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Experience the freedom of discovering New Zealand at your own pace - whilst you could travel to New Zealand for a hundred vacations and have a totally different experience each time - this self drive South Island circumnavigate recommends a driving route that takes in wonder of the landscape and scenery of the south Island at a pace that would suit anyone.

Inclusions:

  • Round-trip International Economy airfare from Los Angeles
  • Add-on airfares available from other cities
  • Domestic New Zealand flights
  • 12 Days medium automatic car rental
  • 11 nights accommodation in your choice of 3/4/5 Star hotels
  • ** Sightseeing options and packages are available **

Itinerary

Customize this itinerary - Contact Us

Day 1 - Depart US
Ask about our options with Premium Economy and Business class airfare.

Day 2 - Cross International Date line

Day 3 - Arrive New Zealand - Christchurch - Oamaru

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Christchurch to Ashburton
89 km (56 miles) Approximately 1.25 hours

The route to Christchurch is about as straight and flat as roads get in New Zealand. On a clear day, the Southern Alps provide outstanding scenery. The town of Rakaia sits on the southern side of the Rakaia River, and it's the salmon capital of New Zealand. The Rakaia bridge spans 1.8 kilometres of one of the world's best examples of a 'braided' river system.Ashburton, which sits between the Rakaia and Rangitata rivers, is a large town that serves the local rural community.

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Ashburton to Timaru
77 km (48 miles) Approximately 1 hour

Just before Timaru you'll drive into Temuka, a town that produces high quality pottery, look for the factory shop for a useful souvenir. Timaru is a small but beautifully formed city. The historic walk will introduce you to many of the heritage buildings.

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Timaru to Oamaru
80 km (50 miles) Approximately 1 hour

The town of Oamaru has a population of around 12,000 and an impressive heritage. Many of the elegant historic buildings were made from the local sandstone. Visit the Harbour-Tyne area - the best-preserved collection of historic commercial buildings in New Zealand. You should also check out the penguin colony, the museum and the pretty public gardens.


Day 4 - Oamaru - Dunedin

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Oamaru to Dunedin
119 km (74 miles) Approximately 1.5 hours

In the late 19th century, Dunedin acquired an impressive amount of ostentatious Victorian architecture. No expense was spared. Today you can enjoy the historic public buildings, imposing churches, palatial homes and ornate hotels. There's even a castle. Wildlife is the other face of Dunedin - visit penguin, albatross and seal colonies.

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Day 5 - Dunedin - Te Anau

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Dunedin to Te Anau
291 km (182 miles) Approximately 4 hours

Fresh, green farm scenery will accompany you to the historic mill town of Milton, the unusual kink in the main road is where two surveyors didn't quite meet. Te Anau township sits on the shores of Lake Te Anau. From here, the delights of the Fiordland National Park are within easy reach. 

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Day 6 - Te Anau - Milford Sound

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Te Anau to Milford Sound
117 km (73 miles) Approximately 1.5 hours

The road to Milford is one of New Zealand's most scenic drives. The first part is relatively mild farmland, then you'll ease into beech forest near the entrance to the Fiordland National Park. Look for the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain and the Mirror Lakes. The rough hewn Homer Tunnel brings you into Milford Sound, an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak.

  • Milford Sound Nature Cruise
    An on board nature guide with specialist knowledge of the region's history, flora and fauna provides detailed interpretation in English with a roving microphone. There is plenty of time available to explore points of interest and view the spectacular alpine scenery including waterfalls, rainforest and the towering peaks; and keep a lookout for wildlife including seals, dolphins and penguins when in season. Coach or flight transfers available.
  • Milford Sound - Overnight Cruise (seasonal)
    Overnight on the Milford Mariner, a 40 metre motor vessel, leisurely cruise Milford Sound, explore points of interest and view the spectacular alpine scenery and keep a lookout for wildlife including seals, dolphins and penguins when in season. After reaching the open sea the sails may be hoisted, anchors overnight in sheltered Harrison Cove.
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Day 7 - Te Anau to Queenstown

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Te Anau to Queenstown
172 km (108 miles) Approximately 2.25 hours

The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting and fantastically attractive. It's the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking, rafting and river surfing. It's also a destination for luxury experiences, gourmet food and wine, spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.

