Overview

Travel along the coast in this South Island loop as you journey between Christchurch and Dunedin, two of the South Island’s largest cities on the 11 Day Southern Circle Self Drive tour. Enjoy your time in Dunedin with an encounter of the Otago Peninsula’s rare wildlife, then venture further south to Te Anau where you will set off for a Milford Sound cruise covering the entire length of the fiord. To complete your 11 day tour, spend 2 nights in Queenstown, the ‘Adventure Capital’ of New Zealand, then follow the Southern Alps north on your way to Mt. Cook National Park, turning east back to Christchurch.

Christchurch - Dunedin - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Queenstown - Mt Cook - Christchurch

Map of 11 Day Southern Circle Self Drive
View itinerary for day 1
View itinerary for day 2
View itinerary for day 3
View itinerary for day 4
View itinerary for day 5
View itinerary for day 6
View itinerary for day 7
View itinerary for day 8
View itinerary for day 9
View itinerary for day 10
View itinerary for day 11
Arrival in Christchurch
Explore Christchurch and surrounds
Christchurch to Dunedin
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Dunedin to Te Anau
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return
Te Anau to Queenstown
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park
Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch
Depart Christchurch

Day 1

Arrival in Christchurch

Day 2

Explore Christchurch and surrounds

Day 3

Christchurch to Dunedin

Travel Time: 4 hrs 15 mins

Distance: 346 kms

Day 4

Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Day 5

Dunedin to Te Anau

Travel Time: 4 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 387 kms

Day 6

Te Anau to Milford Sound and return

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 233 kms

Day 7

Te Anau to Queenstown

Travel Time: 2 hrs

Distance: 164 kms

Day 8

Explore Queenstown and surrounds

Day 9

Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Travel Time: 3 hrs

Distance: 256 kms

Day 10

Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 327 kms

Day 11

Depart Christchurch

On arrival you will be met by a private driver and delivered 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. 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.

Stay 2 nights Christchurch

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.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

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

Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains you’ll head South on State Highway one traversing many braided rivers that start their life as glacial melt water high in the Southern Alps. Go over New Zealand's longest bridge at Rakaia and onwards through Timaru.

Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the local blue penguins come ashore at dusk. Continue down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature and well worth the 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 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. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cadbury World 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. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Stay 2 nights 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. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. 

Milford Sound Nature Cruise
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 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. Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. 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 Heli-ski.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Shotover Canyon River Jet Boat Adventure

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

Leaving Queenstown you'll head through the Kawarau Gorge and over the historic Kawarau Bridge - a popular bungy jumping location. Continue through the Gibbston Valley and be sure to stop at one of its many vineyards for a tasting. As you leave the gorge you'll arrive in Cromwell, known for its many fruit orchards.

Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel - the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount. Cook Highway to arrive in the small village.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD Tour

Stay 1 night Mt Cook

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing

Leaving Mount Cook national park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the spectacular views of Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities of Lake Pukaki - making the waters a bright turquoise. You’ll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just marvel at the magnificent views. From here you travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley that surrounds Geraldine. Continue on across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch City, your destination for the night.

Stay 1 night Christchurch

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.

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.

Stay 2 nights Christchurch

Day 2, Explore Christchurch and surrounds

Explore Christchurch and surrounds

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.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

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

Day 3, Christchurch to Dunedin

Christchurch to Dunedin

Travel Time: 4 hrs 15 mins

Distance: 346 kms

Crossing the vast Canterbury Plains you’ll head South on State Highway one traversing many braided rivers that start their life as glacial melt water high in the Southern Alps. Go over New Zealand's longest bridge at Rakaia and onwards through Timaru.

Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the local blue penguins come ashore at dusk. Continue down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature and well worth the 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 Dunedin

Day 4, 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. 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.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Monarch Wildlife Cruise from Wellers Rock

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Cadbury World Tour

Day 5, Dunedin to Te Anau

Dunedin to Te Anau

Travel Time: 4 hrs 45 mins

Distance: 387 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. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Stay 2 nights Te Anau

Day 6, Te Anau to Milford Sound and return

Te Anau to Milford Sound and return

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 233 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. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls .Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. 

Milford Sound Nature Cruise
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 7, Te Anau to Queenstown

Te Anau to Queenstown

Travel Time: 2 hrs

Distance: 164 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 Queenstown

Day 8, 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.

Head down the Gibbston valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot. Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. 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 Heli-ski.

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 9, Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Queenstown to Mt. Cook National Park

Travel Time: 3 hrs

Distance: 256 kms

Leaving Queenstown you'll head through the Kawarau Gorge and over the historic Kawarau Bridge - a popular bungy jumping location. Continue through the Gibbston Valley and be sure to stop at one of its many vineyards for a tasting. As you leave the gorge you'll arrive in Cromwell, known for its many fruit orchards.

