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Spend at least 8 days and go in the "clockwise" direction starting from Christchurch, this trip is best to do in with rental car utilising the Christchurch airport pick up and Greymouth Station drop off. This way you can fully enjoy the round trip that ends with a high note - the renouned Tranzalpine Train Journey!
Leg 1 - From Christchurch to Aoraki Mt Cook
Your first leg of the journey begins with a relatively straight forward drive along the inland scenic route, Geraldine is the ideal stop before heading further into the Mackenzie Country. Ascending Burkes Pass will take you to New Zealand's high country with the iconic town of Lake Tekapo. It is worth taking the time to soak in the magnificent views from the lake shores, or an even better view with a scenic flight. Continue towards Mt Cook this afternoon, you will be further rewarded by spectacular views of Mt Cook towering over Lake Pukaki, the lake will guide you to your destination for the day - Mt Cook Village.
Leg 2 - Aoraki Mt Cook to Queenstown
Traverse through the heart of many Lord of the Ring movie scenes, you will reach Omarama - the gliding captial of New Zealand. South of Omarama is the tussock covered hills of Mackenzie basin which is the gateway of Central Otago. Once a gold mining settlement, remains of cottages and other buildings from the eras are still visible as you head down to Cromwell, the head of Kawarau Gorge and the historic old town is well worth the visit. Buildings are now turned into the home of quaint shops and cafes. Continue on through the gorge it is Gibbston Valley, one of New Zealand's renouned wine growing region famous for it's Pinot Noir, it is also home to the Kawarau Bungy Bridge. Head further down south until you come into view of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu which will take you to Queenstown - the Adventure Capital of New Zealand. Spend at least a few nights here to properly explore the different experiences that Queenstown has to offer.
Leg 3 - Queenstown to the Glacier Country
Crossing the Crown Range, also known as the highest sealed round in the country, you will arrive the alpine town of Wanaka, known as the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Travel along the lake shore of Wanaka towards the village of Makaroa, you will come across the Blue Pools which is an ideal spot to stretch your legs for a 30 minute walk through the native beech forest. Leaving Makaroa your next iconic spot is the Haast River which officially welcomes you to the wild West Coast. Home to 600km stretch of bush and rainforest. Set camp either at Fox Glacier or Franz Josef Glacier which is further 45 minutes north of Fox, be sure you allow the next day to explore the glaciers either by hiking or a helicopter ride. The glacier hot pools are also not to be missed
Leg 4 - Glacier Country to Greymouth
Head north from the glacier country takes you through the historic mining region of Ross and Hokitika, capital of the pounamu or jade, also a great place for art and craft. Continuing on you will come to the West Coast's largest town, Greymouth, which is also the starting point of the Tranzalpine Scenic Train.
Here you can grab some lunch, return your rental vehicle before boarding the train back to Christchurch.
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