Discover the natural wonders of New Zealand and Australia on this 10-day road trip. Start with scenic drives across New Zealand's South Island, stopping to marvel at pancake rocks and tour glittering glowworm caves. You'll take a heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier and sail the UNESCO-listed Milford Sound / Piopiotahi before jetting to Australia. Here, adventures include touring the iconic Great Ocean Road to admire its dramatic sea stacks and soaring over Melbourne in a hot-air balloon.


  • Visit New Zealand's stalactite-and-stalagmite-strewn glowworm caves
  • Explore the frozen landscape of Franz Josef Glacier on an exhilarating heli-hike
  • Discover Milford Sound / Piopiotahi with a scenic flight and boat cruise
  • Tour Australia's Great Ocean Road and its famous Twelve Apostles
  • Enjoy a hot-air balloon flight over the buzzing city of Melbourne

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch (New Zealand), Māori Culinary Tour Christchurch
Day 2 Alpine Train to Greymouth, Scenic Drive to Punakaiki Punakaiki
Day 3 Glowworm Cave Tour, Drive to Hokitika Hokitika
Day 4 Explore Hokitika, Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau & Visit Hot Pools Franz Josef Glacier
Day 5 Glacier Heli-Hike, Drive to Queenstown & Farm Tour with Dinner Queenstown (NZ)
Day 6 Milford Sound Scenic Flight & Cruise, Bungee Jump & Rata Dinner Queenstown (NZ)
Day 7 Fly to Melbourne (Australia), Evening Food Walk Melbourne
Day 8 Great Ocean Road Eco-Tour Melbourne
Day 9 Balloon Flight with Breakfast, Coffee & Landmarks Tours Melbourne
Day 10 Depart Melbourne  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch (New Zealand), Māori Culinary Tour

Touch down in Christchurch and enjoy its green spaces like Hagley Park

Welcome to New Zealand! Your driver will be waiting at the airport to take you to your Christchurch hotel. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore the country's second-largest metropolis, which is known as the "Garden City" for its green spaces. Christchurch's English heritage is evident along the Avon River / Ōtākaro, where guides dressed in Edwardian costume will take you on punting trips past landmarks like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens.

This evening, enjoy a Māori food tour, which will introduce you to Christchurch's booming culinary scene. Join a Māori guide to visit some of the city's top food spots, tasting typical dishes accompanied by drinks from artisan distilleries. Along the way, you'll meet the locals and learn Māori phrases and stories.

Day 2: Alpine Train to Greymouth, Scenic Drive to Punakaiki

Ride the scenic TranzAlpine train across to New Zealand's west coast

Start the day with a scenic train ride to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast. The journey takes you through the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury Plains along the Waimakariri River, climbing into alpine scenery via a series of impressive viaducts. Then, after stopping at Arthur's Pass, emerge from the long Otira Tunnel and descend through the subtropical rainforest past Lake Brunner and on to Greymouth.

Here, you'll pick up a rental car to begin your self-drive adventure. Head 40 minutes north along the wild west coast, soaking up views of bush-clad mountains, to Punakaiki, known for its blowholes and pancake rocks, a geological phenomenon formed over 30 million years. Marvel at these otherworldly rock stacks and explore the surrounding Paparoa National Park, a wonderland for mountain walks, canoeing, caving, and climbing. Afterward, check into your hotel for a relaxing evening.

Day 3: Glowworm Cave Tour, Drive to Hokitika

Explore the otherworldly glowworm caves of Charleston

Head slightly north to Charleston this morning for a glowworm cave tour. Don helmets, coats, and boots, and then ride the Nile River Rainforest Train to the dry upper levels of the caves, which include the recently discovered Metro Cave. Next, venture deeper into the lower cave system to an underground world of stalactites, stalagmites, and dark caverns lit by glowworms. Your guides will share the history and science behind the caves before you emerge back into the daylight. 

Hop back in your car and journey 1.5 hours south to Hokitika. Known for its pounamu (greenstone), this seaside town has a fascinating history dating back to the 1860s. Make your way to the coast and enjoy the endless sea views, or pick up a souvenir at one of the many craft shops. Finally, check into your hotel for the night.

Day 4: Explore Hokitika, Drive to Franz Josef / Waiau & Visit Hot Pools

Stop off to visit Hokitika Gorge before you head to Franz Josef / Waiau
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Spend this morning exploring Hokitika and its surrounding wilderness. Browse gem stores in town and wander the windswept beach, backed by spectacular views of Mount Cook. For picturesque hikes, head 9 miles (15 km) inland to Lake Kaniere or south to Lake Mahinapua Scenic Reserve. Don't miss the 40-mile-long (64 km) Hokitika Gorge, a mammoth granite gorge lined with native bush; cross the dizzying swing bridge across aquamarine pools to viewing platforms above the gorge. 

In the afternoon, drive 1.5 hours south, passing through the historic gold mining town of Ross, home to one of the few remaining working mines in New Zealand. Other stops include Harihari, where Guy Menzies crash-landed after becoming the first person to fly solo across the Tasman, and Whataroa, a sanctuary for the rare New Zealand white heron and kotuku. 

Eventually, you'll pass into the South Island's glacier region, arriving in Franz Josef / Waiau. This cute town on the Waiho River is planted among rainforests and mountains, famed for the 7-mile-long (12 km) Franz Josef / Waiau Glacier. Check into your hotel and end the day with a tranquil soak in the Glacier Hot Pools. Sink into three pools that range from 97°F (36°C) to 104°F (40°C), surrounded by unspoiled forest. 

