7-Day Luxury Itinerary for the South Island
If you don’t have the luxury of time to spend on the South Island, you might as well treat yourself to some luxury with the time you have. We’ll help you achieve just that with this South Island luxury itinerary for one week.
Experience glaciers, fiords, verdant rainforests, vibrant towns and the world’s most scenic train journey all in one week. What’s more, this South Island luxury itinerary for 7 days also includes luxury accommodation and activity recommendations for each exciting destination. Planning a luxury vacation in the South Island has never been so effortless.
How to Get Around the South Island in One Week
The below luxury itinerary is best done self-driven. It also incorporates a few other transport methods such as a train and connecting flights. Transport to consider using for this one-week luxury itinerary for New Zealand includes:
- Rental car or campervan – Renting a car or a motorhome is the easiest way to achieve the below itinerary. Use a rental company that has depots in both Greymouth and Queenstown. Start your research using The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand or The Best Premium Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
- Train – This itinerary includes a one-way train journey on the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth. Find out more on the Train Network in New Zealand.
- Domestic flights – The below itinerary begins in Christchurch and ends in Queenstown. Both cities have international airports and are well connected with domestic flights. If you’re leaving New Zealand from Auckland or Christchurch, you will need to book a domestic flight from Queenstown.
And if you’re new to the whole road tripping thing, be sure to make it as smooth as possible following the 10 Ways to Relax on a Road Trip.
Day 1 – Christchurch Airport to Christchurch
Travel time: 20 minutes
Welcome to Te Waipounamu, otherwise known as the South Island of New Zealand! We won’t have you doing anything too exhausting today, as you may be tired from your flight. Just take a taxi or shuttle into Christchurch city centre and check-in at your premium accommodation. From there, explore Christchurch’s beautiful gardens or get a comprehensive tour of the city via a vintage VW Combi (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). If you only have the evening to spare, it can be spent indulging in a four-course meal on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor or KKday).
Luxury Accommodation in Christchurch
- Heritage Christchurch
- Parkview on Hagley
- Hackthorne Gardens Luxury Accommodation
- Whitewood Suites Inner City Luxury Apartments
- Chateau on the Park – Christchurch, A DoubleTree by Hilton
For more details on our top recommendations, take a look at the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Christchurch.
Day 2 – Christchurch to Greymouth
Travel time: 4 hours train
This morning, take a transfer to the Christchurch Railway Station and jump aboard the TranzAlpine for one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys. Treat yourself to a seat in “Scenic Plus Class” featuring panoramic windows to soak in the views of the lush Canterbury Plains and the mountains of the Arthur’s Pass National Park. Check out tickets on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook.
Once you arrive in Greymouth, collect your rental vehicle and head to your chosen accommodation. This afternoon, you will have time to take a swing at one of the local golf courses, do some boutique shopping, or drive/take a guided tour to the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Luxury Activities in Greymouth
- See the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Hokitika Gorge or other highlights on a guided tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take on the West Coast Wilderness Trail
- Tee off at one of the local golf courses
- Fly and land in the majestic Southern Alps on a helicopter tour
- Do some boutique shopping and gallery browsing in town.
For more details on each experience, see the 8 Luxury Activities in Greymouth.
Luxury Accommodation in Greymouth
Find out more about each accommodation in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Greymouth.
Day 3 – Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier
Travel time: 2h10mins
If the weather is good but it’s forecast to be wet for the next couple of days, drive straight to Franz Josef if you plan to do a helicopter flight. That way, you won’t miss out if your tour gets cancelled for bad weather (which happens frequently).
Otherwise, take your time on the way down to Franz Josef, perhaps to admire the vibrant blue pools of Hokitika Gorge, browse the greenstone stores in Hokitika, or experience the New Zealand rainforest from a different perspective on the West Coast Treetop Walk (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
We’ll talk more about what to do in Franz Josef tomorrow. For now, dine and unwind at one of the fabulous luxury hotels in Franz Josef.
Luxury Accommodation in Franz Josef
- Te Waonui Forest Retreat
- Franz Josef Oasis
- Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
- Holly Homestead
- Glenfern Villas
For more details on our top recommendations, take a look at the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Franz Josef.
