Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure
10 day South Island Self Drive, from Queenstown to Queenstown
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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure

Starting in the resort town of Queenstown, you'll 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 the West Coast. Explore the magnificent glaciers and rainforest and enjoy a scenic helicopter flight with a snow landing. Journey east to Christchurch crossing the Southern Alps on board the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train. From here you can explore the magnificent Akaroa Harbour and its wildlife, before heading south to the mountains and glacier lake of Mt Cook National Park then back to Queenstown.

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Itinerary details at a glance

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,782 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Queenstown

10 days/9 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 21 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive into Queenstown
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 2: Discover for yourself why Queenstown is known as the 'Adventure Capital of New Zealand'
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 3: Journey to the remote Doubtful Sound for a true wilderness experience
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 4: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Glenfern Villas
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 5: Explore the glaciers with a scenic helicopter flight and in the evening relax at the glacier hot pools
Accommodation: Glenfern Villas

Day 6: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Quest Cathedral Junction
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 7: Cross the Bank's Peninsula to charming Akaroa where you'll enjoy an afternoon nature cruise
Accommodation: Criterion Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

Day 8: Make the scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country to Mt. Cook National Park for your Glacier Explorers tour
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

Day 9: Return to Queenstown and make the most of your last night with a cruise across Lake Wakatipu and dinner at Walter Peak
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 257 kms / 159 miles : 3.0 hours

Day 10: Depart Queenstown

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 8 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - 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!

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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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 2
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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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 3
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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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 4
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 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.

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: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 5
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: 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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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 6
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: 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: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 7
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 Akaroa

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.

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.

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: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

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

Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route the first township of Geraldine offers an ideal refreshment stop before you head into Mackenzie country.
Passing through places such as Beautiful Valley it's not hard to understand where the names originate. Ascending Burkes Pass and onto the high country plateau and the picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, the first of the large Southern Lakes. 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.
Lake Pukaki is just another 30 minutes from Lake Tekapo and its from here you can be rewarded with spectacular views the full length of the lake and into Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. In Mt Cook Village a myriad of activities are available from glacier landings by ski plane or helicopter, kayaking on a glacial lake and a host of walks to suit all abilities and time frames. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is a must see.
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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Museum and Theatre Explorer Pass

The Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre pays tribute to one of New Zealand's greatest characters - humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers. Showcasing the Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people within a comprehensive museum as well as a 126-seat custom-designed theatre and Digital Dome Planetarium. this informative experience is one to remember.

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: 383 kms / 238 miles : 4.7 hours

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Mountains, Fiords and Glaciers Family Adventure - Day 9
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National park and travel to Queenstown. Go through the lakeside town of Twizel and then pass through the gliding capital of New Zealand Omarama, before ascending the Lindis Pass. Follow the road to Cromwell, located at the at the head of the Kawarau Gorge. Continue on towards the Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand's premier wine growing regions. See the historic Kawarau Bridge where you can bungy jump, or relax and watch others take the plunge. Approaching Queenstown, the Remarkables mountain range comes into view as you arrive into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Skyline Gondola Queenstown and 3 Luge Rides

In the heart of Queenstown, located 450 metres above town in the Ben Lomond Scenic Reserve is the Skyline Complex. A gondola ride to the summit makes for awe-inspiring views of the city surround. Arrive at the complex and wander the outside viewing decks for a picture perfect outlook. Then onto the Luge! The 800 metre luge track offers an exhilarating journey through banked corners, tunnels and dippers.

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.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 257 kms / 159 miles : 3.0 hours

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

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

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 8 kms / 5 miles : 0.2 hours

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