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12 Day - Family Adventure Tour- South Island

12 Day - Family Adventure Tour- South Island

Let us take care of every detail of your journey so that you and your family can enjoy exploring the South Islands' most scenic places on an outdoorsy adventure.

This trip has been designed to be fun and gently challenging for the young and the young at heart. The pace is flexible, and we can adjust and step it up for the more active travellers or tailor an experience for younger children.

Day 1: Christchurch arrival – Kaikoura
  • Swim with seals, and get an introduction to the indigenous Māori culture
Day 2: Kaikoura - Nelson or Abel Tasman
  • half-day biking along with the coastal areas
Day 3: Nelson - Abel Tasman National Park
  • Kayak/Water taxi/hike in National Park.
Day 4: Abel Tasman – West Coast or Punakaiki
  • Wild West, Pancake Rocks, horse riding on the beach
Day 5: West Coast - Franz Josef or Fox Glacier 
  • Tubing and caving in glow-worm caves, Hokitika Gorge, glaciers.
Day 6: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
  • Helicopter flight and hike on a glacier 
  • Or: heli-white water rafting)
Day 7: Franz Josef – Lake Wanaka or Queenstown
  • Rainforest and wetlands, waterfalls, Blue Pools, "The Neck" 
Day 8: Wanaka or Queenstown
  • Flight/hike Milford Sounds, Scenic flight and cruise at Milford Sound,
  • Kayaking optional. 
Day 9: Wanaka or Queenstown
  • Hike the Routeburn trek, Dart river jet boat
  • Or: kayaking.
Day 10: Wanaka or Queenstown
  • Day to your leisure or more additional adventure 
Day 11: Wanaka or Queenstown – Mt Cook or Lake Tekapo
  • Hooker Valley hike, Top of the Tasman Glacier Hike, kayaking the glacier lake, stargazing.
Day 12: Mt Cook or Tekapo –
  • Christchurch departure (city tour) 
Plan Your Tour


Private guided tour 11 nights

Category: Adventure
South Island
Departing/Finishing: Auckland
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Luxury Serviced Apartments
Next Departure: Departs Daily

Click here for other family holidays.

Day 1: Christchurch arrival – Kaikoura

Set against a majestic backdrop from the alps to the ocean, Christchurch and Canterbury offer visitors a unique and diverse destination. Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. It is well-known for its rivers, stately parks, and world-class botanic gardens.  

Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it's also a great place to eat crayfish (in the Māori language, 'kai' means food, and 'koura' means crayfish). An easy two-hour drive north of Christchurch. Kaikoura's environment is spectacular – the village is caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter, the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape. Kaikoura's unique talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals, and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters.

For a unique experience,e try swimming with New Zealand Fur Seals in their spectacular marine environment on the beautiful East Coast of the South Island! Snorkelling with wild New Zealand Fur Seals in the shallow waters of the beautiful Kaikoura Peninsula truly is a unique experience. It's one of those simple nature experiences that open your mind to the magnificence of our natural environment and its amazing inhabitants. A breath-taking nature activity and was recently listed as one of the world's 'Top 10 Marine Encounters' by Lonely Planet. 

Why not immerse yourself in some Māori culture, take a small private tour, and gain insight into Maori life? Visit several essential sites in the area and learn through storytelling, activities, and a forest walk.

Accommodation: Kaikoura

Day 2: Kaikoura - Nelson or Abel Tasman

Located at the top of the South Island, Marlborough is New Zealand's most extensive wine-growing region and the home of the world-renowned sauvignon blanc. There are over 40 cellar doors in Marlborough, so why not take advantage and visit a selection of the region's top wine producers? 

Nelson is a lifestyle; that's the best way to describe it. Situated at the top northwest of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand. Nelson's diverse geography captures everything from the long golden beaches to untouched forests and rugged mountains. Nelson has long been a magnet for creative people. More than 350 working artists and craftspeople live in Nelson, traditional, contemporary and Maori. Visit their studios and find a unique piece to take home with you. 

