Top of the South Itinerary

5-6 DAYS

1067 km

Highlights

  • Marine Wildlife
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Thermal hot springs

Proximity

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Discover the diversity of Christchurch, just a 3 hour flight from the Australian eastern coast. Then head north to Kaikoura for some dolphin and whale watching. Linger in the charming town of Murchison. Next stop, wine country. Enjoy a sauvignon blanc or two, and relax in the Marlborough Sounds waterways. Explore the artisan haven of Nelson and the world-famous Abel Tasman National Park. On the way back to Christchurch unwind in the natural thermal pools and spas of Hanmer Springs.

    Day 1: Christchurch to Kaikoura

    see mighty whales up close
    Christchurch - Canterbury
    Dolphin spotting in Kaikoura, Christchurch - Canterbury

    By Sara Orme

    Christchurch - Canterbury

    KAIKOURA

    Get up close to marine wildlife in this coastal town

    Proximity

    • By car: Christchurch to Kaikoura
    • By car: 3 h | 203 km

    Recommended experiences in Kaikoura

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    Start your journey exploring the stunning gardens and parks of New Zealand's "garden city" before heading north to Kaikoura. Few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders as those offered in Kaikoura, take time to experience giant whales, playful dolphins and marine birds up close.

    Day 2: Kaikoura to Murchison

    wander beside flowing rivers
    West Coast
    Maruia Falls, West Coast

    By Ian Trafford

    Nelson

    Nelson

    Pristine rivers, lakes and alpine vistas.

    Highlights

    • Whitewater rafting and kayaking
    • Buller Gorge swingbridge
    • The Old Ghost Road

    Proximity

    • By car: Kaikoura to Murchison
    • By : 4 h | 287 km

    Journey inland to the ex-gold rush town of Murchison. Surrounded by multiple rivers, there is a good reason why Murchison is often called the 'whitewater capital' of New Zealand.

    Get your adrenalin pumping on a Buller Canyon jetboat ride or try one the numerous white-water rafting trips available. For another view of the gorge, cross the country's longest swingbridge and see the raging water from above.

    Day 3: Murchison to Blenheim

    Savour wine with a view
    Marlborough
    A wine enthusiast's paradise, Marlborough

    By Mike Heydon

    Marlborough

    Marlborough

    World-famous Sauvignon Blanc

    Proximity

    • By car: Murchison to Blenheim
    • By car: 2 h 15 min | 162 km

    Recommended experiences in Marlborough

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    From here your journey heads north to the diverse natural beauty of the Marlborough region. Located at the top of the South Island, Marlborough is New Zealand's largest wine growing region and the home of world-renowned sauvignon blanc and the Marlborough Sounds. Take time to enjoy the world-famous wine, dine on ocean fresh seafood, walk or bike through native forest along coastal ridges and meet the wildlife cruising the stunning Marlborough Sounds.

    Day 4: Blenheim to Nelson

    Refresh Yourself in Nature
    Nelson
    Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

    By Gareth Eyres

    Nelson

    Nelson

    Secluded golden sand beaches and native forest

    Proximity

    • By car: Marlborough to Nelson
    • By car: 1 h 30 min | 118 km

    Recommended experiences in Nelson Tasman

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    Enjoy the coastal drive from Marlborough to the secluded golden sand beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park, and discover the unique artisan culture of Nelson. Explore the stunning landscapes by foot, bike, kayak or boat and refresh yourself in this welcoming environment.

    Day 5: Nelson to Hanmer Springs

    Soak up the view
    Christchurch - Canterbury
    Hanmer Springs, Christchurch - Canterbury

    By Julian Apse

    Christchurch - Canterbury

    HANMER SPRINGS 

    Natural thermal waters in a resort town

    Proximity

    • By car: Nelson to Hanmer Springs
    • By car: 3 h 30 min | 300 km

    Recommended experiences in Hanmer Spring

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    Take your time as you drive from Nelson to Hanmer Springs, a destination for relaxation and refreshment. Soak in the natural hot springs or discover outdoor activities such as forest walks, horse trekking and trout fishing before returning to Christchurch, just 2 hours away.

    Day 6: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

    Discover Christchurch in spring time
    Christchurch - Canterbury
    Walking the Port Hills., Christchurch - Canterbury

    By Julian Apse

    Christchurch - Canterbury

    Christchurch - Canterbury

    New Zealand's "Garden City" – take your time to explore.

    Proximity

    • By car: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch
    • By car: 1 h 38 min | 134 km

    Recommended experiences in Christchurch

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    Driving south from Hanmer Springs returning to the vibrant city of Christchurch. Explore a leisurely punt down the Avon river and the famous botanic gardens that gave this city it's name as New Zealand's "garden city". Just a few minutes from the city wander the easily access.

    Explore other South Island itineraries

    Southern Scenic Itinerary →

    Alpine Lakes Itinerary →

    TranzAlpine Itinerary →

    Nature and Heritage Itinerary →