13 Day South Island National Parks

13 Day South Island National Parks

Discover the South Island's national parks including Abel Tasman, Fiordland, Arthur's Pass and Aoraki Mount Cook on this independent tour. There is plenty of time to take in optional activities and to enjoy guided or unguided walks. We have included the TranzAlpine train journey, a walk and cruise in Abel Tasman National Park, and a day tour and cruise on Milford Sound.

Tour Info

Tour Type: Independent Coach Tour
From: Christchurch to Christchurch
Departures: Jan 2020 - March 2021
Price: From (NZD) $3340 per person
Tour Operator: Relaxing Journeys
Duration: 13 Days
Tour Code: RJ225


12 nights accommodation
All coach, ferry and rail transport and transfers
Optional breakfasts
Daily departures
Abel Tasman National Park walk and cruise (including lunch)
TranzAlpine train journey
Milford Sound day tour and cruise (including lunch)


Prices are per person based on twin-share, and are subject to availability. Prices are correct at the time of submission but are subject to change without notice. Valid for travel January 2020 – March 2021. Blackout periods may apply. A non-refundable deposit of $250 per person is required at time of booking.

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Day by Day Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Arrive Christchurch

Haere mai, welcome to Christchurch! Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore what the ‘Garden City’ has to offer.

Day 2
Christchurch - Kaikōura

Early this morning you will board your coach heading north towards Kaikōura, where few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders. Take time to experience giant whales, playful dolphins, and marine birds up close.

Day 3
Kaikōura - Nelson

Head north again to Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine growing region and home of the sauvignon blanc. This is the perfect place to enjoy the world-famous wine and dine on fresh seafood. Continue your journey on to Nelson. The region’s diverse geography captures everything from long golden beaches to untouched forests and jagged mountains. Nelson is a town bursting with creativity where you can visit the studios of local artists and the World of Wearable Art Museum.

This afternoon take time to sample Nelson’s selection of local craft brews or hop on a bike and follow the Great Taste Cycle Trail through the region’s vineyards. (2 nights)

Day 4
Abel Tasman National Park

Today you will travel through Motueka to Kaiteriteri where you board your launch. Relax in style as you cruise the stunning golden inlets of the Abel Tasman coast. Inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and the tideline. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean.

Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. Tūī and bellbird song fills the forest, shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner, and fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.

Rejoin your cruise back to Kaiteriteri and return to your hotel late afternoon. (L)

Day 5
Nelson - Punakaiki

You will be heading south through Murchison, making your way to the West Coast today. The Murchison Skyline Walkway zigzags through mixed beech and podocarp forest, native ferns, and bracken and broom-covered slopes on the outskirts of Murchison – it’s worth breaking your journey here for the 90-minute walk before you navigate the awesome Buller Gorge.

At Hawks Crag the road has been hacked out of solid rock – be ready for the dramatic overhang, lending shade and character to the route. The road to Punakaiki hugs the coast, providing spectacular views of wild beaches and the tempestuous Tasman Sea.

Day 6
Punakaiki - TranzAlpine Train - Christchurch

The morning is at your leisure. Punakaiki is best known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes – we highly recommend that you make time to see them. A loop track takes you on a gentle walk from the main road, through rainforest to the coast. At the coastline the track has many lookouts and areas for fantastic photos to be taken of the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. The best time to visit the blowholes is at high tide when they are at their most powerful. Allow 45 minutes for the loop walk.

This afternoon enjoy the views of the wild west coast as you travel to Greymouth and join the TranzAlpine Train for your scenic train journey to Christchurch. Climb through lush beech forests past the beautiful Lake Brunner and through the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass situated 737 metres above sea level, before crossing the spectacular Southern Alps.

The TranzAlpine then winds its way over massive viaducts, through spectacular river gorges and the stunning Waimakariri River valley before arriving in Christchurch in the early evening.

Day 7
Christchurch - Dunedin

Depart Christchurch and head south through the vibrant seaside town of Timaru and on to Oamaru known for their creamy limestone buildings. Stop here to stretch your legs with the South Hill Walk, perfect for stunning coastal views from Cape Wanbrow. Pass Moeraki Beach stopping for a walk to view its mysterious, spherical, 60 million-year-old boulders.

Arrive in Dunedin in the early afternoon.

Day 8
Dunedin - Te Anau

Traverse the rolling hill country of South Otago on your way to the farming community of Gore and continuing on to the beautiful shores of Lake Te Anau. You will arrive into the township of Te Anau, the hub of the Fiordland region in the late afternoon.

