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Llupins, Lake Tekapo

New Zealand – South Island Self-drive



25 Days

Prices Start from

$9,271pp (ex. flights)

The most dramatic of New Zealand’s two islands, this self-drive holiday explores the South Island in-depth, taking in the best of the magnificent scenery and wildlife on offer.

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand 1

Mount Cook Scenic Flight

Soar above Mount Cook and the west coast glaciers on a scenic flight.

Bullers Albatross, New Zealand 2

The Catlins Wildlife

Search for albatross and hooker sea lions against the rugged coastline of the Catlins.

Kayaking, Abel Tasman, Split Apple Rock, New Zealand 3

Explore Abel Tasman

Kayak or walk the golden beaches and native bush of the Abel Tasman coastline.

Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealands 4

Cruise Milford Sound

Explore the iconic and spectacular scenery of Milford Sound.

Why we like it

The South Island is the most scenically stunning of New Zealand’s two islands and this trip allows you to really take in the best of it. Rather than try to cover both the North and South Island this route allows exploration of the natural south in more depth, at a more relaxed pace. Expect jaw dropping and varied scenery at every turn. The perfect trip if you love scenery, wildlife, wine, lakes and secluded accommodation.

Explore the itinerary

Train Journey
  • Day 1
  • Day 2
    Christchurch - Mount Cook Village
  • Day 3
    Mount Cook Village
  • Day 4
    Mount Cook Village - Dunedin
  • Day 5
  • Day 6
    Dunedin - Catlins
  • Day 7
  • Day 8
    Catlins - Te Anau
  • Day 9
    Te Anau (Milford Sound)
  • Day 10
    Te Anau - Wanaka
  • Day 11
  • Day 12
    Wanaka - Lake Moeraki
  • Day 13
    Lake Moeraki
  • Day 14
    Lake Moeraki - Franz Josef Glacier
  • Day 15
    Franz Josef Glacier
  • Day 16
    Franz Josef Glacier - Arthur's Pass
  • Day 17
    Arthur's Pass
  • Day 18
    Arthur's Pass - Kaikoura
  • Day 19
  • Day 20
    Kaikoura - Blenheim
  • Day 21
    Blenheim - Abel Tasman
  • Day 22
    Abel Tasman
  • Day 23
    Abel Tasman - Punakaiki
  • Day 24
    Punakaiki - Greymouth - Christchurch
  • Day 25

Now for the details

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Abel Tasman National Park

Turquoise Waters of The Abel Tasman

The northern part of the South Island is known for its world-class wine and glorious coastline of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – a 51 kilometre track which can be walked in its entirety over three to five days or followed in part, either on foot or by kayak. Different to anywhere else on the South Island, this coastline of beaches and rainforest interior is stunning. The perfect opportunity to take time to relax on a sheltered beach in solitude.

Little Blue Penguin, Dunedin, New Zealand
Little blue penguin

Wildlife of the South Island

Self-drive the rugged south eastern coastline, from the Otago Peninsula to the Catlins, a less visited area of craggy coast with forested interiors dotted with waterfalls. Walk on secluded beaches where hooker sea lions patrol the shore and colonies of yellow eyed and little blue penguins reside in the sand dunes. Clifftops hide colonies of shags, gannets, gulls and huge albatross – a magical sight as they soar through the skies on their three metre fixed wings.

Hapuku Lodge Treehouses in Kaikoura
Hapuku Lodge

Treetop Living

Stay in a treehouse on the shores of Kaikoura and spend your time searching for fur seals, dolphins and whales. Kaikoura is probably best known for its nutrient rich waters which create the perfect habitat for a range of marine life. There are also some wonderful riding, cycling and hiking trails in the area plus Mangamaunu Bay, a short walk from the lodge and an excellent surfing beach. As well as being a unique place to stay in a special location, Hapuku Lodge is committed to sustainable practices with numerous green initiatives in place which we love.

Lake Moeraki sunrise, New Zealand
Lake Moeraki

Epic Scenery - Fiordlands, Mountains and Lakes

The fiords, mountains and lakes of the South Island have probably created some of New Zealand’s most recognisable images and this trip includes time spent self-driving through this scenically spectacular area. Spend a night overlooking Te Anau Lake, perfectly placed to access the dramatic and iconic fiordland scenery of Milford Sound. Continue via the Remarkable Mountain Ranges to the buzz of Queenstown and picturesque Wanaka.

Further north is Lake Moeraki – located on the west coast and home to spectacular beaches, lowland rainforests, lakes and rivers. Relax and explore on foot or by canoe in search of fur seals and crested penguins.

