The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island© Pxhere
The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island

The 6 Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island ⛰️ [2024]

© Pxhere

How to Tour the South Island in 10 to 12 Days

10 to 12 days is a good amount of time to explore about half of the South Island, but you might want to consider using a tour company to save time on finding your way and planning your trip. For the traveller who wants it easy, the South Island has a spectacular range of escorted tours to suit a variety of travel types. Whether you seek luxury or are on a budget, travelling with kids or travelling solo, want to travel slow or see as much as possible, there’s a tour for you on the South Island of New Zealand. Check out some of our favourites in this guide to the best 10-12-day tours of the South Island.

While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the North Island. Plus, find out more about exploring by bus in Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.

6 Tips for Planning a 10-Day or 12-Day Trip to the South Island

  1. Allow an extra day or two for your trip to the South Island, so that you can include your travel time to and from your tour’s starting point, as well as allow yourself to get over the jet lag
  2. Pack light: don’t be the one with extra suitcases that everyone has to make room for! See our New Zealand Packing List for more packing tips.
  3. Use websites like TourRadar to compare tour companies and find the perfect fit for you. Another advantage to these websites is that they have standard cancellation policies should your plans change
  4. Decide on a few optional activities before your trip so you are able to budget correctly
  5. On a similar note, allow room in your budget for meals, if your tour does not include every meal – see How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost? for the typical cost of food in New Zealand.
  6. Ask if your chosen tour company has a Facebook Group! That way, you can connect with other travellers who will be on the same tour.

For more New Zealand tour advice, see the 15 Tips to Make the Most of Your Bus Trip.

Inspiring Journeys© Inspiring Journeys

Inspiring Journeys – Southern Drift

Convenient, laid-back and just plain fun, the Southern Drift tour with Inspiring Journeys is an excellent way to explore the South Island. The 12-day South Island tour starts and ends in Christchurch, taking a range of passengers, from young teens to seniors, to the South Island’s main bucket list destinations. We’re talking about Franz Josef, Milford Sound and Queenstown, as well as a few surprises along the way. Hotel accommodation is included. Meanwhile, Inspiring Journeys is just about the only escorted tour actually staying in Milford Sound. Some activities are also included, as well as most meals.

For more tours starting in Christchurch, check out The Best New Zealand Tours Starting in Christchurch.

About Inspiring Journey’s Tours

Age Range: 12-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 20
Accommodation: Hotels and lodges
Meals: 11 breakfasts, one lunch and 11 dinners

Destinations on the 12-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour, including price, by comparing Inspiring Journeys on Tourradar.

The 5 Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island ⛰️ [2023]© Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel – New Zealand South Island Adventure

A more active tour taking you to more destinations on the South Island, the New Zealand South Island Adventure tour with Intrepid Travel is well worth considering. The small-group tour lasts 12 days starting in Christchurch and ending in Queenstown. While there are plenty of highlights on the itinerary, including a Milford Sound cruise, it’s the off-the-beaten-track locations that are sure to stick with you, such as the historic mining towns of Reefton and Westport, the less-visited but no less impressive Fox Glacier and even the sub-antarctic Stewart Island!

For more small-group adventures, head to The Best Small-Group Tours in New Zealand.

About Intrepid Travel’s Tours

Age Range: 15-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 12
Accommodation: Hotels, motels and cabins
Meals: 11 breakfasts

Destinations on the 12-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour, including prices, by comparing Intrepid Travel on Tourradar.

Haka Tours© Haka Tours

Haka Tours – Southern Explorer

Say you’ve spent some time on the North Island and you’re ready to hit the South; Haka Tours provides just the 12-day tour for 30 to 70-year-olds. The Southern Explorer tour starts in Wellington, taking you on the Cook Strait ferry to where your South Island adventure begins. See whales, dolphins and seals in the wildlife mecca Kaikoura, get off the tourist trail to the gorgeous Lake Ohau, and you won’t miss the highlights when checking out Queenstown, Wanaka and Franz Josef. The tour ends in the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch.

About Haka Tours’ Tours

Age Range: 30-70-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 11
Accommodation: Hotels, motels and lodges
Meals: Six breakfasts and two dinners

Destinations on the 12-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour, including prices, by comparing Haka Tours on Tourradar.

The 5 Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island ⛰️ [2023]© Trafalgar

Trafalgar – Southern Spectacular

Enjoy an in-depth tour of the South Island across 10 days with this Southern Spectacular tour with Trafalgar. The tour loops from Christchurch to Christchurch incorporating the TranzAlpine train journey and a Milford Sound cruise. Stay in upmarket hotels and enjoy a substantial number of meals on this tour that gives you more bang for your buck while having fewer logistics to organise. You also have two full days to experience Queenstown your way.

About Trafalgar’s Tours

Age Range: 5-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Accommodation: Hotels
Meals: 9 breakfasts, one lunch and eight dinners

Destinations on the 10-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour, including the price, by comparing Trafalgar on Tourradar.

Luxury Gold© Luxury Gold

Luxury Gold – The Southern Drift

Stay in five-star accommodation and enjoy world-class dining on this upmarket tour around the South Island with Luxury Gold. Start and end your journey in Christchurch, where you’ll get to experience the TranzAlpine train, meet a local greenstone carver in Franz Josef, kayak in Milford Sound, tour Larnach Castle in Dunedin and more. Most meals are included in the trip with dinners including wine. You’ll also get ample leisure time on this tour, which isn’t too fast-paced.

For more tours suited to the older crowd, head to The Best New Zealand Tours for Seniors.

About Luxury Gold’s Tours

Age Range: 5-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 40
Accommodation: Hotels
Meals: 11 breakfasts, one lunch and seven dinners

Destinations on the 12-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour by comparing Luxury Gold on Tourradar.

Thrifty Tours© Thrifty Tours

Thrifty Tours – Southern National Parks

Hit some of the most breathtaking national parks on the South Island on the Southern National Parks tour with Thrifty Tours. This 10-day New Zealand prearranged self-guided tour is for the budget-conscious traveller by swapping a fully guided experience for a prearranged coach + accommodation + airport transfers package. Start and end in Christchurch, staying in a twin-share room in motel accommodation. The experience includes one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the TranzAlpine, as well as a Milford Sound cruise and airport transfers. The tour also gives you ample time in most destinations to relax and explore on your own.

About Thrifty Tours’ Tours

Age Range: 1-100-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Accommodation: Motels
Meals: One lunch

Destinations on the 10-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour by comparing Thrifty Tours on Tourradar.

More About 10 to 12-Day Bus Tours of the South Island

That’s it for our list of the best 10-12-day South Island tours! If these tours didn’t quite speak to you, how about these?

Finally, compare all of your bus travel options in our complete guide, How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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