13 Day Essence of the South Itinerary

Abel Tasman Coast

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Arrive Christchurch

‘Haere Mai’ and welcome to New Zealand!

Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. On arrival you will be transferred from the airport to your Christchurch hotel. After you check-in, you can head out and explore Christchurch see what remains of the historic architecture and the changes as the city is rebuilt since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Some Suggested Activities Options for Christchurch

Easygoing Cycling Tour  Punting the Avon River  Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural EveningFrench Akaroa TourSouthern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch GondolaClearwater GolfArthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night

Christchurch Punting Avon River


Kaikoura - Serengeti of the Sea

This morning travel North to Kaikoura on the Coastal Pacific Train. Kaikoura is known as New Zealand’s ‘Serengeti of the Sea’. The natural wonders here are breath taking. Fur seals lounge on the rugged coastline and, just offshore, whales and dolphins thrive in an ocean that teems with life.

Enjoy your free time in Kaikoura, you may like to choose to swim with dolphins or go whale watching.

Other Suggested Wildlife Encounters in Kaikoura

Whale Watching CruiseSwim with the Seals in Kaikoura
Whale Watching Flight Kaikoura  Dusky Dolphin Viewing or Swimming
Kayaking with Fur SealsAlbatross & Pelagic Bird Watching Kaikoura


Accommodation: Kaikoura - 1 Night

Kaikoura Whale Watching

The White Morph Motor Inn is situated on the waterfront with an easy stroll into the township for convenient dining, shops and bars (there is also a restaurant on site). Choose between the deluxe spa rooms with ocean view balcony, or the 4 star studio rooms & family apartments with garden views. 

White Morph Motor Inn - Kaikoura


Kaikoura - Blenheim - Nelson

Catch your train and continue North to Blenheim the very heart of Marlborough. From Blenheim your journey continues by coach to Nelson. Nelson has a large creative community of working artists that gives the town a laid-back, bohemian feel. Passionate wine makers and craft beer brewers in the area mean that sitting in the sun with the tipple of your choice is a lovely way to enjoy the town centre.

Receiving some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand, the Nelson district it the perfect destination to visit year round. Located in the North-West corner of New Zealand, the Nelson region is surrounded by sheltered mountain ranges, golden beaches, national parks and boutique wineries and breweries. From Nelson, it’s easy to access any of three distinctly different National Parks.

Accommodation: Nelson - 2 Nights

Marlborough Wine Country

The Rutherford Hotel  is an icon of the region standing next to the Cathedral steps and an easy stroll into the city of Nelson.  Nelson is a haven for art enthusiasts, and has a reputation for excellent produce, craft beer and fine wines. The Rutherford Hotel features restaurants and bars and caters for all room categories from studios, interconnecting rooms and suites.

Rutherford Hotel Nelson


Cruise and Explore the Abel Tasman National Park

Today you will travel through Motueka to Kaiteriteri where you will board your launch. Enjoy a relaxing cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park and explore this area on foot. Golden beaches border the translucent turquoise sea, and sandy estuaries fringed by natural forests. The walking tracks here, both in land and costal, are world famous for their outstanding beauty. Kickback on one of the many unspoilt beaches you will discover along the way is what its all about. Plus you have the added bonus of face-to-face encounters with marine wildlife and birds. 

Rejoin your cruise back to Kaiteriteri to return to your hotel in the late afternoon. 

Abel Tasman Park


The Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki

Follow the Motueka River Valley and its bounty of hops, grapes and apple trees, before heading over the Spooners saddle in the Golden Downs forest. Follow SH6 to Murchison, although part of the Nelson Region, this will be your first introduction to the glory and green that is the scenic beauty of the West Coast and Buller Region.  Your coach navigate's the awesome Buller Gorge, where at Hawks Crag the road has been hacked out of solid rock – you’ll drive under a dramatic overhang. Continue on to Punakaiki, famous for its ancient Pancake Rocks and booming blowholes. It is the centrepiece of the Paparoa National Park - packed with a variety of stunning landscapes. 

Accommodation: Punakaiki - 1 Night

Surrounded by the Paparoa National Park and with stunning views of the Tasman Sea, Scenic Hotel Punakaiki is in a great location. The resort is situated only 300m from the famous Punakaiki Blowholes and has been designed in harmony with the local environment.  Evenings are spent relaxing in a standard resort room with views of the sea or an Eco Suite with rainforest and distant seaviews.

Scenic Hotel Punakaiki


Glacier Country

Depart Punakaiki and head south on one of the country's most spectacular drives. Your destination today is Franz Josef township, home to the famous glacier. Here the Franz Josef Glacier tumbles down from the Southern Alps almost to the sea, its ancient icy faces contrasting spectacularly with the surrounding rainforests.

Accommodation: Franz Josef - 2 Nights

Franz Josef Glacier
Situated on the very edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier will welcome you in true New Zealand style. The Hotel makes the most of its alpine location and is only moments from spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. The highly regarded Hot Pools are within walking distance. Featuring patios or balconies, the simple, warmly decorated rooms and suites include free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges, plus tea and coffee making facilities. Suites add living areas. (formerly known as the Scenic Circle Franz Josef Glacier Hotel) has quality rooms with balcony views and special access.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier


The Glaciers at Leisure

Today is a free day to explore the region around Franz Josef. You are in the heart of the Westland National Park, considered to be the most diverse and beautiful areas in New Zealand and the home of the Kea, a protected native parrot that thrives in the chilly environment and is infamous for its inquisitive and often destructive behaviour! 

