Location > the tours > self-drive tours overview > 11-day coastal explorer

From sea to shining sea.

The 11-day Coastal Explorer self-drive is a tremendous showcase of the South Island's scenic diversity. From lush plains to rocky shores, sunny vineyards to golden beaches, dense rainforests to snow-capped peaks, this trip offers the chance for a great range of scenic and wildlife adventures. Destinations include: Christchurch - Kaikoura* - Marlborough - Nelson - West Coast - Glaciers - Queenstown.

Below is a brief trip summary. For any questions, details on optional activities, driving times, and a quote on this itinerary, please contact one of our Travel Consultants. Pricing includes pre-booked accommodation, rental car and insurance, pre-booked activities as selected, and a comprehensive packet of personalized trip notes, road atlas, and more. See Self-drive Tour Pricing on our Dates & Rates page for details.

*Note, there is currently no public road access to Kaikoura; therefore, an alternative destination has been arranged. Talk to one of our Travel Shepherds for details.

    Day 1: Welcome to New Zealand!

    A Black Sheep Touring Co. representative will meet you at the Christchurch airport, assist you with your rental car, and take you through your tour documentation, providing tips on driving and travel in New Zealand. The remainder of the day is free to explore what is described as the most English of New Zealand's cities. Your trip notes will advise on Christchurch highlights so you can make the most of your time there.

    Day 2:  Christchurch to Kaikoura

    Head north through rolling farmland and along dramatic coastline to the seaside hamlet of Kaikoura, New Zealand's marine-life center. Take yourself on a spectacular hike around the Kaikoura Peninsula or embark on one of many optional marine-life adventures, including whale watching, swimming with dolphins or fur seals, or visiting the offshore feeding grounds of albatross. Pre-booking these popular activities with your Black Sheep Travel Consultant is highly recommended. Kaikoura means 'to eat crayfish (lobster)' and we  recommend the best places to sample the local specialty this evening.

    Day 3: From Water to Wine

    Travel through the Marlborough wine region, renowned worldwide for its Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays. After tastings and perhaps a winery lunch (don't forget to choose your designated driver!), continue on to your accommodation in sun-drenched Nelson, pausing for a short hike through native beech forest along the way.

    Day 4: Abel Tasman National Park

    The Abel Tasman, with its temperate forest, aquamarine waters, and golden sand beaches, is arguably one of the most beautiful parks in the country. We recommend you join a special sea kayaking experience along the coast, ducking in and out of secluded bays, stopping to stroll along its beaches, and drawing in the tranquil beauty of the sea. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on details and pricing and pre-book for you (recommended). Alternatively, you can spend the day hiking in the park.

    Day 5:  Nelson to Punakaiki

    Head for the wild and woolly West Coast, making sensational scenic detours along the way. It's eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel as the route to Punakaiki hugs the coast, providing spectacular viewpoints of the Tasman Sea and lush, fern-clad coastline. After settling into your accommodation, the afternoon allows time to explore the area's features, including the Pancake Rocks and bounty of local craftspeople.

    Day 6: Taking the Underground

    This part of the South Island is honeycombed with intricate cave systems which can be explored in a choice of ways, from scenic caving to adventure caving to New Zealand's renowned and unforgettable cave rafting. Your Black Sheep Travel Consultant can advise on the options for this day, including above-ground alternatives.

    Day 7: Punakaiki to the Glaciers
    This morning is a spectacular drive to New Zealand's glacier region where you'll be based for the next two nights in comfortable alpine accommodation. Before dinner, stroll beneath a thick canopy of old-growth rainforest on one of the prettiest little walking tracks in New Zealand.

    Day 8: Adventures on Ice
    Your trip notes recommend the best ways to make the most of this spectacular region. Walk along the glacial riverbed to view the impressive terminal face of Fox Glacier and explore additional trails through neighbouring ancient rainforest. Optional activities allow you access to the glacier, including a variety of glacier hikes and a heli-flight that lands you on the neve. 

    Day 9: Queenstown Bound
    Walk around a forest-rimmed lake created by retreating glaciers long ago before embarking on a stunning drive to Queenstown. Your trip notes identify sensational hidden walks and scenic stops along the way. Dense rainforest gives way to the stark mountains of the Mt Aspiring National Park as you enter the Otago region, New Zealand's outback and home to its high country sheep stations. Queenstown, resting on beautiful Lake Wakatipu and flanked by the aptly named Remarkables mountain range is a stunning setting in which to stay for your remaining two nights.

    Day 10: Queenstown
    Queenstown is New Zealand's adrenalin center. There is a wide range of optional activities available, including jetboating, horse trekking, whitewater rafting, sky diving, four-wheel-drive adventures, and bungy jumping, or more leisurely pursuits such as walking, fishing and wine trails. Talk to our Black Sheep Travel Consultant about available options. 

    Day 11: Above and Beyond
    Depending on your flight schedule, you'll have time to relax and make final purchases before dropping your rental car at Queenstown airport and traveling home or to your next destination. Consider continuing your New Zealand adventure with a Black Sheep North Island component and/or add a day or two to visit the Fiordland region. We're confident you'll leave New Zealand with an experience that will enrich your life for years to come.