Explore New Zealand by car and bike as you enjoy the freedom of the open road and trail. Learn some of Christchurch's history before you pedal around Lake Tekapo. Enjoy the scenic drive into Queenstown and discover bike trails along Lake Wanaka. Take a helicopter ride over Franz Josef Glacier and land on it for stunning views. Take in all the shades of blue at Hokitika Gorge, followed by a full day of mountain biking near Lake Kaniere, then hop aboard the TranzAlpine Train to return to Christchurch.


  • Cycle from Lake Tekapo to Twizel for an explosion of colorful scenery
  • Roll along secluded trails near Wanaka before flying over Franz Josef Glacier
  • Enjoy the stunning shades of blue at Hokitika Gorge and bike the hidden trails
  • Take the scenic TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch to see spectacular landscapes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch & Explore  Christchurch
Day 2 Drive to Twizel, Cycle from Lake Tekapo to Twizel Twizel
Day 3 Scenic Drive to Queenstown  Queenstown
Day 4 Drive to Wānaka, Cycle from Hawea to Wānaka Wānaka
Day 5 Drive to Franz Josef Glacier, Glacier Helicopter Flight  Franz Josef  Glacier
Day 6 Drive to Hokitika, Discover Hokitika Gorge Hokitika
Day 7 Scenic Mountain Bike Ride Hokitika
Day 8 Drive to Punakaiki, Take the TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 9 Depart Christchurch  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch & Explore 

Christchurch Botanical Gardens
Discover calm in the city with a punting trip down the Avon River / Ōtākaro
Welcome to Christchurch! Your driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to your hotel. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore the city. New Zealand's second-largest metropolis is known for its green spaces like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens, and a walk through one of these is the perfect way to get to know the "Garden City." For something more imbued with history, take a tour down the Avon River / Ōtākaro led by guides in Edwardian costume, or ride one of the city's 19th-century trams past Cathedral Square and the Canterbury Museum.

Day 2: Drive to Twizel, Cycle from Lake Tekapo to Twizel

Enjoy an explosion of colors at Lake Tekapo

Pick up your rental car this morning and leave Christchurch, driving inland and south toward Lake Tekapo, a turquoise lake in Mackenzie Country. The 3.5-hour route takes you through the pastoral Canterbury Plains, and you can take a break in Geraldine, a small town by the woods with plenty of cafés, shops, and restaurants. Continuing, you'll pass gorgeous scenery, like the aptly named Beautiful Valley. The last part of the drive climbs Burkes Pass, bringing you to the picturesque town of Lake Tekapo. From there, it's just 45 minutes to Twizel, where you'll check in at your hotel. 

After stretching your legs, take a shuttle with your cycling group, returning to Lake Tekapo to start your cycling route. It's an easy ride following the canal as it flows from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki. Pass the Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Farm located in the canal, and a few minutes later, reach the top of Tekapo B Power Station. See brilliant views of Lake Pukaki, the Southern Alps, and the surrounding Mackenzie Basin. Further on, the lower section of Lake Pukaki begins, and the trail gradually leaves the lake, and crosses Twizel Flats, an alpine tussock plain, before reaching Twizel.

Day 3: Scenic Drive to Queenstown 

Arrowtown, a town neighboring Queenstown
See The Remarkables mountain range as you drive into Queenstown

Continue south on today's 2.5-hour drive to the adventure capital of Queenstown. Cross the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand's highest roads, as you pass from the Mackenzie Basin into Central Otago. Stop at Bendigo to explore one of Otago's original gold mining towns, where well-marked paths allow you to explore the remains of stone cottages and other buildings from this era.

Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Following the sheer cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge, you'll pass through Gibbston, one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing regions. At the historic Kawarau Bridge, you can take a bungee jump or watch others take the plunge. As you approach Queenstown, you'll see the impressive The Remarkables mountain range come into view and then beautiful Lake Wakatipu as you descend into the city. Check in to your hotel and rest up for your big adventure tomorrow.

Day 4: Drive to Wānaka, Cycle from Hawea to Wānaka

Cardrona Hotel
Be sure to stop and soak up the scenery along Lake Wānaka

It's just a short hour's drive this morning as you leave Queenstown and cross New Zealand's highest sealed road, the Crown Range. Stop in Cardrona and try a tasting at the Cardrona Distillery before arriving in the resort town of Wānaka. Check in at your hotel to freshen up and get ready to pedal! Meet your guide and bike to take this fantastic 18-mile (30 km) scenic ride, ideal for getting you away from the city and setting the pace while exploring the beautiful surroundings. Before stopping for lunch, take a Grade 2 trail that follows the Hawea and Clutha rivers. Then, you'll be transported to Lake Hawea to finish on Wānaka's lakefront.

