From the rolling hills of the world-renowned wine regions of Marlborough and Nelson and the neighbouring Abel Tasman coastal national park to the high peaks and spectacular glaciers of the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s South Island is a huge magnet for nature lovers. There’s no better way to explore its attractions than by car, pausing as often as you fancy to immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery. Flying into Wellington, you’ll navigate Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds on the Interislander ferry before setting off to explore the pristine beaches and majestic cliffs of the northwest coast. Next, head south for the whale-watching capital Kaikoura, via a vineyard tour or two in Marlborough. Then, from the Garden City of Christchurch, take the TranzAlpine over the Canterbury Plains and through the Southern Alps before winding down beside Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu.
Days 1-2: UK/Wellington
Fly from the UK to Wellington, arriving on day three.
Day 3: Wellington
Arrive in Wellington refreshed and transfer to your city-centre hotel. Then, spend the day exploring New Zealand's vibrant capital city.
Days 4-5: Marlborough
Cross to the South Island on the Interislander ferry, navigating Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds to Picton, where you pick up a water taxi to the Bay of Many Coves. Enjoy a seafood cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound, tucking into the clams, mussels and fish that have made it famous the culinary world over.
Days 6-7: Nelson
Pick up your hire car in Picton and head out on the twisting, super-scenic Queen Charlotte Drive towards Nelson, your base for exploring the natural and adventure attractions of coastal Abel Tasman National Park. Here, a network of forest hiking trails are hidden behind idyllic beaches and secret coves.
Days 8-9: Kaikoura
Head south to Kaikoura via the wine country around Blenheim, picking up the spectacular Coastal Highway 1. The next day enjoy a whale-watching cruise, with a high chance of spotting these huge cetaceans year round.
Day 10: Christchurch
Follow the coast down to the Garden City of Christchurch, gateway to the Canterbury region, and spend the evening at leisure. New Zealand’s English City is famed for its river punting and world-class Botanic Gardens.
Day 11: Franz Josef
Take the TranzAlpine for one of the world’s great train journeys across the Canterbury Plains and through the mighty Southern Alps. From Greymouth, take the west coast road to the rainforests sprawling below Franz Josef Glacier.
Days 12-13: Wanaka
Take an amazing Twin Glacier helicopter ride over Fox and Franz Josef, landing at the head of one of the ice giants. Then, pick up the coast road and journey inland through Mount Aspiring National Park and the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawee to central Otago.
Days 14-15: Queenstown
Next is a short drive to Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Satisfy your lust for adventure with a 4WD heritage tour to Skippers Canyon and the long-abandoned gold-prospecting township.
Stay: Browns Boutique Hotel
Days 16-17: Queenstown/UK
Drop your car at the airport and board your flight home, arriving in the UK on day 17.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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