave the vineyards behind and travel to the Abel Tasman area
Accommodation: Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 184 kms / 114 miles : 2.8 hours

Day 12: Discover the beautiful aqua bays and playful seals of Abel Tasman National Park
Accommodation: Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte

Day 13: Today journey south along the West Coast Road to Punakaiki
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Punakaiki
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 14: A short drive to Greymouth where you board the TranzAlpine scenic train to Christchurch
Accommodation: The George Hotel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 42 kms / 26 miles : 0.6 hours

Day 15: Journey south to Mount Cook National Park and an amazing iceberg encounter
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium Plus
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 16: Follow the Waitaki River to the coast then south past the Moeraki Boulders to Dunedin
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 17: Discover the fascinating wildlife that resides on the peninsula
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

Day 18: From Dunedin take the Catlins coastal road to Te Anau
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 458 kms / 284 miles : 5.9 hours

Day 19: A magnificent day trip to Milford Sound for your cruise
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 20: Return to Queenstown for a relaxing evening at Matakauri Lodge
Accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 21: Depart Queenstown

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 hours

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 1
Transfer from Queenstown Airport to your accommodation

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

Welcome to Queenstown

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

Matakauri Lodge

Spectacularly situated on Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge offers stunning panoramic views of the Remarkables, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges. Just a short seven minute drive for the centre of Queenstown, Matakauri Lodge is a relaxing alpine retreat tucked into one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. The main lodge consists of a spacious lounge, dining and living areas complimented by large open fires. It also has a large patio, library and courtyard - all comfortable spaces to relax in. You can also take a swim in the pool or relax in the Jacuzzi, both offering spectacular views of the lake and mountainside.

Your accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown

Spectacularly situated on Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge offers stunning views from every angle of the Remarkable, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges. Just seven minutes from Queenstown the lodge provides an alpine lakeside retreat nestled in one of the world’s most serenely beautiful landscapes.
Meals included: Dinner

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 2
Sunrise Balloon Adventures

Experience sunrise over the lakes and mountains from the serenity of a hot air balloon. You'll float gently with the breeze, enjoying incredible panoramic views and your flight is followed by a champagne style breakfast at your landing spot. Flights are at dawn when the air is cool and calm and in the right conditions you can expect to see views of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski areas, Mount Aspiring in the Southern Alps and Mount Tutoko in Fiordland National Park. You can also see Lake Wakatipu, Lake Hayes, the Shotover and Kawarau rivers. Additionally a bonus for many are the views of some Lord of the Rings scenes such as The Ford Of Bruinen, Dimrill Dale, The Gates of Argonath and The Pillars Of The Kings. Also visible is Mount Earnslaw, one of the great mountains seen in Isengard.  The flight is for approximately 1 hour and you will be standing for the duration of the flight.

Explore Queenstown

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast-paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston Valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. If you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.
Finally, if you're lucky enough to visit in winter (July-September) there are four ski resorts close by. You can head up to Coronet Peak and the Remarkables close to Queenstown, or head to Wanaka for Cardrona and Treble Cone.

Your accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown

Spectacularly situated on Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge offers stunning views from every angle of the Remarkable, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges. Just seven minutes from Queenstown the lodge provides an alpine lakeside retreat nestled in one of the world’s most serenely beautiful landscapes.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 3
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.

Queenstown to Wanaka

Leaving Queenstown you'll drive over New Zealand's highest sealed road, the Crown Range before arriving into the resort town of Wanaka.

Your accommodation: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge

Experience the Tin Tub Luxury Lodge in Wanaka, an alpine hideaway you won’t want to leave. Enjoy the magnificent views while you relax in the heated swimming pool or from your personal balcony.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 60 kms / 38 miles : 0.9 hours

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 4
Wanaka Wine Tours Boutique Central Otago Wine Trail

This small group wine tour (maximum 8) offers a relaxed and personal introduction to the wines and scenery of the Central Otago region. This tour is a great way to explore award-winning vineyards hidden amongst the rugged landscape of Central Otago. Visit and enjoy tastings at 4 Central Otago vineyards including a delicious mid-afternoon platter to enjoy with your tastings.  You'll also discover the history of the region with a visit to Old Cromwell Town, a charming heritage precinct that has been revitalised into a boutique arts and crafts village.