Day 4 – Explore Franz Josef
Setting foot on a magnificent river of ice is on the bucket list for many visiting Franz Josef. One of the most accessible and private options is a scenic helicopter flight complete with a snow landing, such as with HeliServices.NZ (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). Alternatively, join a group tour to explore the ice caves on a heli-hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and The Helicopter Line (on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday).
If you catch yourself in Franz Josef in bad weather, you can always soak the disappointment away at the Glacier Hot Pools (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor) or be pampered at the Amaia Luxury Spa of the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier.
Luxury Activities in Franz Josef
- Hike on the ice of the Franz Josef Glacier (find out more on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday)
- Catch salmon or brown trout at Lake Mapourika (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Do one of New Zealand’s most scenic skydives (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Indulge in a spa treatment at Amaia Luxury Spa of the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
- Be treated to degustation dining amidst the rainforest at Te Waonui Forest Retreat.
See our 8 Luxury Activities in Franz Josef for more details on each experience and more.
Day 5 – Franz Josef to Queenstown
Travel time: 4h45mins
If you didn’t get the chance to fly over the glacier yesterday, try again this morning. Otherwise, blast down the Waiatoto River from Haast to the unspoiled Mt Aspiring National Park on a jet boat tour. Thanks to the all-weather jet boat design, it makes for a fantastic all-weather experience. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Down the Haast Pass, you have an array of short walks to stunning waterfalls and blue pools to enjoy independently, as listed on the Department of Conservation website.
Then, enjoy a scenic drive over the Crown Range and the Cardrona Valley to the “Adrenaline Capital of New Zealand”, Queenstown. You have plenty of time to experience its tours in the upcoming days.
Luxury Accommodation in Queenstown
- Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
- The Rees Hotel
- Element Escapes Apartments
- Nugget Point
- Heritage Queenstown
Find out more about each premium accommodation in our 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Queenstown.
Day 6 – Explore Queenstown
Adrenaline, food, wine, golf, scenery, spas: whatever your vibe is, Queenstown is likely to have it. In summer, tee off at some of New Zealand’s most prestigious golf courses, while winter is when the mountains beckon for uncrowded heli-skiing (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Explore one of the most dangerous roads on an exclusive private tour with Off Road 4X4 Queenstown (on Viator and Tripadvisor). And, the list goes on between the 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown and the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown.
Luxury Activities in Queenstown
- Take a private 4WD excursion to Skippers Canyon (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Play at Queenstown’s golf courses
- Escape the crowds with heli-skiing (on Viator and Tripadvisor) or at Queenstown’s private ski field
- Explore the Great Walks with an expert guide on a guided hike (on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Do a wine and foodie tour (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook).
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown.
Day 7 – Explore More of Queenstown or Fly to Milford Sound
Book your flight out of Queenstown for the evening so that you have time to do the Queenstown experiences you might have missed yesterday. Alternatively, today is a good day to discover the “Eighth Wonder of the World” for yourself through a scenic flight. That way, you can connect with your flight at Queenstown Airport after the experience.
What usually takes around four hours to drive to by car or bus takes just 35 minutes by plane to get to Milford Sound. What’s more, you’ll experience unbeatable views of glacier-carved valleys, mountains, alpine lakes and vast forest. Once you arrive in Milford Sound, you can enjoy one of the two-hour cruises through the fiord before your return flight to Queenstown Airport. Compare flights using our 5 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown.
Once it’s time to leave the South Island, remember to give yourself enough time to return your rental vehicle (you might want to do this before your flight to Milford Sound). There are connecting flights from Queenstown Airport to Auckland and Christchurch Airports, as well as flights to Australia.
Then it’s goodbye from New Zealand! Next time, why not try the North Island Luxury Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days?
More About a South Island Luxury Itinerary for One Week / 7 Days
That’s the end of our South Island luxury itinerary for 7 days. If this itinerary didn’t take you fancy, see our alternative 7-day itineraries:
- South Island in One Week: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island Family Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days
- South Island Honeymoon Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days
- South Island Foodie Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days
- South Island Budget Itinerary: One Week / 7 Days
- The Best 7-Day Tours of the South Island
- The Best Way to Spend 7 Days in the South Island
- How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary