12 Days New Zealand's South Island Highlights
Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch
Arrive in Christchurch - Visit the Arts Centre and botanical gardens and enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the many riverside cafes.
Day 2: Christchurch - Lake Tekapo
Drive to Lake Tekapo (190 km, 3 hours) Take a Grand Traverse Scenic Flight over Mt Cook and the glaciers. Walk some of the easy tracks around Lake Tekapo, the South Islands highest town and enjoy the high country views and tussock lands.
Day 3: Lake Tekapo - Wanaka or Queenstown
Drive to Wanaka (196 km, 2.5 hours). If you would like a closer look at Mt Cook, take a 40-minute side trip up to the village along the western side of Lake Pukaki. On a fine day the views are stunning and easy short walks in the National Park area.
Day 4: Flight to Milford Sound with Nature Cruise
Stay in Wanaka (a gorgeous tourist town on the edge of the 4th largest lake in New Zealand) or Queenstown (the action capital of our country!). Plenty to do here. Great walks around the lake and mountains, fishing and boating available, scenic flights up to the Mt Aspiring National Park and good restaurants and cafes to enjoy the views.
Day 5: Queenstown or Wanaka to Fox Glacier
Travel to Fox Glacier (260 km, 5.5 hours from Queenstown) via Lake Hawea and the spectacular Haast Pass. A scenic flight by helicopter or helihike (both optional) is definitely a must-do for the best views of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and Mt Cook. Stay in Fox Glacier tonight.
Day 6: Stay and explore the Fox Glacier area
Walk the Fox Glacier in the morning, visit Gillespies Beach in the afternoon, take one of the many rainforest walks and walk around Lake Mathieson in the evening. Stay in Fox Glacier again tonight.
Day 7: Fox Glacier - Punakaiki
Drive to Punakaiki (250 km, 3 hours)with a stop off in Hokitika, where you can see Jade carvers at work. Take a walk down Trumans Track just north of Punakaiki at low tide and see the Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Dolomite Point at high tide. There are lots of good bush walks around the Paparoa National Park and the Fox River.Stay in Punakaiki.
Day 8: Punakaiki - Nelson/ Abel Tasman
Travel to Motueka (340 km, 4.5 hours) Driving North from Punakaiki towards Motueka today, take a Cave tour at Charleston up the beautiful Nile River or the short open top train trip through the native bush and limestone valley. Just South of Westport, take a short detour out to Cape Foulwind and the award winning Bayhouse Cafe for stunning views and food.From here, drive on up the Buller River to Motueka. Total driving time today is around 5 hours so plan to get away early in the morning for the caving trip.
Day 9: Stay and explore the Abel Tasman/ Nelson region
Stay in the Nelson/ Abel Tasman region.Use today to visit the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. Drive to Marahau via Kaiteriteri to the Southern entrance to the park and the base for sea kayaking, boat trips and walks. (NB. the Park is the most visited in New Zealand and bookings are recommended particularly the summer months). Time permitting, the Pupu Walkway and Te Waikoropupu Springs, the clearest freshwater springs in the Southern Hemisphere, are definitely worth a detour.
Day 10: Nelson/ Abel Tasman - Hanmer Springs
Travel from Motueka to Hanmer Springs (360 km, 5 hours) via Murchison and the Maruia Springs with fine mountain scenery and upland beech forest. In Hanmer, relax in the Thermal Hot Pools after your long drive or take a walk up Conical Hill. Stay in Hanmer Springs tonight.
Day 11: Hanmer Springs - Kaikoura Whalewatch
Travel to Kaikoura (180km, 2 hours). Join Whalewatch for an early afternoon trip. You may also like to swim with the dolphins here - in the waters off this peninsula, a complex marine system provides an abundantly rich habitat for marine mammals and seabirds, making it an ideal place for getting 'close to nature'. Stay in Kaikoura tonight.
Day 12: Depart from Christchurch
Return to Christchurch (180 km, 1.5 hours). Depart back home or continue with your North Island or Australia travel itinerary.
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