Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed
10 day South Island Self Drive, from Christchurch to Christchurch
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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed

From Christchurch cross the Southern Alps on board the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. Explore the magnificent glaciers and rainforest and enjoy a scenic helicopter flight with a snow landing.  Continue south to the resort town of Queenstown for 3 nights. Enjoy a trip on the TSS Earnslaw crossing Lake Wakatipu, a Nomad Safari 4WD trip and a Shotover Jet Boat ride. A highlight is a full day trip to Doubtful Sound before you head north to Mt Cook National Park and the glacier lake.  Your adventure ends with a relaxing visit to the French settlement of Akaroa, including a cruise on the beautiful Akaroa Harbour.

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Itinerary details at a glance

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,617 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

10 days/9 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 17 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive into Christchurch City
Accommodation: Quest Cathedral Junction

Day 2: Board the TranzAlpine train for a stunning rail journey over the Southern Alps to the West Coast
Accommodation: Glenfern Villas
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 167 kms / 104 miles : 2.0 hours

Day 3: Explore the glaciers with a scenic helicopter flight
Accommodation: Glenfern Villas

Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown and TSS Earnslaw steamship and high country dinner
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 5: Journey to the remote Doubtful Sound for a true wilderness experience
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 6: Discover for yourself why Queenstown is the 'Adventure Capital' with a 4WD trip and Shotover Jet Boat ride
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 7: The Kawerau Gorge leads you to Central Otago, before you cross the Lindis Pass towards Mt. Cook National Park and your iceberg adventure
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

Day 8: Enjoy a scenic drive through the MacKenzie Country and the Canterbury Plains to the charming village of Akaroa
Accommodation: Criterion Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 9: Take a cruise on Akaroa Harbour, then its a short drive to Christchurch
Accommodation: Quest Cathedral Junction
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 85 kms / 53 miles : 1.5 hours

Day 10: Depart Christchurch today

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - 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: Quest Cathedral Junction

Quest Cathedral Junction serviced apartment style hotel rooms offer guests a relaxed and comfortable Christchurch accommodation experience. Quest Cathedral Junction is located within the Christchurch CBD, only a short walk to Cathedral Square, New Regent Street Entertainment Precinct, Isaac Royal Theatre, Botanic Gardens.

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 2
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Train Station with Christchurch Touring

A private driver will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to the Christchurch train station in time for your train journey.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train Christchurch to Greymouth

Your early morning departure is rewarded with incredible scenery today onboard the TranzAlpine Scenic Train, considered one of the world's great train journeys. It travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other. From your carriage you'll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through the lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth, a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the West Coast glaciers.

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.

Greymouth to Franz Josef

Leaving Greymouth you will head south into Glacier Country. Pass through Hokitika and be sure to take a detour to the spectacular Hokitika Gorge, the famous turquoise-coloured river surrounded by native bush-clad cliffs.
Continue on through Ross, a historic gold mining town where several buildings still remain intact and still to this day one of New Zealand's working gold mines. As you travel further down the coast you’ll also go through Hari Hari, the town where Guy Menzies, the first person to fly solo over the Tasman crash landed. Heading south along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild west 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. Arriving in Franz Josef township is a lively place with a great atmosphere, restaurants including Blue Ice and Snakebite are worth a meal. This small town is packed with walks, adventure, and scenic activities, something for everyone.  

Your accommodation: Glenfern Villas

Just outside the main Franz Josef village, Glenfern Villas is the ideal base for you to enjoy everything the glorious West Coast has to offer. Well equipped self-contained villas provide all you need.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 167 kms / 104 miles : 2.0 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 3
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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Okarito Lagoon Guided Kayak Trip

Kayaking is by far the best way to enjoy the flora, fauna and scenic grandeur of New Zealand's largest unmodified coastal wetland. Previous experience is not necessary. Okarito Lagoon covers more than 3240 hectares of shallow open water and is well known for its outstanding bird life, including white heron and royal spoonbill. Exploring the open water and river channels that lead you deep into the heart of the rainforest is like stepping back in time to pre-European conditions and on a clear day you enjoy fantastic views of Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps. Your guide will take you to their favourite spots where you'll discover the flora, fauna and history of the lagoon.

Your accommodation: Glenfern Villas

Just outside the main Franz Josef village, Glenfern Villas is the ideal base for you to enjoy everything the glorious West Coast has to offer. Well equipped self-contained villas provide all you need.

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 4
Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Wanaka)

Heading south you pass through the second glacier town of Fox Glacier before heading along the coast and more classic West Coast bush scenery. Be sure you stop at the Paringa Salmon Farm for lunch or a refreshment make sure you feed the fish, it's very impressive. At Knights Point Lookout elephant seals can often be seen basking on the sandy beaches at the far end of the point.
Crossing the massive Haast River you turn inland and head into the valley climbing through mountains littered with waterfalls.
The Haast Valley offers a spectacular view of the river and its enormous power. The Blue Pools near Makarora are a great 30-minute walk. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea guide you into the township of Wanaka before you head over New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road before dropping into Queenstown. This drive should be planned as a whole day to really enjoy the scenery and to allow time to explore the walks, and many stops en route.