Read More
View from a train bending round a corner with river gorge on left and rolling green hills.
Taieri gorge train journey

Taieri Gorge Train Journey

Departing from Dunedin, this four hour train journey travels through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery which is inaccessible by road. Pass through spectacular landscapes, peppered with century-old tunnels and iron viaducts showcasing incredible engineering from a bygone era. The journey has a full commentary and the scenery can be enjoyed from open air platforms or the comfort of heated interiors.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

The George Hotel £££££

  • New Zealand
  • City

Overlooking Hagley Park and the River Avon in central Christchurch, The George Hotel has 53 elegant rooms, most of which make the most of the verdant views from either a balcony or floor to ceiling picture windows. The two restaurants serve award-winning innovative cuisine and the service levels are extremely high.

View Property

Te Waonui Forest Retreat £££££

  • New Zealand

This lodge-style hotel is nestled amid the rainforest on the West Coast of New Zealand. The retreat is nothing short of an eco-friendly accommodation designed with reused native materials and natural hues.

View Property

Hapuku Lodge £££££

  • New Zealand
  • Boutique
  • Unusual

In one of the South Island’s most spectacular settings, sandwiched between the ocean and snow-capped peaks, Hapuku Lodge offers the chance to stay in a treehouse suspended 10 metres up in native Manuka trees. Set in a peaceful location in the heart of the rolling countryside, the 1,600 acres surrounding the property include olive groves and the family’s deer farm.

View Property

The Hermitage £££££

  • New Zealand

Ringed by the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, the Hermitage has been welcoming visitors to Mount Cook National Park since 1884. Interiors are comfortable and modern, and the 164 rooms range from suites to more motel style accommodation. Most rooms, as well as the restaurant, make the most of the fabulous mountain views.

View Property

Fiordland Lodge £££££

  • New Zealand
  • Wilderness

Set on the edge of the Fiordland National Park, a three-million-acre wilderness area of mountains, lakes and rainforest, Fiordland Lodge sits above Lake Te Anau. Built using huge timer logs and river stone the interior is flooded with light through floor to ceiling windows which frame the spectacular views. Each of the ten lodge rooms makes the most of the views and have a private balcony or lawn area plus two self-contained log cabins work well for families or groups.

View Property

Let’s chat

Speak to our experts

Our team is waiting to help you tailor a trip that will leave you with stories for a lifetime. Call us on

01285 601 784

Send us an enquiry

Complete our enquiry form and start your next journey.


Amy's experience of New Zealand was invaluable. Everything went like clockwork and the travel documentation and book you sent us were brilliant.

New Zealand

A note on price

Prices will vary depending on the time of year you are travelling. Prices do not include international flights. Please ask one of our Travel Experts for an accurate quote. Flights purchased through Steppes Travel departing from the UK are ATOL protected.

This Itinerary
From $9,271 Per person

When to travel

New Zealand in January

The long warm sunny days make this a wonderful time to visit, but accommodation fills up quickly. Locals have their summer holidays so add to visitor numbers.

New Zealand in February

The warmest month for much of the country. Locals return to work, easing some pressure on accommodation. A great time to enjoy South Island summer.

New Zealand in March

The best month to visit, as summer crowds disperse but beautiful warm weather generally prevails. An ideal time for a more spontaneous trip.

New Zealand in April

Temperatures fall, especially in the South Island. The autumn colours can be spectacular, and you may still get away with shorts in Auckland.

New Zealand in May

Autumn sweeps through the North Island, reinvigorating the green rolling hills. A quiet time of year to travel, after summer and before ski season.

New Zealand in June

The start of the ski season in the North Island, with the first snow showers beginning to fall. Crisp clear sunny days can still be found on the South Island.

New Zealand in July

The snow begins to settle and international snow sports teams can be spotted doing their off-season training.

New Zealand in August

The coldest month, but still plenty to see and do. Ski season is in full swing, and humpback whales can be spotted near Kaikoura on their way north.

New Zealand in September

Spring is in sight, but there is still plenty of snow on the mountains. Newborn lambs can be spotted in the vibrant green fields.

New Zealand in October

The snow melts and the rivers are at their peak, making for an exciting time to do white water sports. Longer days allow for more time to enjoy the outdoors.

New Zealand in November

A beautiful time of year, with wild gorse and vibrant lupins dotting the fields, making the countryside particularly colourful. Snow can still be seen on the tops of the mountains.

New Zealand in December

Temperatures heat up, but early in the month it is still relatively quiet. Christmas and New Year’s celebrations can be enjoyed in true Kiwi style – on a beach or in the expansive wilderness.

Holiday Inspiration

Our experts have created and curated these tailor-made holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something that is the spark for your unique adventure.

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

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