The South Island of New Zealand, also known by the Maori as Te Wai Pounamu or Water of Greenstone, is a place of spectacular untouched scenery.
You will be accompanied by our enthusiastic and expert guides to some of the most spectacular wildlife spots. Often inaccessible to others we ensure an absolutely special native and unique wildlife experience. Enjoy fantastic views from your remote wilderness locations and some great soft adventures to compliment the overall experience.Plan Your Tour
Private guided tour itinerary - 12 nights
Day 1: Christchurch airport arrival - Kaikoura (Whale-watch or swim with the dolphin cruise, Maori culture)
Day 2: Kaikoura - Marlborough - Abel Tasman National Park (Wineries, Nelson city)
Day 3: Abel Tasman Park (Scenic flight, water taxi and hike in Abel Tasman National Park)
Day 4: Abel Tasman Park - West Coast – Punakaiki (Wild West, Pancake Rocks)
Day 5: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier (Hokitika gorge, White Heron colony, glaciers)
Day 6: Franz Josef Glacier – Lake Wanaka (Rainforest and wetlands, waterfalls, "The Neck")
Day 7: Wanaka (Half day hike to Rob Roy glacier)
Day 8: Wanaka - Fiordland National Park (Overnight cruise at Doubtful Sound)
Day 9: Te Anau - Catlin’s (Wilderness Jet boat experience at Wairaurahiri River)
Day 10: Catlin’s – Dunedin – Otago Peninsula
Day 11: Otago Peninsula (Fur Seals, sealions, penguins, Royal Albatross colony tour)
Day 12: Otago Peninsula – Mt Cook (Oamaru, Moeraki Boulders, Clay Cliffs, glacier lakes)
Day 13: Mt Cook - Lake Tekapo – Christchurch Airport (Afternoon 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 2.5h
Start off your private guided tour! You arrive at Christchurch International Airport and you will be met by your driver/guide. You then take a scenic drive to the small seaside town of Kaikoura which is nestled on a rugged peninsula on the East Coast and is backed by the breathtaking Seaward Kaikoura Ranges. A spectacular marine playground exists off the coast of Kaikoura; - living in this environment is the mighty Sperm Whale. Join a whale-watch tour and encounter the “Giant Sperm Whale” in their natural environment. Giant Sperm Whales are the biggest of the toothed whales and the world's largest predator. They are equivalent in size to four elephants. This deep-diving whale (up to 3 km) may stay submerged for over two hours while hunting prey such as the giant squid. Many of Kaikoura's Sperm Whales wear battle scars from close encounters with this monster of the deep. Sperm Whales have the largest head, proportionally, of any animal. This giant head contains a fibrous tank full of white waxy oil early whalers thought was sperm. It is believed the oil tank amplifies the whale's powerful acoustic clicks used for echolocation and hunting. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where Sperm Whales can be seen year-round and close to shore. They congregate here because the 3km deep Kaikoura Canyon runs right up against the coast creating a rare system of sea currents that sustain an incredibly rich marine food chain. Sperm Whales are at the top of this food chain and the abundance of fish ensures they make the waters of Kaikoura their home. Or: Join a dolphin watching tour and if preferred swimming cruise at the beautiful coastline of the South Island Dolphin Encounter takes you to swim with the dusky dolphins in their natural environment, or watch their acrobatic displays from the comfort of the boat. The pod sizes of the resident dusky dolphins range in the hundreds along the Kaikoura coastline and we have an impressive success rate in locating these marine mammals. Fur seals, once almost hunted to extinction are now plentiful here, resting on warm rocks after a nights fishing. Walk among these creatures at this unique beach and watch our native Seabirds (Albatross and Shags), also enjoying the rich sea harvest. Later in the afternoon get an inside look into our culture and join a local family and learn about their traditions and customs.
