This tour of the South Island features so much of iconic scenery that this part of New Zealand has to offer. There’s the mighty Southern Alps, stunning Queenstown, Milford Sound, a Tranz Alpine Rail Journey as well as a very special visit to New Zealand’s 3rd island – Stewart Island. This tour really gives you the opportunity to explore and experience the breathtaking scenery that New Zealand’s South Island is famous for.
The Christchurch Tram is a unique experience combining history and sightseeing. The beautifully restored heritage trams are one of the city’s best loved attractions.
Hop-on hop-off tickets allow you to visit the central city sights at your leisure. And the friendly and knowledgeable drivers keep you updated about the latest city changes in informative live commentaries.
Explore the best of the central Christchurch from the 17 stops enroute. Hop off at The Canterbury Museum & Botanic Gardens. Visit Turanga and the Margaret Mahy Playground. Enjoy many retail stores, bars and eateries at The Terrace, Cashel Street & Riverside Market. And the Arts Centre and New Regent Street offer fantastic shopping and dining options for all.
The iconic Skyline Gondola gives you the opportunity to take in stunning views as you ride the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ll be carried 480 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak.
Enjoy a spectacular 220-degree panorama. There are breath-taking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peaks and, of course, Queenstown.
The short ride on the gondola offers views of the beauty of the Wakatipu basin. When you get to the top there’s a lot to do. Have a drink from the bar and enjoy the view. Take a few rides on the thrilling Luge (once is never enough). Or refuel with a sumptuous buffet lunch or dinner at the restaurant.
The Dart River Safari jetboat experience is an exhilarating and spectacular journey through iconic landscapes. The landscapes in the Dart River Valley are nothing short of awe-inspiring. And you’ll learn about the area as you travel past snow-capped mountains, crystal clear waterways and lush ancient native beech forests.
The braided Dart River (or Te Awa Whakatipu) flows for 60km to the northern tip of Lake Whakatipu near Glenorchy. It’ll take you from the Southern Alps and the Dart Glacier in the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park to the lake. You’ll be towered over by mountain ranges on either side. And the Dart River Valley offers stunning panoramic views to enjoy at every turn.
Your passionate and knowledgeable driver will make help make your adventure unforgettable. Learn the culture and history of Te Wāhipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area as you travel.
Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum was established in 1948 as a Centennial of Otago project. Appropriately set in the former gold mining town, the museum started life in the billiard rooms of the Ballarat Hotel. It then shifted to the current home, the former Bank of New Zealand building, in 1955.
Over the last 60 years, innovative direction has seen the museum recognised as one of New Zealand’s leading small museums. It has a strong hands-on focus. Working displays cover two floors and incorporate three historic buildings. They offer a window into the past — an authentic picture of early Maori life and the harsh lives of European settlers and goldminers.
A short distance from Queenstown, the museum also houses an art gallery, bookshop, archives and research facility and a busy education programme.
The TSS Earnslaw offers one of the best ways to see Queenstown’s surrounding landscape. Cruise across Lake Whakatipu aboard the iconic century-old coal-fired steamship taking in the views at a leisurely pace.
An iconic piece of Queenstown’s history, The Earsnlaw has been lovingly maintained since 1912. Take time to explore the vessel, view the engine room, and study the historic displays of the steamship’s former life.
Your trip will take you across the lake, past the Remarkables mountain range and Cecil Peak to Walter Peak for a high country farm experience. Then you’ll cruise back to Queenstown Bay with plenty of time to take in that world-famous alpine scenery.
A boutique winery tour is a wonderful way to explore the vineyards of Gibbston Valley, near Queenstown. Famous for their world-class pinot noir, the vineyards you will visit are set in the truly breathtaking scenery of an alpine valley.
Raising grapes this far south is hard work. But one sip of Gibbston Valley pinot noir tells you the effort is absolutely worthwhile. This area, outside Queenstown, is fondly known as the “Valley of the Vines”. And it is one of the most scenic wine growing areas in New Zealand. The vineyards are sandwiched between rugged mountains and the rocky Kawarau River gorge.
This high altitude area is subject to cold winters, hot dry summers and a huge night-to-day temperature range. But these challenging conditions have produced consistently superb wines. And worldwide recognition and an avalanche of international awards followed. More than 70% of the grapes grown here are pinot noir. Other varieties include chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
The Queenstown region features prominently in the incredibly popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. And Nomad Safaris’ “The Safari of the Scenes Tour” combines a true 4WD adventure with film locations from the LOTR trilogy.
