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New Zealand’s South Island in Depth


From glaciers to golden beaches, rainforests to resort towns and glittering lakes to gigantic peaks, New Zealand’s South Island truly has it all. Embark on a 14-day adventure through some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes, and with a local leader by your side, you’ll also see the beneath the surface. Encounter creativity and resilience in Christchurch, gaze at out-of-this-world stars in Lake Tekapo, get your adrenaline pumping in Queenstown and take your time in postcard-pretty Wanaka. Stand in awe of the Franz Josef Glacier, stay in the heart of Punakaiki’s subtropical rainforest and explore the pristine coastline of Abel Tasman National Park.

14 days, from

$2,265

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: PHRYC
Style: Basix
Print itinerary

Details

Countries Visited:  New Zealand
Accommodation: Multi-share hostel with shared facilities (13 nights)
Transportation: Private Vehicle , Ferry
Meals: dinners, 14 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 6, Max 16

  • Starting off in Christchurch, see the cool and creative ways the city has rebuilt post-earthquake before heading to the stunning shores of Lake Tekapo.

  • Calling all adventure seekers! Queenstown is overflowing with adrenaline-pumping activities, so dive straight in or sit back with a glass of world-class local wine.

  • It just doesn’t get better looking than Wanaka. From its centrepiece lake to surrounding mountains, uncover all this pretty little spot has to offer.

  • Stand in awe of the epic Franz Josef glacier and visit a local gallery to learn about the significance of pounamu (greenstone) to Maori culture while carving your own pendant.

  • Explore the coastal delights of Abel Tasman National Park, where secluded coves and golden beaches make walking, kayaking and swimming a real joy.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Wellington / Kaikoura

Welcome to Wellington! Your adventure begins in New Zealand’s capital where you’ll meet up with your local leader and new travel buddies for an 8am welcome meeting and breakfast. Then it's time to head out with your leader and visit local hotspots and hangouts, including a trip up Mt Victoria for amazing views over the city. Say goodbye to the North Island and jump on a ferry across the Cook Strait. Your introduction to the South Island is certainly a beautiful one as you cruise through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds and into Picton Harbour. Next up, travel down to Kaikoura, famous for its abundance of marine wildlife. If you’re heading out for dinner in town tonight, then the local crayfish should be at the top of your must-try list!

Day 2: Kaikoura / Christchurch

Experiencing Kaikoura’s wildlife while you’re in this corner of the country is a must, so take the chance this morning to get to know the town’s most famous creatures. You may like to set out on a trip to swim with dolphins in their natural habitat – dusky dolphins, hectors dolphins and common dolphins are all common around these parts. Kaikoura is one of the best spots in the world for whale watching, with humpbacks, orcas and sperm whales often sighted on whale watching cruises. On your way out of town, stop by a seal colony to watch endearing fur seals go about their business. Travel down to Christchurch, arriving in time to head out for dinner at one of the city’s many top-notch eateries.

Day 3: Christchurch / Lake Tekapo

A meeting will take place at 8am this morning to welcome any new travellers joining your trip here, then head out to get to know Christchurch. After being rocked by an earthquake in 2011, much of Christchurch’s downtown was destroyed, but the locals are a resilient bunch and examples of the cool and creative ways they’ve rebuilt can be seen across the city. Perhaps the best example of this is the Christchurch Cathedral – rebuilt out of cardboard, this is now one of the city’s most interesting architectural features. Then it’s time to get on the road and drive to Lake Tekapo, a truly stunning sight with its bright blue waters and surrounding mountains. Keep an eye out for newlyweds snapping pictures in front of the Church of the Good Shepherd, boasting one of the world’s most inspiring backdrops! Just when you thought things couldn’t get better here, nighttime reveals a whole new side of Tekapo. A designated Dark Sky Reserve, this is one of the top spots in the country for stargazing.

Day 4: Queenstown

Rise and shine! If you’d like to really embrace the morning, a hike to the summit of Mt John rewards with showstopping views of the Southern Alps. If you skip out on the walk, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of incredible views to be seen today. Drive past the tussocklands of the Mackenzie Basin and snow-dusted peaks of the Southern Alps as you travel down to Queenstown, making plenty of photo-worthy stops along the way. Swing by the Kawarau Gorge, where you’ll have the chance to take the plunge with a bungy jump if you’re feeling brave! Arrive in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world and your home for the next two nights. Whether you’re into high-adrenaline experiences or sitting back with a glass of wine, Queenstown is sure to tick all your boxes.

Day 5: Queenstown

The day is yours to experience all Queenstown has to offer. If you want to get your heart racing, look no further! Paragliding, jet boating, mountain biking, canyon swinging and bungy jumping could all be on the cards for you today – just speak to your leader about arranging these optional activities. For Lord of the Rings fans, a horseback ride through scenery where the film was shot is a real highlight. Wine lovers are in the right place – this is one of the top wine-producing regions in the world and there’s no shortage of fantastic wineries where you can sample some for yourself. Queenstown’s nightlife punches above its size, and with more than 40 bars to choose from, you’re guaranteed a good night ahead.

