This luxury South Island road trip takes you from Christchurch to Queenstown in a relaxed fashion, enjoying exclusive tours and 5-star stays along the way. Soar above Mount Cook National Park and Milford Sound / Piopiotahi on scenic flights, take a helicopter to New Zealand's highest-altitude whisky bar, and explore the unspoiled Mackenzie region by 4WD. Other highlights include steaming onsen baths beneath the stars, exhilarating jet boat rides, and Kiwi barbecue feasts.


  • Take a scenic flight over Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
  • Enjoy a private 4WD tour of the remote Mackenzie region
  • Discover Milford Sound / Piopiotahi with a private flight and boat cruise
  • Soak in a cliffside Japanese onsen beneath the stars near Queenstown
  • Voyage across a lake to feast on Kiwi barbecue at a high-country farm

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch, Punting on the Avon River / Ōtākaro Christchurch
Day 2 Scenic Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park Aoraki / Mount Cook 
Day 3 Cass Valley 4WD Tour & High Altitude Whisky Hut Helicopter Trip Aoraki / Mount Cook 
Day 4 Drive to Queenstown, Evening Onsen Hot Pools Session Queenstown
Day 5 Milford Sound / Piopiotahi by Air & Water, Shotover River Jet Boat  Queenstown
Day 6 Skippers Canyon 4WD Tour, TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Dinner Queenstown
Day 7 Depart Queenstown  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch, Punting on the Avon River / Ōtākaro

Float down the Avon River / Ōtākaro on a private punting trip

Welcome to New Zealand! Your adventure starts in the country's second-largest city, Christchurch, where you'll pick up a rental car and head to your luxury hotel, Otahuna Lodge, which lies 20 minutes from the city in rural Taitapu. Built in 1895, this stately home belonged to Canterbury pioneer Sir Heaton Rhodes and is now a Category One listed building.

Settle into your elegantly restored suite, which features Queen Anne architecture and fine New Zealand timber. Picture flickering fireplaces, huge windows with stained glass details, super-king beds, and deep-soaking tubs. Wander the serene grounds with their manicured lawns, woodlands, daffodil fields, and lake. Enjoy a swim in the pool before heading out to explore Christchurch. 

Known as the "Garden City" for its green spaces, Christchurch's English heritage is evident along the Avon River / Ōtākaro, where a guide dressed in Edwardian costume will take you on a private punting trip past landmarks like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. Afterward, hop on one of the city's heritage-era trams, which date back to 1882, and stop at 17 key places, such as Cathedral Square and the Canterbury Museum.

Day 2: Scenic Drive to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Your private villa's hot tub overlooks Lake Pukaki (photo courtesy of Mount Cook Lakeside Retreat)

This morning, drive four hours west to the village of Aoraki / Mount Cook, which sits at the base of its namesake mountain. The drive winds through the heart of the South Island, over the pastoral Canterbury Plains. New Zealand's highest peak measures 12,315 feet (3,754 m) and is known by the Māori title Aoraki, which means "Cloud Piercer." The mountain is one of over 20 peaks in the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Check into the high-end Mount Cook Lakeside Retreat, set on 163 acres (66 ha) on the shores of Lake Pukaki, less than 20 miles from Mount Cook. You'll stay in a private villa with windows that frame views of the snow-topped Ben Ohau Range, furnished in farm-chic style with vaulted wooden ceilings and fireplaces. Settle into the Ashley Mackenzie Villa for private access to the spa, while other villas have their own spa pool. 

Enjoy the 5-star perks of the retreat, which include an on-site wine cellar and observatory with a cutting-edge telescope for viewing constellations; the property lies in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. There are tennis courts and croquet to keep you busy, as well as three-course fine dining served by your hosts Kay and Luke Paardekooper, created with vegetables and herbs grown in their gardens. 

After settling in, you'll join a small group for a scenic flight over the mountain-studded landscape of Aoraki / Mount Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks. Fly over 124 miles (200 km) of New Zealand's most astounding scenery, from topaz lakes to fields of golden tussock, winding rivers, and deep glacial valleys. Admire the country's highest mountains and largest glaciers, including the Tasman, Franz Josef / Waiau, and Fox Glaciers, as you continue down the wild west coast. 

