From its dynamic peaks and endless coastlines to its lush native forest and underground cave systems, the rivers, lakes, mountains and valleys that shape this part of the world is a veritable paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. We hope this seven-day guide to the best of the outdoors in the top of the south will assist you in planning your holiday and maybe even inspire you to stay a little longer.
Christchurch > Lake Brunner
Get off the grid and dive straight into the rugged beauty of New Zealand’s outdoors at Lake Brunner, surrounded by beautiful native forest and teeming with birds. There are a number of short and long walks in the area. Or holiday like a local and organise a boating or fishing tour on the lake.
For magical mountain views and a journey through New Zealand’s pioneer history, jump on board the Tranzalpine Train. Billed as one of the world's great train journeys, covering 223 kilometres, the TranzAlpine train travels coast-to-coast through the Great Divide and the indomitable spine of mountains that partitions New Zealand's South Island.
Lake Brunner Eco Lodge
Hidden on the southern shore of Lake Brunner on the West Coast of the South Island, surrounded by some of the oldest protected podocarp rainforest in the world, Lake Brunner Eco Lodge is a classic wilderness retreat. This is a great spot to base yourself when out enjoying the outdoors in this magnificent area.
Lake Brunner > Punakaiki
Have your camera handy and prepare yourself to be amazed by the vast power and untamed beauty of the wild West Coast. Adventure awaits around every bend as you drive along the Great Coast Road between Greymouth and Hokitika, one of the world’s most scenic coastal roads.
Located in Greymouth, the iconic Monteith’s Brewery is the original home of craft brewing in New Zealand. Take the guided 45-mintue brewery experience tour to learn about craft beer and the brewing process. Pour your own beer from the tap and relax in their lively restaurant and enjoy something from their locally inspired menu.
The Paparoa Track is New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk. It travels through the spectacular limestone landscapes and luxuriant forests of Paparoa National Park, ideal for mountain biking and hiking. If you don’t have two-three days to do the whole track, check out the Pike 29 Memorial Track or the Pororari River Track for day excursions.
Punakaiki > Kaiteriteri
As you head away from the mighty West Coast towards sunny Nelson Tasman, the ideal spot to stop for lunch is the river rafting mecca, Murchison. Jump on a rafting trip, or enjoy some of the short, scenic walks on your way to beautiful Kaiteriteri.
Janie Seddon Shipwreck
The Janie Seddon shipwreck is located on the Motueka foreshore, and despite its weathered ruins the ship has a rich and diverse history. Located along the Tasman Great Taste Trail, this is a fantastic place to bike or walk and take in the natural beauty of the region and discover some hidden gems.
Whether you biked or drove to Kaiteriteri Beach, one glimpse of its golden sands and azure waters, and you’ll be tempted to dive in. Hire a kayak or stand up paddle board to explore the coastline, or grab your towel, sunblock and a good book for a spot of sunbathing
Immerse yourself in the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park with a full day of activity on and off the water. And rest assured, whether you choose to bike, kayak, hike or simply relax on the beach, an epic coffee and delicious bite is never far away!
Abel Tasman Kayaks
There is no better way to explore the beautiful golden beaches, peaceful coves and lagoons, offshore islands and amazing wildlife, than a half day guided tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks. Their passionate and knowledgeable kayak guides return year after year to share this area with visitors looking for an unforgettable experience.
Waka Abel Tasman Tour
Embrace the spirit of adventure and connect with te mauri o te wai (the vitality/essence of the water) on a journey of discovery with Waka Abel Tasman. Join a group, grab a paddle and lend some muscle while enjoying the idyllic surroundings and learning about the Māori history and tradition of waka.
Abel Tasman Cruise & Walk
Make the most of your time at Abel Tasman National Park with a cruise, guided kayak and self-guided walk experience with Wilsons. Discover the hidden bays and playful seals by kayak, immerse yourself in the park’s beautiful native bush, then put your feet up and enjoy a scenic cruise home.
Whether you want to sink your teeth into some locally grown produce along the Tasman Great Taste Trail, or explore the amazing tracks of the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park, you’ll be able to hire the right bike from Kiwi Journeys. Grab a bike, it’s time to hit the trails!
Kaiteriteri > Blenheim
The adventure doesn’t let up on this tour, starting your day with an epic adrenaline rush at Cable Bay Adventure Park 0 home to the world’s longest flying fox! Cool off with a swim at Pelorus Bridge and finish the day with some tasty home grown Green Shell Mussels in brilliant Marlborough.
Cable Bay Adventure Park
Located just 15 minutes drive from the centre of Nelson, The Cable Bay Adventure Park is Nelson's adventure destination. Home to a wide range of adventure activities, from the skywire experience, mountain biking, quad biking, paintball, plus an onsite licensed cafe - you’ll find something for everyone at Cable Bay Adventure Park.
