Next Departure Date: 20 Nov 2018
Price per person: $5145 per person twin share, $6345 sole occupancy
Tour Duration: 12 Days
The South Island boasts beautiful beaches, spectacular mountain ranges, stunning scenery, and of course the ‘salt of the earth’ friendly locals that you’ll meet along the way. The South Island is a spectacular land, which has been uplifted by extraordinary earth forces. The landscape is so different from the rolling green hills of the North Island that it is akin to travelling to another country. Our spectacular itinerary includes the famous TranzAlpine Train journey, the rugged west coast – home of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Queenstown, a Milford Sound cruise, Invercargill, Dunedin, Mount Cook and, of course, the gateway to the South Island — Christchurch. Add a visit midway through the tour, to the beautiful Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island, situated 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. This makes it a truly unique tour to some of the world’s most beautiful and remote areas.
Day 1: Canberra to Christchurch
Today we depart Canberra Airport and fly via Sydney to Christchurch. Welcome to New Zealand! You are met on arrival at the Christchurch International Airport before being transferred to your hotel.
Quality Hotel Elms, Christchurch
Day 2: Christchurch - Akaroa - Christchurch
This morning we visit the beautiful unspoilt old French whaling depot of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. Akaroa was settled by the French in an early attempt to colonise New Zealand and still retains a good deal of French character in its street names, boutique shops and cafés. Visit a cheese factory en route and sample the local produce then explore the charming village with its cafés, art and craft shops and colonial style architecture. Explore the delightful village and time for lunch (not included). In the afternoon enjoy a cruise on Akaroa Harbour which is known for its wildlife including penguins, marine birdlife and the very rare Hector’s Dolphins (smallest species in the world). Return to Christchurch in the late afternoon for a tour of the CBD before returning to the hotel.
Quality Hotel Elms, Christchurch
Day 3: Christchurch - Franz Josef
From Christchurch traverse the Southern Alps aboard the famous Tranz-Alpine rail journey to Arthur’s Pass. From your carriage you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps. Crossing Southern Alps, into the village of Arthur’s Pass where you will be met by coach to continue your journey to the West Coast – or “the Coast” as locals call it, stopping in Hokitika where a visit is made to the Greenstone and Glass Blowing factories. Further south, tour the Westland National Park, the home of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. On arrival, time is available for optional scenic flights, before continuing onto our accommodation for the night.
Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef
Day 4: Franz Josef - Queenstown
Driving towards the southern end of the South Island’s West Coast Road, there is a strong sense of entering a primeval land, and a feeling of total isolation. Arriving at Haast, you are surrounded by a landscape of rainforest, wetlands, sand dunes and surf-pounded shingle beaches. This wilderness forms part of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, so designated because South Westland and Fiordland have some of the most dramatic forest and mountain scenery and natural resources in the world. From the Westland National Park, travel through the Haast River valleys and over the Haast Pass to Makaroa and onto the upper reaches of Lake Wanaka. Travelling past Lake Hawea, reaching the popular Lake Wanaka, the starting point of the mighty Clutha River. This afternoon you travel via Cromwell following the Kawarau Gorge Road into Queenstown. Tonight is free for you to explore the local restaurants, cafés and bars.
Mercure Queenstown Resort, Queenstown
Day 5: Queenstown
Today is at leisure. Visit the Remarkable’s or Coronet Peak. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers. Perhaps a scenic 4-wheel drive excursion through Skippers Canyon, it’s up to you. Take a cruise this evening, across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead.
Mercure Queenstown Resort, Queenstown
Day 6: Queenstown - Milford Sound - Te Anau
Leaving Queenstown you skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake. Travelling via Te Anau to reach the beautiful Eglinton Valley climbing to Homer Tunnel before descending through the spectacular Cleddau Canyon to reach Milford Sound and enjoy a cruise of the Sound. The Sound is dominated by the grandeur of Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls. From Milford Sound you return to Te Anau reaching our overnight accommodation.
Distinction Hotel Luxmore, Lake Te Anau
Day 7: Te Anau - Invercargill - Stewart Island
Departing Te Anau we travel across country through some of New Zealand’s most populated sheep country to Lumsden then south to New Zealand’s southern most city. On arrival we enjoy a brief sightseeing tour of Invercargill including a visit to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Visit the unique Roaring 40’s Gallery featuring the Sub-Antarctic Islands, and the Burt Munro exhibition – a tribute to a southern legend and land speed record holder. It is also home to the successful Tuatara Breeding Programme which has bred over 80 Tuatara. With wonderful museum items and varying art exhibitions, this magnificent museum will keep you enthralled. Next we visit the rather impressive Bill Richardson Transport World – home to more than 300 trucks and classic vehicles, spread across 15,000 square metres. There are also more than 150 vintage petrol bowsers, along with other motoring memorabilia. More than just transport this museum tells the tale of New Zealand’s social history. Later this afternoon we travel to Bluff for a photo of the famous sign post then board the catamaran ferry to Stewart Island. Upon arriving at Stewart Island we have dinner at the South Seas Hotel – a real chance to mix with the locals!
Bay Motel & South Sea Hotel, Stewart Island
Day 8: Stewart Island - Invercargill
This morning enjoy a continental breakfast served in your room. After breakfast we are met by a local guide at our motel for a Village and Bays Tour. Enjoy the comprehensive commentary providing us all an insight into Stewart Island’s community, history and environment. Highlights include the Rakiura National Park entrance at Lee Bay, Halfmoon Bay, Horseshoe Bay and views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock. Guides share their local knowledge and there is time available for photo stops. Free time for lunch in the village before cruising through Paterson Inlet view hidden coves and unspoilt beaches to visit Ulva Island – a renowned wildlife sanctuary where many rare and endangered native species of birdlife and plants flourish in a predator free protected environment. During the easy 45 minute guided walk through native podocarp forest with a specialist nature guide you will be able to view diverse plant species and abundant bird life. The island is home to such wildlife as native Weka, Robins, rare Saddlebacks and Yellowheads among other species, even Kiwi are known to wander around in the area. After we return from Ulva Island we board the ferry back to the mainland staying the night in Invercargill.
Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill
Day 9: Invercargill - Dunedin via The Catlins
Today we travel the Southern Scenic Route from Invercargill through the Caitlin’s to Dunedin. Our first stop is at Curio Bay to walk amongst the Petrified Forest. Travelling through some of the South’s last bastion of Podocarp Forest to visit Pounawea, and the most photographed Purakanui Falls. Further north we visit Nugget Point which is great for wildlife viewing including seals, sea lions and penguins. Here also is the historic lighthouse which was built in 1869 and is still working today, although now automated. We re-join the main road in Balclutha and continue onto Dunedin – the ‘Edinburgh of the South’. The influence of its Scottish heritage is still strongly evident, so tonight we dine with a decidedly Scottish air enjoying the Haggis presentation and dinner at the hotel.
Scenic Hotel Dunedin City, Dunedin
Day 10: Dunedin - Oamarama
This morning, visit Olveston House – an impressive turn-of-the-century house that is still home to all the lavish furnishings and art collections that have been collected from all corners of the world. Continue to take in the sights of this old Scottish City before travelling onto Oamaru where you will have time to look at the ‘White Stone City’, where the old buildings have been constructed with local limestone. It was from Oamaru that New Zealand’s first frozen meat was shipped in 1882 taking over three months to reach England, and thus began New Zealand’s most important export industry. Travelling inland through Benmore and Otematata, through Sailors Cutting before arriving at Omarama.
Heritage Gateway Hotel, Omarama
Day 11: Omarama - Christchurch
Today is a day for spectacular sights as you head north to skirt the shore of Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Time is available to enjoy an optional scenic flight over the ancient rivers of ice and the West Coast Glaciers (weather permitting – a highly recommended option). Travelling to Tekapo, you’ll witness the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo. See the Church of the Good Shepherd and the statue of the Collie dog, before travelling the vast Mackenzie Basin, over Burke’s Pass through Fairlie, Geraldine, Ashburton and across the Canterbury Plains into Christchurch.
Day 12: Christchurch to Canberra
Farewell from New Zealand. After breakfast you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch International Airport for your flight back home to Canberra via Sydney.
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