Day 1 : Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
We’ll explore the iconic downtown area and check out the cool ways the city has reunited and is being rebuilt. With lots of quirky shops, specialized cafes and spots to dine, along with a young fun Kiwi culture, Christchurch shouldn’t be missed. We’ll then make our way to Tekapo, one of New Zealand’s most famous lakes. Surrounded by the jagged Southern Alps, the bright turquoise Lake Tekapo will leave you questioning if someone dropped blue food coloring in it. Minerals left by ancient glaciers give the lake its iconic turquoise colour. Combine this with the towering mountains and purple and pink Lupin flowers along its banks, Lake Tekapo couldn’t be prettier. Once the sun goes down, it gets even better. Thanks to the super clear skies, the area around Tekapo has been declared a “Star Reserve” and is the best place in New Zealand to see the stars and galaxies above. Watch the stars appear over the lake from the hostel that’s just a few feet from the shore.
Day 2 : Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
The road to Queenstown (scattered with dozens of glacial blue lakes, soaring mountains and lush valleys) is almost as beautiful as the town itself. Between wine tasting in the famous Otago region, to exploring some of the local salmon farms, we’ll have the chance to see a more diverse side of the South Island. The undisputed adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown is always at the top of the list of any trip around the South Island. Surrounded by the stunning Remarkables, some of the most beautiful mountains in NZ, and sprawling along the banks of the dazzling Lake Wakatipu, its location is straight from a postcard. Together we’ll hop on up the gondola and see Queenstown from above. There is nothing like watching the sunset over New Zealand’s prettiest town with new friends before experiencing the famous nightlife in town. We’ll crash for the night at Haka Lodge in Queenstown, cook some meals together, and chill out in this luxury hostel-lodge. Tomorrow is going to be action packed, so be sure to get at least a few hours sleep!
Day 3 : Queenstown
With a full day in Queenstown, you can pack in as many bucket list activities and things to do, as you wish. There are many different options to choose from: paragliding, mountain biking, bungy jumping while your Haka friends cheer you on, horse riding through some stunning Lord of the Rings locations in Glenorchy and swinging through a canyon Tarzan-style with a new friend. Queenstown is definitely a highlight of any trip to New Zealand. If you’re into hiking, you might even be able to hop on one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and tackle part of the Routeburn track. One of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, Milford Sound, is not to be missed. Driving into the park is stunning in and of itself, but just wait ‘til you get on the water! Sailing around the fiords beneath thundering waterfalls and towering cliff faces, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular spots in New Zealand. Beautiful in rain or shine, Milford is universally loved by all. Whether experiencing it from the decks of a boat or kayaking around the steep cliffs, Milford takes the cake as one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful areas of the South Island. With the occasional sea lion or dolphin popping up to say hello, it makes the journey there and around even more special.
Day 4 : Queenstown to Wanaka
The drive to Wanaka from Queenstown is spectacular, filled with great views, beautiful stops and plenty of surprises. We’ll stop in the stunning and historic Arrowtown for a bit of exploring. En route to Wanaka, we stop in at New Zealand’s oldest pub for a drink or two in Cardrona before arriving at the lakeside holiday town of Wanaka. A year round destination, Wanaka is surrounded by towering mountains and a glacial blue lake with plenty of things to do and with a thriving young vibe in town. In the warmer months, there are tons of lake activities to choose from, such as swimming, waterskiing, kayaking and wakeboarding. There are beautiful hikes and bike rides all around the lake and plenty of adventure activities to choose from too. In the winter, Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s most popular snow sports destinations, with several great ski fields close by. Hit the cafes on the lakefront for a drink at the end of the day with the group to unwind.
Day 5 : Wanaka to Franz Josef
You’ll have the chance to mountain bike along the lake, climb up the iconic Mt. Iron in town for some sweet views or hit up the iconic Puzzling World for a bit of fun and games. We’ll then make our way towards the wild west coast of the South Island, traversing the beautiful mountains in Haast and getting a good look towards the sea. Get excited, this is one of the most scenic and iconic road trips around New Zealand. Apart from the sick west coast views, there are plenty of surprises and secret spots in store today. Between September and December it’s whitebait season (a small fish that’s a delicacy in New Zealand). Fried up with eggs and served on toast, it’s a local treat in and shouldn’t be missed. We’ll stop at a one of the secret local spots to try it out.
Day 6 : Franz Josef
You cannot visit the South Island, let alone Franz Josef, without seeing one of the glaciers. Both the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are world-renowned on account of their relative accessibility and the low level to which they descend, although they no longer extend far enough down their valleys to reach the forest. The most popular way of visiting the glacier is by helicopter. There are a few Heli-hike options available; we truly recommend a Heli-hike if you can afford it as it will take you to the most stunning blue ice! Unfortunately the Half Day Glacier Hike is unavailable at the moment due to the bottom of the glacier being too unstable. Trekking on the glacier is not as strenuous as it sounds, but if it still doesn’t appeal to you, your guide can take you as close to the bottom of the glacier as possible. This afternoon you might decide to take part in some awesome quad biking (booked on the day), go horse trekking, relax in the hostel’s spa pool or TV lounge or have a drink in one of the cafés or bars. As it is your last night on tour in the South Island, we often like to have a farewell party to celebrate all the good times we’ve had!
Day 7 : Franz Josef to Christchurch
After breakfast we head further along the beautiful west coast on one of the most spectacular drives in the world: a rugged, primeval landscape of luxuriant rainforest juxtaposed against breathtaking beach and ocean waves. We pass through Ross, a town that arose from gold mining. The gold rush days of the second half of the 19th century were largely responsible for opening up the west coast for settlement. Before this there was a small number of Maori who searched for greenstone, or Jade. There is also a chance to stop at Hokitika and visit a greenstone factory to see how it is made into jewellery and other ornaments, and possibly buy some as a souvenir. Time permitting, we may also visit the National Kiwi Centre where there is guaranteed viewing of rare Kiwi birds in their nocturnal house. On the way back to Christchurch, we take the stunning Tranz Alpine Train Crossing. Travelling across the Southern Alps through Arthur’s Pass, we return to Christchurch by 6.30 pm to say our final goodbyes and go our separate ways. The Tranz Alpine arrival time can be delayed due to weather conditions so it's best not to book flights for this evening.