Travel Package Ideas
- All itineraries here are suggestions to give you an idea of what New Zealand has to offer. They are fully customizable and prices will vary depending on your level of comfort. Our travel advisors are flexible and will design your trip to suit your individual budget and desires.
- All prices are in USD. Per couple, and includes accommodation, rental cars, airport transfers, and some activities.
Full South Island 18+ Days
The South Island of New Zealand is a captivating destination known for its majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and rugged coastlines. Fiordland National Park showcases iconic attractions like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, where travelers can cruise through deep fjords, surrounded by towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls.The Southern Alps offer adventure opportunities, with Aoraki/Mount Cook being the tallest peak in New Zealand, attracting climbers and hikers. The nearby Tasman Glacier and its turquoise meltwater lake add to the allure of the region. Heading west, the wild West Coast awaits with its Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, a geological marvel of limestone formations pounded by the Tasman Sea. Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki present picturesque scenes with their turquoise and intense blue hues, reflecting the surrounding landscapes. Queenstown is an adventure hub, offering bungee jumping, jet boating, and panoramic views from the Remarkables mountain range. Marlborough Sounds provide a peaceful escape, with waterways, forests, and hidden bays for exploration by kayak or hiking. Throughout the journey, charming towns and cities like Dunedin offer historic architecture, arts scenes, and opportunities to spot diverse wildlife, including albatrosses and penguins on Otago Peninsula. The South Island's diverse array of highlights promises an unforgettable journey through one of the world's most captivating destinations.
Drive: Christchurch to Kaikoura
Take the Northern Motorway out of Christchurch towards Kaikoura. There are ample refreshment stops at Woodend, Waikuku and Amberley or continue towards the Waipara Valley and detour for some excellent wine tastings at any of the many wineries in the region. Continue to Cheviot, the region's largest town, and if you have time, detour down to Gore Bay to stretch your legs and marvel at the stunning Cathedral Cliffs. Back on SH 1, the road traverse's hilly rural landscapes before hugging the coastline. Enjoy the spectacular sea views as you drive towards Kaikoura. Once there, walk around the small town to enjoy the street art. Dine on the freshest of seafood, get fit on the cycle and walking trails or prepare to be captivated on one of the many whale-watching, dolphin and seal experiences on offer.
Drive Kaikoura to Blenheim
SH 1 offers endless views of the Pacific Ocean as it hugs the coastline from Kaikoura to the tiny town of Ward. As the road turns inland, the Lake Grassmere saltworks offer an interesting stopping point. The lake turns deep pink in summer, in contrast with the white, salty mounds surrounding it. Further on is Seddon, named for an early, influential Prime Minister, and the historic, double-decker Awatere River Bridge, one of only three such bridges in NZ. Blenheim is in the heart of Marlborough wine country and offers vineyard tours, artisan chocolates, fresh seafood restaurants, and more. It's well-worth visiting the Omaka Aviation Heritage Center, which houses Sir Peter Jackson's WW1 airplane and artefacts collection. Blenheim is also the gateway to the four-day Queen Charlotte walking track. And just down the road lies the coastal town of Picton where the Cook Strait ferries dock. There you can explore the remote Marlborough Sounds on one of several picturesque boat tours.
Drive: Blenheim to Nelson
Climb through the hills, taking advantage of the viewpoints along the way. The small town of Havelock will give you your first taste of the Marlborough Sounds; take a small cruise around the Pelorus Sounds and be sure to taste the local Mussels when you return. Your destination is the creative town of Nelson, gateway to three national parks. Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman.
Drive: Nelson to Hokitika
Your trip begins with a pleasant drive through rural landscapes and small villages to the town of Murchison, an excellent place to refuel and grab a cuppa. Leave time on your journey to enjoy the Buller Heritage Park with its thrilling jet boat ride and zipline. Cross the longest swing bridge in New Zealand 63ft above the mighty Buller River and learn some West Coast history on the easy bushwalks around the park. The scenic drive through the gorge takes around an hour on the winding road. Once past Lower Buller Gorge, the road curves towards the sea and hugs the wild Tasman Coast from Charleston to Punakaiki and the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. With mountains on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other, it's easy to be distracted by the scenery but watch for a few sharp corners on the winding road to Hokitika.
Drive Hokitika to Franz Josef
From Hokitika, it's a relatively straight run beside the coast on SH 6 before the road turns slightly inland towards the gold-mining town of Ross. If you're ready for a stop, the Ross Goldfields Heritage Center is a great place to try a spot of gold panning and take a one-hour historic gold trail walk. Continue through rural landscapes and over several river bridges before reaching beautiful Franz Josef. The town is the gateway to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers and nearby Ōkārito Lagoon, home of the rare kotoku (White Heron). Walk to the Franz Josef Glacier's base or experience the thrill of a helicopter ride and land right on the glacier. Maybe get truly adventurous and try your hand at ice climbing. Enjoy a scenic flight over Mt Cook — or a long flight down to Milford Sound and back for awe-inspiring aerial mountain views.