Driving distance 4h
You leave the dramatic Pacific Coastline and travel along the east coast. We pass over the arid rolling foothills of south Marlborough, we drop down to enter the sun-drenched wine region, New Zealand’s pre-eminent grape-growing area. Blenheim at the entrance of the Marlborough Sounds is the main town in the region. Its lovely sunny climate makes this area an ideal wine growing region. For lunch, we visit one of the romantic wineries and get a chance to taste world-renowned wine (optional). From here we travel to the city of Nelson, known for its vibrant arts and handicrafts scene. Nelson is known for its irresistible blend of lifestyle and stunning landscapes and is one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand. Enjoy the local art and discover culinary talent at the restaurants. 300 Artisans are based in the Nelson area, so it is no wonder that the “One Ring” was created by one of the local jewellers in City Centre. Visit the World of Wearable Art Museum, a memorable museum experience like no other, and unique to Nelson. In Richmond, you find the Harrington Brewers that brew a special beer for Hobbiton. On the doorstep of Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson is a place of sunshine and golden beaches. Later we take you to the entrance of the Abel Tasman National Park and to your accommodation for the evening.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman Coast
The Abel Tasman National Park is located at the north end of the South Island. The park was founded in 1942 and with coverage of only 225 km², is the smallest of New Zealand's national parks. It is named after Abel Tasman, who in 1642 became the first European explorer to sight New Zealand. In this coastal paradise, you can walk through the native bush or explore the many golden sandy bays by cruise boat or a water-taxi. Experience the Abel Tasman National Park from both the air and the water. The flight departs from the Motueka airfield taking in the coastline before landing at Awaroa. If you choose you can extend the flight out over Golden Bay and Farewell Spit. Discuss this with Abel Tasman Air prior to departure (extra charges). Awaroa beach is your pick up point for your boat journey south along the stunning coastline, or if you like you can take the 1-hour walk from Awaroa to Tonga Beach, and meet the boat there. The boats depart at a number of times during the day. The timing for the boat transfer is arranged on the day so you can spend some hours relaxing on the beach or catch the next available boat. A short bus trip from Marahau or Kaiteriteri Beach gets you back to your vehicle at the Motueka Airfield. Optional - Kayaking. Discover this National Park by kayaking along these treasured sandy shores. Let us help you choose the best way for you to experience sea kayaking in this coastal gem.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman Coast
Driving distance 4h
Depart Nelson for the start of your 'Wilderness Tour' and travel 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. In the afternoon walk the Truman track. The track begins in the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest of ferns, Nikau Palms, Rimu, etc. Nearing the coast it passes through typical West Coast coastal flax flats before emerging onto a coastal headland with stunning views up and down the local coastline. Later walk north from the Pancake Rocks walkway is the Punakaiki Cavern, hidden away on the eastern side of the main road. Before passing back to Punakaiki, walk the track to the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. The lower section of the track passes through the Pororari River Gorge – a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs towering over the gorge and river. We follow the windy road along one of the most stunning coastlines in the country. We stop and stay at Punakaiki the jewel of the West Coast, which is world renowned for its pancake rock formation and blow-holes.
Accommodation: West Coast
Driving distance 3h
You leave Punakaiki and head for the nearby 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 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. Your tour then continues as you 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. 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 Glacier
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 you can take a 20-minute walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall, an easy fern line walk takes you to the shores of the Haast River. Further along on your journey, you can make a short stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls. There will also be the chance to 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 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 at Lake Wanaka.
Driving distance 2h return
Day free for the guide! As braided river valleys, native beech forests and lush alpine meadows give way to the dramatic glaciated Southern Alps, the pure beauty of the scenery pushes daily pressures a million miles away. Part of Te Wahipounamu - Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, Mt Aspiring National Park is an area of unrivalled natural beauty and host to hundreds of hiking tracks, rock climbing routes and trout fishing rivers, all within easy reach of Lake Wanaka. At its heart is Mt Aspiring, the park’s highest mountain at 3,027m and known to early Maori as ‘Tititea’ or ‘glistening peak’. Since the age of mountaineering began in New Zealand it’s been a draw card for climbers the world over. Today you hike to the majestic Rob Roy Glacier and picnic by a cascading waterfall with native alpine parrots for company, while listening to the cracks of the hanging glacier high overhead. The track is an ideal entry point to Mt Aspiring National Park - an area of spectacular alpine scenery, snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and waterfalls. A one hour drive from Wanaka brings you to the Raspberry Creek car-park. After a 15 minute valley walk you cross the West Matukituki River into beech forest as the track climbs through a small gorge along the Rob Roy Stream, then into alpine vegetation at the head of the valley, with good views of the Rob Roy Glacier. Optional - Small scenic plane flight into Siberia Valley, hike and Jet boat on Local River. Join us for a 4 hour wilderness adventure tour in Mount Aspiring World Heritage National Park. Take a 25 minute unforgettable scenic flight with views of Southern Alps, capturing the rugged beauty of New Zealand's World Heritage National Park. See glaciers, ice, snow, mountain lakes, hanging valleys, vast rain forests, and dramatic unspoiled beauty. Land in the glacially carved Siberia Valley in the middle of the Southern Alps and to begin a 2hr walk through valleys and native beech forest on a well marked track linking the remote Siberia Valley with the wilderness of the Wilkin Valley! And join a 30 minute exciting Jet Boat ride. Your Siberia Experience leaves from Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka and allows you to enjoy some of New Zealand's untouched scenery from the air, on land and from the water. OR: 4WD High country station tour and old settlers history: In the morning experience the rugged beauty and solitude of the spectacular high country, with this exclusive 4WD journey exploring an historic New Zealand sheep, cattle and deer farm. Maori and European historic sites, pure mountain air and breathtaking scenery This journey offers an unique insight into Wanaka’s rich history, heritage and modern-day farming life. In the afternoon we have organised an exhilarating jet boat experience.
