Overview

Explore the rarely seen top of the South Island of New Zealand where you will find delightful wildlife like the whales off the coast of Kaikoura and the charming seal colony in Abel Tasman National Park on our 10 Day Top of the South Island Self Drive tour. Sample the region’s renowned export, Sauvignon Blanc, in Blenheim, then venture south to the West Coast and the intriguing Punakaiki Rocks. Crossing Arthur’s National Park, you return to Christchurch taking in the views of the raw beauty of New Zealand and spotting the cheeky Kea often spied in the park. 

Christchurch - Kaikoura - Blenheim - Nelson - Punakaiki - Arthur's Pass - Christchurch

Map of 10 Day Top of the South Island Self Drive
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View itinerary for day 10
Arrival in Christchurch
Christchurch to Kaikoura
Kaikoura to Blenheim
Sounds Connection half day wine tasting tour
Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman to Punakaiki
Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass National Park
Explore Arthur's Pass National Park
Arthur's Pass to Christchurch

Day 1

Arrival in Christchurch

Day 2

Christchurch to Kaikoura

Travel Time: 2 hrs

Distance: 166 kms

Day 3

Kaikoura to Blenheim

Travel Time: 1 hr 25 mins

Distance: 116 kms

Day 4

Sounds Connection half day wine tasting tour

Day 5

Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive

Travel Time: 2 hrs 50 mins

Distance: 184 kms

Day 6

Abel Tasman National Park

Day 7

Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 286 kms

Day 8

Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass National Park

Travel Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Distance: 138 kms

Day 9

Explore Arthur's Pass National Park

Day 10

Arthur's Pass to Christchurch

Travel Time: 1 hr 45 mins

Distance: 132 kms

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

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

Stay 1 night Christchurch

Collect your rental car

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

INCLUDED: Whale Watch Kaikoura

Stay 1 night Kaikoura

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals.

As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Blenheim sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. 

Stay 2 nights Blenheim

Be immersed in Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You’ll be collected from your accommodation and taken through four or five wineries (depending on availability) to taste the award winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through.

Take a short drive to the small port of Picton where the interislander ferry connects with Wellington. A bustling seaside destination, Picton is well equipped with shops, cafes - and is also the starting point for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. You’ll travel along Queen Charlotte Drive, traversing the length of the Marlborough Sounds coastline. Magnificent views are abundant - so be sure to make time to stop and enjoy the scenery as you go.

Continue through the small port town of Havelock, home to a variety of cafes and restaurants. The highway between Nelson and Picton crosses the pelorus river, and at this junction you’ll find the famous pelorus bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks - the most popular - a 30 minute loop through beech, rimu, and totara forest. Traverse Tasman Bay passing through Motueka to arrive on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park.

Stay 2 nights Nelson

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the sounds or take a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. Enjoy the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals - fur seals and dolphins.

INCLUDED: Seals, beach cruise and walk including picnic lunch
Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. 

The drive today takes you along the Buller Gorge and offers some wonderful scenery as you follow this magnificent river. The town of Murchison is a quiet place and a great lunch stop.

The port town of Westport is the largest on the Northern West Coast. A history of gold mining, logging, fishing coal mining gives the town a hard working feeling. And to reward the hard workers the town has an extraordinary amount of pubs.

The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki where a walk along the paths around the pancake rocks is a must. Please note there is no supermarket facilities in Punakaiki.

Stay 1 night Punakaiki

Today you’ll head south towards Greymouth, before turning onto State Highway 73 as you make your way to Arthur's Pass. Winding your way up and over the Southern Alps, this route takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country - even in the rain when hundreds of waterfalls cascade down the bush clad hillsides.

Continue on through the Otira Gorge, before arriving at your destination for the night, Arthur’s Pass.

Note: If you're feeling like a more leisurely drive, there is the option to take a more scenic route around Lake Brunner. Well signposted, this road begins just before the town of Kumara.

Stay 2 nights Arthur's Pass

Short walks in Arthurs Pass National Park - suggested activity
Within the Arthur's Pass there are many short walks to suit all ages and abilities. Located in the Arthur's Pass Village is a Department of Conservation information centre where you can get updates on track conditions and track suitability as well as learning about the natural history of the area and its people.

