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South Island: TranzAlpine Explorer"


By Concrete Playground
September 12, 2018
By Concrete Playground
September 12, 2018

Traverse the alpine landscape of New Zealand’s South Island to catch an eyeful of dramatic natural beauty in this area known for its glaciers, glow worm caves, art and wineries.

Fly into Christchurch and take some time to get to know its multifaceted nature before heading through Arthur’s Pass to the wild West Coast, with its rainforests, glaciers and dramatic coastlines. Next, head south through Haast to the alpine resorts of Wanaka and Queenstown. This journey alone will take you through dramatically changing landscapes from the plains and east coast’s fairly calm sea, then through the mountains to rainforests, glaciers, raging rivers and waterfalls that’ll all take your breath away.

Read on to start planning and creating your own customised journey with our itinerary builder below.


This is a loaded question. The South Island is renowned for its winter wonderland attractions and yet there is a great deal to savour all year round. Autumn — which runs March through to May — is particularly sensational. The days are warm, full of sunshine, and conducive to getting out and about. But, really, the rich landscape and myriad activities can be enjoyed at any time.


Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and a charming experience in itself. There are 13 daily non-stop flights to Christchurch from Australia’s main airports. After taking some time to explore the city, venture east then north to experience the wild West Coast.


Allow $100–$150 a day for petrol, worthy entertainment and cheap and cheerful eats, and if you tend to enjoy the finer things in life, give yourself upwards of $250 a day to take some bigger adventures, find some luxe ways to relax and eat some truly sensational food.


Lyttelton, Christchurch’s little bohemian harbourside sister formed from an extinct volcano. Hike up the back of town for views out over the turquoise water, then head down for a drink at the Wunderbar, which prides itself on its quirkiness. Think velvet walls, doll’s head light shades, hidden toilets and a killer view across the water to Quail Island and Diamond Harbour.

Plan Your Journey Through the TranzAlpine Region

Track down the must-visit local haunts.

Trans Alpine

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    Venture Through the TranzAlpine Region

    Do as the locals do.

    The Food

    From fresh salmon to stacks of pancakes, here's how to eat your way through the TranzAlpine region.

    1. Fox River Markets

    Come for the fresh, local produce and homemade treats, and stay for the handmade souvenirs

    2. Punakaiki Tavern

    Don’t go past the hearty fare, the fireplace and the even warmer personalities of the staff at this cosy spot.

    3. Pancake Rocks Cafe

    Just imagine the ‘gramming you can do with this one — a stack of pancake-like limestone rocks with a stack of pancakes to boot.

    4. Alice May

    After exploring the glacier, head here for traditionally New Zealand, meaty dishes with a twist.

    5. Salmon Farm Cafe

    This farm-cafe-shop lets you feed, eat and buy (smoked or fresh) salmon. Expect some of the freshest salmon — ever.

    The Drink

    Sample the goods at Monteith's Brewery or have a brew with glacial views — wine or beer lover, we've got you covered.

    1. Monteith's Brewery

    Take a tour of the 150 year-old brewery then stop into the kitchen for a few brews with tapas and pizzas to match.

    2. Snake Bite Brewery

    Try the best new brews from around the country at this bustling bar.

    3. Monsoon Bar

    A favourite of Franz Josef locals, with great local drops and not one but two open fireplaces.

    4. The Landing

    A no fuss tavern with Dunedin’s Speight’s on tap and glacial views of Franz Josef.

    5. Recreation Hotel

    A visit to Greymouth wouldn't be complete without having a pint at one of the town's landmarks.

    The Adventures

    With scenic skydiving, ATV tours and more, get your heart pumping among some stunning nature.

    1. Horse Ride through Punakaiki

    Let someone else do the walking for you and enjoy views of the West Coast from high up on a saddle.

    2. Skydive Franz

    The ultimate adrenaline rush is even better when you have one of the most scenic parts of New Zealand beneath you.

    3. ATV Tour of Franz Josef

    Get among the landscape on a two-hour ATV quad bike thrill.

    4. Helicopter Flight and See Franz Josef

    Take in the impressive 12-kilometre glacier from above.

    5. Tranzalpine

    Bask in the beautiful South Island landscape from the comfort of a train carriage.

    The Escapes

    Spend the day in a hot pool or enjoying ocean views from a private clifftop hut — this list of things will keep you relaxed.

    1. Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

    Picture steaming hot pools nestled amongst lush rainforest and you, soaking it all up after adventuring around the West Coast.

    2. Rainforest Retreat

    The treehouse from your youth is one thing; sleeping among the trees in a grown-up rainforest house is a whole other wondrous experience.

    3. Woodpecker Hut

    This off-the-grid abode is the stuff dreams are made of with ocean views, cosy wooden quarters and even a cedar hot tub out the front.

    4. Amaia Luxury Spa

    After exploring the great West Coast outdoors, treat yourself to some pampering within the Te Waonui Forest.

    The Outdoors

    Walk a tunnel filled with glow worms or hike a historic mine site and get back to nature.

    1. Lake Brunner

    Walk around this glacier-carved lake on the West Coast to take in its dark waters mirroring the mountains that surround it.

    2. Pancake Rocks

    On the coastal cliffs of the West Coast, you'll find a stack of pancakes like no other.

    3. Brunner Mine Site

    Learn the history of the mine and what became New Zealand’s worst mining disaster.

    4. Tatare Tunnel

    Originally created by miners in search of gold, this tunnel will take you to a sea of glow worm light.

    5. Lake Mapourika

    Set out on the lake to take in the views and that sweet, sweet serenity.

    The Culture

    There’s an NZ version of 'Westworld' and a gourmet grocer. Get your culture fix with these five activities.

    1. Left Bank Gallery

    Peruse the works at this heritage-listed former bank-turned-contemporary art gallery.

    2. Fox River Markets

    Fine some pounamu — also known as New Zealand jade or greenstone — and take a piece of iconic NZ home with you.

    3. Shantytown

    Step back in time to when the West Coast was in the grip of gold fever at this heritage park.

    4. Four Square Market

    Pick up some tasty supplies from this grocer and head for a picnic in the nearby Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

    5. West Coast Wildlife Centre

    Get up close and personal with a tuatara or kiwi at this Franz Josef wildlife centre.

    Venture Through the TranzAlpine Region

    Do as the locals do.

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