14-Day Luxury Itinerary for the South Island
Snow-capped mountains, glacier-carved fiords, lush plains, verdant rainforest, expensive lakes and rugged coastline: see all of this and much more with this South Island luxury itinerary for two weeks.
14 days is just the right amount of time to hit the highlights of the South Island of New Zealand while taking the time to stay in some destinations longer to truly experience their premium activities and accommodations. Speaking of which, we list all our top luxury recommendations for each destination in this South Island luxury itinerary for 14 days. So, start making your South Island dreams a reality with this effortless itinerary.
How to Get Around the South Island in Two Weeks
This South Island luxury itinerary is designed with self-driving in mind, beginning and ending in Christchurch for a hassle-free rental experience. Check out the second tip, however, if you want to experience the South Island in two weeks without having to drive.
- Rental car or campervan – This itinerary is best done by driving yourself. There are plenty of car and motorhome rental options in Christchurch, where this itinerary begins and ends. Start your research using The Guide to Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand, as well as The Best Car Rental Companies in Christchurch or The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Christchurch.
- Escorted tours – If driving and/or organising your own trip is something you’d rather leave to the professionals, then consider taking an escorted tour of the South Island. Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, APT, Active Adventures, Luxury Gold, and Inspiring Journeys offer around 14-day tours of the South Island with accommodation, some meals and some activities included. Note that they follow their own set itinerary; not the one listed below.
Day 1 – Christchurch Airport to Akaroa
Travel time: 1h25mins
Welcome to Te Waipounamu, otherwise known as the South Island of New Zealand! After arriving in Christchurch and picking up your rental vehicle, we recommend taking the scenic yet manageable drive to Akaroa. With amazing marine wildlife and a “French” flair, it’s not a bad place to get over the jet lag before doing a longer road trip around the South Island.
We’ll go over the experiences to be had in Akaroa tomorrow. For now, you might like to relax at one of the premium accommodations in the harbour town and get a bite to eat following the recommendations given in The Luxury Guide to Akaroa.
Luxury Accommodation in Akaroa
- Beaufort House
- Annandale Coastal Farm Escape & Luxury Villa Collection
- Bruce Waterfront Apartments
For more details on each accommodation, take a look at the 5 Best Luxury Accommodation in Akaroa.
Day 2 – Explore Akaroa
Getting out on the water to watch Hector’s dolphins, little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and more is one of the top things to do in Akaroa. Check out Black Cat Cruises (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Akaroa Dolphins (on Viator and Tripadvisor) for cruises on luxury catamarans. For those who prefer to stick to dry land, e-bike tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and wine tours are worthy ways to explore Akaroa.
Luxury Activities in Akaroa
- Take a scenic wildlife cruise of the Akaroa Harbour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Ride the deserted roads of the Banks Peninsula on an e-bike tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Sample regional wines on a boutique winery-hopping tour
- Tour Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula on a V8 trike tour
- Dig deeper into the past, present and future of Akaroa on a guided tour with The Seventh Generation.
For more details on each experience and their locations, see the 6 Luxury Activities in Akaroa.
Day 3 – Akaroa to Hanmer Springs
Travel time: 3 hours
Leave the blue waters of the Akaroa Harbour behind as you travel back toward Christchurch on your way to Hanmer Springs.
Take the time to stop by the city centre of Christchurch to admire its selection of gardens. Further north, you’ll enter the boutique wine region of Waipara with tastings worth seeking out. Your final destination is the alpine resort village of Hanmer Springs, most famous for its large hot pools complex. It does, however, have a fabulous range of premium experiences to enjoy too, which we’ll get into tomorrow. For now, indulge in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa and check-in at your luxury accommodation.
Luxury Accommodation in Hanmer Springs
- The St James Premium Accommodation
- Hanmer Springs Retreat
- Village Lake Apartments
- Braemar Lodge And Spa
- Heritage Hanmer Springs
For more about our top recommendations, take a look at the 10 Best Luxury Accommodation in Hanmer Springs.
Day 4 – Explore Hanmer Springs
You have the entire day to hit the slopes of the Hanmer Spring Ski Area, take a private Jeep tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), do a scenic helicopter flight, or simply relax in the hot pools all day. On the other hand, do a bit of everything with Hanmer Springs Attractions, which offer a range of combos incorporating jet boating, quad biking and white water rafting. Check out all of Hanmer Springs Attractions’ combos on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Luxury Activities in Hanmer Springs
- Soak in the scenery on luxury Jeep tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)…
- … Or from a scenic helicopter tour
- Indulge in a spa day or hot pools session at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
- Enjoy a boutique spa experience at Braemar Lodge And Spa
- Experience adventure on a jet boat, bungy and quad bike combo with Hanmer Springs Attractions (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
For elaboration on the top tours and experiences, see the 10 Luxury Activities in Hanmer Springs.
Day 5 – Hanmer Springs to Greymouth
Travel time: 2h50mins
Today, continue on your road trip to the West Coast of the South Island via the mountain and forest scenery of Lewis Pass. Stop for refreshments in the quaint town of Reefton before making your journey following the Grey River to Greymouth.
Luxury Activities in Greymouth
- See the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Hokitika Gorge or other highlights with Explore West Coast (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take on the West Coast Wilderness Trail
- Play a round 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
- Rimu Lodge
- Breakers Boutique Accommodation
- Kapitea Lodge
- Coleraine Suites & Apartments
- Goldfield Suites
Find out more about each accommodation in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodation in Greymouth.
