Overview

Lower South Island is often an off-the-beaten track for most travellers, and this 10 day Southern Explorer Self Drive tour from Christchurch will take you to the majestic scenery and untamed wilderness the region is known for. Leaving Christchurch, your journey takes you across the vast landscape of the McKenzie Country and Mt. Cook National Park, before carrying on to the coast and the city of Dunedin renowned for its Scottish roots and wildlife havens nearby.

Enjoy a full day of exploring Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, and appreciate the views from another angle on board a Real Journeys Nature Cruise. Round it all off with an unforgettable journey to the Southern Lakes region renowned for its fascinating lakes and mesmerizing mountains.

Christchurch - Mt Cook - Dunedin - Te Anau - Queenstown

Map of 10 Day Southern Explorer Self Drive
View itinerary for day 1
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Arrive Christchurch
Explore Christchurch City
Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park
Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Dunedin to Te Anau
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau
Te Anau to Queenstown
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Depart Queenstown

Day 1

Arrive Christchurch

Day 2

Explore Christchurch City

Day 3

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Travel Time: 4 hrs

Distance: 332 kms

Day 4

Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Travel Time: 3 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 318 kms

Day 5

Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Day 6

Dunedin to Te Anau

Travel Time: 3 hrs 20 mins

Distance: 287 kms

Day 7

Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

Travel Time: 3 hrs 30 mins

Distance: 236 kms

Day 8

Te Anau to Queenstown

Travel Time: 2 hrs 10 mins

Distance: 171 kms

Day 9

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Day 10

Depart Queenstown

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. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights - or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Discover Christchurch Double-Decker Bus Tour

Stay 2 nights Christchurch

This morning, collect your rental car

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Ko Tane Maori Experience, wildlife park entry and guided kiwi tour

Today you’ll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.

Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD & Argo Tours 

Stay overnight at Mt Cook

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama and stretch your legs in Oamaru. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.

Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.

Stay 2 nights in Dunedin

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Speights Brewery Tour 

The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf.  Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glow Worm Caves 

Stay 2 nights in Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. 

Milford Sound Nature Cruise 

 A two and a half hour nature cruise of spectacular Milford Sound. On board one of three purpose built vessels you'll experience tumbling waterfalls, towering peaks, lush rainforest and native wildlife. Learn about the region, its history and natural surroundings while enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. As you cruise, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins - frequent visitors to the fiord.

Today you’ll cross vast tussocklands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Stay 2 nights 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Canyon River Jet Boat Adventure 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour 

Your final morning in Queenstown before driving to the airport and catching your next flight.

Depending on when your flight departs you might have time for one last Queenstown adventure before dropping your car off at the airport and catching your flight.

Day 1, Arrive Christchurch

Arrive Christchurch

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. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights - or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the unique cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

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

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Discover Christchurch Double-Decker Bus Tour

Stay 2 nights Christchurch

Day 2, Explore Christchurch City

Explore Christchurch City

This morning, collect your rental car

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Ko Tane Maori Experience, wildlife park entry and guided kiwi tour

Day 3, Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park

Travel Time: 4 hrs

Distance: 332 kms

Today you’ll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.

Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue color. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD & Argo Tours 

Stay overnight at Mt Cook

Day 4, Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Mt. Cook National Park to Dunedin

Travel Time: 3 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 318 kms

Today you'll leave Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama and stretch your legs in Oamaru. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.

Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre - The Octagon.

Stay 2 nights in Dunedin

Day 5, Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

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. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Speights Brewery Tour 

Day 6, Dunedin to Te Anau

Dunedin to Te Anau

Travel Time: 3 hrs 20 mins

Distance: 287 kms

The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf.  Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glow Worm Caves 

Stay 2 nights in Te Anau

Day 7, Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

Travel Time: 3 hrs 30 mins

Distance: 236 kms

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. 

Milford Sound Nature Cruise 

 A two and a half hour nature cruise of spectacular Milford Sound. On board one of three purpose built vessels you'll experience tumbling waterfalls, towering peaks, lush rainforest and native wildlife. Learn about the region, its history and natural surroundings while enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. As you cruise, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals and penguins - frequent visitors to the fiord.

Day 8, Te Anau to Queenstown

Te Anau to Queenstown

Travel Time: 2 hrs 10 mins

Distance: 171 kms

Today you’ll cross vast tussocklands on your way to Queenstown. Pass through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation. Continue on through the Southland countryside where the road begins to hug the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range towers over your approach into the adventure capital of New Zealand.

Stay 2 nights in Queenstown

Day 9, Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Canyon River Jet Boat Adventure 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour 

Day 10, Depart Queenstown

Depart Queenstown

Your final morning in Queenstown before driving to the airport and catching your next flight.

Depending on when your flight departs you might have time for one last Queenstown adventure before dropping your car off at the airport and catching your flight.

Additional Information

Pricing

Cost per Person

 Twin/Double
Motel Accommodation from NZ$1,861* per person
4-Star Accommodation from NZ$2,558* per person

* PLEASE NOTE

Price is per person and based on two adults travelling together and sharing a rental car and accommodation.

Prices are estimates only, and are subject to availability and exchange rates when booking, seasonal or holiday price surcharges (such as Christmas/New Year and Easter); as well as special events that may be on. Please forward a request and we will be happy to forward a quote.

