Southern Highlights Tour

Travel from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass National Park on the TranzAlpine™ train, recognized as one of the world’s great train journeys, on our 3 day private South Island tour.

Cross the wide expanse of the Canterbury Plains – New Zealand’s largest area of flat land, with straight roads cutting across a mosaic of paddocks, and home to the world famous Canterbury lamb. Follow the Waimakariri River through its spectacular gorge, enter Arthur’s Pass National Park and see the unique braided riverbed system of the river. Journey into Westland (the West Coast) and visit Hokitika, once a bustling gold mining town. Travel down the West Coast and enter Glacier Country, home to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Cross the Southern Alps via the Haast Pass and enter Otago Province. View the high country lakes – Wanaka and Hawea with their dramatic mountain backdrops. Cross the stark Crown range and visit Arrowtown, a historic gold town.

  • Tour Location
    South Island, NZ
  • Tour Type
    Scenic
  • Tour Activities
  • Activity Level Easy
    3/10
  • Group Size Medium Group
    1-10
Southern Highlights Tour Overview

Southern Highlights Tour map

  • Travel from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass National Park on the TranzAlpine™ train, recognized as one of the world’s great train journeys.
  • Cross the wide expanse of the Canterbury Plains. The Canterbury Plains are New Zealand’s largest area of flat land, with straight roads cutting across a mosaic of paddocks, and home to the world famous Canterbury lamb.
  • Follow the Waimakariri River through its spectacular gorge, enter Arthur’s Pass National Park and see the unique braided riverbed system of the river.
  • Journey into Westland (the West Coast) and visit Hokitika, once a bustling gold mining town.
  • Travel down the West Coast and enter Glacier Country, home to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
  • Cross the Southern Alps via the Haast Pass and enter Otago Province.
  • View the high country lakes – Wanaka and Hawea with their dramatic mountain backdrops.
  • Cross the stark Crown range and visit Arrowtown, a historic gold town.
The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of the tour.
  • Exclusive, privately guided tour
  • Travel by customised luxury mini-coach
  • Fully guided and hosted by local NZ guides, with informative commentary
  • TranzAlpine train Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass on Day 1
  • Guided walks to view the glaciers, forests and beaches
  • Delicious picnic morning and afternoon NZ wine and cheese each day
  • Picnic lunch served with NZ wine or café lunch each day
  • Overnight stay in the Arthur’s Pass high country lodge with dinner
  • Overnight stay at Fox or Franz Josef with dinner
  • Full breakfast on Days 2 & 3
  • Courtesy city accommodation pickup and dropoff
  • Depart Christchurch at 7.30 am on Day 1 and finish at your Queenstown accommodation at approximately 6.00 pm on Day 3

Meal codes indicating meals which are included in your Southern Highlights experience…
B – Breakfast; MT – Picnic morning tea; L – Lunch; AT – Picnic afternoon tea; D – Dinner
Accommodation inclusions are subject to availability. If unavailable, a suitable alternative will be provided.

What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of the tour.
  • Optional helicopter trips and scenic flights
  • Queenstown accommodation
  1. Day One Christchurch to Arthur's Pass

    ”Train, plains, gorges & alps”

    Depart Christchurch on the world famous TranzAlpine™ train and cross the vast expanses of the Canterbury Plains. Leave the flat plains and travel through the dramatic gorge of the Waimakariri River. Enter Arthur’s Pass National Park and here, your guide will meet you and show you some of the highlights of the national park.

    Arthur’s Pass National Park is in the heart of the Southern Alps / Ka Tiritiri o te Moana. Its high mountains with large scree slopes, steep gorges and wide braided rivers straddle the main divide and are the ”back bone” of South Island.
    The national park has an incredible diversity of flora and landscape, ranging from eastern beech clad hills and tussock valleys to the luxuriant rain forest in the west.

    The highest mountains have glaciers and surrounding them are tussock basins, flowering herbs and alpine grasses. At the end of the day, head to your accommodation.

    Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass or similar
    Included meals: MT, L, AT, D

  2. Day Two Arthur's Pass to Glacier Country

    ”Rivers, rainforests, fault lines & ice”

    Travel through the Arthur’s Pass National Park and depart Canterbury province for Westland (the West Coast / Te Wai Poutini).

    This route was originally used by the Maori to move greenstone (jade / pounamu) from the west coast to the east, and later as a link to the gold rush fields.

    Today will reveal great mountain valleys and you will marvel at the road as it winds its way down the spectacular Otira Gorge to the wide Taramakau River. Wonder how the stagecoaches ever traversed this trans-alpine ”road”!

    Follow rivers that flow to the West Coast and observe the changes to the rainforest and the many varieties of ferns that dominate this region. Visit Hokitika, once the capital of Westland and a roaring gold mining town, now a bustling centre of art and craft shops where greenstone, gold and arts and craft feature.

    Depart Hokitika and journey south where you will see the West Coast forests and further evidence of the last Ice Age in the kettle lakes, created by the melting ice sheets. You will then arrive at Glacier Country and a walk can be made to view the Franz Josef Glacier pushing into rainforest – truly incredible!

    Your overnight stay will be made at the nearby village.

    Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat or similar
    Included meals: B, MT, L, AT, D

  3. Day Three Glacier Country to Queenstown

    ”Remote, pristine, passes & schist”

    Explore this unique glaciated region with its glaciers pushing into regenerating temperate rainforest and happening on a Pacific Island – truly very special! Short walks can be made to experience the rainforest with the glacier in the background and its shattered glacier-formed landscape. Overlooking this is the Southern Alps and the high peaks of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.

    An exciting (optional) helicopter ride to view the Southern Alps with a snow landing on the upper reaches of the glacier is also available.

    From Glacier Country, you will travel south and reach the mighty Haast River Valley. Following the Haast Highway, observe how the landscape again changes dramatically as the road climbs over the Haast Pass from the dense rainforest of the West Coast to the drier tussock lands of Otago.

    After the Haast Pass, the road skirts first alongside Lake Wanaka and then making a slight turn and rising over a ridge, Lake Hawea is before you. The road follows the shoreline of this lake and then you reach Wanaka village.

    From Wanaka, head over the rugged and remote Crown Range, the site of gold diggings in the 1860’s and arrive in the quaint old gold mining village of Arrowtown.

    It is then a short drive to your Queenstown accommodation where guide and host will bid you farewell.

    Included meals: B, MT, L, AT

Wilderness Lodge Arthurs Pass logo Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass

Midway between Christchurch & the South Island’s West Coast, Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass sits on a 4000 acre farm & nature reserve surrounded by spectacular Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Te Waonui Forest Retreat logo Te Waonui Forest Retreat

A foray into New Zealand’s pristine wilderness – Te Waonui Forest Retreat is truly a place to relax and refresh.

Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass

Te Waonui Forest Retreat