Cromwell itself sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and the old historic town is well worth the visit. Head over through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand’s highest roads, with the summit reaching 971 metres. It's tussock covered hills are a barren but beautiful sight as you descend into the Mackenzie Basin. You'll go through the towns of Omarama and Twizel - the last stops before you arrive at Lake Pukaki and take the Mount. Cook Highway to arrive in the small village.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Tasman Valley 4WD Tour

Stay 1 night Mt Cook

Day 10, Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Mt. Cook National Park to Christchurch

Travel Time: 3 hrs 40 mins

Distance: 327 kms

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Mt. Cook Ski Planes Glacier Highlights Scenic Flight including Glacier Landing

Leaving Mount Cook national park, travel a short distance before stopping at the visitor centre on the southern shores of Lake Pukaki. Learn about the formation of the region and take in the spectacular views of Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo also displays the same reflective qualities of Lake Pukaki - making the waters a bright turquoise. You’ll go through the small town of Tekapo, home to some of the most photographed subjects in the country, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Collie Dog statue. It's a great place to take a scenic flight, enjoy a guided horse trek, a boat trip on the pristine lake or just marvel at the magnificent views. From here you travel through Burkes Pass and into the rich farming valley that surrounds Geraldine. Continue on across the vast Canterbury Plains to arrive in Christchurch City, your destination for the night.

Stay 1 night Christchurch

Day 11, Depart Christchurch

Depart Christchurch

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
3-Star Accommodation from NZ$3,260* per person
4-Star Accommodation from NZ$3,899* per person

* PLEASE NOTE

Price is based on two adults sharing a rental car and accommodation (twin/double-share).

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
Currency Converter

Includes

Includes:

10 nights accommodation

  • 2 nights Christchurch
  • 2 nights Dunedin
  • 2 nights Te Anau
  • 2 nights Queenstown
  • 1 night Mt Cook
  • 1 night Christchurch

10 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

All breakfasts (4-star accommodation only)

10 breakfasts (3-star accommodation only)

Mt.Cook Ski Plane glacier highlights flight & glacier landing

Otago Peninsula Wildlife Premier tour including Larnach Castle

TSS Earnslaw cruise and dinner at Walter Peak high country farm

Dart River Wilderness Safari

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 resident

Optional Extras

From Christchurch

Ko Tane Maori Experience, wildlife park entry and 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.

From 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

Christchurch - Dunedin - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Queenstown - Mt Cook - Christchurch

From Dunedin

Otago Peninsula Wildlife tour and Larnach Castle

This premier package includes the full Otago Harbour and Taiaroa Head wildlife cruise, scenic Otago Peninsula bus tour, and guided tours of the Royal Albatross Colony, the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve and a visit to wading bird habitats. Also includes either a tour of Larnach Castle, one of Dunedin’s great landmarks or a visit to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre with its absorbing display of local sea life.

From Te Anau

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.

From Queenstown

TSS Earnslaw gourmet BBQ dinner cruise

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 & 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.

Dart River Wilderness Safari

Take a one and a half hour jet boat safari through the remote wilderness of Mt Aspiring National Park. Home to towering mountains, alpine bush, glacial lakes and icy rivers, this spectacular trip is considered one of the most scenic in the world. Following your boat journey, take a 40 minute walk through ancient beech forests over 80 million years old. Learn about the area and its history before taking a four wheel drive coach on a 50 minute journey to the isolated hamlet of Paradise - home to many Lord of the Rings filming locations.

From Mt Cook

Glacier Highlights Ski Plane Flight

Take in the spectacular Southern Alps - including New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki Mount Cook - and the constantly changing glacial landscape. See the Hochstetter Icefall as you fly beneath the face of Mount Cook then along the length of the Tasman glacier before landing on the glacier itself. Experience the silence of the mountains, broken only by the rumbling of an avalanche and creaking of the snow and ice beneath your feet. You’ll take off again for another incredible flight over peaks, ice falls, alpine lakes and climbing huts.

Book now, pay later No credit card required

11 Day Southern Circle Self Drive

Fields marked with * are required

If you see this field, please leave it blank and invest in CSS support.

Your Details

(e.g +44 208 123456)

Additional Extras

Accommodation & Transport

Other Passengers

Please list the full name(s) of each passenger travelling with you.

General Information

Please specify if you wish to include any tour options or extra days & if you have any special requirements. e.g dietary, physical, medical; and (if available) advise arrival and departure flight details in New Zealand.