The great southern
road trip

This journey begins in the bustling capital city of Wellington, in New Zealand’s North Island - the perfect spot from which to launch this amazing 6-week adventure down through the incredible South Island. Starting with a ferry ride into the Marlborough Sounds, this trip then zigzags through National Parks of native forest, turquoise waters and golden sandy bays before crossing the world famous Arthurs Pass and on to Akaroa, a cute harbour village steeped in French history. We then meander South through an array of iconic Kiwi landscapes – impossibly bright blue lakes and rivers surrounded by the high snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps, quaint towns brimming with goldmining history, rugged coastlines and lonely lighthouses – before arriving in the adventure capitals of Te Anau and Queenstown. And if that’s not enough, we still have time to visit New Zealand’s most famous glaciers, alpine hot pools, and whale and dolphin encounters.

At a glance
Wellington to Christchurch (4334km)
10 travellers
Nov 6th  – Dec 21st
46 days, 45 nights
The highlights
  • Wellington
  • The Cook Strait Ferry
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Golden Bay
  • The Abel Tasman National Park
  • Cape Farewell & Farewell Spit
  • Wharariki Beach
  • West Coast North
  • Pancake Rocks – Punakaiki
  • Arthurs Pass
  • Akaroa
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Mount Cook
  • Dunedin
  • St. Bathans and The Maniototo
  • The Catlins
  • Slope Point & Bluff (Southernmost point)
  • Te Anau & Fiordland (Westernmost point)
  • Queenstown
  • The Arrowtown
  • Wanaka
  • Hawea
  • Franz Josef Glacier
  • Okarito
  • Haast Pass
  • Hanmer Springs
  • Kaikōura

Lake Hawera, Central Otago

what's included?

We'll kick-start the tour with a warm welcome– a chance for everyone to say ‘Kia Ora’ (hello in Māori) and introduce ourselves


Guides x 2
Maximum group size x 10

All Accommodation

Equipment: Your own 3-man canvas tent.
Single stretcher bed x 1
(double for couples on request)
Camp chair x 1
Accommodation: Mostly camping, shared dorm


Breakfasts x 44,  Dinners x 30 (incl. tea, coffee and hot chocolate)

All transport

In our customised ZigZag Mercedes Sprinter van (incl. your own seat with USB charger)


All road tolls and ferry crossings

Activities & Attractions included
  • Wellington
  • Cook Strait ferry
  • Group dinner in Picton
  • Queen Charlotte Drive Sound Drive
  • Marlborough Sounds Boat Trip
  • French Pass Day Trip
  • Ngarua Caves
  • Pupu Springs
  • Golden Bay
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Takaka Hill
  • Buller Gorge
  • Oparara Arches
  • Cape Foulwind
  • Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
  • Arthurs Pass
  • Omarama Clay Cliffs
  • Moreaki Boulders
  • Mount Cook and the Hermitage
  • Macraes Goldmine
  • Curio Bay
  • Nugget Point
  • Tuapeka Mouth Punt
  • Naseby Curling
  • Cathedral Cave
  • Bluff and Slope Point - Southernmost Point
  • Fiordland - Westernmost Point
  • Haast Pass - Blue Pools
  • Lake Matheson
  • Okarito
  • Hokitika Gorge
  • Hanmer Springs
  • Molesworth Station (weather dependent)
  • Farewell dinner in Kaikōura

Lake Wanaka

what's Not included?
Visas/Passport costs
Airport transfers
Additional Activities
Alternative Accommodation
Drinks not specified
Meals not specified
Phone & Internet
Basic Itinerary
  • Departing Wellington
  • 01Wellington
  • 02Picton
  • 03Picton
  • 04Picton
  • 05Nelson Lakes
  • 06Marahau
  • 07 Marahau
  • 08Marahau
  • 09Collingwood
  • 10Collingwood
  • 11Murchison
  • 12Mokihinui
  • 13Mokihinui
  • 14Punakaiki
  • 15Moana
  • 16Akaroa
  • 17Akaroa
  • 18Tekapo
  • 19Mount Cook
  • 20Mount Cook
  • 21Oamaru
  • 22Dunedin
  • 23Dunedin
  • 24Dunedin
  • 25Naseby
  • 26Naseby
  • 27 Pounawea
  • 28Curio Bay
  • 29Curio Bay
  • 30Te Anau
  • 31Te Anau
  • 32Te Anau
  • 33Queenstown
  • 34Queenstown
  • 35Queenstown
  • 36Hawea
  • 37 Hawea
  • 38Franz Josef
  • 39Franz Josef
  • 40Franz Josef
  • 41Hokitika
  • 42Hanmer Springs
  • 43Hanmer Springs
  • 44Kaikōura
  • 45Kaikōura
  • Drop off in Christchurch
Route Map:
DETAILED Itinerary

Click the + to expand

Day 1  That Capital Bit - Wellington

Day 1 – Meet in Wellington and have the first night at the hostel included before our departure to the South Island tomorrow.

Included No meals
Hostel: Wellington

Day 2 - 5 That Boaty Bit - Wellington to Nelson Lakes

Day 2 – Today’s the day we cross the Cook Strait, named after James Cook, the first European explorer to sail through it. 

With the Tasman Sea to the west and the South Pacific Ocean to the east, Cook Strait divides the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It is 22 kilometres wide at its narrowest point and takes roughly 4 hours to cross. 

