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.
New Zealand’s South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience. Here, towering alps meet peaceful sounds and rugged coastlines merge with sweeping plains. Often inaccessible to others we ensure an absolutely special native and unique wildlife experience.Plan Your Tour
Private guided tour 13 nights
Location: South Island
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Wilderness Lodges
Next Departure: Departs Daily
LOCATION AND HIGHLIGHTS:
Day 1: Christchurch arrival - Kaikoura
Maori (indigenous) culture
Day 2: Kaikoura Coast
Heli Geo Tour, Whale-watch Or: swim with a dolphin, Or: Swim with Seals
Day 3: Kaikoura - Marlborough - Abel Tasman National Park
(Marlborough Sounds, Wairau Lagoon by kayak)
Day 4: Abel Tasman National Park
(Eco Cruise Coastline/ Or: Scenic flight, water taxi and hike)
Day 5: Abel Tasman Park - West Coast – Punakaiki
(Nelson Lakes, Glow-worm Cave hike)
Day 6: Punakaiki - Franz Josef Glacier
(Pancake Rocks, Hokitika Gorge, White Heron colony)
Day 7: Franz Josef Glacier – Lake Wanaka
(Heli landing on a glacier, Rainforest, and wetlands, waterfalls, "The Neck")
Day 8: Wanaka - Mt Aspiring National Park
(Half-day hike to Rob Roy glacier, Or: Eco Cruise walk Mou Waho Island)
Day 9: Wanaka - Fiordland National Park
(Overnight cruise at Doubtful Sound, Or: Hike and cruise Milford Sounds)
Day 10: Te Anau - Catlin’s
(Wilderness Jetboat experience at Wairaurahiri River)
Day 11: Catlin’s – Dunedin – Otago Peninsula
(Nugget Point Lighthouse, Waterfalls)
Day 12: Otago Peninsula
(Fur Seals, sea lions, penguins, Royal Albatross colony tour)
Day 13: Otago Peninsula – Mt Cook
(Oamaru, Moeraki Boulders, Clay Cliffs, Or: Tasman Glacier Snowshoeing)
Day 14: Mt Cook - Lake Tekapo – Christchurch departure
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Maori Culture Tour - MANAWA: This is no ordinary tour and right from the start you’ll appreciate your guides deep connection to Kaikōura; as they’re from the local sub-tribe Ngāti Kurī.Firstly, travel to Ngā Niho Pā; although no longer inhabited it was once a refuge. Spend an hour or so learning about this protected site and customs of the area. As you progress to other sites intergenerational legends are shared, bringing the stunning landscape alive. You’ll see the recent workings of Rūaumoko, God of Earthquakes and join in activities including weaving with harakeke, the native flax.
After a short stop for light refreshments with family, travel to a remote stand of forest to discover the medicinal properties of plants and trees and how the forest was a food source. The tracks are flat, and the walking pace is leisurely; as you listen, touch and smell your way through these remarkable surroundings, where trees have stood for more than five hundred years. As your time concludes, you’ll realize you have acquired rare insight into Māori people and their view of the natural world as well as spiritual values. This tour may well be one of the most rewarding and insightful things you do in New Zealand.
Kaikoura 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. Kaikoura’s special talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters.
Aftershock Adventure: Exclusive flight that showcases natures force, the geological and environmental changes to Kaikoura coastal areas, mountain ranges, rivers and infrastructure.
Few places on Earth possess the magic of Kaikōura. Many who visit leave transformed. It is a special part of New Zealand, imbued with powerful natural energy. A place where tectonic plates collide, towering peaks fall to the sea and ocean currents converge. Such rare combinations lure an abundance of marine wildlife, the most famous being the Giant Sperm Whale. Kaikōura 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 Kaikōura Canyon runs right up against the coast creating a rare system of sea currents that sustain an incredibly rich marine food chain. Designed especially for whale watching, the modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea.
Or: Encounters with the wild dusky dolphins of Kaikoura are completely natural, we do not feed or entice the dolphins in order to get the dolphins to interact with the swimmers. Any interaction between man and mammal is completely on the terms of the dolphins. The dusky dolphins inhabit the coastal waters off Kaikoura all year round, making Kaikoura a unique place in the world where wild dolphins can be encountered every day, weather permitting.
Or: Snorkelling with wild New Zealand Fur Seals, in the shallow waters of the beautiful Kaikoura Peninsula, truly is a unique experience. A breathtaking nature activity and recently listed as one of the world's 'Top 10 Marine Encounters' by Lonely Planet.
The Marlborough Sounds encompass 1,500 km of coastline, bays, beaches and native forest. It is a place of incredible natural beauty, a place that needs to be seen to be believed. The area is abundant with wildlife, from penguins and rare King Shags to dolphins and fur seals, and offers some of the world's best boating, diving, fishing and hiking.
Cruise ships stop at the quaint port town of Picton, known for its museums, galleries and picturesque walking tracks. The wineries of Blenheim are within a short drive of Picton; be sure to try the Sauvignon Blanc for which this region is famous.
