Tailormade tour Best of New Zealand's South Island tour New Zealand

14 nights/15 days

Nelson • Abel Tasman • Blenheim • Marlborough • Kaikoura • Christchurch • Arthur’s Pass • Franz Josef • Wanaka • Queenstown

The Best of New Zealand’s South Island touring holiday is an in-depth introduction to the highlights of New Zealand’s South Island, starting in the Abel Tasman national park and ending in Queenstown. This tour demonstrates some of the country’s most iconic natural scenery and sense of outdoor freedom, and is perfect as a tour on its own, or combined with one of our other tours in Australasia.

Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £4,990 per person.

Luxury tailormade touring holiday of New Zealand's South Island from Nelson and Abel Tasman to Queenstown

This 14-night touring holiday features the best of New Zealand’s South Island and starts in the beautiful wild scenery of the Abel Tasman National Park right at the north of the South Island and will then take you through the Marlborough Sounds to the outstanding vineyards of Blenheim. From here, you will drive down the eastern seaboard of the South Island into the ‘maritime Serengeti’ of Kaikoura to find rich waters and a rugged setting. Next, explore Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains before ascending into the Southern Alps at Arthur’s Pass to live like a local on a 3,000-acre sheep farm. Your final legs offer a true alpine experience as you journey first to the pale blue ice of the Franz Josef Glacier, onto the outstanding beauty of Wanaka and through to your final stop in the famously adventurous Queenstown, packed with activities for all the ages.

Highlights

Nelson • Abel Tasman National Park • Blenheim • Marlborough • Wairau Lagoon • Kaikoura • Christchurch • Canterbury Plains • Waimak River Gorge • Arthur’s Pass • Franz Josef Glacier • Wanaka • Queenstown • Visit the Milford Sound fiord

Day by day

Arriving in Nelson, you are transferred to your luxury accommodation by private chauffeur. Settle into the time zone with the help of your luxury accommodation, and the stunning views in this wild region of New Zealand.

Today would be a great day to venture into the true wilderness of the Abel Tasman National Park. Preferably, you could join your own private charter so that you get to see the major sights along the coast and have time for a swim and sunbathe and a picnic lunch on a pretty-much deserted beach. Either way, the Abel Tasman National Park is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts the world over. Here lush vegetation and hills of native bush cascade into sheltered inlets of turquoise water and idyllic beaches. The Park can only be reached by water or foot, and it is this isolation that makes the Abel Tasman such a special retreat into nature.

Picking up your 4x4 hire car, your road trip through the South Island begins today. Today’s drive is particularly pretty as you head along the coast passing Nelson and then through wooded hills skirting the edge of the Marlborough Sounds near Havelock. Stop here for a fantastic lunch of the local Greenlip mussels before reaching the more expansive, drier country of the Wairau valley around Blenheim. Vineyards here stretch for miles with easily recognisable names such as Montana, Cloudy Bay and Stoneleigh. Enjoy a spot of wine-tasting in the late afternoon, as the sun cast golden hues over the pastoral landscape.

Another full day of exploring the world-famous vineyards of Marlborough could await guests. One of the most exciting ways to do this would be by riding The Golden Mile, a series of excellent vineyards connected by easy and scenic bike trails. Otherwise choose from a variety of activities to showcase the best of the region. For example, explore the local museums that tell the history of New Zealand, or hike and kayak around the Wairau Lagoon, where the site of New Zealand’s earliest human habitation, and over 90 species of bird are found.

Set out South East en route to Kaikoura. Spot striking beaches, and the friendly faces of sunbathing seals before arriving into Kaikoura for lunch of local crayfish, the delicacy from which this town takes its name. Set between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the vast Pacific Ocean, this wild place has been made famous by the exceptional marine life found just off the shores. Perhaps today though, explore the wonderful terrestrial environment with scenic tramping on the Kaikoura Coast Track, or take to the air with a scenic flight over this pristine ecosystem.

Having gazed over the coastline by foot or by air, it is now time to take to the water in order explore the rich biodiversity found below the waves. Sperm whales are found here in greater numbers than anywhere on earth. They can reach a length of 60 metres making them the world’s largest toothed mammal. Join one of the whale watching boats to get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures. Alternatively, you could choose to swim with the wild dolphins of the region, kayak with the inquisitive seals, or spot albatross by boat. There is no end to the once-in-a-lifetime encounters possible in Kaikoura. The boat trips usually take place in the morning, then continue by car to Christchurch for the night.

