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New Zealand Southern Pioneer


New Zealand’s South Island has a reputation as one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth, yet it still manages to defy expectations. On this 10-day round trip from Christchurch, you’ll be met with astonishing sight after astonishing sight as a local leader shows you what they love about their country. Get your heart racing in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, discover the laidback delights of postcard-perfect Wanaka, stand in awe of the Franz Josef Glacier, and cross the Southern Alps on one of the world’s most spectacular train journeys. Between glacial lakes and snow-capped peaks, you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about.

10 days, from

$3,155

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: PHKS
Style: Original
Print itinerary

Details

Countries Visited:  New Zealand
Accommodation: 9 nights in twin-share 3–4 star accommodation: a mix of hotels, motels, lodges, and rainforest retreats. Spend one night glamping (luxury camping) on Criffel Station – a working deer farm.
Transportation: Private Vehicle , Train
Meals: 2 dinners, 9 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 6, Max 16

  • Starting and finishing in the city of Christchurch, your local leader will show you the innovative and creative ways the city is rebuilding after a devastating earthquake in 2011.

  • Live it up in the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown. Whether you fancy bungy jumping, jet boating, horseback riding or wine tasting, there’s something here to entice everyone.

  • Get to know Wanaka, one of New Zealand’s prettiest towns (and that’s saying something!). Join your leader on an e-bike tour past glittering lakes and gorgeous peaks.

  • Visit a local gallery in Franz Josef and carve a pendant out of pounamu while learning about the precious stone’s significance to Maori culture.

  • You’re on track for one of the world’s most scenic train journeys – cross the spectacular Southern Alps on the famous TranzAlpine from the West Coast to Christchurch.

Itinerary

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Day 1: Christchurch

Welcome to Aotearoa (New Zealand). Sparsely populated and spectacularly beautiful, the South Island is a paradise for lovers of nature, wildlife and the great outdoors. Your adventure begins in Christchurch – a welcome meeting will take place at your hotel at 6pm this evening where you’ll meet your local leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, you may like to take a pleasant stroll through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to admire the collection of native plants, or stop by the Canterbury Museum to learn about the region’s cultural heritage. After your welcome meeting, you may like to get to know your group over dinner, or perhaps rest up for an exciting day ahead tomorrow.

Day 2: Christchurch / Lake Tekapo / Ohau

Christchurch is not just a pretty city – it’s also remarkably resilient. After a devasting earthquake destroyed much of the downtown area in 2011, the city has begun to rebuild in innovative and creative ways. Head out with your leader this morning to see this for yourself. Stop by the Christchurch Cathedral, which stood as symbol of the city before collapsing in the earthquake, and has now been replaced with an architecturally striking and quake-proof structure made out of cardboard. After a morning of exploring, say goodbye to Christchurch and drive inland to Lake Tekapo. An eye-catching combination of purple lupins, turquoise waters and snow-dusted peaks makes this one of the most photo-worthy spots in the country. The Church of the Good Shepherd sits on the shores of the lakes and attracts couples from all over the world shooting their wedding pictures. It’s easy to see why – backdrops don’t get much better than this! Continue to Lake Ohau where you’ll spend the night.

Day 3: Mackenzie Country / Queenstown

Hit the road this morning for a journey to remember – watch out the window as you pass the sprawling grasslands of the Mackenzie Basin and showstopping peaks of the Southern Alps. Your drive will be broken up with plenty of scenic stops, including a visit to Kawarau Gorge, a popular spot for bungy jumping. If you’re feeling adventurous, get involved and jump off the suspension bridge crossing the gorge, or just stand back and watch brave jumpers take the plunge. Continue on to Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of the world, and rightfully so! Aside from its high-adrenaline attractions, Queenstown has a booming culinary scene, produces some of the worlds best wine and boasts unbelievable scenery at every turn.

Day 4: Queenstown

The day is all yours to discover the varied delights of Queenstown. There are loads of options to get your heartrate up, whether you fancy shooting down the river on a jet boat, river kayaking, flying above the town in a gondola or horseback riding through landscapes of Lord of the Rings fame. If you’d like to take things a little slower, perhaps head to the Gibbston Valley to taste wines only topped by the inspiring scenery. A walk around the stunning Lake Wakatipu will give you a good dose of fresh air and epic views. There’s no shortage of dining options to tempt your tastebuds – if you’re willing to wait, a famous Fergburger is hard to beat!

