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Thrifty Tours

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound

Enjoy 5 days exploring New Zealand's South Island with this excellent independent coach touring itinerary. Journey from Christchurch in a loop around the South Island, visiting all the must see destinations and enjoying a selection of exciting activities along the way. Cruise through Milford Sound with Real Journeys, visit the spectacular Mt. Cook National Park, explore the West Coast glacier region, and travel through the Southern Alps on the stunning TranzAlpine scenic train route.

Tour special blurb

Unfortunately, the Mt Cook portion of this itinerary is not available for the current season due to schedule changes on the InterCity and GreatSights coaches - this service will resume as travel restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, we encourage you to make contact with one of our specialists, they may have a suitable travel alternative.

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Tour summary and feature

New Zealand independent tour

This suggested tour costs from NZD$1,445 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

5 days/4 nights

Motels

 Customisable? YES

 Viewed 358 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance
Brief itinerary - 5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound

Day 1: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 2: Free day to explore Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 3: Milford Sound day tour with Real Journeys. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 4: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Greatsights coach. Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 5: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, TranzAlpine train to Christchurch.

Detailed itinerary

Tour full itinerary

Day 1 - Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park to Queenstown

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound - Day 1
Christchurch to Queenstown with GreatSights (includes lunch)

Leaving Christchurch early, you will travel through the fertile farmland of the Canterbury Plains to the shores of the stunning, glacier-fed Lake Tekapo, where you can view the solitary Church of the Good Shepherd and take in the sights of the spectacular Southern Alps. Then continue to the location of New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki / Mount Cook, situated in a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site. Rising to 3,754 metres high, Aoraki certainly lives up to its name, which in Māori can be translated as 'cloud piercer'.
At Mt Cook Village you'll enjoy lunch at the famous Hermitage Hotel. After lunch you'll have time to explore the village and soak up the view. The tour continues south, past Lake Pukaki and through the tawny tussock of the Mackenzie Country. En route, enjoy a stop in the quaint village of Omarama. Your tour concludes in the evening upon reaching Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

Meals included: Lunch

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Day 2 - Free day to explore Queenstown

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound - Day 2
Free day in Queenstown

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic, and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship - the TSS Earnslaw -  to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour.
Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata' or simply take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Jet Boat the Shotover Canyon

Jet boating on the Shotover River is one of the must do Queenstown activities, even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge climbed aboard ‘Big Red’.  During this unforgettable ride you’ll skim across shallow water, past rocky outcrops as you hurtle through the narrow chasm of the Shotover Canyon before your skilled driver takes you into a scream worth 360 degree spin.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere! From which you can take in the awe-inspiring views of this spectacular landscape. Sit back and relax as you enjoy panoramic views of The Remarkables, Walter Peak, Cecil Peak, Coronet Peak and the magnificent Lake Wakatipu.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

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Day 3 - Milford Sound day tour with Real Journeys

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound - Day 3
Milford Sound Cruise and coach tour from Queenstown

Return luxury coach transport from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with a 1 hour 40 minute Cruise along the full length of the fiord. On boarding a Real Journeys luxury glass-roofed coach in Queenstown or Te Anau, you will enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Te Anau. The coach driver provides an informative commentary. After a morning tea break in Te Anau, where you have the option of purchasing refreshments, the coach continues along the spectacular Milford Road. There is time for photo stops and short walks along the way. On reaching Milford Sound, you board the modern, spacious vessel for a leisurely cruise in the fiord. The cruise provides excellent viewing opportunities and plenty of time is available to enjoy waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and the wildlife. During the cruise your friendly crew provide commentaries in several languages and point out the sights such as Mitre Peak and the Pembroke Glacier.

Your accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Blue Peaks Lodge offers well equipped self contained rooms with a fantastic location overlooking Queenstown and is just an easy five minutes walk to the Queenstown lakefront.

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Day 4 - Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Greatsights coach

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound - Day 4
Queenstown to Franz Josef with Intercity

Leaving Queenstown early, travel by coach through the stunning scenery of the South Island. You will pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Dunstan, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. After a morning tea break in Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, you'll travel through the Haast Pass, journeying through native beech forest and over the Southern Alps, before emerging on the West Coast. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Skirt the coast and see waves crashing on rocky beaches before returning inland. Before arriving in the afternoon at the small village of Franz Josef. From here you can explore the world famous Franz Josef Glacier.

Glacier Valley Shuttle

You will be met at your accommodation by a representative from Glacier Shuttles and taken on a short tour to view the glacier. Your shuttle vehicle will transfer you up the Franz Josef valley to the road end. Here you will have the opportunity to walk to view the glacier from a viewing platform. Or enjoy one of the short walks available in this area. You will be returned to your accommodation by the Glacier Valley Shuttles.

Your accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Punga Grove is right in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village and offers affordable and stylish accommodation in a beautiful rainforest setting.

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Day 5 - Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, TranzAlpine train to Christchurch

5 day Southern Highlights with Milford Sound - Day 5
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station with Intercity

This morning travel north through the small townships of Whataroa and Harihari. Stop at the Bushman's Centre for refreshments and a chance to experience a bit of West Coast humour. Continue through the township of Ross, which in the late 1800s was the centre of one of New Zealand's richest alluvial goldfields. In 1903 the largest gold nugget ever found in New Zealand was discovered at Jones Creek, not far from the town centre. It weighed 2807 grams. The New Zealand Government later purchased the nugget and presented it as a coronation gift to King George V. On arrival in Hokitika there is time to purchase lunch and explore the town centre. Hokitika is the administrative and commercial centre for this part of Westland. The major primary industry is timber milling. Dairy and sheep farming, commercial fishing, white baiting and eel processing being the other major industries. Continue onto Greymouth Railway Station from where you catch the world famous TranzAlpine train across the Southern Alps to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Your transport from Greymouth to Christchurch, the Tranz Alpine scenic train, offers a chance to take in one of the world's great train journeys. The train -- with carriages specially designed to allow you to take in all the amazing views on offer -- will carry you from the Tasman Sea up into the Southern Alps and through Arthur's Pass National Park to the Pacific Ocean.

The train offers a comfortable and relaxing way to cross Arthurs Pass from the South Island's wild West Coast to the more tamed east coast and its biggest city. Leaving Greymouth Station, you will travel through lush West Coast rain forest before climbing into to the spectacular mountains of the Southern Alps. And, after a stop in Arthur's Pass for a breath of mountain air, you'll travel dramatic gorges and the beautiful Waimakariri river valley to emerge on the farmland of the Canterbury Plains. From here the train crosses the plains for an early evening arrival in Christchurch city.

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