Day 5: Glacier Heli-Hike, Drive to Queenstown & Farm Tour with Dinner

Franz Josef Helihike
Experience Franz Josef Glacier in the best possible way on a heli-hike

This morning, you'll experience Franz Josef Glacier with an exciting heli-hike. You'll fly over all three of the glacier's icefalls, landing for a two-hour guided trek through this frozen landscape. A guide will take you through ice caves and spot icy pinnacles, explaining the geology and history of the glacier. You'll receive a waterproof jacket, over trousers, glacier boots, ice crampons, and wool socks for the trip.

Afterward, continue your journey south, driving five hours to Queenstown. On the way, stop at Fox Glacier and skirt along the coast to Knights Point Lookout, where you can often spot elephant seals. You'll cross the powerful Haast River before turning inland through the Haast Valley. Pause at the alpine town of Wānaka, known for the gnarled tree that protrudes from its glassy lake.

Your final destination is Queenstown, an adventure hub and 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 boasts a backdrop of The Remarkables.

This evening, you'll board the TSS Earnslaw steamship to cruise 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 about high country life on the farm. After the meal, join a sing-along with the ship's pianist and watch the lights of Queenstown come into focus.

Day 6: Milford Sound Scenic Flight & Cruise, Bungee Jump & Rata Dinner

Discover Milford Sound / Piopiotahi's remarkable scenery by water and air

Rise early for a 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 and from 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 and get your pulse racing this afternoon with a bungee jump from Kawarau Bridge. Take the leap alone or in tandem, feeling the adrenaline rush of the 141-foot (43 m) freefall. This evening, you'll enjoy a well-deserved dinner at Rata, an award-winning Queenstown restaurant owned and operated by internationally recognized Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett. Feast on South Island dishes accompanied by fine wines from the Otago region. 

Day 7: Fly to Melbourne (Australia), Evening Food Walk

Fly over to Australia and explore its largest city, Melbourne

Say goodbye to New Zealand this morning, drop off your rental car, and catch the 3.5-hour flight to Australia. Landing in Melbourne, where your driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Settle in and then spend the rest of the day exploring Victoria's trendy capital at your own speed.

Get lost in Melbourne's famed laneways, crammed with artisanal coffee shops and cafés and decorated with world-class street art. Sports fans can head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or if you're interested in some culture, visit one of the city's stellar museums. Top picks include the Old Melbourne Gaol, where notorious criminals like Ned Kelly were incarcerated, and the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Culture Centre at the Melbourne Museum.

Finish the day with a food tour of Melbourne's top restaurants. Led by a local foodie, visit three venues where you'll enjoy innovative dishes and wine tastings. Staff will share their favorite bottles and give insight into each restaurant's concept, history, and menus. 

Day 8: Great Ocean Road Eco-Tour

Drive the Great Ocean Road and see the Twelve Apostles

Today, you'll embark upon an eco-tour of the Great Ocean Road. This iconic Australian road trip covers 150 miles (243 km), stretching from Torquay along the shipwreck coast to Allansford. Travel in a deluxe minibus with a small group, stopping to explore surfing spots like Bells Beach, which hosts the Rip Curl Pro surfing competition, and Lorne, a quaint beach town.

Visiting the Twelve Apostles is a Great Ocean Road highlight. Get up close to this dramatic set of limestone rock stacks by descending Gibson's Steps. You'll also get a chance to bushwalk in Great Otway National Park, where you can test your koala-spotting skills and pause to photograph Cape Otway Lighthouse, the oldest in Australia. Finally, return to Melbourne for a free evening in the city. 

Day 9: Balloon Flight with Breakfast, Coffee & Landmarks Tours

Start your day in style with a hot-air balloon flight over Melbourne

Start the day with a hot-air balloon ride over Melbourne. Float above the skyscrapers, historic squares, laneways, and parks of the city, watching urban life unfold beneath you. Upon landing, you'll head to the Amora Hotel Riverwalk Melbourne for a delicious hot breakfast accompanied by sparkling wine, hot drinks, and juice to toast your high-flying adventure. 

Next, discover Melbourne's world-famous coffee scene on a private tour with a local. Visit the city's hip coffee shops and sample an array of artisan brews, gourmet snacks, and chocolate. Afterward, continue exploring Melbourne independently; ride the free city circle tram to take in top sights like St Paul's Cathedral and browse the eclectic Queen Victoria Market.

Finish your city exploration with a guided tour of Melbourne's landmarks, lanes, and arcades. Tick-off attractions such as Parliament House considered one of the finest examples of architecture from the Victorian era, and Cook's Cottage, in the heart of Fitzroy Gardens, the original home of Captain James Cook's parents. Follow your guide through the city's winding back streets, where you can encounter everything from local designers to specialty retailers. Experience some of the quirkiest cafés and ever-changing street murals as you visit top locations like Tattersalls Lane, Meyers Place, and Hosier Lane

Day 10: Depart Melbourne

Say goodbye to Melbourne as you catch your onward flight

Today your Australia and New Zealand adventure comes to an end. A driver will take you to the airport in time to board your homebound flight. Safe travels!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out these other Australia itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in Australia and New Zealand, and discover the best time to visit Australia.


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Map of New Zealand South Island Road Trip & Melbourne - 10 Days
Map of New Zealand South Island Road Trip & Melbourne - 10 Days