“Ultimate South Island Adventure – Pure New Zealand”

   Sept 14-24, 2024         

We must close out trips out 90 days before departure.  Price listed below the daily itinerary


Kia Ora, or welcome nature lovers! Join us on a 9-day adventure through the breathtaking regions of New Zealand under the Southern Cross. Come explore the snow-capped Southern Alps, with their alpine lakes, lush rainforests, waterfalls, glaciers, and fjords. From delightful Christchurch to Dunedin and Queenstown, with a dozen towns in between, you’ll capture incredible photos of pure wilderness.

Imagine the Tranz Alpine Rail journey to Arthur’s Pass, a wilderness cruise through Doubtful Sound spotting glaciers in Fiordland National Park, exploring the high country of Mount Cook, experiencing the wild region of Waitaki, and taking leisurely walks in Te Anau as you search for kiwis and whales along the way. Our previous nine AFS groups loved NZ. This time, our focus is on the dramatic contrasts of the South Island, where adventures abound.

We packed this trip with so many thrills! Enjoy a canyon safari on jet boats, indulge in wine tasting at Gibbston Valley, embark on a magical Glowworm Caves boat tour, and visit Lord of the Rings’ filming locations, among other activities.

We then head south to stunning Queenstown, located on a blue glacial lake surrounded by the Remarkables Mountains. Queenstown is known is the “adventure capital of New Zealand” with endless activities and enticements. They even invented bungee jumping, zip lines, gorge swings, and zorb balls. How about taking the Skyline Gondola up a mountain and enjoying a luge ride down or going on a steamer cruise to the famous Walter Peak sheep farm? We give your free time to consider rafting, a helicopter ride, explore nature trails or indulge in the wonderful food scene here. This could be your best vacation yet, filled with epic discovery and fun!

The 100% pure majestic beauty of New Zealand makes it a dream destination perfect for anyone’s bucket list. Our trip is limited to 28 AFS travel lovers at an unbeatable price. There’s no country like New Zealand – a safari for the senses. The adrenaline rush is free, and the memories you create will be priceless.


Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

Click for a printable PDF NZ itinerary

Sept 14  –  Fly USA to Christchurch New Zealand.  Air details to come and trip tips. (Note you cross the international date line to arrive a day later but you gain it back at the end.)

Sept 16 –  Welcome to Christchurch New Zealand!          D

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island situated on the edge of the Canterbury Plains and the second largest in the country. It is known as the Gateway to the Antarctic. Scott’s expedition set out from here and there is a statue of this person in central Christchurch. It is also known as the “Garden City” due to its well-planned expansive parks and public gardens such as Hagley Park and the Botanic Garden both with stunning displays of native and exotic trees, flowers and plants. It also has a distinct English flavour which can be experienced on a New Zealand vacation by walking along the gently winding Avon River. The city is compact with Cathedral Square being the centrepiece together with the outstanding Christchurch Cathedral dating back to 1881. Being close to the sea, Christchurch has a number of great beaches and great places to walk or relax. In February 2011, the Central Business District area of Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake causing the city to change dramatically as it reinvents itself and emerges as a modern diverse, colorful and trendy city.  Check out the street art trail with beautiful murals telling stories of the city’s resilience.

All must meet up by 2 PM at Christchurch Airport.  We meet our driver/guide at Christchurch Airport and enjoy an Orientation Sightseeing city tour and then checkin hotel. Time to relax and freshen up.

Tonight a Welcome Dinner at the Curator’s House Restaurant (3 course meal) to get to know your fellow AFS Travelers. Christchurch is the cultural hub of the south island and comes alive at night, full of entertainment. Have dinner on the tram, cinemas with breweries, book a show or have a soak at He Puna hot pools.

Overnight in Christchurch at Distinction Christchurch Hotel, Classic Room (2 Nights)

The renovated Distinction Christchurch Hotel is an urban escape combining sophisticated smarts and familiar warmth near Cathedral Square. This luxury Christchurch accommodation is ideally positioned in the heart of the city, only a few minutes’ walk from the Avon River, Botanical Gardens, Christchurch Casino, Cashel Mall and new Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.



Enjoy a cooked breakfast at the hotel before setting out on a scenic adventure today!   Transfer to Christchurch train station and check in for one of the great journeys of New Zealand – The Tranz Alpine Rail from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass!

Travel on the world-famous Tranz Alpine from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass to over the Southern Alps enjoying the incredible scenery.  From your carriage, you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains, beautiful gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River.  An open-air viewing carriage allows you to get even closer to the stunning scenery and provides many opportunities to photograph your favorite spots like the snowcapped Alps and beech rainforest. There’s so much to look forward to before arriving at your destination.