Simply relax in the Glacier Hot Pools or if you are feeling adventurous take a Glacier Heli Hike and land on the glacier with an experienced guide to explore the towering peaks and ice formations.

Excursions available in and around the Franz Josef area:

Kayak Okarito Lagoon 

   Glacier Hot Pools      Glacier Scenic Flight

Horseback Riding  

   Walk to Glacier Face   Glacier Heli-hike


Franz Josef Glacier


Franz Josef / Queenstown

Today we venture across the mountains, driving up and over the Haast Pass and travelling past dramatic rivers, forests and mountains. We stop to stretch our legs on an easy forest track that leads to dazzling blue pools and the amazing Thunder Creek Falls. We journey along the shores of the turquoise-blue lakes of Wanaka, Hawea and Dunstan, and make our way through the rugged cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge and onwards to Cromwell. The final stop of today is Queenstown - the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Accommodation Queenstown - 3 Nights


Lake Wanaka

Sitting on the crystal-clear shores of Lake Wakatipu, Novotel Gardens is centrally located - only a five-minute walk to town on level ground - home to prime restaurants and boutique shopping. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with views from private balconies over manicured landscapes, with the property being adjacent to the beautiful Queenstown Gardens.

Novotel Queenstown


Queenstown - Free Day

The surrounding area is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards and the natural landscape with wild rivers, high peaks and deep canyons has allowed Queenstown to developed an exciting array of outdoor adventure activities - and there's plenty to choose from. But if you are just want to chill out then Queenstown's compact downtown area is relaxed during the day and huge fun at night. In any season, you can count on stylish designer shops and many trendy restaurants offering a kaleidoscope of dining experiences.

Recommended excursions around Queenstown:

Routeburn Day WalkHighest Bungey JumpExplore Arrowtown

Wine Tasting Central Otago      

Biking Skippers Canyon      Round at Millbrook Golf Resort
Earnslaw Steamboat Cruise  Dart River Jetboat Safari      

Gibbston Valley Wine Trail


Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu


Majestic Milford Sound Cruise

Today promises to be one of the major highlights of your time in New Zealand. We journey to Te Anau, the gateway to the stunning Fiordland National Park, before driving the spectacular Milford Road. Lush forests, glacier-carved valleys, snowy peaks and mirror-like lakes dot this very special driving experience into a renowned World Heritage Site. Continuing through the hand-carved Homer Tunnel and on to Milford Sound itself, the views of this grand fiord are breath taking. We explore its inky waters on a boat cruise, soaking up the surroundings of granite cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and unique wildlife before journeying back to Queenstown for the night. 

Milford Sound Mitre Peak


Queenstown - Mt Cook

This morning you will depart Queenstown and travel north through the historic gold mining region of the Kawarau Gorge before arriving at the majestic Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. Mt. Cook, highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, helped Sir Edmund Hillary hone his climbing skills in preparation for his conquest of Everest. After enjoying these amazing sceneries you will continue to your final destination of today, Mount Cook. 

Accommodation Mount Cook - 1 Night

Mount Cook

A stunning destination surrounded by the silent splendor of the Southern Alps and with spectacular views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding National Park World Heritage area. There is a selection of properties within the Terrace Road campus from Hotel to Chalet and Mountainview Motels - all budgets and standards can be catered for.

Hermitage Hotel Mount Cook


Mount Cook - Christchurch

Today continue your journey to Christchurch your final destination. Enjoy the turquoise blue Lake Tekapo. Here you can take the opportunity to enjoy the majestic scenery of the Southern Alps and view the solitary Church of the Good Shepherd. After enjoying these amazing sceneries you will continue to your final destination of the journey - Christchurch

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 Night

Lake Tekapo


Bon Voyage!

"Haere rā" Goodbye! and Bon Voyage!

Today we say farewell. We take care of your transfer to Christchurch Airport where you will board your onward flight, taking with you the magical memories of a truly exceptional New Zealand holiday.





Christchurch Punting Avon River


What is an Independent Coach Tour

Tour Inclusions

  • 4 Star Accommodation
  • Experienced Driver Guides
  • Detailed and informative commentary
  • Travel in an air-conditioned coach
  • 24 Hour Assistance
  • Daily Departures
  • Abel Tasman National Park Walk & Cruise (including lunch)
  • Milford Sound Day Tour & Cruise (including lunch)
  • Coastal Pacific Train Christchurch - Kaikoura
  • Coastal Pacific Train Kaikoura - Blenheim
Essence of New Zealand Tour Map

Profile picture for user Tracy
What Tracy says about this tour: A great trip I recommend to clients who dont want to miss out on the top of the South Island. This tour includes Kaikoura, Nelson and the Abel Tasman as well as the West Coast and Fiordland areas. A great way to spend 2 weeks in New Zealand.
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