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South Island  Highlights -  a new 12  day New Zealand Tour

Mitre Peak.jpg

DAY 1 - After picking you up from home (all part of the Hinterland service) we head  to the Airport to check in for our direct mid-morning flight south to Christchurch.


Its a short drive to our central city hotel – where we will spend the next two nights, allowing us time to explore the "Garden City".  The afternoon is free for you to relax at the hotel or head to explore the city before we dine together at the hotel.


DAY 2 - Today is all about exploring ‘The Garden City’. This morning we head into the city with our local guide who will show us around the ever-changing CBD and surrounds. After the devastating earthquakes of 2010/11, Christchurch is getting back on its feet and there is plenty of interesting sights to see. 

We visit the scenic suburbs such as Lyttelton and Sumner, ride up and over the Port Hills to enjoy panoramic views of the city and plains, with the Southern Alps standing tall in the distance. We take a stroll through the beautiful grounds of the historic Mona Vale homestead with it’s picturesque gardens and streams before heading back to the city centre where you can take lunch at any of the local cafes. 

The afternoon is free for you to explore the city as you wish, perhaps visit the Canterbury Museum, the new Arts Centre, ride the iconic tram, take a tour through the Botanic Gardens or go punting on the river Avon (extras at your cost).  Tonight we dine out a local restaurant.

DAY 3 - Next morning’s highlight is one of the world’s best train rides – the Tranz Alpine. The scenery from the large panoramic windows will take your breath away as you view plains, rivers, forests and the peaks of the Southern Alps. After reaching Arthurs Pass the train descends through lush West Coast rainforest to finish at Greymouth where the coach is waiting for you. This is a trip that will provide long-lasting memories.

From Greymouth there is more amazing scenery in store as we hit State Highway 6 and head south down the West Coast - what a special part of New Zealand. Our final destination today is Franz Josef, but on the way we stop at historic Hokitika, famous for its jade, glass crafts and the location for the recently screened movie The Luminaries.

Then it's on to Ross to try our luck at gold panning. This now small West Coast settlement is where New Zealand’s largest nugget of gold was found in 1909, when it's population was once the largest of any settlement on the West Coast.

More rainforest and dramatic scenery to be seen as we continue to Franz Josef – a long but memorable day. Tonight we stay in the village, and enjoy a lovely dinner out together at a restaurant with an interesting history.

DAY 4 - More dramatic scenery awaits for our next day as we head further south, with innumerable lakes, rivers, forests and mountains offering plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Following the Westland National Park with the Alps as our backdrop, we have breakfast en-route at Lake Matheson – famous as the ‘Mirror Lake’. Weather permitting we will have great views to the east to Aoraki Mount Cook. Sit back and enjoy the scenery as we continue to Haast for lunch.

Departing Haast we leave the coast behind and head up and into the Aspiring National Park. As we climb ever higher to cross the central divide, we pass the Gates of Haast, where the Haast River cascades through this narrow gorge. Heading over the Haast Pass we will first see Lake Hawea and then Lake Wanaka where we stop briefly to enjoy this popular holiday resort.

Taking the back road towards Queenstown over the Crown Range, we stop at the historic Cardronna Hotel for a drink and then on towards New Zealand’s adventure playground of Queenstown. After today's long drive we will be ready for a good nights sleep in our lake front city central hotel. Our location is ideal for a lakeside stroll or a short walk into town.

DAY 5 - After a couple of days travelling it’s time to relax in Queenstown and enjoy this popular lakeside resort. Following a late start and hearty breakfast, we first ride the Skyline Gondola up to Bob's Peak. Travelling up 450 metres above Queenstown, this must do attraction affords stunning views over Queenstown, The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu far below. Why not try your skill on the luge track? (extra cost). We then head back to the lakefront to board Queenstown’s most iconic attraction – the TSS Earnslaw.

Cruising across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station, this 107 year old steamship provides a taste of yesteryear - you can even view the engine room. Our visit to Walter Peak Station begins with a sumptuous buffet lunch, after which you can explore the gardens and grounds or join the resident shepherd for a sheep farming demonstration.

On return to Queenstown the rest of the afternoon and evening is free to do as you wish, you may not even need dinner tonight after your amazing lunch. 

DAY 6 - Sadly we have to leave Queenstown behind as we make our way south towards Fiordland National Park, but not before our first stop this morning at the historic mining town of Arrowtown where you can explore the historic main street, the Chinese Village or just browse the interesting boutique shops for a while.

