14 Day South Island Family Explorer Itinerary

 

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1

Welcome to Christchurch

After welcoming you at the airport and transferring you to your hotel, we will leave you to unwind: we have taken care of everything.

After checking in, why not step back to Edwardian times with a relaxing Private Punting Trip down the Avon River? It's a wonderful introduction to the "Garden City". Gliding gently along the river in a flat-bottomed boat, you will take in Christchurch's 'must-see' historic buildings and Botanic Gardens away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Some other Activities Options for Christchurch

Easygoing Cycling Tour   Punting the Avon River   Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural Evening French Akaroa Tour Southern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch Gondola Clearwater Golf Arthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike


Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 Night

Accommodation:
The Quest Christchurch is located just off Cathedral Square in the heart of the commercial, arts and tourist precinct. This purpose built property is on Christchurch's famous inner city Tram Loop and features a mix of new and heritage architecture. Incorporated in the complex are a variety of retail shops, cafes and restaurants. All the serviced Apartments have free Wi-Fi & Fully Equipped Kitchens.
Quest Christchurch

2

MOUNT COOK National Park

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park is part of UNESCO's Te Wāhipounamu (The Place of Greenstone) World Heritage region. Here is Mackenzie Country, you'll find Australasia's highest mountain - Aoraki / Mount Cook (3,724m) - nestled in the splendid Southern Alps.

Known to Māori as Aoraki or Cloud Piercer, this magnificent mountain is surrounded by over 150 peaks along with countless glaciers, ice and snowfields, mountain lakes, and ranges.

Today we recommend a Mount Cook Helicopter Flight, affording you a spectacular bird's eye view of these natural wonders, with a landing on the Tasman Glacier to make you feel like you're on top of the world.

Approximate Distance: 311 km | 193 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 

Accommodation: Mount Cook - 2 Nights

Accommodation:
Situated in the iconic Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, Mt Cook Lodge & Motels offers a selection of accommodation types from backpacker styled dorms, cosy chalets to newly refurbished and contemporary self-contained motel units. All rooms include ensuite bathrooms, quality linen, refridgerator and a patio or balcony so you can soak up the stunning mountain views. Chill out in the Chamois Bar & Grill, a favourite of travelers and locals alike.
Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

3

Tasman Glacier Explorer Cruise

Experience the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake and its icebergs, in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. A unique guided experience departing Aoraki/Mount Cook village by bus to the beautiful Tasman Valley followed by a 1/2hr gentle alpine walk. Board our MAC boat, and explore the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, where you will discover the ever-changing ice face of the Glacier and icebergs, making each trip different from the last due to changing winds and currents. 

Knowledgeable guides, enhance your experience with their expertise and passion for this amazing alpine environment.  Have you ever been alongside, discovered, or touched an iceberg?


4

Dunedin - Scottish City of Grace and Grandeur

En route to Dunedin today, be sure to stop at Koekohe Beach to view the Moeraki Boulders. There are over 50 of these 65-million-year-old natural wonders strewn along the sands. They are up to 2 metres wide and the largest weight of around 7 tonnes!

The name "Dunedin" comes from the Scots-Gaelic name for Edinburgh: "Dun Eideann" and you won't have to look hard to see the Scottish influence in this lovely old university town.

A popular attraction here is Larnach Castle, built-in 1871. It took 200 workers three years to build, and twelve years to decorate! Housing a unique New Zealand antique collection and beautiful gardens, it's a relaxing place to meander.

Approximate Distance: 317 km | 226 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 50 Min

Accommodation: Dunedin - 2 Nights

Accommodation:
858 George Street is an architecturally designed Award Winning motel complex capturing the essence of the George Street character. 13 luxury studio, family and executive units located on George Street, Dunedin. Just minutes walk to city shops, university, hospital,restaurants and the Forsyth Barr Stadium. All units serviced daily. In-room spa baths (2 rooms), Sky select 50+ channels, Continental breakfast available.
Dunedin

5

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Cruise

This morning you'll hop on board a fascinating Wildlife Cruise around Taiaroa Head and its dramatic cliffs. Later, you'll encounter another rare New Zealand native: the shy Hoiho (Yellow-Eyed Penguin)

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Cruise
The Otago Peninsula was described by the internationally-acclaimed environmentalist Dr. David Bellamy as “the finest example of eco-tourism in the world." As you cruise around Taiaroa Head, watch for New Zealand Fur Seals playing near their breeding colonies. Out at sea, you may also come across albatross and petrels as well as penguins, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

The Otago Peninsula was described by the internationally-acclaimed environmentalist Dr.David Bellamy as “the finest example of eco-tourism in the world."