Later, your driver will meet you in Arthur’s Pass and return to Christchurch with lunch included in a local restaurant in Arthurs Pass. Upon arrival back in Christchurch you will be dropped at hotel where you can then enjoy the evening at your own leisure.

Sept 18 – CHRISTCHURCH – OAMARU – DUNEDIN                                                           B

After breakfast, we check out.   Today, transfer to Dunedin, visiting Oamaru & Moeraki Boulders en route.  The boulders are located on Koekohe Beach and are mysterious spherical stones scattered across this beautiful beach. Each boulder measures up to two meters high and weighs several tons. According to the local Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. It’s the perfect Instagram spot.

Continue on to Dunedin/ Otepoti, often called the “Edinburgh of the South.” Dunedin was settled by the Scottish settlers who came to New Zealand. It is a city of spires, of towers, gables and roofs with turrets, and gracious, generally stone, buildings. Dunedin is known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand for its animals and stunning biodiversity.  It is also home to the Albatross and Penguin colonies, plus many wildlife species.  Evening on own at leisure. At night, there’s southern sky stargazing and great pubs with live music.

Overnight in Dunedin at Scenic Hotel Dunedin City, Superior Room (1 Night)

Our hotel is in the heart of the city. The chic Scenic Hotel Dunedin City boasts an impressive contemporary design that has won numerous accolades. Each spacious guest room comes complete with state-of-the-art amenities and captivating local artwork, ensuring a perfect blend of modernity and cultural authenticity.  You’ll find yourself feeling perfectly in sync with the pulsating rhythm of this dynamic city during your stay at Scenic Hotel Dunedin City.


Sept 19 – DUNEDIN – TE ANAU                                                                                             B

Check out after breakfast.   We will start with an Orientation Tour in Dunedin before heading out and traveling through lush green pastures, crossing sheep-filled farming land. New Zealand is internationally known for its sheep farming, and these are sights many visitors to this country recognize as typically ‘New Zealand’. You are sure to find the perfect sheep photo here! As your journey continues, the rolling, grassy hills once again turn back into heavily forested, rugged mountains, and you meander your way up into the Fiordland National Park to the South Island’s biggest lake and the town of Te Anau.

Te Anau is the focal point of the Fiordland National Park, the country’s most rugged and remote. Lake Te Anau sprawls at the feet of high rugged mountains with its South, Middle and North fiords probing into the ranges. The Lake, New Zealand’s second largest, is 417 meters deep.

Here we get ready for an adrenaline-filled jet boat adventure – Fiordland JetPure Wilderness!  After check-in, we will don a life jacket before taking a short ride in our small coach through Southland farms to the Queen’s Reach boat ramp. The jet boat travels down the Upper Waiau River with lush beech forest on either side and staggering mountain peaks in every direction. The captain will make stops along the river to talk about the area and its rich history – and also provide plenty of iconic 360-degree spins! Stops will include spots to look for Rainbow and Brown Trout in the crystal-clear waters and three film locations featured in Lord of the Rings.

The mouth of the river opens onto Lake Manapouri – named NZ’s most beautiful lake – and provides one of the most impressive views in Fiordland – if not all of NZ. Here you have the unique opportunity to experience solitude and silence as the crew turns off the engine. As we approach the Leaning Peak – the entrance to Doubtful Sound -the guide will discuss the vast array of conservation efforts to ‘save our birds’ and how Fiordland Jet and guests contribute to such efforts. Highlights include Pomona Island – one of 33 islands located on Lake Manapouri – that is also predator-free. Surrounded by towering mountains, this place is one not to missed and our Fiordland Jet boat is almost always the only powered craft for miles. The guide will then take the boat ashore so guests can disembark and step foot into Fiordland National Park to explore the native bush. We will learn about the local flora and fauna from our knowledgeable guides up close, all while breathing in the ancient forest in one of the largest protected areas in the world. After the short nature walk, we will board the boat to head back up the river to the boat ramp as their driver adds in more spins and commentary to make the most of our motto – FUN IS GOOD!​​​​​​​

Later we transfer to The Real NZ Visitor Centre to check in and get ready for their next adventure, The Te Anau Glowworm Caves. Cruise across beautiful Lake Te Anau, to the Cavern House. On arrival, learn about the caves and view fascinating displays. Your guides will then take you in small groups by path and small boats underground into the caves. Highlights include incredible limestone caverns, whirlpools, waterfalls and the magical glow-worm grotto.

