Enjoy plenty of outdoor activities on this scenic, wintry eight-day journey through New Zealand. Start by exploring Christchurch's urban gardens, then head to Lake Tekapo for a glacier hike and stargazing. Visit Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and cruise on Tasman Glacier Lake as you drive to Twizel. Next, continue to Wanaka for a hot tub experience, ski trip, and happy hour cruise. Finish off in Queenstown, where you can try bungee jumping, jet boating, and wine tasting.


  • Board a helicopter and fly to Tasman Glacier for an afternoon hike
  • Take to the slopes for a day of skiing at either Treble Cone or Cardrona
  • Enjoy a happy hour cruise on Lake Wanaka
  • Carve out some time to relax in a hot pool under the stars in Queenston

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch, Explore  Christchurch
Day 2 Drive to Lake Tekapo, Tasman Glacier Heli-Hike, Stargazing Experience Lake Tekapo
Day 3 Drive to Twizel via Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, Cruise Tasman Lake Twizel
Day 4 Drive to Wānaka via Ōmarama, Hot Tub Experience Wānaka
Day 5 Ski at Cardrona or Treble Cone, Lake Wānaka Happy Hour Cruise Wānaka
Day 6 Drive to Queenstown & Outdoor Activities, Onsen Evening Session Queenstown
Day 7 Explore Queenstown on Your Own Queenstown
Day 8 Depart Queenstown  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch, Explore 

Christchurch Botanical Gardens
Take a wander of Christchurch's Botanical Gardens
Welcome to New Zealand! Your driver will be waiting at Christchurch Airport to transfer you to your hotel. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest metropolis. The city is known for its green spaces, like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens—it's nicknamed the Garden City, after all—so a stroll through one is always a good idea. 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 Lake Tekapo, Tasman Glacier Heli-Hike, Stargazing Experience

Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd on the banks of Lake Tekapo

Turn inland from Christchurch and drive toward Lake Tekapo, a turquoise lake in Mackenzie Country. The route takes you through the pastoral Canterbury Plains, and you can opt to take a break in Geraldine, a small town by the woods with plenty of cafés, shops, and restaurants. Continuing, you'll pass by stunning scenery, like the aptly-named Beautiful Valley. Once you've arrived at your destination, settle into your accommodation and prepare for a special activity: a three-hour helicopter ride and hike on Tasman Glacier.

Land at 3,937 feet (1,200 m) above sea level and spend up to two hours on a guided ice trek, covering gentle rolling terrain in a fantastic landscape of fluted ice and winding streamlets. Then, in the evening, travel to Mount John Observatory to learn about the southern sky. Your guide will point out the Milky Way Galaxy, Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri, and Sirius—one of the brightest visible stars.

Day 3: Drive to Twizel via Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, Cruise Tasman Lake

Mount Cook
Wind your way along the shores of Lake Pukaki as marvel at Aoraki / Mount Cook

Spend today in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park as you make your way to Twizel. Start by driving along the shores of stunning Lake Pukaki. On a fine day, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the entire length of the lake and into the national park, so take a brief break at the lookout and put your camera to work! At 12,316 feet (3,754 m) high, Aoraki / Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain—get a great view of it from the visitor's center, or even opt for a sightseeing flight over its peak. There are also many hikes in and around the park: take the scenic Tasman Glacier Viewpoint track for an easy walk.

Stop for lunch, then visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. Named for New Zealand's most illustrious alpine climber, the center is a great place to learn about the region's climbing history and the achievements and philanthropic work of the man himself. Afterward, take a cruise around Tasman Glacier Lake to see Aoraki / Mount Cook's 500-year-old icebergs up close. A guide will point out key landmarks as you glide across the water, surrounded by towering ice cliffs. A short drive south along the Aoraki / Mount Cook Highway will take you onward to Twizel, where you'll be spending the night.