Day 3: Cass Valley 4WD Tour & High Altitude Whisky Hut Helicopter Trip

Cass Valley Backcountry Tour
Journey through the Cass Valley Backcountry in a 4WD
Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Start the day with a private tour of the remote Mackenzie region in a 4WD. You'll journey through this landscape of rolling, lake-spotted hills and jagged mountains, passing the high-country Glenmore Station, one of the country's finest merino wool providers. Visit Lake Tekapo, its tiny township, and the 1935 shorefront Church of the Good Shepherd; the water here is colored milky-turquoise due to the high concentration of rock flour. 

Later, you'll take a private helicopter trip from Lake Tekapo to The Bad Decision Hut, enjoying views of the Southern Alps and glittering glaciers along the way. This alpine shelter, perched on a mountain saddle at 6,800 feet (2,072 m), is the world's highest-altitude whisky hut. Take in the 360-degree alpine scenery as you savor a dram or two from the bar's extensive selection before returning via private helicopter for a relaxing evening at your lakeside sanctuary.

Day 4: Drive to Queenstown, Evening Onsen Hot Pools Session

Drive to New Zealand's adventure capital and settle into your lakefront villa (photo courtesy of Azur Lodge)

Drive three hours south today to New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown. The town is the birthplace of AJ Hackett Bungy, the world's first commercial bungee-jumping company. Other adrenaline-pumping activities in Queenstown include sky diving, jet boating, and whitewater rafting, but if you prefer something tamer, there are plenty of hiking and cycling paths. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown features a backdrop of The Remarkables.

You'll stay at Azur Lodge just outside town, in one of nine villas leading to Lake Wakatipu. You'll be spoiled with floor-to-ceiling mountain views and a bay window in the bathroom, which you can lounge beneath in a deep, foamy bath. The decor features warm woods and plush lake-facing sofas, and the main lodge serves a decadent buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening drinks. 

Relax tonight in a hot pool under the stars. Based on the Japanese bathing tradition, Onsen offers cedar-lined steaming pools on a cliffside overlooking the Shotover River. Enjoy an hourlong soak accompanied by a drink and snack as you take in the alpine scenery. The water temperature averages 101°F (38.5°C), but one of the summer pools is kept cold for those who relish the thought of an icy plunge.

Day 5: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi by Air & Water, Shotover River Jet Boat 

The world-famous Milford Sound
See the UNESCO-listed Milford Sound / Piopiotahi by air and water

Rise early today for a private tour of Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling, complete with morning tea. Take a 45-minute scenic flight to the sound, soaring over UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park. Next, board a boat to cruise the 10-mile-long (16 km) sound, surrounded by rainforest-covered mountains. You'll pass crashing waterfalls and spot seals, Fiordland crested penguins, and dolphins.

Return to Queenstown on a 45-minute flight with birds-eye views of the landscape. Your final adventure of the day is a private jet boat ride on the upper Shotover River. Whiz through the chiseled canyon, zipping along at high speeds while your daredevil captain performs exhilarating spins. The evening is yours to decompress with a meal in Queenstown or back at your luxury villa. 

Day 6: Skippers Canyon 4WD Tour, TSS Earnslaw Cruise & Dinner

Traverse notorious Skippers Road on a private 4WD tour

Today begins with a white-knuckle journey on the infamous Skippers Road. Board a private 4WD with a skilled driver to navigate the road, which winds 600 feet (183 m) above Skippers Canyon, a 14-mile-long (22 km) gorge carved by the Shotover River. Built during the gold rush between 1883 and 1890, the road offers dramatic views and nail-biting sheer drops into the canyon. Stop to visit historic sites like the Skippers Suspension Bridge and the restored schoolhouse along the way. 

This evening, you'll board the TSS Earnslaw steamship for a private cruise of Lake Wakatipu to the Walter Peak High Country Farm. You'll savor a barbecue dinner of New Zealand's signature dishes, sitting down to a meal featuring rotisserie-cooked meats, seasonal vegetables, and salads. Finish with dessert and demonstrations of high country life on the farm. After the dinner, join a sing-along with the ship's pianist and watch the lights of Queenstown come into focus.

Day 7: Depart Queenstown

Say a final farewell to Queenstown as you catch your onward flight

Your luxury New Zealand road trip comes to an end today. Drop off your rental car at Queenstown airport in time for your homebound flight. Safe travels!

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 a week in New Zealand in luxury, or discover the best time to visit New Zealand.

A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of New Zealand South Island Luxury Getaway - 7 Days
Map of New Zealand South Island Luxury Getaway - 7 Days