7-Day South Island with Lake Tekapo, Franz Josef Glacier From Christchurch. Be awed by Lake Tekapo, Franz Josef Glacier, stunning mountains, fantastic views, and the amazing Queenstown and Christchurch on this adventurous New Zealand South Island tour!
- Passionate Kiwi guide
- Ride the Trans Alpine Express train
- Free gondola ride with stunning views of Queenstown
- Wake up alongside the beautiful lakes of Tekapo and Wanaka
Day 1: Christchurch – Lake Tekapo
We’re going to launch our fantastic New Zealand South Island tour today, beginning with our departure town, Christchurch. While Christchurch was badly damaged a few years ago during the earthquakes, the city is experiencing a wonderful transformation and has nothing but promise.
We’re going to visit the historic downtown area and find out the cool ways the town has come together and is being restored. Christchurch should not be missed, with lots of quirky stores, specialized cafes and dining spots, along with a fun young Kiwi culture.
Then we’ll make our way to Tekapo, one of the most popular lakes in New Zealand. The vivid turquoise Lake Tekapo, surrounded by the jagged Southern Alps, will leave you wondering if anyone has dropped blue food coloring into it.
The lake is given its famous turquoise color by minerals left by ancient glaciers. Lake Tekapo couldn’t be prettier, contrasting this with the towering mountains and purple and pink Lupin flowers along its banks.
It gets even better once the sun goes down. “The area around Tekapo has been designated a “Star Reserve” due to the super clear skies and is the best spot in New Zealand to see the stars and galaxies above. Watch the stars appear from the hostel over the lake, which is only a few feet from the sea.
Day 2: Lake Tekapo – Queenstown
Almost as stunning as the town itself is the path to Queenstown (scattered with hundreds of glacial blue lakes, soaring mountains and lush valleys). We will have the opportunity to see a more diverse side of the South Island, from wine tasting in the popular Otago area to visiting some of the local salmon farms.
Queenstown, the undisputed adventure city of New Zealand, is always at the top of every trip around the South Island list. Its place is directly from a postcard, surrounded by the breathtaking Remarkables, some of the most majestic mountains in NZ, and stretching along the banks of the sparkling Lake Wakatipu.
We’ll hop up on the gondola together and see Queenstown from above. Before experiencing the popular nightlife in town, there’s nothing like watching the sunset over New Zealand’s prettiest town with new mates.
We’re going to crash into Queenstown’s Haka Lodge for the night, prepare some meals together and hang out in this luxurious hostel-lodge. Tomorrow will be packed with action, so be sure to get at least a few hours of sleep!
Day 3: Queenstown
With a full day in Queenstown, as many bucket list events and stuff to do as you wish can be packed in. There are several different choices to choose from: paragliding, mountain biking, bungy jumping as your buddies cheer you on, horse riding through some spectacular locations in Glenorchy’s Lord of the Rings and swinging with a new friend through a canyon Tarzan-style. A highlight of every trip to New Zealand is undoubtedly Queenstown.
Queenstown is also the birthplace of the most popular burger in New Zealand: the Fergburger. While exploring the area, why not catch one with your new friends?
You might even be able to get on one of the Great Walks in New Zealand and tackle part of the Routeburn trail if you’re into hiking.
Not to be missed is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations, Milford Sound. It’s beautiful to drive into the park in and of itself but just wait till you get on the water! Sailing underneath thundering waterfalls and soaring cliff faces across the fiords, it is easy to see why this is one of New Zealand’s most common spots.
Beautiful in rain or shine, Milford is cherished by all universally. Milford takes the cake as one of the most jaw-droppingly stunning parts of the South Island, whether it is viewing it from the decks of a cruise to kayaking along the steep cliffs. It makes the ride there and around even more special, with the occasional sea lion or dolphin showing up to say hello.
Day 4: Queenstown – Wanaka
From Queenstown, the drive to Wanaka is beautiful, packed with fantastic views, lovely stops and plenty of surprises. For a bit of exploration, we’ll stop in the beautiful and historic Arrowtown.
On the way to Wanaka, we stop at the oldest pub in New Zealand for a drink or two in Cardrona before we enter the holiday town of Wanaka on the shore.
Wanaka is surrounded by soaring mountains and a glacial blue lake with plenty of things to do and a vibrant young vibe in the area, a year-round destination. There are plenty of lake sports to choose from during the warmer months, such as swimming, waterskiing, kayaking and wakeboarding. All around the lake, there are lovely hikes and bike rides and plenty of adventure activities to choose from too.
Wanaka is one of the most popular snow sports destinations in New Zealand in the winter, with many great ski areas close by. Hit the cafes on the lakefront to unwind with the party at the end of the day for a beer.
Day 5: Wanaka – Franz Josef
Start the day with a skydive over Wanaka, take in the impressive glaciers that we’ll head to later in the day, and even get a glimpse of Mt. Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand. Or with a flight over the lake and city in a vintage Tiger Moth biplane, take a trip back in time.
You’ll also have the opportunity to ride a mountain bike along the bay, climb up the city’s iconic Mt. Iron for some sweet views, or hit the iconic Puzzling World for some fun and games.
Then we’ll make our way to the South Island’s wild west coast, cross the magnificent mountains at Haast and have a good look at the sea.
Get excited. This is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and popular road trips. There are plenty of surprises and hidden spots in store today, other than the sick views of the west coast.
There’s a whitebait season between September and December (a tiny fish that’s a delicacy in New Zealand). It’s a local treat, fried with eggs and served on toast, and shouldn’t be skipped. To check it out, we’re going to stop at one of the hidden local places.
Day 6: Franz Josef
The South Island, let alone Franz Josef, can’t be visited without seeing one of the glaciers. As a result of their relative accessibility and the low level to which they descend, both the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are world-renowned, although they no longer stretch far enough down their valleys to enter the forest.
By helicopter is the most common way of visiting the glacier. There are a few Heli-hike choices available; if you can afford it, we really recommend a Heli-hike, as it will take you to the most beautiful blue ice! The Half Day Glacier Hike is sadly not available at the moment because it is too dangerous at the bottom of the glacier.
Glacier trekking is not as strenuous as it sounds, but your guide will take you as close as possible to the bottom of the glacier if it still does not appeal to you. You might plan to take part in some cool quad biking (booked on the day) this afternoon, go horse trekking, relax in the spa pool or TV lounge of the hostel or have a drink in one of the cafes or bars.
Since it’s your last South Island tour night, we always like to have a farewell party to celebrate all the good moments we’ve had!
Day 7: Franz Josef – Christchurch
It’s your last day before you know it! On one of the most stunning drives in the world, we travel further along the beautiful west coast after breakfast: a rough, primeval landscape of luxuriant rainforest juxtaposed with magnificent beach and ocean waves.
We’re going to move through Ross, a city born out of gold mining. It was essentially the responsibility of the gold rush days of the second half of the 19th century to open up the west coast for settlement. There were a small number of Maori who were looking for greenstone, or jade, before that. There is also an opportunity to stop and visit a greenstone factory at Hokitika to see how it is made into jewellery and other ornaments, and maybe buy some as a souvenir.
If time permits, we can also visit the National Kiwi Centre, where uncommon Kiwi birds are guaranteed to be seen in their nocturnal habitat.
The spectacular Trans Alpine Train Crossing is on the way back to Christchurch. We return to Christchurch by 6:05pm, heading through the Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass, to say our final goodbyes and go our separate ways.
More travel info about Christchurch and New Zealand
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