Listed below are a selection of short walks.

1. Millennium Walk - Time: 10 minutes return
2. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk - Time: One hour return
3. Arthur's Pass Walking Track - Time: One hour 20 minutes (one way)
4. Dobson Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
5. Old Coach Road Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
6. Cockayne Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return

Descending into the valleys of the Waimakariri this drive offers some spectacular views of the braided river valleys. Castle Hill Scenic Reserve sits in limestone country and the area is dotted with remarkable rock outcrops. A popular place with climbers it was also an important place for Maori in past years as they provided shelter on their seasonal journeys between the coasts. There is a network of walking paths allowing you to explore.
Descending onto the Canterbury Plains the rich farmland that attracted and helped settlers prosper becomes apparent as you head into the city of Christchurch.

Depart Christchurch today
Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Day 1, Arrival in Christchurch

Arrival in Christchurch

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

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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

Stay 1 night Christchurch

Day 2, Christchurch to Kaikoura

Christchurch to Kaikoura

Travel Time: 2 hrs

Distance: 166 kms

Collect your rental car

The drive north from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes you through the rolling hills of North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley. Allow time for a detour and visit Hanmer Springs for a dip in the mineral hot pools. Continue on and cross the Hawkswood Range before descending to the spectacular Kaikoura coastline - where the road hugs the ocean for the last leg of the drive.

INCLUDED: Whale Watch Kaikoura

Stay 1 night Kaikoura

Day 3, Kaikoura to Blenheim

Kaikoura to Blenheim

Travel Time: 1 hr 25 mins

Distance: 116 kms

Heading north from Kaikoura, the road hugs the shore for approximately 50 kilometres and offers many opportunities to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals.

As you drive you will have turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean to your east and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Crossing the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges you head towards Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine producing region. Blenheim sits right at the heart of Marlborough and is ideally located to enjoy an afternoon sampling the local produce. 

Stay 2 nights Blenheim

Day 4, Sounds Connection half day wine tasting tour

Sounds Connection half day wine tasting tour

Be immersed in Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You’ll be collected from your accommodation and taken through four or five wineries (depending on availability) to taste the award winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through.

Day 5, Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive

Blenheim to Abel Tasman National Park via Queen Charlotte Drive

Travel Time: 2 hrs 50 mins

Distance: 184 kms

Take a short drive to the small port of Picton where the interislander ferry connects with Wellington. A bustling seaside destination, Picton is well equipped with shops, cafes - and is also the starting point for the famous Queen Charlotte Walk. You’ll travel along Queen Charlotte Drive, traversing the length of the Marlborough Sounds coastline. Magnificent views are abundant - so be sure to make time to stop and enjoy the scenery as you go.

Continue through the small port town of Havelock, home to a variety of cafes and restaurants. The highway between Nelson and Picton crosses the pelorus river, and at this junction you’ll find the famous pelorus bridge. From here there are a number of forest walks - the most popular - a 30 minute loop through beech, rimu, and totara forest. Traverse Tasman Bay passing through Motueka to arrive on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park.

Stay 2 nights Nelson

Day 6, Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park, known for its coastal hiking track has an abundance of golden beaches, inlets and private lagoons. The park has a mild climate and is a special place to visit at any time of the year. Enjoy a scenic cruise through the sounds or take a kayaking tour around it’s many sheltered bays. Enjoy the melodious birdsong and get up close to some of the park’s many animal residents, including native bats, geckos, birds and marine mammals - fur seals and dolphins.

INCLUDED: Seals, beach cruise and walk including picnic lunch
Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. 

Day 7, Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

Abel Tasman to Punakaiki

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 286 kms

The drive today takes you along the Buller Gorge and offers some wonderful scenery as you follow this magnificent river. The town of Murchison is a quiet place and a great lunch stop.

The port town of Westport is the largest on the Northern West Coast. A history of gold mining, logging, fishing coal mining gives the town a hard working feeling. And to reward the hard workers the town has an extraordinary amount of pubs.

The spectacular West Coast coastline guides you to Paparoa National Park and to Punakaiki where a walk along the paths around the pancake rocks is a must. Please note there is no supermarket facilities in Punakaiki.