Don’t forget to pack your togs and stop for a dip in the emerald waters of Te Hoiere/Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge. The river is crystal clear and blessed with deep pools for swimming. It’s bracingly cold, but the large boulders that line the river are ideal for warming yourself on after your swim.
Mills Bay Mussel
Think you know mussels? Roll up your sleeves and prepare to be amazed - Mills Bay Mussels Tasting Room and Eatery do premium New Zealand Greenshell Mussels like no other. Located on the Havelock Marina, their delicious menu features mussels grown in the Kenepuru Sound - the freshest mussels you can get!
Dodson Street Beer Garden
The home of locally brewed beer Renaissance, the Dodson Street Beer Garden is a family-friendly restaurant with a great selection of craft beers on tap and arguably the best beer garden in Blenheim! A brew and hearty pub feed in the sunny garden tops the must-do list for many locals.
Scenic Hotel Marlborough
For family friendly accommodation with a relaxed atmosphere, check out Scenic Hotel Marlborough. This 4-star plus hotel is just minutes walk from the centre of Blenheim with some of New Zealand's finest food and wine virtually on your doorstep. The in-house restaurant ensures the whole tribe will be fed and no one goes hungry!
Blenheim > Kaikōura
Take your time on this memorable scenic journey from Blenheim to Kaikōura, stopping in along the way at the Ohau Point safe stopping site and look out for some NZ fur seals.
Enjoy a wine tasting and learn about Yealands Wines commitment to sustainability at their cellar door near Seddon. Set among their stunning vineyards, take the 40-minute self-guided tour along The White Road, with wetlands, chickens, classical music in the vines, miniature babydoll sheep, kunekune pigs and plenty of beautiful picnic spots along the way.
Ohau Point Seal Colony
Half an hour drive north of Kaikōura, you’ll come to the Ohau Point Seal Colony, a fur seal breeding area, which offers unrivalled views of these cute marine mammals in their natural habitat. Watch the playful pups play in the rock pools and the adults laze about on the rocks.
Whale Watch Kaikōura
Whale Watch Kaikōura Jump aboard one of New Zealand’s most enduring tourist attractions and a truly memorable experience with Whale Watch Kaikōura. Enjoy an exciting up-close encounter with the world’s largest toothed predator the Giant Sperm Whale in their natural environment.
The Pier Hotel
Situated on the Kaikōura waterfront, The Pier Hotel is a classic Kiwi pub set in an iconic nineteenth century character hotel guesthouse and restaurant. Sip a beer outdoors while soaking up the magnificent sea and mountain views, or enjoy a delicious meal in the cosy restaurant, famous for the freshest seafood and locally caught crayfish.
The White Morph
Set on the Kaikōura esplanade, The White Morph is a short walk from the township with its bars, restaurants, cafes, retail stores and Kaikōura’s main attractions including Whale Watch Kaikōura and Dolphin Encounter. Enjoy amazing sea and mountain views and a wide range of room types to suit all travellers and budgets.
Kaikoura > Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs is synonymous with fantastic single-track mountain bike riding. Novice riders will be comfortable in the Heritage Forest area, while more advanced riders can hit the trails north of Jollies Pass Road. For the more adventurous, check out the backcountry roads and trails in the St James Conservation Area and the Jacks Jollies Loop.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa
Surrounded by dramatic mountains and towering forests, Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa is the fun place to relax and unwind. Soak in the natural rock pools or private spas, get your thrills on the hydroslides, or book an indulging massage or spa treatment in their exclusive spa.
Hanmer Springs Quad Bikes and Buggies
Plow through streams, mud, forest and over rocks on a two-hour quad biking trip with Hanmer Springs Quad Bikes and Buggies. Follow the expert guide for an exciting and scenic adventure ride. Quad bikes are suitable for ages 16 and above, while off-road buggies are available for passengers from six years.
Hanmer Springs Rafting
Get set for a 2-hour fully guided Hanmer Springs Rafting trip along the gentle rapids of the Grade 2 Waiau River. This fun-filled activity is action packed, complete with a rock jump and Jet Boat ride back to base. A must-do adventure perfect for all ages, especially families and small groups
Hanmer Springs Scenic Views Motel
Enjoy fabulous views from this modern luxury motel in the heart of Hanmer Springs. With plenty of parking and room for the children to play, and the thermal pools a 400m walk away, Scenic Views Motel is perfect for families or couples wishing to relax and enjoy everything that Hanmer Springs has to offer.
Hanmer Springs > Christchurch
Fiddlers Green Vineyard and Bistro
For a warm welcome and delicious lunch in an intimate vineyard setting, stop in and visit Fiddlers Green Vineyard and Bistro - a real hidden gem in the Wairarapa wine region. Sample their organic wines from an extensive wine list and linger over a long lunch, featuring some of the best locally produced ingredients.