With two weeks in New Zealand, there is plenty to discover on the South Island. Begin in Queenstown for some wine tasting, bungee jumping, scenic flights, and hot-pool soaks. Then, visit a glowworm cave in Te Anau, followed by hiking in Mt Aspiring National Park and more wine tasting in Wanaka. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are next, along with a stop at the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. Then, spend two days discovering Abel Tasman National Park, do more wine tasting in Blenheim, go sea kayaking in Akaroa, and wind down with a full day of sightseeing in Christchurch.

Highlights

  • Go on wine tasting tours in Queenstown, Wanaka, and Blenheim
  • Visit the illuminated and unique glowworm caves in Te Anau
  • Spend two days hiking and paddling through Abel Tasman National Park
  • Enjoy sea kayaking in Akaroa to visit wildlife on the Pohatu Marine Reserve
  • Go punting, ziplining, park hopping, and have dinner on a tram in Christchurch

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Queenstown & Exploration Queenstown
Day 2 Queenstown - Extreme Sporting Queenstown
Day 3 Te Anau - Glowworm Cave Tour Te Anau
Day 4 Wanaka - Lake Wanaka & Mt Aspiring National Park Wanaka
Day 5 Wanaka - Wine Tasting & Local Attractions Wanaka
Day 6 Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers - Heli-Hike Excursion Fox Glacier
Day 7 Punakaiki - Pancake Rocks Visit Punakaiki
Day 8 Abel Tasman - Walking & Hiking Tracks Kaiteriteri
Day 9 Abel Tasman - Maori Canoe Excursion Kaiteriteri
Day 10 Blenheim - Wine Tasting & Omaka Aviation Center Visit Blenheim
Day 11 Akaroa - Sea-Kayaking Tour Akaroa
Day 12 Akaroa - Scenic Walks & Royal Albatross Centre Akaroa
Day 13 Christchurch - Self-Guided Tour Christchurch
Day 14 Departure From Christchurch  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Queenstown and exploration

Lake Wakatipu
Lake Wakatipu

Welcome to New Zealand! Originally born out of the Gold Rush during the 1860s, Queenstown is now the world capital for adrenaline and outdoor activities. But, there is much more to Queenstown than extreme sports, like bungee jumping and skydiving. 

When planning your first day of activities, consider the below: 

  • Steamship TSS Earnslaw: Take a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu. There is plenty of time to explore the decks and bridge, view the engine room, join a sing-along with the onboard pianist, or sit back and relax.
  • Skyline Complex: This was one of the first sights to captivate visitors to Queenstown. With access by scenic gondola, the best views in the region are found here and are spread out in a spectacular 220° panorama, with breathtaking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables mountain range and across Lake Wakatipu to Cecil and Walter Peaks
  • Onsen hot pools: These natural, hot-water pools are very intimate, and have great views on the valley and the Shotover River.
  • Central Otago wines: From the world's southernmost wine-producing region, you’ll find acclaimed pinot noir, as well as riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, and bubbly. There are 75 wineries in the region, serving 177 vineyards, total. 
  • Scenic walks: There are many famous multi-day tracks, such as the Routeburn Track. Start here, but you can also walk the first few hours and go back. Book in advance for the guided versions of one-day hikes, as they get booked out fairly quickly. You can also climb the summit of Ben Lomond from the top of the gondola, and enjoy a memorable vista on Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

Day 2: Queenstown - Extreme sporting

Go bungee jumping over the Karawau River
Go bungee jumping over the Kawarau River

Today, continue discovering more of Queenstown. If you enjoy burgers, make sure to schedule in a stop to Ferg Burger, which is known for the most famous gourmet burgers in the country. These patties are huge and very tasty. Just look for the queue of people outside the door waiting to place their orders.
 
More Queenstown activities and sights to bookmark today include the following: 

  • Bungee jumping: Will you have the courage to jump from Kawarau Bridge, 141 feet above the river? You can choose to touch the water or get partially dunked.
  • Skydiving: Go tandem jumping with a qualified instructor for views over the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. 
  • Jet boating: See the beautiful gorges of Kawarau and Shotover gorges in a jet boat—they were invented in New Zealand.
  • Whitewater rafting: This is an adrenaline-pumping way to see either the rivers of Kawarau or Shotover. 
  • The Lord Of The Rings tour: There are several possibilities to see some of the famous movie scenery in the area of Glenorchy—via 4x4 or horse treks.
  • Scenic flight: If you love flying, or if you don’t have much time to see the region, don’t hesitate to book a flight with a landing on The Remarkables. And if you don't have enough time to drive to the fjords, you can hop on a Fly Cruise Fly tour to Milford Sound.

Day 3: Te Anau - Glowworm cave tour

Te Anau
Te Anau

Today, head back to Te Anau for more exploration of this unique town and its attractions.

