14 Day South Island Nature and Wildlife Adventure

Experience the best of New Zealand with this comprehensive itinerary that can be customized to your time frame, interests, travel style and budget. We've curated a selection of our favorite destinations across the South Island, showcasing diverse landscapes and memorable experiences and some of the best nature and wildlife settings in New Zealand.

DAY 1: CHRISTCHURCH

The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora: This historic complex houses art galleries, theatres and shops. Take a stroll through the beautifully restored buildings and admire the architecture that defines Christchurch.

 

Swim with the Dophins – Akaroa Harbor: Experience the thrill of encountering these playful creatures in their natural habitat as you snorkel alongside them in the crystal-clear waters. Witness their acrobatic displays and graceful movements up close. Your guides will share interesting insights into the lives of these intelligent mammals. End with a leisurely stroll around Akaroa, a lovely New Zealand village. 

 

Gondola ride to the top of the Port Hills: Rise above the city to enjoy panoramic views of the Southern Alps, Canterbury Plains, Lyttelton Harbor and the glistening Pacific Ocean. At the summit, explore walking trails, discover the region's history, and perhaps enjoy a cup of tea and a scone!

 

Cuisine: Christchurch has a diverse culinary scene, from sophisticated Asian fusion at King of Snake to Mediterranean fare at Roca. For a more relaxed experience, The Riverside Market offers a global food court with Mexican, sushi, Greek, and several Asian options, alongside vendors of fine wines, craft beer and tasty coffee. 

 

 
DAY 2: KAIKŌURA

Whale watching tour: Specially designed vessels offer great viewing as you seek out sperm whales, orcas, and, perhaps, the majestic humpback whale. Marine guides will provide interesting commentary on the behaviors and unique traits of these incredible creatures. Nature’s giants can be seen year-round, with a very high success rate.

Explore the tide pools:  Witness New Zealand’s coastal marine life in a natural habitat. Stroll the rocky point and observe starfish, crabs and adorable sea lions basking in the sun or frolicking in the water. 

Helicopter over the ocean, coast and mountains: Soar above the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches, gazing out at the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The Seaward Kaikōura Range rises majestically from the coastline, its snow-capped peaks glowing in the sunlight. Spot giant sperm whales, playful dolphins, or even fur seals basking on the rocks below. This exclusive aerial perspective will leave you with lasting memories of Kaikōura's natural wonders.

Lunch at The Pier: At the casual Pier Hotel Restaurant in Kaikōura, you'll be treated to ocean views while savoring fresh, local seafood prepared with culinary expertise. Their crayfish chowder is a must-try, made with tender crayfish and a creamy base, best enjoyed with their house-made bread. For a truly memorable experience, indulge in their seafood platter, showcasing a variety of delectable catches from the surrounding waters. 

 

 
DAY 3: HOKITIKA

Hokitika Gorge Walk:  The leisurely short hike will cross a sturdy swing bridge over the gorge, where you’ll find panoramic views of the cascading waterfalls and lush rainforest. You’ll see vibrant turquoise water, a result of glacial flour suspended in the river, which makes this hike so colorful.  Along the way, you’ll notice a symphony of native birdsong and the gentle rustling of leaves. Keep an eye out for the elusive fantail and kereru, two of New Zealand's unique bird species. At the end of the trail, a viewing platform provides a perfect spot for your inspired photos and videos. 

Beach walk and exploration: Indulge in the simple luxury of exploring rugged, deserted beaches at your own pace. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll along the shoreline or a rejuvenating hike along coastal trails, immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of pristine sands, dramatic cliffs, and hidden coves. Reconnect with nature as you breathe in the fresh ocean air and discover the hidden treasures of the coast.

Stunning Bed & Breakfast with cliffside sea views: Nestled on New Zealand's breathtaking Great Coast Road, this remote B&B offers a tranquil escape with superb views of the Tasman Sea, and is enveloped by two acres of native bush and meticulously landscaped gardens. Enjoy a private pathway to secluded Nine Mile Beach, where you can explore the vibrant rock pools, or simply unwind among the smooth stones and weathered driftwood.  Chat with the owner/host to get a deeper cultural feel for the area and its local residents. 

 

 
DAY 4: FRANZ JOSEF

Hike to view the Franz Josef Glacier from its base: With an expert local guide leading the way, you’ll wind through a picturesque rainforest and continue up the valley alongside a glacial river, with waterfalls and the sights and sounds of this pristine environment. Toward the base of the glacier the views become more and more impressive, revealing the sheer scale and power of this natural wonder.  Allow about 2 hours for this moderate hike. 

