South Island self drive tour in New Zealand

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

This self-drive adventure gives you the freedom to explore the natural wonders of New Zealand's South Island by road, train, boat and on foot. By not taking any flights, using local owned transport, and walking, you can see much more of the islandís stunning landscape and local heritage. We have chosen a hire car company in line with the principles we believe in, also supporting New Zealandís national Tiaki promise. This tour can be priced with any of the rental cars available, and if you want to go the extra eco-mile, there's an option to upgrade to a hybrid vehicle.

This itinerary takes you to many of the breath-taking lakes and glaciers of the South Island which are in protected National Parks managed by The Department of Conservation. You will see some of the countryís largest and most awe-inspiring National Parks such as Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, and the South Islandís largest national park, Fiordland National Park, which has the largest tract of untouched forest in New Zealand. Here you will find UNESCO Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area and learn about native flora, fauna and history with a local guide and embark on a Milford Sound Nature Cruise. You will also see New Zealand's third largest national park, Mt Aspiring National Park with spectacular mountains, glaciers, alpine lakes, and home to a diverse range of landscapes with varied ecosystems.

As well as providing great insight into the formation of the lakes and the region, each DOC Centre offers education on environmental issues and how to travel responsibly through the area. Providing information on safety, and guidelines for the protection of wildlife, nature and marine mammals. There is also the opportunity to book local tours to glaciers, boat trips and trekking with the benefit of an expert local guides employed by DOC. Through DOC we can offer a wealth of information including maps, policies, alerts, weather, track information, safety outdoors, litter guidelines, wildlife protection, and care codes. And any money for entrance fees and DOC guides mean we are supporting the ongoing conservation efforts on research and development ideas, and summer scholarship projects, and native species-specific protection programmes.

The Impacts of this Trip

We recognise the importance of supporting local cultures through tourism, and are proud to use local companies on the ground which give jobs to people in the area, maintaining the heritage and localised knowledge, as well as supporting families. We wish for tourism to have a positive effect on the local communities you visit, helping them to thrive by giving revenue directly to the people. By using locally owned and operated hotels, transport, local expert guides, and local producers, we can ensure this happens. We also support the Department of Conservation National Parks which provide employment across the country in conservation, research and tourism.

We also want to celebrate the traditions of the Maori people, by giving you the opportunity to visit and learn about their culture on this tour. This allows you to contribute to the Maori way of life, with all activity fees going directly to support the local Maori community.

In this self-drive itinerary we recommend stop-offs along the way to eat at locally owned cafes and restaurants and go to local shops, in order to support small businesses, as well as give you the real taste of Kiwi culture. Visit historic settlements in the Bendigo Reserve steeped in local history of the Otago gold rush, and the quaint village of Tarras with many local artists and craftsman's wares for sale plus some fine local foods.

Another way to experience local cuisine and support local businesses is one of our recommended wine tours in Central Otago with vineyards surrounded by alpine scenery, where you can learn about the wine and pioneering history of the area. Or on a food tour to Walter Peak High Country Farm and sample their seasonal menu of locally sourced produced cooked by a resident chef whilst enjoying the beautiful lakeside gardens to the charming homestead.


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