South Island National Parks Tour
18 day South Island Self Drive, from Christchurch to Queenstown
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South Island National Parks Tour

Explore the National Parks and natural areas of the South Island. You begin with a whale watching adventure in Kaikoura, before heading to Abel Tasman National park for a guided kayak and walk. Then you journey down the wild West Coast to Punakaiki, Franz Josef and Westland National Park. Take a heli-hike from Franz Josef before travelling to the alpine village of Wanaka. Mt Cook National Park is next with a full day to explore and a Glacier Explorers iceberg encounter. Heading east you reach Dunedin, before heading to Te Anau and Fiordland National park. You venture deep into the pristine forests and fiords with a Milford Track guided day walk and Doubtful Sound cruise. Then it’s onto your final destination of Queenstown.  

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South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$5,955 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Queenstown

18 days/17 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 56 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch today
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 2: Explore Christchurch City and surrounds
Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 3: Head north through Canterbury to the marine mecca of Kaikoura
Accommodation: The White Morph, Kaikoura
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

Day 4: Travel to the idyllic Tasman Bay
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 303 kms / 188 miles : 4.3 hours

Day 5: Kayak the aqua blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park and walk the gentle coastal tracks
Accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

Day 6: Skirt Kahurangi National Park as you journey to the West Coast and Paparoa National Park
Accommodation: Havenz Punakaiki (Self check in required)
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 286 kms / 177 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 7: Follow the rugged coastline south to the glacier region
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 212 kms / 131 miles : 2.6 hours

Day 8: Explore the glaciers and walks of Westland National Park
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 9: Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 283 kms / 176 miles : 3.3 hours

Day 10: Cross the Lindis Pass towards the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 201 kms / 125 miles : 2.2 hours

Day 11: Explore Mt Cook National Park and Surrounds
Accommodation: Mt Cook Motel

Day 12: Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin
Accommodation: Motel on York
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 13: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 14: Cruise through Milford Sound and enjoy some spectacular walks in Fiordland
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Day 15: Take a journey to the 'Sound of Silence' where you'll cruise on the remote Doubtful Sound
Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge

Day 16: 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 17: The day is yours to discover all the scenic spots and fun activities on offer in Queenstown
Accommodation: Scenic Suites Queenstown

Day 18: Depart Queenstown today

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

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
South Island National Parks Tour - 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.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

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South Island National Parks Tour - 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.

Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.
Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.
Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.  

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometer to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano, which exploded six million years ago. Take in the spectacular panoramic views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains, and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex, enjoy a coffee or lunch in the cafe, and choose one of many nature walks to explore or visit the Christchurch Discovery Rice, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch. 

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: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 3
Christchurch to Kaikoura

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

Your accommodation: The White Morph, Kaikoura

Set on the Esplanade in Kaikōura, The White Morph enjoys commanding views of the ocean and mountains. Just a 10-minute walk into town, The White Morph has been beautifully placed so that you can take in the spectacular scenery of Kaikoura while enjoying the variety of attractions on offer.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 179 kms / 111 miles : 2.5 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 4
Ocean's Cabin with 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.

Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park

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 New Zealand's largest wine producing region.The vineyards surrounding Blenheim are a great place to stop for a wine tasting or lunch at one of the many fine restaurants, including the award winning Herzog Winery and Restaurant. A short drive from Blenheim you reach the busy port town of Picton, and it's here that the Interislander ferries arrive and depart. The town centre is quite small with plenty of shops and cafes and the waterfront area is a very pleasant place to spend time watching the activity of the ships. The Edwin Fox Maritime Centre on the wharf is worth a visit with the star attraction being the vessel the Edwin Fox, reputably the 9th oldest ship in the world. It's also the starting point the for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. Queen Charlotte Drive travels the Marlborough Sounds coastline between Picton and Havelock. Magnificent views of the sounds can be had from many vantage points so allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The highway between Nelson and Picton also crosses the Pelorus River and just at this junction is the famous and historic Pelorus Bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks with the most popular the 30 minute loop through beech, rimu and totara forest to the swing-bridge. Crossing the Bryant Range you arrive onto Tasman Bay and the city of Nelson. Motueka is a further 45 minutes along the bay and from there it's just a short drive to Kaiteriteri and Marahau, all ideal spots from which to explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 303 kms / 188 miles : 4.3 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 5
Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Why not enjoy a scenic cruise through the Sounds or take a kayaking tour around its many sheltered bays? Relax to the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the parks many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals fur seals and dolphins.

