Discover the highlights of the South Island, from stunning glaciers to national parks, aboard a sightseeing coach with commentary. This 5-day trip begins and ends in Christchurch, including a TranzAlpine train ride through the Southern Alps and a Milford Sound cruise with onboard lunch in UNESCO-listed Fiordland. Overnight stays in Fox Glacier and Queenstown allow for plenty of free time to explore independently.
This 5-day sightseeing tour of the South Island from Christchurch is semi-independent, using scheduled coach and rail services with expert commentary and assistance, but no tour guide or escort. A Milford Sound cruise with lunch is included; you can book optional activities in Queenstown or Fox and Franz Josef glaciers on your own. You have the option of standard 3-star or superior 4-star accommodation for five nights.Day 1: Christchurch – Greymouth – Franz Josef Glacier or Fox GlacierMake your own way to Christchurch Railway Station and board the TranzAlpine. One of New Zealand’s most popular passenger rails, the TranzAlpine traverses the Canterbury Plains, Arthur’s Pass and the Southern Alps with commentary via your headset.On arrival, it’s a short walk to the bus stop, where you’ll board an Intercity Coach for the journey down the West Coast to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, you’re dropped off in the early evening for an overnight stay in either township.Day 2: Franz Josef and Fox GlaciersEnjoy an entire day free to explore on your own. Opt for a Fox Glacier helicopter flight, embark on a guided valley walk to Franz Josef Glacier or soak up the scenery from the villages. (Note: it’s best to prebook any helicopter flights, as they often sell out early.)Day 3: Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier – Queenstown Today's full-day coach journey travels south into rainforest and rugged coastal vistas, reaching Lake Wanaka and continuing through Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. You'll arrive at your destination by late afternoon, so you have plenty of free time to explore. Ride the Skyline Queenstown Gondola for unrivaled views of the Remarkables mountain range, or spend your evening on a boat cruise aboard the steamship TSS Earnslaw, riding across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm (all additional activities at own expense). Day 4: Queenstown – Milford Sound – Queenstown (L)Get an early start on your full-day tour, motoring around the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Lake Te Anau, then into UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park. You’ll pass through pristine beech forests and the Homer Tunnel, listening to commentary and stopping for photos and walks along the way. Then view the majesty of Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls on a Milford Sound cruise, enjoying lunch served on board before the return to Queenstown in the evening. Day 5: Queenstown – Mount Cook – Christchurch Today, travel through Kawarau Gorge and over the Lindis Pass to reach Aoraki/Mount Cook — New Zealand’s highest mountain — around midday. Passing Lake Tekapo, your coach then heads north to Christchurch to end a full day of narrated sightseeing. Day 6: Christchurch Your tour concludes this morning upon check-out from your hotel.