11 Day Natural Wonders Tour
South Island Self Drive from Queenstown to Queenstown
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour

This Southern adventure begins appropriately in the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown.  From here you head to Mt Cook National Park, where Sir Edmund Hillary prepared to climb the world's highest peak.  You'll get a close up view to the magnificent mountains of the Southern Alps during your fabulous scenic helicopter flight.  Further north you explore Christchurch and Akaroa, where you get the chance to swim with the rare Hectors Dolphins.  Looping south again to Dunedin for more wildlife encounters, then to the beautiful Milford Sound a treasure of waterfalls and lush rainforests. From Fiordland you’ll return to Queenstown.

Tour summary and feature

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,925 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Queenstown

11 days/10 nights

Motels

 Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible

 Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation, unlimited kms, airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers

 Viewed 24 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

At a glance - 11 Day Natural Wonders Tour

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown. Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 2: Collect your rental car and explore Queenstown and surrounds. This afternoon take a thrilling jet boat ride.. Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

Day 3: Queenstown to Mt Cook National Park for an amazing flight to see our highest mountain. Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

Day 4: Cross the Canterbury Plains to the ever-changing city of Christchurch. Accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 327 kms / 203 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 5: Travel to Bank's Peninsula and the charming village of Akaroa where you'll enjoy harbour cruise. Accommodation: Criterion Motel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 71 kms / 44 miles : 1.0 hours

Day 6: Travel south through the Canterbury Plains where you'll join the coastline which takes you to Dunedin. Accommodation: Motel on York
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 410 kms / 255 miles : 5.2 hours

Day 7: Discover the diverse wildlife that resides on the Otago Peninsula. Accommodation: Motel on York

Day 8: Drive south through rolling Southland hills to Te Anau. This afternoon you'll visit the glow worm caves. Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 9: Journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound for your cruise. Accommodation: Lakefront Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 10: Travel through rolling Southland countryside to Lake Wakatipu which will lead you to Queenstown. Accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 11: Explore Queenstown before you depart.
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 1 kms / 1 miles : 0.0 hours

Tour full itinerary

Detailed itinerary: 11 day tour starting in Queenstown

Day 1 - Welcome to Queenstown

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 1
Private Transfer Queenstown Airport to your Accommodation

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered to your Queenstown accommodation.

Itinerary information by APP & in country support

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You also have access to our free call number and after-hours service if you require support while on tour.

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

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. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship. You'll be greeted off the boat and guided through beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.
Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country.
On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Day 2 - Collect your rental car and explore Queenstown and surrounds. This afternoon take a thrilling jet boat ride.

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - 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 system

Use the latest GPS technology as you tour New Zealand. Your portable GPS features a simple touch screen interface with automatic route calculation and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions including street name announcement. The automotive-grade GPS unit is easy to use and has multiple language options.

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

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. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.

Shotover Jet Canyon Jet Boat Ride

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River Canyons. It's a thrilling ride! Skim past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds. And a major highlight - hold tight for the world-famous Shotover Jet full 360-degree spins!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Safari of the Scenes Wakatipu Basin 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 Wakatipu 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.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Day 3 - Queenstown to Mt Cook National Park for an amazing flight to see our highest mountain

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 3
Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Leaving Queenstown you'll head through the Kawarau Gorge and over the historic Kawarau Bridge -  a popular bungy jumping location. Choose to participate in this daredevil sport or watch others instead. Continue through the Gibbston Valley and be sure to stop at one of its many vineyards for a tasting. As you leave the gorge you'll arrive in Cromwell, known for its many fruit orchards. If you're a foodie at heart, we recommend taking a side trip to Bannockburn for a complete food and wine experience at one its many award-winning wineries and restaurants.

Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Completely submerged when the Clyde Dam was built and Lake Dunstan established in 1992, the remnants of the old Cromwell town provides a unique snapshot into this areas history. Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel - the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount Cook Highway to arrive in the small 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.