There are two companies that operate commercial sailings across this body of water - The Interislander and the Blue Bridge ferry companies both offer comfortable sailing experiences with food and beverage outlets on board, entertainment rooms and seated indoor viewing areas. Considered one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world, the outdoor decks allow passengers to savour the magnificent views from Wellington Harbour into the Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Sound is particularly scenic and sheltered, being surrounded by steep bush covered hills. 

We finish up in Picton tonight for three nights.

Included D
Camping: Picton

Day 3 & 4– Free Days to explore this picturesque town with its pretty seaside waterfront, cafes, galleries and specialty shops. Picton is home to The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, a popular aquarium, a number of scenic boat rides that explore the many islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, and is the base for the Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand’s premier hiking experiences. Only a short drive away is Blenheim, which sits in the heart of NZ’s largest wine region. Book one of the many wine tours that offer pick-ups from Picton and transport their visitors through to the stunning Wairau Valley where you will discover why people the world over love Marlborough wine.

During our stay in Picton, ZigZag passengers have the opportunity to experience the marvellous ‘Mail Boat Cruise’ (included activity). This popular sightseeing ferry tour incorporates a mail, grocery and freight service that delivers to residential property owners (and their excitable pets) in some of the most spectacular and remote corners of the sprawling Queen Charlotte Sound.

On the alternate free day in Picton (weather permitting), we offer to those passengers who are interested, a day trip up to French Pass at the very top of the Marlborough Sounds. Revered as one of the most spectacular drives in New Zealand, this remote gravel road experience is not for the faint hearted, but travellers are rewarded with extraordinary hill-top views across the Marlborough Sounds and beyond. At French Pass, a narrow stretch of sea water that separates the mainland from D’Urville Island contains currents that are so strong, they form whirlpools on the surface of the ocean, which often resemble a horizontal waterfall at peak tide. The tiny township of French Pass nearby boasts a long jetty that extends out into the sea, from which it is possible to see eagle rays skim across the sandy bottom of the bay.

Day 3 B
Day 4 B,D
Camping: Picton

Day 5 – This morning, we leave Picton and make our way along the world-famous Queen Charlotte Drive, a 35-kilometre journey that snakes its way westwards along the breathtakingly beautiful stretch of water that gives it its name. With native forest on one side and the sparkling turquoise waters of Queen Charlotte Sound on the other, the elevated views we encounter along the Marlborough Sounds today are some of the most beautiful of our entire trip.

We then stop for a leisurely lunch in Havelock, a small coastal village and harbour at the head of Pelorus Sound that is renowned as the ‘Greenshell Mussel’ capital of the world.

After lunch, we make our way south and then west along State Highway 63. This area is called the Wairau Valley and is home to some of New Zealand’s best-known white wines.

We arrive mid-afternoon in the pretty little hamlet of St Arnaud. St Arnaud sits on the edge of Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park. Lake Rotoiti (and its neighbour, Lake Rotoroa) are renowned for their phenomenal scenery, their dramatic hiking tracks, the fine brown trout and native eels swimming in the crystal clear alpine waters, and the black swans who have made the lakes their home.

Lake Rotoiti is a popular destination year round for boating, water skiing, swimming and kayaking, and kayaks and boat rides can be booked near the jetty, only a few minutes’ walk from our accommodation.

We spend one night here.     

Included B,D
Lodge: Nelson Lakes

Day 6 - 11 That Golden Bit At The Top - Nelson Lakes to Murchison

Day 6 – This morning, we breakfast in our lodge before driving north through the mountains, thickly forested hills, farms, vineyards and orchards of the Nelson region. Along the way, we’ll enjoy a long stop at Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve, home to golden sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

We then have a very short drive to Marahau, where we will spend the next three nights. Marahau is the closest settlement to, and gateway for, the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park.

Included B,D
Camping: Marahau

Day 7 – Free Day. Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve at the top of the South Island that is renowned for its ‘tropical island’ beaches and its world-famous coastal track. 

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a well-maintained walking trail within the park that winds its way past secluded inlets and bays, through native forest and across elevated ridges for sixty kilometres. Visitors access and explore the park via the walkway, or by catching the numerous water taxis that weave in and out of the many bays along the length of the park, or by air (book your flightseeing/skydiving trips in advance!).

Day walkers typically book one of the water taxis that regularly run from the village beach at Marahau up to a bay inside the park, walk one or two of the sections along the spectacular Coastal Track, and then catch a water taxi back home to Marahau at the end of the day. 

If walking isn’t your thing, you can take a scenic cruise along the beautiful coastline or have a go at kayaking. There are also plenty of safe beaches to enjoy. 

Included B
Camping: Marahau

Day 8 – Free Day. We have two full days here, so immerse yourself in this stunning region – we are sure it will become one of your New Zealand highlights.

Included B,D
Camping: Marahau

Day 9 – Today, we say “haere ra” (goodbye in Māori) to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park and zig zag our way up over the mighty Takaka Hill to Golden Bay. At an elevation of 791m above sea level, this sheer mountain pass boasts phenomenal views over Takaka Valley and Golden Bay below, and the Tasman Mountain Range and Kahurangi National Park in the distance. 

Over the other side, we make a stop in the township of Takaka itself, a colourful, characterful wee place with interesting boutique shops and cafes. 

