22 Day Absolute South
22 Day Absolute South
Visually spectacular in all seasons the South Island has something for everyone, from enjoying the relaxing therapeutic waters at Hanmer Springs, to seeing the otherworldly Franz Josef Glacier and stopping at the magnificent Milford Sound. You won’t skip over a single corner of New Zealand's South Island with this 22-day tour.
|Tour Type:||Self Drive Tours|
|From:||Christchurch to Christchurch|
|Departures:||Jan 2020 - March 2021|
|Price:||From (NZD) $4420 per person|
|Tour Operator:||Relaxing Journeys|
|21 nights accommodation|
|Rental vehicle of your choice including airport and ferry port collection charges|
|Admission to Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve|
|Akaroa Wildlife Cruise|
|Milford Sound Nature Cruise|
|Tasman Glacier Explorer Boat Excursion|
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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Click on the prices below to enquire.
* Prices shown are per person (based on two people travelling).
* 2 Bedroom Motel pricing also available with Exclusive Specials. Please request a quote for prices.
Day by Day Tour Itinerary
“Haere Mai” Welcome to Christchurch – the Garden City.Following the 2011 earthquake, Christchurch has re-emerged as a vibrant, ever-changing city. On completion of formalities, pick up your rental car and travel onto your centrally located accommodation.
What should you do with the rest of the day? Take it slow, sit back and relax, punting down the River Avon through the stunning Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
There are two routes to Akaroa. State Highway 75 takes you via Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth before it climbs over the hills to Akaroa Harbour.
The other route is very scenic, but longer and more difficult to drive. It takes you through the Lyttelton tunnel and around Lyttelton Harbour before making the rugged, cross country journey to Akaroa.
The beautiful harbour dominates the landscape and is home to a variety of sea and bird life including the worlds smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hectors Dolphin. Spend time this afternoon exploring this quaint village, home to the early French Settlers of the 1840s.
This morning we’ve included an Akaroa Wildlife Cruise. The cruise is packed with highlights including the rare, native dolphin – the Hector’s Dolphin as well as penguins and other sea birds.
You’ll see giant volcanic sea cliffs and hear about Akaroa’s fascinating past. This afternoon, after making your way back to Christchurch. The trip north takes you past the beaches of Woodend, Waikuku, Leithfield and Amberley, through Waipara, known for its vineyards and olive groves.
Continue onto Hanmer Springs, an exciting and picturesque alpine thermal resort surrounded by tall mountains. The village is renowned for its relaxing and therapeutic thermal springs.
This morning, bathe in the hot thermal pools of the Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve. For 125 years, this reserve has attracted people from all over the globe, seeking the benefits of its natural clean mineral water and the crisp Alpine air.
Later, a short drive brings you to Kaikoura, a place of unparalleled wildlife experiences, located in a narrow strip of stunning coastline between mountain peaks and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape.
Kaikoura’s special talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day and the local seal colony is always entertaining. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops.
Today you travel from Kaikoura to Blenheim. The road north is dominated by the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast. Quinnat salmon are known to run in the Clarence River and just north of the Ure River is a road that leads to the walking trails of the Sawcut Gorge.
After the small town of Ward you’ll come to the Lake Grassmere saltworks – an interesting stop, particularly in late summer when the ponds turn coral pink. While in the township of Seddon you’ll find authentic New Zealand crafts.
Blenheim is the main town in the Marlborough region. Its lovely sunny climate makes Blenheim an ideal wine growing region.
The short drive to Picton takes you across the Wairau Plains past vineyards and wineries. From Picton the drive to Nelson first takes you to the town of Havelock, which is known as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World.
Nearby Canvastown is a place to explore old gold mining fields – thousands tried to get rich here in the 1860s. At Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve you can enjoy a bush walk or a swim, depending on the time of the year. And if you’d like a glimpse of local life in 1890, Rai Valley has a beautifully preserved cottage museum. (2 nights)
Today is at your leisure and there are lots of options including beaches to explore, harbour cruises, walks or adventure activities. A magnet for creative people, there are more than 300 working artists and craftspeople living in Nelson, traditional, contemporary and Maori. Visit their studios and find a unique piece to take home with you.