Beaches, Bays and Seals Guided Sea Kayaking Trip Including Picnic Lunch

Combining the best of the Abel Tasman, this trip showcases incredible beaches, coastal walks and native wildlife. First you'll meet your guide and join the 9.30 am Vista Cruise along the magnificent coastline to Torrent Bay. You'll then arrive at Torrent Bay Lodge and complete a full training session and safety briefing before moving on to the water in kayaks to discover beautiful beaches, tidal estuaries and rivers.
Stop for a picnic lunch in a sheltered cove and take some time to swim, explore or sunbathe on the sand. On your return trip, if the winds are favourable, sails will be hoisted and you'll sail back via Pinnacle Island to view the seal colony there - if you're lucky, you may even see some resident blue penguins at the same time. Arriving back at Torrent Bay Lodge, freshen up with a hot shower and re-join the vista cruise back to Kaiteriteri, arriving at 4.10 pm.
During the summer there is the option to enjoy an unguided two hour coastal bush walk after the kayaking trip. Walk around the picturesque Torrent Bay Lagoon via Cleopatra's Pool to the anchorage where you will re-join the boat back to Kaiteriteri.

It is important you read and understand the risks associated with this activity. For more information see here.

Your accommodation: Ocean View Chalets

The Ocean View Chalets are situated on a 50-acre farmlet, slightly elevated and nestled along the bush line with panoramic sea views. Great access the National Park and close to the friendly Marahau village.

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 6
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: Havenz Punakaiki (Self check in required)

Havenz Punakaiki offers a selection of traditional Kiwi hideaways: luxury homes, holiday apartments and baches. These holiday retreats are situated in tranquil native forest and offer easy access to beaches, the Paparoa National Park and the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.

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

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 7
Punakaiki to Franz Josef Glacier

The drive South on State Highway 6 takes you through many West Coast towns. The first is Greymouth, the commercial centre for the West Coast. Just south of the town is Shantytown a replica gold rush town with lots of great displays from yesteryear.
The next town is Hokitika and this is a great place to explore the craft and gift stores. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge, off the beaten track and inland a little is a spectacular detour. Turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
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 centre offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Continuing south 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.
Whataroa, a small township on the main road is where you would head off to see one of the worlds rarest birds. The entire population (somewhere between 150 and 200 birds) of 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 to the Glacier region you catch your first glimpse of Franz Josef Glacier from a few kilometres out as it flows from the Southern Alps. Franz Josef township is a lively place with a great atmosphere, plenty of choice to dine out and some wonderful activities to enjoy.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 212 kms / 131 miles : 2.6 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 8
Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. 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 operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Walking tracks in and around Franz Josef

There are many walks and hikes in and around Franz Josef. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation. Located in Franz Josef village is a Department of Conservation information centre and you can get updates on track conditions and suitability plus you can learn about the area, its natural history and its people. Listed below are a selection of short walks but check with the Department of Conservation information centre for weather conditions, track suitability and conditions  first.

Douglas Walk
The Douglas Walk is an easy one-hour forest walk that passes by the Peters Pool viewpoint and crosses several moraines before descending to the bridge across Dolly Creek on the way back to the road.
Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr return

Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere Walk
The 40-minute walk to the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier follows a rocky path over riverbed. Only experienced and prepared visitors should attempt climbing on the glacier.
Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 30 min return

Lake Wombat Track
The Lake Wombat Track leads you through a lush rimu forest to the idyllic Lake Wombat.
Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 30 min

Okarito walking tracks
North of the Franz Josef Township sits the coastal settlement of Okarito and the Okarito Lagoon. The lagoon is home to more than 76 species of native birds including the kōtuku/white heron and royal spoonbills.
Category:  Walking track.

