Christchurch to Queenstown via Kaikoura Itinerary

9 DAYS

1465 km

Highlights

  • Kaikoura marine life
  • Beautiful Queenstown
  • Funky Christchurch

Proximity

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Includes one domestic flight from Christchurch to Queenstown

This nine-day itinerary combines the grandeur of alpine Queenstown with the marine life of Kaikoura and the funky heritage city of Christchurch.

Highlights include whale and dolphin encounters, action and adventure in Queenstown and a day trip to Milford Sound.

Day 1 - 2: Explore Christchurch

Christchurch - Canterbury
Hot air ballooning over Canterbury, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Ballooning Canterbury

Christchurch - Canterbury

CHRISTCHURCH - CANTERBURY

Stretching from ocean to alps.

Highlights

  • Hot air ballooning
  • Day trip to Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
  • Punting on the Avon River

TOP EXPERIENCES IN CHRISTCHURCH

Relaxing natural environment and thrilling adventure activities.

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Christchurch is the largest city in the Canterbury region and a gateway to the South Island. Spend your first day soaking up all the city has to offer from its compelling mix of elegant heritage buildings to the contemporary art centre and award-winning gardens. Trying punting down the Avon River or explore the city from above in a hot air balloon or scenic helicopter flight.

The following day, take the opportunity to go further afield with a trip aboard the Tranz-Alpine railway, which travels deep into the majestic Southern Alps. In the opposite direction, Akaroa offers a fascinating combination of French heritage and unique wildlife encounters. 

Day 3 - 4: Christchurch to Kaikoura

Christchurch - Canterbury
Kaikoura kayaks, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Kai Schworer

Highlights

  • Whales, dolphins and seals
  • Delicious fresh seafood
  • Maori cultural experiences

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h | 202 km - SH7
    2 h 45 min | 181 km - SH1
  • By bus: 3 h 40 min | by Intercity

EXPLORE KAIKOURA

A picturesque coastal town known for marine life, coastal walks, and crayfish.

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Head north towards Kaikoura, a beautiful coastal town known for its abundance of marine life and delicious seafood. On the way, stop and enjoy a long lunch in Canterbury’s Waipara Valley, the country’s fastest growing wine region.

Few places in the world can boast such natural wonders as those offered in Kaikoura. A boat cruise will get you up close to all kinds of marine mammals including several species whales, playful dolphins and untold marine birds. If you prefer dry land, the spectacular Peninsula Walkway is a great way to see seals sunbathing on the rocky coast.

While you're here, don't forget to taste the local crayfish from which Kaikoura takes its name.

Day 5: Kaikoura to Christchurch

Christchurch - Canterbury
Street art, Christchurch, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Julian Apse

Highlights

  • Street art trail
  • International Antarctic Centre
  • Heritage tram rides

Proximity

  • By bus: Visit the local iSITE for day trips and tours

CHRISTCHURCH TRAMWAY

Combine history and sightseeing on a restored heritage tram.

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On your way back to Christchurch today, stop and check out the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. This is one of the best places to see some of New Zealand's rarest species up close, including tuatara, kiwi, kea and the very rare takahe. The International Antarctic Centre is also well worth a visit, with its exciting rides, fascinating stories and little blue penguin. 

Alternatively, you can spend the afternoon exploring the inner city. Refurbished heritage trams will take you from attractions to designer shops and quirky cafes, or travel by foot and enjoy the enchanting street art scattered throughout the city.

Day 6: Christchurch to Queenstown

Queenstown
Kawerau Bungy, Queenstown

By AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand

Queenstown

QUEENSTOWN

Outdoor adventure set against stunning scenery.

Highlights

  • Adventure - bungy, skydiving, rafting
  • Stunning walking and cycling trails
  • Vibrant nightlife

Proximity

Journey on to the grand alpine town of Queenstown, New Zealand's most popular tourist destination.

Spend the day soaking up all this beautiful place has to offer. Explore stunning mountain scenery by bike, kayak, horse, 4WD Safari, or foot along one of the region's many hiking trails.

Or if you're feeling adventurous, choose from a huge selection of adrenaline activities from jetboating and bungy jumping to white-water rafting and skydiving.

Day 7: Spend time in Queenstown

Queenstown
Horse trekking in Glenorchy, Queenstown

By Miles Holden

Highlights

  • Horse treks, 4WD adventures, kayaking
  • Visit nearby Arrowtown & Glenorchy

Proximity

TOP EXPERIENCES IN QUEENSTOWN

Explore wineries, epic film locations and adventure activities.

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Today you'll have time to explore some of Queenstown's nearby towns and villages. 

Discover gold mining history in Arrowtown. Built during the gold rush, this charming town still bears the signs of its fascinating past. A highlight is the old Chinese mining village with its restored shelters offering a glimpse into early development in this area. Further east is the Gibbston Valley. This region is famous for its award-winning Pinot Noir and a great place for a winery tour. 

Alternatively, movie lovers might like to check out Glenorchy, where Peter Jackson filmed some of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

Day 8: Milford Sound day trip

Fiordland
Boat trip on Milford Sound, Fiordland

By TNZ

Highlights

  • Boat cruises day and night
  • Kayaking and diving
  • Seals, penguins and cheeky kea

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h 45 min | 287 km (one way) via SH6 & SH94
  • By : CAUTION: Drive times vary greatly in winter.
  • By bus: Visit the local iSITE for scenic tour options

MILFORD SOUND

Described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world'.

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 Once described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is a relaxing contrast to Queenstown. It takes a fair amount of time to get there but it's worth it once you're out on the water of the Sounds. Take a boat cruise or hire a kayak and soak in the magical blue skies, green mountains, crystal-clear water and tumbling waterfalls.

Alternatively, take a flightseeing tour, departing from Queenstown airport. Or if you want to break up the trip, spend a night in Te Anau, where you can explore glowworm caves or hike one of Fiordland's many walking trails.

Day 9: Queenstown

Queenstown
Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

By Matt Crawford

Highlights

  • Luxury hot pools
  • World-class golf courses
  • Boutique shops

Proximity

  • By walking: Visit the local iSITE for nearby attractions.

SHOPPING IN QUEENSTOWN

Top notch shopping experiences surrounded by movie-star landscapes.

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Spend your final day in Queenstown relaxing with gourmet food and wine and some boutique shopping. Visit Onsen hot pools for a luxurious spa treatment or play a round of golf at one of Queenstown's world-class golf courses.

A gentle stroll around the lake is a nice way to soak up the alpine landscape before saying goodbye.

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

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