Drive Franz Josef to Wanaka
Prepare for a slow-at-times but beautiful drive down the west coast from Franz Josef to Haast because you'll want to stop again and again to drink in the mountain and ocean views. Just 30 minutes into your drive, take a detour into Lake Matheson if it's a fine day. There's a lovely cafe and a pretty bushwalk, but what makes this New Zealand's most-photographed lake are its perfect reflections of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. Back on SH 6, continue driving through rural landscapes, past mountains, rivers and sea to Haast. On the way, consider a stop at Munro Beach near Lake Moeraki. You'll find a bushwalk between the lake and the beach — a good place for the kids to run on the sand and clamber among rocks. If you're fortunate, you might spot some of the rare Fiordland-Crested penguins known to nest in the nearby bush. Haast is the Whitebait capital of New Zealand, so grab a whitebait patty or enjoy some fish and chips before turning inland towards the Haast Pass. Maori traditionally took this route on their journeys to the west coast, searching for pounamu (greenstone). Again, prepare for a winding road through the mountains. Descend through the Landsborough valley to Makarora and a welcome stop at the Country Cafe. The route travels alongside Lakes Wanaka and Hawea then turns into Wanaka township, known as the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park.
Drive Wanaka to Queenstown
The beautiful shortcut through the Crown Range offers a winding mountain road and incredible scenery. But if you're driving in winter, check the road conditions before you leave Wanaka, as it can sometimes be icy or covered in snow. If you're not in a hurry, stop in at Cardrona Village. Here you'll find the historic Cardrona Pub, famous for its food and the eclectic collections decorating the walls. Here, too, are the entrances to the Cardrona Skifield and the Snow Farm (cross country skiing). Once through the pass, the road drops steeply, with many sharp corners, bypassing the pretty village of Arrowtown and on to Queenstown. Right on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by mountains, Queenstown offers adventure and relaxation. Choose between golf, art, and wine tours. Ride the historic Earnslaw steamboat to visit Walter Peak Station farm. Go mountain biking, skiing, bungy jumping, canyoning or try the indoor skydiving experience for those who'd prefer not to jump out of a plane.
Drive Queenstown to Te Anau
From Queenstown, cross the Kawarau River Bridge towards the Remarkables mountain range and follow SH 6 south as it twists and turns beside Lake Wakatipu to the small towns of Kingston and Garston. Stop at Garston for a hot drink, snack and local honey at the Coffee Bomb, then continue through rural landscapes, through the Upper Mataura River valley and out onto the Five Rivers plain. Turn onto SH 97 to take the shortcut to SH 94 at Mossburn, where you'll find gas stations and two cafes. Driving on, the farms give way to wild tussock country and mountain scenery before dipping down into the Te Anau basin. Bustling Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and three of New Zealand's great walks. Don't miss the chance to take a coach tour and boat ride on the pristine Milford or Doubtful Sounds. Or, enjoy the sheer cliffs and spectacular waterfalls from the air on a Wings and Water floatplane. Take a short boat trip across Lake Te Anau for a guided tour around glow worm caves or sample a short walk beside the lake on part of the Kepler Track.
Drive Te Anau to Dunedin
Leaving Te Anau, wend your way through farms, over rivers and up into the wild tussock mountain scenery of Gorge Hill. Then dip down to the grain and dairy farms of Northern Southland. Stop for fuel, snacks, and souvenirs in Mossburn or Lumsden and continue on SH 94 through the rural landscapes to Gore, home of NZ's premier country music festival. Stop off at the Hokonui Moonshine Museum, which celebrates the area's colorful history of illicit whiskey-making during the prohibition years. SH 1 now leads you through rolling hills, small towns and rural landscapes to Balclutha, best known for its iconic historic bridge over the Clutha, NZ's second-longest river. The last hour of your journey alternates between the rolling hill country and small towns before reaching the flat, once-marshy farmland south of Dunedin. Take a break from your trip on the two-hour Sinclair Wetlands Walk near Lake Waihola or continue through villages and onto Dunedin's southern motorway. Dunedin, NZ's Scottish City, has plenty to keep you busy. At the Otago Museum, Discovery World and the Butterfly Rainforest will keep the whole family enthralled. Toito, the Early Settlers Museum is equally fascinating, as is the nearby Chinese Garden. Don't miss a trip to the Otago Peninsula, where you'll find Larnach Castle and the Taiaroa Heads Royal Albatross Center or take the scenic drive north to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.
Drive Dunedin to Lake Tekapo
Prepare for a picturesque drive from the ocean to lakes and mountains on the road from Dunedin to Tekapo. Take the motorway north over the hills and down to the coast. There are many small towns on the way but make sure you stop at Moeraki Boulders between Palmerston and Oamaru. Enjoy the pretty cafe bar and take the long stairway down to the beach to see the famous, round boulders. Oamaru's Victorian Precinct near the harbor is a busy hub filled with shops, galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants, museums, a brewery, a steam train, and plenty of fun activities. Oamaru is also famous for its little blue penguins that trek into the harbor every day at sunset. Turn onto SH 83 just past Oamaru (signs for Kurow and Omarama.) Drive through picturesque countryside and follow the river up the Waitaki Valley past the three lakes of the Waitaki hydro scheme. You'll find many stopping and viewing points beside the lakes as you wind your way towards Omarama. Then continue on SH 8 through once-parched farmland now studded with irrigation booms and carefully formed lakes. Take the 2-minute detour to Twizel or continue to Lake Pukaki for your first view of Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain. Here you can turn onto SH 80 towards Mt Cook Village or continue on SH 8 towards Lake Tekapo.
Drive Lake Tekapo to Christchurch
Today you will journey north to Christchurch, stopping at several country towns along the way. By now, you would have seen and heard about New Zealand pies, so if you haven’t yet tried one, then the Fairlie Bakehouse offers the perfect opportunity to try this kiwi favourite. If delicious jams and chutneys are more your thing, then Barkers of Geraldine will provide plenty of samples before choosing a gift pack to take home. At this point, it is recommended to ignore Google maps and take the inland scenic route, tracing the foothills to the resort town of Methven. From here, it’s a straight drive to the Garden City, officially known as Christchurch.