Spend the morning in Christchurch, exploring this fascinating city as it rebuilds in creative ways from the devastation of the 2011 earthquake. This afternoon an easy drive will take you from the Canterbury Plains of Christchurch into the Southern Alps. The scenery from the road is some of the best in New Zealand, and postcard images of the South Island will pass by in their dozens, from pastures of grazing sheep to craggy cliffs and distant snow-clad mountain peaks. The vistas reach their crescendo as you approach Arthur’s Pass. Here, settle into your friendly and cosy luxury hotel, and perhaps join one of the walking tours of this alpine environment before tucking into a well-earnt hearty meal.

Live like a true Kiwi local today by a tour of a real working sheep farm. With 3000 sheep and 120 Angus cattle, experienced guides will show you this typically New Zealand way of life, including traditional blade-shearing demonstrations, and handfeeding of tame shape. Alternatively, guests could hike or join an ecological guided tour of the area. The focus really is on the great outdoors, and the alpine scenery provides a magnificent playground in which to indulge oneself. In the evening, observe the stars of the southern sky in this second-to-none setting where clean air and zero light pollution reveal the entirety of the milky way.

Continuing west across the Pass, today’s drive will eventually take you down to the coast. Here awaits a marvel of the latitude, with the pristine glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox advancing close to the sea. Settle into your luxury lodge, and take a trip into town to find a charming town alive with Kea – a cheeky and comical West Coast Parrot. For pure relaxation, why not indulge in the glacier hot pools that weave their way through the lush rainforest.

Today can be adventurous in the most Kiwi of ways. One of the delights of the Franz Josef Glacier is the opportunity to take a thrilling helicopter ride onto the pale blue pristine ice formations, and hike along with the help of a qualified guide. This adventure is deceptively safe, and your well-trained guides will walk with you every step of the way. The views are exceptional, and the experience is unlike anything you will have tried before. It really is one of the highlights of a trip to New Zealand.

A scenic drive will take you along the west coast of New Zealand, past a number of achingly pretty stops. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mount Cook National Park, Haast and Mount Aspiring National Park before arriving in the idyllic surrounds of Wanaka. This charming resort town is surrounded invitingly by the pristine rivers, waterfalls, native forests and mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park, as well as containing 750km of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails. There are excellent facilities for thrill seekers with canyoning, skydiving, off road tours and airborne adventures, as well as jet-boating, kayaking and paddle boarding in the summer, and world class ski resorts in the winter. In the evening, relax under the incredible star displays of this remote region.

Driving further south, touching the wineries of Otago, and passing into the famously adventurous Queenstown. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, New Zealand has saved the best for last. Settle into your lake-side accommodation and revel in the alpine surrounds. The choice of activities on offer in Queenstown is truly staggering. In the winter, head to the aptly-named Remarkables to find some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. In the summer, choose from mountain biking, white-water rafting or horse-riding amongst other activities. Many of these opportunities operate year-round, allowing you to acquaint yourself with Fiordland in an adventurous way. Queenstown itself is a beautiful and exciting home from home amidst all the adrenaline. There is a youthful energy available, as well as a palpable air of sophistication for those seeking outstanding hospitality, food and wine.

You have two full days in Queenstown. You can explore locally, the lake and nearby Arrowtown. Or one option, is to join a day cruise of either Milford or Doubtful Sound. These incredible fiords are home to an extraordinary mix of wildlife, from orcas to penguins, and feature some of the best scenery in New Zealand.

With memories to last a lifetime, drop your hire-car at Queenstown Airport and catch your onward flight.

Holiday price guide From about £4,990 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code NZSG02

Luxury tailormade touring holiday of New Zealand's South Island from Nelson and Abel Tasman to Queenstown

Arriving in Nelson, you are transferred to your luxury accommodation by private chauffeur. Settle into the time zone with the help of your luxury accommodation, and the stunning views in this wild region of New Zealand.

Today would be a great day to venture into the true wilderness of the Abel Tasman National Park. Preferably, you could join your own private charter so that you get to see the major sights along the coast and have time for a swim and sunbathe and a picnic lunch on a pretty-much deserted beach. Either way, the Abel Tasman National Park is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts the world over. Here lush vegetation and hills of native bush cascade into sheltered inlets of turquoise water and idyllic beaches. The Park can only be reached by water or foot, and it is this isolation that makes the Abel Tasman such a special retreat into nature.

Picking up your 4x4 hire car, your road trip through the South Island begins today. Today’s drive is particularly pretty as you head along the coast passing Nelson and then through wooded hills skirting the edge of the Marlborough Sounds near Havelock. Stop here for a fantastic lunch of the local Greenlip mussels before reaching the more expansive, drier country of the Wairau valley around Blenheim. Vineyards here stretch for miles with easily recognisable names such as Montana, Cloudy Bay and Stoneleigh. Enjoy a spot of wine-tasting in the late afternoon, as the sun cast golden hues over the pastoral landscape.

