South Island Self Drive Luxury
PLEASE NOTE: We can help you add, adjust and tailor the itinerary to suit your requirements. Each clients itinerary is different. We work to your budget and take advantage of current specials in the marketplace for your time of travel.
Destinations: Queenstown, Aspiring National Park, Franz Josef, Arthurs Pass National Park, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Nelson
Experiences: Food and Wine, Scenery, Wildlife, Adventure, Relaxation
No. of days: 16 Days/15 Nights
The South Island of New Zealand has some of the most spectacular wilderness you will find. You cover a lot of ground in this itinerary thanks to scenic helicopter flights that also allow you to reach remote backcountry areas not easily accessible. Breathtaking scenery, wildlife encounters, world class food and wine and carefully selected tours provide you with the best on offer. To top it off luxury accommodations in outstanding locations provide the perfect backdrop for relaxing and rejuvenating. Enjoy the opportunity to get away from it all, take in the peace and tranquility and head back home refreshed.
DAY BY DAY:
Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown, transfer to your hotel. You are staying at Eichardt’s Private Hotel. (3 nights Queenstown)
Day 2: Enjoy a scenic helicopter flight from Queenstown into Milford Sound where you will join the Mitre Peak Cruise, a nature cruise of the famous fiord. View waterfalls, unique wildlife, towering rock faces before your return helicopter flight back which includes an exclusive alpine snow landing in the Fiordland National Park. Dinner at the Queenstown Gondola restaurant followed by a stargazing tour is a great way to end the day.
Day 3: Today’s activities combine two of the greatest pleasures – golf and wine tasting. Spend the morning playing golf at the famous Millbrook Resort (or you can hit the spa instead), and the afternoon will be a private wine tour and a gourmet platter lunch in a vineyard.
Day 4: You’re off to a remote area of Mt Aspiring National Park today to Minaret Station Alpine Lodge. Accessible only by helicopter you will get to experience an authentic backcountry experience on this 50 000-acre working high country farm. (2 nights Mt Aspiring National Park)
Day 5: Pick from a selection of backcountry experiences for today’s activities. Your choices include scenic flights and a selection of guided activities including mountain biking, fishing, farm tour, heli skiing, heli hiking, jet boating and hunting.
Day 6: After your helicopter return to Queenstown, you’re off to Franz Josef Glacier, a drive of approximately 3.5 hours. You’re staying at Te Waonui Forest Retreat, Franz Josef. The very scenic drive through the Haast Pass provides plenty of scenic backdrops for photos. Enjoy and evening soak in the Franz Josef Glacier thermal hot pools, we can arrange a private pool. (2 nights Franz Josef)
Day 7: Get your camera’s ready for today’s helicopter flight over Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier snowfields. In addition to spectacular views of the Tasman Glacier and Aoraki/Mt Cook you’ll have a snow landing. This afternoon you visit the West Coast Wildlife Center one of the largest Kiwi Captive Raring facilities in New Zealand. Learn all about New Zealand’s rare and unique native bird.
Day 8: Leaving Franz Josef you’ll drive to Arthurs Pass National Park approximately 3 hours, to your accommodation at Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge. The Lodge is on a 4000 acre nature reserve and operates as a high country merino sheep station. (2 nights Arthurs Pass)
Day 9: Make the most of your wilderness adventure by learning about high country sheep farming, explore the beech forest, star gaze at night in the very clear night skies. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can book a guided hiking tour.
Day 10: Today you drive from Arthurs Pass to Kaikoura, approximately 4 hours drive to your accommodation at Hapuka Tree Houses. With views of the coastline and mountains each tree house is stunning. Spend the afternoon enjoying the Lodge or walk on the beach or in the bush. You could drive to Oahu waterfall and watch baby seals playing in the waters. (2 nights Kaikoura)
Day 11: Kaikoura is well known for its whale watching. You get a bird’s eye view of the Kaikoura Peninsula and Kaikoura Ranges while spotting sperm whales and dusky dolphins from the air. If you’re lucky you’ll also see Humpback whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales, Southern Right Whales or Orcas. Spend the afternoon wandering the coastline, or get a massage, take a surfing lesson or just relax by the pool at The Lodge.
Day 12: Leaving Kaikoura you’ll drive to Marlborough wine country (approximately 1.5 hours) to your accommodation in Blenheim, Vintners Retreat. This afternoon is a relaxing and informative Marlborough Wine Tour where you will visit 4 wineries and a chocolate factory. (2 nights Blenheim)
Day 13: Today after a short drive to Havelock North you’re head out on a Marlborough Sounds food and wine cruise to a Greenshell Mussel. Learn about the history of the Marlborough Sounds, and take in the natural beauty of the area. Learn how the mussels grow, and sample freshy steamed mussels with matched local area wine.
Day 14: You leave Marlborough today and drive to Nelson, approximately 2.5 hours. Your accommodation is at Split Apple Retreat. The stunning location of the retreat on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park provides tranquility and seclusion perfect for relaxing and rejuvenating. Spend the afternoon and evening enjoying the Retreats services and facilities. (2 nights Abel Tasman National Park)
Day 15: Abel Tasman National Park is spectacular, and you get to fly over it today with a stunning scenic helicopter flight from Motueka Airport to Awaroa. After a 1 hour coastal walk you’ll meet your kayak guide and enjoy the afternoon paddling through the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, spotting wildlife, swimming, lounging on secluded beaches and enjoying a picnic lunch.
Day 16: Relax in the morning at the Retreat before heading to Nelson airport for your transfer flight to Auckland and home.
3 nights Queenstown at The Rees Hotel Queenstown
2 nights Minaret Station, Aspiring National Park
2 nights at Te Waonui Forest Retreat, Franz Josef
2 nights at The Wilderness Lodge, Arthurs Pass National Park.
2 nights at Hapuka Tree Houses, Kaikoura
2 nights at Vintners Retreat, Blenheim
2 nights Split Apple Retreat, Abel Tasman
Milford Sounds scenic helicopter flight with alpine snow landing
Milford Sound Cruise
Golf (or spa) at Milbrook Resort, Arrowtown
Dinner at the Queenstown Gondola followed by a Stargazing tour
Franz Josef Glacier thermal hot pools
Scenic helicopter flight over Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier snowfields, with snow landing.
Scenic whale watching flight, Kaikoura
Marlborough Wine Tour
Pelorus and Kenepuru Sounds cruise
Scenic flight over Able Tasman coastline, guided kayaking, wildlife spotting, picnic lunch
Rental car and GPS
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.