Day 5: Queenstown / Wanaka

Take the chance this morning to cross off any Queenstown activities you didn’t have time for yesterday – be sure to speak to your leader for tips on the best way to spend a morning here. In the afternoon, get back on the road for a seriously scenic 1-hour drive to Wanaka through the Crown Range Mountains. Stop off along the way in Arrowtown, a little goldrush town with big personality. Take a walk along the tree-lined high street where historic buildings nod to the town’s glory days. Arrive in Wanaka in the afternoon and embrace the vibe of this laidback and beautiful town. With Lake Wanaka as its glittering centrepiece and dramatic mountains as its backdrop, the town is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most bewitching. This afternoon you may like to head out on a hike or just stretch out on the shores of the lake and take it all in.

Day 6: Wanaka

Get ready for a memorable start to the day as you hop aboard an electric bike, joining your leader for a cycling tour of picturesque Wanaka and its surrounds. Just like a regular bike but with a small motor, using an e-bike makes pedalling easier, especially uphill. After your cycling tour, the balance of the day is free for your own discoveries of Wanaka. You may like to pay a visit to Mou Waho Island – home to an island in a lake on an island in another lake, this is a real geological anomaly! No visit to Wanaka would be complete without seeing #thatwanakatree. Springing up from the waters of Lake Wanaka, this sloping willow is one of the most photographed trees in the world. There's no shortage of excellent hiking routes in the region if you'd like to get out and explore on foot, or you may prefer to hire a bike and hit the cycling trails. Tonight’s accommodation is pretty special – connect with nature as you go to sleep in comfortable yurts fitted out with modern comforts.

Day 7: Wanaka / Franz Josef

Enjoy a morning at leisure in Wanaka before getting back on the road and making tracks for Franz Josef. This is another incredible drive that you're going to want to have your camera ready for. Depending on the weather, stop off at either Lake Hawea or Lake Wanaka, both boasting incredible lookout points. Along the way, your leader will pause at some off the beaten track spots to snap some pictures and stretch your legs. If you're travelling between September and December, you're in luck – this is whitebait season. Tasting these local treats is an absolute must when you're in the South Island, so if you're travelling within this time you can expect a few stops to get your hands on these tasty little fish, usually served fried with eggs on toast. Arrive into Franz Josef in the early evening and perhaps head out to one of the town’s cosy pubs for dinner.

Day 8: Franz Josef

Rise and shine – you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and there's so much to discover here. Known for the dazzling Franz Josef glacier and awe-inspiring views of Mt Cook, this is natural beauty on the biggest scale. The region also has a cultural history that’s every bit as captivating as its natural wonders. Only found in the South Island of New Zealand, pounamu (greenstone) is an important part of Maori culture. Today you’ll pay a visit to a local gallery where you’ll have the chance to carve your own pounamu pendant while learning about its spiritual and cultural significance. If you’d like to get up close and personal with Franz Josef Glacier in the afternoon, you can arrange for a helicopter to drop you in for a hike on the ice. You may prefer to sit back and unwind in local hot springs, or head out kayaking on an icy blue glacial lake. Your leader will be on hand to help make arrangements.

Day 9: Hokitika / Greymouth / Christchurch

Begin the journey up the west coast – this is the rainiest part of New Zealand, resulting in greenery and lush rainforests like nowhere else in the country. Stop off in the lovely little town of Hokitika where a visit to a pounamu factory will give you the chance to pick up any last souvenirs of gifts. If time allows, there may be the chance to check out the National Kiwi Centre – the nocturnal house here gives visitors the opportunity to see how these delightful birds behave at night. The next stretch of your journey may just be the most magnificent – hop aboard the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch, widely believed to be one of the top train journeys in the world. Cross through the Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass and travel past the rushing blue waters of the Waimakariri River and endless native beech forest. Arrive in Christchurch in the evening.

Day 10: Christchurch

Your South Island adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. If you’d like to spend some more time in Christchurch, just get in touch ahead of time and we’d be happy to arrange additional accommodation (subject to availability).

Unscripted experiences, insider access and authentic local flavors


Our team of travel specialists and local contacts have curated some of the best, most exclusive and authentic experiences, restaurants and accommodations in New Zealand to truly immerse yourself in a way that wouldn't be possible in larger groups or just on your own.

10 days, from $3,155

to book call 1-844-205-6226

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