Another full day of exploring the world-famous vineyards of Marlborough could await guests. One of the most exciting ways to do this would be by riding The Golden Mile, a series of excellent vineyards connected by easy and scenic bike trails. Otherwise choose from a variety of activities to showcase the best of the region. For example, explore the local museums that tell the history of New Zealand, or hike and kayak around the Wairau Lagoon, where the site of New Zealand’s earliest human habitation, and over 90 species of bird are found.

Set out South East en route to Kaikoura. Spot striking beaches, and the friendly faces of sunbathing seals before arriving into Kaikoura for lunch of local crayfish, the delicacy from which this town takes its name. Set between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the vast Pacific Ocean, this wild place has been made famous by the exceptional marine life found just off the shores. Perhaps today though, explore the wonderful terrestrial environment with scenic tramping on the Kaikoura Coast Track, or take to the air with a scenic flight over this pristine ecosystem.

Having gazed over the coastline by foot or by air, it is now time to take to the water in order explore the rich biodiversity found below the waves. Sperm whales are found here in greater numbers than anywhere on earth. They can reach a length of 60 metres making them the world’s largest toothed mammal. Join one of the whale watching boats to get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures. Alternatively, you could choose to swim with the wild dolphins of the region, kayak with the inquisitive seals, or spot albatross by boat. There is no end to the once-in-a-lifetime encounters possible in Kaikoura. The boat trips usually take place in the morning, then continue by car to Christchurch for the night.

Spend the morning in Christchurch, exploring this fascinating city as it rebuilds in creative ways from the devastation of the 2011 earthquake. This afternoon an easy drive will take you from the Canterbury Plains of Christchurch into the Southern Alps. The scenery from the road is some of the best in New Zealand, and postcard images of the South Island will pass by in their dozens, from pastures of grazing sheep to craggy cliffs and distant snow-clad mountain peaks. The vistas reach their crescendo as you approach Arthur’s Pass. Here, settle into your friendly and cosy luxury hotel, and perhaps join one of the walking tours of this alpine environment before tucking into a well-earnt hearty meal.

Live like a true Kiwi local today by a tour of a real working sheep farm. With 3000 sheep and 120 Angus cattle, experienced guides will show you this typically New Zealand way of life, including traditional blade-shearing demonstrations, and handfeeding of tame shape. Alternatively, guests could hike or join an ecological guided tour of the area. The focus really is on the great outdoors, and the alpine scenery provides a magnificent playground in which to indulge oneself. In the evening, observe the stars of the southern sky in this second-to-none setting where clean air and zero light pollution reveal the entirety of the milky way.

Continuing west across the Pass, today’s drive will eventually take you down to the coast. Here awaits a marvel of the latitude, with the pristine glaciers of Franz Josef and Fox advancing close to the sea. Settle into your luxury lodge, and take a trip into town to find a charming town alive with Kea – a cheeky and comical West Coast Parrot. For pure relaxation, why not indulge in the glacier hot pools that weave their way through the lush rainforest.

Today can be adventurous in the most Kiwi of ways. One of the delights of the Franz Josef Glacier is the opportunity to take a thrilling helicopter ride onto the pale blue pristine ice formations, and hike along with the help of a qualified guide. This adventure is deceptively safe, and your well-trained guides will walk with you every step of the way. The views are exceptional, and the experience is unlike anything you will have tried before. It really is one of the highlights of a trip to New Zealand.

A scenic drive will take you along the west coast of New Zealand, past a number of achingly pretty stops. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mount Cook National Park, Haast and Mount Aspiring National Park before arriving in the idyllic surrounds of Wanaka. This charming resort town is surrounded invitingly by the pristine rivers, waterfalls, native forests and mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park, as well as containing 750km of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails. There are excellent facilities for thrill seekers with canyoning, skydiving, off road tours and airborne adventures, as well as jet-boating, kayaking and paddle boarding in the summer, and world class ski resorts in the winter. In the evening, relax under the incredible star displays of this remote region.

Driving further south, touching the wineries of Otago, and passing into the famously adventurous Queenstown. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, New Zealand has saved the best for last. Settle into your lake-side accommodation and revel in the alpine surrounds. The choice of activities on offer in Queenstown is truly staggering. In the winter, head to the aptly-named Remarkables to find some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. In the summer, choose from mountain biking, white-water rafting or horse-riding amongst other activities. Many of these opportunities operate year-round, allowing you to acquaint yourself with Fiordland in an adventurous way. Queenstown itself is a beautiful and exciting home from home amidst all the adrenaline. There is a youthful energy available, as well as a palpable air of sophistication for those seeking outstanding hospitality, food and wine.

