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. Better yet, we show you how to plan this itinerary the EASY way with First Light Travel – more on that at the bottom of the itinerary.
South Island Luxury Itinerary for 2 Weeks (14 Days): Overview
- Day 1 – Christchurch Airport to Akaroa
- Day 2 – Explore Akaroa
- Day 3 – Akaroa to Hanmer Springs
- Day 4 – Explore Hanmer Springs
- Day 5 – Hanmer Springs to Greymouth
- Day 6 – Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier
- Day 7 – Explore Franz Josef
- Day 8 – Franz Josef to Wanaka
- Day 9 – Wanaka to Queenstown
- Day 10 – Explore Queenstown
- Day 11 – Explore More of Queenstown or Fly to Milford Sound
- Day 12 – Queenstown to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
- Day 13 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
- Day 14 – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch Airport
How to Get Around the South Island in 2 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 Best Car Rental Companies in Christchurch or The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Christchurch.
You may also be interested in the luxury options list in The Best Premium Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
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. Learn more about some of these tours in The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island.
And if you are new to road-tripping, be sure to follow our advice in the 10 Ways to Relax on a Road Trip.
Day 1 – Christchurch Airport to Akaroa
Travel time: 1 hr 25 mins
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 long 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
For more details on each accommodation, take a look at the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations 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 or Akaroa Dolphins for cruises on luxury catamarans. For those who prefer to stick to dry land, e-bike tours and wine tours are worthy ways to explore Akaroa.
Luxury Experiences in Akaroa
- Take a scenic wildlife cruise of the Akaroa Harbour with Akaroa Dolphins
- Ride the deserted roads of the Banks Peninsula on an e-bike tour with Akaroa Guided Kayaks
- Sample regional wines on The Bonjour Wine Tour
- Indulge in the local restaurants and bistros
- 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 its location, see the 10 Luxury Experiences 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 (more info on Viator and Klook) and check-in at your luxury accommodation.
Luxury Accommodation in Hanmer Springs
- The St James Premium Accommodation
- 8 on Oregon
- Amuri Estate Luxury Bed & Breakfast
- Braemar Lodge And Spa
- Hanmer Springs Retreat
For more about our top recommendations, take a look at the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Hanmer Springs.
Day 4 – Explore Hanmer Springs
You have the entire day to hit the slopes of the Hanmer Spring Ski Area, 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 or Klook.
Luxury Experiences in Hanmer Springs
- Soak in the scenery with Hanmer Springs Helicopters
- Indulge in a spa day or hot pools session at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa (more info on Viator and Klook)
- 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 or Klook).
For elaboration on the top tours and experiences, see the 10 Luxury Experiences in Hanmer Springs.
Day 5 – Hanmer Springs to Greymouth
Travel time: 2 hrs 50 mins
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.
Once you arrive in Greymouth, take a swing at one of the local golf courses, do some boutique shopping, or take a guided tour of the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
Luxury Experiences in Greymouth
- See the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Hokitika Gorge or other highlights with Explore West Coast
- Cycle the West Coast Wilderness Trail
- Play a round at one of the local golf courses
- Fly and land in the majestic Southern Alps with Anderson Helicopters
- Do some boutique shopping and gallery browsing in town.
For more details on each experience, see the 10 Luxury Experiences in Greymouth.
Luxury Accommodation in Greymouth
- Rimu Lodge
- Coleraine Suites & Apartments
- Goldfield Suites
- Copthorne Hotel Greymouth
- Paparoa Beach Hideaway
Find out more about each accommodation in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Greymouth.
Day 6 – Greymouth to Franz Josef Glacier
Travel time: 2 hrs 10 mins
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 & Zipline.
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
- Rainforest Retreat
- Westwood Lodge
- Kahere Retreat
- Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
For more details on our top recommendations, take a look at the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations 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 and Klook). Alternatively, join a group tour to do a heli-hike on the glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and The Helicopter Line (on Viator and KKday).
If you catch yourself in Franz Josef in bad weather, however, you can always soak the disappointment away at the Waiho Hot Tubs or be pampered at the Amaia Luxury Spa of the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier.
Luxury Experiences in Franz Josef
- Hike on the ice of the Franz Josef Glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and The Helicopter Line (find out more on Viator and KKday)
- Catch salmon or brown trout at Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Do one of New Zealand’s most scenic skydives with Skydive Franz Josef & Fox Glacier (on Viator and Klook)
- 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 10 Luxury Experiences in Franz Josef.
Day 8 – Franz Josef to Wanaka
Travel time: 3 hrs 40 mins
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 of Waiatoto River Safaris.
