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Thrifty Tours13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains

This 13 day tour follows the classic route around the South Island but with multiple night stays in Queenstown, Mt Cook and Dunedin.  Also includes Doubtful Sound and the West Coast Glaciers as well as two scenic train journeys.

 New Zealand independent tour
 Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch
 13 days/ 12 nights
 Motels
  Customisable? YES Enquire Enquire
 Viewed 34 times in the last 7 days

Included in this tour package

Tour map
Mt Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Yellow-eyed penguin, Otago Pensinsula

At a glance - 13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains

Day 1: Welcome to Christchurch, transfer to accommodation, rest of day at leisure. Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 2: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park. Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Day 3: Explore the World Heritage area that is Mt. Cook National Park. Accommodation: Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Day 4: Mt Cook National Park to Dunedin. Accommodation: Motel on York

Day 5: Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. Accommodation: Motel on York

Day 6: Dunedin to Queenstown including the Taieri Gorge scenic train . Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 7: Free day to explore Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 8: Doubtful Sound overnight cruise with Real Journeys. Accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Day 9: Return to Queenstown from Doubtful Sound. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 10: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Newmans coach. Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 11: Explore Franz Josef and the Glacier region. Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 12: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch . Accommodation: Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 13: Depart Christchurch today.

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13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Detailed Itinerary  

Day 1: Welcome to Christchurch, transfer to accommodation, rest of day at leisure

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 1

Private transfer Christchurch airport to your accommodation

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

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

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

The Bella Vista Motel and Apartments, Christchurch, offer accommodation in a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities.

Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 2: Christchurch to Mt Cook National Park

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 2

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.

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 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.

Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Day 3: Explore the World Heritage area that is Mt. Cook National Park

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 3

Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park

At 3754 metres Aoraki-Mt. Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, located deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. From the Visitor Centre at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, you will be rewarded with magnificent views of this immense peak. As well as its impressive beauty, Mt. Cook National Park is also home to a huge range of awe-inspiring sights and activities. Take to the air with Mt. Cook Ski Planes for a scenic flight that includes a glacier landing. At around 27 kilometres long the Tasman Glacier is New Zealand's longest and a Glacier Explorers tour will give you the opportunity to see its unique features.

There are many short hikes in and around the park and these are well signposted. For a fascinating guided tour the Mt. Cook Encounter Guided Walk is a must-do and those with an interest in the night sky should take a stargazing tour of the Mt. John Observatory. The region is considered to have one of the clearest night skies in the world and is one of the few gold-rated dark sky reserves worldwide.

The Hermitage Hotel complex offers fine dining, multiple cafes and a bar. Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre for insight into this region's mountain climbing history. You'll also learn of Sir Ed's incredible achievements and his dedication to helping others around the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mount Cook Encounter Guided Walk

The Mount Cook Encounter Walk is an 8km guided tour of the Hooker Valley, providing breath-taking views of some of New Zealand's highest and most enthralling peaks. Your knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide will talk about the unique flora and fauna of the region and the local history as you trek through this amazing landscape.  From The Hermitage Hotel, head to the White Horse Hill camping ground. The journey takes in the poignant Alpine Memorial and passes over the turbulent Hooker River twice by swing bridge to unsurpassed vistas of Aoraki Mount Cook's south face and the surrounding glaciers and mountains, then continue to the terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier.  A Packed lunch is included on this full day walk.

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.

Mt Cook Lodge & Motels

Day 4: Mt Cook National Park to Dunedin

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 4

Mount Cook to Dunedin with Iconic

In the afternoon you will be picked up from your accommodation in Mt Cook Village for the journey through to Dunedin. Along the way you stop for a short break in Omarama, then onto Oamaru for a scenic tour of the historic Whitestone Prectinct. You will then enjoy a guided walk along Koekohe Beach at Moeraki Boulders before reaching Dunedin, where you will be dropped off at your accommodation.

Your Accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.

Motel on York

Day 5: Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 5

Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruises Half day tour and Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve

A half day tour of the Otago Peninsula and its unique wildlife including a cruise through Dunedin Harbour. A unique environment, this tour includes a visit to The Penguin Place to view the rare and unique yellow eyed penguin. The tour also includes a scenic bus tour and the wading bird wetlands.

Your Accommodation: Motel on York

Motel on York is located in the heart of Dunedin city. It offers superior luxury accommodation only 300 metres away from cafes and restaurants. Qualmark 5 star rated.

Motel on York

Day 6: Dunedin to Queenstown including the Taieri Gorge scenic train

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 6

Dunedin Accommodation to Train Station Transfer

You will be collected from your accommodation and transferred to the train station in time for your departure.

Taieri Gorge Train and Private Transfer to Queenstown

This morning transfer to the railway station to board the historic Taieri Gorge train. Steeped in early settler history this journey features spectacular changing scenery with magnificent pioneer stone work and engineering along the railway. A combination of modern carriages with panoramic views and immaculately restored traditional versions make this a truly memorable train ride. Depending on the day the train will either finish at Pukerangi or Middlemarch. From there you will transfer to your private transfer vehicle and continue to Queenstown through the rugged rock landscape of Central Otago. During Winter months the Taieri Gorge Train Departs at a later time and travels through to Pukerangi, instead of Middlemarch.