Day 6 – Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier
Travel time: 2h10mins
If the weather is clear but forecast to be wet for the next couple of days, drive straight to Franz Josef so you don’t miss out on their helicopter or glacier hiking experiences. Otherwise, take your time on the way down to Franz Josef, perhaps to admire the vibrant blue pools of Hokitika Gorge or to 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, you have some fabulous stays to choose from.
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 Accommodation in Franz Josef.
Day 7 – Explore Franz Josef
Most travellers visit Franz Josef to set foot on the famous glacier itself. 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 or Tripadvisor). Another option is a group heli-hike on the glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides (on Viator or Tripadvisor).
If you catch yourself in Franz Josef in bad weather, however, 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 with Franz Josef Glacier Guides (find out more on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Catch salmon or brown trout at Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours (more info on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Do one of New Zealand’s most scenic skydives with Skydive Franz Josef (Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Indulge in a spa treatment at Amaia Luxury Spa
- Be treated to degustation dining amidst the rainforest at Te Waonui Forest Retreat.
For more details on each experience and more, see our 8 Luxury Activities in Franz Josef.
Day 8 – Franz Josef to Wanaka
Travel time: 3h40mins
If you didn’t get the chance to fly over the glacier yesterday, today might be your chance. Otherwise, set off for Haast where you can cruise down the Waiatoto River into the remote Mt Aspiring National Park. It’s a fantastic rainy day activity thanks to the all-weather jet boat design. 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.
As today was a long drive with plenty of action along the way, we’ll give you some things to do in Wanaka tomorrow. For now, collapse onto your bed at your luxury apartment, lodge or resort.
Luxury Accommodation in Wanaka
For more information about each accommodation, see 10 Best Luxury Accommodation in Wanaka.
Day 9 – Wanaka to Queenstown
Travel time: 1h5mins
Before you make for Queenstown today, see if there’s anything you want to do in Wanaka other than gaze upon its majestic lake and mountain scenery.
Luxury Activities in Wanaka
- See Milford Sound in style via a scenic flight (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Gallop through the stunning Cardrona Valley on horseback (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy Wanaka’s most exclusive picnic spot accessed via 4WD (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Land on a glacier by helicopter (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Try out paragliding to experience the scenery in a unique way (on Viator or Tripadvisor)
Find out more about each experience and much more in 10 Luxury Activities in Wanaka.
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. For now, you might like to indulge in its restaurants with million-dollar views. Check out dining recommendations in The Luxury Guide to Queenstown and The Foodie Guide to Queenstown.
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 Accommodation in Queenstown.
Day 10 – 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 the stunning surrounding of Queenstown on an exclusive private tour with Off Road 4X4 Queenstown (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Take a look at the 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown and the 10 Things to Do in Queenstown for more ideas.
Luxury Activities in Queenstown
- Take a private 4WD excursion to Skippers Canyon (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Play golf at Queenstown’s prestigious 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 and Tripadvisor)
For more information on each experience, check out 10 Luxury Activities in Queenstown.
Day 11 – Explore More of Queenstown or Fly to Milford Sound
You have plenty of time to do the Queenstown experience you might have missed yesterday. On the other hand, today could be the perfect day to see the “Eighth Wonder of the World” for yourself. Today, you could experience the glacier-carved fiords of Milford Sound.
By far the most luxurious way to experience Milford Sound is by plane or helicopter. What usually takes around four hours to drive to by car or bus takes just 35 minutes by plane, while incorporating views of magnificent 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. Compare flights and experiences with our 5 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown.
Day 12 – Queenstown to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Travel time: 3h10mins
You have a long yet stunning journey ahead of you today, starting with the dramatic river scenery of Kawarau Gorge on your way to Cromwell. Do a wine tasting in Cromwell before heading north through what is deemed the most beautiful road in New Zealand, Lindis Pass. You’ll come out the other side in Omarama where highlights include soaking in the tubs of Hot Tubs Omarama and soaring the skies with Glide Omarama.
Follow the vibrant blue waters of Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mt Cook Village or to one of the luxury lodges around the lake. Devour Kiwi cuisine to the views of New Zealand’s highest mountains before calling it a night at your accommodation.
Luxury Accommodation in Mt Cook
For more details on each stay, take a look at the 5 Best Luxury Accommodation in Mt Cook.
Day 13 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
This is your last day in the South Island most magnificent scenery so make the most of it. For instance, take to the skies and land on a glacier in a ski plane – one of the only places in the world where you can have this experience. Find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor. If you missed out on a glacier heli-hike in Franz Josef, then you get another chance here in Mt Cook on New Zealand’s longest glacier. Check out Viator and Tripadvisor for more details on this tour.
Luxury Activities in Mt Cook
- Land on the Tasman Glacier in a ski plane (more details on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Do a heli-hike on New Zealand’s longest glacier (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Treat yourself to a spa day
- Do a guided hike in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
- Do some epic backcountry skiing.
For more details on each experience and more, see the 10 Luxury Activities in Mt Cook.
Day 14 – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch Airport
Travel time: 4 hours
Your final day in New Zealand ends with one last Kiwi road trip, this time between Aoraki Mt Cook and Christchurch. Your first stop will be the lakeshores of Lake Tekapo with its brilliant blue waters leading up to the Southern Alps. Pick up souvenirs at the boutiques in Fairlie and, if you have time, do a horse trek in the Peel Forest just outside of Geraldine. The final leg of your journey is through the Canterbury Plains.
Remember to give yourself enough time to return your rental vehicle. There are connecting flights from Christchurch Airport to Auckland Airport, as well as international flights out of Christchurch.
Then it’s goodbye to the South Island of New Zealand! Next time, try out the North Island Luxury Itinerary: Two Weeks / 14 Days.