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South Island, New Zealand

The Five-Day Tour

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Franz Joseph Glacier guided walk

A guided walk on the Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast of the South Island

© Tourism New Zealand

    You can, if you want to, see the best of the South Island of New Zealand in a five-day tour.

Some people like to stay in one place for days and really get to know the community while others make a mad dash around a country, trying to see as much as they can.

Despite occasional irritations, such as uncooperative weather or having to travel over dirt roads, both types of tourists actually quite enjoy what they do.

The South Island of New Zealand comprises plains, mountains, glaciers, fiords, providing spectacular panoramas as you travel through it.

A relatively small country like New Zealand is conducive to "mad dashes" and you can do the high spots of the North Island in five days. You can certainly do the same on the South Island.

Two ways of touring the island

For a five-day tour of the South Island, you could have a choice of two possible itineraries:

South Island 1: Christchurch-West Coast-Queenstown-Christchurch

Day 1 - Christchurch. Overnight stay.
Day 2 - Travel to Greymouth (by TranzAlpine train if preferred). Overnight stay at Greymouth.
Day 3 - Travel to Franz Joseph or Fox Glacier. Overnight stay.
Day 4 - Travel to Queenstown. Overnight stay.
Day 5 - Return to Christchurch.

South Island 2: Christchurch-Queenstown-Milford Sound-Christchurch

Day 1 - Christchurch. Overnight stay.
Day 2 - Drive to Akaroa if time permits, then travel to Mt Cook. Overnight stay.
Day 3 - Travel to Queenstown. Overnight stay.
Day 4 - Take a cruise on Milford Sound. Overnight at Queenstown.
Day 5 - Return to Christchurch.

Mt Cook route

You won’t see everything on a five-day South Island tour and there will be places you’d like to come back to.

But you can visit Christchurch, your likely first stop by air, and from there proceed southwest to Queenstown via either Greymouth or Mt Cook.

We’ll take the Mt Cook route for purposes of this article but you may miss the West Coast glaciers altogether except for a look from Mt Cook.

Six-hour travel time

It’s 479 kilometres from Christchurch to Queenstown, so you can figure out travel time based on 100km/h on open roads, 50km/h on town roads, say an average of 80km/h with short breaks here and there, which makes for six hours' traveling time.

From Queenstown you can go on a cruise on Milford Sound before heading back to Christchurch via the east coast.

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