Journey from east to west and back again, on this 6-day glacier itinerary through some of the South Island’s most beautiful regions.
Starting in Christchurch, travel through Arthur’s Pass to the wild West Coast home of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Experience action-packed Queenstown, ascend the peaks of Aoraki Mt Cook and explore Tasman Glacier before crossing the Canterbury Plains back to Christchurch.
Whether driving or travelling by train, today's journey takes you across the expansive Canterbury Plains, past wide rivers, picturesque lakes and into the majestic Southern Alps.
At the halfway point, the little village of Arthur’s Pass is a perfect place to stretch your legs. Take time to explore the beautiful National Park along one of the many hiking trails. As you descend the western slopes of the Southern Alps, the landscape becomes greener, with lush rainforest replacing the drier eastern slopes. You have reached New Zealand's wild West Coast. Greymouth, the region's largest town, is a place of awesome seascapes, local brewery tours, cycling trails and gold rush heritage.
The short journey between Hokitika and Greymouth is lined with epic views of the West Coast.
In Hokitika, workshops and galleries display the town's greatest treasure, pounamu (NZ jade). Nearby Arahura River is a well-known source for the stone and artists can be seen carving and polishing it throughout the town. Further south, you will find Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These mighty rivers of solid ice are relics of the last ice age and some of the most accessible glaciers in the world. Choose from a wide range of adventure activities (mostly involving glaciers and mountains). Guided hikes, heli-hikes and scenic flights over the glaciers are popular.
There are plenty of interesting places to visit as you travel to Queenstown today. Haast radiates a feeling of the Wild West, with the surrounding ranges a popular destination for hunters. Board a river safari jet boat and explore the region's wilderness. From here, you'll turn inland, climbing up through Haast Pass to Mount Aspiring National Park and Wanaka township. Wanaka's unique Puzzling World and quirky Paradiso Cinema are well worth the visit.
From Wanaka, it's a short journey on to Queenstown.
Those travelling by public transport might like to break-up the trip by adding a night in Wanaka.
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Sitting on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown buzzes with adventure activities. This the perfect place to try bungy jumping - the sport was invented here and there are ample sites around the region where you can try it yourself. Other adventure activities include jet boating, skydiving, zip lining, rafting and mountain biking.
The region also offers a plethora of walking and hiking trails, with spectacular, 360-degree views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding alpine landscape. In winter (June - October) Queenstown is a skiing mecca, with The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields within easy reach.
Today you'll venture north to New Zealand's highest mountain. Along the way, you'll pass Omarama, an area loved by gliders due to its famous Northwest Arch phenomenon, which can take glider pilots to 10,000 metres. From here, the road turns north through the town of Twizel and along stunning Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
Edmund Hilary once used this area as a training ground and the park continues to attract mountain climbers from across Australasia. Along with boat trips to visit the Tasman Glacier, Aoraki Mount Cook also offers a wide variety of hiking trails, many of which are just a few hours. Heli-skiing, heli-hiking and aerial sightseeing are other popular activities.
The turquoise colour of Lake Tekapo is due to fine, glacier-ground rock particles held in suspension within its waters. The Church of the Good Shepherd on the lake edge makes a great photo opportunity. Alternatively, spend some time exploring the region with a spot of fishing, kayaking, cycling, or horse trekking.
From here, the scenic route to Christchurch leads you out of the Mackenzie Country and over the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains. Take time to visit some of the regional towns you pass along the way. Back in Christchurch, finish your journey with a meal at one of the city's many fantastic restaurants or take a relaxing walk through the picturesque botanical gardens.