Payment

  • Deposit: 20% of the package cost or NZ$250 per person (whichever is the greater) at time of booking
  • Full Payment: 45 Days before travel
  • Airfares (if applicable): Paid in full at the time of booking

Cancellation Charges

  • Cancellation Fees up to 100% can apply after booking. Extra deposits or full payment may be requested to cover these charges prior to booking
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Includes

Includes:

9 nights accommodation

  • 2 Nights Christchurch
  • 1 Night Mt Cook
  • 2 Nights Dunedin
  • 2 Nights Te Anau
  • 2 Nights Queenstown

Rental Car Hire

  • Rental car insurance included: Fully inclusive with variable excess/deductible.
  • Rental car inclusions: GPS navigation. unlimited kms,airport/ferry terminal fees, additional drivers.

Private airport and train station transfers

Milford Sound Nature Cruise

Options

Travel Insurance

If you are going overseas, then travel insurance is a necssity. Compare rates and polices online and get a free travel insurance quote.

Accommodation

There is a choice of accommodation available on all packages, which depending on locations, includes motels, 3 star hotels, 4 star hotels, boutique lodges & hotels and luxury lodges and hotels. We are happy to quote on alternate accommodation requests.

Airfares

International flights can be included from Australia for all Australian residents.

Optional Extras

Explore 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.

Ko Tane Maori Experience & Guided Kiwi Tour

Get a unique glimpse into the indigenous Maori culture when you visit the Ko Tane Living Maori Village and Willowbank Wildlife reserve. You'll be welcomed by the Karanga - a traditional welcome call - and experience the thrill of Wero, a challenge to visitors as you are brought into the sacred precinct of Tane, Maori God of the Forests.

Take part in a haka performed by the men or a poi dance performed by the women. Be entertained by the Kapa Haka group's songs and games, then enjoy a four course hangi dinner. Following the meal you'll be taken on a guided tour through the wildlife reserve to view the New Zealand native kiwi.

Gondola Ride

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch city, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago. Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch.

Explore Dunedin

Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock

An unforgettable experience viewing rare and fascinating wildlife. Board the Monarch Boat and take in the fascinating sight of the Northern Royal Albatross as it comes in to nest on spectacular cliffs of Taiaroa, Otago Peninsula. You'll also see eight other species of birds including sooty shearwaters and petrels as well as sea lions and fur seals - and if you're really lucky - dolphins and whales.

Speights Brewery Tour

Founded in 1876 the Speights Brewery still occupies its original Dunedin site - with several of its buildings dating back to the late 1800's. One of the only remaining 'gravity breweries' in the world, your 90 minute tour will take you through its inner workings. You'll also have a chance to taste six different beers as well as bottle, cap and brew your own personal Speights Gold Medal Ale - the brewery's flagship beer.

Explore Mt Cook

Glacier Explorers

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.

Tasman Valley 4WD & Argo Tours

A unique 4WD adventure with magnificent views of the Tasman Glacier and its gigantic moraine walls. Your friendly guide is a real Mount Cook character, learn about the area and be entertained by their wealth of knowledge and local stories. A short walk to a vantage point overlooking the Tasman Glacier and Terminal Lake provides one of the most spectacular photographic opportunities in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. As you travel up the Tasman Valley on a 4WD track you will be amazed at the awesome mountain scenery! During the Spring and Summer months you can see an abundance of Mount Cook Lilies, Celmesia Daisies, Golden Spaniard Spear Grass and many delicate mountain flowers. You may even catch a glimpse of the world's only 'mountain parrot' - New Zealand's cheeky Kea.

Explore Queenstown

Shotover Jet Canyon Adventure

Riding the iconic ‘Big Red’ Jet Boat through the narrow Shotover Canyon is an exhilarating experience not to be missed. Your skilled jet boat driver pushes the boat to 85 kph, skimming across shallow water and past towering canyon walls. This 25 minute white water ride includes 360 degree spins and maximum thrills.

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Go back in time on this return trip to Walter Peak High Country Farm aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship. On disembarking, you'll be escorted through the beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming Colonel's Homestead. Here you'll enjoy a Gourmet BBQ dinner which your chef will prepare in front of you. The seasonal menu includes an expansive array of local produce, including succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Finish your meal with an irresistible dessert, New Zealand cheeses and freshly brewed tea and coffee. After dinner, an entertaining and informative demonstration gives you a glimpse of life in the high country. On your cruise home, enjoy the camaraderie of a singalong with the ship's pianist or breathe in the fresh night air as you watch the lights of Queenstown draw nearer.

Te Anau Glowworm Caves

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.

You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

Highlights

Milford Sound Nature Cruise

An extended and leisurely 2½ hour cruise of Milford Sound on board the Milford Mariner, MV Sinbad or Milford Wanderer. These modern vessels, purpose built for operating in a fiord environment, have been designed along the lines of a traditional trading scow, and have real character. These relaxing cruises have special appeal for the independent traveller and an on board nature guide provides detailed interpretation and commentary. There is plenty of time available to explore points of interest and to view the stunning scenery, including waterfalls, rainforest and the towering peaks. Keep a lookout for dolphins, seals and penguins.

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10 Day Southern Explorer Self Drive

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