Stay 1 night Punakaiki

Day 8, Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass National Park

Punakaiki to Arthur's Pass National Park

Travel Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Distance: 138 kms

Today you’ll head south towards Greymouth, before turning onto State Highway 73 as you make your way to Arthur's Pass. Winding your way up and over the Southern Alps, this route takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country - even in the rain when hundreds of waterfalls cascade down the bush clad hillsides.

Continue on through the Otira Gorge, before arriving at your destination for the night, Arthur’s Pass.

Note: If you're feeling like a more leisurely drive, there is the option to take a more scenic route around Lake Brunner. Well signposted, this road begins just before the town of Kumara.

Stay 2 nights Arthur's Pass

Day 9, Explore Arthur's Pass National Park

Explore Arthur's Pass National Park

Short walks in Arthurs Pass National Park - suggested activity
Within the Arthur's Pass there are many short walks to suit all ages and abilities. Located in the Arthur's Pass Village is a Department of Conservation information centre where you can get updates on track conditions and track suitability as well as learning about the natural history of the area and its people.

Listed below are a selection of short walks.

1. Millennium Walk - Time: 10 minutes return
2. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk - Time: One hour return
3. Arthur's Pass Walking Track - Time: One hour 20 minutes (one way)
4. Dobson Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
5. Old Coach Road Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
6. Cockayne Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return

Day 10, Arthur's Pass to Christchurch

Arthur's Pass to Christchurch

Travel Time: 1 hr 45 mins

Distance: 132 kms

Descending into the valleys of the Waimakariri this drive offers some spectacular views of the braided river valleys. Castle Hill Scenic Reserve sits in limestone country and the area is dotted with remarkable rock outcrops. A popular place with climbers it was also an important place for Maori in past years as they provided shelter on their seasonal journeys between the coasts. There is a network of walking paths allowing you to explore.
Descending onto the Canterbury Plains the rich farmland that attracted and helped settlers prosper becomes apparent as you head into the city of Christchurch.

Depart Christchurch today
Explore more of Christchurch before dropping your rental car at the airport depot and continuing your onward journey.

Additional Information

Pricing

Cost per Person

 Twin/Double
Boutique Lodges and Hotels from NZ$4,372* 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

  • 1 night Christchurch
  • 1 night Kaikoura
  • 2 nights Blenheim
  • 2 nights Nelson
  • 1 night Punakaiki
  • 2 nights Arthur's Pass

 9 days 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 transfers

2 dinners and all breakfasts (Boutique accommodation only)

Half day Marlborough wine tour

Abel Tasman Seals and Beach walk

Whale Watch Kaikoura tour

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 resident

Optional Extras

Christchurch Gondola

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.

Highlights

Christchurch - Kaikoura - Blenheim - Nelson - Punakaiki - Arthur's Pass

Whale Watch Kaikoura

New Zealand's only marine based whale watching company, Whale Watch Kaikoura offer visitors a once-in-a-lifetime up close encounter with the giant sperm Whale. You are also likely to encounter New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. Depending on the season you may also see pilot, blue and southern right whales as well as migrating humpbacks. Often orcas can be spotted here and the world's smallest dolphin, the Hectors, is sometimes seen.
You’ll be taken out in modern catamarans specifically designed for whale watching - featuring large passenger cabins and outside viewing decks. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept below the vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

Sounds Connection half day wine tasting tour, Blenheim

Be immersed in Marlborough wine country with the Sounds Connection half day wine tour. You’ll be collected from your accommodation and taken through four or five wineries (depending on availability) to taste the award winning produce this region is known for. You'll also hear about the history of winemaking in Marlborough as well as learning the unique processes each winery goes through.

Seals, beach cruise and walk including picnic lunch, Nelson

Experience the best of Abel Tasman on this combined beach cruise and walk tour. You’ll first take a cruise into the Tonga Island Marine reserve, where you’ll pause to watch the antics of the Resident Fur Seal Colony. After landing at the historic Tonga Quarry Beach, take a two hour fifteen minute walk over forested land and around the spectacular Bark Bay Estuary - renowned for its cascading waterfalls. You’ll then region the cruise at the sheltered golden cove on Medlands Beach.

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10 Day Top of the South Island Self Drive

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