Your guides rediscover the magic of Tolkien’s Middle-earth and bring it to life with rare facts and thrilling tales. Discover the magical side of New Zealand. And find out why this magnificent country was chosen to portray Middle-earth.
This Queenstown adventure safari is packed with breath-taking Lord Of The Rings filming locations and thrilling 4WD action.
This thrilling jetboat ride takes you through the spectacular shotover canyons near Queenstown. See the canyons’ beauty and feel their power on the world’s most exciting jet boat ride. A unique combination of beauty and power, the Shotover Jet is an experience like no other.
This iconic Queenstown attraction is proudly owned by Ngāi Tahu, the Māori people of this land, and their connection to the Kimiākau (Shotover River) goes back centuries. As the home of their tīpuna (ancestors), this place is part of them.
Only Shotover Jet have access to the spectacular Shotover Canyons and no one knows this area like they do. The world-famous trip combines pristine natural landscape with wall to wall canyon action from start to finish!
Cruise Milford Sound, the most well-known and accessible of all the fiords in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Area. Its 16 kilometre (14 nautical miles) length is lined by sheer rock faces that soar 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more from the water.
Milford Sound is in the heart of a rainforest (annual rainfall is 6,813mm or 268 inches). This creates walls of temporary waterfalls on a wet day. In drier conditions this recedes to just two permanent waterfalls (Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls). Glorious on a fine day, Milford Sound’s ethereal, moody beauty in the rain is equally spectacular.
On your leisurely and informative nature cruise, you’ll see towering cliffs and peaks. The spectacular 1692 metre Mitre Peak — NZ’s most photographed mountain — rises more than a kilometre straight out of the sea. Waterfalls cascade into the fiord. And luxuriant rain forest clings to sheer rock faces in this breath taking place.
Gain an entertaining insight into New Zealand’s southernmost community and learn about the history and environment of Stewart Island.
During this 1 hour tour you will experience unspoiled, incredibly beautiful, and steeped in stories of Stewart Island (known as Rakiura – glowing skies – by Maori), any visit to Stewart Island is well worth this informative introduction. Local guides enjoy sharing their knowledge of the area on this mini-bus tour of the Island. You will have plenty of time to get off the bus for photo stops and short walks. Highlights include a visit to the gateway to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay and Observation Rock with its stunning views of Paterson Inlet.
Discover Stewart Island from the water on a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet and a guided walk in Ulva Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
The cruise will showcase some of Paterson Inlet’s stunning scenery with its hidden coves and unspoilt beaches. You’ll hear fascinating stories of early Maori history and European settlement from your guide as we pass various landmarks. Your guide is passionate about this area, provides informative commentary and is more than happy to answer questions. While on board, keep a look out for fur seals and penguins – we see a lot of them around this area.
Paterson Inlet is home to renowned wildlife sanctuary Ulva Island and we’ll stop there for a 45 minute guided walk. The island is home to weka (native woodhen), bush robins, rare saddlebacks and yellowheads amongst other species. It is also a protected habitat for some of New Zealand’s rarest plant species. A regular highlight is to encounter an inquisitive weka on the beach. Duration 2 hours 15 minutes.
For the remainder of the cruise around Paterson Inlet, relax on board our modern catamaran and enjoy the coastal scenery before heading back to base.
At dusk depart from Stewart Island’s Halfmoon Bay in a catamaran for a cruise across Paterson Inlet to Little Glory Cove. During the cruise pass Ulva Island (a predator-free sanctuary) and learn about Stewart Island’s rich history. Once at Little Glory Cove, disembark onto a wharf at the southern part of the peninsula known as The Neck.
The walk, led by your nature guide, is on a well-formed track across the peninsula, through spectacular coastal forest to a secluded sandy beach. As dusk sets in and daylight diminishes, venture by torchlight through the native forest with the stars and forest night sounds around you. The walk will take about 45 minutes one-way and the track emerges on to Ocean Beach. This wide sandy beach is where kiwi are often found feeding among the grasses and seaweed.
Here in the darkness you may get the opportunity to see the Southern brown kiwi (Rakiura Tokoeka) – often searching for food. Afterwards retrace your steps through the forest to Little Glory Wharf for your catamaran ride back to Oban township on Stewart Island.
