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Best of the South Island
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New Zealand plays host to some of the most incredible natural wonders you’ll ever experience. From towering snow-capped mountains to rugged coastlines, hauntingly beautiful fiords and majestic glaciers; prepare to be awe-struck by the beauty of the South Island. This comprehensive itinerary is full of exciting experiences and an array of unforgettable landscapes.
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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Christchurch
Collect your hire car from the airport and set off to your first stop: Christchurch. After settling in, spend the rest of your day at leisure. Watch as the historic trams wind their way through the city, enjoy a ride on a punt and glide along the attractive Avon River before enjoying sensational shopping at The Tannery and delectable cuisine in one of the many up-and-coming restaurants.
Lake Tekapo is approximately three hours’ drive south-west of Christchurch at the northern end of the idyllic Mackenzie Basin. A place of wondrous natural beauty and striking landscapes, the area boasts remarkable turquoise waters framed by New Zealand’s Southern Alps. A leisurely stroll along the lakeshore to the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd will yield breath-taking views and photo-ready vistas.
5* Peppers Bluewater Resort
Take in the scenery around towering Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,734 metres, and home to mountaineering, heli-skiing and boarding, kayaking on glacial lakes, horse trekking and the obligatory ‘flightseeing’ opportunities. Other ways to appreciate the surroundings include heading to the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre, stargazing at the world’s largest International Dark-Sky Reserve or simply staring up at the mountain and its surrounding peaks.
4.5* Hermitage Hotel
Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by majestic mountains, Queenstown is famous for its iconic scenery and its huge range of outdoor activities available for all ages. From walking and biking trails to skiing, river rafting, horse trekking and everything in between, you’ll never be short of things to do in Queenstown. While you’re here, set sail on a spectacular cruise across Milford Sound and explore the local Lord of the Rings film locations and the rugged canyons and rolling farmland of the Arrowtown area on a Safari of the Scenes tour.
Wanaka, a small town that sits on the tranquil lake of the same name, is a laid back place. Admiring the spectacular mountain scenery is the main activity here, or perhaps setting off into the wilderness of Mount Aspiring National Park. In town, the National Transport and Toy Museum has plenty to entertain the little ones, while older children will love the intriguing optical illusions and the mystifying maze at Puzzling World.
4* Oakridge Resort Lake Wanaka
Franz Josef is one of the most visited glaciers in New Zealand, and for good reason. This stunning natural phenomenon is a 7.5-mile-long glacier which descends to less than 300 metres above sea level and is surrounded by lush rainforest, making for an incredible sight. Marvel at the glacier from above on a thrilling helicopter ride and then gain an appreciation of the workings of nature on a glacier hike across its icy face.
4* Franz Alpine Retreat
Punakaiki is best known for its bizarre rock formations, the intriguing Pancake Rocks which look like a giant stack of pancakes, and the Punakaiki Blowholes, which squirt seawater high into the air, much to the delight of observers. Punakaiki is also a good base for exploring the wilderness of Paparoa National Park, either by kayak, on foot or on horseback. There’s also a glow worm cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites to discover.
4* Punakaiki Resort
Pretty Nelson is just a stone’s throw from the delights of Abel Tasman National Park, where you’ll explore the lush landscape of sandy bays and thundering rapids by kayak on a Beaches, Bays & Seals guided tour, including a picnic lunch on a golden sand beacg. In this region, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and canyoning are all popular pursuits, as is looking out for the colony of friendly fur seals. Lord of the Rings fans can take in a raft of local Hobbit hotspots such as Rivendell, Dimrill Dale and more.
Pretty Marlborough is most famous for its wines; in fact, over 90% the country’s famous Sauvignon Blanc is produced here. Visit some of the 40 local vineyards in and around Blenheim on a Scenic Marlborough Wine tour, sampling the vintages and learning more about wine production as you go. Perhaps buy a bottle or two to take home as a souvenir. And don’t forget to try the tasty local artisan food while you’re here as well.
The next stop on your itinerary is the peaceful town of Kaikoura – the perfect area for spectacular wildlife encounters. Kaikoura’s most famous residents are the marine mammal – whales, dolphins and fur seals grace the waters year-round. Set off on a whale watching cruise, which run from the town throughout the year and offer you the chance to get a closer view of these beautiful creatures – you may even have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins.
Your trip comes to end back in Christchurch where you’ll have one final night to look back on your fabulous adventure.
Depart Christchurch and return to the UK.
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