Next stop is Te Waikoropupu Springs. Referred to locally/helpfully as ‘Pupu Springs’, these large natural pools contain eight main vents that discharge over 14,000 litres of water per second – enough to supply a city the size of Boston, Massachusetts. Until recently, the water at Pupu Springs was also the second clearest ever measured anywhere in the world (only water contained under the glaciers in Antarctica is clearer). It has now been pipped to third in the world by the spring under Blue Lake, which is also in the Tasman Region in New Zealand. Pupu Springs remain however the largest natural springs in New Zealand and the largest cold-water springs in the Southern Hemisphere. Short boardwalks and bridges guide visitors to a number of viewing platforms overlooking the large pools. From there, it is on to Collingwood, our final destination for the day and our camp for two nights. Collingwood is a beautiful, quiet little settlement and a great base from which to explore the top of the South Island, Farewell Spit, Cape Farewell and Wharariki Beach.

Included B,D
Camping: Collingwood

Day 10 – Free Day. Collingwood started life as a bustling gold rush town back in the 1800’s, but today it is better known as a tranquil ecotourism destination due to its proximity to Kahurangi National Park and the Farewell Spit Nature Reserve.

Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is a bird sanctuary and wetland of ‘International Importance’. The Reserve is approximately 35km long, but public access is restricted to only the first 4kms. Only the government-registered guided tour company based in Collingwood is permitted to carry visitors further onto the Spit, and they provide a fascinating and very scenic day trip that also visits Cape Farewell (the South Island’s most northerly point), Fossil Point and the historic lighthouse.

Whether you choose to visit the Spit with the third-party tour or not, we ensure we work around the tide-based tour timetable so you can all accompany us on a visit to the beautiful Wharariki Beach. It’s high dunes, secluded bays, caves, rockpools, lonely beaches and rugged offshore islands and archways are a favourite for photographers. It is however so isolated that very few people visit, making it one of our truly hidden gems!!

Collingwood’s small-town charm is enhanced by its reputation for fresh tasty seafood, so why not try the fish & chips or scallops when you get your dinner tonight. Other things to do whilst you are here include renting a bike to explore the nearby Aorere Valley, hiring a kayak to paddle around the beautiful Ruataniwha Inlet, or just relax at the museum, art gallery and cafes situated in the main street.

Included B
Camping: Collingwood

Day 11 – We head back up and over ‘the hill’ toward Motueka this morning. Near the top, we stop and disembark for a short magical adventure underground. 

The Ngarua Cave experience (included) provides a guided tour down into a sequence of ancient limestone caves located deep inside Takaka Hill (aka ‘Marble Mountain’ due to the large seams of limestone and karst ‘marble’ from which it is formed). The caves, which were used in scenes for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, house a variety of unusual rock formations, including breath-taking stalactites and stalagmites that are hundreds of thousands of years old. Remains of a number of New Zealand's now extinct birds have also been found in the caves, including complete skeletons of the large, flightless Moa – one of which remains on display today. Marble quarried from near Ngarua Caves was used to construct several prominent buildings in New Zealand including the Parliament Buildings and ‘Beehive’ in Wellington, and the Nelson Cathedral.

After a short stop for lunch, we follow the quiet, pleasant back-country roads along the Motueka River and through the orchards of Tapawera down to the main road that heads west, before arriving in Murchison for the night. 

Included B,D
Camping: Murchison

Day 12 - 15 That Really Wild Rocky Bit - Murchison to Moana

Day 12 – Today we ‘tackle’ the Buller Gorge, an incredibly scenic drive that follows the Buller River as it meanders between Murchison and the Tasman Sea on the West Coast of the South Island. 

In the ‘Upper’ section of the gorge, we stop at New Zealand’s longest swing bridge (110m in length). Marvel at the colour of the water below as you cross the bridge, and then read about and witness the area’s dramatic goldmining and seismic history in the open-air museum on the other side (included). If you are brave enough, take the zipline back across the river afterwards (not included)! 

We then drive on through the breath-taking ‘Lower’ section of the gorge before finally turning off at Westport and following the thin strip of bitumen that is Highway 67 north as it squeezes between the desolate black sand beaches of the West Coast on our left, and the rugged, forested mountains of Kahurangi National Park on our right.   

We come to a rest and set up camp for two nights in the tiny coastal enclave of Mokihinui.

Included B
Camping: Mokihinui

Day 13 – Today, we’re going on an optional, but totally unmissable, day trip north to the Oparara Basin and its intriguing complex of limestone caves, arches, outcrops and channels, deep in the Kahurangi National Park. Scientists believe it has taken over a million years for the somewhat placid Oparara River to carve out these stunning formations – so impressive that they featured in the Lord Of The Rings movies too. 

After a quick pit stop in Karamea, we head up to the turn off, and drive in towards the car park. From there, visitors walk through an ‘enchanted’ rainforest comprising of ancient beech and podocarp trees that are thickly carpeted in mosses and ferns. The feeling of being in a fairy-tale increases once you enter the arches themselves. 

The huge Oparara arch is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, soaring 43m high, 79m wide and 219m long. It is very impressive, artfully lit from both directions, and creates stunning reflections in the dark, whiskey-coloured waters of the river below. 

The Moria Gate Arch is smaller at 19 metres high but is arguably more photogenic and can be accessed through a small hole in the forest floor, from which you can walk the riverbank from one end of the arch to the other. 

