South Island Mountain Biking itinerary


860 km


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


Discover the diversity of Christchurch before heading north to Kaikoura for some dolphin and whale watching. Go to the charming town of Murchison for a thrilling jet boat ride.

Next stop, wine country. Enjoy a sauvignon blanc or two, and relax in the breathtaking Marlborough Sounds. 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

Christchurch - Canterbury
Dolphin spotting in Kaikoura, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Sara Orme

Christchurch - Canterbury


Get up close to marine wildlife in this coastal town


  • By car: Christchurch to Kaikoura
  • By car: SH1 - 3 h | 203 km
    Inland - 4 h 30 m | 330 km
  • By : SH1 route is only open Fri - Mon, 7am - 6pm


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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 Nelson

Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

By Fraser Clements



Long golden beaches and untouched native forests.


  • By car: Kaikoura to Nelson
  • By car: 3 h 45 min | 243 km


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Journey inland towards the charming town of Murchison. Take a break and get your adrenalin pumping with a Buller Canyon jetboat ride or cross the country's longest swingbridge and see the raging water from above.

After Murchison, travel north to Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine growing region and home of sauvignon blanc. This is the perfect place to enjoy the world-famous wine and dine on ocean fresh seafood. Explore the Marlborough Sounds with a walk or bike ride through native forest or meet the local wildlife on a boat cruise.

Day 3: Nelson to Hanmer Springs

Christchurch - Canterbury
Hanmer Springs, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Miles Holden

Christchurch - Canterbury


Natural thermal waters in a resort town



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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, mountain bikinghorse trekking and trout fishing before returning to Christchurch, just 2 hours away.

Day 4: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

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.


  • By car: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch
  • By car: 1 h 45 min | 134 km

Recommended experiences in Christchurch

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Driving south from Hanmer Springs returning to the vibrant city of Christchurch. Take a leisurely punt down the Avon river and the famous botanic gardens that gave this city its name as New Zealand's "Garden City". 

Test your driving skills in New Zealand

Put yourself in the driver’s seat using the AA’s new Visiting Drivers Training Programme and experience what it is like to drive on New Zealand roads. Complete a series of driving tasks and test yourself on New Zealand’s road rules. If you pass the tests, get a certificate to prove your skill.

Take the test

View the route below

Alternative Route

Re-opening December 2017

The Kaikoura section of State Highway 1 is due to re-open in December 2017, allowing travel from Kaikoura, via the South Island's east coast to Marlborough and beyond. This route offers another way to explore the spectacular Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson regions. 

Explore other South Island itineraries

Southern Scenic Itinerary →

Alpine Lakes Itinerary →

Nature and Heritage Itinerary →

TranzAlpine Itinerary →