South Island trips

South Island Heritage Journey

5 Days
1237km
769mi

Route

Christchurch to Christchurch

Highlights

  • Aoraki Mount Cook
  • Historic architecture
  • Native penguins

Best time of year

All year

This far-reaching road adventure takes you from sea level to the highest point of New Zealand. You’ll begin with the flat green tranquillity of the Canterbury Plains, but it won’t be long before you climb to the tussocky wilds of the high country. Amazing smoky turquoise lakes announce your arrival in the Aoraki Mt Cook region, a place for outdoor pursuits.

Amid the Southern Alps you’ll discover the magic of Queenstown, where adventure and indulgence are available in equal quantities. A memorable journey through the gold towns of Central Otago takes you to Dunedin, a heritage city with a reputation for outstanding eco experiences.

Info

Lake Pukaki, with the peak of Aoraki / Mount Cook in the distance.

Photo by Tourism New Zealand

Day 1

Christchurch - Lake Tekapo - Mt Cook Village

3 hrs

53 mins

331 km

206 mi

Christchurch - Canterbury

The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. Visit heritage sites, museums and art galleries, and enjoy the highly developed restaurant scene.

The scenic route to Lake Tekapo begins at Rangiora, a rural centre north of Christchurch city. Small towns appear regularly as you travel across the Canterbury Plains through fields and farms. Explore the old coal mining settlement of Glentunnel before the road climbs over the braided Rakaia River and up to Mount Hutt. There are historic lime kilns at Staveley and Mt Somers, and the pretty town of Geraldine has an interesting car museum. After Fairlie you’ll ascend to the region known as the Mackenzie Country, named after the legendary Scottish sheep rustler who once roamed the area.

The settlement of Lake Tekapo is at the southern end of the lake. The opaque turquoise colour of this lake and others in the area is caused by fine, glacier-ground rock particles held in suspension. Fishing, kayaking, bike riding, horse trekking and skiing are some of the things you can do. The Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue are great photo opportunities.

The road to Mt Cook takes you through high country tussock to beautiful Lake Pukaki. You’ll hug the edge of the lake for most of the way up the Tasman Valley to Mount Cook Village.

The Aoraki Mount Cook National Park includes the highest peak in Australasia (Mt Cook - 3755m). The region attracts mountain climbers, hikers and scenery fanatics. Heli skiing, heli hiking and aerial sightseeing provide visitors with amazing memories. A variety of walking trails begin in or near Mount Cook Village – most take only a couple of hours. In the bar of the local hotel, huge windows provide a perfect view of Mt Cook.

Cashel Mall Re:Start Project

Start in Christchurch

Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. As the gateway to the South Island, it's a must on any itinerary.

View of Aoraki Mt Cook across Lake Pukaki

End in Aoraki / Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain, with a height of 3,754 metres.

Time & distance calculator