Lake District, Wild Rivers & Coastal Treats Itinerary


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Welcome to Christchurch

Today is a day to relax and orientate yourselves in New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ Christchurch. Expansive parks, public gardens and local green fingers make it a relaxing, tranquil city to enjoy on foot. New Zealand’s second-largest city and the gateway to the South Island, Christchurch sits on the very edge of the Canterbury Plains and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The city itself has bounced back after a series of major earthquakes, and has shown its resiliency with a number of new and exciting developments popping up everywhere.

Some Suggested Activities to Help you to get to Know the Region

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

Quiet and comfortable accommodation close to the centre of Christchurch. City Central Motel and Apartments offers 26 well appointed, spacious rooms with free off street parking and ensuite rooms. Each unit provides a kitchenette and individual balcony.

City Central Motel and Apartments - Christchurch


Tranzalpine Rail Journey - Punakaiki

These special tracks wind a ribbon-like path through paradise, offering more than just a glimpse of the breath taking landscapes between Christchurch and Greymouth in New Zealand's South Island. The remarkable TranzAlpine experience ranks among the most spectacular rail journeys in the world. Endless vistas unfold around every bend as you traverse some of the country's most scenic terrain from the colourful patchwork of pastures that carpet the Canterbury Plains to the sky scraping peaks of the mighty Southern Alps. In Greymouth collect your rental car and travel to Punakaiki Resort.

Approximate Travel Time 40 mins Distance 44km | 27mi

Accommodation Punakaiki - 2 nights


Nestled in native forest on the edge of Paparoa National Park and just 1.2 kilometers south of the Pancake Rocks, we find Paparoa Park Motel. If you are looking for a self-contained motel accommodation on the West Coast, this Punakaiki motel is perfect with some with spectacular views looking across the bay to the Pancake Rocks/Blowholes others with wonderful New Zealand native bush views. They have a spectacular view of the Pancake Rocks/Blowholes and the wonderful native bush.
Paparoa Park Motel


New Zealands Wild West Coast

Today take part in a superb eco-cave tour where you travel by the rainforest train through primeval rain forest and explore the enormous Nile River Caves.  Explore an ancient wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites in the large dry upper levels and become entranced while under the galaxies of glowworms in the awe-inspiring Ananui entrance series. Discovered only recently, the Metro cave is one of the few caves in the world you can walk through and see in its natural, un-spoilt state, the way it was discovered.



Travel to Nelson Lakes

Today follow the Buller River as you leave the West Coast and head inland to St Arnauds Alpine Village in the Nelson Lakes District. 

An Enchanting Alpine Park of Rugged Peaks, Forests and Glacial Lakes.

The spectacular landscape of Nelson Lakes National Park was sculpted by massive glaciers during the most recent ice ages, and many glacial landforms remain - lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa are the two most obvious examples. The park offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small. Known for its magical honeydew beech forests, which feed a variety of tuneful nectar-eating native birds, the park provides an easy wilderness escape. The nearby village of St Arnaud is a comfortable, well-equipped base for visitors. The hiking trails around are renowned and abundant with the most famous being the Blue Lakes Hike – this has been proven to be the 'bluest lake' in the World.

Approximate Travel Time 3 hrs mins Distance 199km | 125mi

Accommodation St Arnaud - 2 nights

Located in the heart of Nelson Lakes National Park and overlooking beautiful Lake Rotoiti, a two-minute walk to the water’s edge.  This mountain retreat is nestled amongst mature native forest filled with the sound of tui and bellbirds. 


Walking the Nelson Lakes National Park

Promising everything from easygoing lakeside walking tracks to challenging alpine hikes, there is something on offer for everyone. The alpine lakes are fringed to the shore by native honeydew beech forests, which feed a variety of tuneful nectar-eating native birds that enhance the walking experience. Mountain ranges segregated by forested valleys, the Nelson Lakes National Park heralds the beginning of the Southern Alps and spectacular alpine lakes alpine lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa, sculpted by glaciers during the last ice age, are two of the most obvious examples of the many glacial landforms in the region.

Recommended Walking Tracks...

Honeydew Walk (45 min)   

Brunner Nature Walk (1 hr)   

Anglers Walk (1 hr)  

St Arnaud Range Track (5 hr)      

St Arnaud Range Track (5 hr)       

Lake Rotoiti Circuit (7–10 hr) 

Mt Robert Circuit (5 hr) Sabine Circuit (4 days)

Angelus & Robert Ridge (2 Days) 

Department of Conversation (DOC) information Office

When in any of our National Parks, it always pays to pop into the local DOC (Department of Conservation) office and register your intensions. These friendly folk will not only help you decide which walk suits you, but they will also keep an eye out for you. Department of Conservation Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre is on View Road St Arnaud - This service is free.  


