9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive
9 day South Island Self Drive, from Christchurch to Christchurch
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive

This 9 day tour takes you to the icons of the South Island, with extra nights in Fiordland and Queenstown you'll have time to discover the charms of each destination. You begin with a journey past the mountains of the Southern Alps and turquoise waters of alpine lakes before arriving into Mt. Cook National Park.  Next you venture further south to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park.  Here you’ll explore the pristine wilderness on a Milford Sound nature cruise.  In Queenstown, the Adventure Capital, there’s time to enjoy the scenery and endless activities on offer before returning to Christchurch via the magnificent West Coast Glaciers.

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Itinerary details at a glance

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,504 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

9 days/8 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 39 times in the last 7 days

This South Island Self Drive tour idea includes:

- Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation
- Shared Transfer from the Railway Station to a City Hotel
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
1 lunch
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch City
Accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Day 2: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 3: Follow the dry lands to Lindis Pass which leads into Central Otago, then through the Kawerau Gorge and Southland to Te Anau
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 421 kms / 261 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 4: Take the spectacular Milford Road to Milford Sound for your cruise
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 5: Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 6: Take in the stunning alpine scenery of Queenstown on one of the many great activities
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 7: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Bella Vista Franz Josef
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 8: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Quality Suites Amore
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 9: Depart Christchurch today

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation

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

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Discover Christchurch Afternoon Tour

A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the rebuild which is currently in progress, together with the surviving beauty of the city and the historical landmarks. Experience the grand architecture, beautiful gardens and scenic viewpoints on a half-day city tour of Christchurch.
The tour commences in the central city of Christchurch and covers the area which was completely devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. The guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale a historic homestead and gardens. Then you will travel to the Sign of the Takahe, a historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to the central city where the tour will conclude.

Your accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Amore Motor Lodge is one of the newest motels in Riccarton, Christchurch. The modern, well-appointed studio suites and spacious 2-bedroom apartments provide the ultimate in comfort are fully self-contained. Stay just 100 metres from the Westfield Mall and a short walk to Hagley Park and Riccarton Bush Farmers Market.

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 2
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.

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 Motel

Mt Cook Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views.

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

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 3
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Te Anau

Twizel, just south of Aoraki Mt Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand. Wrinkly Rams is a local café with great coffee and fresh homemade food. The Lindis Pass is one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres. The tussock covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. The first Central Otago settlement you reach is the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café.  A short drive, further along, is the historic and scenic Bendigo Reserve, which was one of Otago’s original gold mining settlements.  Well marked paths will guide you to the remains of stone cottages and other buildings from this bygone era. Cromwell sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the historic old town is well worth the visit, the buildings are now home to quaint shops and cafes. The old town buildings were relocated from the valley that now sits deep under Lake Dunstan. Continue on through the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge as they guide you towards Gibbston, one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing regions. At the famous historic Kawarau Bridge, you can take a bungy jump or sit back and enjoy the drama as visitors hurtle off the bridge. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range comes into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head south. The lake guides you into Southland through its rich farming pastures and into Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves with RealNZ

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.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 421 kms / 261 miles : 5.0 hours

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 4
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: Lakefront Lodge

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

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

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 5
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

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience, a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting. Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambience of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

Your accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Scenic Suites Queenstown offers guests exquisite style, comfort and spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The hotel prides itself on its four star hospitality that will make your stay in Queenstown even more memorable.

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

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 6
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.

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

Experience a tasting journey through three of Central Otago’s incredibly scenic and varying wine sub-regions; Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell. Visit three boutique vineyards, tasting their unique cool climate wines and discover why the Central Otago region has become world-renowned in its own right.
Indulge at a fourth vineyard restaurant for a platter-style lunch, savouring the finest and freshest produce, accompanied with a wine flight.
There will also be an opportunity to retrace history when you stroll through the charming historical settlement of Old Cromwell.

Your accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Scenic Suites Queenstown offers guests exquisite style, comfort and spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps. The hotel prides itself on its four star hospitality that will make your stay in Queenstown even more memorable.

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 7
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier via Wanaka

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in New Zealand to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1-hour return walk through the native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beaches occasionally. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. Keep heading North and be sure to enjoy the view of the ever-changing towering snowcapped Southern Alps Mountain Range. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night Franz Josef township.

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: Bella Vista Franz Josef

From the moment you arrive at Bella Vista Franz Josef, you'll enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to shops, restaurants and other activities, as well as being a short walk to the Glacier Hot Pools. Franz Josef village is the perfect place to stay when exploring New Zealand’s glaciers.

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

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 8
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today head north along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beach occasionally. Whataroa is the next town where you can see one of the world's rarest birds, the New Zealand white heron or Kotuku nest at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve, and guided tours from October to March will take you there. 
Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings and workings remain. In fact, Ross is still home to one of the few working gold mines left in New Zealand and the local information center offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Hokitika is a great place to explore craft and gift stores and head to the coast and take in the endless sea views. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge is located 45 minutes inland and offers turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located at the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

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.

Shared Transfer from the Railway Station to a City Hotel with Christchurch Touring

On arrival at the Christchurch railway station, you will be met by a driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Your accommodation: Quality Suites Amore

Amore Motor Lodge is one of the newest motels in Riccarton, Christchurch. The modern, well-appointed studio suites and spacious 2-bedroom apartments provide the ultimate in comfort are fully self-contained. Stay just 100 metres from the Westfield Mall and a short walk to Hagley Park and Riccarton Bush Farmers Market.

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

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive - Day 9
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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9 Day Southern Icons Self Drive
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