• Discover the best of the South Island with heli-hikes and luxury stays in lakeside villages
  • Take to the seas off Kaikoura for some of the world’s finest whale watching
  • Explore the cliff-framed Fiordlands on an overnight cruise
  • Swap coasts with a scenic, trans-alpine rail journey

Millennia of geographic activity have twisted and turned the South Island into towering peaks, glaciated troughs and roaring coastlines. The result? An outdoorsman’s paradise and a wildlife watcher’s Eden. You’ll explore it all on whale-watching tours, cross-country alpine railways and an overnight fjord cruise, spent with the dolphins of Doubtful Sound. You’ll even enjoy a heli-hike on the famous Franz Josef Glacier. It’s all knitted together by New Zealand’s finest accommodation – from rainforest retreats to luxury lakeside lodges – and some of the world’s most scenic driving routes. This is a truly epic road trip. 

Days 1 – 2

Depart the UK

Enjoy some premium-lounge relaxation before your flight to New Zealand.

Day 3

A home away from home in the garden city of Christchurch

Arriving into Christchurch, a private transfer will bring you to your luxury, city-centre hotel whose one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio promises only the finest service. Then, head out to explore the city at your own pace. Following a pair of tragic earthquakes, Christchurch has turned over a new leaf in tram-served botanical gardens, delightful parklands and the idyllic, willow-tree-lined Avon River.

The latter is the ideal setting for punting in the sunshine, or a leisurely picnic in Hagley Park, where manicured gardens and greens showcase some of the region's lushest plant life.

Breakfast included

Avon River in Christchurch, New Zealand

Avon River in Christchurch

Day 4

Explore Kaikoura's waters, where whales swim freely

Enjoy a day trip out to New Zealand’s whale-watching capital of Kaikoura, a scenic town jutting out on a peninsula on the island's east coast. Here, cold water mixes with warmer currents in a network of coastal trenches, bringing nutrients – and wildlife – close to the surface.

Embark on a custom-built catamaran, which, as the wind rushes past, will race you out onto open water to spot everything from dusky dolphins and fur seals to giant sperm whales, orcas and migratory humpbacks.Return to Christchurch afterwards for an evening to relax at your leisure.

Breakfast included

Sperm Whale, Kaikoura. South Island, New Zealand

Sperm Whale of Kaikoura

Dolphins of Kaikoura off South Island, New Zealand

Dolphins of Kaikoura

Days 5 – 6

From alpine railways to icy helicopter rides

After breakfast and a private transfer to the train station, you'll enjoy one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys aboard the TranzAlpine train. With oversized windows making the most of the view, your route takes you through some of New Zealand's most epic landscapes. Sweep through patchwork plains and skirt alongside rivers before climbing into the South Island’s giant alpine backbone only to descend through subtropical rainforests on the other side.

Arriving into Greymouth, collect your hire car and cruise along the cragged West Coast down to Franz Josef Glacier to your hotel, the sleek Te Waonui Forest Retreat. The next day, access some of the glacier's remote corners on a guided heli-hike among its otherworldly blue-tinged spires, jagged crevasses and eerie caves.

Breakfast included

TranzAlpine train across New Zealand's South Island

TranzAlpine Train

Twin Glaciers by Helicopter

Franz Josef Glacier exploration by helicopter

Maori statue at Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Days 7 – 8

Queenstown adventures

The soul of New Zealand is in its panoramas, from craggy peaks to steep hidden valleys and sweeping coastal rainforests. Today, head to the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, where you'll find the charming town of Haast. Surrounded by national parks, its Westland ranges and river valleys make for idyllic walks while its rugged coast is home to everything from fur seals to whole colonies of penguins.

Continue on to Queenstown, your ultimate destination and an outdoor adventurer's idyll. Here, bungee jumps and skydives grab the headlines while ski slopes thaw into hiking trails, vineyards tempt budding oenophiles and waterways host white water rafting and gentle lake cruises alike. 

Breakfast included

Paragliding over Queenstown, New Zealand

Paragliding over Queenstown

Library at Hotel St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand

Library, Hotel St Moritz

Day 9

Spend a night navigating the serene waters of Doubtful Sound

New Zealand’s remote southwest corner is fissured into a series of dramatic fjords where waterfall-troubled mountains flank shimmering waters. Following a sail over Lake Manapouri and a sub-alpine pass transfer, you’ll board the Fiordland Navigator for an overnight wilderness cruise on Doubtful Sound. Expert naturalist guides will be on hand to point out the dolphins, fur seals and penguins that call its dramatic crags home before you drop anchor in a sheltered cove for exploration by kayak, tender boat or swimming.

Warm back up with supper onboard, as you pass on the sleepy, still waters under a thick blanket of stars – this perfectly unpolluted region is one of the world’s finest stargazing destinations.

Breakfast & Dinner included

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound in Queenstown, New Zealand

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Day 10

Wanaka and the land of the Southern Alps

Enjoy a morning spent on the fjords, where the otherworldly quiet will centre your thoughts and refresh your spirit. Then, on disembarking, travel on to Wanaka, a resort town renowned for skiing, mountain views and occasional rare sightings of the colourful aurora australis. Huddled among the Southern Alps, it’s a place of panoramic views stretching out across its colossal namesake lake, spiked by great white peaks.

It’s a view best enjoyed from the outdoor fires and floor-to-ceiling windows of your designer accommodation, where each room has a spa bath and a private outdoor tub – you’ll have to remember to tear yourself away for the ski slopes and hiking trails.

Breakfast included

Sunrise at Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Sunrise at Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka view from Roy's Peak, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka view from Roy's Peak

Day 11

Of mountains and lakes

Be sure to make a stop at Mt Cook on your scenic drive to Tekapo, also known to the Maori as Aoraki. Its perma-blanket of snow and ice form Australasia’s highest peak – a truly humbling sight that makes a rugged foil to serene Lake Tekapo. Here, your hotel’s chandelier-lit artwork frames giant views out over its turquoise expanse, lined with yet more snow-dusted mountains.

Recall the region’s pioneering history with a visit to the Church of the Good Shepherd, built to memorialise the explorers that opened up the region to the world.

Breakfast included

Mt Cook, New Zealand

Mt Cook, New Zealand

Days 12 – 13

Return to the UK

Drive back to Christchurch to drop off your car and board your flight home. 

Breakfast included

About the itinerary

"On this itinerary I've combined a fantastic collection – from whale watching to winding your way through majestic mountains by train, from a chance to walk on a glacier, to witnessing the magical Doubtful Sound fjord. I've included accommodation in and amongst these wonders for a true alpine experience, to help you enjoy serenity and immerse yourselves in the rich cultural, gastronomic and natural wonders of this beautiful nation. "

Andy Austen

Destination Specialist

Pricing information

Guide price from £3,730 pp incl. flights

01Apr - 30 Sep 2024 from: £3,730 pp
01 Oct 2024 - 31 Mar 2025 from: £4,640 pp

  • Complimentary UK airport lounge access
  • Return flights between London and Christchurch
  • Private transfers in Christchurch
  • 8 nights accommodation staying in 5* (Deluxe) hotels on a B&B basis (Arrival dinner at Te Waonui)
  • Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound including all meals
  • TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth
  • 8 days medium car hire including GPS
  • Touring including whale watching in Kaikoura and Heli-hike at Franz Josef