Day 9
Te Anau - Milford Sound - Queenstown

Travel through the breathtaking Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. Journey through majestic forests, past immense waterfalls and through towering snow – capped mountains. Great photo opportunities abound enroute. On arrival at Milford Sound, board either the Milford Mariner or Milford Wanderer – our specifically designed fiord explorers – and settle in for a 2.5-hour cruise.

Milford Sound is nothing short of heart-stopping, inducing subconscious smiles in the hard to please and easily bored almost instantly; it’s simply magnificent. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins! After the cruise, board the coach for Queenstown, arriving in the evening. (L) (2 nights)

Day UP
Milford Sound Return Flight Upgrade (From NZ$395pp)

Upgrade your itinerary to include a scenic flight to Queenstown instead of a coach journey. Take in magnificent views of the alps, glaciers, lakes and forests of Fiordland National Park – a quick and convenient way to return to Queenstown. (Duration 35mins) The flight shaves off approximately 4 hours off a return by coach. It is however very weather dependent, so if the weather doesn’t play ball, then you will need to return by coach and we will refund the upgrade price.

Day 10

Today is completely at your leisure to enjoy the many sights of this alpine resort town situated on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown offers something for everyone – you can enjoy the quiet beauty and tranquility of this mountain retreat and enjoy several walking trails in the town area.

For sheer excitement there is white-water rafting, helicopter rides, the famous jet boats, bungy jumping to pump your adrenalin, and offroad 4WD tours with plenty of river crossings. There are cruises on the lake and a visit to a high country sheep station, or wine tasting tours. You can visit nearby Arrowtown where the main street has been preserved since the 1860’s gold rush days and you can try your luck and pan for gold in the adjacent Shotover River.

Day 11
Queenstown - Mt Cook

Leaving Queenstown you will soon reach picturesque Lake Hayes and travel through Kawarau Gorge, home of award winning wineries and the famous Kawarau Bungy bridge. You will travel past the township of Cromwell and its many orchards before crossing Lindis Pass and into the Mackenzie Country. Hydro-electricity canals and glacier fed lakes will guide you into the Mt Cook National Park. Here you will find Aoraki Mt Cook – New Zealand’s tallest mountain.

Day 12
Mt Cook - Christchurch

This morning is at your leisure. Hike around one of the walking tracks, take one of the scenic flights to get up close to Mt Cook and the Southern Alps’ magnificent glaciers. You also have time to explore the Tasman Glacier by the terminal lake.

This afternoon you’ll travel down the Tasman Valley past Glentanner Park and Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo where you can view the Church of the Good Shepherd by the lake shore. The altar window offers awe inspiring views of the lake and mountains of the Mackenzie Country. The coach then continues on towards Fairlie. Continue your journey through diverse farmland and descend to cross the Canterbury Plains before arriving in Christchurch.

Day 13
Depart Christchurch

Sadly your trip has come to an end. We hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed your experiences in New Zealand. Today you will be met at your accommodation and transferred to the airport for your onward journey. Have a safe trip home.


There are 4 reviews of this tour from past clients of Relaxing Journeys, averaging 4.8 out of 5.

