Departing Christchurch bright and early, we arrive at Kaikoura in time for you to check out what Kaikoura is most famous for - its whale watching, or swimming with the dolphins or the seals. Spend the evening chilling on the beach or sampling some of the best seafood New Zealand has to offer for your dinner. In fact, the name Kaikoura means to eat Crayfish (“kai” meaning to eat, “koura” meaning crayfish).
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive, and we may take the opportunity to stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long. We make our way to Picton and then to Kaiteriteri at the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. You can simply wile away the evening on the golden sand beach just metres from your accommodation. Kaiteriteri is a great spot to begin an adventure (on foot, by kayak or by water taxi) into Abel Tasman National Park.
Spend the morning kayaking out to Split Apple Rock and along the golden bays nearby Kaiteriteri, looking out for the local marine wildlife; or catch a water taxi to a one of the bays in the Abel Tasman National Park to go for a morning stroll in the native New Zealand forest. A late departure from Kaiteriteri will take us to Westport, so you can meet the team from Buller Adventure Tours where you can experience the best value for money jet boating, horse trekking and quad biking in New Zealand.
Today we cruise down the spectacular Highway 6 that stretches along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds along diverse landscapes, which never cease to amaze both locals and visitors alike. Highlights include the Cape Foulwind seal colony, rugged beach walks and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Tonight your Driver Guide will arrange a group meal for you at the Mahinapua Hotel, known as the legendary “Poo Pub”. It’s an awesome evening of fancy dress and a good way to get to know your fellow travellers.
Our first stop this morning is the Bushman’s Centre, where you will get an insight into how people make a living on the coast with helicopter deer recovery, old timber-milling techniques and possum trapping. We then head through to the Franz Josef Glacier Village, nestled in the Westland National Park.
We recommend staying an extra night in Franz Josef because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Today is your chance to hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, rated as one of the top three activities to do in New Zealand, by Kiwi Experience passengers. You could also take the option of a heli-hike, and be flown up the glacier, or take a more sedate approach and explore the various walks in the area.
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. We then cruise down the last stretch of Highway 6, stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then it’s into Mount Aspiring National Park, arriving in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.
It’s only a short drive today through to New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown. Highlights include Puzzling World, skydiving over Lake Wanaka and stopping at the world’s first commercial bungy site - the Kawarau Bridge. On arrival in Queenstown you can book all activities and confirm onward bus travel at Base, as well as get a group photo with all your new West Coast mates. Then it’s out on the town exploring Queenstown’s infamous nightlife with all the crew!
We recommend staying an extra night in Queenstown because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Queenstown is rated as one of our passenger’s favourite spots to hang out in New Zealand. Take the time to spend a few days here as it is one of the most picturesque places in the world. Make the most of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. If there was one activity that you couldn’t miss it would be the day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as New Zealand’s most beautiful spot!
We head towards the east coast via the massive Clyde Hydro Dam and the Central Otago fruit growing basin. Dunedin is famous for its student activity, being home to 20,000 plus students at Otago University, the city is also well known for its Scottish heritage. On arrival we do a city tour including a visit to Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street and in the evening there is an option to visit another icon of Dunedin, the Speights Brewery with one of their tours and tastings!
The Catlins is probably as far south as you may ever go. Travel through awesome native forest, sandy beaches and see rare wildlife. The might of the New Zealand sea-lion (New Zealand’s largest native mammal) is a real highlight as are the many short walks to the Catlins natural attractions, which includes a 180 million year-old fossilised forest (where you are also likely to see Yellow-eyed penguins returning from a hard days fishing). The night is spent in Invercargill, home of the world’s fastest Indian and Henry the tuatara!
Here you have the choice to hop over to Stewart Island - it’s definitely worth the visit, an island paradise with a kiwi (bird) population 100 times that of the kiwi (human) one.
Travel through to Milford Sound checking out the most amazing scenery in New Zealand along the way. The day includes a two hour boat cruise through the sound exploring soaring peaks, towering waterfalls and New Zealand nature at its best. See the Homer Tunnel, gigantic waterfalls and amazing fiords. See the Homer Tunnel, gigantic waterfalls and amazing fiords. If you have the time jump off in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park and home to a stunning lake, and/or in Milford Sound to spend a night or two. Provided the weather and bank balance permits you have the option of flying back to Queenstown, otherwise the Kiwi Experience bus will take you back to the adventure capital.
We head out of Queenstown, through the Lindis Pass, so get your cameras ready because this is ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory. After stopping to admire Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki, we travel to Lake Tekapo with its amazing location by snow-capped alps and clear starry skies. Lake Tekapo has something for everyone - relaxing at the lakeside and taking in the untouched view, soaking in the hot springs, discovering one of the many scenic walkways or checking out the mind-boggling stars in what is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
We have a straight run into Christchurch, our largest city in the South Island and the 3rd largest in New Zealand. Witness a city rebuilding and flourishing in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes. Check out the funky Re:Start Mall and keep your eyes peeled for the sweet pop-up bars around the city.