Departing Arrowtown, we visit the AJ Hackett bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge in the Gibbston Valley, to watch the intrepid adventurers as they plunge head first towards the river 43 metres below. Fancy a go yourself - maybe not - but grab some pictures to remind yourself what you missed. We then head south along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, past Kingston and on to Te Anau, our location for the next three nights.

DAY 7 - Today its time for another of New Zealand's must see destinations - the majestic Milford Sound. Departing our hotel, the journey begins as we follow the shore line of Lake Te Anau offering amazing views across to Mount Lyall and other snow capped peaks. We then head into the mountains, through the beech forest of the Eglington Valley. We stop at the Mirror Lakes which offer stunning views of the Earl Mountains, and a short walk to the viewpoint allows us to stretch our legs.

Our journey continues as we travel ever higher to cross the central divide again. The road offers views of the dramatic landscape as we head into the Hollyford Valley, crossing river after river, past lakes formed in deep glacial valleys until we reach the Homer Tunnel.  Completed in 1953, the 1.2km long tunnel made the once impossible route to Milford Sound possible for all.

Arriving at Milford Sound there is time to have lunch at a riverside lodge (at your cost) before we board our cruise vessel for a truly memorable experience. Our cruise will take us out into the Sound where towering waterfalls cascade thousands of feet into the water and the majestic and aptly named Mitre Peak rises almost 6000 feet out of the deep blue waters.

On our route back to Te Anau after our cruise we will stop at Te Anau Downs on the lake shore where remnants remain of an early hydro-power scheme to supply power to a large sheep station. We return to Te Anau for our last evening in the Southern Alps and will again dine out at another top local restaurant.

DAY 8 - Another highlight awaits today as we experience the spectacular, remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound on our guided day trip. We first cruise across Lake Manapouri, then by coach over the breathtaking Wilmot Pass and into the heart of Fiordland National Park for a 3-hour cruise through the waterways of Doubtful Sound.


With  commentary by the knowledgeable Skipper and Nature Guide you will learn about the nature and wildlife of this remote region of New Zealand. Wildlife viewing, including dolphins, fur seals and even occasionally penguins.  This is a must-do for nature lovers and explorers alike. 

Returning to Manapouri its just a short drive back to our hotel for the last night of our stay in Te Anau.

DAY 9 - After a relaxing start to the day we depart for Dunedin, travelling across the extensive Southland region, to our first destination - the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre. This nationally significant museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating New Zealand’s light civil aviation heritage. On display is the largest collection of de Havilland aircraft in the Southern Hemisphere.

Fancy a flight in a Tiger Moth biplane? It can be arranged (additional costs apply), a chance to tick off another bucket list item perhaps? This will also be our lunch stop today with time to browse the interesting gifts, homeware and clothing shop (something for those not as interested in the behind the scenes aircraft workshop tour). 


After lunch we continue on to Gore, the self styled capital of the brown trout and chance for a photo of the iconic fish statue. Then we head to the northern part of The Catlins. This rugged and sparsely populated area offers a scenic coastal landscape where we visit a must see destination, the lighthouse at Nugget Point. An easy walk to one of the country's oldest lighthouses offers an iconic panoramic view of the coastline with the famous rocks named by Captain Cook because they looked like pieces of gold. It is also home to some of the world’s rarest penguins and one of the only places you might see seals, sea lions and elephant seals in the same area. We then head back onto SH1 to Dunedin. This evening we will dine out at the famous Speights Ale House in the city.

DAY 10 - After a delicious breakfast this morning, we are met by a local guide who will show us around ‘The Edinburgh of the South’. Dunedin is a fascinating city full of history and character and we will get to see some of it's most iconic sights. We begin with a drive out to the beach suburbs of St Clair and St Kilda, to watch the Pacific Ocean waves crash ashore. Then its up onto the High Road of the Otago Peninsula to Larnach Castle, where after a guided tour of the castle and gardens we will enjoy lunch together in the castle's ballroom Cafe.

Heading back into the city along the harbour side Low Road we get to see more iconic sights including the ornate Railway Station, Baldwin Street (the world’s steepest), Otago University and many other historic landmarks. After our lovely lunch at the castle today we do not include dinner, so you are free to do your own thing this evening.

DAY 11 - Departing Dunedin early today, we head north along the coast to see the world famous Moeraki Boulders. These strange rock formations can be seen on the beach just a few steps down from the cafe car park. Though not unique (as similar boulder formations exist in the Hokianga in the Far North) their origins are still not 100% known.