Helicopter flight over Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers: From this unique vantage point and with the expert commentary from the pilot/guide, you'll be captivated by the intricate glacial formations, dramatic icefalls, and the ethereal blue hues that define this frozen landscape. The Franz Josef, known for its steep inclines and dramatic icefalls, offers a stark contrast to the sprawling expanse of the Fox Glacier, showcasing the diverse personalities and shear scale of these beautiful natural phenomenon.  

Hike around Lake Matheson: This captivating glacial lake is renowned for its mirror-like reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, New Zealand's highest peaks. You’ll pass through a serene and lush native rainforest, with diverse birdlife on this well-maintained trail loop. There’s a nice viewing platform providing ample opportunities to capture the perfect photograph of the lake with the mountains in the back (hopefully with the famous mirrored reflection!).  This is a tranquil and rejuvenating experience amidst the unparalleled beauty of the Southern Alps. 

 

 

 

 
 
DAY 6: QUEENSTOWN

Jet boating wilderness adventure on the Dart River: Experience the thrill of a jet boat ride through Mount Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The skilled drivers navigate the glacier-fed Dart River, showcasing breathtaking scenery and sharing insightful commentary. You'll glide through the towering peaks, lush forests, and dramatic canyons. This unforgettable adventure blends excitement and natural beauty with expert guide commentary.

Cuisine: Queenstown's cuisine offers a mix of local favorite foods and international influence. Fine dining establishments showcase modern New Zealand fare, while charming cafes provide refined comfort food. Chefs emphasize seasonal, sustainable ingredients to create elegant meals.  It’s quite diverse and there are many restaurants to choose from. 

Accomodation: Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, your luxury lodge has stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Each suite and villa offers private outdoor space, plush interiors, and fireplaces to cozy up to. You'll enjoy world-class dining, a rejuvenating spa, and a fitness center with an infinity pool overlooking the lake.

 

 

 
DAY 7: QUEENSTOWN

Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob's Peak: At the top you'll be treated to panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains, a perfect photo opportunity (and a great place to have a beverage!).

 

TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak High Country Farm: Ride on this vintage steamship across the lake to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a delicious gourmet BBQ lunch featuring locally-sourced ingredients, all while taking in the stunning alpine scenery. One extra benefit is their farm show, where you can see dogs herding sheep and a sheep shearing demonstration.

 

Lake Alta Track hike in the Remarkables range: High in the Remarkables, Lake Alta is an alpine oasis reached by a moderate 90-minute round trip hike. The trail ascends through beautiful scenery, crossing a ski field road and unique wetlands before emerging at the glacial lake, framed by dramatic peaks. Enjoy crisp air, spectacular views, and the rewarding feeling of reaching this high-altitude gem. Be prepared for changing weather and bring your camera to capture the unforgettable landscape.

 

Shop, eat and drink downtown and at the wharf: Queenstown's downtown and wharf area has a sophisticated shopping and dining scene. You’ll discover upscale boutiques and local artisan shops offering unique finds. The picturesque streets have a diverse selection of cafes and award-winning restaurants with international cuisine and creative beverages. With majestic mountain vistas enhancing your experience, Queenstown's downtown promises a memorable shopping and eating experience.

 

 
DAY 8-9: TE ANAU

Helicopter flight over Milford Sound and Kepler Track Hike: Soar over the dramatic cliffs and waterfalls of Milford Sound, where you'll be amazed by the sheer beauty of New Zealand's fiords. You’ll make a landing at Milford Sound Airport and then Luxmore Hut, on the Kepler Track (one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’) where your guided hike begins. Take in the panoramic views of the mountains and valleys as you descend towards the pristine waters of Lake Te Anau. This truly unforgettable experience combines the thrill of adventure with the serenity of a photogenic hike down the mountainside.

Glowworm Cave Adventure: Embark on a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau, followed by a guided tour through the enchanting glowworm caves of Fiordland National Park. Witness mesmerizing rock formations, tranquil underground rivers, and the ethereal glow of countless glowworms as you gently glide through the darkness in a small boat. Conclude your adventure with a cup of tea and insights into the area's natural wonders.

Accomodation: Your intimate luxury lodge features expansive views of Lake Te Anau and the surrounding mountains, providing a serene and picturesque setting.  Enjoy gourmet meals crafted from locally sourced ingredients, paired with fine New Zealand wines. After a day of exploring, unwind in the inviting hot tub overlooking the lake, a perfect spot to relax and share stories with your friends and family.  By the way, your helicopter flight will originate from the field in front of the lodge!

