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Thrifty Tours

Southern Highlights Bus Tour

Arrive into the largest city in the South Island, Christchurch, for your first night. The following morning, cross the Southern Alps on board the world famous TranzAlpine Scenic Train, arriving in Greymouth and then travelling south to Franz Josef. Explore the West Coast Glaciers in Franz Josef during a free day, and consider booking a scenic helicopter flight (at additional cost) to land on the glacier for an unforgettable experience. Then, head south to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Venture into Milford Sound for a wonderful full-day experience and cruise, experiencing the sky-high peaks, lush rainforests, rushing waterfalls, and playful wildlife of the Milford Sound. Carry on to the World Heritage area of Mt Cook National Park on your way back to Christchurch, where the journey draws to a close.

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Tour summary and feature

Quick Itinerary Details

New Zealand Independent Tour

This suggested tour costs from NZD$2,750 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

8 days/7 nights

Motels

 Customisable? YES

 Viewed 54 times in the last 7 days

This tour also includes
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Train Station
- Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
Tour full itinerary
Detailed Itinerary
Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Christchurch New Zealand's garden city is steadily being transformed into a vibrant urban destination. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. A great way to explore the city or easy way to see the sights or ride the historic trams across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral, that's right it is built of cardboard!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Discover Christchurch Afternoon Tour

A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the rebuild which is currently in progress, together with the surviving beauty of the city and the historical landmarks. Experience the grand architecture, beautiful gardens and scenic viewpoints on a half-day city tour of Christchurch.
The tour commences in the central city of Christchurch and covers the area which was completely devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. The guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale a historic homestead and gardens. Then you will travel to the Sign of the Takahe, a historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to the central city where the tour will conclude.

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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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 2
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Train Station with Christchurch Touring

A private driver will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to the Christchurch train station in time for your train journey.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train Christchurch to Greymouth

Your early morning departure is rewarded with incredible scenery today onboard the TranzAlpine Scenic Train, considered one of the world's great train journeys. It travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other. 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 before descending through the lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth, a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the West Coast glaciers.

Greymouth Train Station to Franz Josef with Gray Line

Your coach to Franz Josef Glacier departs from the Greymouth Railway Station. The journey to the Glaciers is southward through the lush bush covered landscape at the base of the Southern Alps. A refreshment stop in Hokitika allows you to stretch your legs around the town centre. Further south you pass through the township of Ross which was the centre of one of New Zealand's richest alluvial goldfields in the late 1800s. Further along, travelling down the West Coast enjoy the beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains before arriving into 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: Rainforest Retreat

Rainforest Retreat is centrally located in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier Village. Nestled in six acres of idyllic native bush each unit was built exclusively to the beautiful, natural environment of Westland National Park.

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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 3
Explore Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Nature Tour with Glacier Valley Eco Tours

Nestled in thick historic West Coast forest and a stone's throw from wild black sand beaches, this is one of the world's most unusual glaciers. Beautiful blue skies or magical misty rain, whatever the weather - you will feel like you are in Narnia or LOTR.
With easy walking at your pace, information on glaciology, geology, geomorphology, flora and fauna, local legends, history, and small guided groups with fantastic guides, you will experience this glacier in style and in the best hands with the only local company. Wander past glacier rivers and streams and through beautiful podocarp forest; discover hidden natural treasures such as native snails, wild native mushrooms, and dozens of species of native orchids; listen to native bird song and waterfalls; see if you can spot a Chamois or a Tahr on the huge snow-capped mountains above while drinking a cup of tea and talking one-on-one with your guide. This tour will be a highlight of your travels in New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight with The Helicopter Line

Take a spectacular scenic flight over two of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and view the incredible sight of this frozen river as it winds its way through ancient carved valleys. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Rainforest Retreat

Rainforest Retreat is centrally located in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier Village. Nestled in six acres of idyllic native bush each unit was built exclusively to the beautiful, natural environment of Westland National Park.

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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 4
Franz Josef to Queenstown Day Tour with Gray Line

Travel from the isolated beauty of Franz Josef to the exciting resort town of Queenstown.
Leave the small village of Franz Josef, access point to the world famous Franz Josef Glacier, and journey through the remote and rugged landscape of the West Coast. This is New Zealand at its purest and most untamed, see moody mountain ranges, thick native rainforest and wild rocky shores as you travel in comfort. Cross over to the East Coast through the Haast Pass, the southernmost pass in the Southern Alps. On the other side, enjoy picture-postcard views of vibrant blue lakes like Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka and Lake Dunstan as you make your way into scenic Queenstown, arriving in the late afternoon.

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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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 5
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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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 6
Queenstown to Mt Cook Day Tour with Gray Line

Journey deep into the Southern Alps on a half day sightseeing tour from Queenstown to Mt Cook. Set off from Queenstown in a luxury coach, enjoying the commentary from your local driver guide as you travel north. Pass through the historic gold mining district of the rugged Kawarau River Gorge and the famous fruit growing region of Cromwell. Skirting the shores of Lake Dunstan, your tour crosses the Lindis Pass into Omarama for a short stop. Continue through the rugged high country landscape of the Mackenzie Basin to arrive at Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, home to Australasia's highest mountain at 3,754 metres. Your tour concludes in Mt Cook Village. 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 Queenstown.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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 Motel

Mt Cook Motel is located in the centre of Mt. Cook village. The self-contained units are spacious and all are surrounded by alpine mountain views.

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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 7
Mt Cook to Christchurch Day Tour with Gray Line

Depart Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park and travel from Southern Alps towards turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. Compelling commentary from the driver will keep you entertained on board. You will see the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd as it stands in solitude next to the vibrant blue waters of the lake. Leaving Tekapo,you will continue towards Geraldine and through the lush farmland of the Canterbury Plains. You will arrive to your destination in the evening. Christchurch is the capital of Canterbury and the largest city on the South Island. It is a unique destination, combining heritage, culture, beautiful natural landscape with urban regeneration, bustling hospitality and exciting lifestyle.

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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Southern Highlights Bus Tour - Day 8
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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Mar 3, 2024
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