Your accommodation: Tin Tub Luxury Lodge

Experience the Tin Tub Luxury Lodge in Wanaka, an alpine hideaway you won’t want to leave. Enjoy the magnificent views while you relax in the heated swimming pool or from your personal balcony.
Meals included: Breakfast

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 5
Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier

The route follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the village of Makarora, the gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The Blue Pools, just outside Makarora, are a wonderful 30-minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Descending into Mt. Aspiring National Park and towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600-kilometre stretch of bush, rainforest, and podocarp forest.
Paringa Salmon Farm is a great halfway stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch or refreshment.
First Fox Glacier welcomes you to the glacier region and Franz Josef township is just a further 45 minutes' drive over the impressive Fox Hills.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Siberia Experience with Southern Alps Air

The Siberia Experience is a 4 hour wilderness adventure in Mt. Aspiring National Park. Leaving from Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka you will enjoy some of New Zealand's untouched scenery from the air, on land and from the water. Mountains, rivers, glaciers, alpine lakes, rain forest, waterfalls and more - this is your chance to see it all. This unique adventure incorporates a 25 minute unforgettable scenic flight with Southern Alps Air, a 2 1/2 hour walk beginning in the remote Siberia Valley in Mt. Aspiring National Park and a 30 minute exciting Jet Boat ride with Wilkin River Jets.

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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 282 kms / 175 miles : 3.4 hours

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 6
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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 7
Franz Josef to Arthur's Pass National Park

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.
State Highway 73 is the main road between the West Coast and Christchurch and the scenery is spectacular, even in the rain and there is a pretty good chance of rain in the high alpine mountains. With hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the bush-clad hillsides, it's not a road to be rushed. Originally the road was a pass used by Maori as they made their seasonal passage to look for the greenstone abundant in the West Coast mountains. When the gold rush hit the West Coast in the late 1800's then a road was quickly developed and not soon after the train. Today the main use for the track is transporting coal to Lyttelton Harbour but once a day the now world famous TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes a few hundred tourists and visitors between the two oceans.
The Otira Gorge on the Western side of Arthur's Pass features a remarkable piece of engineering with the road passing high on a viaduct through this large valley. This is a recent addition to the route as the old road was washed away in a rock fall a few years ago. There are numerous lookout points giving great views of the valley and its engineering feat but watch out for the local residents, the kea. this bird is the world's only alpine parrot and can be extremely cheeky.
Arthur's Pass Township is a bustling place in the peak season with many walkers and adventurers using it as a base for the forays into the mountains of Arthur's pass National Park. The Department of Conservation centre here has an excellent display of the local history and is a great source of information for the many short walks in the area.

Your accommodation: Wilderness Lodge, Arthurs Pass

Wilderness Lodge sits on it's own 3,000-hectare nature reserve and merino sheep farm and is 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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 2.8 hours

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 8
Walking tracks in Arthurs Pass National Park

Within 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 learn about the natural history of the area and its people.
Listed below is 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, Arthurs Pass

Wilderness Lodge sits on it's own 3,000-hectare nature reserve and merino sheep farm and is 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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 9
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 onto 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 at 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

Experience New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company. Whale Watch Kaikoura offer 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, occasionally make an appearance.
Cruise in style on 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: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

Hapuku Lodge was built to give guests a great night's sleep in one the most beautiful places in the world. The Lodge sits tight between the mountains and the ocean, on a deer stud and olive farm.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 10
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.

