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The South Island of New Zealand is picturesque to say the least. It’s about the many contrasts between oceans, rivers, gorges, mountains, glaciers, towns and lakes. As you drive this trip you’ll be able to indulge just about any area of interest from wineries to fly fishing, hiking to relaxing. You can do as much or as little as you want on this flexible trip that takes in many of the South Island’s favourite places.
In the style of most Global Escapes Independent Traveler itineraries, this is a perfect blend of self-guided adventure and forward-planning to ensure that the main elements are organised in advance allowing for plenty of time to relax and take in each place you visit.
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Two package options are available. You have the choice of the Standard or “All-in” package (see below) both of which offer excellent value and inclusions. You’ll stay in New Zealand’s versions of a French country village and a Scottish heritage town and on a couple of magnificent lakes. If you are adventurous you'll never forget the thrill of viewing Franz Josef and Fox glaciers from the air and landing on a snowfield. The scenery around Milford Sound as you cruise Fiordland National Park is magnificent to say the least.
This is a first-class, self-drive travel itinerary with hand-picked accommodation and activities that will ensure you really enjoy your NZ experience. The car is an important component as well and we know a standard small car will not do the job as effectively as a 4WD that gives you more space, a bit more height off the road and enables you to navigate the occasional muddy detour with ease. This is the ultimate self-drive itinerary. Want fewer days or you want to include a special activity? No problem, we’ll price it for you.
Click/tap the player above to watch this short video about some of the highlights of NZ South Island. Opens in a new browser tab.
BONUS: Add comprehensive, best-in-class, travel insurance for just $99 per person* valued at over $200 per couple. Enquire today to find out if your travel dates are available. Prices and deposit amount vary according to travel date. Package prices valid to 31/03/2019. [GENUINE ENQUIRIES ONLY PLEASE]
This itinerary is fully customisable to suit your requirements. See more detailed inclusions list below.
Lonely Planet is renowned for its first-hand approach, up-to-date maps and commitment to providing the best information for travelers. Lonely Planet authors are experienced, insightful travel experts. They personally research the places they write about - both in the first and in subsequent editions - and provide essential travel details along with a wealth of insider information and first-hand tips.
You will receive these guides to to help you gain the most out of your holiday. Recommendation: Take the time to read suggestions for things to see and do before you leave Australia. Take your Lonely Planet guides with you in your luggage. The New Zealand Touring Atlas is packed with information on highways and byways of the land of the long white cloud, all presented in the easy to read, easy to store format. This edition also features updated and improved NZ mapping.
* All prices are per-person on a twin-share basis and all bookings are subject to availability. Price and deposit amount varies according to travel date. A flight cost provision (allowance) applies. Total price after Getaway Cash credits and Australian Escapes Free Flights Vouchers is generally payable as follows: Deposit on booking, balance 120 days prior to departure. Packages can be priced for families and groups on request. All prices are estimates only. A firm quote (travel plan) with payment terms will be submitted for consideration prior to booking. Standard prices are for non-members for the same or similar package. Flight pricing included in packages or other estimates is based on travel from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Travel can be arranged from any other major centre and for any number of people. Travel insurance pricing is based on two travellers aged 69 years or less as at the date of departure from Australia. Surcharge applies for travellers aged 70 years and over. Full booking terms and conditions are available here.
“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” — Lawrence Block
Arrive in Christchurch and be picked up by the car rental company’s driver who will take you to the depot where you will collect your car. If you arrive around the middle of the day you can set off for the west coast, or we can arrange a night’s accommodation for you in Christchurch with car parking. Stay an extra night if you’d like to include some sight-seeing around this interesting city.
Christchurch – Awatuna (1 night)
If you’re not staying in Christchurch, then on Day 1, you’ll cross the Canterbury Plains to Awatuna, just north of Hokatika. For a late lunch, stop off at the Original Sheffield Pie Shop on the road before you get to Arthur’s Pass. The scenery changes as you cross the plain then constantly as you drive around hills, over mountain passes, across rivers and past lakes and gorges.
Recommended activity: Stop at Arthur’s Pass and take one of the short nature walks.
Your first night will be at Awatuna Homestead where you’ll experience wonderful hospitality and home-style cooking staying at this B&B as guests of Paul and Lynley. Make sure you accept their invitation to dine-in that night (set menu with wine options, charges apply). Lynley is an exceptional cook. If this is your first B&B experience you will be spoilt for life.
Day 2: Drive to Franz Josef Glacier, local activities, free time
Day 3: Helicopter flight over Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, local activities, free time
Today you’ll head off to visit the town of Hokatika, the home of hand-carved jade jewelry. If you like the look and feel of jade, this is the pace to get it. Find your way to Hokatika Gorge as well to see the blue pools.
Recommended activity: Visit Hokatika Gorge.
Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 1.5 hour walk will take you to within 750m of its face. If you want to actually make contact with the glacier, take a guided ice walk or a heli-hike. Aerial sightseeing is included
There's a range of natural attractions in close proximity to Franz Josef Glacier Village. Lose yourself in the rainforests, waterfalls, and lakes. In the town you’ll find plenty of places to stay and eat, or relax at the Glacier Hot Pools.
Day 4: Drive to Wanaka taking in the scenery and nature stops along the way; enjoy the scenery; dine out at (recommended) “Trout” restaurant.
Day 5: Half-day cruise and nature walk
Take your time to have a leisurely breakfast at one of the local cafés before heading off towards Wanaka. Visit the town of Fox Glacier on your way and take a detour to Lake Matheson where you might be lucky to see the famous reflection of snow-capped Mount Cook in the dark waters. There are small towns to visit and the unmissable Southwest salmon farm and café is recommended for lunch (if not too busy).
Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. In winter, skiers flock here from all over the world for superb skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona and Treble Cone. But Wanaka is much more than a winter destination offering year-round activities include fishing and hiking.
Day 6: Drive the short distance to Queenstown; check-in to the resort (after 2pm) then drive or walk into town; enjoy the lake-front wharf area and shopping; Skyline Gondola with lunch or dinner.
Day 7: Milford Sound tour and cruise.
Day 8: Flexible time. Refer to your Lonely Planet guide for ideas.
Feel inspired by Queenstown’s stunning scenery, huge range of activities and renowned warm welcome. Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty and the unique energy of the region create the perfect backdrop for a holiday full of adventure, discovery and rejuvenation.
There’s so much to see and do here. Simply refer to your Lonely Planet guide for extra ideas.
Recommended activity: Book the 11.00am lake cruise from the booth located at Queenstown steamer wharf.
Day 9: Drive to Dunedin. Enjoy the scenery and stops along the way. Visit Olveston House and the town.
Day 10: Dunedin town and wildlife day tour
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country's city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The accommodation is good and plentiful; the nightlife buzzes with funky bars and delicious restaurants and the natural attractions are unique and fascinating.
Day 11: Drive to Akaroa.
Day 12: Akaroa nature cruise.
Today is a long driving day so an early start is recommended. You ideally want to arrive in Akaroa by mid-afternoon to make the most of this idyllic town.
The most French town in New Zealand, Akaroa will have you entranced with its historic buildings, magnificent harbour and passion for fine food. The best way to explore Akaroa is on foot. Begin at the information centre, which is on the corner of Rue Lavaud and Rue Balguerie. You'll find brochures and maps that will help you to decide where to walk. Enjoy dinner at one of the best local French-themed restaurants and the wonderful nature cruise.
It’s time to drive back to Christchurch and say farewell to New Zealand remembering the fun times you’ve had, interesting people you’ve encountered and the beautiful scenery you’ve experienced.
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"Hi, have finally returned. Wonderful, wonderful trip. We think we loved Paris and its age/artworks but all was full of laughter fun and learning. Paris apartment was beautiful, & quiet when windows were closed, which wasn't bad anyway. The street is full of lots of restaurants and cafe's. (we also loved Shakespeare & co bookshop.) Fruit and chocolates in most rooms and champagne which I think we only drank in Brussels. we were ready for bed everywhere else though we almost had it for morning tea at Amsterdam on check in. Magnificent. Cheers." Val C.
"Have just returned from our wonderful trip to the UK. Just wanted to say a huge thanks for your organisation, we had the best holiday ever, an absolutely marvellous time, the tour was magnificent. We would recommend the Trafalgar Britain and Ireland Winter delights tour to anyone who wants to do adventurous travel, learning about other countries, and making friends. The coach was actually over half full of Aussies! Thanks so much for organising such a memorable holiday for us." Lee D.
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"My husband and I have recently returned from a holiday to Canada and Alaska booked through Australian Escapes. The itinerary was planned to take in all aspects of the holiday we required. The travel transfers worked seamlessly and the accommodation was at a standard that met our expectations of comfort and location. We absolutely loved the cruise and surprise upgrade to our stateroom. From our experience with this recent trip I would recommend Australian Escapes." Margaret & Bill T.
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"I want to thank you for all the accommodation you arranged for us during our holiday in North Queensland in August. It was all excellent. The transfers went very smoothly too and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our holiday. Thank you for making everything so easy." Gloria K.
"My life has been like a whirlwind since I got back. I am now on holidays and catching up with people that I have not had time to contact since coming back. Thank you so much for organising my trip to The States and Canada for me. I had a great time and everything went really well. All flights went well. The hotel you booked me into in Champaign was a really old home with beautiful gardens, all done up and run by two gay guys. It was really quaint and I loved it. I had a great time, everything went without a hitch, I loved all the accommodation that you organized for me and I would like to wish you a happy Christmas and all the best." Marlene S.
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"We are back and rested after a hectic few weeks (away), but everything worked out extremely well. Thanks so much for all your organisation – once you get used to the trains and buses, life becomes easy. Once again, thanks to you and the team for all the organisation from both Lorraine and I – we really enjoyed the holiday. All the best." Bob C.
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