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Touring South Island

New Zealand's South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. From wildlife to wineries, glacial valleys to star-filled skies, nature flourishes best against a palette of dramatic scenes.


There is no better to time to hit the South Island than in autumn. So round up a group of friends and hit the road and you’ll be met by friendly locals, epic landscapes, fiords and glaciers. Here’s a look at some suggested itineraries that will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.


1. TranzAlpine Explorer. Experience Christchurch, West Coast, Wanaka and Queenstown, enjoying alpine experiences, glaciers, native forest and waterways (lakes, rivers and waterfalls).


Drive coast-to-coast in half a day, or set a glacial pace. Travelling through forests, farmland and over the majestic Southern Alps, this is a memorable way to see the country on one of New Zealand’s great road trips.


2. Top of the South. Refresh yourself in Christchurch, Kaikoura, Marlborough and Nelson with a trip encompassing coastal experiences, wildlife, food, wine and relaxation.


Ocean, beaches, vineyards and gourmet fare sit side by side. Discover the diversity of Christchurch, just a three-hour flight from the Australian eastern coast. Then take an easy two-and-a-half hour drive along the scenic coastline to Kaikoura for some dolphin and whale watching.


Next stop, wine country. Linger in the picturesque Marlborough region, enjoy a sauvignon blanc or two and relax in the waterways of the Marlborough Sounds. Explore the artisan haven of Nelson and the world-famous Abel Tasman National Park. On the way back to Christchurch unwind in the spas of Hanmer Springs.


3. Nature and Heritage Journey. Connect Christchurch, Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown, enjoying history and heritage, food, wine, cycling and waterways (lakes and rivers).


South Canterbury and Central Otago showcase New Zealand’s heritage as much of modern New Zealand had its beginning in the South. Explore historic gold-mining areas and wander through grand Victorian-era country houses, or a rambling Scottish castle, and uncover nature in Mt Aspiring National Park.


4. Alpine Lakes Journey. Take an adventure through Christchurch, Wanaka, Queenstown, Canterbury and Mackenzie. You’ll find alpine experiences, native forest, short nature walks and waterways (lakes and rivers).


There’s a lot to love about the alpine lake region of Central South Island as it has every travel experience covered. Encounter a bounty of fresh local produce, mountain ranges, glassy lakes and boutique wineries.


5. Southern Scenic Route. Connect and refresh in Queenstown, Fiordland, Southland and Dunedin with coastal experiences, wildlife, fiords, nature walks and mountain biking.


Take the 600 kilometre route through some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes, making your way from diverse Christchurch to charming Dunedin, exploring the heritage buildings along the way before starting the Southern Scenic Route. Take the road along the Otago coastline, filled with native wildlife on deserted beaches.


Visit Nugget Point with its amazing views and discover the raw beauty of the Catlins with leafy forests and waterfalls. Then venture along the Southland coast to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland – the sightseeing and walking capital of the world. Take to the waters of Milford Sound before finishing in Queenstown with a drive along the banks of Lake Wakatipu.


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Published: 26 August 2016

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