Your accommodation: The Marlborough Boutique Hotel & Vineyard

The Marlborough Boutique Hotel is located right in the heart of the Marlborough wine region, close to the township of Blenheim and just 25 minutes from the Marlborough Sounds. Providing the ultimate retreat to indulge in New Zealand’s gourmet province.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 11
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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Half Day Guided Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds

The half day guided sea kayak trip is an ideal opportunity to fit a little kayaking adventure into a busy holiday itinerary. After a short safety briefing you'll be in the water, allowing you maximum time to enjoy the tranquil waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound. Starting at Ngakuta Bay you then paddle out of the bay and into Grove Arm. The sound is surrounded by bush-clad shorelines and sandy beaches. There will be a short stop to enjoy a light refreshment break along the way before returning to Picton.

Your accommodation: Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte

Luxury accommodation nestled in a tranquil, natural waterfront setting on Nelson’s historic Bronte Peninsula. Surrounded by extensive mature gardens, orchards and vineyard, the elegant spacious suites have their own private patio and spa bath for relaxing. In the main garden enjoy the heated pool, tennis and petanque or explore further afield by bike or canoe.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 12
Seals, Beach Cruise and Walk

Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. Cruise into the Tonga Island Marine Reserve and pause to watch the antics of the Resident Fur Seal Colony. After landing at the historic Tonga Quarry Beach, take a two hour, fifteen minute walk over forested land and around the spectacular Bark Bay Estuary, renowned for its cascading waterfalls. Rejoin the cruise at the sheltered golden cove on Medlands Beach.

Your accommodation: Te Koi the Lodge at Bronte

Luxury accommodation nestled in a tranquil, natural waterfront setting on Nelson’s historic Bronte Peninsula. Surrounded by extensive mature gardens, orchards and vineyard, the elegant spacious suites have their own private patio and spa bath for relaxing. In the main garden enjoy the heated pool, tennis and petanque or explore further afield by bike or canoe.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 13
Marahau to Punakaiki

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

Your accommodation: Scenic Hotel Punakaiki

Scenic Hotel Punakaiki is a modern, award-winning hotel complex, architecturally designed to harmonious with the local environment. Nestled in the foothills of Papaproa National Park the resort has spectacular views of the Wild West Coast beaches while all rooms have rainforest and/or ocean views.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 14
Punakaiki to Greymouth

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

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 at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: The George Hotel

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. It also has an award-winning restaurant, 50 Bistro onsite.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 15
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.

Christchurch to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending 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, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.
Please note: There are no food shops at Mt Cook, and dinner options are limited to one restaurant. If you wish to self-cater, you must stock up before arriving in Mt Cook, or make dinner reservations in advance.

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: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium Plus

Experience the best views in the park from the spacious top floor rooms of the magnificent Hermitage Hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 16
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand, be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a quirky local cafe and souvenir store. 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.

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Keeping with the historical setting of Larnach Castle, a four-course dinner is offered in a grand Castle Dining Room. This is a trust-the-chef experience where you may indulge in incredible meals and meet other guests. The menu reflects local meats and vegetables, served in a traditional New Zealand-style cuisine with the opportunity to pair with regional wines.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The modern rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate includes entry to Larnach Castle and the grounds.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 17
Castle to Cruise Tour and Penguin Place

Today you'll explore the wildlife and history of the Otago Peninsula. You'll be welcomed to the MV Monarch for a wildlife cruise around Taiaroa Head, home to the world's only mainland nesting site for royal albatross. Scattered along the rocks you'll also see New Zealand fur seals basking in the sun and possibly New Zealand sea lions on the beach. In the water you may also see penguins, dolphins and other marine birds. Back on land you'll take a guided tour of New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle built in 1871. Learn of the scandals and history of the castle and explore the beautiful garden of international significance. Your final stop of the day is to The Otango Peninsula Eco Restoration Allaince (formally Penguin Place), a natural nesting site for the rarest penguin in the world, the Yellow Eyed Penguin.

