Begin your South Island trip in Christchurch, exploring its mix of historic buildings and cutting-edge architecture. From here, travel to Lake Tekapo for stargazing, hiking and mountain biking, before continuing your adventure in bungy jumping capital Queenstown and laidback Wanaka. End your trip with ice exploration on Franz Josef Glacier – only accessible by helicopter – where you can hike and ski. Travel back to Christchurch and your departure home.

Key information

Destinations New Zealand
Activity Active, Nature & Wildlife, Solo Travel
Physical Level Mild

Suggested itinerary

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

Day 1 in Christchurch

Most travellers use Christchurch as a base for exploring the south island, but there is plenty to see in this upwardly-mobile city. Hit by a series of earthquakes between 2010-13 that destroyed many of its buildings, Christchurch is now an intriguing mix of cutting-edge architecture and historic buildings.

Stargaze at Lake Tekapo

Stargaze at Lake Tekapo

Day 2 in Lake Tekapo

A highland lake in the middle of New Zealand’s south island, Lake Tekapo is best known for its incredibly clear skies that are perfect for stargazing. However, visitors also come for hiking, boating, mountain biking and windsurfing on the water.

Overlapping with the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is New Zealand’s only International Dark Sky Reserve and the largest such reserve in the world, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. With almost no light pollution here whatsoever (settlements are few and far between), it’s a spectacular place to stargaze. Stargazing from open-air hot springs is also offered.

Don't miss

Lupin spotting at Lake Tekapo

Lupin spotting at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo’s sparkling emerald waters offer stunning views of the Southern Alps year-round, but flower-lovers should aim to visit between mid November-December for the thousands of lupins which decorate the waterfront.

Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world

Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world

Day 3–4 in Queenstown

New Zealand’s adventure sports capital is a surprisingly small town, famously the birthplace of bungy jumping, it’d be possible to spend days here hiking, biking, rafting, canyoning, zip lining or riding the luge.

However, if you’re after something less strenuous, it’s worth noting that Queenstown also has excellent vineyards and an exciting food scene. Tour nearby wineries, and enjoying the views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. It’s not a “typical” South Island town, but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying this pretty place.

Don't miss

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

The blue lakes and snow-capped mountains in and around Glenorchy are so stunning that they were used as locations for The Lord of the Rings films, and, for those who dare, skydiving is an incredible way to take in this amazing scenery.

More adventure, fewer visitors in Wanaka

More adventure, fewer visitors in Wanaka

Day 5–6 in Wanaka

Laidback Wanaka has a claim to be Queenstown’s cooler sibling.

Another little town on a lake (Lake Wanaka) and presided over by mountains, Wanaka is smaller than Queenstown. Offering similar adventure activities, but a less hectic, frenzied centre, Wanaka is an excellent place to get your day-time adventure thrills before an evening relaxing in quirky bars and modern restaurants.

As well as great day hikes in the nearby Mt. Aspiring National Park — such as to the Rob Roy Glacier, the Blue Pools and Mt. Brewster — travellers with more limited time can take a tour out to Mou Waho, an island in the middle of Lake Wanaka. This little island in a lake has it’s own lake at its summit, a 20-minute hike from the landing jetty.

Don't miss

Mountain biking in Wanaka

Mountain biking in Wanaka

The Deans Bank 11km track through the Otago landscape offers fantastic mountain biking for intermediate-advanced riders, with views of the Clutha River and Southern Alps.

Visit the sparkling ice Franz Josef

Visit the sparkling ice Franz Josef

Day 7–8 in Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef’s icy mass once flowed all the way into the sea, but after decades of global warming, the glacier has retreated inland and is now only accessible by helicopter. Try hiking trails, glacier experiences and adventure sports.

Journey through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch

Journey through Arthurs Pass to Christchurch

Day 9–10 in Christchurch

On the way back to Christchurch, you'll traverse the South Island on the stunning TranzAlpine train crossing. Travelling across the Southern Alps through Arthur’s Pass, this is considered as one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. Along the way you’ll see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River and see miles of native beech forest.

Where to stay

Superior

Rainforest Retreat

Rainforest Retreat is a unique destination with varied options to suit the budgets and needs of all travellers. Immerse yourself in the spectacular mountains and bush of New Zealand’s West Coast.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from NZ$3,499pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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