Join us on a private half day, a land-based eco safari of the Wairau Lagoon, where you can enjoy a short stroll along a private beach or just relax and hear about the area's fascinating history. Great views from hilltop weather permitting. Hear about the fascinating human and natural history of the area from your knowledgeable guide.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman Coast
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. A coastal paradise that you can walk through or explore by cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi or sea kayak, visitors love the way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with beach life. Bursts of hiking or paddling are punctuated by sunbathing, swimming and sedate snorkelling.
Inviting sandy beaches to fill the spaces between trees and tide line. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating native forest. Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. 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.
Spend a full day cruising on our private charter boat, visiting numerous beaches, inlets, islands and forests. Your skipper is an expert in his field and will safely guide you through this fascinating place!
Or: Heli flight north along the coast, you get a bird’s-eye view of the world-famous Abel Tasman National Park with its beautiful golden beaches, lush native bush, and clear blue waters. Our first stop is at Awaroa Lodge for coffee and a beach walk. Leaving Awaroa, we head over Golden Bay and Farewell Spit, taking in the sights of the rugged West Coast with a beach landing. We then fly south for photo opportunities on Mt Olympus, one of the Lord of the Rings film sites, and head back to Nelson via the Kahurangi National Park.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman Coast
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. Promising everything from easy lakeside walking tracks to challenging alpine hikes, this national park has something on offer for everyone.
The West Coast, or 'the Coast' as locals call it, is an untamed natural wilderness of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. It’s good if you’ve got your own transport because this region is 600km long and there’s a lot to see. In fact, the Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.
A simply stunning Wilderness Eco-tour through the enormous Nile River Cave System deep in the Paparoa National Park. This is the start of your journey into the lush Rainforest, surrounded by uniquely nature carved rock formation and impressive limestone cliffs. Leaving daylight behind you will explore the enormous Nile River Caves System, seeing, feeling and getting close to an ancient wonderland sculptured by water and decorated with fragile calcite formations and you will get really close to amazing galaxies of glow worms.
Accommodation: West Coast
Stop at nearby Punakaiki, the Jewel of the West Coast and world renowned for its pancake rock formations and blowholes. Walk along some of the stunning and remote beach treks, through a dense rainforest with Nikau Palms and large ferns.
You will visit the historical 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 beautiful places in New Zealand! The beautiful turquoise waters are quite breath-taking as is the gorge itself.
Take a nature tour and visit the white heron colony. The location of the nesting site deep within the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve is only accessible by boat. Royal Spoonbill (kotuku nutu-papa) and Little Shag (kawapaka) also nest in this reserve. The preserved rainforest and its surrounds are also home to a great array of other birdlife. Experience the untouched beauty of the prehistoric White Pine (Kahikatea) rainforest and absorb the natural Flora and Fauna as you visit one of the special places in New Zealand.
Take a 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.
Accommodation: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
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.
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. 45 kilometres long and covering 193 square kilometres, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka are perfect for jet boaters, sailors and kayakers to explore.
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.
Hike to the majestic Rob Roy Glacier and picnic by a cascading waterfall with native alpine parrots for the 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.
Or: Boat cruise to the remote and magical Mou Waho Island nature reserve, which is predator-free and home to the rare flightless Buff Weka (extinct on the mainland since 1920). A one hour return guided bush walk is included, which takes you up to reveal the island’s secret – a lake right on top of the island! Relax and enjoy the birdlife at the beach and shelter at the island base with your own morning or afternoon tea.
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 a vessel 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
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 of Venison BBQ.
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. The Catlin’s is blessed with some spectacular waterfalls. The most famous of these is Pūrākaunui Falls - a magnificent waterfall surrounded by the bush that cascades 20 metres over three distinct tiers. The waterfall is a short walk from a side road off the main Owaka-Invercargill highway. The “Southern Scenic Route” winds through the Catlin’s from Nugget Point to Curio Bay.
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. Flanking the southern edge of Dunedin's extensive harbour, Otago Peninsula is high and rugged on the ocean side; warm and sheltered on the harbourside. Volcanic in origin, the peninsula is part of the crater wall of a large, long-extinct volcano. As a scenic drive, Otago Peninsula is spectacular.
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
You simply can't drive along the North Otago coast without stopping to stare at the Moeraki Boulders. Moeraki is now most famous for its boulders; mysteriously spherical stones scattered across a beach. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres high.
The whitestone townscape of Oamaru contains some of the best-preserved heritage buildings in New Zealand. In the late 19th century, the town prospered through gold mining, quarrying and timber milling. The Harbour-Tyne Street area is particularly special and after exploring the Victorian precinct, swing by the steampunk playground and museum.
These natural rock formations are just 10 km west of Omarama. The Clay Cliffs are a stark sight - tall pinnacles separated by narrow ravines. These otherworldly formations are made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago.
Travel inland set eyes on Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense - with sky-scraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snowfields, all set under a star-studded sky.
Or: Tasman Glacier Snowshoeing: Your adventure starts with a scenic flight into the Tasman Glacier, with views of Aoraki Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and the surrounding snow-capped mountains that form the Southern Alps. Years of experience and exploration of the glacier by your guide has resulted in extensive local knowledge allowing you to explore the hidden gems of the Tasman Glacier.
Accommodation: Mt Cook or Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is in the Mackenzie Basin. The township faces north across the remarkable 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) which is 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.
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.