Nelson is also the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest of New Zealand’s national parks, with glittering beaches, turquoise water and spectacular ocean views. Perhaps enjoy a cruise or take a sea kayaking tour around the coast and see a seal colony and little blue penguins bobbing in the water.
On the way to Westport head for Murchison, where you can learn about 1929’s massive earthquake. Pan for gold in Lyell Creek before you navigate the awesome Buller Gorge. At Hawks Crag the road has been hacked out of solid rock – you’ll drive under a dramatic overhang.
Make sure to stop at Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay where you can explore the coastline and visit the seal colony. A close but safe view allows you to watch the seals swimming, dozing in the sun and feeding their young.
For the first part of the journey today follow the road south as it hugs the coast to Punakaiki, providing spectacular views of wild beaches and the tempestuous Tasman Sea. Punakaiki is best known for its Pancake Rocks and blowholes – make some time to see these spectacular sights.
Continue on to Charleston, formerly a prosperous gold town, you can arrange underground rafting and cave exploring trips. After this the road to Greymouth is breathtaking. White capped breakers and rugged rocks on one side, bush-clad mountains on the other side.
The town of Runanga is a classic mining village – it offers an interesting walk to nearby Coal Creek Falls. To see interesting old gold mining areas, look for the Point Elizabeth walkway. The road between Hokitika and Greymouth provides great views of the wild west coast. Detour to the beach and breathe the salt spray air.
Driftwood is the ornamentation of choice for west coast beaches – every shape, size and colour. Shantytown, just south of Greymouth, is a reconstructed 1880s gold rush town – great family entertainment.
The road to Franz Josef is rural, but with a wild streak. The farmland is trying to turn back into forest, and the beauty of the rivers is raw and primeval. You may like to take a detour off the main road to the Treetop Walk and café.
The walkway is high in the ancient rainforest tree canopy, and a 40m spiral tower offers views of Lake Mahinapua, the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps. A visit to the White Heron colony near Whataroa is a rare experience. You could also enjoy a picnic by the shores of Lake Ianthe or discover the goldfield walkway at Ross. (2 nights)
Today is at leisure to explore and enjoy what this beautiful region has to offer. Franz Josef is unique in the fact that the glacier descends from the Southern Alps to just 240 metres above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
Perhaps take a scenic helicopter flight over the glaciers including a snow landing, or enjoy a half day guided walk on the glaciers. After a day of exploring you could bathe under a rainforest canopy and climb into the Franz Josef Glacier hot pools for some warm R and R.
Depart Franz Josef and travel down the West Coast, alongside braided riverbeds, native forests and roadside waterfalls before climbing up over the Haast Pass and through Mount Aspiring National Park, with its impressive mountains sculpted by glaciers during the Ice Ages. Then follow the shores of Lakes Hawea towards your destination of Wanaka. (2 nights)
Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. In winter it is a ski destination, but there are many year round activities to enjoy such as fishing, hiking, canyoning, climbing or skydiving.
You can explore further with a visit to the nearby towns of Queenstown, Cromwell and Alexandra, Perhaps visit Puzzling World and experience the illusion, take a jet boat ride, have a game of golf, enjoy a walk, view the Warbirds Museum or take a scenic flight.
The shortest route to Queenstown is over the Crown Range Road. It’s a challenging drive, but the views are amazing and you’ll probably encounter friendly keas (mountain parrots).
More conservative drivers can take the route that runs beside the Clutha River, Lake Dunstan and the Shotover River. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungy jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting distractions along the way. (2 nights)
Today is at leisure to relax or explore Queenstown. Whether it’s bungy jumping, white-water rafting, heli-skiing, fly-fishing, hang gliding, horse riding or scenic flights, you will find thrills and excitement in every way imaginable.