Continuing north we stop at one of New Zealand's most significant early sheep stations  - Totara Estate. Here you will have a guided tour of the original farm buildings followed by refreshments similar to those served to the workers in the 1880's. We then continue on to Oamaru with its lovely Victorian limestone buildings and home of the "Steampunk" movement. Time here to wander the interesting art and craft shops for a while or buy a snack from any of the many cafes.

We then head inland up the Waitaki Valley, passing some of the hydro-electric lakes that power much of the country. Continuing on, the mountains get closer as we travel further inland, alongside Lake Pukaki, to our overnight stay at Mt Cook village. With New Zealand’s highest mountain towering over us, we will stay at The Hermitage – one of New Zealand’s most iconic hotels.

DAY 12 - Before we depart The Hermitage, we have time to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre where we can discover the history of this iconic region. This tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary (humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers) showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region, its people and its place in the universe. 

We then depart towards Christchurch, our first stop today being the lakeside town of Lake Tekapo - made famous by its iconic chapel situated on the shores of the lake. Set against a stunning backdrop, the Church of the Good Shepherd was built to the glory of God and as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. We then continue on to Christchurch, with a stop for a light lunch in Fairlie at its famous bakery (at your cost) before checking in for our early evening flight back to Tauranga.

All Hinterland multi-day tours can be taken by clients from any region of New Zealand or Australia. Please contact us for details. Additional charges may apply.

* Please note, that unless specified in the itinerary we do not usually include the cost of lunches or morning and afternoon tea stops in the tour cost, but we always make stops where there are a range of options available so you can choose what you want, and have flexibility to do things on your own if you wish.

On some days, where a lunch is included in the tour program, we do not include dinner, so you are free to dine as you wish.

South Island Highlights

Join our new tour of the South Island with a route that showcases some of the best scenery and amazing sights of New Zealand...

Departing Tauranga mid-morning we fly direct to Christchurch for 2 nights with plenty of time to explore this amazing rebuilt city. Then we take the Tranz Alpine train to Greymouth to begin our West Coast journey South and on to  Queenstown. Here we cruise to Walter Peak Station on the historic Earnslaw before 3 nights in Te Anau, to visit Milford Sound as well as the Doubtful Sound experience. With 2 nights in Dunedin to see all the sights before heading north to Oamaru and Mount Cook for a night at The Hermitage.  Departing Mt Cook we head back to Christchurch and our flight home. 

What's Included:

  • 12 days of touring

  • 11 nights quality accommodation

  • Door to door service (Tauranga area)

  • Quality air-conditioned vehicle

  • Full commentary from your guide

  • All breakfasts, 3 lunches & 10 dinners

  • Christchurch City tour

  • TranzAlpine train to Greymouth

  • Gold panning on the West Coast

  • Cruise on the historic TSS Earnslaw

  • Lunch at Walter Peak Station

  • Sheep Show at Walter Peak Station

  • Skyline Gondola Queenstown

  • Milford Sound Cruise

  • Croydon Aviation Heritage visit

  • Nugget Point Lighthouse

  • Dunedin City & Larnach Castle Tour

  • Tour and morning tea at Totara Park


You will see:

  • Christchurch & the Canterbury Plains

  • Arthurs Pass & Southern Alps

  • Greymouth and the West Coast

  • Hokitika and Franz Josef

  • Aspiring National Park and Haast

  • Lakes Hawea and Wanaka

  • Queenstown and Arrowtown​

  • Lake Wakatipu & Walter Peak Station

  • Te Anau and Lake Te Anau

  • Milford Sound and Mitre Peak

  • Doubtful Sound & Lake Manapouri

  • Gore and The Catlins Coast

  • Nugget Point

  • Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

  • The Waitaki Valley and hydro lakes

  • Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

  • Mackenzie Country

  • Lake Tekapo

  • Church of the Good Shepherd 

Not included:

  • Any lunches unless specified* 

  • Morning/afternoon tea stops*

  • Any alcoholic beverages with meals

  • AIR New Zealand flights - these will be purchased when you book and charged at cost price to you.

On board the Northern Explorer Train, NZ
Skyline Gondola, Queenstown
Te Anau Jetty
Relaxing with the view at Walter Peak Station.jpg
larnach Castle 2.jpg
Moeraki Boulders
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