Peters Pool Walk
The spectacular view at Peters Pool includes Franz Josef Glacier/Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, and the Fritz Range, including Mt Moltke and Mt Roon.
Category:  Easy access walk. Completion Time:  25 min

Sentinel Rock Walk
Just a short distance south of the Franz Josef Township you will come to the Glacier and Sentinel Rock walks. The Sentinel Rock Lookout offers impressive views of the glacier, the valley and Waiho River.
Category:  Short walk. Completion Time:  20 min

Tatare Tunnels Walk
The 80-minute return Tatare Tunnels Walk follows an old 4WD road to a junction with the Callery/Waiho Walk. From there follow the track to the old water tunnels.
Category:  Walking track. Completion Time:  1 hr 20 min return

Terrace Walk
Follow the Terrace Walk as it winds through forest and goes by remnants of past gold mining operations.
Category:  Short walk. Completion Time:  30 min

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: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 9
Franz Josef to Wanaka

Heading south you will climb over the Fox hills before arriving at the small town of Fox Glacier. If it's a nice day enjoy spectacular reflections of snowcapped mountains in Lake Matheson, located just 5 minutes west of Fox. Heading south from fox enjoy the amazing scenery of the Southern Alps, and sneak peeks of the rugged beaches while winding through ancient temperate rainforests. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. At Knights Point Lookout, elephant seals can often be seen basking on the sandy beaches at the far end of the point. Crossing the Haast River you’ll turn inland and through the mountainous valley littered with waterfalls. A great suggested stop along this route is the Blue Pools. Continue on past lakes Hawea and Wanaka into the alpine township of Wanaka.

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: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments

Clearbrook offers luxury apartment style and townhouse accommodation options and is located just metres from Wanaka's main street and its majestic lake front.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 283 kms / 176 miles : 3.3 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 10
Wanaka to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Passing through the Clutha River valley you arrive into the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café.  You then traverse the Lindis Pass, 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 Central Otago into the Mackenzie Basin. The towns of Omarama and Twizel are the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mt Cook Highway along the shores to the village. In Aoraki Mt Cook Village a myriad of activities are available from scenic flights with glacier landings, to kayaking on a glacial lake and a host of walks to suit all abilities. 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.

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: 201 kms / 125 miles : 2.2 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 11
Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park

At 3754 metres Aoraki-Mt Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, located deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. From the Visitor Centre at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of this immense peak. As well as its impressive beauty, Mt Cook National Park is also home to a huge range of awe-inspiring sights and activities. Take to the air with Mt Cook Ski Planes for a scenic flight that includes a glacier landing. At around 27 kilometres long the Tasman Glacier is New Zealand's longest and a Glacier Explorers tour will give you the opportunity to see its unique features.
There are many short hikes in and around the park and these are well signposted. Those with an interest in the night sky should take a stargazing tour with the Hermitage Hotel. The region is considered to have one of the clearest night skies in the world and is one of the few gold-rated dark sky reserves worldwide.
The Hermitage Hotel complex offers fine dining, multiple cafes and a bar. Due to the remote location of the property, there are no shops and limited supplies at Mt Cook Village. Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre for insight into this region's mountain climbing history. You'll also learn of Sir Ed's incredible achievements and his dedication to helping others around the world.
The Hooker Valley Track is an iconic track that offers one of the best day hikes in New Zealand. The trail winds through the Hooker Valley, passing swinging bridges, glacier-fed rivers, and offering breathtaking views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and its surrounding peaks. The Kea Point track is an easy walking track offering stunning views of the Mueller Glacier terminal lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook. Suitable for all ages and fitness levels, it's a great option for those looking for a shorter hike with incredible scenery. 

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.

Walking tracks in and around Aoraki / Mt. Cook National Park

There are many short scenic walks beginning in and around the Mt Cook Village, suitable for all ages and abilities. Located within the Mount Cook Village is the Department of Conservation information centre, where updates on the track conditions and suitability is available as well as information on the history of the area and its wildlife.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Highlights - Scenic Flight with Glacier Landing

Take in the spectacular Southern Alps, including New Zealand's highest peak Aoraki Mount Cook and the constantly changing glacial landscape. See the Hochstetter Icefall as you fly beneath the face of Mount Cook then along the length of the Tasman glacier before landing on the glacier itself. Experience the silence of the mountains, broken only by the rumbling of an avalanche and creaking of the snow and ice beneath your feet. You'll take off again for another incredible flight over peaks, ice falls, alpine lakes and climbing huts. This flight offers fantastic close up views of Aoraki Mount Cook, Mt Tasman and the Southern Alps from Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

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.

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 12
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.

Walking tracks on the Otago Peninsula

There are a number of short walks to enjoy on the Peninsular. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation.