Situated on the picturesque Otago Peninsula, a short distance from Dunedin, Larnach Castle is one of New Zealand’s premier visitor attractions. It took more than 200 workmen three years to build the Castle shell. Then master European craftsmen spent a further 12 years embellishing the interior.
William Larnach spared no expense on his dream home, which features the finest materials from around the world. Allowed to decay, it has been lovingly restored over decades by the Barker family who purchased it in 1967.
The family has restored the empty buildings from ruin and have assembled a large collection of original New Zealand period furniture and antiques. A living collection that showcases the craftsmanship and spirt of New Zealand.
Visit Larnach Castle to discover its rich history, dating back to 1871. Its interiors are a fascinating insight into Victorian decor. And you’ll enjoy exploring the exquisite gardens, which have attained a Garden of International Significance award from the New Zealand Gardens Trust.
We can customise any of our Self guided drive tours to your needs
Christchurch is an fascinating city to explore. It was once a historic garden city. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes it has turned into a fascinating city of regeneration and growth.
The central city is filled with cutting-edge architecture alongside some of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. But Christchurch is constantly evolving, always giving locals and visitors something new to explore. Expect street art and innovative projects, a bustling hospitality scene and established green spaces.
The Avon River runs through the city, bringing a natural landscape to the urban environment. Cruise along the picturesque river on a flat bottomed punt. Take a ride on a historic tram through the city. With wonderful parks and botanic gardens to explore Christchurch is a great place to visit.
Aoraki / Mount Cook, standing at 3,724 metres, is the highest mountain in New Zealand. It is located within Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
The park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense — with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky. It is part of the Southern Alps, the mountain range running the length of the South Island.
A popular tourist destination, Aoraki /Mount Cook is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. Mt Cook, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of becoming the first person to climb Mt Everest.
Although the National Park encompasses 23 peaks over 3000 metres high, it is very accessible. State Highway 80 leads to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village beside scenic Lake Pukaki, which provides a comfortable base for alpine activities.
Far from city lights, the stargazing here is magnificent. Indeed, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park forms the majority of New Zealand’s only International Dark Sky Reserve.
Queenstown is a stunning resort town, renowned for its beauty and wealth of adventure activities, it sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps mountains, Queenstown is also a base for exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns.
Iconic adventure activities include bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge and jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers. And in winter, there’s skiing on the slopes of The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona ski resorts.
Queenstown is a hub of adventure, thrumming with adrenaline and an buzzing with a carefree sense of fun. But extreme activities aren’t the only options here. This world-famous resort town and its surrounding area boast many things to see, do, eat, drink and explore. Something for everyone at any time of year.
Famously described by Rudyard Kipling as the “eighth wonder of the world”, Milford Sound is a stunning fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island.
The “sound” was carved out by glaciers during the ice age like all modern fiords. But it’s majesty and the drama of its surrounding mountains is hard to match. It is known for the towering Mitre Peak, plus rainforests and waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls, which plummet down its sheer sides.
When it rains in Milford Sound — and it often does — those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect. Whatever the weather it really is a breath-taking sight.
Boat tours are a popular way to explore the inky waters of this pristine natural wonder. The fiord is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins. Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory offers views of rare black coral and other marine life.
A two hour drive from Queenstown, Te Anau is a Southland town. A pretty lakeside town, it’s known as a gateway to Fiordland National Park.
Te Anau offers great views of the lake and mountains beyond and a good range of cafes and restaurants. The awe-inspiring natural beauty of the park’s wilderness, including Milford and Doubtful Sounds is within easy reach.
The region is home to many of NZ’s Great Walks, endangered flightless takahē birds and abundant trout in Lake Te Anau. Te Anau Caves feature a limestone grotto of glowworms and an underground waterfall. To the southwest, the Kepler Track winds through beech forests, glacial valleys and mountains.
Invercargill is a city near the southern tip of Aotearoa’s South Island. The Southland Region’s “Capital”, it is New Zealand’s southernmost city and was founded in the 1850s.
Invercargill is well-equipped for visitors with an excellent range of shops and a selection of lively bars and restaurants. Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco heritage buildings give the city a charming old-world character.