Explore Queenstown at your leisure or consider adding one of our tour options - Some of our favorites:

  • Dart River Safaris Combo
    An exhilarating and spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park - one of the most stunning locations for jet boating in New Zealand. You’ll take in the awe inspiring beauty of the local landscape, as you power your way along the waters of the Dart River
  • Appellation Central Wine Tours
    Appellation Central offers guided tours showcasing Central Otago's fine wine and cuisine. These tours venture into the heartland of Central Otago visiting vineyards in Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell. Small groups and custom fit minibuses ensure a relaxed and interactive day out from Queenstown and a great way to experience Central Otago.
  • Nomad Safari - Skippers Canyon
    A half-day heritage tour that follows the rugged and once treacherous Skippers Road. Hacked by hand into the sheer cliff sides of the Shotover River Valley. Navigate this awe-inspiring canyon and visit many historic sites such as the Skippers Suspension Bridge, township of Skippers, and the restored school house - gain a real insight into the local heritage through photos and histories of life in this tough environment.
  • Queenstown Rafting Triple Challenge - Shotover Jet,Helicopter & WhiteWater Rafting
    The Ultimate Adventure. Begin with the shotover jet, speed through rocky canyons and experience the Hamilton 360 spins. Climb aboard a helicopter for a spectacular flight into Skippers Canyon. Land at Deep Creek and meet your rafting guide, peaceful waters at first before hearing the roar of the"mother" section.
  • Zipline Ecotour
    Commence an ecotour on Queenstown's original zipline course and the perfect starter to your adventure experience. Comprised of four ziplines, starting and finishing at the top of the Skyline gondola, the tour is designed to start low and slow and gradually build your confidence as it gets progressively longer, higher and faster. All ages love the interaction this guided aerial tour has to offer.
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Day 8 - Queenstown to Wanaka

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Queenstown to Wanaka
103 km (64 miles) Approximately 1.25 hours

The shortest route to Wanaka is over the Crown Range Road. It's a challenging drive, but the views are amazing and you'll probably encounter friendly keas (mountain parrots). More conservative drivers can take the route that runs beside the Shotover River, Lake Dunstan and the Clutha River. The lakeside resort town of Wanaka can provide you with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun and adventure.


Day 9 - Wanaka - Haast - Fox Glacier

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Wanaka to Haast
139 km (87 miles) Approximately 1.75 hours

Lake Hawea is the first scenic highlight of your journey, followed closely by the northern end of Lake Wanaka.. At the wilderness town of Makarora you can fuel up and refresh before you take on the dramatic twists and turns of the Haast Pass. Enjoy waterfalls and river scenery as you arrive in rainforest country. The settlement of Haast was once a construction camp for the Ministry of Works (the government department responsible for road and bridge building). It's a town with a touch of the wild west.

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Haast to Fox Glacier
122 km (76 miles) Approximately 1.75 hours

Just north of Haast is Lake Moeraki, a peaceful forest lake with good fishing, a 40 minute walk takes you to the penguin colony at Monro Beach. Just before Fox Glacier is the western end of the Copland track. The terminal face of Fox Glacier is just 5 kilometres from the township that serves it. Fox Glacier was named after an early New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox.

  • Flying Fox Helihike
    The fly-in, fly-out helihike combines the excitement of walking on the Fox Glacier with the thrill of helicopter flights. By flying in you are able to access and explore a part of the glacier where its forces work hardest and often create spectacular ice caves and arches. Equipped with leather boots and other equipment, you board the helicopter for your first flight over the pinnacles of the lower icefall. Here, the ice is in constant motion. Take in views of the dramatic upper icefall and Victoria Falls, which is the melt river of the hidden Victoria glacier, before landing. Your landing site on the ice is a remote and exceptionally beautiful part of the glacier. At this stage, your guide outfits you with crampons, specially designed for these ice conditions and you follow the ice steps cut by your guide as you explore the amazing formations and ice caves which are only seen here
  • Fox Trail Terminal Face Walk
    This is an informative and leisurely trip to the dynamic face of the glacier. It is here that the Fox River emerges from the ice and where ice collapses are often heard and seen. This trip is for people with limited time or for those who would find the walks onto the glacier too strenuous. Although you will not walk on the glacier your guide will take you to the final resting place of the ice that has travelled 12 kilometres from the base of the Southern Alps, all the way to the river valley floor.
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Day 10 - Fox Glacier - Franz Josef - Hokitika - Greymouth

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Fox Glacier to Franz Josef
23 km (14 miles) Approximately 0.25 hour

The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age. Mighty rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are classically beautiful in the glacial sense. Nowhere else in the world have glaciers advanced so close to the sea at this latitude. While in the area, you can choose from a wide range of adventure activities. After a short drive north, you'll arrive at Franz Josef Glacier. 

