The Top Bus and Coach Tours of New Zealand and the South Island From Queenstown
Start your journey around New Zealand in the centre of the action and stunning scenery! Queenstown might have a small international airport for arriving in New Zealand but it is the start of many big adventures, from budget hop-on-hop-off tours to luxury sightseeing tours. Queenstown is also a good place to start visiting New Zealand if you’re here for a limited time, with tours ranging from 3 to 19 days. So get a taste of the variety of trips available in our guide to the best New Zealand and South Island tours starting from Queenstown.
While you’re here, you might also want to consider The New Zealand Tours Starting in Auckland, The New Zealand Tours Starting in Christchurch and The New Zealand Tours Starting in Wellington. Plus, find out more about exploring by bus in Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.
5 Tips for Taking a New Zealand Tours from Queenstown
- Allow a day or two before and/or after your tour to allow for your travel time to New Zealand, as well as get over the jet lag and explore Queenstown – see 10 Queenstown Must-Dos and The 50 Best Accommodations in Queenstown
- See if your tour includes airport transfers, as most tours depart in Queenstown town centre which is around a 15-minute drive from the airport – see Public Transport in Queenstown
- Be sure to budget for meals throughout your trip, including your first and last nights in Queenstown where many of the tours don’t have meals included – see How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost?
- See if your chosen tour company has a Facebook Group. That way, you can organise to meet fellow travellers in Queenstown the day before your tour departs
- Note that no tours that start in Queenstown actually end in Queenstown. If you’re flying out of New Zealand after your tour, arrange your flight out of Christchurch or Nelson.
For more tour advice, check out the 15 Tips to Make the Most of Your Bus Trip.
Flying Kiwi – Wild West
Journey through the wild West Coast of the South Island, visiting glaciers, rainforest and having the opportunity to skydive, jot boat or sail with Flying Kiwi! The Wild West tour has the option to start from Queenstown and travel up north via the Abel Tasman National Park where your tour ends in Nelson or Picton. There are a bunch of free activities, like walks and natural attractions that you’ll get to experience throughout the tour, as well as a wine tasting in Marlborough. Accommodation in campsites is also included, with cabin upgrades sometimes available. What’s more, most meals are included in the rate!
Note: Tours resume in 2023.
Tour Length: 8 days
Age Range: 18-65-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 26
Accommodation: Camping and cabins
Meals: Seven breakfasts, three lunches and six dinners
Haka Tours – South Island Snow Safari
One for keen skiers and snowboarders, Haka Tours offers South Island ski tours starting in one of the biggest ski towns in the country, Queenstown! This small-group tour takes you ski field-hopping on your way to Christchurch, including six lift passes to six different ski areas. Daily breakfast and accommodation in hostels and lodges on a multi-share basis are also included. Note that this tour can also be done in reverse from Christchurch.
Tour Length: 7 days
Age Range: 18-65-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 16
Accommodation: Hostels and lodges
Meals: All breakfasts
Contiki – The Big Tiki
A fantastic tour of New Zealand from Queenstown, The Big Tiki from Contiki is a 19-day journey through the South Island up to Auckland in the North Island. The tour is exclusively for 18-35-year-olds with a social vibe to enjoy with new travel mates. The tour starts with four days in the adventure capital, Queenstown, before making its way up north to Franz Josef Glacier, Wellington, Lake Taupo, Rotorua and more surprises toward Auckland. Tours include accommodation in multi-share rooms, heaps of food and a ride on the scenic TranzAlpine.
Tour Length: 19 days
Age Range: 18-35-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Accommodation: Hotels and lodges
Meals: 18 breakfasts and six dinners
Active Adventures – Great Walks Discovery
Active Adventures shows an alternative way to experience the South Island in five days on their Great Walks Discovery tour. This active small group tour, which starts and ends in Queenstown, focusses on walks and hikes in beautiful landscapes. You’ll be doing walks on the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Great Walks, as well as the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown. Also included is the lesser-visited Doubtful Sound on an overnight cruise and the popular Milford Sound.
For more hike-orientated tours, check out The Best New Zealand Hiking Tours.
Tour Length: 5 days
Age Range: 16-90-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 14
Accommodation: Hotels, lodges, chalets and overnight cruise
Meals: All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
Find out more about this tour and prices by comparing Active Adventures on Tourradar.
Intrepid Travel – Queenstown Southern Loop
Explore the southern end of the South Island on this off-the-beaten-track adventure with Intrepid Travel. Their Queenstown Southern Loop begins and ends in Queenstown, taking you to the must-see Milford Sound, as well as to the less-visited destinations of The Catlins and Stewart Island. There are a few physical activities involved but the tour is open to most age groups, whether you’re a young solo traveller, a couple in their 30s/40s or retired.
For alternative tours from Queenstown, check out The Best New Zealand Tours Starting in Queenstown.
Tour Length: 6 days
Age Range: 15-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 12
Accommodation: Hotels and cabins
Meals: Five breakfasts
Find out more about this tour by comparing Intrepid Travel on Tourradar.
Thrifty Tours – Glaciers and TranzAlpine Queenstown to Christchurch
Only have three days to get a taste of New Zealand? It’s possible to do just that with the help of Thrifty Tours! Their Queenstown to Christchurch excursion takes you with GreatSights/InterCity to Franz Josef where you’ll enjoy a hike to the Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face. Spend two nights in a three-star hotel in the Franz Glacier township before making your way to Greymouth where you’ll be dropped at the train station to take a stunning journey on the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. Note that this isn’t a fully guided tour with Thrifty Tours; they just organise your coach, accommodation and airport/accommodation transfers for a cheaper trip.
Tour Length: 3 days
Age Range: 1-100-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Meals: Not included
Find out more about this tour by comparing Thrifty Tours on Tourradar.
Alexander + Roberts – Spectacular New Zealand
Discover the South Island on a small-group tour with Alexander & Roberts. The Spectacular New Zealand tour is a luxury tour where you’ll spend days sightseeing across Queenstown, Central Otago and Fiordland and nights relaxing in luxury boutique hotels and indulging in dinners with fine wine. One evening even included staying on a cruise in Milford Sound. Tours also include airport transfers and almost all meals.
Tour Length: 9 days
Age Range: 12-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 16
Accommodation: Hotels and a boat
Meals: Eight breakfasts, three lunches and six dinners
More About Bus Tours of New Zealand From Queenstown
That’s it for our list of the best tours of New Zealand starting from Queenstown. If these tours of the South Island from Queenstown were not really your thing, how about the tour listings in these articles?
- The Best National Bus Tours in New Zealand
- The Best National Coach Tours in New Zealand
- The Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand
Finally, compare all of your bus travel options in our complete guide, How to Travel by Bus in New Zealand.