A well-maintained track from the second arch then circles around through the forest, past a Mirror Lake tarn amongst the trees, and back to the car park and its cheeky Weka birds.  Once everyone is back, we’ll head back down south to our camp for the night.    

Included B,D
Camping: Mokihinui

Day 14 – We head back to Westport for a quick pit stop and time for you to visit the interesting Coaltown Mining Museum* before we move on to nearby Cape Foulwind, so named by Captain James Cook after his ship was blown out to sea here in 1770.  Should you choose to, hop out here and walk the spectacular 3.4km walkway with its panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, cliffs and seashore. We’ll pick you up at the other end.  

Back in the van and we head south, hugging the craggy coastline as we wind our way down the West Coast. Along the way, we pass endless black sand beaches, headlands and bays on our right, and deep gorges, high cliffs and the dense rainforest of the Paparoa National Park on our left. 

We end this afternoon in Punakaiki. Watch out for sunset here – it’s spellbinding!!
*at your own cost

Included B,D
Camping: Punakaiki

Day 15 – This morning we take you to see Pancake Rocks, a geological marvel. Thirty million years of erosion has created varying layers of hard and soft limestone, all of which look like gigantic ‘stacks of pancakes’, hence the name. The same erosion has also created a series of caves and channels. On a rough day, the sea thunders into the caves and forces its way up through the vertical shafts, bursting out the top through a number of blowholes. This impressive natural wonder can be accessed via a series of well-maintained boardwalks and pathways.

Heading south again past more beautiful coastal scenery, we then turn inland just before the town of Greymouth and drive toward the tiny village of Moana, situated on the shores of Lake Brunner. 

Included B,D
Camping: Moana

Day 16 - 17The Alpine Crossing To That French Bit - Moana to Akaroa

Day 16 – We leave pretty Moana this morning and head all the way across the country to the east coast, via the famous Arthurs Pass National Park. 

Arthurs Pass sits inside the National Park and is the highest of the three passes that traverse the South Island’s Southern Alps mountain range. Its huge peaks are home to vast scree slopes, steep gorges and wide shingle-bottomed rivers, which dwarf Highway 73 and create the most dramatic alpine scenery - a landscape photographer’s dream. Don’t worry - we’ll make plenty of stops along the way. 

Upon leaving the mountains, the amazing scenery continues as we journey southeast through the fertile Canterbury Plains to the shores of Lake Ellesmere, before winding our way up and over the hilltop to Akaroa, a popular French heritage town nestled within the large Banks Peninsula.

Included B,D
Camping: Akaroa

Day 17 – Free Day. Your time to explore the most ‘French’ town in New Zealand, with its historic buildings, magnificent harbour, galleries, craft stores, ‘boulangeries’ and waterfront cafes. Relax or take part in the many activities that are on offer, whether it be out on the water, visiting the quirky art collections, or simply sitting by the shore enjoying a gelato.

Included B
Camping: Akaroa 

Day 18 - 20 The Highest Bit - Akaroa to Oamaru

Day 18 – We wish a fond ‘adieu’ to Akaroa and depart via the breath-taking Summit Road, with its sweeping views of the magnificent harbour and surrounding hilltops. We then head back toward the centre of Canterbury where we join the ‘Inland Scenic Route’ and cross the Rakaia River at the Rakaia Gorge. The alpine-fed river water below is a bright milky-turquoise blue colour and looks astonishing on a sunny day. We then make our way south through rural pastureland before joining the Geraldine/Fairlie Highway and entering the mountains on our way to Lake Tekapo. 

Tekapo, nestled on the shores of Lake Tekapo, is in the heart of the Mackenzie Country, and is famous for its glacial, turquoise-coloured lake and its Southern Alps backdrop. It is a popular base for both summer and winter sports, has a fantastic new outdoor hot pool complex that is located right next to our campground, and is also home to the largest internationally recognised ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ in the Southern Hemisphere - one of only eight such reserves in the world. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and associated Mount John Observatory offer many opportunities to learn about and enjoy the magnificent night skies above us. 

Included B,D
Camping: Lake Tekapo

Day 19 – Spend time today on the picturesque shores of Lake Tekapo with its backdrop of alpine scenery. Relax in the hot springs or enjoy a coffee in the village. This afternoon, we will take the short drive around the bright blue waters of Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook. Be prepared for some stunning views and picture-perfect photo opportunities as we drive deeper and deeper into the Southern Alps. 

Included B,D
Camping: Glentanner

Day 20 – Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged landscape of ice and rock. It is home to 19 peaks that tower over 3,000 metres high, including New Zealand's highest mountain Mount Cook, which stands at 3,724 metres. There are many beautiful walks and hikes throughout Mount Cook National Park, and those who choose to wander out on the well-maintained tracks are rewarded with many viewpoints of the stunning mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes. 

In addition to the walks and hikes, you can ‘flightsee’ this iconic landscape from the air, get up close and personal to a real-life iceberg on a lake cruise, learn about the life of one of our greatest explorers Sir Edmund Hilary in the museum, spend time in a Planetarium, or even catch a movie! You may just want to sit, enjoy a coffee, and marvel at the views - there are so many ways to while away the day at Mt Cook Village/The Hermitage.