For those who are interested, there will be a guided walk (approx 30-40 minutes) in the forest area and lake surrounding the caves offered to guests as an option. Return to Te Anau.  (Note: Not suitable for heeled shoes. Steps are involved.)   Evening on your own at leisure.

Overnight in Te Anau at Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Standard Room (1 Night)  

Our hotel is nestled in the heart of Te Anau lies the charming Distinction Luxmore Hotel, part of the 4-star Silver Collection from the renowned, 100% New Zealand-owned Distinction Hotels Group. With its complimentary unlimited WiFi, this lovely hotel is your perfect home base while exploring the breathtaking Fiordland region.  Boasting two restaurants and top-notch service, the warm and attentive staff at Distinction Luxmore ensures a memorable and enjoyable experience during your stay in enchanting Te Anau.


Sept 20 – TE ANAU – DOUBTFUL SOUND – QUEENSTOWN                                              B

Queenstown is the South Island’s most popular resort and the base for many excursions. Set alongside the shores of Lake Wakatipu, under the gaze of the stunning Remarkables Ranges. See the contrast of smooth glacier rounded hills, and jagged mountain summits that reach high above the ancient ice floor. The town is renowned for its jet boating, bungy-jumping, skiing and awe-inspiring scenery. Local story has it, that the gold prospectors of the 19th century pronounced the town as “fit for any Queen”, and so she was called Queenstown.

After breakfast and check out, we transfer to Manapouri.   Here we embark on a Wilderness Cruise in Doubtful Sound.

Depart from Pearl Harbour, Manapouri, and cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri to West Arm. Travel by coach over Wilmot Pass, through dense rainforest. Once at Doubtful Sound, also called “Sound of Silence”, we board the Patea Explorer for a 3-hour cruise of beautiful Doubtful Sound, to the Tasman Sea. There is excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforests, and mountains. Of particular interest, if sighted, are fur seals basking on the rocks, or a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. The rare Fiordland crested penguins are sometimes encountered, depending on the season. Return to Manapouri at the end of your journey. (What to Bring: Comfortable shoes, waterproof jacket, warm clothing.)

After a lunch, we enjoy a film called Shadowland at the Fiordland Cinema in Ata Whenua. Ticket included with some canapes and a drink for the group. Shadowland brings you the Fiordland World Heritage Status Wilderness you would otherwise never see.  Mysterious, evocative, exhilarating, and utterly spectacular, filmed across extremes of season, climate, and terrain, it will take you on an unforgettable journey through one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on earth.

Transfer to Queenstown – truly New Zealand’s capital of adventure! On arrival check into the hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure.  Our 4 star hotel sits overlooking on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and within walking distance of Queenstown’s central shopping and entertainment area. All our past New Zealand groups love this property for location and the kind staff. The town is compact enough to get around on foot, with courtesy vehicles or Uber available to take you to outlying attractions. Queenstown has more than 100 restaurants, plenty of entertainment, accommodations to suit all tastes, and great shopping for the coolest New Zealand products crafted here.

Overnight in Queenstown at Copthorne Hotel & Resort Lakefront, Superior Room (3 Nights)     


Experience tranquility at Copthorne Hotel and Resort Queenstown Lakefront. This beautiful establishment is situated on the breathtaking shores of Lake Wakatipu, offering mesmerizing views and easy access to Queenstown’s bustling shopping and entertainment district with the stunning Remarkable’s mountain range just a 45 minute drive away. 

Our charming accommodation in Queenstown harmoniously blends in with the surrounding natural beauty. With 240 well-appointed guest rooms with Wi-Fi access, both in public areas and in our delightful Impressions Restaurant and Cocktail Bar.




Sept 21 – QUEENSTOWN – SIGHTSEEING & WINE TASTING                                          B, L

You’ll love our full-day sightseeing tour visiting Arrowtown, Bungy Bridge and Wanaka including lunch and wine tasting at a local wineyard.  Note: For the Winery, we will know closer to the date which winery; it will be either Gibbston Valley or Kinross.

Arrowtown: where a vibrant history melds with glorious nature to make an enchanting must-do experience. A walk down Arrowtown’s heritage main street is a journey back in time, while the hills and rivers that teemed with gold mines a century and a half ago are now a mecca for hikers and bikers. Historic Arrowtown is a New Zealand treasure, only a scenic 25-minute drive from Queenstown, and a popular winter base for international ski teams. It’s charming and quirky – a delightful gold-rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a procession
of small-town heritage buildings that stretch into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miners’ cottages that date to the 1870s. The buildings in this lovely precinct house shops, galleries, bars and restaurants – many classy, most individual, not one from an international chain.
It is a wonderful place to browse and relax, enjoy a meal, and soak up Arrowtown’s lively heritage.

