Itinerary in brief:
- 2 nights Queenstown
- 1 night Franz Josef
- 1 night Hokitika
- 2 nights Nelson Region
- 1 night Kaikoura
- 1 night Christchurch
Days 1 & 2: Arrive in Queenstown
Buzzing all year round, Queenstown is the perfect place to start your South Island self-drive. Known as the adventure capital of the world, you can skydive, bungee, luge, swing and raft your way around! If the adrenalin is too much there are plenty of other ways to spend your time – the town is sat on the edge of Lake Wakatipu so why not take a boat cruise, hike a nearby trail or even explore some of the art galleries and cafes that line the streets.
You have 2 nights here to enjoy the city & surrounds, if you would like to add on a trip to the sounds check out our Milford Sounds Extension
Day 3: Queenstown to Franz Josef
After breakfast collect your rental car and begin the drive out to Franz Josef. The drive takes you up via the spectacular Crown Range Road to Wanaka, Queenstown’s sleepy little sister. Away from the hustle and bustle you can stop here for a few hours or even a night or two and enjoy the views (they have the best cinema too – comfy old sofas and freshly baked cookies for the interval!)
Further along the Haast Pass and up the West Coast you will come to Franz Josef, part of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Here you will stop for 2 nights.
Day 4: Franz Josef to Hokitika
Today you will join a small group hike on an Ice Explorer Tour! Start with a short heli transfer to the Pinnacles area on the Glacier, followed by a 3-hour hike offering spectacular views. Watch out for the Kea, the cheeky local mountain parrots known for their inquisitive personalities!
This afternoon it’s time to head further up the West coast – the wild coastline offers plenty of reasons to stop and enjoy the raw beauty of the area.
Hokitika in Maori means ‘place of return’ and once you’ve visited this small town you’ll see why! It’s considered to be the heritage and cultural centre of the west and has many restored buildings and walkways to explore.
Day 5: Hokitika to Mapua, Nelson Region
You will drive around 4 hours today to Mapua, conveniently located between Nelson & the Abel Tasman National Park - an area known for its abundant trekking, great lodges, plentiful outdoor activities and laid back lifestyle!
Day 6: Mapua, Nelson Region
Today we recommend an optional ‘Seals & Beach’ excursion, this trip showcases the highlights of Abel Tasman’s wildlife and history. Cruise into Tonga Island Marine Reserve stopping to watch the antics of its resident seal colony along the way and enjoy a scenic coastal walk before cruising back to the mainland. Alternatively, enjoy a day at leisure!
Day 7: Mapua to Kaikoura
After breakfast, it’s back on the road for your 5½ hour drive to Kaikoura. Due to the earthquake in Kaikoura, the drive down now takes you through Murchison and Springs Junction, before heading inland from Waiau to Kaikoura.
The seaside town of Kaikoura is located on a rocky peninsula and has its own fascinating history, archaeological remains indicate that Mao hunters occupied the area over 900 years ago attracted by the abundance of crayfish in the area.
Day 8: Kaikoura to Christchurch
We have included a whale-watching cruise today, these cruises operate year-round although what you see will change depending on the season, the best time to visit the migratory humpback whales are between June & July, so be sure to plan in advance if your goal is to spot one of these majestic creatures!
Once your cruise concludes you will be returned to the ‘Whaleway Station’ to commence your journey up to Christchurch, around 2½ hours away.
Day 12: Depart Christchurch
Head back to the airport and return your rental car before departing from Christchurch Airport.