From glaciers to stunning golden beaches, rainforests to resort towns as well as glittering lakes & gigantic peaks, New Zealand’s South Island truly has it all. Embark on the adventure of a lifetime through some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes. Encounter creativity and resilience in Christchurch, gaze at billions of stars at Lake Tekapo, get your adrenaline pumping in Queenstown, soak up minerals in the hot springs, and take your time in postcard-pretty Wanaka. Together we will explore the South Island’s natural beauty, funky cities and some little hidden gems rarely visited by tourists.
Here's a day-by-day itinerary for the trip
Upon arrival at the Christchurch Airport you will be met and transferred to the Observatory Hotel located in the historic Arts Centre of the Garden City.
Depending on your arrival time, you are free to spend the day exploring at your own pace depending on your jet lag. Perhaps visit an art gallery or museum, suggestions will be given. For shoppers you will find The Crossing and Ballantynes just a short walk from your hotel. Your local guide will be on hand to assist and show you around.
This evening we'll meet up for welcome cocktails at Mr. Brightside rooftop bar. With a drink in hand, soak up the vibrant atmosphere and sweeping views as you get to know your new friends. From here it’s a short walk to Inati where we will dine this evening.
Christchurch and Surrounds
After breakfast we will begin our sightseeing adventure of Christchurch onboard a restored vintage tram, where our knowledgeable driver will provide interesting commentary on the local landmarks and the changing face of Christchurch. We will stop at the Transitional Cathedral for a short guided tour to learn the history of this unique house of prayer built with cardboard after the Canterbury earthquakes. Art lovers will enjoy the city’s architecture and the street art we discover on our city tour.
Our next adventure begins onboard a Punt (a long, narrow flat-bottomed boat, square at both ends and propelled with a long pole). Our classically attired punter will pole us along the serene Avon River. We will have free time for lunch. Our guide recommends the Riverside Market for some very yummy light meals.
This afternoon we drive across the Port Hills to Governors Bay to visit Ōhinetahi Gardens. The magnificent gardens are situated at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. The gardens and sculptures have a special significance, dating back to 1865 when keen botanist Thomas H Potts began planting them. We will enjoy an informative tour of both the grounds and historic homestead, followed by afternoon tea.
Next up a enjoy a scenic drive around the bays via the port of Lyttelton and Sumner Beach back to the city. Time permitting we will take a stroll along the Sumner beach promenade.
Tonight we will enjoy dinner and a wine-tasting at The Cellar Door.
Breakfast, Wine Tasting, Dinner
This morning we journey across to Banks Peninsula, stopping enroute at Little River for morning tea and a look at a popular gallery showcasing local art and jewelry. We'll wind our way up the hill and across the top of the Peninsula before dropping down into O’Kains Bay. This idyllic little slice of Kiwi paradise is the home of several quaint historic buildings, a quiet beach and the Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum. The museum features 3000 Māori items including several waka (war canoes) as well as colonial items from yesteryear. Next we will stroll the organic garden and relax with a cold beverage before dining at Jane’s Kitchen for lunch.
In the afternoon, we'll travel over the hill, stopping at the top to admire the scenery spread out below us. In Akaroa, we will tour the Giant’s House where we’ll find a unique collection of sculptures and mosaics as well as a beautiful garden.
Later this afternoon, we’ll board a comfortable sea vessel for a 2-hour harbour cruise. The aim is to meet the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector. They are a cute and playful bunch and are only found in New Zealand waters. We will enjoy refreshments and snacks whilst cruising the harbor. Don’t forget your camera a this is an amazing opportunity for photos!
Tonight you will have a free evening with dinner on your own.
Breakfast, Lunch & Snacks
After checking out of our hotel, we’ll start our journey south driving across the Canterbury Plains, crossing braided rivers, and breaking up our trip in a rural town for lunch.
We reach Lake Tekapo by early afternoon when we'll visit a much-photographed icon – The Church of the Good Shepherd. Revel in the vast vistas this area is known for with its turquoise lakes, golden grasslands as well as New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook.
Later this afternoon we will check in to The Galaxy Boutique Hotel and take time to relax and unwind before we head out for dinner at the popular Kohan Japanese restaurant.
The McKenzie Country is an International Dark Sky Reserve, and this evening we will experience some serious "Star Gazing". You will be introduced to the southern night skies with a unique combination of astronomy and storytelling before relaxing in a hot pool where you can lie on a floating hammock and gaze up at the glittering stars.
After breakfast, appreciate the picturesque scenery as we roll across the vast plains via colorful lakes, rivers and the Lindis Pass before arriving in Lake Wanaka. Here we’ll visit a local bakery where we’ll pick up a picnic lunch to eat lakeside.
This afternoon you can partake in a gin and/or whisky tasting at Cardrona Distillery before continuing to an iconic Kiwi watering hole – The Cardrona Hotel. This is possibly one of the most photographed historic facades in the country. We will have time to wander through the hotel and read up on the history before relaxing in the gardens with a cool refreshment.
Later we'll travel across the Crown Range - New Zealand’s highest main road for an epic drive reaching an altitude of 1121 meters. Finally we arrive in Queenstown and check into the Kamana Lake House for the next few days.