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Keeping with the historical setting of Larnach Castle, a four-course dinner is offered in a grand Castle Dining Room. This is a trust-the-chef experience where you may indulge in incredible meals and meet other guests. The menu reflects local meats and vegetables, served in a traditional New Zealand-style cuisine with the opportunity to pair with regional wines.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The modern rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate includes entry to Larnach Castle and the grounds.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 18
Dunedin to Kaka Point (The Catlins)

The journey between Dunedin and Invercargill travelling via The Catlins is one that should not be rushed. Taking the eastern half of the Southern Scenic Route the road offers some great Southland and coastal scenery and some fantastic walking opportunities. Kaka Point is located on Molyneux Bay. Nugget Point, just a short drive along the coast road offers spectacular Southern Ocean views with fur seals and sea lions basking on rocks, while Cannibal Bay, just a few kilometers from the main road is a great place to walk the secluded beach and to look for hooker sea lions. There are countless opportunities for short walks to interesting places and all are well signposted.

Catlins (Kaka Pt) to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you along the beautiful Southern Scenic Route. First stop along the way is the township of Owaka which hosts a museum telling the history of the region while just a short detour from the main road and an easy 20-minute walk will deliver you to the Purakaunui Falls, a popular photo stop. Curio Bay (well signposted from the main road) is home to one of the world's most extensive and best-preserved examples of a Jurassic fossilised forest (best viewed at low tide). There is also a small population of the rare and endangered yellow eyed penguins here and occasionally the rare hectors dolphins can also be spotted. Take your time on this drive to explore the many bays, beaches and wonderful scenery. Continue along to Invercargill, the capital city of the Southland Region. The drive from Invercargill to Te Anau passes through some wonderful and often overlooked regions of Southlandd. Riverton is Southland's oldest community established by whalers in the 1830's and many of the original cottages have survived throughout the town. The Riverton Early Settlers Museum tells the story well. Orepuki on the coast was once 'almost' a gold town but the fine dust proved too hard to extract commercially. You can still sometimes see gold dust in the beach sand at Monkey Bay. The early sawmilling settlement of Tautapere is next, known as the 'hole in the bush' the town features an attractive domain. A little further north is the Clifden suspension bridge which dates back to 1899. The Blackmount Road offers some great side trips if you have the time and one, in particular, is the 50-kilometre round trip to Lake Haruoko, New Zealand's deepest lake. The Blackmount Road continues to the small township Te Anau which is the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

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. 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 and you'll be hard pressed to find something on the menu that isn't homemade or locally grown. 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. A changing evening menu also means that you get to experience as much of New Zealand’s wonderful food as possible. There are numerous activities available from Fiordland Lodge such as guided fly fishing and nature walks also the conservation gold sponsor experience where you will join a local volunteer to work on a conservation project for the day.

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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 458 kms / 284 miles : 5.9 hours

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 19
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on 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 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 before back-tracking the way you came.
Please note: Make sure to allow 2.5hrs to Milford Sound, this takes into account the current road works on the Milford Road.

Milford Sound Cruise with RealNZ

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Milford Premium Cruise with RealNZ

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord abroad the M.V Sinbad, an exclusive vessel for a premium experience. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. With a glass of bubbles on arrival and canapes provided throughout the journey, this is the perfect way to explore Milford Sound. At a capped capacity of 40 people and a roaming nature guide providing informative commentary throughout the extended cruise, this experience allows guests to enjoy the Fiord at a relaxing pace.

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

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

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21 Day Essential Southern Extravaganza - Day 20
Te Anau to Queenstown

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

Your accommodation: Rosewood Matakauri Queenstown

Spectacularly situated on Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge offers stunning views from every angle of the Remarkable, Cecil and Walter Peak mountain ranges. Just seven minutes from Queenstown the lodge provides an alpine lakeside retreat nestled in one of the world’s most serenely beautiful landscapes.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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

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Depart Queenstown today

Drop your rental car at the Queenstown airport today.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 hours

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