The South Island's spectacular and beautiful landscape includes vast mountain chains, rugged coastlines, deeply indented fiords and lush rainforest.
You will see the main highlights of the South Island and visit the best and most scenic locations. Experience our wildlife on some excursions into remote areas, views many of our natural wonders and have some fun at unique local activities.Plan Your Tour
Private guided tour itinerary - 9 nights
Day 1: Christchurch arrival - Arthur's Pass (Nature walk with expert)
Day 2: Arthur's Pass – West Coast – Punakaiki (Rainforest train and Glow-worm caves, Pancake Rocks)
Day 3: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier (Hokitika Gorge, White Heron colony, glaciers)
Day 4: West Coast – Wanaka/Queenstown (Rainforest and wetlands, waterfalls, "The Neck")
Day 5: Wanaka – Central Otago/Queenstown – Te Anau (Wineries, Kawarau Gorge, Arrowtown and Fiordland)
Day 6: Te Anau – Day trip to Milford Sound (Encounter Cruise)
Day 7: Te Anau – Dunedin – Otago Peninsula (Working farm tour, city tour, Larnach Castle)
Day 8: Otago Peninsula (Fur Seals, sea lions,penguins, Royal Albatross colony tour)
Day 9: Dunedin - Lake Tekapo (Moeraki Boulders, Mt Cook area and Glacier Lake Explorer cruise)
Day 10: Tekapo - Christchurch departure
Prices: We recommend the following guidelines for customized tour packages, excluding international flights:
4* (3* internationally) to 5*: From around NZ$ $400 - $1150+ per person per day. The customized package will include accommodation, airport transfers and other transportation within New Zealand, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. Please enquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.
Driving distance 1.5h
Start off your private guided tour! You arrive at Christchurch International Airport and will be met by your driver/guide. Depart Christchurch through the scenic untouched areas and through to Arthurs Pass. From your car, you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Stop for a walk at Castle Hill Basin, characterised by its distinctive limestone rock formations. These limestone rock formations are the water eroded remnants of limestone formed during the Oligocene age 30-40 million years ago when much of present-day New Zealand was covered by the sea. Pass Lake Pearson and relax during your stay near Arthurs Pass Village, the South Islands highest Settlement, surrounded by mountain peaks rising more than 2,000 meters. Today you will discover wild nature in a spectacular mountain setting and experience life on a 2,400-hectare nature reserve and high country merino sheep station. Walk from your room into a natural paradise of beech forest, tussock clearings, moss-lined streams and lakes. A naturalist guide will help you learn about high country life and explore nature in this special place the first Maori visitors called "Te Ko Awa a Aniwaniwa - Valley of the Mother of the Rainbows.” Optional: (you will have to stay in Christchurch the night before) Tranz Alpine Train from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass: This is truly one of the world’s great scenic train trips through the dramatic contrast of dry beech forests and tussock land on one side of the Alps and lush green landscapes on the other. From Christchurch, cross the patchwork farmland of the Canterbury Plains, follow the Waimakariri River, climbing into alpine scenery on a series of spectacular viaducts.
Accommodation: Arthurs Pass, Wilderness Lodge
Driving distance 3h
Your day has an interesting flavour of mountains, and native flora and fauna, as you travel through the rugged terrain that divides the east from the west. Pass by Lake Brunner with its rolling foothills overlooking the largest lake in the northwestern South Island. On arriving in Greymouth, your driver/guide will take you to the upper West Coast. The West Coast – New Zealand’s longest 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. We take you to the Nile River Rainforest Train where you travel through primaeval rain forest close to the enormous Nile River Caves. You will explore an ancient wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites in the large dry upper levels and become entranced while under the galaxies of glowworms in the awe-inspiring Ananui entrance series. Discovered only recently, the Metro Cave is one of the few caves in the world you can walk through and see in its natural, unspoilt state, the way it was discovered. In the evening we stop at nearby Punakaiki, the Jewel of the West Coast. Punakaiki is world renowned for its pancake rock formation and blowholes. Walk along some of the stunning and remote beach treks, through a dense rainforest with Nikau Palms and large ferns.