Havelock - Gateway to Beautiful Pelorus Sound

Continue up the East Coast of the South Island towards the wine mecca of Marlborough - just past where the historic Pelorus bridge crosses the river, there is an enchanting reserve that is the starting point for a truly awesome Kayaking Adventure. This Guided Kayak Tour includes stops at many waterfalls and streams and has you crossing many deep slow moving pools, home to many native trout species that can be clearly seen as far as 20 meters (65 feet) above – just goes to show how clear the water is.

Along the way you see several species of native bird including the large native pigeon (kereru), bellbirds, tui and fantails. The area is also rich in lush native forest where your guide will take you on a nature walk and introduce you to the many species of native trees
You'll also find a little bit of middle earth in this area because Peter Jackson chose the Pelorus Bridge and river as the filming location for scenes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Here, the dwarves were filmed floating in barrels down this beautiful river.

Following your kayaking adventure head to Picton for the first of 3 nights.

Approximate Travel Time  3 hrs  Distance 223 km | 138mi

​Accommodation Picton - 3 night

Situated just minutes from Picton’s waterfront, restaurants and tourist activities is Jasmine Court Motel, the perfect base for your holiday destination in the Bay of Islands. They offer comfortable and quiet self contained accommodation with tasteful décor in soft natural colours. Free wireless internet access is available in all rooms.



Kayaking One of Our Most Beautiful Rivers

Spend the day relaxing in the quaint seaside town of Picton. The waterfront is a great spot to watch the busy harbour in action. Picton is the linking city for the Interislander ferries that take people and freight between the North and South Islands. A popular easy walk crosses the marina footbridge and hugs the shoreline to 'The Snout' the point that separates Picton Harbour from Waikawa.

If you prefer, Blenheim is a short 20 minute drive away and home to masses of vineyards producing the well regarded Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. If you are looking for another walk to try today - head to the Wither Hills Walkway - for great panaramic views of wine country and the Marlborough Sounds beyond.

A stone's throw from the bustling London Quay where water taxis zip to and fro from the Marlborough Sounds is the Picton Yacht Club. This hotel complex boasts a swimming pool and harbour views with 48 rooms to accommodate every possible combination of traveller. The onsite facilities are excellent with an outstanding restaurant producing a very high quality of cuisine.


Wonderful Day Walk in the Marlborough Sounds

Located at the top of the South Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, The Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand’s classic walks and a “must do” on every international or domestic visitors itinerary. This walking track is renowned for the uniqueness of its panoramic coastal views, lush coastal forest and excellent water transport services – creating a walk that is challenging yet comfortable.

Take a boat cruise from Picton to Ship Cove past salmon farms and sea birds on a beautiful voyage to Ship Cove, an historic and scenic reserve that Captain Cook visited several times in the 17th Century. Enjoy a walk along the Queen Charlotte Track from Ship Cove to Endeavour Inlet (14km (9 miles) - five hours approx.). Bush is mainly a mixture of stunning podocarp and beech forest with punga ferns and other New Zealand native foliage. This day is regarded as the premier section of the Queen Charlotte Track. Many beautiful views are to be had across the Marlborough Sounds


Coastal Road to Kaikoura

Nestled between soaring mountains and the Pacific Ocean, 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.

Kaikoura’s unique submarine environment of deep underwater canyons and warm and cool currents pushes the ocean’s nutrients to the surface, supporting a phenomenal array of marine life. And it’s not just marine mammals that can be experienced up-close here – Kaikoura is one of the world’s most exciting areas from which to view ocean birds (pelagic). This is also a great place to enjoy crayfish, the seafood that the town was named after. In Maori, ‘kai’ means food and ‘koura’ means crayfish, and you’ll find the local delicacy to be fresh and delicious.  

Suggested Wildlife Encounters in Kaikoura

Whale Watching Cruise

   Swim with the Seals in Kaikoura

Whale Watching Flight     

   Dusky Dolphin Viewing or Swimming

Kayaking with Fur Seals

   Albatross & Pelagic Bird Watching

Approximate Distance: 156 km | 96 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 7 mins

Accommodation Kaikoura - 1 night

Consisting of 8 two bedroom cottages, this property oozes relaxed comfort and is perfect for people wanting to explore the great outdoors of the Kaikoura Peninsula. Each cottage has a great view of the mountains and surrounding landscape, set in 1.7 tranquil acres (half a hectare) and situated on the northern edge of Kaikoura township. These units are very private with a great rural outlook of the surrounding mountains and scenery.
Kaikoura Cottages


Return to Christchurch for Your Onward Journey

Ready to find out more? Talk to us here in New Zealand about 'The Upper Souths: Lake District, Wild Rivers & Coastal Treats'  - We Guarantee it will be the Holiday of a Lifetime!

What Debs says about this tour: The beauty of this 10 day tour is the variety of alpine and marine environments you experience. From the Tranzalpine train journey and Pelorus river kayaking to walking around the National Parks, lakes and the Marlborough Sounds you get a genuine feeling for this country's breathtaking wilderness.
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