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
- Minaret Station Alpine Lodge
- Lime Tree Lodge
- Wanaka Luxury Apartments
- Edgewater Hotel
- Lakeside Apartments
For more information about each accommodation, see the 10 Best Luxury Accommodations in Wanaka.
Day 9 – Wanaka to Queenstown
Travel time: 1 hr 5 mins
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 Experiences in Wanaka
- See Milford Sound in style via a scenic flight with Southern Alps Air
- Gallop through the stunning Cardrona Valley on horseback with The Cardrona Hotel
- Enjoy Wanaka’s most exclusive picnic spot accessed via 4WD with Wanaka 4×4 Explorer
- Have a 3-in-1 wilderness experience with a scenic flight, self-guided hike and jet boat ride with Siberia Experience
- Experience the scenery in a unique way with Wanaka Paragliding.
Find out more about each experience and much more in the 10 Luxury Experiences 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 Food Guide to Queenstown.
Luxury Accommodation in Queenstown
- QT Queenstown
- Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
- Hulbert House
- Gibbston Valley Lodge and Spa
- Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa
Find out more about each premium accommodation in our 20 Best Luxury Accommodations 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 such as with Alpine Heliski. Explore the stunning surrounding of Queenstown on an exclusive private tour with Off Road 4X4 Queenstown.
Luxury Experiences in Queenstown
- Take a private 4WD excursion to Skippers Canyon
- Play golf at Queenstown’s prestigious courses
- Escape the crowds with heli-skiing with Alpine Heliski or at Queenstown’s private ski field, Soho Basin
- Explore the Great Walks with an expert guide on a guided hike with Nomad Safaris (more info on Klook and Viator)
- Do a wine and foodie tour with Queenstown Wine Trail (on Viator and Klook).
For more information on each experience, check out the 10 Luxury Experiences 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: 3 hrs 10 mins
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 a highlight includes soaking in the tubs of Hot Tubs 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 Accommodations in Mt Cook.
Day 13 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
This is your last day among the South Island’s most magnificent scenery so make the most of it. For instance, take to the skies and land on a glacier in a ski plane with Mt Cook Ski Planes & Helicopters – one of the only places in the world where you can have this experience. Find out more on Viator or Klook. 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 with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding.
Luxury Experiences in Mt Cook
- Land on the Tasman Glacier in a ski plane (more details on Viator or Klook)
- Do a heli-hike on New Zealand’s longest glacier with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding
- Treat yourself to a spa day at Lakestone Lodge or Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat
- Do a guided hike in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park with Ultimate Hikes
- Have a private picnic experience amongst the peak with Inflite Experiences.
For more details on each experience and more, see the 10 Luxury Experiences 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, check out the many vintage museums of Geraldine. The final leg of your journey is through the Canterbury Plains.
Then it’s goodbye to the South Island of New Zealand! Next time, try out the North Island Luxury Itinerary: 2 Weeks.
Plan This Luxury Itinerary with First Light Travel
If you like this South Island luxury itinerary for one month but don’t like the hassle of planning everything yourself, then there’s a way to lighten the load. First Light Travel is an online travel agent specialising in luxury itineraries in New Zealand. Plus, using their service is super simple:
- First, send First Light Travel an enquiry by completing their online form
- Then, you’ll receive your customised luxury itinerary
- Review your itinerary and work with your First Light Travel agent on perfecting it
- Finally, First Light Travel will organise the rest including the bookings.
First Light Travel has access to more than 20,000 travel products, including almost all the tours and accommodations featured on this list (and more). With that and their local expertise here in New Zealand, they will create a well-catered luxury itinerary to meet your needs while also suggesting some dream travel experiences that you may have never heard of. They only work with companies where their past clients have had positive experiences, so you know you’re in good hands.
What’s more, all of the bookings are arranged by First Light Travel, so instead of having to contact each individual accommodation and operator should your travel plans change, any amendments can be done through your FLT agent – easy! Did we mention the service is at no extra cost to you?!
For more information on planning your own New Zealand itinerary, see How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary. Or better yet, jump on firstlighttravel.com and start making your own itinerary there.
More About a South Island Luxury Itinerary for 2 Weeks / 14 Days
That’s the end of our South Island luxury itinerary for 14 days. If this itinerary didn’t take you fancy, see our alternative 14-day itineraries:
- North Island Luxury Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- New Zealand Luxury Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- South Island in 2 Weeks: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- South Island Family Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- South Island Food Itinerary: 2 Weeks
- South Island Budget Itinerary: 2 Week
- How to Create the Perfect New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Luxury Travel Guide to New Zealand.