Days 34 - 35: Franz Josef
Distance: 286km / 179 miles
View incredible scenery as you travel past the untouched native forests and pristine lakes of the World Heritage Westland National Park to the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Here you'll discover the glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef, which are unusual in that they are so close to the sea. We recommend a guided walk onto the glacier itself to appreciate the scale of it close up.
Once you’ve had enough of the ice you can take a walk through the rain forest trail around Lake Matheson, near Fox, for fantastic mirror lake views of the Southern Alps, or you might prefer to relax in the Franz Josef Glacier hot pools, nestled in lush rainforest.
Day 36: Westport (Carters Beach)
Distance: 275km / 172 miles
Travel along the rugged west coast with its towering rainforests, rushing rivers and tranquil lakes. With the Tasman Sea on one side and the Southern Alps mountain range rising up on the other, take it slow and enjoy this scenic drive. Be sure to stop at Punakaiki and marvel at the bizarre limestone landscapes and powerful vents of ‘Pancake Rocks’, formed millions of years ago. Then make your way to Carters Beach for a two-night stay.
Days 37 - 39: Abel Tasman National Park
Distance: 238km / 149 miles
The landscape gradually becomes softer as you leave the mountainous west coast behind. The rolling hills and forested slopes give way to orchards and fertile fields as you approach Nelson and the north coast. With white-sand beaches, palm trees and jauntily painted houses, Nelson appears almost subtropical. And with seaside promenades and a bustling marina, you could imagine yourself on the Côte d’Azur.
Abel Tasman National Park is just north of Nelson and enjoys New Zealand’s highest levels of sunshine. As a result, the beaches here can have a distinctly Mediterranean feel about them. Enjoy some superb walking trails or take a leisurely water taxi to see the coast from a different perspective.
Kaiteriteri, west of Nelson, is a great place for picking up kayaks and taking a paddle around the headland. Why not join a guided excursion to the incredible Split Apple Rock – it looks just like an enormous split apple and has been there for 120 million years.
Days 40 - 41: Picton
Distance: 168km / 105 miles
Skirting around Nelson on the coast road, you climb up into forested hills and twisting mountain passes to reach Picton. Build-in some time to explore the bays between Anakiwa and Picton, each with its own unique perspective over the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds. The Queen Charlotte Walkway is a great way to stretch your legs and enjoy some amazing scenery.
Just south of Picton lie the world-famous Marlborough vineyards, famous for their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Maybe you’ll pick up a bottle or two?
Days 42 - 43: Whanganui
Distance: 199km / 124 miles
The three-hour InterIslander ferry crossing passes through Queen Charlotte Sound, so enjoy the wonderful scenery as you leave the South Island, hopefully, interspersed with sightings of dolphins playing in the calmer waters.
Across the Cook Strait lies the capital city of Wellington. It’s a bright and breezy city with a vibrant waterfront and superb Te Papa museum – the national museum which brings to life so much of what you’ll see in the country. You can take the cable car up from Lambton Quay to Mount Victoria for magnificent views.
On the road to Wanganui, you’ll see the offshore island of Kapiti, a nature reserve where you can see rare birds and take a tour for a more in-depth visit. Once in Wanganui, take a river cruise on the Steamer Waimarie and visit the interesting museums and the River Market.