 

 
DAY 10-11: DOUBTFUL SOUND, FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK

Experience the untamed beauty of Doubtful Sound on an unforgettable overnight cruise. As you glide through tranquil waters, surrounded by towering peaks and lush rainforest, you'll feel a world away from civilization. This secluded fiord, carved by glaciers over millennia, offers a haven for diverse wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins, fur seals basking on rocks, and the elusive Fiordland crested penguin.  Have fun on an expertly guided kayak tour and if the weather is right, dive off the boat for a refreshing swim.

 

At dusk, enjoy a delicious chef-made dinner on board as the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors. As night falls, the fiord reveals its true magic, with the chance to witness bioluminescent plankton shimmering in the dark waters. Awaken in your private cabin to the call of birdsong and a breath-taking sunrise over the fiord. This immersive experience promises not only a luxurious escape but also a deeper connection with the natural beauty of New Zealand.

 

 
DAY 12: AHURIRI VALLEY

Accommodation: Nestled in the heart of New Zealand's breathtaking Ahuriri Valley, your lodge offers an unparalleled luxury experience. Immerse yourself in the dramatic landscape of rugged mountains and tussock lands, all while enjoying world-class amenities and impeccable service. The lodge's striking architecture seamlessly blends with its surroundings, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows that frame panoramic views of the valley. Indulge in gourmet cuisine, explore the vast wilderness through guided excursions, or simply unwind in the lodge's serene ambiance. This lodge promises an unforgettable escape and a truly unique and enriching experience.

Activities: Through the concierge at the lodge, enjoy a wide range of experiences to complement the stunning Ahuriri Valley. World-class fly fishing in the pristine Ahuriri River is a favorite, while horseback riding offers a unique way to explore the valley's trails. For a more relaxed pace, e-biking is a great option, and the clay target range and archery provide a touch of friendly competition. As night falls, bundle up and gaze skyward for an unforgettable stargazing experience under some of the clearest skies in the world.

 

 
DAY 13: AORAKI/MOUNT COOK

Hike the Hooker Vally Track: This easy, guided 3-hour hike on the Hooker Valley Track showcases the unparalleled beauty of Mount Cook National Park. The trail meanders through diverse alpine terrain, featuring picturesque views of the Hooker River, glaciers, and the Southern Alps. Three swing bridges offer a unique perspective, culminating in a dazzling panorama of Hooker Lake, often dotted with icebergs, and the majestic peak of Mount Cook as a backdrop. 

Boat tour on the glacial Tasman Lake: Glide through the serene glacial waters of Tasman Lake amidst majestic icebergs and its amazing raw beauty. An expert guide will offer insights into the fascinating history and geological significance of the Tasman Glacier.  Experience the incredible scale of the glacier's terminal face and the many blue hues of the dynamic icebergs.  This is a unique and satisfying day that includes a 30 minute hike to the lake and back.    

Big Sky Stargazing: Situated within the internationally recognized Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the lodge’s separate viewing location offers pristine views of the Southern Hemisphere's celestial cosmos. An expert guide will lead you on a personalized tour of the night sky, highlighting constellations, planets, and other astronomical phenomena visible only in this remote location. Enhance your understanding of the universe and create lasting memories under a blanket of stars.

 

 
DAY 14: AORAKI/MOUNT COOK

Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre: This remarkable center pays homage to the legendary mountaineer, showcasing the rich history of exploration in this rugged region. You'll discover captivating exhibits on Sir Edmund's life, a film on his life and charitable work, the challenges of mountaineering, and the distinctive ecosystem of the Southern Alps. The center also features a state-of-the-art planetarium and theater, offering excellent images of the night sky and an immersive Mt Cook 3D experience.

Helicopter flight to land on the Tasman Glacier: Embark on an extraordinary aerial tour from Mt Cook Airport, ascending above the awe-inspiring Southern Alps. Your helicopter will traverse this majestic range, unveiling panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks and pristine glaciers.  As you fly over and approach for the landing on the Tasman Glacier, you’ll see its immense scale and icy expanse. After touching down on the snow, you’ll jump out onto this frozen wonderland and commemorate the occasion with a celebratory champagne toast or juice toast, surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of this remarkable landscape.  

Cheers to a great South Island adventure!  Let's talk about your custom South Island tour…