6

Te Anau - Gateway to Fiordland - Glowworm Caves

Te Anau is another area of breathtaking natural beauty, and several key Lord of The Rings movie scenes were filmed amid the unspoiled forests and lakes of this region. Immerse yourselves in the gorgeous surroundings: flight-seeing, fly fishing, kayaking, sailing and horse riding are all on offer and are great ways to get up close to nature. 

Glowworm Caves

The excursion begins with a cruise across spectacular Lake Te Anau to a remote section of the lake with the entrance to the caves hidden by a large and beautiful native forest. By geological standards, the caves are young (12,000 years) and are still being carved by the river that flows through them. The system is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with beautifully sculpted rock, underground waterfalls complete with whirlpools.

The quite top section of the system houses a series of small lakes, here you will be taken by small boat pulled along by rope into a silent hidden grotto’s inhabited by thousands of small glow-worms. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a magical display almost like you are staring up at the Milky Way that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Approximate Distance: 290 km | 207 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 29 minutes

Accommodation: Te Anau - 2 Nights

Accommodation:
Rooms at Motel Edgewater are a mix of superior and standard rooms complete with a small kitchenette, toaster and microwave. Some rooms enjoy panoramic views over Lake Te Anau and the mountains of Fiordland National Park. Featuring free WiFi, this motel is located less than 5 minutes’ walk from tranquil Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland World Heritage National Park. Edgewater Motel provides 3-star accommodation and free private parking.
Edgewater Te Anau

7

Spectacular Doubtful Sound Cruise

Transfer to Manapouri this morning for a very special cruise in one of New Zealand's most remote and beautiful wilderness areas: Doubtful Sound.

Larger and deeper than better-known Milford Sound, Doubtful is by far the quieter of the two. A visit to its isolated splendor is a peaceful, almost religious experience. Being so remote, getting here is half of the fun!

After a leisurely cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri you'll travel by road over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, where you will board your trusty cruise vessel, The Patea Explorer. You'll find spacious deck areas perfect for viewing the cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife, rainforest, and mountains of Doubtful Sound.

An onboard nature guide will answer questions, point out landmarks, and provide you with information about the varied wildlife you may encounter. Dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland crested penguin are among the many non-human visitors to this impossibly vast, secluded wilderness paradise.

Let the majesty of Doubtful Sound unfold before you and take your breath away.


8

Queenstown & Steamer to High Country Farm

Take your time heading to Queenstown today: you won't want to miss the spectacular scenery as it transforms from rugged ranges and mirror lakes to the winding Kawarau River Gorge. You will finally emerge into the lush green farmland surrounding Queenstown, your destination.

This Evening: Cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. Sit back, relax and enjoy a gourmet barbecue dinner prepared in front of you at the Colonel’s Homestead. After dinner enjoy a short farm tour before reboarding the Earnslaw for a sing-along by the piano as you sail back to Queenstown.

Approximate Distance: 173 km | 107 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 8 minutes

Accommodation: Queenstown - 2 Nights

Just 5 minutes’ walk from Lake Wakatipu, Blue Peaks Lodge offers heated rooms with satellite TV. The property offers free parking and 500mb of free Wi-Fi per stay. Blue Peaks Lodge Queenstown is 3 minutes’ walk from Queenstown Gardens, and 10 minutes’ drive from the popular Onsen Hot Pools. Queenstown Airport is a 15-minute drive away.
blue peak

9

Jetboat into Mount Aspiring National Park

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage, and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, our Wilderness Jet, half-day adventure takes you on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

You’ll experience a unique combination of breath-taking scenery and an exhilarating ride as we follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat with exciting 360 degree spins along the way. Your guides give you their authentic touch, talking about the area’s rich history, the Greenstone trail and countless Maori legends. We’ll also take the chance to tie up the boat and let you walk amongst the ancient beech tree forests – an atmosphere you may recognize from The Lord of the Rings films. It’s a complete Queenstown to Glenorchy experience in an untouched natural wonderland.