Sandfly Bay
Walking Time: 1 hr return walk from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 25 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road, then right onto Seal Point Road. The carpark is at the end of this road. A path crosses farmland to the top of the sand dunes. Go down the sand hill - which can be rather testing on the return, uphill journey - and walk about a kilometre along the beach. Near the southern end a marked track leads up to a hide to view the locals, yellow-eyed penguins. Please keep at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, 20 metres from active animals and if you are in a group don't surround them. With penguins, please don't linger on the beach below the hide, or anywhere else where they may come ashore. If you encounter a penguin on the beach keep well away and crouch down. If they feel threatened they will not come ashore.

Tunnel Beach

Walking Time: 1 hour / 2km return walk from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 15 minutes south from the centre of Dunedin.

Tunnel Beach is to the south of Dunedin. Start at the car park on Tunnel Beach Road, signposted off Blackhead Road. This short walk goes through an excavated tunnel kids will love, to a secluded beach and a spectacular, rocky coastline.

Sandymount

Walking Time: Lovers Leap 50 min return walk from carpark or Sandymount Circuit 1 hr return walk from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 30 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

Turn off Highcliff Road onto Sandymount Road and the carpark is at the end of the road. The loop track begins at the carpark at the end of Sandymount Road. This walk via The Chasm and Lovers Leap - with a side track to Sandymount summit - gives spectacular views of Otago Peninsula's coastline and cliff tops. Another marked route provides alternative access to Sandfly Bay. The Lovers Leap and Chasm tracks are closed for lambing, 1 August - 31 October.

Allans Beach

Walking Time: 5 min walk to the beach from carpark

Getting there - drive is approximately 40 minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

From Portobello turn onto Allans Beach Road. The carpark is at the end of the road.

Special wildlife such as sea lions and penguins frequent this wild ocean beach. Please respect their needs by keeping at least 10 metres away from sleeping sea lions, and 20 metres from active animals. Do not linger on beaches where penguins may come ashore.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Penguin Tour with The Opera

Learn about the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguin when you visit The Opera - Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance, a private conservation reserve dedicated to ensuring the survival of this unique species. The project is entirely funded by guided tours which allow the conservation team to engage in habitat restoration, predator control, a research program, and an on-site rehabilitation facility.
On your tour, you will learn about the issues the Yellow Eyed Penguin faces, their life cycle, and how the project is carried out. Your experience will begin in a theatre before moving to the rehabilitation center where penguins may be seen up close. You'll take a short bus trip over to the reserve and be led on foot approx 2km by your guide through a system of covered trenches to view hides that allow access to the living and breeding habitat of this very shy bird without disturbing them. There is also an opportunity to meet other animals that reside in the reserve including fur seals, sea lions, and several species of shore and land birds.

Your accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. The property offers superior accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants.

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

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 13
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound, renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

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: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 14
Milford Sound Small Group Coach, Cruise and Walks

Enjoy a leisurely small group day excursion to Milford Sound from Te Anau, including a Boat Cruise along the full length of the fiord. You then be able to complete a series of short walks with your experienced nature guide. Includes picnic lunch and wilderness tea break.
From Te Anau travel along the spectacular Milford Road with local, experienced nature guides eager to share their stories, knowledge and passion for the area, bringing the mysteries of Fiordland to life. On reaching Milford Sound, join a large Boat Cruise for a nature focused cruise on the Milford Sound taking you out to the Tasman Sea. The cruise provides excellent opportunities to view the waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife. There is also the option to visit the fascinating Milford Discovery Centre (additional cost). On completion of the cruise, passengers re-group and begin their overland walking tour. Your nature guide will take you on a series of walks in a range of spectacular environments. The National Park concession allows you to access Gertrude Valley, Lake Gunn, Marian Gantry, the historic Hollyford Museum and Humbolt Falls, alongside the more visited stops. The day can be tailored to the weather and seasonal highlights to ensure more enjoyment from the wilderness and wildlife in this World Heritage Area. During the short walks, you'll stop for a wilderness tea-break with complimentary billy tea, coffee and home style biscuits. The groups then reunite before continuing along the Milford Road back to Te Anau.

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

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 15
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from 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 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 onboard 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'. Includes picnic boxed lunch.

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

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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 16
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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South Island National Parks Tour - Day 17
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 - Dart River Wilderness Jet

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, the Wilderness Jet adventures on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

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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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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