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Franz Josef to Hokitika
133 km (83 miles) Approximately 1.75 hours

The road from the glaciers is rural, but with a wild streak. The farmland is trying to turn back into forest, and the beauty of the rivers is raw and primeval. Hokitika was first settled in 1860, after the discovery of gold on the west coast. It still has the feel of a frontier town, and there are some lovely old buildings to admire.

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Hokitika to Greymouth
40 km (25 miles) Approximately 0.5 hour

The road between Hokitika and Greymouth provides great views of the wild west coast. Detour to the beach and breathe the salt spray air. Driftwood is the ornamentation of choice for west coast beaches  every shape, size and colour. Greymouth has a long gold mining history. It's the largest town on the west coast and is known for its awesome seascapes.


Day 11 - Greymouth - Punakaiki - Westport - Nelson

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Greymouth to Punakaiki
45 km (28 miles) Approximately 0.5 hour

The road to Punakaiki is breathtaking. White capped breakers and rugged rocks on one side, bush-clad mountains on the other side. Punakaiki is famous for its pancake rocks and booming blowholes. It is the centrepiece of the Paparoa National Park, which is packed with a variety of stunning landscapes. There are many excellent coastal and inland walks in this area. The pancake rock formations date back about 30 million years. When the tide is right, Punakaiki's blow holes are spectacular.

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Punakaiki to Westport
57 km (36 miles) Approximately 0.75 hour

The road to Westport hugs the coast, providing spectacular views of wild beaches and the tempestuous Tasman Sea. Westport is known as a coal mining town, but it's also a base for outdoor adventures.

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Westport to Nelson
226 km (141 miles) Approximately 3 hours

The road to Nelson is scenic and interesting, beginning with the dark, forbidding Buller Gorge. At Hawks Crag you'll drive under a dramatic rock overhang. When you reach Lyell you can pan for gold or walk to a pioneer cemetery. The museum at Murchison will tell you all about the massive earthquake that shook the region in 1929. The city of Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, bush and art lovers. Every year the city hosts the Montana New Zealand Wearable Art Awards.

  • Kayak, Seals & Walk day tour - Abel Tasman National Park
    Morning 'Split Apple Paddle' guided half day kayak trip, explore the spectacular Kaiteriteri coastline. Stop on a golden sand beach for a short break. In the afternoon swap the kayak for walking shoes, and cruise to the golden sands of Onetahuti, visiting the fascinating seal colony at Tonga Island on the way.
  • Abel Tasman National Park - Beach Walk
    Calling in at Kaiteriteri before departing for Anchorage, relax on the beach with a picnic or enjoy a one hour return walk to Te Pukatea Bay, a 1 1/2 hour return walk to Pitt Head to view the lighthouse and panoramic views, or from Anchorage walk to Cleopatra's Pool.
  • Wine Tour - full or half day
    Enjoy a truly exclusive tour of the Nelson Wine Region. Visit wineries both on the plains and the hills where you can meet the owners and winemakers. You’ll also sample wine from the ten classic grapes grown in New Zealand. Taking in pristine scenery will ensure a memorable day – this tour is both fun and informative
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Day 12 - Nelson to Blenheim

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Nelson to Blenheim
115 km (72 miles) Approximately 1.5 hours

The drive to Blenheim is both beautiful and interesting. Rai Valley has a delightful cottage museum, and at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve you can enjoy a bush walk or a swim. Nearby Canvastown gives you the chance to explore old gold mining fields and thousands tried to get rich here in the 1860s. Havelock is the place for a seafood meal, known as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World. When you reach Renwick, which is surrounded by vineyards, it will be clear that you've arrived in wine country. Blenheim is the heart of wine-growing Marlborough. You'll find a pleasing selection of cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops and golf courses. 

