The Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island
The Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island

The Best 5-Day Tours of the South Island


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 on 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 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.

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

  • For a five-day tour of the South Island, allow around eight days 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
  • Check if your chosen tour company has a Facebook group where you can connect with other travellers that will be on your tour
  • 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
  • Pack light: don’t be that guy with two huge suitcases that everyone has to make room for! Get tips in our 15 Essentials to Pack for New Zealand
  • 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
  • Allow enough room in your budget for food if your tour does not include every meal – see How Expensive is New Zealand? for typical food costs in New Zealand.

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

Thrifty Tours© Thrifty Tours

Thrifty Tours – Southern Highlights

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 tour, 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.

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

  • Christchurch
  • Mt Cook
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Franz Josef
  • Arthur’s Pass

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

Active Adventures© Active Adventures

Active Adventures – Koru

Active Adventures shows an alternative way to explore the South Island in five days on their Koru 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 in Glenorchy, on the Routeburn Track Great Walk and kayaking on Lake Wakatipu. The tour includes accommodation at a central base in Glenorchy with all meals are included as stated in their itinerary.

About Active Adventures’ Tours

Age Range: 16-90-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 14
Accommodation: Cabins
Meals: All breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

  • Queenstown
  • Glenorchy
  • Routeburn Track
  • Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Paradise

Find out more about this tour 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.

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

  • Christchurch
  • Springfield ski fields
  • Craigieburn

Find out more about this tour by checking out the Haka Tours website.

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

  • Christchurch
  • Hokitika
  • Kumara
  • Punakaiki

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

Headfirst Travel© Headfirst Travel

Headfirst Travel – Kiwi Wilderness Walks, Stewart Island

Experience the off-the-beaten-track destination of Stewart Island with Headfirst Travel. Their Kiwi Wilderness Walks tour starts with a scenic flight from Invercargill to Mason Bay on Stewart Island landing on the beach. You’ll stay in camping huts overnight before hiking through New Zealand’s southernmost national park to catch a water taxi. You’ll also have time to explore the Ulva Island bird sanctuary.

About Headfirst Travel’s Tours

Age Range: 10-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 6
Accommodation: Hotel, camping, guesthouse and hut
Meals: All breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks

Destinations on the 5-Day Tour

  • Invercargill
  • Mason Bay
  • Oban
  • Ulva Island

Find out more about this tour by comparing Headfirst Travel on Tourradar.


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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