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7 Day Queenstown and Glaciers New Zealand itinerary

Use this itinerary as a guide to plan your trip

This action packed 7 day New Zealand itinerary takes you to the beautiful Southern Lakes region, home to the lakeside resorts of Queenstown and Wanaka. Also on the itinerary are the spectacular twin glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox, located on the South Island's rugged West Coast.

Located in a stunning position on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and flanked by towering peaks, Queenstown offers breath taking scenery, and a multitude of things to do.

The equally beautiful Wanaka is perhaps a little less hectic than Queenstown, but offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages.

We also visit the wild West Coast, home to the twin glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox. Surrounded by native rainforest, the region is a favorite for photographers and hikers, with the glaciers best viewed up close on a hike or heli flight.

Handy Tips

1) You can view your interactive route map at the bottom of the page

2) Feel free to hire a car and use this itinerary as a guide, or fill out the form at the bottom of the page to talk to one of our local experts.

3) Place your cursor on a picture for a description of the picture.

Day by day -  click on each day for more detail, then when you finish just click on your browsers back button to return here

Day 1 - arrive in Queenstown, the "Adventure Capital"

Day 2 - explore Queenstown or Milford Sound

Day 3 - Queenstown to Wanaka

Day 4 - Wanaka to the Glaciers and West Coast

Day 5 - Explore the Glaciers

Day 6 - Glaciers to Christchurch

Day 7 - Christchurch to home

Day 1 Arrive Queenstown

Coming into Queenstown over the Southern Alps

Today your New Zealand itinerary takes you to Queenstown. The flight in is a highlight, as you swing low over the Southern Alps. In the cooler months the alps are covered in snow so have your camera ready.

As you swing in over Arrowtown the Remarkables mountain range looms up on your left, and this surely has to be one of the most scenic landings in the world.

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Out tips about accommodation In Queenstown

Queenstown is very hilly and parking in the center of town is limited, and is mostly pay to park.

The view from an apartment at Pepper's Beacon Queenstown

Because of this we recommend that you carefully choose your accommodation making sure that it is within easy walking distance of the town center (properties on Frankton Road can be 30-60 minutes walk).

We usually stay at Pepper's Beacon. They have a good selection of rooms, are lakefront, and are a level, 3 minute walk to the center of town. If your budget can stretch to a lake view apartment you won't be disappointed. Stunning views, and kitchen and laundry facilities make for a great place to unwind.

If you're looking for some good budget accommodation, Haka Lodge comes highly recommended.

You can read customer reviews, check availability, and make your bookings here.

Eating out in Queenstown

Queenstown has a huge range of bars, pubs and restaurants covering all tastes and budgets, and it's one of those places where you will never be lost for somewhere special to dine.

Queenstown's Pub on Wharf

For great pub food, try Pog Mahone's, a traditional Irish Pub (the upstairs balcony overlooks the lake), or the Pub on Wharf (in the cooler months we love their outdoor heaters and throw rugs, not to mention the year round views over the lake).

If pizza is your thing, Winnie's, in the mall in central Queenstown, has a great selection.

And for something upmarket, the Botswana Butchery has a great reputation for fine food, wine, and service.

And no Queenstown trip would be complete without a visit to arguably one of the World's most popular burger joints, Fergburger (just be prepared to queue).

Day 2 Queenstown / Milford Sound

Today you are free to explore Queenstown, or if you prefer, take a trip to magical Milford Sound.

The choice is yours.

Queenstown, a very special spot

There is so much to see and do in Queenstown.

Thrill seekers are well catered for with bungy jumping (several locations, including our favorite, the old Kawarau Bridge), parasailing, paragliding, jet boating, white water rafting, downhill mountain biking and lots more.

looking down on Queenstown from the Skyline Gondola complex at Bob's Peak, Queenstown

And of course Queenstown is also home to two world class ski fields, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables.

And for those looking for something a little more sedate, highly recommended are:

  • take the cable car up to Bob's Peak for amazing views. It's a wonderful spot to just sit with a coffee and take in the view
  • cruise Lake Wakatipu on the historic steam ship the TSS Earnslaw
  • a scenic drive to either Kingston or Glenorchy. Both roads hug the shores of Lake Wakatipu
  • tour a winery
  • visit the small underwater observatory on the lake edge downtown and feed the huge trout, eels and diving teal (small water birds)
  • enjoy a coffee or meal in one of the many lakefront pubs or restaurants (we love the Pub on Wharf, and Pog Mahones)
The iconic Shotover Jet - we thank them for the image

Our suggestion

With your time limited, our suggestion would be to take the Skyline Gondola and spend a couple of hours up on Bob's Peak before lunch (and maybe even have lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant - bookings essential), then in the late afternoon take a leisurely cruise on the historic steamer, the TSS Earnslaw, which you can combine with dinner at Walter Peak station.

