Adventure awaits on this self-driving tour of some of New Zealand's most sought-after natural wonders and attractions. Your six-day exploration starts in Queenstown, where you can view the city via gondola or take a jet boat through nearby Shotover River Canyons. From there, you'll cruise scenic Milford Sound, then hit the road toward Lake Tekapo. The tour wraps up with a visit to Christchurch City, where you'll stroll through botanical gardens, take a tram ride, or go punting on the Avon River.


  • Take a 4WD safari tour of some of the "Lord Of The Rings" movie filming sites
  • Enjoy a guided cruise of Milford Sound and majestic Mitre Peak
  • Drive to Lake Tekapo and take a dip in Tekapo Springs Hot Pools
  • Ride a gondola to the edge of an extinct volcano in Christchurch City

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Queenstown  Queenstown 
Day 2 Free Day in Queenstown  Queenstown 
Day 3 Southern Discoveries: Milford Sound Nature Cruise  Queenstown 
Day 4 Drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo Lake Tekapo
Day 5 Explore Christchurch City Christchurch
Day 6 Depart New Zealand  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown 

Aerial view of Queenstown
Aerial view of Queenstown  

Welcome to Queenstown! Upon arrival at Queenstown Airport, you will be met by your private driver and delivered to your accommodations. The city sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is surrounded by mountain peaks such as the famed Ben Lomond, Cecil Peak, and Walter Peak, creating stunning vistas in all directions. 

With such easy access to both water and mountains, it's not surprising that Queenstown is known as New Zealand's adventure capital. There are plenty of outdoor activities to choose from, and you can jump right in with a gondola ride over the city, a fast-paced boat tour of the Shotover River Canyons, or a barbecue dinner and farm tour at Walter Peak. Later today, you'll pick up your rental car for your self-driving tour.

Day 2: Free Day in Queenstown 

Arrowtown, a town neighboring Queenstown
Arrowtown, a town neighboring Queenstown

Your first full day in Queenstown begins with an exploration of the city, where you can stroll along Lake Wakatipu or visit Queenstown Gardens. If you're ready for something a bit more adventurous, there's the 4WD Glenorchy Safari, which takes you along one of New Zealand's most scenic drives, soaking up the panoramic views of the Southern Alps and touring the filming sites of the "Lord Of The Rings" movies. 

You can also enjoy a bird's eye view of two of New Zealand's famous glaciers on the Helicopter Line's Twin Glacier Scenic Helicopter Flight. This spectacular scenic tour takes you over both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, with views of the Southern Alps and Mt. Cook. Get up close and personal with a snow landing on one of the glaciers, and take in the sight of this frozen river as it winds through ancient valleys.

Day 3: Southern Discoveries: Milford Sound Nature Cruise

Milford Sound
Cruise across the spectacular Milford Sound

Located just a few hours' drive from Queenstown, the fjord of Milford Sound features stunning vistas of Mitre Peak, multiple waterfalls, and unique wildlife. The magic begins the minute you board your bus for a guided road trip to the sound. Settle back and enjoy the beauty of the fjord lands and informative commentary from your driver, who will point out all the highlights, share the history and culture of New Zealand, and show you the best photo stops along the way. You'll arrive relaxed, refreshed, and ready to cruise.

Once in Milford Sound, discover the towering waterfalls and majesty of Mitre Peak on this two-hour nature cruise. Along the way, you'll have excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including seals, dolphins, and penguins. Get within touching distance of impressive geological features and close enough to feel the full force of the powerful 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls. After the cruise, hop back on your bus and return to Queenstown for the evening. 

Day 4: Queenstown to Lake Tekapo

Driving to Lake Tekapo
Driving to Lake Tekapo

Pick up your rental car and head north to Lake Tekapo today. Along the way, you'll go through the scenic Kawarau Gorge and Gibbston wine country. See the iconic Kawarau Bungy and choose to partake, or sit back and watch others take the plunge. For those who aren't quite that adventurous, choose a wine tasting at one of the many renowned wineries in the area. Continue to the town of Cromwell, known for its abundance of orchards. For the foodies, take a side trip to Bannockburn, home to several restaurants and wineries.

Cromwell sits at the head of the Kawarau Gorge and is well worth the visit—the buildings now house quaint shops and cafés. The old town buildings were relocated from the valley that now sits deep under the man-made Lake Dunstan. Continue along the lake's shore to reach the historic and scenic Bendigo Reserve, one of Otago's original gold mining settlements. You'll also go through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand's highest roads, with the summit reaching 3,185 feet (971 m) as you pass from Central Otago into the Mackenzie Basin.

The towns of Omarama and Twizel are the last stops before you arrive at Lake Tekapo. Here, you can unwind in one of three hot springs at Tekapo Springs Hot Pools, or if you want to make a night of it, check out the Earth and Sky Stargazing Tour for evening viewings at the Mt. John Observatory
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Day 5: Explore Christchurch City

Heritage Trams in Christchurch
Heritage Trams in Christchurch

Get back on the road this morning as you depart Tepako and continue to Christchurch City. Enjoy a scenic drive of just under three hours, which takes you through the towns of Geraldine and Ashburton. Once you get settled at your accommodations, the city is yours to explore. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand's newest city is an ideal gateway for exploring the middle of the South.

Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano, or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral, or wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungee jump, or play golf. Visit the International Antarctic Centre, or go on safari at Orana Wildlife Park. Follow the winding Port Hills Road to the French settlement of Akaroa, and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.

Day 6: Depart New Zealand

Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka
Enjoy your last morning in New Zealand before returning your rental car and heading to the airport. Safe travels home or to your next destination!

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Map of Mini South Island Adventure - 6 Days
Map of Mini South Island Adventure - 6 Days