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.Plan Your Tour
Private guided tour itinerary - 11 nights
Day 1: Christchurch arrival – Kaikoura (Swim with seals, Maori culture)
Day 2: Kaikoura - Nelson – Abel Tasman/Golden Bay
Day 3: Abel Tasman (Kayak/Water taxi/hike in Able Tasman National Park)
Day 4: Abel Tasman – West Coast – Punakaiki (Wild West, Pancake Rocks, horse riding on beach)
Day 5: West Coast - Franz Josef Glacier (Tubing and caving in glow-worm caves, Hokitika Gorge, glacier)
Day 6: Franz Josef (Helicopter flight and hike on glacier or heli-white water rafting )
Day 7: Franz Josef – Lake Wanaka/Queenstown (Rainforest and wetlands, waterfalls, "The Neck")
Day 8: Wanaka/Queenstown (Scenic flight and cruise at Milford Sound)
Day 9: Wanaka/Queenstown (Central Otago Wineries, Kawarau Gorge, Arrowtown)
Day 10: Queenstown (Day to your own leisure or more additional adventure)
Day 11: Queenstown – Mt Cook – Lake Tekapo (Glacier explorer boat cruise, stargazing)
Day 12: Tekapo – Christchurch departure (city tour)
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 2.5h
Start off your private guided tour! You arrive at Christchurch International Airport and you will be met by your driver/guide. Your journey begins and you take a scenic drive to the small seaside town of Kaikoura. It is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (in the Maori language 'kai' means food, 'koura' means crayfish). Kaikoura's environment is truly 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. A spectacular marine playground exists off the coast of Kaikoura; - living in this environment is the mighty Sperm Whale, large pods of Dusky Dolphins and many seal colonies. 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 sheer magnificence of our natural environment and its amazing inhabitants. A breathtaking nature activity! You won’t believe how curious, friendly and playful New Zealand Fur Seals can be in the water. This is an experience you do not want to miss! Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world to swim with these cheeky and inquisitive playmates of the sea. Later in the afternoon get an inside into our culture and join a local family and learn about their traditions and customs.
Driving distance 4.5h
Today we take you north along the coast to the Marlborough Sounds. You will discover a myriad of inlets and bays with dramatic hills that plunge steeply into the sea. The steep, wooded hills and small quiet bays of the sounds are sparsely populated, as access is difficult. Many of the small settlements and isolated houses are only accessible by boat. The main large port is Picton on the mainland, at the head of The Queen Charlotte Sounds. Apples, cherries and classic wine varietal grapes are well suited to the mild climate and sunshine in the Marlborough and Nelson areas. Many vineyards have opened retail and food outlets here. Nelson is situated at the top north-west of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s the sun, perhaps it’s the location, but Nelson has long been a magnet for creative people. There are more than 350 working artists and craftspeople living in Nelson. Your nights stop is near the Abel Tasman National Park, which is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman Area
Day free for the guide! 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, 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, these delights all nestled in the sheltered waters between Marahau and Watering Cove. A water taxi links you through 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 Falls River swing bridge. This idyllic track links a myriad of crescent-shaped coves of glittering golden sand, washed by the crystal-clear waters. You’ll wander along beaches that constantly invite you in for a swim; hike through scented forest 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: Abel Tasman Area
Driving distance 4h
Depart Nelson for the start of your 'Wilderness Tour'. Your tour takes you deep into the heartland of the south. Your first encounter will be through the Buller Gorge for a short stopover at the Buller Department of Conservation Centre. We take a spectacular drive through the gorge to Westport before continuing on to the jewel of the west coast. 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. From Westport, your journey winds its way through the western slopes of the West Coast which displays a series of magnificent mountain ranges, and native New Zealand vegetation.We follow the windy road along one of the most stunning coastlines in the country. We stop and stay at Punakaiki which 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. Ride on horseback through verdant West Coast native bush as you gaze up at 300-foot-high limestone cliffs, or stroll your horse through the fresh West Coast surf to view the magnificence of the Pancake Rocks. In the beginning, you ford the Punakaiki River and take the scenic route to view the stunning scenery of the Paparoa National Park. You ride through native bush to view huge limestone bluffs capped with lush temperate rainforest. Native Kereru wood pigeon can sometimes be seen swooping low through forest corridors. Paradise duck, the nosy weka and gorgeous-plumaged pukeko are common onlookers, and oystercatchers, spur-winged plovers and harrier hawks are also visible. Birdlife is a stunning feature of the New Zealand native rainforest and riders can quietly observe their lives from horseback. You make a stop on the river flat at a bush hut for a stretch and photographs, before wending our way back to the coast. This scenic feast is rounded off with a stroll down Punakaiki beach. Riders can experience the powerful sea rolling onto the famous Pancake Rocks, as they sit on horseback with the horses snorting at the salt spray from the waves.
Driving distance 3h
In the morning take an exciting half-day underworld rafting trip into remote caves. In the lower active levels of the cave, you meet up with a slow-moving underground river on which you float in your tube using only the natural light of a simply awe-inspiring display of glow worms for navigation. After your adventure, we drive to visit the historic 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 waters are quite breathtaking as is the gorge itself. 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. Two glaciers are located only 25 km from each other and are unique in the world as they seem to nearly reach the ocean. Optional; Heli-White Water Rafting: Experience the best whitewater rafting in New Zealand - 100% wilderness rafting - Flowing from the Southern Alps, the largest mountain range in NZ, through the rainforest to the ocean, the rivers are very remote and secluded, you will see no other people on your trip.- unique small group tours - a more personal tour, no big crowds, take your time. This is an owner operated and guided tour where the team put more effort into making your trip extra special. The scenery is deep limestone and schist canyons, rainforest, emerald green and turquoise blue water.
