Nelson - Christchurch

Fly total time: 12 days

Get up close to rare wildlife and be awed by the natural beauty of New Zealand’s rugged South Island. 

AT A GLANCE:

  • 12 days/11 nights 
  • Spot whales, seals and penguins in the wild
  • Walk on a glacier
  • Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins 
  • Cruise majestic fiords 
  • Enjoy stunning scenery in two UNESCO World Heritage areas
  • Experience a working New Zealand farm

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  • Day 1: Nelson

    Drive Fly 0
    Arrive into Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington international airports. Transfer to a domestic flight to Nelson. Have a relaxing afternoon with a personalised tour – choose from exploring mountains, lakes or coastline with an experienced local guide. 

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  • Day 2: Nelson to Collingwood

    Drive Fly 2 hours and 15 mins 129 KMS 80 MI
    Visit Farewell Spit, a wetland of international importance, and a bird sanctuary since the 1930s. It’s home to more than 90 bird species. Bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones fly around 12,000 kilometres every northern hemisphere autumn to spend the summer here. Stay the night in Golden Bay.

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  • Day 3: Golden Bay – Murchison – Punakaiki

    Drive Fly 5 hours 45 minutes 320 KMS 198 MI
    Golden Bay – Murchison (181km/2 hours 45 minutes)
    Murchison – Punakaiki (139km/2 hours)

    Today you will drive south through some incredible, rugged scenery. Hang on tight as you jet boat into the Buller Canyon, past thundering waterfalls and pink granite rock canyons. Once you reach the coast, stretch your legs on a short walk to Cape Foulwind, where you can spot a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals in their natural habitat. After a big day of travel, nod off to the sound of pounding waves at beachfront Punakaiki Resort.

    Top Tips:

    •    Leave plenty of time for today’s long drive, the scenery is incredible so allow for regular stops. 
     

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  • Day 4: Punakaiki – Hokitika – Franz Josef

    Drive Fly 2 hours 55 minutes 218 KMS 135 MI
    Punakaiki – Hokitika (84km/1 hour, 10 min)
    Hokitika – Franz Josef (134km/1 hour 45 min)

    Explore a limestone landscape of pancake-shaped rock formations, blowholes and surge pools on a short walk. Stop off en route to Franz Josef for a treetop adventure, where you can walk in the canopy of a temperate rainforest of ancient giants. After a day of travel, enjoy a soak in a hot pool amongst lush vegetation, before spending the night in a rainforest retreat.
     

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  • Day 5: Franz Josef – Wanaka

    Drive Fly 3 hours 50 minutes 284 KMS 176 MI
    Combine a breath-taking scenic flight with a jaw-dropping walk on the ice or admire the everchanging icescape from the river valley with a dedicated guide. See kiwi chicks up close and learn about New Zealand’s conservation efforts at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef.

    Top tip: There are lots of scenic short walks to break up the drives over the last two days, such as the Hokitika Gorge and the Blue Pools.

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  • Day 6: Wanaka

    Drive Fly 0
    Begin your morning with a lake cruise and guided nature walk on Mou Waho island, where you can spot the rare flightless Buff Weka. After lunch, go jet boating amongst the ancient river valleys and snow-capped mountains of the Mt Aspiring National Park – a World Heritage Area. 

    Top tip: For something unique, stay with a local farming family to experience authentic Kiwi hospitality.

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  • Day 7: Wanaka – Arrowtown – Queenstown

    Drive Fly 1 hour 50 minutes 103 KMS 64 MI
    Explore the private high-country farm stations around Wanaka for a hands-on introduction to deer farming, beekeeping and authentic Kiwi farm life. This afternoon explore Arrowtown on a walking tour, a charming gold rush village nestled below craggy peaks. Then head to Queenstown and enjoy a tour of the local award-winning wineries, tasting as you go.

    Top tip: Stroll around the picturesque streets of Arrowtown, a charming gold rush village surrounded by mountains

    Recommended activities:

    • Visit Criffel Station and interact with the alpacas and red deer
    • Grab a map from the Arrowtown Visitor Centre and enjoy on of their scenic walks.
    • Alpine Wine Tours have a mid-afternoon tour that explores some of the scenic wineries.
  • Day 8- Queenstown – Doubtful Sound – Queenstown

    Drive Fly 0
    Also known as the “Sound of Silence”, Doubtful Sound is the deepest of the South Island's fiords. There’s no direct road access, so your adventure includes a cruise across crystal clear Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over the majestic Wilmot Pass. Then board a spacious catamaran and cruise this pristine fiord, keeping your eyes peeled for bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and the Fiordland crested penguin. 

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  • Day 9: Queenstown – Dunedin

    Drive Fly 3 hours 40 minutes 279 KMS 173 MI
    Spend the morning exploring Queenstown, before driving to Dunedin through the dramatic landscapes of Central Otago. Stop off for lunch in historic Clyde, a pretty little town at the head of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

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  • Day 10: Dunedin

    Drive Fly 0
    Dunedin is home to magnificent and rare wildlife. Spot the endangered yellow-eyed penguin on the Otago Peninsula before visiting the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross. 

    Top tip: Stay the night at New Zealand’s only castle – Larnach Castle sits atop the Otago Peninsula with panoramic views of the harbour and beyond.
     

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  • Day 11: Dunedin – Christchurch

    Drive Fly Flight time 1 hour 5 minutes 361 KMS 224 MI
    Drop your rental car off and take a short flight to Christchurch. This afternoon, explore Akaroa, originally a French settlement and home to fine food and colonial-style architecture. Swim with the endangered Hector’s Dolphin, the world’s rarest and smallest oceanic dolphin
     

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  • Day 12: Christchurch – Kaikōura – Christchurch

    Drive Fly 5 hours 361 KMS 224 MI
    Enjoy a scenic guided tour from Christchurch over the Canterbury plains before arriving in the seaside village of Kaikōura.  Experience spectacular views of the seaside and majestic mountains, visit a fur seal colony, and get up close with the locals on a marine wildlife tour of your choosing. Whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in these deep coastal waters. 

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  • Day 13: Christchurch

    Drive Fly 0
    Fly home today, either via Auckland International Airport or direct from Christchurch. Before you leave, visit the International Antarctic Centre by Christchurch airport, packed with interactive experiences to suit all ages. Learn about Antarctica in 4D, survive a snow storm, take an amphibious Hagglund Ride, and see little blue penguins.