Day 6: Queenstown / Wanaka

Take the morning to tick off anything you didn’t get to see or do yesterday, then leave Queenstown in the rear-view mirror and begin the super scenic drive across the Crown Range to Wanaka. Along the way, stop off in the lovely little gold-rush town of Arrowtown, where the high street’s historic facades make it easy to imagine what life here once looked like. Arrive into Wanaka and enjoy a slower pace than high-octane Queenstown. With Lake Wanaka as the star of the show and surrounding mountains only complimenting its beauty, there’s no doubt this is one of the most attractive towns in New Zealand. Hit a hiking trail, explore on a bike or find a cosy cafe to admire the view.

Day 7: Wanaka / Franz Josef

Enjoy a morning at leisure for your own explorations of Wanaka. There’s no shortage of amazing things to see and do here, so be sure to chat to your leader for their top tips. You may like to take a pleasant bike ride along the shores of Lake Wanaka or get on the water and cruise to Mou Waho Island, where you’ll find an island in a lake on an island in a lake! There are heaps of beautiful short walks in the area, and a visit to the famous #thatwanakatree is a must. Depart Wanaka in the afternoon and venture further north, stopping off at a lookout point over either Lake Wanaka or Lake Hawea, depending on conditions. Your eyes will be glued to the window for this journey as you pass the impressive waterfalls of the Haast Pass and more spectacular coastline (your leader will make a few special stops along the way too!). Arrive to Franz Josef village, your base for the evening.

Day 8: Franz Josef

Franz Josef is the stuff of dreams, where glittering glaciers and soaring peaks provide a spectacular background to daily life. This part of the country is known as Te Wahi Pounamu, meaning ‘the place of greenstone’, due to the region’s abundance of this culturally and spiritually significant stone. Pay a visit to a local gallery and carve your own pendant while learning about pounamu’s importance to Maori culture. This afternoon, if you’d like to get closer to the Franz Josef Glacier, speak to your leader about the option of booking a helicopter ride to drop you on the ice, allowing you to then hike over the glacier’s surface. There’s also the chance to kayak over a glacial lake or chill out in natural hot springs. No matter how you choose to spend the day here, it’s set to be one to remember.

Day 9: Hokitika / Punakaiki

Travel up the wild and wet West Coast, where the country’s highest annual rainfall means the landscapes are unbelievably green and lush, standing in striking contrast to the blue ocean. Stop off in the town of Hokitika and pop into a pounamu factory where you’ll have the chance to pick up a souvenir to remember your trip. If time allows, you may have the chance to visit a kiwi centre, where delightful kiwi birds can be observed in a nocturnal house. Continue up the West Coast, passing by old gold rush settlements before arriving in the little town of Punakaiki. Embrace the lush natural environment and spend the next two nights in the heart of Punakaiki’s subtropical rainforest.

Day 10: Punakaiki

Wake up to the sounds of the rainforest and embrace the day ahead. Punakaiki’s most famous geological feature is the Pancake Rocks – every bit as enticing as they sound! A short walk will lead you to these impressive stacks of limestone, and when the wind and waves hit just right, the result will blow you away (hold on to your hats!). There are loads of other ways to enjoy the day here – perhaps have a go at surfing, explore a network of underground caves or just relax on the beach. Once the sun has gone done, you’re in for a treat. With a population of around just 100 people, there’s almost no light pollution here, making it a truly out-of-this-world spot for stargazing.

Day 11: Abel Tasman National Park

As you travel on from Punakaiki, watch out the window as more remarkable scenery unfolds before your eyes. Rivers, rugged coastline and dramatic gorges all stream past the window as you make your way towards Nelson, where you’ll stop in to gather supplies before heading to a remote slice of the country. The tiny town of Marahau serves as your jumping off point to the wonders of Abel Tasman National Park, and delights with its secluded lagoons and gold-sand beaches. Home to hidden coves, stunning beaches and varied wildlife, Abel Tasman National Park is an absolute joy to explore.

Day 12: Abel Tasman National Park

The day is yours to discover all the inspiring sights of Abel Tasman National Park – be sure to chat to your leader for tips on the best things to do here. If you’re feeling active, the Abel Tasman Coast Track has your name on it – it’s one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, and it’s not hard to see why. Perhaps get on the water and kayak to Split Apple Rock, or take on the challenge of canyoning as you abseil, zipline and jump your way around the park. If you’d rather take it slow, there’s no shortage of gorgeous beaches to stretch out on – just be sure to keep an eye out for seals, birds and dolphins off shore.

Day 13: Abel Tasman National Park / Wellington

Kick off the day with an unforgettable experience – learning how to paddle a traditional Maori waka (war canoe). You’ll receive a karakia (blessing) before you set off, and learn tikanga (waka etiquette) as you row over calm waters. Then, follow the northern edge of the South Island, stopping off at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. If this place looks familiar, it may be because it was used as a filming location for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Weave through Havelock before arriving in Picton, where you’ll hop aboard a ferry and cross the Cook Strait to Wellington. Renowned for its culinary and craft beer scene, your leader will have tips on the best place to grab a bite to eat and a drink in New Zealand’s cool capital city.

Day 14: Wellington

Your adventure comes to an end this morning, but if you'd like to spend more time exploring Wellington, 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.

14 days, from $2,265

to book call 1-844-205-6226

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