Included B,D
Camping: Glentanner

Day 21 - 24 That Scottish Bit - Oamaru to Dunedin

Day 21 – This morning, we drive south to the geological wonder that is the Omarama Clay Cliffs. This natural rock formation was initially created by glacial run off and has then been further eroded by the weather over the millennia, leaving behind huge funnels and soaring turrets in deep gorges of red dirt that we are able to walk amongst. A cool photography opportunity. We then head toward the east coast again, stopping along the way to view some very rare, early examples of Māori Rock Art that date back hundreds of years. This historic area includes both pre- and post-European occupation sites and is one of only two such sites in the South Island that are open to the public. 

We then drive on through the limestone strewn landscape to Oamaru, a harbour town renowned for its proud historic Victorian precinct, its penguins, and for being the ‘Steampunk’ capital of New Zealand. Here you will find all things ‘weird and wonderful’ along with traditional craft shops and galleries nestled amongst the 19th century Victorian buildings. 

Included B,D
Camping: Oamaru

Day 22 – You have time this morning to enjoy more of Oamaru, before we depart for Dunedin after lunch. Shortly outside of Oamaru, we make a stop at the Moeraki Boulders. These large, unusual rocks are perfectly smooth and spherical, and lie scattered on a deserted stretch of the beautiful Koekohe Beach, providing yet another good photo opportunity. 

We then take the scenic coastal road south, winding our way through small villages and settlements with splendid views before heading up over the hills and down into Port Chalmers, Otago’s main harbour town. 

A short drive along the harbour takes us to the City of Dunedin, where we spend three nights.

Included B,D
Cabins: Dunedin

Day 23 – Free Day. Dunedin, a city of contrasts and colours, is the second largest urban area in the South Island. Its rich cosmopolitan culture is enhanced by its strong Scottish heritage and a large tertiary student population that enlivens the city’s centre. The city boasts a popular food and brewery scene, which combines with excellent museums, galleries and botanic gardens to attract visitors all year round.

The University and iconic Railway Station are just some of the many beautiful buildings that have survived from Dunedin’s wealthy Edwardian and Victorian eras, when the proceeds from farming and the gold rush almost saw it become the country’s capital.

Other attractions include Larnach’s Castle (New Zealand’s only castle), the central Octagon and its statue paying homage to the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, and Baldwin Street (officially, the steepest street in the world). 

The city is situated along the beautiful Otago Harbour, a large natural inlet that offers brilliant scenic drives, white sandy beaches, amazing hikes and breath-taking views only minutes from the city.  Dunedin is also a wildlife haven and is the only place in the world where you can view Northern Royal Albatross on the mainland - their natural habitat at the Royal Albatross Centre on the south-eastern tip of the Otago Peninsula makes for a thrilling day out. Other wildlife tours offer the opportunity to see penguins, seals, sea lions, dolphins and possibly even whales. 

Included B
Cabins: Dunedin

Day 24 – Free Day. Enjoy another free day in Dunedin. Alternatively, join our optional scenic tour as we explore some of the lesser-known beauty spots and hidden gems in Dunedin and its surrounds. 

Included B
Cabins: Dunedin

Day 25 - 26That Oldy Worlde Bit - Dunedin to Naseby

Day 25 – Today we leave Dunedin and head into the remote Maniototo, an elevated inland region of Otago famous for its rivers, mountains, high country stations and wide-open spaces. Home to the Otago Central Rail Trail, a multi-day walking and cycling track that follows the old railway line into the heart of the region, the pace is slightly slower here, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. 

We drive on through rolling hills, granite strewn landscapes, tiny historic hamlets and the forgotten buildings of old gold mining settlements, before cresting a brow and peering down into the country’s largest gold producing mine at Macraes. 

We continue on through rock scattered paddocks that look like they could be on the moon, and more abandoned stone remnants of Otago’s extensive gold mining history before coming to the 1930’s ‘art deco’ town of Ranfurly. Fifteen minutes further along the road, we reach Naseby where we spend two nights. 

Naseby was originally an old gold mining settlement and has preserved some beautiful historic buildings in its village centre including two stone hotels and an Old Settlers Museum. It is also New Zealand’s ‘Curling’ capital, with a purpose-built stadium that enables visitors to try their hand all year round at this sport popularised by the Winter Olympics. There are also gorgeous forest walks, a public swimming dam, and excellent mountain biking trails. 

Included B,D
Camping: Naseby

Day 26 – We head off on a short, optional tour of the Maniototo today. Not far from Naseby lies the small, quaint ‘lost in time’ settlement of Saint Bathans, a once bustling gold mining town that was home to over 2000 residents – today, less than 1% of that number remain. The much-photographed Vulcan Hotel sits proudly on the main street, its interior unchanged from its heyday. Fascinating old photographs on the walls showcase the nearby mine workings, the houses, the sports teams and the colourful local inhabitants who lived here through the centuries, along with stories and tales about the ghost who is supposed to haunt the hotel. 

Back outside, the picturesque Blue Lake now hides the remnants of the intensive mining that created it, the spectacular colour of its deep waters intensified by the bright white cliffs that surround it. A loop track along one side of the lake highlights many old mining relics along the way, and signs provide further information about the history of the area. 

Then it’s back to Naseby for a game of curling – a sport that has been played here competitively since 1878! We will organise a group session where you will be shown the ropes and you can try your hand at essentially ‘bowling on ice’. A fun, unique experience we think you’ll enjoy. 

