Queenstown to Wellington via the Glaciers, Christchurch & Kaikoura, with Tranz Alpine
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Get caught up in the many things that Queenstown has to offer. From bungy to canyoning to jetboating to skydiving, there is plenty for the adventurer, as well as no shortage of things to do for the more easy-going traveller as well. Great all-day activities include a trip up to Glenorchy for the Fun Yak Safari. Milford Sound is just a short flight away.
Queenstown to Wanaka
Make the short drive from Queenstown to the town of Arrowtown. Stroll the historic streets and check out the old Chinese gold mining settlement before continuing over the scenic Crown Range road to Wanaka. Pause at the top of the range to look back at stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains, then follow the road along Cardrona River between hills covered with rippling tussock. Experience the rustic charm of one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels, Cardrona Hotel, and pass one of New Zealand’s family-friendly ski-fields as you wind gently down to Wanaka. Enjoy some of the great local walks and activities here, stroll the lake, and consider making a visit to Puzzling World
Wanaka to Franz Josef
Today’s long but spectacular drive leads from drier climate on the east side of the New Zealand Alps to the green wilderness of the West Coast. Drive past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, heading past Makarora and along one of the finest routes in New Zealand. Stop by some of the impressive waterfalls that line the route, making your way along the winding Haast Pass Highway as it descends down a narrow valley between towering mountains. Stop by the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre at Haast before heading up the coast to the glaciers.
Franz Josef to Hokitika
At the glaciers, opportunities for adventure are plenty, from glacier hikes and helicopter flights to scenic fixed-wing flights around Aoraki/Mt Cook, the highest summit in New Zealand. Alternatively, head out for morning kayak trip on the dark, seductive waters of the stunning Lake Mapourika. Later on, hop in the car and make the drive north along a narrow strip of vibrant green farmland, wedged between the wild coast and the high mountains. Arrive in Hokitika, where you’ll find loads of pounamu (greenstone) and craft shops – along with plenty of places to eat whitebait, the tiny fish for which this area is justly renowned.
Hokitika to Christchurch, with Tranz Alpine Train
Take the short drive north from Hokitika to Greymouth. Drop off your rental vehicle and board the world-renowned Tranz Alpine train, which crosses the spectacular Southern Alps en route to Christchurch. The train heads through lush terrain, making its way through extraordinary scenery, heading into Arthur’s Pass National Park. Enjoy great vistas over deep gorges as the route makes its way along the Waimakariri River, leading down to the Canterbury Plains, finally arriving at the city of Christchurch. Pick up your vehicle and in the evening, consider going for a view over the city from the Port Hills.
Christchurch was founded by English colonialists and still showing their influence today. Although Christchurch continues to recover from significant earthquake damage, there are still some great attractions to take in. Head into town and take a visit Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. Take a stroll, or enjoy an even more leisurely experience, going Punting on the Avon River. Next to the airport is the International Antarctic Centre. You can also enjoy a wonderful drive into the Port Hills – crater of an huge extinct volcano right next to the city.
Christchurch to Kaikoura
The route north from Christchurch heads first through the flat, agrarian landscape of the Canterbury Plains. As you approach Kaikoura, the route leads into winding hills, passing through small townships, before connecting with the stunning coastline. A seafood lunch from the roadside caravans in Kaikoura is a great option. Whale watching – either by sea or by air – is a fine option for the afternoon, if not tomorrow morning. Kaikoura is best known for its oceanic mammals, but is also an excellent place for viewing birdlife, particularly albatrosses.
Kaikoura to Marlborough
Early risers can enjoy one of the most special experiences in New Zealand, swimming with dolphins. Drive north, stopping at Nin’s Bin, for a sampling of some of New Zealand’s most famous fresh lobster. Continue along the superb coastal route toward the Marlborough region, making your way to the sunny city of Blenheim, located in one of New Zealand’s best known wine-growing regions.
Marlborough to Wellington
Travel north to the small town of Picton, located on the calm waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Drop off the rental vehicle and board the ferry for Wellington. The ferry ride from Picton to Wellington takes about 3.5 hours, and after meandering past the scenic coves and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, crosses the wild Cook Strait before heading into Wellington harbour.