Western Explorer

TranzAlpine, alps, podocarps & ice

Christchurch, the West Coast, Glaciers & Queenstown
2 days/1 night Overland Expedition

Day 1 - Christchurch to the West Coast & Glaciers

"Plains, alps, keas & ice"

Depart Christchurch on the world famous TranzAlpine™ train and journey across the wide expanses of the Canterbury Plains. Enter the high country surrounded by rugged mountain ranges and follow the Waimakariri River through its spectacular gorge, its headwaters are in the heart of the main divide - the Southern Alps. Enter Arthur’s Pass National Park and see the unique braided riverbed system of the Waimakariri River, recognised as an outstanding natural landscape feature.

It is at Arthurs Pass that you will again meet your guide and continue on with your journey, showing you some of the highlights of the national park.

Journey through the Arthur’s Pass National Park and depart Canterbury province for Westland (The West Coast / Te Wai Poutini).

Originally used by the Maori to move greenstone from the west coast and later as a link to the gold rush fields, this route reveals great mountain valleys and you will wonder how they ever managed to travel by stagecoach as you wind your way down the spectacular Otira Gorge – a geographer’s dream.

Follow rivers that flow to the West Coast and observe the changes to the rainforest and the many varieties of ferns that dominate this region.

Visit Hokitika, once the capital of Westland and a roaring gold mining town, and also a place where the Maori sought greenstone (pounamu / jade).

Greenstone and gold are features in this town’s bustling centre of art and craft shops.

Travelling on, you head south through farmland and the West Coast forests, and further evidence of the last Ice Age - the kettle lakes created by the melting ice sheets.

Arriving in Glacier Country, a walk can be made to view the Franz Josef Glacier pushing into rainforest - truly incredible! Your overnight stay will be taken at the nearby village.

Day 2 - Glacier Country to Queenstown

Ice, forests, river & gold.

Explore this unique glaciated region with its glaciers pushing into re-generating temperate rainforest, all happening on a Pacific Island. This is very special! Short walks can be made to experience the rainforest with the glacier in the background and it’s shattered, glacier formed landscape. Overlooking this are the Southern Alps and the high peaks of Aoraki / Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.

Walks that are available are to glacier viewpoints to witness the glacier’s descent down the mountain into the rainforest. An exciting helicopter ride to view the Southern Alps with a snow landing on the upper reaches of the glacier is also available.

From Glacier Country, travel south and reach the mighty Haast River valley. Following the Haast Highway, you can observe how the landscape and forests again change dramatically as the road climbs over the Haast Pass. From the dense rain forest of the West Coast, the landscape changes to the drier tussock grasses and schist landscape of Otago province.

On the way, you can take a short walk on a remote beach or to see waterfalls, and if there has been recent rainfall, the Haast River passing through the gorge known as the Gates of Haast can be truly spectacular.

After crossing the Haast Pass the road skirts first the banks of the headwaters of Lake Wanaka, then making a slight turn and rising over a ridge, Lake Wanaka is left behind and Lake Hawea is before you. The road follows the shoreline of this lake and then you reach Wanaka village on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka. 

From Wanaka, head over the rugged and remote Crown Range, the site of gold diggings in the 1860's and arrive in quaint old gold mining village of Arrowtown.
It is then a short drive to your Queenstown accommodation where your Brian & Paula will bid you farewell.

Highlights of your Journey:

  • Travel from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass National Park on the Tranzalpine™ train, recognized as one of the world’s great train journeys.
  • Cross the wide expanse of the Canterbury Plains. The Canterbury Plains are New Zealand’s largest area of flat land, with straight roads cutting across a mosaic of paddocks, and home to the world famous Canterbury lamb. 
  • Follow the Waimakariri River through its spectacular gorge, enter Arthur’s Pass National Park and see the unique braided riverbed system of the river.
  • Journey into Westland (the West Coast) and visit Hokitika, once a bustling gold mining town and the jade / Pounamu centre of New Zealand.
  • Travel down the West Coast and enter Glacier Country, home to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
  • Cross the Southern Alps via the Haast Pass and enter Otago Province.
  • View the high country lakes – Wanaka and Hawea with their dramatic mountain backdrops.
  • Cross the stark Crown Range and visit Arrowtown, a historic gold town.

Tour Inclusions:

  • Travel by deluxe 4WD mini coach
  • Fully guided and hosted with informative commentary
  • Guided walks to view the glaciers, mountains, forests and beaches
  • TranzAlpine™ train, Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass
  • Delicious picnic morning and afternoon teas
  • Picnic lunch served with NZ wine or café lunch each day
  • Breakfast on Day 2
  • Overnight stay at Fox / Franz Josef - Premier Room with dinner
  • Courtesy city accommodation pickup and dropoff
  • Depart Christchurch at 7.30am on Day 1, finish in Queenstown at approximately 5.30pm on Day 2

Not included…

  • Optional helicopter trips and scenic flights are not included in the tour cost
  • Queenstown accommodation

Download the Western Explorer Expedition brochure