South Island Heritage Journey

5 DAYS

1240 km

Highlights

  • Aoraki Mount Cook
  • Historic architecture
  • Native penguins

Entfernung

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Discover the fascinating history and natural attractions of the South Island as you journey from Christchurch to Dunedin via Mount Cook on this 5-day heritage journey. 

Explore amazing turquoise lakes and majestic mountain ranges in Mackenzie Country. Visit adventurous Queenstown and the gold-rush towns of Central Otago, before heading towards the coast and the beautiful heritage cities of Dunedin, Oamaru and Christchurch.

Day 1: Christchurch to Mount Cook via Lake Tekapo

Christchurch - Canterbury
Church of the Good Shepherd, Christchurch - Canterbury

Von Sergio Del Rosso

Highlights

  • Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Explore Tasman Glacier
  • New Zealand's highest mountain

Entfernung

  • By car: 4 h 10 min | 332 km via SH1, SH79 & SH8
  • By bus: 4 h 50 min | by Intercity

LAKE TEKAPO

Picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve.

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The scenic route to Lake Tekapo takes you through the expanse of the Canterbury Plains to Mackenzie country. Take time to explore some of the small towns you pass along the way.

At Tekapo, you'll find a beautiful opaque turquoise coloured lake and a huge number of outdoor activities to enjoy. Fishing, kayaking, bike riding, horse trekking and skiing are just some of the things you can do here. The Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue are great photo opportunities.

Continue through high country tussock, past beautiful Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook village. The surrounding National Park is home to Australasia's highest peak and popular with mountain climbers, hikers and stargazers. 

Day 2: Aoraki Mount Cook to Queenstown

Waitaki
Hot Tubs Omarama, Waitaki

Von Fraser Clements

Queenstown

QUEENSTOWN

Wineries, epic film locations and adventure

Highlights

  • Omarama hot tubs
  • Bannockburn gold heritage
  • Queenstown adventure capital

Entfernung

  • By car: 1 h 10 min | 264 km via Sh6 & SH6
  • By bus: 5 h | by Intercity

Today as you make your way to Queenstown, you'll travel through the towns of Twizel and Omarama.

Twizel is a base for mountain climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, horse trekking, fishing and hiking. It's also a great place catch a sighting of the rarest wading bird in the world – the Black Stilt. In Omarama, you can visit the fascinating Paritea cliffs, which are constantly being exposed by the active Osler fault line. 

Queenstown is home to almost any kind of adventure, get your adrenliane pumping with a bungy jump, jet boat ride, horse trek or rafting adventure. Soak up the stunning scenery and relax with a spa treatment, gourmet food and wine or a leisurely round of golf.

Day 3: Queenstown to Dunedin via Alexandra

Dunedin
Lanarch Castle in Dunedin, Dunedin

Von Miles Holden

Dunedin

DUNEDIN

Fascinating geology, heritage and eco-adventures

Highlights

  • New Zealand's only castle
  • Historic town of Clyde
  • Central Otago Rail Trail

Entfernung

  • By car: 3 h 30 min | 285 km via SH8 & SH1
  • By bus: 4 h 20 min | by Intercity

Today you'll travel to the heart of Central Otago. Explore the vineyards of Gibbston Valley, visit historic Cromwell or discover old gold mining in Bannockburn. From Alexandra, there are three routes to Dunedin. The bus follows the fruit route through the orchards of Roxburgh. If you're self-driving, you can also head north to Ranfurly where you can choose to travel via Dunback, or via Middlemarch through the Rock and Pillar Range. 

Dunedin itself has been a student town since the 1870s when Otago University first opened. Today it contains a beautiful array of historic buildings, imposing churches, palatial homes and New Zealand's only castle. 

Day 4: Dunedin to Oamaru

Waitaki
Zwergpinguin, Oamaru, Waitaki

Von Chris Stephenson

Waitaki

WAITAKI

Mysterious boulders, windswept beaches & rock art

Highlights

  • Penguin colony
  • Victorian heritage architecture
  • Steampunk museum

Entfernung

  • By car: 1 h 30 min | 113 km via SH1
  • By bus: 1 h 40 min | by Intercity

History and fascinating geology will flavour your journey north today. Be sure to visit the mysterious spherical boulders at Moeraki. According to Maori legend, these boulders are gourds washed ashore from the wreck of a great voyaging canoe hundreds of years ago.

Totara Estate Centennial Park is the birthplace of New Zealand's frozen meat industry. The restored farm buildings show the workings of a 19th century New Zealand farm. Oamaru's elegant historic buildings are built from the local sandstone. Visit the Harbour-Tyne area for examples of the best-preserved historic commercial buildings in New Zealand. The Steampunk Museum and the town's pretty public gardens are also worth a visit.

Day 5: Oamaru to Christchurch

Christchurch - Canterbury
Tram, Christchurch - Canterbury

Von Julian Apse

Christchurch - Canterbury

CHRISTCHURCH

Stunning scenery, unique wildlife and great food

Highlights

  • Heritage tram rides
  • Punting on the Avon River
  • Mountain biking in the Port Hills

Entfernung

  • By car: 3 h 30 min | 250 km via SH1
  • By bus: 4 h | by Intercity

There are several interesting sights to visit as you journey north to Christchurch today.

In Waimate, a thatched cottage from 1854 makes a good rest stop. Built from a single totara tree, the cottage has been restored and is now opened to visitors. The region is also home to several examples of Maori rock art. Further north, Ashburton has a plethora of fascinating local museums and craft galleries.

Christchurch, the last stop on your heritage journey, overflows with innovation, creativity and heritage attractions. Visit the stunning botanic gardens, punt down the Avon River or ride the historic tram to the city's various shopping and eating precincts.

Driving in New Zealand

Important things you need to know about driving in New Zealand.

View the route below

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