Between these two, add in a trip either the Kawarau Jetboat or the Shotover Jetboat, and it will be a day to remember.

Please note - the Shotover Jet is located around 15-20 minutes drive out of Queenstown, whilst the Kawarau Jet leaves from the wharf in the middle of town, as does the TSS Earnslaw. The Skyline Gondola base is also in the center of town (5 minutes walk from the main street).

So if you didn't want to get the car out, the Kawarau Jet may be a more practical option.

Magical Milford Sound - image courtesy Tourism Holdings

Magical, mystical Milford Sound

But there is one thing that you must do while in the region. 

Milford Sound , described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is located 4.5 hours drive from Queenstown.

Full day bus/cruise/bus tours are available, and if you have the time, do yourself a favor, and book a tour.

Or, if you don't want to spend time traveling by road, you can take one of the fly/cruise options. There are several available and although they are more expensive, they only take up 4 or 5 hours of your day.

It's difficult to find the words to describe Milford Sound. You just need to experience it yourself.

Huge towering cliffs disappearing into the clouds, thundering waterfalls, snow capped peaks and some unique marine life all add to the charm of Milford Sound.

Stunning Milford Sound

On our last trip our Captain took us out to the open sea where we watched dolphins at play. Later on we couldn't believe it as he nudged the bow of the ship under one of the waterfalls!

We also thoroughly enjoyed a visit to the deep water observatory where we saw some rare black coral and some weird looking fish!

Adding to the Milford experience is the drive in and out, as you cross raging creeks, wind through prehistoric valleys, and traverse the Homer Tunnel.

Enjoy your time there.

Day 3 Queenstown to Wanaka

The historic Cardrona Pub between Wanaka and Queenstown

Today it's a short drive to Wanaka.

There are two ways to go to Wanaka from Queenstown, but we recommend using the Crown Range road, as it is shorter than the alternate route through Cromwell, and offers great photo opportunities.

The trip over the Crown Range takes around 1 hour.

The other advantage of taking the Crown Range road, is that it takes you through the small hamlet of Cardrona, home to the historic Cardrona Hotel. We can vouch for the quality of the food and wine, and the hotel has a lovely, grassy, outdoor eating area, perfect for lunch on a sunny day.

Looking over Lake Wanaka from the town center

Wanaka is a beautiful town, located on the shores of Lake Wanaka. It's one of those places that just makes us smile every time we go there. A wonderful setting, and a relaxed pace just make you want to stay there.

Home to the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields, Wanaka offers the perfect base for your alpine adventures and will be one of your favorite spots on this New Zealand itinerary.

Where to stay in Wanaka

Like most places in New Zealand, Wanaka is well set with a wide range of holiday accommodation. There are the usual "chain" motels like the Wyndham Resort and a range of motels, B & Bs and hostels.

The amazing views from The Moorings, Wanaka

But our favorite is The Moorings. We keep going back there because it is in an elevated position across the road from the lake, is a minutes walk to the town center, and the rooms are spacious and comfortable.

You can read customer reviews, check availability, and search for your Wanaka accommodation here.

There's lots to see and do here in Wanaka

The shopping centre is located across the road from the lake and there are numerous pubs and restaurants in which to sit and have a meal, looking out across the lake to the mountains beyond.

Across the road from the shopping centre there's a small jetty. If you have a chance, wander out and have a look for the huge trout that congregate around the pylons!

Puzzling World at Wanaka - pic courtesy Puzzling World

But there is much more to see and do in Wanaka. Fly fishing on Lake Wanaka, a visit to the quirky Puzzling World, jetboating, a game of golf (lovely course, friendly locals, and wonderful views), rock climbing, kayaking, a winery tour, or just relax and take in the views and pure alpine air.

Puzzling World is well worth a visit no matter what your age. We have spent hours there wandering through the exhibits, and even got lost for a while in the maze. Our favorite exhibit is the Wall of Following Faces.

You can see a wide range of things to do in Wanaka here.

Day 4 Wanaka to Franz Josef and West Coast

This afternoon your New Zealand itinerary takes you along State Highway 6 to Franz Josef Glacier village (around 3.5 hours drive).

Looking back over Lake Hawea from "The Neck"

The drive to Franz Josef is one of New Zealand's best and we always find it difficult to focus on the driving because there is so much spectacular scenery around every bend in the road.

Huge snow capped peaks, vast lakes, glacier fed rivers, and rugged coastline. This drive has it all.