  • Marlborough Icons
    our tour guide will show you through the fabulous Marlborough wine region stopping to enjoy two fine wine experiences including Marlborough's Iconic winery, Cloudy Bay. After two wonderful wine visits the tour then departs the wine region through to the Marlborough Sounds for a lunch on the waterfront (lunch is at own cost). Depart the marina on the Malrborough Tour Company launch for a unique Seafood Cruise through the Marlborough Sounds. Take in the natural beauty of the native bush and the tranquility of the Sounds. Learn from your experienced Skipper the history of the Malrborough Sounds and the history of the pioneering families who have settled in the Sounds over 6 generations. Visit a marine farm and learn why seafood grows so well in the Marlborough Sounds. Enjoy a seafood tasting matched to a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. On arrival back in Havelock re-board the coach for the transfer back to Blenheim
  • Deluxe Half Day Guided Biking Wine Tour
    This guided half day tour bikes to three of Marlborough's premium wineries. You will ride along country roads, river stop-banks and through vineyards. The tour guide provides commentary throughout the tour on the wines and wineries and also the history and geography of New Zealand's largest wine region. Tour concludes approximately 3.5 hours after commencement,
  • Half Day Wine Tour
    Commence a half day Marlborough Wine Tour. The 4-5 hour tour will give you a great insight to the Marlborough Wine area. Tasting wines along the way and wandering amongst the vines. Tour concludes approximately 4-5 hours after commencement at which time hotel drop offs will commence.
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Day 13 - Blenheim to Kaikoura

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Blenheim to Kaikoura
129 km (81 miles) Approximately 1.75 hours

State Highway 1 takes you through the coastal foothills, and then out into the picturesque Awatere Valley.  After the small town of Ward, the road turns toward the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast. Just north of the Ure River is a road that leads to the walking trails of the Sawcut Gorge. Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds and also a great place to eat crayfish. A whale watch tour can take you to see Minke, Humpback and Southern Right whales mixing it with dolphins and orcas. You can also walk to see fur seal colonies and spy on big seabirds such as mollymawks, albatross and petrels.

  • Whale Watching
    The vessel is a modern catamaran designed especially for whale watching. The main passenger cabin is enclosed, air-conditioned and fitted with comfortable seating, while large outside decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities. Prepare for exciting up-close encounters with Giant Sperm Whales. Clients may also see migratory humpback whales (June-July), Hector's and Dusky Dolphins, Orcas (December-March) and NZ Fur Seals, as well as plenty of bird species including Royal Albatross, Petrels and Shearwaters. Cruise concludes approximately 3 hours 30 minutes after commencement
  • Dolphin Encounter Swim
    Enjoy a tour that enables you to swim or watch the dusky dolphins in their natural habitat. A complete guided commentary is given throughout the trip. There is the opportunity to swim with the dolphins (wetsuits and snorkelling equipment will be provided) during the tour for those that have booked this option. Tour concludes approximately 3.5 hours after commencement,
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Day 14 - Kaikoura to Christchurch & Depart for US

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Kaikoura to Christchurch
184 km (115 miles) Approximately 2.25 hours

The trip south takes you along the edge of the rugged coastal ranges. From Cheviot you can detour to Gore Bay to see the fascinating cliff formations. The landscape becomes more gentle as you approach Waipara, a region known for its vineyards and olive groves. The last leg of your journey takes you past the surf beaches of Amberley, Leithfield, Waikuku and Woodend.

The South Island's largest city, Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. The tranquil Avon River meanders through the city, historic buildings house a lively arts community and restored trams make it easy to get around. Visit heritage sites, museums and art galleries, and enjoy the highly developed restaurant scene.

Return rental vehicle at Christchurch airport prior before departing for US (via Auckland).

 

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Costing*
Now-31 March 2017
3 Star $2,499
4 Star $2,999
5 Star  $3,699

 

Conditions

From pricing is valid for departures until 31 March 2017. Prices are per person based on double occupancy departures from Los Angeles. Add-on fares are available from other cities. Certain black out dates apply on the accommodation and tour value add offers - check with your Aspire consultant. Seats are limited and may not be available on every flight. Hotels are subject to availability. All prices reflect a discount for purchases made by cash/wire transfer/check, please see terms and conditions for credit card payments. There are no discounts for payment made by credit cards. Cancellation penalties and other restrictions apply.