Take a trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, which begins with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau. At the entrance to the caves at Cavern House, view the informative displays and learn about this geological wonder, before you join your guide underground. On the tour of the caves, friendly guides will point out the highlights and share their knowledge of the caves and its history. Experience the mysterious world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness under the light of thousands of glowworms. 

The duration of the tour is 2 hours and 15 minutes. Following the tour, enjoy the rest of the day and evening in Te Anau at your leisure.

Day 4: Wanaka - Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring National Park

Lone Tree in the middle of Lake Wanaka
Lone Tree in the middle of Lake Wanaka

Today, visit Wanaka, which is home to beautiful lakes, mountains, rivers, diverse attractions, and endless activities. It is the world’s first protected lifestyle reserve—check out Lake Wanaka with the Lone Tree stationed in the middle.

If you like to hike, do not miss Mt Aspiring National Park. During the winter months, the ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona are some of the best spots in the country.

You can also enjoy the vineyards in Wanaka if you are a wine lover.

Day 5: Wanaka - Wine tasting and local attractions

Vineyards overlooking Lake Wanaka
Vineyards overlooking Lake Wanaka

Today, take a load off to enjoy some wine tasting. Some of the best pinot noirs in New Zealand can be found in the middle of Central Otago, which is famous for its vineyards. Consider tastings at Bald Hills and Mt. Difficulty, along with Rippon Valley Vineyard, where you can also indulge in a fantastic lunch.

Wind down the day indoors by making your way to Puzzling World, a unique attraction that specializes in the oddity of puzzles, which offers a great maze and incredible illusion rooms. In the evening, save some time to enjoy Cinema Paradiso, a small, classic movie theater, where you can watch a movie from a comfortable sofa or from one of three seats in an old Morris Minor automobile.

Day 6: Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers - Heli-Hike excursion

Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers cut through dramatic glacial valleys to flow into a temperate rainforest. While many glaciers worldwide have been retreating, these glaciers still flow almost to sea level, making them unique relics of the last Ice Age.

Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains—do not miss Lake Matheson, where nature has combined exactly the right ingredients to create stunning reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks: Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

Today, go on a Heli-Hike excursion in Franz Josef. After an exciting scenic flight, land high up on the glacier, and undertake a 3-hour guided hike among some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring glacier scenery available. Your guide, with an eye for the most spectacular ice formations, chooses the route as you go. Make your way through a wonderland of towering pinnacles and brilliantly blue ice.

Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and with plenty of photo opportunities and chances to learn more about this magnificent glacier, this will be one of the most memorable experiences of your two-week New Zealand tour.

Day 7: Punakaiki - Pancake Rocks visit

Pancake Rocks
Pancake Rocks

Today, pay a visit to Punakaiki, which is best known for its Pancake Rocks and Blowholes—both of which are spectacular, must-sees when visiting the West Coast.

The Pancake Rocks are columns of limestone resembling stacks of flapjacks. At high tide, with a heavy swell running, seawater is forced upward through blowholes. 

Following the visit, enjoy the rest of your day in Punakaiki at your leisure.

Day 8: Abel Tasman - Walking and hiking tracks

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

Enjoy the next two days in Abel Tasman National Park.

Your first day includes a leisurely day trip that mixes kayaking and hiking. It is a great combination to see some of the stunning southern parts of the Abel Tasman National Park. Warm up from Marahau with an easy unguided walk (3.5 hours in duration). Along the last part of the famous and stunning Coastal Track, discover scenic outlooks, clear streams, and native bush. Incredible views over Anchorage and the Astrolabe Islands make great photo opportunities before the short descent to Watering Cove. Once on the beach, enjoy a nice lunch in this beautiful white-sand paradise. In the afternoon, embark on a guided kayak adventure back to Marahau. It’s an easy level; no prior experience is necessary or required—this is a suitable day trip for everyone.

Note: The tour can start with the half-day kayak excursion and finish with the hike, depending on the weather conditions. If you get to the meeting point with your kayaking guide earlier, you can walk a bit more and come back or enjoy the beach.

Day 9: Abel Tasman - Maori canoe excursion

Experience the historic waka, the Maori canoe

Abel Tasman National Park is famous for its golden beaches stretching from Marahau, near Motueka, to Wainui Bay, in Golden Bay.

On your second day, learn all about the waka (Maori canoe). It is the living expression of a people who sailed the Pacific Ocean for thousands of years. As the only form of transport across oceans and waterways, waka were vital for travel and trade. By paddling in the double-hulled waka tuarua or single-hulled outrigger canoe, or waka ama, you can share in New Zealand's treasured heritage.

Day 10: Blenheim - Wine tasting and Omaka Aviation Center visit

Blenheim
Blenheim

Next on the itinerary is Blenheim, a farming town known for its vineyards, as well at its aviation museum. There were only 18 vineyards in Marlborough in the 90s and now there are more than 160.

Most of the vineyards are located in Renwick. For the best views, go to Montana BrancottWither Hills is great, too, because you can do a wine tasting or have lunch in the garden on bean bags. Balder, on the other hand, is a family business where grapes are still hand-picked.