The Tasman Great Taste Trail is an easy cycling trail that takes a leisurely tour of Nelson/Tasman's most beautiful coastal and inland areas. Riders will pass vineyards, breweries, orchards and no end of places to stop and enjoy some quality cuisine. The trail is 174km long as a loop, but it can easily be broken down into bite-sized portions just right for short morning rides and gentle afternoon cruises. It is one of New Zealand's Great Rides.

Accommodation: Nelson or Abel Tasman 

Day 3: Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Loved for its beautiful golden sand beach, the sunny town of Kaiteriteri is a launching place for trips into the Abel Tasman National Park. This attractive beach town is 13 kilometres from Motueka and handy to the Abel Tasman National Park. 

Take a guided kayak trip that will take you along a stunning stretch of coastline for a fantastic sea kayaking experience. Enjoy panoramic views of Abel Tasman National Park, and check out nesting cormorants, sea caves, islands and the world-famous Split Apple Rock. Enjoy a swing bridge, watch some marine life, sea an island or two. Kayak along the southern stretches of the Abel Tasman, taking in beaches, caves and tidal lagoons nestled in the sheltered waters between Marahau and Watering Cove. A water taxi links you to the heart of the park, where a walk between Bark Bay and Torrent Bay allows you to enjoy wicked views, lush native bush and the Falls River swing bridge. This idyllic track links numerous crescent-shaped coves of glittering golden sand washed by crystal-clear waters. You’ll wander along beaches that constantly invite you for a swim, hike through the scented forests and around headlands with commanding views of the coast, and feel the delicious squelch of mud between your toes as you wade across tidal flats.

Accommodation: Nelson or Abel Tasman 

Day 4: Abel Tasman – West Coast or Punakaiki

The Nelson Lakes National Park is an enchanting alpine landscape of rugged peaks, forests and stunning glacial lakes. A compact area of mountain ranges separated by forested valleys, the Nelson Lakes National Park is home to the beginning of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps.

The West Coast – New Zealand’s most extended region – is a narrow 600km stretch of wild coastline, mountain peaks, glaciers, clear lakes and sparsely populated towns. This immense, untamed natural environment is New Zealand’s most protected region.  

Stop at nearby Punakaiki, the Jewel of the West Coast and world-renowned for its pancake rock formations and blowholes. Then, walk along some of the stunning and remote beach treks through a dense rainforest with Nikau Palms and giant ferns. 

Your horse trek begins by crossing the Punakaiki River and takes the scenic route to view the stunning scenery of the Paparoa National Park. As we ride through lush West Coast native bush, you’ll have the opportunity to snap photos of the enormous limestone cliffs capped with verdant temperate rainforests. Birdlife is abundant in the valley, and riders can observe quietly from horseback. Halfway along, we make a stop along the river at a bush hut for a stretch and photographs before rewinding our way to the coast. This spectacular trip is rounded off with a quiet walk along the Punakaiki beach. Riders can experience the mighty sea rolling onto the famous Pancake Rocks as they sit on horseback with the horses snorting at the salt spray from the waves.

Accommodation: West Coast or Punakaiki

Day 5: West Coast - Franz Josef or Fox Glacier

A passive eco-tubing tour through the enormous Nile River Caves in the Paparoa National Park. Take the Nile River Rainforest Train for travel through the primaeval rain forest close to the vast Nile River Caves. You will explore an ancient wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites in the significant dry upper levels and become entranced while under the galaxies of glowworms in the awe-inspiring Ananui entrance series.

Visit the historic gold mining town of Hokitika; it is a place to appreciate the fascinating history of the West Coast. Hear about the shipwrecks, gold miners and pounamu hunters.

Nearby take a walk over a swing bridge to the Hokitika Gorge; this is truly one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand! The beautiful turquoise waters are pretty breathtaking, as is the gorge itself.