Day 4: Drive to Wānaka via Ōmarama, Hot Tub Experience

Omarama clay cliffs
Check out the Ōmarama clay cliffs, formed by lakes and rivers over 20 million years ago

A short drive from Twizel, set off to see the clay cliffs just west of Ōmarama. These stunning natural landforms are a geological wonder, with their sharp pinnacles and ridges separated by steep and narrow ravines. Once you've had a look and snapped some photos, head to the Ōmarama Hot Tubs for a pleasant soak in a private tub filled with clear high-country water.

Later, continue your journey to Wānaka as you head through the Lindis Pass, one of New Zealand's highest roads, with its summit reaching 3,186 feet (971 m). The tussock-covered hills offer an unusual contrast as you pass through the Mackenzie Basin and into Central Otago. Once you've arrived in Wānaka, spend the rest of the day exploring at your own pace. This scenic resort town sits on Lake Wānaka and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. In winter, its population more than triples as snow sports enthusiasts flock to the ski fields at Treble Cone and Cardrona

Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Ski at Cardrona or Treble Cone, Lake Wānaka Happy Hour Cruise

Hit the slope today at Cardrona

Go skiing at either Cardrona or Treble Cone today with a one-day lift pass that includes access to either ski field, plus equipment rentals. Once you've enjoyed your day on the slopes, warm up with a happy hour cruise from the Wānaka lakefront. Relax with a glass of local wine or beer and a selection of cheeses onboard (plus more drinks available for purchase). The cruise will take you toward the Wānaka Tree before continuing to Waterfall Creek and Ruby Island. You'll then head to Stevensons Peninsula before returning via Beacon Point and Eely Point.

Day 6: Drive to Queenstown & Outdoor Activities, Onsen Evening Session

Crown Range views
Admire the Crown Range views as you head to Queenston

Leaving Wānaka, you'll drive to Queenston via New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road. Along the way, take a detour to Gibbston, where you can stop in one of the region's notable wineries to taste Gibbston's specialty—pinot noir. Once you arrive in Queenstown, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, you'll have soaring views of The Remarkables Mountain Range, an area popular for skiing, skydiving, river rafting, and bungee jumping.

You can try many activities in Queenstown: ride a 100-year-old steamship, book a jet boat ride through the Shotover River Canyons, dive off the Nevis Bungy, or relive scenes from "The Lord of The Rings" on a 4WD tour, among other options. But this evening, carve out some time to relax in a hot pool under the stars. Enjoy an hourlong soak accompanied by a drink and snack as you take in the alpine scenery. The water temperature averages 101.3°F (38.5°C), but one of the summer pools is kept cold for those who relish the thought of an icy plunge!

Day 7: Explore Queenstown on Your Own

Spend a day exploring the adventure capital of the world
Spend a day exploring the adventure capital of the world

Today is a free day to explore Queenstown at your own pace. It's the self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world, with many adrenaline-inducing activities available in the area. Start with a walk, jog, or bike ride around Lake Wakatipu for a more relaxing day. Then, check out nearby Arrowtown or brave the steep, winding trip to Macetown to learn more about New Zealand's 19th-century gold rush.

Oenophiles may consider embarking on a tasting tour of the region's best boutique vineyards. Take a self-guided excursion through Bannockburn and Cromwell—two subregions known for their cool-climate wines, which are generally more acidic and lighter than other varieties. Pick your favorite wine to pair with lunch, and take a walk through historic Old Cromwell to end your journey among some of the most picturesque vineyards in New Zealand. Other activities include skiing at Coronet Peak, enjoying a craft beer tour, or bungee jumping from the Kawarau Bridge

Day 8: Depart Queenstown

Say goodbye to beautiful Queenstown
If you have extra time today, opt for a peaceful walk or one final activity in Queenstown before dropping your rental car off at the airport and saying farewell to New Zealand. Have a safe and comfortable journey home or to your next destination! 

More Great New Zealand Itineraries

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


Map of New Zealand Snow & Soak Adventure: Christchurch to Queenstown - 8 Days
Map of New Zealand Snow & Soak Adventure: Christchurch to Queenstown - 8 Days