Overall Tour Rating
Value For Money
Tour Pace
Relaxing Journeys Experience

Tour Reviews

I have been waiting until I finished unpacking to write you about our adventure on the South Island. Annie and I both thank you profoundly for putting together such a perfect package that allowed us to enjoy our trip with very little stress and maximum enjoyment. Everything went perfectly -- really, perfectly! I will elaborate below, but here are some general points: 1. We were able to immerse ourselves in nature, which is exactly what we wanted. 2. The lodgings were great -- quite a range of styles, which we liked. Some were quirky, some elegant, some over-the-top hospitable. 3. The tours were well-chosen. (My favorite was the jet-boat; Annie's was definitely the blue penguins in Oamaru.) 4. The pace of our itinerary was fast, but necessarily so for us to see as much as we did in three short weeks. We didn't feel rushed because we were so excited to get to our next location. 5. The overall cost was very reasonable, given the quality of the accommodations and level of service. Thank you for helping to make us comfortable within our budget. Some specific feedback: The wilderness lodges at Arthur's Pass (my favorite place in the whole trip) and Lake Moeraki were highlights. We were pleased to meet the family who owns and runs the lodges and hear about the incredible conservation work they have done on the West Coast. The lodges were beautifully designed and extremely comfortable. The meals were excellent, and we enjoyed the optional activities provided each day. Five star, all around!! The trip on the Alpine Train was beautiful, but if we were to do it again, we would probably drive as the train was crowded and noisy the first day, and on the second day, we went through, rather than over the pass, which we would have liked to experience. Better perhaps for those who don't want to drive. Annie had an excellent birthday dinner at Rata in Queenstown, and enjoyed our tour to the Aspiring Wilderness. The Luxury Dairy B&B was very convenient, the host was gracious and the breakfast good. In general, Queenstown was a bit too busy and touristy for our taste, but we're glad we had some time to be there. And the dinner at Rata was excellent :) The trip to Doubtful Sound out of Te Anau was a highlight. A long day, but worth every minute. We're sorry we didn't see Milford, but given our preference for the road less travelled, I think we made the right choice. The Cosy Kiwi B&B was our least favorite of the lodgings. I know you didn't have many choices at the late booking date, and it was perfectly fine -- just not quite as cosy or friendly as all the others. Dunedin was another highlight -- the all day trip on the Otago Peninsula was spectacular, including the family of orcas that put on a show for us! We had a rather noisy but fun dinner in a restaurant near the university. The Camp Estate was a hoot -- such a beautiful setting and so elegant! We felt a little scruffy in our travel clothes, but were welcomed warmly regardless. The Pen-y-Bryn in Oamaru was another unique experience! Amazing art collection and a Paris-trained chef! The blue penguins were wonderful. And finally, although our three last nights in Christchurch were unplanned, we fell in love with this beautiful, but damaged city. We mostly just walked around and took pictures of the old, the new, and the under repair. The Heritage was excellent! We had a lovely suite that allowed us to regroup before heading home. We loved the building, especially the bar. The staff was incredibly friendly. So, all in all, an excellent trip! Thank you again, Georgina, for planning so thoughtfully for us. We have passed along your name to several people we met along the way who will be returning to NZ, as we hope to do in the future.
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience
I was very impressed that all arrangements made by Relaxing Journeys ran smoothly, coaches and pickups arrived as detailed by the itinerary and the accommodation suited me perfectly. I have not always experienced such efficiency and care in previous travels overseas. My trip was a great success and the detailed information provided with the itinerary was very useful, as were the helpful and pleasant people involved in the organising and on the actual trip. The South Island itself was beautiful and I hope to return soon. Thank you Relaxing Journeys for a wonderful NZ experience.
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience
Everything went like clockwork, even with the earthquake occurring the day before we left Australia! Toni was able to get us onto a flight to Nelson very promptly instead of the train trip to Kaikoura we had originally planned. Sad to miss that part of NZ but it was not to be. We had an extra day in Nelson which was good as it's a lovely town. Travelling in the Intercity coaches provided a relaxing way to travel by not having to navigate and being able to enjoy the scenery. We also met many interesting travellers, especially a lot of young people from other countries, some on working holidays and others just seeing the world. Our accommodation was great with a mix of hotel rooms and apartments in handy locations. As I had read in other reviews before booking our trip, the overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound was highly praised. We can only but agree as even with periods or drizzle it was still a magic place to be and quite awe inspiring. The rain caused hundreds of waterfalls pouring down the sides in every direction and low cloud drifting around made it look very beautiful. We saw seals, penguins and dolphins and enjoyed the company on board as well as the very good spread for dinner and breakfast. Definitely a highlight! We also went to Milford Sound but the rain had really set in by then and there were crowds of people, unlike Doubtful Sound where we were the only craft on the water. Unfortunately when a place becomes well known everyone wants to visit (including us!!) and it is spoilt because of its popularity. All of NZ is beautiful but Queenstown was lovely especially as the sun shone and snow covered the mountains all around so it was picture perfect. Thank you and well done to Relaxing Journeys for a our journey around the South Island.
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience
We absolutely loved the 13 day National Parks tour. The places chosen were great and well worth visiting. There were some places we would have loved to spend more time, but not knowing anything about them before hand we went with the tour as presented. Just gives us an excuse to come back! Mani did an excellent job of putting everything together for us. Communication with Mani over details was great. Even to the point of changing the final pick-up time on the day of departure due to a schedule change as a result of the earthquake. If (when) we come back to New Zealand, I would definitely use Relaxing Journeys again and highly recommend them. You have given us a truly memorable trip. Thank you.
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience



New Zealand has a great deal of things to see and do, why not add one of our optional sightseeing activities to your trip. Prices are per adult (we'll adjust your quote for any children).

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13 Day South Island National Parks
Independent Coach Tour
Tour Code: RJ225
From (NZD) $3340 per person
Save (NZD) $334 per person
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4 reviews (4.8/5)

Discover the South Island's national parks including Abel Tasman, Fiordland, Arthur's Pass and Aoraki Mount Cook on this independent tour. There is pl... Read More

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