: faces north across Lake Wanaka, to views of the surrounding mountains, which are often reflected on the Lake’s surface on calm days. Poplars and willows grow around the Lake’s edge, affording a colorful show during autumn. Wanaka is best known for boating, fishing and skiing at the Cardrona and Treble Cone ski-fields.  Return to Queenstown for evening at leisure.

Sept 22 – QUEENSTOWN AT LEISURE                                                                                 B

Free day to play! The place to complete your adventure ‘to do’ list: Skydiving, bungy jumping, jetboating, canyon swinging, whitewater rafting, paragliding, heli-skiing and more.  Home to the world’s first commercial jet boating, bungy jump and river surfing, there is something for all.  Queenstown’s reputation as the world’s favorite adrenaline destination is well deserved. From the mild to the wild, you’ll find your adventure threshold here. The expansive natural environment offers superb air, water and land-based activities for walking, sailing, hiking, climbing, fishing, cycling, golfing, off-roading, or mountain biking. Your options are endless. Go to www.purenewzealand.com to view all the adventures in QT. Our past groups love Skyland Queenstown. Ride the gondolas up the mountains for breathtaking views, walk nature trails and lunch at the panoramic restaurant. Then enjoy a gravity-fueled luge ride down around corners and tunnels. Board the chair lift back up, and do it all again for the thrill of a lifetime.   (Book there, around $70).  Each evening it’s a vibrant nightlife here with evening lake cruises, wine and craft beer twilight tours, the Onsen hot pools, ice bars, Night Luge and more.

AFS Optional Tour:  Walter Peak – Farm & Lunch  –  Everyone loves this place.  Your excursion begins in Queenstown, Steamer Wharf.  We board the 40-minute TSS Earnslaw boat ride across Lake Wakatipu to the shores of Walter Peak High Country Farm. Get off the boat and discover the workings of this sprawling working farm. Strolling through the property’s idyllic lakeside gardens surrounding the Colonel’s Homestead offers fantastic views of the lake and mountains.  The farm staff will take you on a walking tour where you will see the animals of the farm: sheep, red deer and Scottish cattle. Watch sheep shearing show and the amazing sheepdogs at work! Fuel up at the farm with a delicious BBQ lunch.  The return trip is again by steamboat across the lake to the Queenstown Pier.  $140 USD Per Person

Sept 23 – QUEENSTOWN – MOUNT COOK – CHRISTCHURCH                                         B, D

After breakfast, we check out.  Board coach to journey deep into the Southern Alps from Queenstown to Mount Cook. Pass through the historic gold mining district of the rugged Kawarau River Gorge and the famous fruit growing region of Cromwell. Skirting the shores of Lake Dunstan, your tour crosses the Lindis Pass into Omarama. Continue through the rugged high country landscape of the Mackenzie Basin to arrive at Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, home to Australasia’s highest mountain at 3,724 meters. This is a photographers paradise.  Depart Mt Cook and continue travel to Lake Tekapo.

We check back into our Christchurch hotel.  Tonight a farewell dinner is included at a local restaurant to toast our new AFS friends goodbye on a journey well done.

Overnight in Christchurch at Distinction Christchurch Hotel, Classic Room (1 Night)

Sept 24 – CHRISTCHURCH DEPARTURE                                                                             B

Breakfast and check out. Meet your driver at the hotel lobby and transfer back to Christchurch Airport to check in for your onward flight. (There will be one common group airport transfer included. Since there is no group air, you may want to extend your tour on your own into the geothermal wonders of the North Island of New Zealand or even add Australia.)


Land price $3275 per person twin share based on 24 participants  Payments due:  50% due May 15, and final payment due June 14.

Prepaid gratuities: $90 will be added to final invoice to cover guides, drivers, ground services, etc., making distribution easier for you.     (Single rooms at $998. Limit two.)

Itineraries are prepared up to a year ahead and things can change.  Modifications may be made.   All rooms are run of house.

Have you read the Trip Tips yet? Then Click Here


Hey there, congrats on finding the ever-important Trip Tip page!   Now that you’re here make sure to read these trip tips carefully! They’re here to help answer any questions you may have and ensure you have an awesome vacation. Don’t forget to bookmark this page and stay on top of any updates we post here. Treat it like meeting deadlines for taxes, mortgage payments, or car loans – staying organized and informed will make your trip stress-free and enjoyable.

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