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Explore glaciers in New Zealand’s South Island

Discover New Zealand’s best glaciers on this scenically stunning road trip through the South Island. Starting off in Christchurch / Ōtautahi, you’ll experience some of the most world-renowned attractions such as Franz Josef and Fox glacier to New Zealand’s longest glacier known as Tasman. Stop by Mount Cook / Aoraki, Queenstown / Tāhuna and Arthur’s Pass and see some of the best displays of nature in the world, right here in stunning New Zealand.

Glacier road trip itinerary:

  • Day 1 & 2: Christchurch / Ōtautahi to Tasman Glacier, Mueller Glacier & Hooker Glacier
  • Day 3: Tasman Glacier, Mueller Glacier & Hooker Glacier to Mount Cook / Aoraki
  • Day 4: Mount Cook / Aoraki to Queenstown / Tāhuna
  • Day 5: Queenstown / Tāhuna
  • Day 6 & 7: Queenstown / Tāhuna to Franz Josef & Fox Glacier
  • Day 8 & 9: Franz Josef & Fox Glacier to Arthur’s Pass & Christchurch / Ōtautahi

Day 1 & 2: Drive from Christchurch / Ōtautahi to Tasman & Mueller Glacier and explore

The spectacular Tasman Glacier.
The spectacular Tasman Glacier.

Tasman & Mueller Glacier highlights

  • On your way from Christchurch/ Ōtautahi to Tasman Glacier, Lake Tekapo is a must-visit. Deemed as one of the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand, Tekapo is one of three glacially fed lakes in the Mackenzie Basin - Pukaki, Tekapo and Ohau - that all run parallel to each other. You’ll notice the stunning sparkling cloudy blue colour due to runoff from nearby glaciers. Did you know that the Lord of the Rings franchise even used this area in one of their movies because of the stark alpine setting contrasting the soft blue water?
  • Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand. Due to global warming, the glacier itself is melting rapidly, however, it is still a stunning sight to see. The Tasman River next to it is where the melted ice flows to. Check out the icebergs in the lake for a beautiful sight on a boat cruise.
  • Your next stop is Mueller Glacier. Also situated in Mount Cook National Park, the viewpoint of this glacier has Mueller in the foreground and Hooker Glacier and Mount Cook / Aoraki in the distance. This panoramic view can be found on the Mueller Hut Route and is truly unmissable. Close by is also Kea Point Track which is filled with views of Mount Sefton, Mount Cook / Aoraki and Mueller Lake.

Day 3: Bask in the beauty that is Mount Cook National Park and Hooker Glacier

Walk the Hooker Valley for the trip of a lifetime.
Walk the Hooker Valley for the trip of a lifetime.

Mount Cook National Park and Hooker Glacier highlights

  • Known as the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook / Aoraki is a picturesque icon that encapsulates all that New Zealand is known for - scenery, purity and nature. The Southern Alps are your first stop and are seriously impressive.
  • Alternatively, you can check out the village that sits in the foothills. There is accommodation here where you can stay overnight. Book a cosy cabin and relax in nature right here in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
  • Have you really visited Mount Cook National Park if you haven’t hiked some of its most stunning tracks? If you do any hike while on this road trip, make it the Hooker Valley Walk. We also highly recommend Governor’s Bush Walk, Mueller Hut Hike, Kea Point Walk and Tasman Glacier View Track. Hooker Valley Track is extremely popular due to its unbelievable scenery and the fact that it is easy to walk.

Day 4: Take the scenic route to Queenstown / Tāhuna

The scenic route into Queenstown is exactly that.
The scenic route into Queenstown / Tāhuna is exactly that.

Queenstown / Tāhuna highlights

  • Stop by Lake Pukaki in the Mackenzie Basin and bask in its beauty! This lake is the largest out of the three lakes in the basin. From there you can go gliding in Omarama. Known for its geographical setting, the steady winds ensure optimal gliding conditions.
  • On your way from Mount Cook / Aoraki to Queenstown / Tāhuna, Wanaka is a great place to stop over. Near Wanaka is Mount Aspiring National Park which is home to the Rob Roy Glacier. The glacier track is like no other and has a swing bridge at the start of the track. There are also amazing alpine landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see, waterfalls, cliffs, and of course, glaciers.
  • From here, you can follow this scenic drive down to Queenstown / Tāhuna. There are accommodation options here, from budget to high-end. For day 4 and 5, explore this vibrant town surrounded by mountains.

Day 5: Get an adrenaline rush in Queenstown / Tāhuna

Queenstown’s surrounds offers up spectacular mountain scenery.
Queenstown’s surrounds offers up spectacular mountain scenery.

Queenstown / Tāhuna highlights

  • Are you an adrenaline junkie? If so, you’ll fall in love with Queenstown / Tāhuna. In between exploring breathtaking glaciers, you can discover all that Queenstown has to offer.
  • Fancy skiing and snowboarding? Maybe you’d prefer trying out some water sports such as kayaking on the Queenstown Bay or Milford Sound? From skydiving to water rafting, and of course, iconic bungee jumping — you’ll never run out of things to do in Queenstown / Tāhuna.
  • If you are after a more relaxing stay in Queenstown / Tāhuna, why not go for a walk at Lake Wakatipu and Wanaka or hike the Routeburn Track? There are also some amazing wineries, spas and cafes to explore.

Day 6 & 7: Drive north and check out Franz Josef and Fox Glacier on a helicopter ride

The Franz Josef Glacier is a sight to be seen.
The Franz Josef Glacier is a sight to be seen.

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier Highlights

  • From Queenstown / Tāhuna, you will need to drive North again, following the West Coast. You will drive back through Wanaka and past Mount Aspiring National Park, so you can check out anything you may have missed on your way down to Queenstown / Tāhuna.
  • Franz Josef Glacier is the perfect place to go on a helicopter ride! See the breathtaking glaciers on a helicopter ride around the area and see this soaring Mount Cook/ Aoraki from a whole new perspective. Until you go on a helicopter ride around Franz Josef Glacier, it's hard to comprehend the sheer vastness of this natural wonder. Make sure to bring your camera, these sights are worth remembering. Because of global warming all the glaciers are melting at rapid rates. Be sure to spend time at the glaciers and appreciate the view.
  • Next up is Fox Glacier. You can actually walk all the way up to the face of this glacier. For an awesome activity, try ice hiking. From short walks to 2 day hikes, there will be an option perfect for you to try out. Similar to Franz Josef, there are also helicopter rides that you can go on.

Day 8 & 9: Explore Arthur’s Pass and head back to Christchurch / Ōtautahi

Arthur’s Pass is the perfect last stop on your trip.
Arthur’s Pass is the perfect last stop on your trip.

Arthur’s Pass and Christchurch / Ōtautahi Highlights

  • From the epic Devil’s Punchbowl Falls to Avalanche Peak and Temple Basin, Arthur’s Pass is a great place to stop on your way back over to Christchurch / Ōtautahi.
  • Bealey Spur, Avalanche Peak and the Bealey Valley Track are hiking trails that you can go on to discover all that the area has to offer. Locals recommend Otira Viaduct Lookout due to its sweeping views. Arthur’s Pass is an awesome detour back to Christchurch / Ōtautahi as it is a small township that backs onto some world-class scenery.
  • Once you have explored Arthur’s Pass, you can drive back to Christchurch / Ōtautahi. Depending on what you feel like doing, you can stay near the national park or drive straight back to Christchurch / Ōtautahi. After visiting six stunning glaciers, picturesque mountains and national parks your road trip has come to an end. Relax in the city or explore the food scene here and reflect on the amazing road trip you have been on!

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