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10 day southern spectacular | back to itineraries index

Day 1: Christchurch - Dunedin
Distance 362km, approximate drive time 5 hours

DunedinDepart Christchurch and travel south on State Highway 1 along the east coast to Dunedin. Enroute pass through the towns of Ashburton, Timaru and Oamaru, all of which offer interesting shopping and places to enjoy good food and refreshments. Stop in Oamaru for lunch. Check out the restored whitestone historic precinct with its Victorian shops and eateries. Continue south past the coastal fishing villages of Waitouaiti, Karitane (a detour) and Waitati. Dunedin is a small, thriving city set amidst a magical landscape edged by the sea. Here the streets hum vibrantly with colour and culture, and the beauty of nature can still be found. (Suggested Dunedin accommodation)

Day 2: Dunedin - Te Anau
Distance 290km, approximate drive time 2 hours 15 minutes

Drive south from Dunedin to Gore on State Highway 1, and on to Te Anau on State Highway 94. Gore is well known for brown trout fishing in the Mataura River and its tributaries. Enroute to Te Anau stops could include the Hokonui Moonshine Museum, which reflects the social history of the time of this illicit industry, the Gore Historical Museum, sited in the Hokonui Heritage Centre, the Croydon Aircraft Company at the old Mandeville airfield, which specialises in restoring and repairing vintage planes. Arrive in Te Anau early evening. Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and is several hours' drive south-west of Queenstown. It is a progressive and attractive holiday resort on the shores of the South Island's largest lake, Lake Te Anau. Overnight in Te Anau. (Suggested Te Anau accommodation)

Day 3: Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau
Distance 242km, approximate drive time 4 hours 40 minutes

Suggested activities for Day Three include a day trip to either Milford Sound, which is accessible from Te Anau by day trip. Milford Sound is the most famous and accessible of the grand, glacially carved fiords along the South Island's lower western coast. Mitre Peak is the jewel of the Sound with its steep sides rising up from the depths of the fiord. Boats cruise the full length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, and stop at various points of interest along the way to view waterfalls and marine life. Cruises leave from the main wharf at Milford Sound. (Suggested Te Anau accommodation)

QueenstownDay 4: Te Anau - Queenstown
Distance 170km, approximate drive time 2 hours 45 minutes

Journey through mountains and alongside lakes on State Highway 94 and State Highway 6, arriving in Queenstown late morning. Here visitors can be as active as they like, or simply soak up the magnificent scenery. Queenstown is set in a picturesque valley and is known for the wide range of adventure and outdoor activities that make the most of the scenery and the environment. Overnight in Queenstown. (Suggested Queenstown accommodation)

Day 5: Queenstown - Wanaka
Distance 117km, approximate drive time 1 hour 30 minutes

From Queenstown drive to Wanaka through the Kawerau Gorge on State Highway 6. This area has dramatic scenery and relics of the old goldmining days are plentiful. Detour to Arrowtown, an old goldmining town that provides an interesting journey back in time with its memorabilia of the era as well as boutiques and cafes. Another suggestion is to visit Arrowtown Museum to gain an interesting insight into the settlement and social history of the region. When returning to State Highway 6 from Arrowtown, stop and take in the picturesque scenery around Lake Hayes. If the season is right and visitors are in the Cromwell area during the summer months, they can stop at one of many roadside fruit stalls around Cromwell, known for its pipfruit orchards. From Cromwell drive along the shores of Lake Dunstan to Lake Wanaka and the Wanaka township. Overnight in Wanaka. (Suggested Wanaka accommodation)

Day 6: Wanaka - Franz Josef Glacier
Distance 287km, approximate drive time 4 hours 30 minutes

GlacierFrom Wanaka township, travel beside the twin lakes of Wanaka and Hawea before entering the scenic wilderness of Haast Pass. Stop along the way to take advantage of the many short nature walks and great picnic spots. Visit the Haast Information Centre for excellent displays on the local environment and for information on walks available within the area. On reaching Haast visitors are entering the West Coast region of New Zealand. The West Coast of the South Island is a sparsely populated region with dramatic scenery. Overnight at Franz Josef or Fox Glacier villages. (Suggested Glacier accommodation)