Take a leisurely and scenic drive to the famous glacier region, and your day’s itinerary will end in the tiny settlement of Franz Josef. The rugged West Coast is hemmed between the Tasman Sea and the imposing Southern Alps, making for spectacular contrasts in the surrounding scenery. The two glaciers are located only 25 km from each other and are unique worldwide as they nearly reach the ocean. Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 20-minute walk will take you to its terminal face. 

Accommodation: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier

Day 6: Franz Josef - Heli Hike on Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier is 12km long and fed by a massive 20 square km snowfield at the top of the Southern Alps. It features ice pinnacles as high as multi-story buildings, deep crevasses and stunning, pristine blue ice. It’s all on the show, and the most dynamic glacier in New Zealand is accessible to you via one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world. First, witness the majesty of the beautiful ice formation from the air as your helicopter takes to the skies above the glacier. Then descend onto the glacier itself and set foot on the ice. Your heli hike guide will then lead you through some of the most stunning ice formations, immersing you in the world of the Franz Josef Glacier. To touch the ice and breathe in the fresh alpine air is a unique experience you will never forget.

Or: Heli Rafting Adventure: get geared and take a helicopter ride up the mountains to the rafting put-in. We need to negotiate to land at the top of the first of 3 canyons. We then head into the first canyon, where the towering schist gorges overhang the river and have to be seen to be believed. They are a natural wonder. After an hour on the river, we stop to explore a side canyon where a crystal clear creek pounds out of a deep crevice and over a waterfall.

Accommodation: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier

Day 7: Franz Josef – Lake Wanaka or Queenstown

Go as far South as the township of Haast. Nearby take a gentle walk following the slow-flowing Ship Creek Tauparikaka. A creek-side viewpoint allows easy observation of the forest plants and wildlife. Deep in the swamp forest are views of New Zealand's tallest tree, the Kahikatea. Finally, explore a part of New Zealand that's splendidly isolated - there are more resident seals and penguins than people. 

A spectacular and scenic road links Haast and Wanaka. It reaches beyond wind-whipped Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, through golden tussock-covered hills, to wind among steep mountains cloaked in lush rainforest and crosses tumbling rivers. Just 20 minutes from Haast, take a short walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall; an easy fern line walk will take you to the shores of the Haast River. Stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls or take a 30-minute return walk to the Blue Pools. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the colour of deep azure blue and so clear that you can see right to the bottom, making the resident brown trout look like they are suspended in the air. 

As you exit Mt Aspiring National Park, you will travel through what is known as "The Neck", a formation of land that separates two of our great South Island lakes, Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka.

Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. Forty-five kilometres long and covering 193 square kilometres, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka are perfect for jet boaters, sailors and kayakers to explore.  

Or: Queenstown is one of New Zealand's top visitor destinations; if you come to the region, you'll understand why. Queenstown sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu amidst dramatic mountain ranges; this stunning location will blow you away. In addition, there’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you'll find fantastic restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. 

Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown

Day 8: Wanaka or Queenstown - Scenic flight/cruise at Milford Sounds (kayak optional)

Take a scenic flight to the Fiordland World Heritage National Park, Mount Aspiring, and glaciers galore, and join others on a scenic boat cruise. View spectacular mountains and the dramatic landscape of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, part of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. This area is known to Maori as Te Wahipounamu, meaning 'the place of greenstone'. The scenic flight includes two world heritage national parks, the impressive Mount Aspiring, pristine glaciers, the Olivine Ice Plateau, rainforest, alpine lakes, rivers and cascading waterfalls.

Fly the entire length of Milford Sound before landing and boarding your cruise boat. Cruise the whole length of Milford Sound on small and friendly cruise boats or ships. Seals, penguins and dolphins can often be spotted at play. On your return flight, take in more scenic highlights, including the Milford Track, Sutherland Falls (At 580 metres, it's New Zealand's highest waterfall and the fifth highest in the world), and the breathtaking mountains of the Main Divide. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the colour of deep azure blue and so clear that you can see right to the bottom, the Dart River Valley, Glenorchy and Lord of the Rings Locations before returning to Wanaka.