Driving distance 3h
In the morning we take you past the Queenstown basin to Lake Manapouri to join an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound which is located in a World Heritage Area. It is an overwhelming place! You can feel the power of nature here - the remoteness, the wildness and the peace. Known for its wilderness and wildlife, Doubtful Sound is the second largest of the 14 fiords in Fiordland National Park and is three times longer and 10 times larger than Milford Sound. Following a short cruise across beautiful Lake Manapouri and a coach trip over Wilmot Pass, you will board the Fiordland Navigator at Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound. There is plenty of time on your overnight cruise to enjoy the stunning views and to discover the hidden arms of Doubtful Sound. Fur seals and bottlenose dolphins are often seen and at times, rare penguins can be observed. There is also time for you to kayak around the shoreline or go exploring in the tender craft with a nature guide. As the shadows lengthen you drop anchor at a favourite mooring for the night. After the day’s activities, enjoy a delicious evening buffet meal in the spacious dining saloon.
Accommodation: Doubtful Sound
Driving distance 4h
Today you take part in the longest, most daring and exhilarating jet boat trip in New Zealand. Hump Ridge Jet services the south coast of Fiordland National Park including Lake Hauroko and the Wairaurahiri River. Lake Hauroko is the deepest lake in New Zealand and is drained by the Wairaurahiri River, which falls 200 meters to sea level and is 27 kilometres of grade 3 white water rapids. The river is commonly described as New Zealand’s longest waterfall. Take a short walk along the beach to explore the wild south coast with views of Stewart Island and the Solander Islands) as well as a short walk to Waitutu Virgin Podocarp Forest (oldest Podocarp Forest in NZ). For lunch enjoy a lush style Venison BBQ. After your exhilarating jet boat trip, your road journey continues as we make our way through the Catlin’s. The Catlin’s is where the native forest meets the sea fostering waterfalls and river valleys along the way. There are rocky coastal bays, inlets and estuaries along the seashore.
Accommodation: Kaka Point
Driving distance 4h
In the morning you will have time to explore the Catlins. Natural curiosities and beauty combine to make this corner of the South Island a scenic treasure. Fossilized trees, beautiful waterfalls, golden beaches, high cliffs and secret caves are all part of a unique mix of attractions in this area (McLean Falls and Cathedral Caves). A varied coastline provides a home to a wide range of wildlife and you might see sea lions at Waipapa Point Lighthouse. Visit the unique fossil forest at Curio Bay. Take a short walk to the Purakaunui Falls through beech and podocarp forest to a viewing platform overlooking these attractive waterfalls. By late afternoon we reach Dunedin, it is the smallest of the 4 major New Zealand cities and displays a wealth of pioneering history within the city. The splendour of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has rightly deserved a reputation as one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. From here we drive to the Otago Peninsula, where views out to sea and back towards the city emphasise the singular beauty of Dunedin and its jewel-like harbour.
Accommodation: Otago Peninsula
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 provisioning 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 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.
Accommodation: Otago Peninsula
Driving distance 4h
You leave the Otago Peninsula and continue your drive up the coast. We stop at the fascinating Moeraki Boulders which are 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. It is a gorgeous harbour town centrally located on the South Island’s east coast 90 minutes north of Dunedin. Visitors can explore museums, shops and galleries within some of New Zealand’s best 19th-century architecture. Oamaru has a very proud heritage which is told through the Victorian Precinct and tours at a variety of locations in town and the best-preserved collection of historic and commercial buildings in New Zealand. As your journey head back inland you will have time to stop in Omarama. Here you can visit the Clay Cliffs which are a spectacular naturally occurring land formation. You then travel deep into the heart of the Southern Alps and to the southern slopes of Mt Cook National Park. The region is renowned for its incredibly clear starry nights, brilliant sunny days, and remarkable turquoise blue lakes, valleys of emerald green and snow-capped mountains. Shaped by the giant forces of nature, massive glaciers have scoured the land leaving a trail of lakes and rivers across the landscape. Today you will see awesome mountain ranges - the snow-capped Southern Alps and Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain at 3,754 metres above sea level, towers over the expansive countryside. Optional - Glacier Lakes Explorer cruise: In the afternoon we can take you on a small boat trip to the bottom of the 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.
Accommodation: Mt Cook
Driving distance 3.5h
Last day with your private guide! On your journey today you pass the small township of Lake Tekapo. The lake is an unusual beautiful turquoise colour and reflects the surrounding mountains. Relax at this mystical, tranquil place and take a stroll along the lake’s shores. Our trip will take us through some of the most evocative hill county in New Zealand. Speckled with small agricultural outposts, the Canterbury Plains are an area of serene, rural beauty. 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 drive you through Canterbury and back to your starting point in Christchurch. Optional - If time allows and you still want to explore the area, visit Akaraoa. Just 75 kilometres from Christchurch, Akaroa is 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, “the Hector's Dolphin”. Explore them and other special wildlife at a harbour cruise. (Optional) Akaroa is rich in Arts and Crafts which starts with a must see visit to the 'Little River Art Gallery' as you drive through Little River.You will love the shopping in Akaroa where you can walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes, with some exquisite local boutiques. This is the perfect place to reflect on your holiday.