Day 7: Franz Josef Glacier - Greymouth
Distance 177km, approximate drive time 3 hours 10 minutes

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are approximately 45 minutes' drive apart. Visitors can either walk to the base of the glaciers themselves or join one of the guided glacier walks, which accommodate every level of fitness and experience. There are also scenic flights and helicopter excursions for those who wish to view the glaciers from the air - included are opportunities to land on the glaciers. Depart Franz Josef/Fox Glacier and journey north on State Highway 6 up the rugged West Coast. Visitors will pass through Hokitika, which is the third largest centre on the West Coast. Finish the day's journey in Greymouth, the largest township on the West Coast and the commercial heart of the West Coast. Greymouth, along with its surrounding rural townships, provides a selection of guided tours and walks, adventure, galleries, craft outlets and cafes. This is the home of Shantytown and the daily destination for the TranzAlpine train. (Suggested Greymouth accommodation)

Day 8: Greymouth - Nelson
Greymouth - NelsonDistance 327km, approximate drive time 5 hours 15 minutes
Drive north along the spectacular coastal State Highway 6 to Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park. Drive time to Punakaiki is 40 minutes from Greymouth. Explore Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. The Blowholes operate at high tide and are best on a blustery day when there are big seas - tide times can be checked at visitor information centres. This area is part of Paparoa National Park and offers a number of short unguided bush walks for visitors. From Punakaiki drive north through Westport, the third largest centre in the South Island. Stop in Westport to view historic coal-mining sites along the Coal Mining Heritage Trail. Journey through the scenic winding and narrow Buller Gorge, arriving in Nelson late afternoon. Nelson is known for its year-round sunshine, golden beaches, three national parks, 300-plus working artists and craftspeople, boutique wineries, fresh local produce and seafood, historical streetscapes, waterfront cafes and restaurants, and a thoroughly relaxed lifestyle. (Suggested Nelson accommodation)

Day 9: Nelson - Blenheim
Distance 138km, approximate drive time 3 hours

Spend the morning in Nelson discovering the art and craft shops in the area, or find a seaside cafe to appreciate the city's seaside setting. Depart Nelson for Blenheim, a journey of about three hours. Drive through the Mt Richmond Forest Park and stop at Pelorus Bridge, where there is a short unguided bush walk through native forest. From Pelorus Bridge head to the small township of Havelock, the home of New Zealand's mussel farming industry. Stop to try some of the seafood delicacies of this area. In Havelock take the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, skirting the edges of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds. Travellers will arrive at the port of Picton, the gateway to the South Island with the ferry terminal and an array of boating trips available to go out and about in the Marlborough Sounds. From here it is a short journey to Blenheim, the main centre of the Marlborough region. Marlborough is New Zealand's largest grape-growing and wine-making region with 65 wineries, 290 grape growers and 4,054 hectares (10,000 acres) in grape production. The majority of the wineries are boutique operations with cellar doors and many have restaurant/café facilities on site. Overnight in Blenheim. (Suggested Blenheim accommodation)

Day 10: Blenheim - Christchurch
Distance 312km, approximate drive time 4 hours 30 minutes

Drive south on State Highway 1 to Kaikoura (along a scenic coastal road). On the way stop at Lake Grassmere Saltworks to see a network of settling ponds that in late summer turn coral pink, and perhaps pause for a cappuccino at Kekerengu. Vantage points along the Highway allow a close-up view of seals basking on the rocks. Kaikoura is world renowned for whale watching is one of the few places in the world where these magnificent creatures can be seen year round. Dolphin and seal swimming, sea bird watching, fishing, diving and a large number of other land and water-based activities are also available. Spend the afternoon in the marine environment off Kaikoura. Travel to Christchurch late afternoon. (Suggested Christchurch accommodation)


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