Human stories from the Great War come to life in a theatrical way at Omaka Aviation Center, which is both innovative and visually stunning. Captivating scenes depict the aircraft in context—some recreating actual incidents. The rare memorabilia ranges from beautifully crafted ‘trench art’ to personal items belonging to the famous Red Baron himself.

Close out the day at Pelorus Bridge, a river where locals go to freshen up.

Day 11: Akaroa - Sea-kayaking tour

Akaroa
Akaroa

Today, make your way to the Banks Peninsula. There is a different vibe on this peninsula, where it sometimes feels like time stands still. Discover the picturesque bays, seaside villages, boutique galleries, and cafés. The highlight of this peninsula is Akaroa, a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and more.

To start, enjoy a sea-kayaking safari on Flea Bay. Encounter the endemic wildlife of the Pohatu Marine Reserve in a way only kayaking can allow. A seal colony, seabirds, and depending on the season, potentially penguins and Hector's dolphins can be spotted on the trip. Plus, view the impressive coastline that has been shaped over time into high cliffs and deep-sea caves. The tour is fully guided by experienced staff, and no experience is necessary. The tour takes approximately 1.5 hours. Bring a spare change of clothes, just in case you get a bit wet, and some food and drink. Your 4x4 trip to where the kayaks are launched (and back) is also included.

Following the activity, you can explore more of the Banks Peninsula, which is full of picturesque bays, seaside villages, boutique galleries, and cafés.

Day 12: Akaroa - Scenic walks and Royal Albatross Centre

Little blue penguins at Royal Albatross Centre
Little blue penguins at Royal Albatross Centre

Today, enjoy more of Akaroa at your leisure. If you did not get a chance to tour the Banks Peninsula in its entirety yesterday, continue with your discovery. 

If you are interested in a walk, Akaroa is the starting point of the Banks Track. The area is home to plenty of other day walks, too. You reach altitude here quite fast, and the views over the caldera are stunning. 

Additionally, embark on an evening tour of the little blue penguins at the Royal Albatross Centre to see them in a natural and undisturbed way. This is not a penguin parade, as the penguins are not acclimated to lighting, and will bolt back into the sea if people or lights are around. See penguins up close, including chicks in-season, while artificial nests are monitored. There is also a number of yellow-eyed penguins breeding along the bay often spotted on the tour.

Day 13: Christchurch - Self-guided tour

Go punting on the Avon River
Go punting on the Avon River

On your final day in the South Island region of New Zealand, explore the world-famous Christchurch, also known as the “Garden City.” Expansive parks and public gardens are attributed to the founding fathers. However, in 2011, the central city and some of the neighboring eastern suburbs were devastated by the earthquake. Although many of the multi-story, historic buildings experienced destruction, rebuilding efforts are now fully underway. Despite reconstruction efforts, there is still plenty to explore in Christchurch. Consider the below when structuring your self-guided tour. 

Start off by strolling through Hagley Park. This park has been at the heart of Christchurch since the 1850s and is now the most significant central city park. It offers a diverse range of entertainment and recreational facilities close to the city’s center.

Next, visit the central and unifying public space of Cathedral Square, which has been a landmark and a cultural magnet for more than 150 years. The space provides the perfect backdrop for events, with open spaces, historic architecture, and heavy foot traffic, despite being under reconstruction.

For a fun activity, consider punting on the Avon River, where a guide will give you a tour via a flatbottom boat, which is similar to a gondola ride. 

In the afternoon, embark on a journey through Antarctica without leaving Christchurch at the Antarctic Centre. Experience snow and ice, a storm, learn about life in modern-day Antarctica and Scott Base, and hang out with penguins. For some added fun, take a trip on the Hagglund ride, as well as a fascinating simulated 4D cruise.

To continue the adventure, take the Zipline Tour at Christchurch Adventure Park. The zipline is dual-lined, which means you can race others through the park. With four stages ranging to up to a half-mile in length, this exciting way to experience Port Hills rivals no other. You can also take a tour that lasts about 2.5 hours and includes sites of geographical and historical significance, as well as some breathtaking heights.

In the early evening, visit Sumner Beach. This family-friendly destination is great for a walk on the beach or a refreshing dip in the water. The best local swimming spots here are Taylor’s Mistake and Corsair Bay.

When night falls, take a trip on via the Tram Restaurant, the only restaurant tram in New Zealand. You can experience a unique way to view the inner city while enjoying a delicious dinner.

Day 14: Departure from Christchurch

Farewell, Christchurch!
Farewell, Christchurch!

Today, it's time to head back to the airport in Christchurch. Board your flight home with warm memories from your two-week tour of New Zealand. Safe Travels!

Map

Map of South Island Tour: Queenstown, Te Anau, Wanaka, Akaroa, Christchurch, & More - 14 Days
Map of South Island Tour: Queenstown, Te Anau, Wanaka, Akaroa, Christchurch, & More - 14 Days