Included B
Camping: Naseby

Day 27 - 30That Southern Bit - Naseby to Te Anau

Day 27 – Today we head south and east, down to the beautiful South Otago coastline. Passing through the Ida Valley, we follow part of the Central Otago Rail Trail through to Ophir, another ancient stone village that is ‘frozen in time’. Frozen it was too in July 1995, when it recorded New Zealand’s coldest ever temperature of 21.6° Celsius. 

From there, we pass through the pretty rural town of Alexandra before joining the mighty Clutha River as it makes its way through Central Otago and on to the sea. At Roxburgh, we cross the Clutha via the dam and continue through the Teviot Valley with its beautiful rolling farmland and superb orchards that produce export quality fruit. 

Further on, we reach a tiny hamlet called Tuapeka Mouth, another old gold mining area that is now known for its excellent sheep, beef and dairy farming. Here, we again cross the Clutha River, this time via a 125-year-old current-driven punt (motorless ‘ferry’), the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Passing through Balclutha, we then make our way into The Catlins, a spectacularly scenic region of rugged, isolated coastline and forest in the south-eastern corner of the South Island. We settle into our camp in Pounawea, a quiet seaside settlement which nestles between the estuaries of the Catlins and Owaka Rivers.

After dinner, and weather pending, we’ll drive you up to the ‘Nuggets’ at the Totāra Scenic Reserve for a nerve-tingling photo opportunity. This steep elevated headland with a pretty lighthouse at its tip juts out into the South Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by rocky islets (likened to ‘gold nuggets’, hence the name). The iconic Nugget Point Lighthouse (the oldest lighthouse in the country) has a viewing platform with sensational views over the spiky rocks and out to the ocean’s horizon and looks incredible at sunset.

Included B,D
Camping: Pounawea

Day 28 – Today at some point the tides will hopefully allow us to stop at the Cathedral Caves at Waipati Beach – a real Catlin’s highlight. For the rest of our day, we zigzag though the rolling hills, native forests, cascading waterfalls, desolate sandy beaches, high cliffs, rugged bays and inlets, and large ocean swells that dominate the Southern Scenic Route. 

Another highlight is the 180-million-year-old petrified forest at Curio Bay, where we will stay for the next two nights. 

Included B,D
Camping: Curio Bay

Day 29 – Free Day. Time to explore Curio Bay and its surroundings. The Curio Scape interactive centre located on site is excellent and provides an interesting overview of the area’s unique geology and diversity. Then take any of the numerous walks from the centre out to see the Jurassic fossil forest and the varying wildlife that inhabit the area. If the weather is good, enjoy a dip in stunning Porpoise Bay, or walk for kilometres along the empty white sand beach. 

Included B,D
Camping: Curio Bay 

Day 30 - Today we visit the southernmost point of New Zealand. Slope Point is a short, windswept peninsula just along the coast from Curio Bay, and is accessed by a short walk from a car park. The sign post erected on top of the rugged cliffs confirms its most southerly location, and the views along the coastline in both directions are superb. 

From here, we meander through lush green farmland into Southland, with a quick detour down to Bluff, which most Kiwi’s erroneously believe is the southern-most point of the island.

Bluff is however New Zealand’s southernmost town and is where the country’s State Highway 1 starts/ends (depending on your journey – Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island is the other end).   We take you high up above the historic port to the top of Bluff Hill, from where on a clear day you can see all the way across to Stewart Island.

We then continue up through Invercargill and head toward Te Anau, our base and the closest town to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. 

Included B,D
Camping: Te Anau

Day 31 - 37 That Iconic Bit - Te Anau to Hawea

Day 31 – Free Day. Fiordland is a scenic wonderland of steep mountains, deep sounds, tumbling waterfalls and dense rainforest. Fulfilling a once in a lifetime experience here is straightforward, with the glacier-carved fiords of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound within easy reach. 

Widely regarded as the ‘8th wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural attractions. Its waterfall-covered, mile-high mountain peaks rise almost vertically out of the dark waters of the fiord, with the imposing Mitre Peak at its centre one of the most photographed landmarks in the country. 

Doubtful Sound, situated further south, and accessed via a boat ride across majestic Lake Manapouri, is considerably bigger than Milford Sound, and just as beautiful. We believe it is best seen as part of an overnight trip, which includes meals, your own cabin on board a cruise boat, and the opportunity to wake up and watch the sunrise over this silent, untouched paradise. 

Te Anau is the main base for exploring the region and offers a variety of sightseeing options. These include cruises, helicopter rides, flightseeing, 4x4 journeys, guided hikes, kayaking, and sea plane experiences. Packages also exist that combine tours to both Milford and Doubtful Sounds too. Whichever you choose, this will quickly become one of your Kiwi highlights.

Included B
Camping: Te Anau

Day 32 – Free Day. Another day to experience Fiordland. Locally, Te Anau offers its own glow-worm cave experience, pleasant walks around the lakefront, and a busy town centre filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. 

Included B
Camping: Te Anau

Day 33 – We spend the morning in Te Anau before driving to Queenstown after lunch. The drive is again incredibly scenic, as we pass through large commercial deer stations and high mountains before emerging onto the Southern shores of Lake Wakatipu. The highway then rises up the Devil’s Staircase, a steep but particularly scenic section of the journey which zig-zags to a viewing platform overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains. 