10

Lake Wanaka Cruise & Island Wildlife Walk

The picture-postcard scenery of Lake Wanaka is our stage today, this afternoon you're heading out onto the lake with a short cruise to one of five small islands on the lake and a very special place indeed - Mou Waho Island. 

With a history of boat building, Mou Waho is now a predator-free bird sanctuary, home to endangered native species including the comically curious Weka.  Your guide today is a local conservation stalwart and he will enlighten us all on the efforts going in to protect our native species on a hiking/nature walk.  Aside from the insights into conservation and ecology, the views from the top of the island will make your photo highlights reel for sure - from the high point of the island looking north, there is no evidence of human habitation as far as the eye can see.

Approximate Distance: 70 km | 44 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 10 mins

Accommodation: Wanaka - 1 night

Accommodation:
Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka is located in a quiet street in the heart of Wanaka. The motel is only 150 m away from the lake and within easy walking distance there are many restaurants, cafes and wine bars. Guests enjoy free WiFi. The rooms at the Bella Vista are fully-serviced, with heating and electric blankets. Free off-street parking is available as well as a lock-up garage for motorbikes. Guests have access to laundry facilities. Continental breakfast is available on request.
Bella Vista Wanaka

11

Franz Josef Glacier

The drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef is one of the most scenic in New Zealand. Mountain passes give way to the ancient rainforest and the windswept West Coast. There's beauty around every bend, with woodland walks and dramatic waterfalls along the way - perfect for picnic stops. Nestled in a rainforest clearing, Franz Josef Glacier Village lies at the heart of the Westland National Park. Welcome to one of the most diverse and beautiful areas of New Zealand.

In the evening, you can simply relax in a private Glacier Hot Pool and enjoy a rejuvenating soak under the stars.

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

 

Approximate Distance: 285 km | 177 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 36 mins

Accommodation: Franz Josef - 2 Nights

At Punga Grove, all of our stylish accommodation is set amidst the native Franz Josef rainforest. Our mountainside motel has been designed to maximise the beauty of the greenery with decks, outdoor areas and conservatory windows virtually putting you deep in the rainforest. All apartments include a fully equipped kitchen.
Punga Grove

12

Kayaking Okarito Lagoon Nature Reserve

The expansive shallow waters of Okarito Lagoon form New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland. Surrounded by Kahikatea and Rimu rainforests, this special place provides an isolated, unspoiled habitat for a host of unique and rare birdlife.

Here, shallow waters extend into rainforest river deltas, making kayaking the best way to explore this natural wonderland. As you paddle, look out for the White Heron (Kotuku) as well as Shags and Royal Spoon Bills.

The rarest of New Zealand’s five kiwi species, the Okarito Kiwi, also lives in the area. More than 70 other bird species have been recorded here – the lagoon is a birdwatcher’s paradise. On a clear day, you’ll also be able to enjoy stunning views of Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and the Southern Alps standing sentinel in the distance.


13

TranzAlpine Train - Christchurch

Begin your morning with a breathtaking coastal drive to Greymouth. You might like to pause in Hokitika for a spot of shopping - this town is home to many artisan carvers of the local pounamu (greenstone), which is sacred to Maori. A unique, locally carved greenstone pendant would be a special way to remember your trip.

Arriving in the town of Greymouth it's time to drop off your car and head to the station to begin the TranzAlpine Scenic Rail Journey.

Renowned as one of the great train journeys of the world, you will descend through spectacular gorges, river valleys and over massive viaducts before completing your journey at Christchurch.

Approximate Distance: 173 km | 107 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 18 mins

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 Night

Accommodation:
The Quest Christchurch is located just off Cathedral Square in the heart of the commercial, arts and tourist precinct. This purpose built property is on Christchurch's famous inner city Tram Loop and features a mix of new and heritage architecture. Incorporated in the complex are a variety of retail shops, cafes and restaurants. All the serviced Apartments have free Wi-Fi & Fully Equipped Kitchens.
Quest Christchurch

14

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.


Profile picture for user Emma
What Emma says about this tour: This trip is jam packed with fun activities - there are glaciers to explore - glowworms to marvel at - cruises with outstanding wildlife and scenery, jetboat rides and kayaking adventures. Imagine the dinner table in years to come with everyone jostling to tell their favourite stories from their time in New Zealand.
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