The 5 Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island 🧭 [2023]© Unsplash
The 5 Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island 🧭 [2023]

The 5 Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island ⛰️ [2024]

© Unsplash
Article Single Pages©
Article Single Pages©
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How to Tour the South Island in 5 Days

Do you have limited time in the South Island but want to make the most of it? Tour companies are a great way to go, saving you time figuring out how to get around and what to do. While you might not be able to explore the majority of the South Island in five days, you can certainly see a few of the highlights. 5-day tours of the South Island of New Zealand are usually specialised tours, getting you to fully explore one or two destinations through hiking, mountain biking or skiing, for example. Check out some of our favourite 5-day tours of the South Island below!

While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Best National Bus Tours in New Zealand. Plus, don’t forget to bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide for even more tips.

6 Tips for Planning a 5-Day Trip on the South Island

  1. For a five-day tour of the South Island, allow a couple of days extra for your travel time to and from the starting point of your tour, as well as to get over the jet lag in your arrival town/city (if applicable)
  2. Check if your chosen tour company has a Facebook Group where you can connect with other travellers that will be on your tour
  3. Compare tour companies on websites like TourRadar to ensure you find the best type of tour for you. Another advantage is that comparison websites have standard cancellation policies, unlike booking directly with the tour company
  4. Pack light: don’t be that guy with two huge suitcases that everyone has to make room for! Get tips from our New Zealand Packing List
  5. Check out what optional activities you will want to do prior to arriving in New Zealand so you are able to budget for your tour correctly
  6. Allow enough room in your budget for food if your tour does not include every meal – see How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost? for typical food costs in New Zealand.

For more bus tour advice check out the 15 Tips to Make the Most of Your Bus Trip.

The 5 Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island 🧭 [2023]© Active Adventures

Active Adventures – Great Walks Discovery

Active Adventures shows an alternative way to explore the South Island in five days on their Great Walks Discovery tour, starting and ending in Queenstown. This active small group tour has a lot of focus on walks and hikes in beautiful landscapes, for instance, the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Great Walks, as well as hiking Ben Lomond in Queenstown and enjoying the lesser-visited Doubtful Sound on an overnight cruise and to the popular Milford Sound.

For more hike-orientated tours, check out The Best New Zealand Hiking Tours.

About Active Adventures’ Tours

Age Range: 16-90-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 14
Accommodation: Hotels, lodges, chalets and overnight cruise
Meals: All breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour and prices by comparing Active Adventures on Tourradar.

Haka Tours© Haka Tours

Haka Tours – Snow Explorer

Skiers and riders, check out this five-day snowsports tour with Haka Tours. The Snow Explorer tour takes snow bunnies on a ski field-hopping trip throughout the South Island, including Porters, Broken River, Mt Olympus/Temple Basin and Craigieburn. Accommodation is included in the form of shared dorms with private room upgrades available. Some meals are also included.

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

About Haka Tours’ Tours

Age Range: 18-65-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 8
Accommodation: Hostels and lodges
Meals: All breakfasts and two dinners

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour and prices by checking out Haka Tours on Tourradar.

Adventure South© Adventure South

Adventure South – West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail

Enjoy a cycle tour with like-minded travellers on the Adventure South West Coast Wilderness Trail tour. This five-day adventure starts and ends in Christchurch and includes a scenic drive through Arthur’s Pass National Park to the West Coast. You’ll then enjoy a guided cycle tour of the West Coast Wilderness Trail between Greymouth and Punakaiki. The tour includes meals, transport, bikes and entry to the West Coast Treetops Walkway.

About Adventure South’s Tours

Age Range: 16-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 14
Accommodation: Hotels and motels
Meals: Four breakfasts, four lunches and three dinners

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

Find out more about this tour and prices by comparing Adventure South on Tourradar.

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

Intrepid Travel – Walk Abel Tasman National Park

Another excellent hiking tour, Intrepid Travel takes you to the glorious beaches of the northern South Island on their Walk Abel Tasman National Park tour. You’ll enjoy daily walks on the iconic Abel Tasman Coast Track Great Walk without having to sacrifice comfort or having to carry lots of gear thanks to transport being included to the park daily. You’ll stay in the rural paradise of Marahau in cosy cabins.

About Intrepid Travel’s Tours

Age Range: 15-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 12
Accommodation: Hostel, cabin and lodge
Meals: Four breakfasts and three lunches

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

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

Thrifty Tours© Thrifty Tours

Thrifty Tours – Southern Highlights

Note that Thrifty Tours prearranges InterCity buses or other companies, accommodation and airport transfers on your behalf for a cheaper self-guided experience. They do not run their own guided tours. 

Only having five days on the South Island doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the highlights! That’s, at least, Thrifty Tours‘ mantra when it comes to their Southern Highlights itinerary, which starts and ends in Christchurch. This five-day tour of the South Island includes a scenic train journey through the Southern Alps before exploring the West Coast and the Franz Josef Glacier. The tour includes hotel accommodation, some meals and a cruise in Milford Sound.

For similar tours, head to The Best New Zealand Tours Starting in Christchurch.

About Thrifty Tours

Age Range: 1-100-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Accommodation: Hotels
Meals: Four breakfasts and two lunches

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

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

More About 5-Day South Island Tours

That’s it for our list of the best 5-day tours of the South Island! For more tours to compare them to, take a look at the following guides:

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


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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