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15-Day Wilderness Encounter South Island New Zealand

15-Day Wilderness Encounter South Island New Zealand

Escape the crowds and immerse yourself in New Zealand's unique nature and wildlife on the South Island. Prepare to be captivated by the awe-inspiring landscapes and untamed wilderness. Few destinations can offer the diversity of mountain vistas, ancient forests, and stunning coastlines all in one day. This is a rare and exclusive experience reserved for a select few visitors to New Zealand.

The South Island boasts some of the most pristine natural landscapes you'll ever encounter. Here, the majestic Alps meet tranquil sounds, and rugged coastlines blend with vast plains. Often inaccessible to others, we guarantee an extraordinary encounter with our native and unique wildlife. Whether you're yearning to meet playful dolphins, be serenaded by native birdsong, or explore an underground galaxy, New Zealand's wildlife is a sight to behold. Doubtful Sound offers an unforgettable overnight cruise in one of the world's most picturesque corners. Spot New Zealand's iconic Kiwi bird and get a glimpse of Yellow-eyed penguins, NZ sea lions, and Albatross in their natural habitat.

Day 1: Christchurch arrival - Kaikoura
  • Airport Meet and Greet, transfer to hotel.

  • Kaikōura's environment is truly spectacular. The village is between the rugged Seaward Kaikōura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter, the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape.

  • Kaikōura's unique talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals, and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. 
  • Cross the peninsula clifftop and soak up the ocean views. Observe seals and seabirds, explore historic sites, and enjoy clifftop views while walking part of the track or, if you're feeling energetic, at full length.
Day 2: Kaikoura Coast
  • Whale Watch is New Zealand's only vessel-based whale-watching company. It offers visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the world's largest-toothed predator, the giant sperm whale, in its natural environment at all times of the year.

  • Swimming with or watching the dusky dolphins, regarded as the most acrobatic of all dolphin species, is a "must-do" experience in Kaikoura. Pods of dusky dolphins ranging in size from 100 to 1000 are typically found all year round. OR: Take winning guided sea kayaking tours to view the NZ fur Seals and have chance encounters with dolphins, penguins, and albatrosses.

Day 3: Kaikoura - Marlborough - Abel Tasman National Park (2 nights)
  • With 1500km of New Zealand's coastline, Marlborough Sounds is a collection of ancient sunken river valleys filled with the Pacific Ocean's waters. Forested hills rise steeply from the sea around an intricate coastline of sheltered inlets and sandy bays. 

  • Waituna Lagoon (also known as Lake Waituna) and its wetlands were one of the first sites in the world to be named "a wetland of international significance." Recognised for its importance, Waituna wetland is a place for bird watching and trout fishing.

Day 4: Abel Tasman National Park
  • Abel Tasman National Park is an easily accessible coastal paradise. You can explore the park from land, on the water, or in the air, with tour operators offering cruises, water taxi services, kayaking options, heli-tours, and sailing catamarans.

  • Tui and bellbird song fills the forest; shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner; fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.

  • Make treasured memories on our signature eco-boat tour, a fun and relaxing journey through the ecosystem of the Abel Tasman National Park. We explore the wonderous Islands, forests, beaches, rivers, and seas of Te Tai Tapu (The Sacred Coast).
Day 5: Abel Tasman Park - West Coast – Punakaiki
  • Experience one of New Zealand’s best GlowWorm displays deep in the Paparoa National Park. The beautiful Metro / Te Ananui Caves and one of the best GlowWorm displays you can experience anywhere in the world.

  • Discover Punakaiki, the Jewel of the West Coast, which is world-renowned for its pancake rock formations and blowholes. Then, walk along some stunning remote beach treks through a dense rainforest with Nikau Palms and giant ferns. 
Day 6: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier
  • You will visit Hokitika's historic gold mining town, where you will walk over a swing bridge to the Hokitika Gorge. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand! The stunning turquoise waters and gorge itself are breathtaking. 

  • Visit New Zealand's one and only White Heron, Kōtuku nesting colony, with family-owned and operated White Heron Sanctuary Tours. Observe the magnificent Kōtuku in their natural nesting environment within the protected Waitangiroto Nature Reserve.

  • The glacier of the same name serves the hospitable town of Franz Josef. Stay here while you explore this spectacular World Heritage Area.
Day 7: Franz Josef Glacier – Lake Wanaka ( 2 nights)
  • Waiatoto River Safari will take you on an incredible eco-jet boat adventure through the Haast UNESCO World Heritage Area. The only ocean to Alps river tour in New Zealand, voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top-rated boat tours in New Zealand.

  • Wander through beautiful native forests and over a swing bridge to experience the pristine waters of Makarora River's Blue Pools.

  • Located in the spectacular Alps of the South Island, visitors from around the world are drawn to the Wānaka region by its outstanding beauty. The stunning mountain and lakeside setting and proximity to Mt Aspiring National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Area, make it the ultimate base for outdoor activities.
Day 8: Wanaka - Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Take a boat cruise to the magical Mou Waho Island Reserve on Lake Wanaka and enjoy a unique nature walk exploring the island and its wildlife. Discover the island's secret—a Lake on the Island on the Lake—a serene and incredibly photogenic piece of NZ.

  • Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain offer a variety of short or half-day walks with spectacular lake and mountain views. Amazing views include Lake Wānaka and a skyline dominated by the surrounding peaks. To the west, the distinct shape of Mt Aspiring/Tititea lies. 

Day 9: Wanaka - Fiordland National Park (2 nights)
  • Te Anau is the perfect town to base yourself on when visiting Fiordland National Park. At the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre, you can make plans to walk the Milford, Route Burn or Kepler Tracks. Apart from hiking, popular local activities include scenic flights, lake cruising, fishing, and kayaking.

  • Fly the length of Lake Te Anau over the Milford Track and the famous Sutherland Falls to Milford Sound. See spectacular views of the fiord, large cascading waterfalls and the stunning Tutoko Glaciers. The absolute best way to see Milford Sound/Piopiotahi!
Day 10: Overnight Doubtful Sounds
  • Your Doubtful Sound overnight cruise with Fiordland Expeditions offers you the opportunity to explore a small part of what Fiordland has to offer on an overnight cruise. Having evolved over millions of years, Fiordland, still prehistoric, can offer you the feeling of being isolated and free from the shackles of mankind. No phones, no cars, no sirens. Once you are onboard and the formalities are complete, the captain will lead you off on an adventure to explore the fjord. As you cruise the peaceful waters, you will see amazing vistas. The mountains rise directly from the seafloor to the highest of peaks in near vertical cliff forms, where unexplained trees hang on, and waterfalls cascade from top to bottom.

Day 11: Te Anau - Flight Southland - Stewart Island
  • Stewart Island is New Zealand's third largest island. It is situated 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. Over 85% of the island is a National Park, and most people come here for hiking and birdwatching. The island has just 28km of road but 280km of walking tracks suited to short walks, day walks and multi-day hikes. Walk the three-day Rakiura Track, and you will have the whole experience of Stewart Island’s wild beauty.

  • Stewart Island is a haven for brown kiwi or Tokoeka, which outnumber humans on the island and are active day and night. Blue penguins and the rare yellow-eyed penguins waddle among the rocks.
Day 12: Steward Isslad - Ulva Island
  • Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara) is renowned for its diverse and abundant birdlife, with a forest dominated by Rimu, Southern Rata, and Kamahi, which is surrounded by marine reserves. Ngai Tahu Maori visited it as part of their food-gathering trips, and in the 1890s, it became one of New Zealand’s first reserves. After much hard work, this 267-hectare island is now predator-free, allowing bird and plant life to thrive.

  • Prehistoric filter-feeding shellfish called brachiopods thrive in Paterson Inlet. They are living fossils from the Palaeozoic period. Because the rivers that flow into it drain from pristine, undeveloped land, they carry little sediment or nutrient runoff. As a result, many species thrive in the inlet waters, including kina, sea cucumbers, starfish, and brachiopods.
Day 13: Stewart Island - The Catlin's 
  • Slip into an enchanted world of leafy hill country, where land rises sharply from the coast to the inland ranges and where rivers and waterfalls abound. 
  • This wooded, wild coastal corner is the most unsung of the South Island regions. The Purakaunui Falls cascades 20 metres in three tiers, while the most amusing waterfall is Niagara Falls (named by a surveyor with a sense of humour), which falls less than a metre.

  • At Curio Bay, along The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail, you can see the petrified remains of a forest that’s over 160 million years old.
Day 14: Cathlins – Dunedin - Otago Peninsula (2 Nights)
  • Nugget Point is an iconic panoramic platform on the Catlins coast, with one of the country’s oldest lighthouses perched above the famous rocks named by Captain Cook because they looked like pieces of gold. It’s a short stroll to the Tokata lighthouse, with sensational views of the big blue beyond.

  • Known as the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, Dunedin prides itself on its beautiful built heritage, stunning scenery, and unique biodiversity. Surrounded by dramatic hills and at the foot of a long, picturesque harbour, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
Day 15:  Otago Peninsula
  • Flanking the southern edge of Dunedin's extensive harbour, Otago Peninsula is high and rugged on the ocean side and warm and sheltered on the harbourside. Volcanic in origin, the peninsula is part of the crater wall of a large, long-extinct volcano.
  • At Taiaroa Head, the Royal Albatross has established its only land-based breeding colony in the world. The world’s rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed, makes its home among the sand dunes of the peninsula.
  • Take a tour that combines tourism and conservation in a symbiotic relationship and provides absolutely unrivalled viewing of estuarine and marine wildlife. Your knowledgeable guides will inform you of activities being viewed and visit places where the best possible viewing of Hooker's Sea lions, Yellow-eyed Penguins, Blue Penguins and Royal Albatross can be had.
OUR Selection of Luxury Stays

Plan Your Tour


The itinerary will be 100% tailored to your interest and budget.
A personal and experienced driver-guide will make your trip seamless.
Take part in some of the best wilderness walks The South Island offers.
Experience some of the best Wildlife encounters in New Zealand.

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