Optional: Kayak in the Milford Sound; plunging cliffs and raging waterfalls meet inky dark waters. This is New Zealand's wild side at its absolute best.

Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown

Day 9: Wanaka or Queenstown - Central Otago Tour

Affectionately called ‘Central’ by those that know it well, Central Otago is New Zealand’s most inland region. It’s breathtakingly different, with vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, deep gorges and tussock-clad hills. All of the main winegrowing sub-regions lie within close reach, with the distinctive mountainous terrain providing each with a unique climate, aspect and altitude. 

Or: As you shuffle out to the edge of the bridge, heart pounding and mind racing, remember this – you’ve found yourself at the World Home of Bungy in Kawarau Gorge. This is the original. 

An unmissable journey into the Dart River Valley, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. The Dart River Wilderness Jet is an exhilarating and spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park. This rich and diverse landscape offers a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, compelling experiences and New Zealand’s most exciting jet boating along glacier-fed rivers. You will share stories of the area’s incredible history, Māori legends and Greenstone trail. Stroll through ancient beech forests, unchanged in over 80 million years and view the scenic backgrounds for many Middle Earth movie scenes.

Or: Combine the wilderness jet boating with Funyak inflatable canoes. Funyak drift is a fantastic journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park. Get up close to nature with a gentle paddle on crystal clear waters.

Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown

Day 10: Wanaka - Day in Queenstown

Queenstown is the Southern Hemisphere’s premier four-season lake and alpine resort. Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown’s stunning scenery is inspiring and revitalising. The region is renowned for great adventure activities and spectacular outdoor terrain. You could try skiing, snowboarding, zip-lining, luging, mountain biking, paragliding, jet-boating, skydiving and more! Or, if you want something a little more relaxed, you can choose from numerous family activities, nature experiences, tours and beauty spas.

There’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find fantastic restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. 

Accommodation: Queenstown

Day 11: Queenstown – Mt Cook or Lake Tekapo

We travel deep into the heart of the Southern Alps and to the southern slopes of Mt Cook National Park. In the afternoon, experience awe-inspiring views of Mt Cook and Tasman and breath-taking views of the glaciers and neves. Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Everest. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snowfields, all set under a star-studded sky.

Visit New Zealand's Tasman Glacier terminal lake for a fascinating glacial encounter. Cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size periodically tear away from the glacier, allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500-year-old glacial crystals.

Picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo are part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect spot for stargazing. 

The township faces north across the huge turquoise-coloured lake to the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock flour (ground by glaciers) suspended in the water. On the shores of the lake, you'll see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, where the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps beyond the lake. The church was built in 1935 for the pioneer families of the Mackenzie district and is still used as a place of worship. The church is a popular photo spot for visitors - please note that when you visit the church, weddings and services may take place, and respect is needed from visitors.

Accommodation: Mt Cook or Lake Tekapo

Day 12: Mt Cook or Tekapo – Christchurch afternoon departure

Speckled with small agricultural outposts, the Canterbury Plains are an area of serene, rural beauty. Your trip will take you through some of the most evocative hill counties in New Zealand.

Christchurch city promises an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. Traditionally known as the Garden City, Christchurch's award-winning Botanic Gardens are over 150 years old and boast an enviable collection of exotic and native plants. The Avon River flows gently through the city centre, making Edwardian punt rides an iconic way to sightsee. Alternatively, catch a ride aboard the Historic Tram or take a bicycle tour to learn about Christchurch's history. Contemporary culture and vibrant, modern spaces define Christchurch City's shopping culture. From modern hubs of creativity and charming boutiques and open-air markets, the shopping experience in Christchurch is social, unique and fun. Restaurants, bars and breweries mean that there are plenty of options to recharge after a few hours on your feet exploring the shops.

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