Aoraki Paradise Scenic Helicopter Flight with Heliworks

This 45 minute flight takes you on a journey to discover Aoraki/ Mt Cook National park. Flying the full length of the Tasman Glacier viewing this incredible Alpine region with amazing views of New Zealand's highest peak Aoraki Mt Cook before landing on the magnificent Tasman Glacier. This majestic flight allows you to discover some of the many hidden treasures within the National Park. An experience with the X Factor.

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 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.

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: 256 kms / 159 miles : 2.9 hours

Day 4 - Cross the Canterbury Plains to the ever-changing city of Christchurch

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 4
Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Leaving Mount Cook national park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the spectacular views of Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities of Lake Pukaki - making the waters a bright turquoise. You’ll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just marvel at the magnificent views. From here you travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley that surrounds Geraldine. Continue on across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch City, your destination for the night.

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 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.

Your accommodation: Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments

Terra Vive Luxury Suites and Apartments offer luxury accommodation in the heart of Christchurch City. Situated within the beautiful tree-lined street of Bealey Avenue, Terra Vive is ideally located in close proximity to the shops, restaurants and cafes.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 327 kms / 203 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 5 - Travel to Bank's Peninsula and the charming village of Akaroa where you'll enjoy harbour cruise

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 5
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 Swimming with the Dolphins Cruise

Akaroa Harbour formed as a result of an extinct volcanic crater being flooded by the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful place with sheer cliffs and the picturesque township of Akaroa at its heart. New Zealand's only native dolphin, Hectors dolphin, makes this sheltered harbour its home and its here you can take a 2 ½ tour to see and if you wish actually swim with these incredible creatures. Following a ½ hour briefing you depart on a 2 hour cruise of which around 1 hour is spent in the water with the dolphins. Black Cat Cruises has been operating since 1985 and their success rate at sighting dolphins is over 98%. Swimming with dolphins is not always possible either due to sea conditions, the dolphins' willingness to stay and play and other environmental reasons such as not swimming when there are babies around. You still manage to swim though on over 80% of their tours.

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

Day 6 - Travel south through the Canterbury Plains where you'll join the coastline which takes you to Dunedin

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 6
Akaroa to Dunedin

Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains as you head South, State Highway 1 crosses many braided rivers that start their life as glacial melt water high in the Southern Alps. New Zealand's longest bridge at Rakaia crosses such an example. The towns of Timaru followed by Oamaru are worth a short detour to the town centre.
The town of Oamaru is most famous for its buildings constructed with the unique locally quarried white stone. Explore the old quarter or if you don't mind a late arrival into Dunedin then stay around to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.
Just a little further south and you arrive at Moeraki and its famous Moeraki Boulders. Following a look at these incredible and unique geological features don't miss taking a late lunch or coffee and cake at Fleur's Cafe in Moeraki Township. The last stretch of road follows the coastline before crossing the hills and descending into the city of Dunedin.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Royal Albatross Centre: Albatross Classic Tour

This 60 minute tour focuses on the Royal Albatrosses and wildlife that inhabit Pukekura (Taiaroa Head). Begin with a short film, then enjoy the informative commentary provided by your guide about albatrosses as you visit the observatory to see nesting albatross in their natural habitat.

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: 410 kms / 255 miles : 5.2 hours

Day 7 - Discover the diverse wildlife that resides on the Otago Peninsula

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 7
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

Monarch Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour & Penguin Place

A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour of the high road on the Otago Peninsula.

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.

Day 8 - Drive south through rolling Southland hills to Te Anau. This afternoon you'll visit the glow worm caves

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 8
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.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

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

Day 9 - Journey along the magnificent Milford Road to Milford Sound for your cruise

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 9
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came.

Milford Sound Cruise with Real Journeys

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely 2 hour cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.

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: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 10 - Travel through rolling Southland countryside to Lake Wakatipu which will lead you to Queenstown

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 10
Te Anau to Queenstown

Today you’ll cross vast tussock lands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Your accommodation: Garden Court Suites and Apartments

The Garden Court Suites and Apartments are located just seven minutes walk from the heart of Queenstown. Self contained apartment rooms provide everything you need for your stay.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 11 - Explore Queenstown before you depart

11 Day Natural Wonders Tour - Day 11
Depart Queenstown today

Drop your rental car at the Queenstown airport today and farewell New Zealand.

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

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