You have two full days in Queenstown. You can explore locally, the lake and nearby Arrowtown. Or one option, is to join a day cruise of either Milford or Doubtful Sound. These incredible fiords are home to an extraordinary mix of wildlife, from orcas to penguins, and feature some of the best scenery in New Zealand.

With memories to last a lifetime, drop your hire-car at Queenstown Airport and catch your onward flight.

Holiday price guide From about £4,990 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code NZSG02

Our prices include ● Return scheduled flights with British Airways, Qantas, Air New Zealand or Emirates from London to Nelson, returning from Queenstown to London in economy class.
● Car hire where specified in our itinerary.
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Nelson
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Blenheim
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Kaikoura
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Christchurch
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Arthur’s Pass
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Franz Josef Glacier
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in Wanaka
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in Queenstown
● The meals included with your tour will vary by chosen accommodation. Please see our hotel suggestions for included board basis.
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except where explicitly specified as included in our itinerary, or by hotels in our hotel lists
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, payable locally to the hotel
● Optional tours and activities within each location
● Visa and Passport. You will need a full British passport with at least six months validity. To do not need a Visa for travel to New Zealand as a British Passport will allow the holder a six month stay upon arrival. More details are available from https://www.newzealand.com/uk/visas-and-immigration/

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Nelson
The Resurgence Value option

The Resurgence is an intimate, adult-only 5-star eco lodge in a stunning secluded location. Delicious, farm-to-table cuisine, pampering spa facilities and luxurious accommodation with breath-taking views make this an unmissable spot from which to explore the local area.

One Bedroom Cottage with Spa

Bronte Lodge Luxury option

Bronte Lodge is an exclusive 5-star lodge in a serene location surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards. The hotel's secluded location, luxurious rooms and luxury touches such as its private helipad offer guests a truly tranquil and indulgent experience.

Suite

Marlborough
The Bell Tower on Dog Point Value option

The Bell Tower on Dog Point is a luxury boutique Bed and Breakfast in a rustic farmhouse on the Dog Point Vineyards, with stunning vistas over the winery, Marlborough's Richmond Range, and the Wairau Plain.

French Barn

Marlborough Lodge Luxury option

Marlborough Lodge in the world-renowned wine region of Marlborough on the South Island of New Zealand provides a stunningly luxurious base for exploring the vineyards, culinary heritage and exceptional scenery of the area.

Lodge Room

Kaikoura
Hapuku Lodge

Hapuku Lodge offers exclusive, luxury accommodation in a stunning natural location, nestled between the mountains and the sea. Delicious cuisine and beautiful surroundings make it the perfect place to relax after enjoying the natural attractions of the area.

Lodge room

Christchurch
The George

The George is a modern 5-star hotel in an excellent location in the centre of Christchurch. Award-winning cuisine and supremely comfortable accommodation make this an excellent base for exploring the local area.

Executive room

Arthur's Pass
Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge at Arthur's Pass is an exclusive property in a breath-taking Alpine location. Delicious cuisine, excellent accommodation and unforgettable experiences - including the opportunity to experience a working sheep farm - afford guests a relaxing and restorative retreat.

Alpine View Lodge

Franz Josef
Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Te Waonui Forest Retreat is 5-star luxury hotel in a stunning natural location. Gourmet cuisine, excellent spa facilities and luxurious accommodation provides an idyllic base from which to explore the rugged scenery and adventurous spirit of this iconic destination.

Deluxe room

Wanaka
Mahu Whenua

Mahu Whenua is an exclusive luxury lodge in a stunning natural location. In the utter wilderness of the Southern Alps, it has incredible vistas over the landscape. This, alongside delicious cuisine, excellent accommodation make it a once-in-a-lifetime luxury lodge.

Ridgeline suite

Queenstown
The Rees Value option

The Rees Hotel is a 5-star boutique hotel in a stunning lakeside location. It offers supremely comfortable accommodation in the hotel and its curated apartments, award-winning cuisine and a private beach and jetty with boat available to guests.

One Bedroom Apartment Executive Lake View

Azur Lodge Luxury option

Azur Lodge is an exclusive property in a stunning, peaceful location. It blends modern design with panoramic views over the glassy waters of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains beyond to offer guests a tranquil, luxury experience.

