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Thrifty Tours

8 day South Island Encounter

An introduction to the South Island including Mt Cook National Park, Christchurch, Milford Sound and the West Coast Glaciers.  Highlights are the renowned Tranz Alpine Scenic Train journey and the Milford Sound Nature Cruise.

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$2,342 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Queenstown

8 days/7 nights

Motels

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 Viewed 100 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance
Brief itinerary - 8 day South Island Encounter

Day 1: Wecome to Queenstown, transfer to your accommodation and rest of day at leisure. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 2: Milford Sound day tour from Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 3: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Greatsights coach, take the shuttle to visit the Glacier. Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 4: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, then take the Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch. Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 5: Explore Christchurch and this evening experience Maori Culture at Ko Tane. Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 6: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park, this afternoon take a Glacier Explorers tour. Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Day 7: This afternoon travel Mt Cook to Queenstown with Great Sights. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 8: Explore more of Queenstown before your transfer to the airport.

Detailed itinerary

Tour full itinerary

Day 1 - Wecome to Queenstown, transfer to your accommodation and rest of day at leisure

Private transport from Queenstown airport to your accommodation

On arrival into Queenstown airport your private transfer will collect you from the airport and drive you to your centrally located accommodation.

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 - Skyline Gondola Queenstown and Buffet Dinner

With breathtaking views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, the Skyline Complex is a must-do. Catch the fully enclosed gondola to the summit for a remarkable panorama of the city surrounds. Wander the outdoor viewing decks then enjoy a gourmet buffet meal in the Stratosphere Restaurant.

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 2 - Milford Sound day tour from Queenstown

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 2
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 3 - Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Greatsights coach, take the shuttle to visit the Glacier

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 3
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 4 - Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, then take the Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 4
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.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

You will be met by a private transfer driver at Christchurch train station who will take you to your Christchurch accommodation. (Look for a driver holding a board displaying your name after arriving into the station.)

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

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Day 5 - Explore Christchurch and this evening experience Maori Culture at Ko Tane

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 5
Ko Tāne Māori Experience and Guided Kiwi Tour

Get a unique glimpse into the indigenous Māori culture when you visit the Ko Tāne Living Māori Village and Willowbank Wildlife reserve. This activity begins with a guided kiwi tour of the reserve with one of Willowbank's experienced guides. Following this enjoy the Māori cultural performance, you will be entertained with a kapa haka performance which includes action songs, poi dances, haka, stick games and weapons displays. The performance also gives you, an opportunity to learn the poi and the haka, then enjoy a four-course hāngī dinner.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Hop On Hop Off City Tour - 24 Hour Pass

Discover the true magic of city sightseeing on-board this city tour bus. With a mix of open and closed top buses, you will ride in comfort and style, enjoying spectacular views. Join friendly local guides as they take you on a journey of discovery through Christchurch. Listen to "live" entertaining and informative commentary and learn about the fascinating history, from pioneering days to modern times.

Your accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Bella Vista Motel Christchurch offers a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities. Enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the Christchurch CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.

Meals included: Speciality Dinner

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Day 6 - Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park, this afternoon take a Glacier Explorers tour

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 6
Christchurch to Mount Cook with GreatSights

Depart Christchurch in the morning and travel through the lush farmland of the Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo, where you can see the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd as it stands in solitude next to the vibrant blue waters. Leaving Tekapo, continue into the Southern Alps towards Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, home to New Zealand's tallest mountain. Along the way your driver guide will keep you entertained and informed with commentary on the area's history and sites of interest. The tour concludes on arrival at Mount Cook Village, where you can explore and soak up the views of Aoraki / Mount Cook as it towers above. Please be aware, due to the remote location of the property there are no shops at Mt Cook Village. We recommend you stock up on any supplies you may want before leaving Christchurch.

Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Enjoy a glacier experience that is unique in New Zealand and one of only three in the world. Get up and close and personal with icebergs, on a glacial terminal lake.

It is extremely rare for a glacier to terminate into a lake and rarer still to find one that is accessible to visitors. Join your group on our boat for an intimate encounter with a glacier -- see massive icebergs and soaring ice cliffs. You'll experience seldom seen and inaccessible parts of New Zealand's largest glacier in a safe way aboard your boat. Few people can say they have seen, touched and tasted 500 year old ice. Now you will be one of them!

Tours depart from Mount Cook Village outside The Hermitage Hotel, where you'll board a small bus for an enjoyable trip to the Tasman Valley. This is followed by a relaxing 30 minute stroll through the National Park to your waiting MAC boat. Now it’s time to witness the changing ice face of the Tasman Glacier and the icebergs it spawns on the Tasman Glacier Lake. Throughout your 2.5 hour trip (45 min to 1 hour on the lake) your experienced guide offers an informative and entertaining commentary that ensures you don't miss a thing.

Your accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Mt Cook Lodge and Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views. If you don’t feel like cooking either visit the Chamois Bar and Grill onsite or take the courtesy shuttle to Hermitage Hotel.

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Day 7 - This afternoon travel Mt Cook to Queenstown with Great Sights

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 7
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Explorer Pass

A tribute to New Zealand's Sir Edmund Hillary - humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world's greatest explorers - the centre showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region and its people within a comprehensive museum as well as a 126-seat custom-designed theatre and Digital Dome Planetarium.

Mount Cook to Queenstown with GreatSights

Depart Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park in the afternoon and head south through the tawny tussock of the Mackenzie Country. En route enjoy a stop in the quaint village of Omarama. Crossing the Lindis Pass this is one of New Zealand's highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres, you pass from the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range come into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head towards the adventure and activity capital of New Zealand. Tour concludes this evening on arrival into Queenstown.

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 8 - Explore more of Queenstown before your transfer to the airport

8 day South Island Encounter - Day 8
Private transfer from your accommodation to Queenstown Airport

You will be met at your accommodation by your private driver and transferred to Queenstown Airport for your onward journey.

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