Dinner tonight will be at Rātā, where we will savor New Zealand cuisine with an inventive twist.
Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley
After breakfast, we explore nearby Arrowtown. Nestled next to the Arrow River and surrounded by natural beauty, this little town is rich in heritage and charm. As we wander down main street we will see cute little miners’ cottages and boutique shops, enjoy free time for shopping, stroll along the river and explore the Chinese Village.
Next we are off to Gibbston Valley which is famed for its rugged schist mountains, swirling blue river and award-winning pinot noir wines. At Kinross you’ll be introduced to a variety of wines from around the region. We'll taste wines from the vineyards of Coal Pit, Hawkshead, Valli, Wild Irishman as well as their own Kinross offerings. If you prefer not to taste, there will be an option to stay longer in Arrowtown and be picked up in time to join the group for lunch at Kinross.
A short drive brings us to the World Home of Bungy Jumping at the Kawerau River. AJ Hackett, a New Zealand entrepreneur, led the way in promoting the extreme sport of bungy jumping. He made a bungy jump from the Eiffel Tower in 1987 and founded the first commercial bungy site in 1988 from the Kawerau Bridge. Here you can watch people launch themselves off the bridge with a rubber rope tied around their legs and hurtle 43m towards the river. You can partake in this heart-pounding, exhilarating experience if your heart desires (optional activity not included)!
We'll end our day at the Onsen Pools for a soak in a cedar-lined hot tub filled with pure water from the surrounding mountains. Gaze out to the inspiring scenery below with a glass of bubbly in hand and enjoy this unique Kiwi twist on a Japanese tradition.
Tonight enjoy dinner on your own.
Breakfast & Lunch
High Country Adventures
After breakfast we will set out on an amazing day in the stunning high country. We will venture out in a luxury 4WD vehicle through epic landscapes and across rivers, climbing the ridgeline to look over mountains and canyons on you way to Ben Lomond Station. This 33,000 acre property is one of the few high country stations still owned and operated by New Zealanders and has been a key part of the local history for over 150 years. Upon arrival we’ll meet with the station owner to hear some interesting tales about station life in this remote region. We will savor a gourmet picnic lunch before taking a stroll through a stunning Beech Forest to learn about gold mining history and the early settlers of the region.
This afternoon we’ll view the dramatic landscapes from the air. Our helicopter will transport us from Moonlight Lodge at the station across mountains and lakes back to Queenstown, a breathtaking experience.
Finally, we will end the day with an exhilarating jet boat ride on the Shotover River. It was a clever Kiwi that invented the jet boat, enabling us to travel into remote places with ease and this afternoon’s thrilling ride through the canyon is sure to blow your mind!
We will share our final dinner together at Nest - Queenstown’s highest alfresco restaurant with floor to ceiling windows affording you superb views of Lake Whakatipu.
Jet Boat Excursion
Sadly, our South Island experience comes to an end after breakfast. You will be transferred to Queenstown Airport where there are direct flights to Auckland or Australia to connect you on to your homeward flight.
Alternatively, you might like to stay in the country and join our North Island tour starting in 2 days' time. Ask about options to fill in these two days, stay in Queenstown, head to Auckland early, or perhaps take an overnight cruise to Doubtful or Milford Sound.
The Observatory Hotel brings contemporary style to the heart of a area rich with history.
Galaxy Boutique Hotel is the latest boutique hotel in the Mackenzie Region, providing a unique high-quality accommodation.
Kamana Lakehouse, a 5 min drive from the centre of Queenstown, offers stunning views over Lake Wakatipu and the iconic Remarkables mountain range.
Marie grew up in a small farming community in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. Being a free-spirited adventurous type, it wasn’t long before she spread her wings and started roaming around her country, exploring “nooks & crannies”, meeting amazing people and forming life-long friendships. After many years working in the travel and tourism industry, Marie founded her own company Roam Travel Adventures, specializing in women only tours. She has carefully crafted this unique itinerary specially for GG2TW – a bespoke tour you will not find anywhere else on the market.
New Zealand's South Island
New Zealand's South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you'll ever experience. From wildlife to wineries, glacial valleys to star-filled skies, the South Island offers adventure in all its forms.
Local New Zealand driver and guide
Transportation in private air-conditioned 12-seater vehicle
Airport transfers on Day 1 and 8
7 nights accommodation at luxury hotels
Meals as specified in the itinerary
All activities specified in the itinerary
Domestic or International Airfare
Travel or Medical Insurance (required)
The tour starts in Christchurch and ends in Queenstown – both are international airports. You will find that most clients can arrive from US or further afield, via Qantas through Sydney and straight into Christchurch and out of Queenstown. Alternatively, airlines such as Air New Zealand have add-ons available with their international airfares to Auckland
The trip officially starts on the afternoon of March 9th, but if you are traveling across an ocean to get to New Zealand, you may want to consider arriving a day early so you have time to relax and get acclimated to the local time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, please let us know and we will take care of booking your room for you and make sure that you are kept in the same room as you will be in when the trip starts.
We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.