Villa

Holiday price guide

From about £4,990 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code NZSG02

Luxury tailormade touring holiday of New Zealand's South Island from Nelson and Abel Tasman to Queenstown

About Central South Island

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to the Central South Island allows travellers to explore an amazingly varied region of New Zealand. It contains both the dry and flat farmland of the Canterbury plains just outside Christchurch and the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook, always snow-capped at 3764 metres and is at the heart of the Mount Cook National Park that has nineteen mountain peaks over 3000 metres and where glaciers cover 40 per cent of the area of the park. In between you have the alpine landscape of Arthur’s Pass, amid beech forest, tussock-covered meadows, cool lakes and ski fields. Much of the pasture is for sheep, often hardy merino who provide fine wool for luxury international fashion brands. To the west of the Alps the warm, wet climate produces lush rainforest at lower levels and at higher altitude the rainfall creates the famous glaciers of the Westland National Park; the Fox and the Franz Josef, a wonder of the world in that nowhere else at this latitude have glaciers advanced so close to the sea.

Highlights of the Central South Island

Whale and dolphin watching at Kaikoura by plane or sea, followed by a local crayfish lunch, Christchurch with its botanic gardens, Arts Centre and Art Gallery, Drive or take the train across the Southern Alps, Enjoy a scenic flight over Mount Cook, Tramping in the unspoiled alpine scenery of Arthur’s Pass with its mountain beech, alpine daisies, bellbirds and keas, Discover the natural beauty of the lush rainforests and deserted beaches with their Fiordland crested penguins near Lake Moeraki, Walk on the glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef.

Luxury tailormade touring holiday of New Zealand's South Island from Nelson and Abel Tasman to Queenstown

About Nelson and Abel Tasman

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Nelson and Abel Tasman encompasses a coastal and cultural region of New Zealand. This northernmost part of New Zealand's South Island is much favoured by visitors with its centre at Nelson, home to a multitude of painters, jewellers, potters, woodworkers and textile artists, its gently sloping vineyards, mild climate and outstandingly beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, accessible only by boat or on foot and full of miles of golden bays, rocky outcrops, lush, green interior. Behind Nelson rise the peaks of the tip of the Southern Alps and in between nestle the lakes of Rotoiti and Rotoroa. In this region, perhaps even more so than in other parts of New Zealand, you are very aware of the proximity of coast and mountains with fertile pastures, orchards and vineyards in between. Sheep rearing and fruit growing, fishing and mountain tramping all co-exist.

Highlights of Nelson and Abel Tasman

Spend at least one full day in the Abel Tasman approached from the water passing Split Apple rock, stopping perhaps at Anchorage Bay and seeing the seal colony at Tonga Rock, Whale watch at Kaikoura, See the seal colony at Ohau Point north of Kaikoura, Visit the Suter Art Galley in Nelson and combine it with a visit to the vibrant market on a Saturday, Day trip to Farewell Spit, Visit the vineyards of Rimu Grove, Neudorf and Woollaston Estates at Upper Moutere and perhaps have lunch at Seifried at Appelby, Visit the studios of numerous artists in the area, Go to the WOW (World of Wearable Art) in Nelson and the adjoining Collectible Cars Gallery.

Luxury tailormade touring holiday of New Zealand's South Island from Nelson and Abel Tasman to Queenstown

About Otago and Fiordland

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Otago and Fiordland is a chance to explore just some of the magnificent natural scenery New Zealand has to offer. These southerly regions of New Zealand are proud possessors of some of the most awe-inspiring and breath-taking natural scenery in a country of outstanding natural wonders. It is on the whole a landscape of mountain peaks, ridges and valleys, glacial lakes and fiords. With very few roads because of the terrain, the area is very natural with miles of it feeling very remote. At its heart is the resort of Queenstown, renowned as the centre of a multitude of adventure sports, with not only skiing in winter but as home to bungy jumping as well as now all sorts of sports including jet boating, white-water rafting, skydiving, hang-gliding and parapenting. The landscape is one of yellow-brown-green tussock-covered hills and rugged mountain peaks, with sparkling blue-green lakes. The lakesides often have a semi tropical feel with cabbage trees and New Zealand ferns. On the western coast are the magnificent fiords, flanked by steep mountains coated in rainforest and known for a profusion of wildlife including fur seals, dolphins and penguins.

Highlights of Otago and Fiordland

Doing or at least watching bungy jumping at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge or at Hackett’s Ledge above Queenstown, Jetboating in the Shotover or Kawaurau rivers, Climb up Queenstown Hill for a panorama over the town, lake and mountains, Helicopter trip to Milford Sound, Visit the Arrowtown gold mining settlement, Taieri Gorge railway trip from Dunedin to Pukerangi.

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