Driving distance 4h
Today enjoy an exhilarating treetop adventure on New Zealand’s first treetop walk among temperate rainforest giants as you experience life with the native birds, high in the ancient Rimu and Kamahi tree canopy. There is easy access for all to enjoy along a steel platform 20 meters high and over 450 meters long. You will have time to visit the historical gold mining town of Hokitika. 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 water is quite breathtaking as is the gorge itself. In the afternoon we take a jet boat ride to a rare white heron sanctuary. The Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve is a sanctuary to most of the bird life that you will see in the South West Heritage Area. The pristine rainforest, predominantly Kahikatea, stands tall and shows off its untouched beauty. We 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. Two glaciers are located only 25 km from each other and are unique in the world as they seem to nearly reach the ocean. Highly recommend: Optional - Helicopter flight and landing on ice: Discover the gigantic expanse of the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier snowfields with a landing at high altitude. Step out of your helicopter and experience how it feels to stand in snow. The flight includes fantastic views of the Tasman Glacier and Mount Cook.
Accommodation: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
Driving distance 3.5h
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. Explore a part of New Zealand that's splendidly isolated - there are more resident seals and penguins than people. South of Haast, the coastline turns westward along a 24 kilometre, gently curving bay to Jackson Head. This headland provides shelter from the prevailing wind direction, and here a fishing harbour has survived since the early pioneer days of seal hunting. Jackson Head also marks the southern end of the west coast's narrow river plains. Beyond this point, the steep mountain ranges plunge directly into the sea - the first of the deep glacial fiords is just 60 kilometres away. 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 across tumbling rivers. Just 20 min from Haast take a 20 min walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall, an easy fern line walk will take you to the shores of the Haast River. Later make a short stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls followed later by a 30 min return walk to the Blue Pools. It features a carefully maintained gravel path and boardwalks that wind through a native silver beech forest and lead to a swing bridge strung high above the Makarora River. The views back to the mountains of the Main Divide are absolutely breath-taking. 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. Wanaka is a new and modern Alpine resort and mostly visited by us New Zealanders. A year-round destination set against the pristine alpine backdrop of Mount Aspiring National Park, you can still discover that totally relaxed Kiwi way of life in Wanaka.
Driving distance 3h
You leave Wanaka and head towards Cromwell renowned for its orchards and then you drive through the Gibbston Valley. Central Otago is New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region and also the most scenic. Take the time to explore these incredible vineyards set in small micro-climates in a landscape dominated by high snow-capped mountains, and tussock clad slopes. On the way to Queenstown, we stop in Arrowtown, a historic colonial village that takes you back into the Gold Mining days of the Otago region. From Arrowtown, we drive to Queenstown where you can take the opportunity to explore the village area. Queenstown has transformed into a sophisticated cosmopolitan town, tucked into a picturesque bay on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, beneath majestic mountains. There’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. In the afternoon the journey takes you past the eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu to Lake Te Anau. Here you will be visiting one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. The extraordinary scenic beauty has earned this region a reputation as a significant sightseeing and walking destination, and a 'must see' for anyone travelling to New Zealand. The township of Te Anau was originally established as a service community to the rural pasturelands on the eastern side of the lake. Optional - Jet boating adventure on the Shotover river gives you an opportunity to experience two of Queenstown’s greatest accomplishments, Skippers Canyon & Jet boating on the Shotover river. Skippers Canyon Jet is the only company to offer a complete 4WD tour of Skippers Canyon and access to the unique mining relics available in the Sainsbury gold claim museum. Following the winding, yet majestic Skippers road, which carves its way down from the Coronet Peak ski road, over the saddle and down “Long gully” through to Skippers Canyon; your guide will detail the history of the road, hardships of the miners and how many miners were killed building the road over a century ago. This is a Jet boat trip like no other! Recognised as one of Queenstown’s best value products for a good reason, this is an adrenaline rush from the moment you leave town. Tour into Skippers Canyon, along the sheer canyon walls, on the 'road to riches' carved from the rock walls and sheer cliffs by miners over 120 years ago.
Accommodation: Te Anau
Driving distance 3h return
We are heading for the spectacular Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” which was carved out during successive ice ages and, at its deepest point off Mitre Peak, plunges to a depth of 265 meters. The awesome splendour of this region is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world, a daring claim in a country which offers extraordinary beauty around every corner. Getting there is half of the experience; we take you through the Fiordland National Park, past staggeringly beautiful valleys, lakes and creeks. If the time allows we will stop at the “Mirror Lakes”, before entering the narrow and dark 1km long Homer Tunnel. You may encounter Kea’s, New Zealand’s cheeky alpine parrots and we stop and explore some of nature’s wonders on the way. At Milford, we board a vessel and cruise on the Fiord through sheer cliffs covered with vegetation that plunges into the sea. View the Bowen Falls, hurtling 165 meters into the sea, and the Stirling Falls further down the sound, set amidst the towering cliffs and dwarfed by Mitre Peak. On the drive back we stop and take a boardwalk into the “Chasm” to see surreal, water-hewn rock sculptures. Optional - Overnight Cruise Doubtful Sounds: Escape to the peace and tranquillity of Doubtful Sound on a magical overnight cruise. Your getaway starts in Manapouri with a short cruise across Lake Manapouri. Then coach across Wilmot Pass on a sub-alpine road through dense rainforest to Deep Cove where your crew and the Fiordland Navigator await. As you cruise through some of the fiord’s most stunning scenery, the knowledgeable nature guides will provide commentary ensuring you miss nothing, be it the pod of resident dolphins, fur seals or rare penguins you might encounter. After dropping anchor in a sheltered cove, you can choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or tender boat or to simply relax onboard. For the more adventurous (or very brave), there’s even a chance to go swimming!
