Alpine Lakes Itinerary

4-5 DAYS

611 km


  • Aoraki/Mt Cook our highest peak
  • Wanaka our ultimate outdoor utopia
  • Queenstown our adventure capital


Walk beneath New Zealand’s highest mountain, climb to towering waterfalls and take a thrilling jet boat ride through narrow river canyons. An Alpine Lakes Journey in the South Island is packed with adventures you won’t find anywhere else.

Day 1: Christchurch to Mid-Canterbury

Christchurch - Canterbury
Hot air ballooning over Canterbury, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Ballooning Canterbury

Christchurch - Canterbury

Stretching from the ocean to the Southern Alps


  • By car: Christchurch to Mid-Canterbury
  • By car: 1 hour | 55km



Start your journey in the vibrant city of Christchurch, the largest centre in the South Island, where old English gardens contrast with pop-up bars and fascinating street art. Next, head towards Mid-Canterbury where you will discover snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and serene landscapes.

Take an early morning hot-air balloon flight over the magnifcant Canterbury Plains or walk to the top of Mount Sunday and marvel at the expansive views. If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, join a tour from Christchurch that will take through middle earth to the remote area of Mt Sunday, the filming location for 'Edoras'.

Day 2: Mid-Canterbury to Lake Tekapo

Discover the world's largest Dark Sky Reserve
New Zealand
Night sky from Mt John observatory., New Zealand

By Tourism NZ

Christchurch - Canterbury


Blue lakes, highest peak & night sky wonder


  • By car: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
  • By car: 3 h | 227 km

Recommended experiences in Canterbury

Find out more

Today, set off for Lake Tekapo, where you can hike or bike alongside brilliant turquoise waters before discovering the world's largest Dark Sky Reserve, one of the best places in New Zealand to view the Southern Lights.

On the lake shores you'll see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, where the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps beyond the lake.

Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook

Discover New Zealand's Highest Mountain
Christchurch - Canterbury
Mt Cook - Aoraki, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Julian Apse

Christchurch - Canterbury


Home of the highest mountains & longest glaciers


  • By car: Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook
  • By car: 1 h 10 min | 106 km

Recommended experiences in Canterbury

Find out more

From Lake Tekapo head to Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. Explore the area on an easy day walk, longer climb or guided ascent.  View the spectacular Southern Alps from above on a scenic flight, or get up close to the ever-changing ice environment of the Tasman Glacier.

If you have some extra time, take a day to explore the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, a fun way to soak up the stunning mountain scenery. Stretching more than 300km, it's New Zealand's longest cycle trail.  But with multiple access points, there's shorter rides for all abilities. 


Day 4: Aoraki/Mount Cook to Wanaka

An outdoor Playground for all kinds of fun
Lake Wanaka, Wanaka

By Lake Wanaka Tourism



Lakeside town surrounded by epic outdoor adventures


  • By car: Aoraki/Mount Cook to Wanaka
  • By car: 2 h 20 min | 207 km

Recommended experiences in Wanaka

Find out more

Travel past turquoise lakes and rivers to the lakeside resort town of Wanaka. Set alongside the renown Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is the ultimate outdoor utopia.

Hiking, biking both on and off road, water activities, airborne adventures; there's something for all, no matter your flavour of fun.

Day 5: Wanaka to Queenstown

Experience a thrilling jet boat ride
Queenstown's Shotover Jetboat, Queenstown

By First Light Travel



The adventure capital of New Zealand


  • By car: Wanaka to Queenstown
  • By car: 1 h | 71 km

Recommended experiences in Queenstown

Find out more

From Wanaka head across to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Thrill yourself with a huge choice of adrenaline activities including jetboating, bungy jumping, white water rafting and skydiving – all guaranteed to get your blood pumping!

View the journey

Start Planning your Trip to New Zealand

Next on your journey

Book South Island Alpine Lakes holiday →

Alpine Lakes Journey Must-Dos →

Other South Island Journeys →