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.

Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 7: Free day to explore Queenstown

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 7

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.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown. Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country - or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. And after all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or White Water rafting.
 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Nomad Safaris Macetown 4WD Adventure Tour

A true four wheel drive off road adventure exploring the abandoned historic gold mining settlement - Macetown. Deserted shortly after the gold rush decline, Macetown has now been transformed into a Department of Conservation reserve. Learn about the tumultuous history of the region as you take in the town remnants and spectacular scenery.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Queenstown Skyline Gondola Ride

Hop aboard the Skyline Gondola - the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere - and 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 and Coronet Peak - one of Queenstown's Ski field.

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.

Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 8: Doubtful Sound overnight cruise with Real Journeys

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 8

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise from Queenstown

On boarding the coach in Queenstown, enjoy a relaxing trip along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and through the rolling countryside to Manapouri.The spectacular Lake Wakatipu guides you south towards Te Anau and Fiordland. At the southern end of the lake tiny Kingston Township is home to a classic steam train, The Kingston Flyer and rides are offered during the summer months. The rolling farmland of Southland accompanies you as you pass through Garston, Athol and Five Rivers before turning west towards Mossburn and Manapouri. A Doubtful Sound overnight cruise on board the Fiordland Navigator offers a very special dinner, bed and breakfast wilderness experience. Real Journeys Doubtful Sound overnight vessel, the Fiordland Navigator, is designed along the lines of a traditional New Zealand coastal trading scow to reflect Fiordland's heritage. The purpose built vessel accommodates passengers either in private cabins with ensuite bathrooms or in quad-share bunk style compartments with shared bathroom facilities. The vessel has spacious deck areas for viewing the wilderness scenery and wildlife of Doubtful Sound. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals, dolphins, and in season, rare penguins. Activities include kayaking and excursions in the tender vessels (stabicraft) to explore the coastline. Departing Manapouri at 12:30 you enjoy a short cruise across beautiful Lake Manapouri and after a coach trip over Wilmot Pass, you will board the Fiordland Navigator at Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. There is plenty of time on your overnight cruise to enjoy the stunning views and to discover the hidden arms of Doubtful Sound. Fur seals and bottlenose dolphins are often seen and at times, rare penguins can be observed. There is also time for you to kayak around the shoreline or go exploring in the tender craft with our nature guide. As the shadows lengthen we'll drop anchor at a favourite mooring for the night. After the days activities, enjoy a delicious evening buffet meal in the spacious dining saloon. After enjoying sunrise in the sound a hearty breakfast awaits before your journey back to Manapouri where you disembark at around midday.The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.

Your Accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

The Fiordland Navigator is purpose built for cruising in the fiords. The vessel offers spacious viewing decks, a comfortable dining saloon and observation lounge.

Meals included: Dinner

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Day 9: Return to Queenstown from Doubtful Sound

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 9

Real Journeys coach Manapouri to Queenstown

Your Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise returns to Manapouri at midday. Crossing the rolling tussock lands you pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. On the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu sits Kingston, home to classic steam train, The Kingston Flyer. Following the lake north the Remarkable mountain range towers over you as you approach the adventure capital of 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.

Meals included: Breakfast

Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 10: Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier by Newmans coach

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 10

Queenstown to Franz Josef with GreatSights

From Queenstown to Franz Josef discover the wild beauty of New Zealand's West Coast. Leaving Queenstown, travel by luxury coach through the stunning scenery of the South Island. Your driver guide will provide entertaining commentary and point out sites of interest as you 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.

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.

Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 11: Explore Franz Josef and the Glacier region

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 11

Explore Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef is 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 up close walk along the valley floor to the terminal face without a guide. However, to go on the glacier itself or get within 100m you must take a licensed tour. Strap on some crampons and give it a go with Franz Josef Glacier Guides or take the easier option and book in a helicopter landing instead. Whichever way you choose to ascend, once on top you’ll have the chance to explore the crevasses, caves and ice flows.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. 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 operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Hot Pools

Nestled within the lush rainforest surrounds, the Glacier Hot Pools is a haven of tranquility. Unwind in one of the three main pools. Temperatures range from 36 to 40 degrees and the water comes directly from a glacial stream. Wash off the day and rejuvenate in this unique forest paradise.

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.

Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 12: Franz Josef to Greymouth train station, Tranz Alpine train to Christchurch

13 day Southern Parks and Scenic Trains - Day 12

Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station with GreatSights

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

The Bella Vista Motel and Apartments, Christchurch, offer accommodation in a great range of comfortable modern units with excellent facilities.

Bella Vista Christchurch

Day 13: Depart Christchurch today

Private transfer to Christchurch airport

You will be collected from your accommodation and a private transfer will deliver you to Christchurch airport in time for your departing flight.

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