Accommodation: Te Anau
Driving distance 4h
In the morning join a farmer on a small personal farm tour. The farm is operating a 420-acre farm running sheep, deer, a handful of Scottish Highland cattle, along with hens, working farm dogs, and one friendly golden labrador. During springtime, hand feed the pet lambs and enjoy a ride around the farm with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and take photos plus enjoy morning tea whilst experiencing a working NZ farm. From the Fiordland National Park, we travel north to the east coast and the city of Dunedin. The splendour of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Walk Baldwin Street, which is considered the world's steepest residential street. Visit Larnach Castle (Optional), which is set high above the harbour where William Larnach commissioned the construction of New Zealand’s only castle in 1871. The Victorian castle is also well known for its 14-hectare garden and grounds which has been recognised as a Garden of International Significance. High Tea is a popular dining option at the Castle which is served daily at 3pm. Drive further to the tip of the Otago Peninsula and you come to Taiaroa Heads, about forty minutes from the city centre.
Accommodation: Otago Peninsula
Day free for the guide: For more than one hundred years Dunedin has been aware of its special relationship with the Southern Ocean. From its inception, its university has had a deep commitment to the natural sciences. About the same time, the city's port became the final providing point for Antarctic exploration. The last coastline they saw before plotting their course to the unknown was, in itself, a link with the fauna of the white continent. Seals and sea lions come ashore to lie on the rocks of the Otago Peninsula. 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 which 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 activity 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. A further 25-30 other estuarine and marine bird species are seen during the experience. Close up unobtrusive viewing from beach locations and strategically placed observation hides is guaranteed.
Driving distance 4h We stop over at the fascinating Moeraki Boulders, huge spherical stones that are scattered over the sandy beaches, but they are not like ordinary round boulders that have been shaped by rivers and pounding seas. From there we take you further to the white sandstone town of Oamaru. The main town of North Otago is a pretty town and the best-preserved collection of historic and commercial buildings in New Zealand. To the east lie the coastal climes of Timaru while, to the west, Mackenzie Country accounts for a large percent of New Zealand’s sheep population. We travel into deep into the heart of the Southern Alps and to the southern slopes of Mt Cook National Park. In the afternoon we take you on a small boat trip to the bottom of Tasman Glacier. The only tour of its kind in New Zealand, and one of three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of these are accessible to the average person. We overnight in the small township of Lake Tekapo. You will encounter an array of spectacular mountain ranges including Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, which peaks at some 3,700 meters. Lake Tekapo shines all year round in a beautiful turquoise colour and reflects the surrounding mountains. Relax at this mystical, tranquil place and take a stroll along the lake’s shores. Optional - Stargazing: In the evening we can arrange a tour to explore the wonders of the Southern Sky at the Mt John Observatory high above the breathtaking landscape of Lake Tekapo – where Earth meets Sky.
Driving distance 3h
Last day of your private guided tour! Our trip will take us through some of the most evocative hill country in New Zealand. Speckled with small agricultural outposts, the Canterbury Plains are an area of serene, rural beauty. Described by the Lonely Planet as a "vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively,” Christchurch is showing off its vibrancy with new developments popping up all over the place. Whilst part of the central city of Christchurch is still cordoned off due to the impact of a series of earthquakes, there’s plenty to do in and around this rapidly changing city, like visiting the Re:Start shopping area and Pop Up City bars. We take you to your departing flight in Christchurch. Optional - Akaroa Peninsula: If time allows and you still want to explore the area visit Akaroa Peninsula. Just 75 kilometres from the city of Christchurch. Akaroa is a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Akaroa, with its own beautiful bays, harbour and French and English history has a good range of activities to keep you busy. In Flea bay, you will find the largest little penguin colony on the mainland in New Zealand! Akaroa waters are home to the rarest and smallest marine dolphin, “Hector's Dolphin”. Discover them and other special wildlife on a harbour cruise.