Some highlights are:

  • The Neck, a piece of land between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea (around 38 kilometres from Wanaka), for some great pictures
  • Blue Pools Track a few minutes north of Makarora, an easy 1.5 kilometre walk off SH6 (around 64 kilometres from Wanaka). The track leads down from the car park and takes you to a swinging bridge overlooking the deep pools on the river. Keep an eye open for large trout swimming below
  • Crossing Haast Pass. At 562 metres above sea level, it's one of three roads which cross the Southern Alps (Arthur's Pass and Lewis Pass are the others)
  • New Zealand's longest single lane bridge which crosses the Haast River
  • Knights point lookout north of Haast village offers excellent coastal views and a large information board detailing the main points of interest
Knight's Point lookout

Where to stay

We recommend staying in Franz Josef village rather than Fox village, as Franz Josef has more accommodation and dining options.

Our favorite motels are the Alpine Glacier Motel and Punga Grove. Both are centrally located in the village and are short walk to all of the amenities.

The spa studios at the Alpine Glacier Motor Lodge are particularly spacious with a small deck looking up towards the alps, and a kitchen, which is handy if you don't want to eat out.

Franz Josef is yours to explore

The village is reasonably compact, and most accommodation is close to pubs and restaurants.

Franz Josef Glacier is 12 kilometers in length, and is located in The Westland National Park on New Zealand's wild West Coast .

The glacier terminates about 19 kilometers from the coast, and the area surrounding it is a World Heritage Site.

This beautiful area is one of the most scenic in New Zealand, and you can actually stand in the main street of Franz Josef village and look up towards the glacier.

The view from the car park at the Alpine Glacier Motel Franz Josef

Handy Tip

The recommended way to see Franz Josef is by helicopter, landing on the glacier. We took this option several years back and it was one of the best things we have ever done. Helicopters are incredible things to ride in and the feeling of flying over the glacier, past waterfalls and over the enormous ice crevasses is one we will never forget. And to be able to get out of the helicopter and walk on the snow field at the top of Franz Josef was mind blowing!

Be aware though that Flights are popular and very much dependent on the weather. It is strongly recommended that you book your flights on Day 4, for a Day 5 departure.

Day 5 Franz Josef

Today on your New Zealand itinerary you are free to explore Franz Josef glacier.

Why not try the Small Group Glacier Walk on Franz Josef Glacier

As mentioned, a heliflight and landing are the best way to see the glacier, but other alternatives are:

  • a guided walk on the glacier,
  • a heli hike,
  • or walk yourself from the glacier car park to the face of the glacier (around 45 minutes mostly flat walk each way).

Which ever option you choose, you can be assured of amazing views.

Search for glacier tours right here

You can view a wide range of glacier tours HERE.

Other great things to do in Franz Josef

  • Make sure that you check out the Glacier Hot Pools - the perfect way to relax after a day at the Glacier.
  • Visit the West Coast Wildlife Center in Franz Josef where you can see the iconic flightless Kiwi

Day 6 Franz Josef to Christchurch

Today you continue north on SH 6 to Hokitika, before heading east on SH 73, through Arthur's Pass to Christchurch (around 5.5 hours drive).

Candy's Bridge near Arthur's Pass

Hokitika, around 1.5 hours north of Franz Josef,  is renowned for its New Zealand jade, and if time permits, it's worth stopping off at one of the jade shops in town.

Some have viewing windows for you to watch as skilled technicians craft some beautiful pieces of art.

North of Hokitika you turn off SH 6 onto SH 73 and head to Arthur's Pass.

Have your camera ready. Photo opportunities abound as you cross Arthur's Pass. At Candy's Bridge, the inventive kiwis have managed to divert a waterfall over the top of the road! Talk about clever.

Handy Tip - An Alternative

A highly recommended alternative to driving through Arthur's Pass, is to drop your hire car off at Greymouth, and take the TranzAlpine train from Greymouth to Christchurch.

The trip is regarded as one of the great train journeys of the world, and travels through the rugged Southern Alps.

A trip on the Tranz Alpine train is highly recommended

The trip from the west coast (Greymouth) to east coast (Christchurch) takes around 4.5 hours, and takes you over rugged rivers, across gorges, through dense forest, and finally across the patchwork of the Canterbury Plains, as you near Christchurch.

On your trip you will pass through 19 tunnels and over 4 viaducts, the highest being the Staircase, at 73 metres. A dedicated viewing carriage provides the perfect platform for an endless supply of wonderful photo opportunities.

The trip is the perfect relaxing way to finish off your New Zealand itinerary.

Arrive in Christchurch and check into your accommodation.

Day 7 Christchurch to Home

Fly home.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. We hope that you have found this New Zealand itinerary helpful


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Your New Zealand itinerary takes you to the Queenstown and West Coast regions. To learn more about these regions click here.

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