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: 344 kms / 213 miles : 4.6 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 5
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Queenstown

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

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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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 6
Safari of the Scenes Queenstown Tour

For those keen on the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings films, join Nomad Safaris for an unexpectedly delightful journey. In safari-equipped 4WD vehicles, you will be taken on a true off-road adventure. Experienced guides will take you on a breathtaking excursion through diverse scenery around the Whakatipu Basin. See historic Arrowtown and go over the Arrow River, as well as experiencing the truly remarkable views of the lake and mountain surround from the Skippers Canyon Saddle. Although no sets remain intact, the landscapes are instantly recognisable. Some of the sites you will visit during this tour include the Misty Mountains, Pillars of Kings and the Ford of Bruinen.

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.

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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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 7
Queenstown to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Leaving Queenstown you'll head through the Kawarau Gorge and over the historic Kawarau Bridge, a popular bungy jumping location. Choose to participate in this daredevil sport or watch others instead. Continue through Gibbston and be sure to stop at one of its many vineyards for a tasting. As you leave the gorge you'll arrive in Cromwell, known for its many fruit orchards. If you're a foodie at heart, we recommend taking a side trip to Bannockburn for a complete food and wine experience at one its many award-winning wineries and restaurants.
Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Completely submerged when the Clyde Dam was built and Lake Dunstan established in 1992, the remnants of the old Cromwell town provides a unique snapshot into this areas history. Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel, the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Aoraki Mt Cook Highway to arrive in the small 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: 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: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 8
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Akaroa

Your first stop today should be the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. As well as a great presentation detailing the formation of the region over thousands of years you are also often rewarded with uninterrupted views of over 50 kilometres to the peak of Aoraki Mt Cook.
Lake Tekapo, the northern most of the large Southern Lakes also the reflective quality that Pukaki has making the waters a bright turquoise on certain days. This busy little township is home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just enjoy the magnificent views.
From here you descend from the high country through Burkes Pass and into rich farmland. Beautiful Valley guides you to the town of Geraldine before you cross the vast Canterbury Plains  towards Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula.
The Banks Peninsula offers a great contrast to the South Island's largest city. Just around a 1 1/2 hours drive from the city centre are rolling green hills, streams, golden sand beaches and small settlements that offer a unique insight into New Zealand's history and development.
Just on the other side of the Port Hills is Lyttelton, a busy port town that was crucial to the development of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains. Following the road around the beautiful natural harbour the names, such as Magazine Bay, Battery Point, Corsair Point and Governers Bay, remind of the importance the navy placed on this harbour.
The Banks Peninsula itself is actually the remains of a long extinct volcano, the rim of which collapsed some time ago allowing the sea to flood into and create what is now the Akaroa Harbour. In 1840 French colonists settled in Akaroa in a bid to stake a claim for the South Island. Unbeknown the British had already declared sovereignty and a long drawn out dispute ensued with the British eventually being given government. However the French stayed and made this stunning part of the South Pacific their home and still to this day the town boasts French street names and every year a French Festival is held.
The Harbour itself is teeming with wildlife and a nature cruise is a must do activity. One of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, hectors dolphin, are often seen and cruises also offer excursions with the chance to swim amongst them.

Your accommodation: Criterion Motel

The Criterion Motel offers studio apartments with spectacular views over Akaroa Harbour. You're also just a short walk from the fantastic cafes and restaurants that Akaroa offers.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 9
Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Experience majestic scenery and stunning wildlife daily on a Black Cat Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. You’ll see the rare, native dolphin – the Hector’s or New Zealand Dolphin. There’s also the chance to spot the world’s smallest penguin, the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin, Fur Seals and other sea birds.
Other cruise highlights are some majestic volcanic cliffs (including the impressive Cathedral Cave) and signs of Akaroa’s fascinating past including early Maori, French and British settlements.

Akaroa to Christchurch (via Lyttelton)

Head to Christchurch today crossing the hills with spectacular views of the harbour. We recommend taking the slightly longer but much more scenic route around Lyttelton Harbour.  Just turn at Gebbies Pass Road and follow the road as it passes by the bays named after the areas naval past such as Corsair and Governors Bay. Take the tunnel into the city.

Your accommodation: Quest Cathedral Junction

Quest Cathedral Junction serviced apartment style hotel rooms offer guests a relaxed and comfortable Christchurch accommodation experience. Quest Cathedral Junction is located within the Christchurch CBD, only a short walk to Cathedral Square, New Regent Street Entertainment Precinct, Isaac Royal Theatre, Botanic Gardens.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 85 kms / 53 miles : 1.5 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed - Day 10
Return your vehicle to Christchurch Airport

Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 7 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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Fiords, Glaciers and Mountains Family Adventure - reversed
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