Meanwhile, other activities such as exploring historic Arrowtown, scenic walks, eco-tours, shopping, galleries, cafes and an exciting nightlife provide something for everyone all year round. You may want to take a short drive to the Arrowtown Junction at Lake Hayes, home of the unmissable Amisfield Winery and Bistro – sink your teeth into a local meal and savour the notes of New Zealand
This morning depart Queenstown for your journey to Milford Sound. The road from Te Anau to Milford is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives. The first part is relatively mild farmland, then you’ll ease into beech forest near the entrance to the Fiordland National Park.
Look for the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain and the Mirror Lakes. Then the rough hewn Homer Tunnel brings you into Milford Sound, an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak. Make sure you allow for plenty of time to stop at the numerous viewing points or short walking opportunities en route.
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 your cruise make your way back to Te Anau.
Today you will make your way to Invercargill. Drive past Lake Manapouri, then on to Clifden and Tuatapere, where you can investigate caves and discover the historic suspension bridge. At Riverton, one of New Zealand’s first settlements you can stop at the excellent museum.
The road east runs through forested hills, valleys and river plains and takes you past Gore where you’ll find the Hokonui Moonshine Museum, showcasing the region’s illicit whisky-making past.
And continuing on to Invercargill, Southland’s principal centre and the country’s southernmost city where local food specialties include Bluff Oysters and blue cod. Discover the world class vintage truck collection at Bill Richardson Transport World. Designed to have something for everyone, Transport World is not just for vehicle enthusiasts.
The area known as The Catlins lies between Kaka Point and Fortrose, an early whaling station. The winding road will take you to see seals and sealions, Hector’s Dolphins, several species of penguin and the petrified forest in Curio Bay.
Wilderness beaches, waterfalls, walkways, lakes and rivers provide non-stop scenery. Balclutha has a distinctive arched concrete bridge and a museum where you can see historic farming and household implements.
The historic mill town of Milton is next – the slight kink in the main road is where two surveyors didn’t quite meet. Half an hour south of Dunedin you’ll come across tranquil Lake Waihola, a popular venue for picnics, yachting and waterskiing. (2 nights)
Take the opportunity to enjoy the city’s cultural riches and its abundant nature and wildlife. If you wish, visit New Zealand’s oldest brewery for an entertaining and enlightening heritage tour. Enjoy guided tours of Larnach Castle and the stately home of Olveston House or play a round of golf at Balmacewan, the oldest course in New Zealand – enjoyed by many of the sports greats, both past and present.
You could also make the short journey to Portobello Peninsula to enjoy seals, the Albatross Colony and visit the Yellow-eyed Penguin Conservation Reserve.
Leaving Dunedin, travel towards Oamaru, famous for its white limestone buildings. Highly recommended en route is a visit to the famous and mysterious spherical boulders at Moeraki Beach.
Then follow the Waitaki River, passing some of the country’s hydro-electric dams before arriving in Mt Cook National Park where you will find New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki / Mt Cook which stands at 3754 metres.
Today you experience the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s largest, in the most unique way possible. An experienced guide will whisk you away in a stable MAC Boat to explore the Tasman Glacier. Watch and listen to the ice melting before your eyes. Stoping to touch and taste 500 year old ice, on occasion, a walk on an iceberg provides a new and exciting experience for all.
You won’t revel in serenity for long though as your senses are jolted back to reality as a rockfall crashes down the ice face above. After your cruise depart Mt Cook National Park and travel along the western side of Lake Pukaki as you head north towards Christchurch.
Along the way, stop at the stunning glacial-fed Lake Tekapo to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd which stands on the lake foreshore. Then travel through diverse farmland and across the Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch.
Sadly your holiday comes to an end today. Please return your rental car to the depot at Christchurch airport prior to your departure flight.
There are 7 reviews of this tour from past clients of Relaxing Journeys, averaging 4.9 out of 5.
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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Visually spectacular in all seasons the South Island has something for everyone, from enjoying the relaxing therapeutic waters at Hanmer Springs, to s... Read More
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