Continuing along the cliff edges that fringe the lake, we eventually enter Frankton, a fast-growing outer suburb of Queenstown, before arriving in to the centre of the city itself, where we will spend the next three nights.

Included B,D
Camping: Queenstown

Day 34 – Free Day. Queenstown sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by a number of large alpine peaks, and the spectacular Remarkables mountain range. Often referred to as ‘the adventure capital’ of New Zealand, Queenstown has an abundance of things to see and do. 

For those of you with a quest for thrill-seeking, why not try the first and most famous bungy jump in the world, or one of the many exhilarating jet boat rides in the area, white water rafting or bodyboarding, a 4WD adventure, skydiving, ziplining, or even the bone-shaking ‘semi-submersible shark ride’! The list is exhaustive.  

If you prefer things a little slower paced, then check out the gondola and the astonishing views from the top of Bob’s Peak, a paraglide over the town, a lake cruise on the famous TSS Earnslaw (an iconic century-old coal-fired steamship), a stroll through the botanical gardens, or just time on the lakeshore and a wander through the shops in the pleasant town centre. 

If you are a Lord Of The Rings fan, you might want to hire a car or join a tour to nearby Glenorchy. A number of the incredible locations surrounding this tiny township were prominent backdrops for the movie series. 

Included B
Camping: Queenstown

Day 35 – Free Day. Another day to explore and enjoy the beautiful Queenstown. Options for today might include hiring a bike, a spot of fishing, or hiring a car and driving to the top of Walter Peak farm for the best views in town.

Included B
Camping: Queenstown

Day 36 – Upon leaving Queenstown today, we make our first stop in Arrowtown, a historic gold mining settlement. Nestled by the Arrow River, this picturesque and character-filled village has retained much of its original ‘gold rush’ architecture, and the pretty colonnade of old shops and buildings in its centre resemble those from an old ‘wild west’ film. 

Just off the main street are a series of quaint old miners' cottages that lead to the ‘Chinese village’ – a separate area that was allocated to the Chinese gold miners who came to Arrowtown to seek their fortunes. Steeped in history, this open-air museum provides a glimpse into the tough and often unrewarded lives that these courageous early miners led.

We then travel through the Kawarau Gorge, around Lake Dunstan, and on to the resort town of Wanaka. Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park and sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka. Full of beauty spots and photo opportunities, one of its most famous is the Instagram-friendly “#that Wanaka tree”, an iconic (but rather small in stature) willow tree that wallows in the lake’s shallows and has become a social media photographed phenomenon. 

We stop and spend a relaxed afternoon in this vibrant little town, before driving on to nearby Lake Hawea where we will spend the next two nights. 

Included B,D
Camping: Hawea

Day 37 – Free Day. Lake Hawea, only a 15-minute drive from Wanaka, is an outdoor paradise and a real beauty spot. Hawea offers a quiet and peaceful alternative to the hustle and bustle of the larger resort towns in the region, and is a hub for mountains trails, lakeside walks, swimming, and bike riding. 

If you would prefer to spend your time back in Wanaka, try climbing either Mount Iron or the incredibly popular, much higher, and physically exhausting Roy’s Peak for incredible 360-degree views of Lake Wanaka. If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, then there are numerous water-based activities to try out on the lake, bike hire options, a fabulous boutique movie cinema in the city centre, and a delightful little international food truck ‘square’ nestled above a babbling brook and an old waterwheel.  

Included B,D
Camping: Hawea

Day 38 - 42That West Coast Bit With The Glaciers - Hawea to Hanmer Springs

Day 38 – Upon leaving the town of Hawea, we follow the lake from its tip to a section called ‘The Neck’ on this, one of the most spectacular driving days of the entire 90-day trip. We soon leave Lake Hawea for good, but within minutes, join the upper section of Lake Wanaka, where we continue on our stunning drive through Mount Aspiring National Park and the Southern Alps. 

For much of the morning, we are surrounded by high mountains and glaciers, waterfalls and river valleys, alpine lakes and lush Beech forest, all of which is pristine, remote and untouched. 

Nestled amongst the forest within the National Park are the Blue Pools, a series of deep, crystal-clear cascades that flow into the Makarora River. These natural pools are an almost luminous turquoise in colour, and are accessed by a short, pleasant walk through the forest and over swing bridges. Large trout can be seen swimming in the pools, and many visitors cannot resist taking a swim in this alpine paradise.  

We continue our dramatic drive over the Haast Pass and alongside the Haast River as it weaves its way down to the West Coast and out to sea. More incredible beauty spots come and go, until we eventually emerge out of the mountains and into the thick forest of Westland.  

Heading north, we drive past a number of desolate black sand beaches and alpine valleys before finally entering ‘Glacier Country’ – one of New Zealand’s most diverse landscapes and home to the highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers, and most rugged of its coastlines.

There are around 3,100 glaciers scattered throughout the Southern Alps, but most are inaccessible due to the high altitude and harsh geography. So how lucky are we that the stunning Fox and Franz Josef glaciers happen to be the most accessible in the world.Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier is 13km long and descends 2600m from the Southern Alps towards the coast. Franz Josef Glacier is 12km long and descends 3000m. Both are surrounded by truly spectacular scenery. We spend three nights in the town of Franz Josef.

