Southern Alps & Southern Lakes
Christchurch to Christchurch
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

Southern Alps & Southern Lakes

From Christchurch you’ll journey south through the Mackenzie high country past Lake Tekapo before arriving into Mt. Cook National Park. Then to Wanaka for two nights with time to relax or enjoy the countless activities on offer in the Southern Lakes region. The West Coast Glaciers are next and two nights allow time to enjoy one of the many guided walk options or scenic flights. Return to Christchurch aboard the world famous Tranz Alpine Scenic Train.

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Quick Itinerary Details

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$1,840 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

9 days/8 nights

Motels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 7 times in the last 7 days

Tour Inclusions

- Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation
- Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive into the 'Garden City' of Christchurch
Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Day 2: Your car is delivered this morning, then you have the day free to explore Christchurch and surrounds
Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Day 3: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 4: Follow the dry lands to the Lindis Pass which leads into Central Otago and the alpine village of Wanaka
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 204 kms / 127 miles : 2.3 hours

Day 5: Explore all the adventure and attractions that Wanaka has to offer
Accommodation: Clearbrook Motel and Serviced Apartments

Day 6: Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 282 kms / 175 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 7: Spend the day explore the glaciers and wild west coast
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 8: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 9: Depart Christchurch today

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 9 day tour starting in Christchurch

Day 1 - Arrive into the 'Garden City' of Christchurch
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Itinerary information by App & in-country support

Access to our exclusive Touring App. The smart phone app includes your full itinerary and reservation details, all available online and offline as well as lots of other great information such as restaurant guides, weather forecasts, and local activity suggestions. Instant itinerary updates and changes are available and it's easy to keep in touch with us. The App is free and easy to download on your mobile using Android or IOS.
You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch, New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore is to 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 unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Day 2 - Your car is delivered this morning, then you have the day free to explore Christchurch and surrounds
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 2
Collect your rental car

This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available in our fantastic range, from economy hatchbacks to prestige saloons and SUV's.

GPS navigation

Navigating New Zealand can be done easily in two ways. If you have a smartphone, you will be able to connect it to the USB of your rental car and your maps and other apps will display on the screen in the centre console of your vehicle, with the sound coming through the car speakers.
If you don't have a smartphone, chat to us to ensure we book you a car with a portable GPS system. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface, with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions, which announces street names.  The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

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. Visit the International Antarctic Centre or take a day to go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. 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 kilometre to the collaps...

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In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago.  Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps.  Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Nowhere else in New Zealand will you find such a wide range of New Zealand wildlife so close to you. Willowbank provides you with a "Kiwi Guarantee" a...

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Nowhere else in New Zealand will you find such a wide range of New Zealand wildlife so close to you. Willowbank provides you with a "Kiwi Guarantee" and is home to New Zealand's largest and most accessible kiwi viewing area. With this unique experience, you will see New Zealand's natural splendour first hand, and view Kiwis that are not hidden behind glass.  You will explore one of the most complete selections of New Zealand native and introduced wildlife in natural bush surroundings. Much of the Willowbank wildlife wander free and is able to be petted and fed.

Choose to explore the reserve yourself, or for an up-close Kiwi experience, you can take a guided tour.

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Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.
Day 3 - Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 3
Christchurch to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mount Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mount Cook Village. Please note there are no food or shops at Mount Cook you will need to stock up prior to arriving in Mount Cook if you wish to self cater.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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 on...

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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.

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Your accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 4 - Follow the dry lands to the Lindis Pass which leads into Central Otago and the alpine village of Wanaka
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 4
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park to Wanaka

Twizel, just south of Aoraki Mount Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand. Wrinkly Rams is a local café and also offers an informative sheep shearing demonstration. The Lindis Pass is 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 the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. The first Central Otago settlement you reach is the quaint village of Tarras, which has a number of boutique stores and a lovely café.  Approaching Wanaka the wonderful alpine lake welcomes you to the town. Despite its size Wanaka has a wide variety of activities available. In winter it is without doubt New Zealand's premier ski destination with its very close proximity to Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields. Mount Aspiring National Park sits to the western edge of the lake and offers wonderful walking tracks for all abilities; the Rob Roy Track is a great introduction to this spectacular park. Fishing, sailing and water skiing are popular pastimes on the lake and the many beach access points provide great spots for picnics and relaxing.

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: 204 kms / 127 miles : 2.3 hours

Day 5 - Explore all the adventure and attractions that Wanaka has to offer
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 5
Wanaka

The alpine village of Wanaka sits on the shores of the third largest lake in the Queenstown Lakes District and is surrounded by the southern alps. Wanaka draws those seeking adventure, spectacular scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.
During winter the town's population more than triples as snow sports enthusiasts flock to the local ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona. Known as the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is a walker's paradise of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. For those seeking an adrenaline rush try skydiving, rock-climbing, jet boating or choose a scenic flight over Wanaka in a historic Tiger Moth aeroplane.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wanaka Wine Tours Boutique Central Otago Wine Trail

This small group wine tour (maximum 8) offers a relaxed and personal introduction to the wines and scenery of the Central Otago region. This tour is a...

