Take in some of the South Island’s most stunning natural sights with this 10-day mountains and glaciers itinerary.
From Christchurch, travel through Arthur’s Pass to the dramatic West Coast. Explore the ancient glaciers, experience nightlife in Wanaka, then make your way to Queenstown, the adventure capital. Cruise majestic Milford Sound and ascend the peaks of Aoraki Mt Cook then travel across the patchwork Canterbury Plains back to Christchurch.
Spend the first day of your journey exploring the funky city of Christchurch. As the South Island’s largest centre, Christchurch has a fascinating mixture of heritage and innovation.
The tranquil Avon River, meandering through the city, is perfect for old-fashioned punting. Historic buildings house a lively arts community and restored trams make it easy to get around. Further afield, the Port Hills are great for mountain biking or travel to Akaroa on Banks Peninsula and discover friendly wildlife and unique French history.
Maori tribes crossing to the west coast to find pounamu (jade), first used the route known as Arthur’s Pass. Today it’s a sophisticated mountain pass, memorable for its scenery and breathtaking civil engineering. Drive the route yourself, or catch the TranzAlpine train; regarded as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.
Arthur’s Pass National Park is a great spot for climbing, hiking, hunting and skiing adventures. On the other side of the pass lies Greymouth, a town steeped in gold mining history. Check out the Monteith brewery tours or take a side trip up the coast to famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
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Dramatic West Coast views line the road between Greymouth and Hokitika. Take a short detour to the beach where you can watch waves crash and breathe salt spray air.
First settled in 1860, during the west coast gold rush, Hokitika still has the feel of a ‘frontier town’. These days it is known for pounamu (NZ jade), with specialist carving workshops and galleries scattered throughout the town. Further south Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are relics of the last ice age. Each is an easy walk from the road, making them some of the most accessible glaciers in the world.
A long one-lane bridge over the Haast River leads you into the settlement of Haast. Once a construction camp for the Ministry of Works, Haast is a town with a touch of the Wild West. Join a Haast River Safari and journey deep into this stunning World Heritage Area.
Waterfalls and river scenery populate your journey as you climb up to Haast Pass. From here, the road snakes through Mount Aspiring National Park and on to the lakeside town of Wanaka.
Wanaka is packed with restaurants, boutique shops and unique attractions, like Puzzling World and the quirky Paradiso Cinema. In winter, nearby ski fields make this a top spot for skiers and snowboarders.
From Wanaka, it's a short trip on to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital. Self-drivers can take one of two routes, either the challenging Crown Range with its spectacular views or the slightly longer Cromwell route, which offers an easier drive. Those going through Cromwell will get their first taste of Queenstown at the Kawarau River Bridge, home of the first and most famous bungy.
Whichever route you take, a detour to Arrowtown is a must. Once a gold rush settlement, today Arrowtown is a perfectly preserved piece of the past. Explore the Chinese miners’ settlement and visit the Lakes District Museum, before continuing on to central Queenstown.
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The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated and fantastically scenic. Spend the day soaking up everything this beautiful place has to offer.
For those looking to relax, this is also a great destination for luxury and indulgence with gourmet food and wine, spa treatments and world-class golf courses. Alternatively, explore the stunning mountain scenery with a hike, horse trek or 4WD off-road tour.
The road to Milford Sound is almost as majestic as the Sounds itself. Look out for the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, the Mirror Lakes, and the roughhewn Homer Tunnel.
For the best view of Milford Sound's dramatic waterfalls and friendly wildlife, hire a kayak and paddle your own way or join a boat cruise with an underwater observatory and see the aquatic life below. To soak up the beauty of the Sounds, an overnight cruise is a great option. Spend the night on the water and wake up surrounded by nature.
If you prefer, head back to Te Anau for a good range of dining and accommodation options.
Today's journey takes you through a magnificent landscape of high country tussock, dotted with vineyards and surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Leave Queenstown and head toward Aoraki Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand (3755m). Mount Cook National Park is a region highly prized by mountain climbers, offering some of the best climbing in Australasia.
Heli-skiing, heli-hiking, and aerial sightseeing activities combine breathtaking views with alluring adventure. For something a little more sedate, try walking one of the park's many hiking trails or take a boat trip through Tasman Glacier's terminal lake and touch huge floating icebergs.
The road to Lake Tekapo hugs the edge of Lake Pukaki. An exquisite opaque turquoise colours the lakes in this area, caused by fine, glacier-ground rock particles held in suspension. Fishing, kayaking, cycling, horse trekking, and skiing are just some of the things you can do. The charming Church of the Good Shepherd makes a picturesque photo spot.
If you have time, add another night to your journey and check out the spectacular stargazing in the Dark Sky Reserve. Otherwise, continue through Mackenzie Country, into the farms and fields of the Canterbury Plains and on to Christchurch and the end of your journey.