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The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the South Island


Tour the South Island in 10 to 12 Days

10 to 12 days is a good amount of time to explore about half of the South Island, but you might want to consider using a tour company to save time on finding your way and planning your trip. For the traveller who wants it easy, the South Island has a spectacular range of escorted tours to suit a variety of travel types. Whether you seek luxury or are on a budget, travelling with kids or travelling solo, want to travel slow or see as much as possible, there’s a tour for you in the South Island. Check out some of our favourites in this guide to the best 10-12-day tours of the South Island.

While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Best 10-12-Day Tours of the North Island.

6 Tips for Planning a 10-Day or 12-Day Trip to the South Island

  • Allow 11 to 13 days for your trip to the South Island, so that you can include your travel time to and from your tour’s starting point, as well as allowing yourself to get over the jet lag
  • Pack light: don’t be the one with extra suitcases that everyone has to make room for! See 15 Essentials to Pack for New Zealand for more packing tips.
  • Use websites like Tourradar to compare tour companies and find the perfect fit for you. Another advantage to these websites is that they have standard cancellation policies should your plans change
  • Decide on a few optional activities before your trip departs so you are able to budget correctly
  • On a similar note, allow room in your budget for meals, if your tour does not include every meal – see How Expensive is New Zealand? for the typical cost of food in New Zealand.
  • Ask if your chosen tour company has a Facebook group! That way, you can connect with other travellers who will be on the same tour.

For more New Zealand tour advice, see 15 Tips to Make the Most of Your Bus Trip.

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Inspiring Journeys

Inspiring Journeys – Southern Drift

Convenient, laid-back and just plain fun, the Southern Drift tour with Inspiring Journeys is an excellent way to explore the South Island. The 12-day South Island tour starts and ends in Christchurch, taking a range of passengers, from young teens to seniors, to the South Island’s main bucket list destinations. We’re talking about Franz Josef, Milford Sound and Queenstown, as well as a few surprises along the way. Hotel accommodation is included, and Inspiring Journeys is just about the only escorted tour actually staying in Milford Sound. Some activities are also included, as well as most meals.

About Inspiring Journey’s Tours

Age Range: 12-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 20
Accommodation: Hostels, lodges and resorts
Meals: 11 breakfasts, one lunch and 11 dinners

Destinations on the 12-Day Tour
  • Christchurch
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Dunedin

Find out more about this tour by comparing Inspiring Journeys on Tourradar.

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel – South Island Explorer

A more active tour taking you to more destinations on the South Island, the South Island Explorer tour with Intrepid Travel is well worth considering. The small group tour lasts 11 days, starting and ending Christchurch. Stay in lodges, all included in the trip rate, where rooms are on a twin share basis. A few meals are included in the rate, but this tour is more about the journey, hitting highlights like Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Arrowtown and more. A Milford Sound cruise is also included.

About Intrepid Travel’s Tours

Age Range: 15-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 15
Accommodation: Lodges
Meals: Three breakfasts and two dinners

Destinations on the 11-Day Tour
  • Christchurch
  • Punakaiki
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Mt Cook

Find out more about this tour by comparing Intrepid Travel on Tourradar.

Haka Tours

Haka Tours – South Island Adrenaline Junkie Tour

Offering an alternative itinerary and plenty of action, Haka Tours gives passengers a blast! The South Island Adrenaline Junkie Tour starts in Christchurch, heading to Queenstown and Wanaka, before journeying back up the wild West Coast and the Franz Josef Glacier to the Abel Tasman National Park. The tour ends in Wellington and includes the scenic ferry journey between the North Island and South Island. You’ll also have the opportunity to carve your own greenstone necklace.

About Haka Tours’ Tours

Age Range: 18-49-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 16
Accommodation: Hostels and lodges
Meals: All breakfasts

Destinations on the 11-Day Tour
  • Christchurch
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka
  • Franz Josef
  • Punakaiki
  • Abel Tasman
  • Wellington

Find out more about this tour on the Haka Tours website.

Thrifty Tours

Thrifty Tours – Southern National Parks

Hit some of the most breathtaking national parks on the South Island on the Southern National Parks tour with Thrifty Tours. This 10-day tour is for the budget-conscious traveller without the “backpacker party bus” vibe. Start and end in Christchurch, staying in a twin-share room in motel accommodation. The experience includes one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the TranzAlpine, as well as a Milford Sound cruise and airport transfers. The tour also gives you ample time in most destinations to relax and explore on your own.

About Thrifty Tours’ Tours

Age Range: 1-100-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 50
Accommodation: Motels
Meals: One lunch

Destinations on the 10-Day Tour
  • Christchurch
  • Mt Cook
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Franz Josef Glacier
  • Greymouth

Find out more about this tour by comparing Thrifty Tours on Tourradar.

Luxury Gold

Luxury Gold – The Southern Drift

Stay in five-star accommodation and enjoy world-class dining on this upmarket tour around the South Island with Luxury Gold. Start and end your journey in Christchurch, where you’ll get to experience the TranzAlpine train, meet a local greenstone carver in Franz Josef, kayak in Milford Sound, tour Larnach Castle in Dunedin and more. Most meals are included in the trip with dinners including wine. You’ll also get ample leisure time on this tour, which isn’t too fast-paced.

About Luxury Gold’s Tours

Age Range: 5-99-year-olds
Maximum Group Size: 40
Accommodation: Hotels
Meals: 11 breakfasts, one lunch and seven dinners

Destinations on the 10-Day Tour
  • Christchurch
  • Franz Josef
  • Arrowtown
  • Queenstown
  • Milford Sound
  • Dunedin

Find out more about this tour by comparing Luxury Gold on Tourradar.

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