Marlborough - Christchurch

Fly total time: 14 days
From the sweeping Pacific Ocean to the snow-capped Southern Alps, this journey takes you on a mindful adventure through some of the South Island’s most breath-taking and diverse landscapes.  

AT A GLANCE:
  • 14 days/13 nights
  • Self-drive (electric vehicle)/train  
  • Spot giant whales and playful dolphins
  • Walk on a mighty glacier
  • Stargaze under the darkest skies
  • Day 1: Marlborough Sounds

    Drive Fly
    Arrive into Picton via the Bluebridge or Interislander ferry. Spend the afternoon in the Marlborough Sounds where forested hills rise steeply from sheltered inlets and sandy bays. Several species of dolphins visit these waters and many islands within the sounds are wildlife sanctuaries. Today’s boat cruise will stop at Motuara – where you are free to explore by yourself, or let your guide point out the rare bird species that inhabit the island.

    TOP TIPS:
    • There are many different accommodation options in the Marlborough Sounds. Lochmara Lodge is a relaxed family resort complete with its own underwater observatory and wildlife recovery and conservation plan.
    • Why not spend an extra day and take a tour of the region? Explore a sustainable vineyard, followed by lunch and a relaxing afternoon cruise, complete with fresh local seafood and Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
  • Day 2: Picton - Kaikoura

    Drive Fly 157 KMS 97 MI
    Start your day with a walk on the Queen Charlotte Track, a scenic 70-km-long hiking and cycling trail which undulates over forested ridges and alongside sheltered coves. The trail can be easily accessed for short or long walks from most Marlborough Sounds accomodation options. Water taxi back to Picton and rest your legs on the train ride to Kaikoura.

    TOP TIP:
    • The Coastal Pacific travels south between snow-capped mountains and the sweeping Pacific Ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for New Zealand fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks.  
  • Day 3: Kaikōura

    Drive Fly
    Start your day with a dolphin encounter – swim with or simply watch playful dusky dolphins in their natural habitat. After lunch, catch the unforgettable sight of a resident sperm whale diving deep into the ocean, their tale fluke perfectly framed against jagged mountain ranges. Both tour operators are committed to the conservation of marine life and the environment.

    TOP TIPS:
    • Stay the night in luxury at Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses, which is working towards becoming a zero-waste centre. Enjoy a meal at their in-house restaurant, which sources over 75% of its ingredients from local suppliers, including their own garden.
    DID YOU KNOW?
    • Kaikōura was the first place in the world to be named a Green Globe-certified community, with sustainable tourism a key to its success.
  • Day 4: Kaikoura - Christchurch

    Drive Fly 180 KMS 111 MI
    Spend the morning kayaking with playful New Zealand fur seals or go on a bird watching tour to view seabirds, albatross, mollymawks and petrels. Later that afternoon, board the Coastal Pacific train to Christchurch.

    TOP TIP:
    • Consider staying the night at Sudima Christchurch City – carboNZero certified and a single-use plastic free, it’s also the first hotel in New Zealand to offer plant-based amenities, including biodegradable slippers.
  • Day 5: Christchurch - Hanmer Springs

    Drive Fly 133 KMS 82 MI
    Spend the morning exploring the everchanging city of Christchurch – either by bike, tram or hop-on/hop-off bus. Take some time to smell the flowers in the botanic gardens or take a relaxing punt down the Avon River. Pick up your electric rental car and head to the picturesque alpine village of Hanmer Springs. This evening, unwind in natural hot pools.

    MUST-DO:
    • Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
      Soak in naturally heated, mineral-filled waters surrounded by Redwood trees or treat yourself to a range of indulgent spa therapies. The complex takes a novel and eco-friendly approach to powering the complex by converting waste methane (a by-product of tapping into geothermal springs) into electricity.
  • Day 6: Hanmer Springs - Punakaiki (via Westport)

    Drive Fly 252 KMS 156 MI
    Make your way across the South Island today to the dramatically rugged West Coast. Stop off at Cape Foulwind and walk the spectacular coastal walkway – see a seal colony, lighthouse and panoramic views of mountains and coastline. Continue down the coast to the mysterious pancake rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki, and stay the night at one of the beachside resort’s “eco suites”, designed and built to have minimal impact on the environment.
  • Day 7: Punakaiki - Franz Josef

    Drive Fly 217 KMS 134 MI
    Head south this morning, with a stop at in Hokitika for lunch and to check out unique jewellery and other items carved from pounamu (greenstone) found in West Coast rivers. Arrive in Franz Josef and enjoy a soak in a hot pool amongst lush vegetation, before spending the night in a rainforest retreat.
  • Day 8: Franz Josef - Wanaka

    Drive Fly 284 KMS 176 MI
    Walk on the shoulders of an icy giant with a glacier heli-hike, or admire the everchanging icescape from the river valley with a dedicated guide. Leave lots of time for the onward drive to Wanaka, and make sure you take a break at the pristine Blue Pools near Haast.

    MUST DO:
    • Franz Josef Glacier Guides Heli Hike
      An exhilarating helicopter ride, jaw-dropping scenery and a three-hour hike through the most spectacular glacier features.
  • Day 9: Wanaka - Queenstown

    Drive Fly 67 KMS 41 MI
    This morning, discover hidden pools, picnic next to towering falls and be blown away by spectacular views on a via ferrata climbing adventure. Make your way over the windy but spectacular Crown Range road to Queenstown. Take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the iconic TSS Earnslaw, a century-old steamship, a great way to see Queenstown’s surrounding landscape.
  • Day 10: Queenstown - Glenorchy

    Drive Fly 46 KMS 28 MI
    Set against a background of native beech forest and towering mountain ranges, rustic Glenorchy is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Lake Wakatipu and the Dart River offer opportunities for jet boating and kayaking, and some of New Zealand’s best hiking trails can be accessed from here.

    MUST DO:
    • Nestled among some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery, Camp Glenorchy Eco-Retreat is designed, built and operated in line with the world’s most stringent environmental design certification, the Living Building Challenge.
  • Day 11: Glenorchy - Manapouri

    Drive Fly 218 KMS 135 MI
    In the morning, drive to Manapouri for your Doubtful Sound transfer. 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 cruise this pristine fiord, keeping your eyes peeled for bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and the Fiordland crested penguin.

    MUST DO:
    • Real Journeys Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise
      Escape to the peace and tranquillity of Doubtful Sound on a magical overnight cruise. Explore the shoreline by kayak or tender boat – or to simply relax on board before a three-course meal and some stargazing on the upper deck.  
  • Day 12: Manapouri - Queenstown

    Drive Fly 172 KMS 106 MI
    This morning you will be transferred back to Manapouri, where you will pick up your car and travel back to Queenstown. Enjoy the evening exploring Queenstown’s compact town centre and dine out at one of its many great restaurants.  
  • Day 13: Queenstown - Twizel

    Drive Fly 200 KMS 124 MI
    Leave Queenstown after breakfast and head towards Twizel, near the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. There are many ways to explore Sir Edmund Hillary’s training ground but you don’t have to be a mountaineer to enjoy the scenery. Go on a short alpine walk or take a boat across the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier. Stay the night in a glass-roofed SkyBed, the ultimate in secluded stargazing in this International Dark Sky Reserve.
  • Day 14: Twizel - Christchurch

    Drive Fly 288 KMS 178 MI
    Take the scenic drive to Christchurch, with a stop at sparkling Lake Tekapo. Catch your flight out of Christchurch International Airport or stay the night in the city.