3 nights Queenstown
2 nights Aoraki/Mt Cook
2 nights Christchurch
2 nights Dunedin
1 night Te Anau
1 overnight cruise Doubtful Sound
Shotover jet experience
4WD off road tour in Queenstown
Central Otago wine tour
Mt Cook scenic flight and glacier landing
Swimming with dolphins
Otago Peninsula cruise
Royal Albatross and Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve tours
Destinations: Queenstown, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Christchurch, Dunedin, Te Anau, Doubtful Sound
Experiences: Scenery, Wildlife, Food and Wine, Adventure, Relaxation
No. of days: 10 days/11 nights
Explore the South Island self-drive style. Starting and finishing in Queenstown you make a scenic circuit where you can take in the stunning scenery and best experiences on the way around. In Queenstown enjoy the famous Shotover Jet and a 4WD adventure tour through the famous Skipper’s Canyon near Queenstown, then chill out on a wine tasting tour. You’ll see glaciers on a scenic ski plane flight and glacier landing at Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park. Hike in the mountains before swimming with dolphins in Akaroa Harbor. View Royal Albatross and rare New Zealand penguins then cruise Otago Peninsula to view what we cannot see on the land. Fiordland National Park is next on your agenda where you will explore glowworm caves and cruise Doubtful Sound an overnight tour where you can relax in the serenity and majestic scenery. Returning to Queenstown you can head home revitalized by your South Island adventure.
DAY BY DAY:
Day 1: Arrive early into Auckland and transfer to your flight to Queenstown. You will be met at the airport for a private transfer to your accommodation (2 nights Queenstown)
Day 2: Making the most of your Queenstown visit today you have a morning tour that combines essential Queenstown activities. The trip features the world famous Shotover Jet experience where you take a unique breathtaking ride through dramatic and narrow canyons and hold on tight for Queenstown's only exhilarating full 360 degree spins. Next, climb on board for a custom Nomad Safaris 4WD off road tour and experience a personalized adventure tour in the New Zealand backcountry in specialized 4x4 vehicles. Explore the abandoned gold mining area of the Arrow River and film locations used in Lord of the Rings'. Travel the rugged road and experience true off-roading as you explore the pioneer trails guided by the professional adventurers. Try your hand at gold panning. This afternoon relax on a tour of Central Otago’s scenic wine country. Enjoy tastings at three cellar doors within the Gibbston region, take a guided tour through New Zealand's largest wine cave, sample local cheeses and relax with a glass of premium wine.
Day 3: Leaving Queenstown you collect your rental car this morning and drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook. Stop at Omarama and enjoy the scenic hot tubs on route. (2 nights Aoraki/Mt Cook).
Day 4: This morning you’re on a scenic adventure that includes a glacier snow landing. Fly up the Tasman Valley over the breathtaking blue glacier lake. See the Hochstetter Icefall and the cloud-piercing Aoraki/Mount Cook before landing on the upper snowfields of the Tasman Glacier. Take time to enjoy this unique alpine environment before swapping aircraft and returning to Mount Cook Airport. This afternoon you could hike the Hooker Valley trail (2-3 hour return) or relax in the scenic beauty surrounding your accommodation.
Day 5: Drive from Mt Cook to Christchurch (4 hours) (2 nights Christchurch)
Day 6: Enjoy a leisurely morning then head to the Christchurch Gondola. Experience stunning 360° views from the summit, across the cityscape of Christchurch and over the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. To the south and east are dramatic views of Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere and Lyttelton Harbour formed in a sunken volcanic crater. Looking north the beaches of Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean unfold to the distant Kaikoura Peninsula. Tonight, you have a unique restaurant reservation. Board the Tramway Restaurant to experience the luxury of a 36 seater air-conditioned, colonial-style dining Tram and be treated to fine service, cuisine and beverages. Combine fabulous dining with Christchurch City heritage - truly a mix of the old and the new.
Day 7: This morning you’ll be picked up from your accommodation to commence a full day Akaroa day tour with dolphin swim. Travel to the picturesque French settled town of Akaroa via a scenic drive over Banks Peninsula. Join Akaroa Black Cat Cruises for a swim with Hectors Dolphins, the world's smallest dolphin. Enjoy lunch in a quaint seaside café before heading back to Christchurch.
Day 8: Drive from Christchurch to Dunedin via Moeraki to view the famous Moeraki Boulders. The boulders are located on Kaokohe Beach. (2 nights Dunedin).
Day 9: It’s all about wildlife and scenery today. You’ll be picked up to begin with a scenic bus tour of the beautiful Otago Peninsula out to the Royal Albatross Centre, where you can view the majestic Royal Albatross in their natural environment. Next is a guided land tour of a Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve to see the rarest penguin in the world - found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand. Afterwards, experience a fully guided tour of Larnach Castle - New Zealand's only castle, originally built in 1871. Finish the day with a wildlife cruise aboard the M.V. Monarch to see what cannot be seen from the land: NZ Fur Seals and up to 20 species of bird and marine life. You may also see dolphins and even some sea lions.
Day 10: Drive from Dunedin to Te Anau (5 hours). This evening you cruise across Lake Te Anau on a luxury catamaran to the western shore and join a specialist nature guide for a glow worm cave experience.
Day 11: You get to experience Doubtful Sound today on an overnight cruise. You’ll cruise the full length of Doubtful Sound, all the way to the Tasman Sea. Staying overnight onboard with dinner and breakfast. There is a nature specialist onboard and there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife view. You can also explore the shoreline by kayak or small boat. (1 night Doubtful Sound)
Day 12: Your Doubtful Sound Cruise returns to Te Anau at midday. From here drive back to Queenstown (1 night Queenstown)
Day 13: Return your rental car at the airport and depart for your flight home.
All aspects of this itinerary can be changed to suit your requirements.
The itineraries provided are great introductions to your chosen destination. You can create a travel plan using the itinerary provided or make modifications to destinations, activities and accommodation and create the dream trip you want.
Not every traveler is the same, we get that and so that’s why we recommend making changes to suit your needs. In fact, we insist - we want you to have the best trip.
If you would like any recommendations for dinner or shopping areas please let us know we are happy to help and make bookings for you where necessary.
To travel to Australia you will need a US passport valid for at least 6 months and we can process an ETA Visa for free for US Citizens. We will need a copy of your Photo Page of your Passport. Nationalities of any other countries please enquire with your agent to see if you are eligible for a free ETA Visa or if you need to apply for a Visitor Visa.
To travel to New Zealand you will need a US passport valid for at least 6 months and an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority. More information on the NZeTA application requirements and process can be found on our FAQ page here.
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to protect your investment. We will provide a travel insurance quote at the time of booking, and you are free to use our recommended insurance with Travelguard, find your own, or book without insurance.
A product that we can offer is a Cancel For Any Reason policy that will provide you with 80% back in refunds. If the cancellation is for medical reasons there is a 100% refund..
Downunder Journeys services travel requests from the United States and Canada for travel to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands and Tahiti. All pricing on this website is in US Dollars.
All of the sample itineraries on this website do not include airfares as the airfare price changes daily and to ensure you get the best possible price we will work with the best airfares at the time. If you happen to buy your airfare first and then need a package to fit it, we can certainly help with that as well, just let us know.
As an idea for a 2-week vacation to Australia or New Zealand we recommend a budget of around $8,000-10,000 (including economy airfare), this would be for a 4 star and above itinerary, a little cheaper if we did more moderate accommodations.