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Thrifty ToursSouthern Highlights Small Group Tour

Enjoy 5 days exploring New Zealand's South Island with this exceptional small group touring itinerary. Journey from Christchurch in a loop around the South Island, visiting all the must-see locations and take your pick of the exciting range of optional exciting activities along the way. Cruise Milford Sound, explore the West Coast glacier region and travel through the Southern Alps with the option to ride on the stunning TranzAlpine scenic train.

This is a great tour option for Kiwis, looking to explore their backyard whilst other services are more limited!

 New Zealand small group tour
 Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch
 5 days/ 4 nights
  Pre and post tour options? YES Enquire Enquire
 Viewed 10 times in the last 7 days

Included in this tour package

Tour map
Blue Pools, Haast Pass
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

At a glance - Southern Highlights Small Group Tour

Day 1: Christchurch to Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 2: Milford Sound Day Trip. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 3: Free Day to Explore Queenstown. Accommodation: Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 4: Queenstown to Franz Josef. Accommodation: Punga Grove Motel & Suites

Day 5: Franz Josef to Christchurch.

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Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Detailed Itinerary  

Day 1: Christchurch to Queenstown

Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Day 1

Driver Guide

Driver-Guide for your 5 day group tour.

Christchurch to Queenstown

Today you head into the heart of the South Island. Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains along the inland scenic route the first township of Geraldine offers an ideal refreshment stop before you head into Mackenzie country.
Passing through places such as Beautiful Valley it's not hard to understand where the names originate. Ascending Burkes Pass and onto the high country plateau and the picturesque town of Lake Tekapo, the first of the large Southern Lakes. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just enjoy the magnificent views.
Lake Pukaki is just another 30 minutes from Lake Tekapo and its from here you can be rewarded with spectacular views the full length of the lake and into Mt. Cook National Park. In Mt. Cook Village a myriad of activities are available from glacier landings by ski plane or helicopter, kayaking on a glacial lake and a host of walks to suit all abilities and time frames. At The Hermitage Hotel the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is a must see.
Twizel, just south of Mt. Cook was the location of many Lord of the Rings movie scenes and a little further on is Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand. Wrinkly Rams is a local café and also offers an informative sheep shearing demonstration. The Lindis Pass is one of New Zealand’s highest roads with the summit reaching 971 metres. The tussock covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass from the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago.
Bendigo, just off the main highway, was one of Otago’s original gold mining settlements and well marked paths will guide you to explore the remains of stone cottages and other buildings from this bygone era.
Cromwell sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge. Cromwell old town has restored buildings from before the valley was flooded to create Lake Dunstan for the hydro systems. The sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge guide you towards Queenstown and the Gibbston Valley is one of New Zealand's premier wine growing regions. At the famous historic Kawarau Bridge you can take a bungy jump or just watch others if you would rather. Approaching Queenstown the impressive Remarkables mountain range come into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you head towards the alpine resort town of Queenstown, the adventure and activity 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.

Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 2: Milford Sound Day Trip

Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Day 2

Queenstown to Milford Sound

Following the shores of Lake Wakatipu south the Remarkable mountain range towers over you as you approach township of Kingston. Then into Southland and rolling fertile farm country. Crossing the rolling tussock lands you pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand and into Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Passing Te Anau you joining the Milford Road which takes you to Milford Sound.  This stretch of road has countless photo opportunities and short walks. The Mirror Lakes create perfectly clear reflections of the surrounding mountains and glacier formed meadows.  Further along the road The Chasm Walk includes two walking bridges over the dramatic Cleddau River, while the surrounding ancient native beech forest creates a fascinating landscape. You'll pass through the Homer Tunnel, an incredible feat of engineering at 1219 metres long. Milford Sound is the only sound accessible by road, making it very popular to visit. Coming into the village you'll be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak which rises spectacularly from the waters up to the sky. Real Journey cruises can take you out into the sound where you'll receive a wealth of information on how this magnificent area has been formed and experience first-hand the multitude of waterfalls that line the fiord.


Milford Sound Nature Cruise including Picnic Lunch

The original Milford Sound Nature Cruise is an epic voyage of discovery. Get so close to this famous fiord you can reach out and touch the sheer rock walls or stand under Stirling Falls for a glacial facial. The passionate skipper will provide entertaining commentary from the wheelhouse while the boat hosts are on hand for a chat and to answer any questions. Get a picture of a basking New Zealand fur seal or relax in our spacious cabin with a hot drink. This is one experience you do not want to miss!

Milford Sound to Queenstown

Enjoy the wonderful drive along the Milford Road as you head back towards Te Anau. Crossing the rolling tussock lands you pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of New Zealand. 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: Lunch

Blue Peaks Lodge

Day 3: Free Day to Explore Queenstown

Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Day 3

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 - 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Safari of the Scenes Glenorchy Tour

For those keen on Lord Of The Rings - this is the tour for you. Go on a scenic adventure through some of the iconic locations used in the filming. Although none of the sets are left behind, the landscapes will be instantly recognisable. Follow the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the small town of Glenorchy and enjoy the spectacular views of the Remarkables Range as you drive. From Glenorchy you'll head into the beech forests of Paradise - located on the outskirts of Mount Aspiring National Park - before heading up the dart valley and back. Film locations you'll see include Isengard, Lothlorien, Ithilien Camp and the Seat of Seeing.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - KJet Queenstown 1 hour Jet Boat Ride

Enjoy an exhilarating 60 minute adventure as you speed across Lake Wakatipu to the deep turquoise waters of the Kawarau River then onto the narrow shallow braided waters of the gold rich Shotover River, it's an unforgettable journey. Throughout your adventure you'll be surrounded by spectacular alpine scenery as the powerful twin engine jet boat takes you on this thrilling ride, with the odd 360 degree spin thrown in for good measure.

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 4: Queenstown to Franz Josef

Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Day 4

Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier (via Wanaka)

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range - the highest sealed road in New Zealand - to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1 hour return walk through native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast - a 600 km stretch of bush and native rainforest. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night - Franz Josef township.

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 5: Franz Josef to Christchurch

Southern Highlights Small Group Tour - Day 5

Franz Josef to Christchurch via Arthur's Pass National Park

Today make your way up the West Coast through several small towns. Pass Harihari, and Ross, before arriving into the heart of Hokitika. Explore the region further and be sure to check out the Hokitika Gorge, well worth the detour. Continue on State Highway 73 through spectacular West Coast scenery. Your drive then takes you through the mountainous Arthur's Pass National Park, the highest pass in the Southern Alps and home to a bustling township. Descending into the Waimakariri, you'll see braided river valleys and remarkable rocky outcrops before crossing the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch, your destination for the night.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - 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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