Accommodation: Franz Josef
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. By flying in you are able to access and explore a part of the glacier where its forces work hardest and often create spectacular ice caves and arches. Equipped with sturdy leather boots and other equipment, you board the helicopter for your first flight over the pinnacles of the lower icefall. Here, the ice is in constant motion. You then circle the upper icefall and Victoria Falls before landing. Your landing site on the ice is a remote and exceptionally beautiful part of the glacier. At this stage, your guide outfits you with crampons, specially designed for these ice conditions and you follow the ice steps cut by your guide as you explore the amazing formations and ice caves which are only seen here. Each departure is a true voyage of exploration. There are so many changing features that the guides always find something new. Optional - Quad bikes! Imagine following ancient glacial pathways carved into the landscape by ice and water and the thrill of driving these fun 2-seater ATV quad bikes through this wild place. You will be amazed at what is around every twist and turn as you are guided through rainforests, riverbeds, grasslands, sand and mud.
Accommodation: Franz Josef
Driving distance 3.5h
You leave Franz Josef and 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 a 20-minute drive from Haast take a 20-minute walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall; an easy fern line walk which takes you to the shores of the Haast River. Later make a short stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls. Further along your scenic drive you stop again and take a 30-minute 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 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 at Lake Wanaka.
Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown
In the morning take a scenic flight to the Fiordland World Heritage National Park, Mount Aspiring, 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 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 full length of Milford Sound before landing and boarding your cruise boat. Cruise the full 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 mountains of the Main Divide which 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, the Dart River Valley, Glenorchy and Lord of the Rings Locations, before returning to Wanaka.
Accommodation: Wanaka or Queenstown
Driving distance 1h
Central Otago is New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region and also it’s most scenic. Take the time to explore these incredible vineyards set in small microclimates in a landscape dominated by high snow-capped mountains, and tussock clad slopes. Travel to Cromwell and Bannockburn, the heart of Pinot Noir country, and depending on your personal tastes, we will guide you to a selection of boutique wineries. At some stage of the wine tour, we suggest a stop for a relaxing lunch at one of the wineries. Drive through the famous Kawarau Valley and Gorge. Stop at, what is widely regarded as a safe spectator attraction the famous Kawarau Gorge Bungy Jumping exhibition (this is free for spectators, however, if you desire to make a jump the charge is additional to your tour package). You will be able to stop in Arrowtown, a historic colonial village that takes you back into the Gold Mining days of the Otago region. From there the journey takes you past the Eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu and to Queenstown. Queenstown is the top adventure and activity centre in New Zealand. Most of the cast of Lord of the Rings was based here and major parts of the movie were filmed in this region. Optional - 4WD Safari of Scenic Lord of the Rings tour: In the morning explore the magical side of New Zealand and understand why this beautiful country was chosen to portray Middle-earth. The Queenstown area featured prominently in the filming of the incredibly popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nomad Safaris operate two different Lord of the Rings tours. The Safari of the Scenes - Wakatipu (Tour A) combines a true 4WD tour with film locations from the LOTR trilogy. The Safari of the Scenes - Glenorchy (Tour B) is the perfect sightseeing trip through the valleys beyond Glenorchy encompassing pivotal Lord of the Rings Scenes. Both Safaris of the Scenes can be done in one day for a truly exciting experience.
Day free for guide! 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 incredible 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 a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping. Optional - By 4WD and Jet boat. Take Queenstown’s greatest jet boat adventure. This is a Jet boat trip like no other! Recognized 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. And that’s just getting to the boat! A Jet boat created to excite and thrill you as you race through the Shotover River Canyons at a speed of 80km/hr. Sit back, hold on, and try to relax as the experienced boat drivers navigate the sheer canyon walls along the Shotover River as well as the mining dredges and sheet piles left by the miners through Skippers Canyon over a century ago. With skill and speed you will negotiate the narrow river channel, skimming over shallow 6-inch deep river beds, when suddenly you are going sideways, backwards, sideways and back facing the way you were going, WOW, that’s a Hamilton spin! 360-degree spin, as the boat turns in its own length!
Driving distance 3h Today we leave Queenstown and again, we can view the “Lord of the Rings” misty mountains plus the Pelennor Fields and cross one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets, The “Lindis Pass”. Our trip will take us through some of the most evocative hill country in New Zealand. The Mackenzie Country accounts for a large percentage of New Zealand’s sheep population. We travel deep into the heart of the Southern Alps and to the southern slopes of Mt Cook National Park. You will encounter an array of spectacular mountain ranges including Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, which rises 3,700 meters. 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 stop and stay tonight at Lake Tekapo. 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. In the evening we can arrange a tour to explore the wonders of the Southern Sky at the Mt John Observatory high above the breath-taking landscape of Lake Tekapo – where Earth meets Sky.
Accommodation: Lake Tekapo
Driving distance 3h
In the morning we drive you through the Canterbury region to Christchurch "The Garden City". Described by Lonely Planet as a "vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively," Christchurch's energy is evident wherever you go. The city has bounced back after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 with innovative new attractions, as well as some old favourites. Visit the Re:Start container mall, the transitional Cardboard Cathedral, and some of the many pop-up restaurants and bars. Contemporary art galleries, boutique shops and open-air markets add to Christchurch’s creative vibe.The Christchurch Botanic Gardens are worth a visit if time permits. It features one of the finest collections of exotic and local plants in New Zealand. Last day with your private guide!