An array of coastal landscapes for visitors to explore is just minutes from the city centre. Experience the long coastal highway of Oreti Beach. Discover the natural wonders of Waituna Wetlands and Omaui. Or explore the boardwalk on the estuary and heritage wharfs.
It may appear Invercargill is obsessed with anything with wheels. The SIT Zero Fees Velodrome will interest bike enthusiasts. Anyone interested in transport history will enjoy the world class vintage truck collection at Bill Richardson Transport World. Meanwhile, motorbike fans can celebrate Invercargill’s motorcycle history at Classic Motorcycle Mecca and learn about the legend of speed, Burt Munro, at E Hayes Motorworks.
Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third largest island, situated 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. This is one magical spot…
In the Māori language, it’s known as Rakiura which means ‘the land of glowing skies’. You’ll get an inkling why when you see the Aurora Australis, which often appears in these southern skies.
Stewart Island is a haven for endemic NZ wildlife. Brown kiwi or Tokoeka, which outnumber humans on the island, are active day and night. Blue penguins and rare yellow-eyed penguins waddle among the rocks. Offshore on Ulva Island, you’ll find a predator-free bird sanctuary with dozens of native species.
A large part of the island is a National Park with hundreds of kilometres of walking tracks. Many people come here for hiking and birdwatching, or just relaxing in this beautiful and largely untouched wilderness environment.
Known as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’, Dunedin is a city that wears its Scottish heritage with pride. The small city boasts some eye-catching architecture and is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
A gaelic language namesake of ‘Edinburgh’, Dunedin sits at the end of a long picturesque harbour surrounded by dramatic hills. There is so much to see and do here. Stroll through the city and its heritage buildings. Visit intriguing museums and historic homes like Olveston. Experience the rare wildlife found in the spectacular landscapes that surround the city.
The nearby Otago Peninsula offers endless views and beautifully rugged beaches. Nestled at the foot of Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross Centre — the only place in the world on the mainland where you can view Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat.
You will also find other wildlife including colonies of the world’s rarest penguin on the Peninsula. On the beaches, you will find fur seals and sea lions just lazing around and enjoying their natural habitat.
Dunedin’s heritage even extends to a real castle, high on the hills of the Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle is New Zealand’s only castle and a much-loved piece of Dunedin history.
South Island town, Oamaru is North Otago’s largest town. It is well known for remarkable geological formations, local stone, wildlife, and its unique history and historical buildings.
The service centre for the Waitaki District, Oamaru has a rich history and proud heritage, enriched by the passionate and perhaps quirky locals.
Explore the town’s heritage in the Victorian Precinct. You’ll experience some of the Southern Hemispheres most complete Victorian streetscapes and 19th century architecture. And you will find, shops, galleries and traditional crafts in well-preserved buildings.
The town proudly celebrates local heritage and history in Victorian Heritage Celebrations held every November.
Oamaru is also home to a blue penguin colony. These little penguins live around the harbour. And for a unique experience you can take up a seat in the viewing stands to witness these little creatures returning from sea to their nests at night.
Punakaiki is a small community on the West Coast of the South Island, between Westport and Greymouth. The community lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park.
The Pancake Rocks are a very popular tourist destination. At Dolomite Point south of the main village you can explore a limestone landscape of pancake-shaped rock formations, blowholes and surge pools on a short, paved walk.
This all-weather walk takes you through curious limestone formations of ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes.
The blowholes form from a mixture of compressed water and air from caverns below being forced upwards. They create a huge wall of spray and are at their best around high tide when there is a south-westerly swell.
Spectacular views, geological oddities, coastal forest, rich birdlife and marine mammals are highlights along this walk.
Enjoy a very special view of the South Island’s striking natural landscape. Take the Tranz Alpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth. See epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the Southern Alps, and see miles of native beech forest.
You’ll cross the remarkabley flat Canterbury Plains overlooked by the majestic Southern Alps before eventually crossing the aqua-blue Waimakariri River. Tunnels, viaducts and feats of railway engineering take you across alpine passes where you’ll then travel through lush lake valleys towards the West Coast of the South Island. This iconic train trip is the journey of a lifetime.
The TranzAlpine is acknowledged as one of the world’s great train journeys. The 223 kilometre (139 mile) one-way trip takes just under 5 hours and connects Christchurch and Greymouth on the West Coast via Arthurs Pass through the Southern Alps.
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