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This small group wine tour (maximum 8) offers a relaxed and personal introduction to the wines and scenery of the Central Otago region. This tour is a great way to explore award-winning vineyards hidden amongst the rugged landscape of Central Otago. Visit and enjoy tastings at 4 Central Otago vineyards including a delicious mid-afternoon platter to enjoy with your tastings.  You'll also discover the history of the region with a visit to Old Cromwell Town, a charming heritage precinct that has been revitalised into a boutique arts and crafts village.

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SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Lake Wanaka Cruise and Island Nature Walk

Lying close to the centre of Lake Wanaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. A unique glacial remnant of the last ice age, the island is also the histo...

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Lying close to the centre of Lake Wanaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. A unique glacial remnant of the last ice age, the island is also the historic site of early shipbuilding and used to be a stopping place for the steamers and log rafts that once plied the lake. Accessible from Wanaka by a 35-minute boat cruise, the landing is on the eastern side of the island where the remnants of the early settlement remain; a stone wharf and a hut. A well-formed track leads from the landing and climbs steadily through native bush to near the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. Just before the top, we see Arethusa Pool, a small lake on the island with small islands in it - very intriguing! From the top, we have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka, its surrounding mountains and valleys, and below Arethusa Pool. The perfect spot to stop for tea or coffee. Going back down the track gives us more time to take in our surroundings, listening to and watching the lively bird-life, and just enjoying this unique wildlife reserve. You will feel well rewarded as you re-join the boat for the cruise back to Wanaka. Total cruise time is 1.5 hours. The trip runs subject to weather and lake conditions. Depending on the planting season, you can help The Reforestation of Mou Waho by planting a tree.

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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.
Day 6 - Travel the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 6
Wanaka to Franz Josef Glacier

The route follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the village of Makarora, the gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The Blue Pools, just outside Makarora, are a wonderful 30 minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Descending into Mt. Aspiring National Park and towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600 kilometre stretch of bush, rainforest and podocarp forest. First Fox Glacier welcomes you to the glacier region and Franz Josef township is just a further 45 minutes. A great way to experience the glaciers is with a scenic flight or glacier hike.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Blue Pools Nature Experience with Southern Alps Air

Begin with a 30 minute scenic flight encompassing views of glaciers, Mt Aspiring, remote waterfalls, river valleys and mountain ranges that few people...

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Begin with a 30 minute scenic flight encompassing views of glaciers, Mt Aspiring, remote waterfalls, river valleys and mountain ranges that few people get to experience.  With a window seat for every passenger the views are spectacular. From your landing point at Makarora, you are driven a short distance to the beginning of your 2 hour wilderness walk. The walk is on a well formed track through native beech forest which leads you to cross the first of 4 swing bridges and the clear and pure waters of the 'Blue Pools' - pristine, beautiful pools in the Blue River to linger at and enjoy while spotting fish. From here the track winds through native forest amongst the mountains of the Southern Alps near the banks of the Makarora River. Interesting and picturesque this is a very ancient setting only recently made easily accessible.  The natural surroundings and tranquility are most noticeable during your relaxing walk in this special part of the Mt Aspiring World Heritage National Park. The track leads you to the meeting point at the mouth of the Young River where the jet boat will be waiting to whisk you off on a 1 hour scenic and spectacular journey through the Makarora Valley on the glacially fed waters of the pristine Makarora River. Feel the wind in your hair during your jet boat safari and be intrigued by the changing landscape as you journey to the mouth of the Makarora River and the head waters of Lake Wanaka before returning to Makarora Village.

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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: 282 kms / 175 miles : 3.4 hours

Day 7 - Spend the day explore the glaciers and wild west coast
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 7
Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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 bea...

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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.

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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.
Day 8 - Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 8
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today you’ll head north through the historic gold mining region of Hokitika. Known for its Greenstone (Pounamu) this seaside town has a rich history dating back to the 1860’s. Head to the coast and take in the endless sea-views or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. 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 inside the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Considered one of the world's great train journeys, the TranzAlpine Scenic Train takes you from Greymouth to Christchurch. You'll travel across the South Island from the west to the east coast 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.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

Your accommodation: Merivale Manor Motel

Originally built in the 1880's, Merivale Manor has been transformed into elegant motel and apartment accommodation. Less than 200 metres to central Merivale with its premier shopping, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 9 - Depart Christchurch today
Southern Alps & Southern Lakes - Day 9
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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Southern Alps & Southern Lakes

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