Top of the South Itinerary

6-7 DAYS

1067 km


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


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

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 visit the charming town of Murchison for a thrilling jet boat ride and unwind in the natural thermal pools and spas of Hanmer Springs.

Day 1: Christchurch to Kaikoura

see playful dolphins up close
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: 2h 40 | 180km
    Inland: 3h | 330km

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 Marlborough

Savour wine with a view
Vineyards, Marlborough

By Mike Heydon



World-famous sauvignon blanc & one-fifth of NZ's coastline.


  • By car: Kaikoura to Blenheim
    4 h 30 m | 287 km
  • By car: This route is only open from 7.00am - 8.30pm.

Recommended experiences in Marlborough

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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: Blenheim to Nelson

Explore a region of creativity
Great Taste Trail, Nelson, Nelson

By Dean McKenzie



Vineyards and unique artisan culture.


  • By car: Marlborough to Nelson
  • By car: 1 h 40 min | 118 km

Recommended experiences in Nelson Tasman

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Nelson is a town bursting with creativity. Visit the studios of local artists and the World of Wearable Art Museum where art meets fashion. In the afternoon take time to sample Nelson's selection of local craft brews or hop on a bike and follow the Great Taste Cycle Trail through the region's vineyards.

Day 4: Spend the day in Abel Tasman National Park

Refresh yourself in nature
Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson

By Fraser Clements



Secluded golden sand beaches and native forests.


  • By car: Nelson to Kaiteriteri
    1 h 10 m | 65 km
  • By : Nelson to Marahau
    1 h 20 min | 78 km

Abel Tasman National Park

Explore this coastal paradise by land or by sea.

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Enjoy the coastal drive from Nelson to the secluded golden sand beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park. 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 Miles Holden

Christchurch - Canterbury


Natural thermal waters in a resort town


  • By car: Nelson to Hanmer Springs
  • By car: 4 h | 300 km

Recommended experiences in Hanmer Spring

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Take your time as you drive from Nelson with a break in the charming town of Murchison. Get your adrenalin pumping with a Buller Canyon jetboat ride or cross the country's longest swingbridge and see the raging water from above.

Continue on 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 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.


  • 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". 

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