Included B,D
Camping: Franz Josef

Day 39 – Free Day. Whether you want to ice-climb up them, take a thrilling helicopter ride over the top and land on the ice sheet above them, or just marvel at them from the various hiking trails that weave their way through the valleys below, there are a multitude of ways to see and experience these amazing glaciers. 

We have chosen the little town of Franz Josef as our base for all the activities that can be done here and hope you enjoy its mountain alpine/ski resort vibe. 

Included B
Camping: Franz Josef

Day 40 – Free Day. A second day to explore this incredible area. In addition to the more adventurous activities on offer, there are a range of short walks and full day hikes in and around this region. 

You might also want to experience the West Coast Wildlife Centre*, an indoor wildlife centre where you can see New Zealand’s ancient tuatara and Kiwi birds. 
*at your own cost 

Included B,D
Camping: Franz Josef

Day 41 – Today, we head just north of Franz Josef to the small seaside settlement of Ōkārito. Surrounded by ocean, estuary, lagoons and the mountains, this beautiful coastal area offers short walks with unsurpassed views of the Southern Alps and the wetlands. There are also award-winning bird-watching tours and kayaks for hire on the lagoon. 

After spending some time in Okarito, we drive north to Hokitika, a pleasant harbour town located on the mouth of the Hokitika River.

Included B,D
Camping: Hokitika

Day 42 – This morning we visit the Hokitika Gorge in the Hokitika Scenic Reserve. The gorge is spectacular - the water is an incredible blue-green colour, and the gorge walls are dramatic. A short walk along a track leads to a series of curved boardwalks and swing bridges which wind through the Beech and Rimu forest above the gorge. Throughout the walk there are a number of viewing platforms where you can admire the colourful waters. Near the end of the track, the 90m suspension bridge that crosses the main channel of the gorge provides more astonishing river views with a backdrop of the Southern Alps in the background.Leaving the gorge, we head back to the coast and drive north to Greymouth, before turning inland and heading towards Reefton, the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric streetlights in 1888. 

We continue our journey across the Lewis Pass, the northernmost of New Zealand’s three passes across the Southern Alps. We then follow the Waiau River through to Hanmer Springs where we will spend two nights.

Included B,D
Camping: Hanmer Springs

Day 43 - 46 That Bit With The Whales At The End - Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Day 43 – Free Day. Hanmer Springs is a small alpine resort located in the Northern Canterbury region of the South Island. It is best known for its Thermal Pools and Spa complex, which can be found right in the middle of the village. Offering a range of natural sulphur and mineral pool experiences, some with bubbles and water jets too, this open-air park is a very relaxing place to while away a few hours. 

There are also a range of walking and cycling tracks to explore around Hanmer, and the village itself is home to many restaurants, cafes and boutique shops. 

Those adventurers amongst you might choose to take a day trip into the neighbouring Molesworth Station, New Zealand’s largest farm at almost half a million acres. It is renowned for its stunning tundra-like scenery, scree-scarred mountains, lakes, tarns, wide valleys and braided alpine rivers. There are also a number of old, historical buildings scattered across the farm’s landscape. 

Included B
Camping: Hanmer Springs 

Day 44 – You have the morning to spend in Hanmer Springs. We then travel the beautiful inland route through to Kaikōura, via the historic settlements of Rotherham, Waiau, and Mt Lyford. 

Included B,D
Camping: Kaikōura

Day 45 – Free Day. Kaikōura is a picturesque fishing village situated between the rugged Seaward Kaikōura mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. It is world famous as a hub for whale watching and wild dolphin swimming, both of which operate all year round. 

The fascinating Kaikōura Museum provides a superb introduction to the region’s natural, Māori and whaling histories, and its more recent surf culture. It also showcases the tremendously powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the area in 2016 and created huge rifts in the land – the Kaikōura Peninsula itself moved north-east by almost one metre and rose 70 centimetres at the same time.

The town has an array of waterfront cafes and restaurants to enjoy and there are many beautiful walks around the peninsula. 

Along the peninsula, you will find Fyffe House, Kaikōura’s oldest surviving building and the last remnant of a pioneering whaling station from the 1840’s. The old whaler’s cottage contains bones, relics and artifacts and makes for an interesting visit.

A group farewell dinner is provided tonight at a local restaurant.

Included B,D
Camping: Kaikōura 

Day 46 – We begin this final day with a leisurely morning in Kaikōura. We then drive to the very end of the peninsula where the Point Kean viewpoint offers superb views of the Kaikōura coastline and mountains. 

A short walk away is the famous Kaikōura Seafood BBQ* kiosk, which serves a variety of locally harvested ‘seafood goodness’ including crayfish, scallops, paua and whitebait fritters, mussels, grilled fish, prawns and their specialty seafood chowder. 

After lunch, we drive south along the craggy Kaikōura coastline before heading inland toward the wineries and sheep farms of the northern Canterbury plains.

We eventually cross the mighty Waimakariri River, and enter the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch where we will drop you off at one of two locations – either in the central city or out at the airport. 
*at your own cost

Included B

The great southern road trip

46 days, 45 nights




Wellington to Christchurch (4334km)
10 travellers
Nov 6th  – Dec 21st
46 days, 45 nights
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*The price above is shown in New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The Tour will be charged as a flat rate + any credit card or bank transfer fees. To convert the above price to your local currency, click here!

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