Day 5: Drive to Franz Josef Glacier, Glacier Helicopter Flight

Franz Joseph Glacier at sunset
See Franz Joseph Glacier set alight at sunset

Today's epic four-hour drive takes you north up New Zealand's wild West Coast. Follow the shores of Lakes Wānaka and Hawea before you enter the village of Makarora, the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Don't miss the Blue Pools, just outside Makarora, reached via a 30-minute walk through native beech forest. Descending into Mount Aspiring National Park and toward the Haast Pass, you'll cross the Haast River and soon see Fox Glacier welcoming you to the glacier region. Finally, you'll reach your destination for the night in the village of Franz Josef / Waiau.

After you've settled in at your hotel, visit the Department of Conservation information center in to plan a hike in the area. Some of the most popular trails include the Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere walk and Sentinel Rock walk, which provide views of the mighty Franz Joseph Glacier. Then there's the Lake Wombat track and Terrace walk, which take you through the forest and past former gold mining operations.

Later in the afternoon, meet at the glacier's edge to take a breathtaking helicopter flight over some of New Zealand's most famous glaciers. Land at the head of one and take in incredible views of this frozen river of ice as it winds through ancient valleys carved from the mountainside.

Day 6: Drive to Hokitika, Discover Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge
Witness the deep blue water in Hokitika Gorge

Driving north from Franz Josef / Waiau for 1.5 hours takes you through a historic gold mining region to reach the town of Hokitika, where you'll stay for two nights. A busy port in its heyday, Hokitika became a center for the West Coast gold rush and, more recently, has become known for its jade and greenstone crafts. The town has some significant old buildings, and you'll also find some excellent restaurants and cafés. Once you arrive, check in to your hotel and head back out to Hokitika Gorge.

A 45-minute drive from the town center, this stunning granite gorge is lined with beautiful native bush. A short walk from the car park takes you to a swinging bridge over the milky blue-green pools, and on to an otherworldly landscape of large, moss-covered boulders. 

Day 7: Scenic Mountain Bike Ride

The Big Day Out
Explore a mountain bike playground along Lake Kaniere
Meet your guide and pick up your mountain bike to explore some of the most spectacular landscapes along the West Coast Wilderness Trail. Starting at the Kawhaka Canal, you'll pedal through towering native forest, mountain-ringed valleys, and cross crystal-clear rivers to reach Lake Kaniere. The trail then plunges back into the bush and down the tree-lined pathway called the Pipeline. Meander down Kaniere Road toward Hokitika before the final leg along the historic Kaniere Tramway and the banks of the Hokitika River.

Day 8: Drive to Punakaiki, Take the TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch

Pancake Rocks
See the natural phenomenon of the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki

The hour's drive north to Punakaiki takes you along the beautiful coast with ample opportunity to view the surf and the steep bush-clad mountains. Located in the heart of the Paparoa National Park, the area offers beaches, forest and mountain walks, canoeing, and horse trekking. Punakaiki is most famous for the Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Exploring the famous pancake rocks is best at high tide, with the incoming ocean waves sending seawater up the blow holes to create spectacular plumes.

You'll have plenty of time to explore Punakaiki this morning before enjoying the scenic 40-minute drive back along the coast to Greymouth. where you'll drop your rental car and catch the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train to Christchurch. Crossing the South Island from west to east and cutting through Arthur's Pass National Park, the TranzAlpine is considered one of the world's most incredible train journeys.

From the comfort of your carriage, you'll spot lush forests, dramatic river valleys, and the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend into the sweeping Canterbury Plains before arriving back in Christchurch. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the train station and take you to your hotel. You're free to explore tonight. Perhaps have dinner in a historic colonial-style tram that makes the rounds of the city's top attractions.

Day 9: Depart Christchurch

A final sunset over Christchurch and the South Island

It's time to say goodbye to New Zealand! A driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home at the appointed time.

More Great New Zealand Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to New Zealand? Check out these other New Zealand itineraries, explore more ways to spend nine days in New Zealand, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.


Map of Drive & Cycle New Zealand's South Island - 9 Days
Map of Drive & Cycle New Zealand's South Island - 9 Days