Surround yourself with the natural beauty of Kaikoure Island

Heritage Tour of New Zealand’s South Island: Powhiri to Pounamu

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Customizable Itinerary

This is a sample itinerary to inspire a personalized trip designed with your travel specialist

Countries Visited

New Zealand

Places Visited

Christchurch, Kaikoura, Mount Cook Village, Oamaru...

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Suggested Duration

13 Days

Discover 800 years of dynamic heritage during your 13-day culture tour of New Zealand. Experience the powerful pōwhiri welcome and search for Scottish and Victorian architecture. Find a spirit of exploration exuding from pioneer history and the customs of wayfinders. Explore raw natural history and local traditions during your custom-tailored tour connecting the timelines between settlers and explorers, archipelagos and cities across the North and South islands.

Customizable Itinerary

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Trip Highlights

  • Be welcomed to New Zealand with a moving Maori Pōwhiri and Hāngi dinner
  • Explore New Zealand’s only castle and the Scottish heritage of Dunedin
  • Help carve your own pounamu, New Zealand greenstone jade, with a Maori artist in Hokitika
  • Travel on two old railways, reliving pioneer times on the Taieri Gorge and TranzAlpine train lines
  • Discover early settler heritage around Queenstown, including a gold mining village and traditional farmstead
  • Spot the rare rowi kiwi bird at the West Coast Wildlife Centre
  • Be inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary’s legacy as you spend two days at Mount Cook
  • Watch a Maori haka on a mountain above Queenstown
  • Explore the white-stone Victorian architecture of Oamaru
  • Spend a day with a Maori family in Kaikoura, gaining an intimate perspective on island traditions and histories
  • Surround yourself with the island’s natural history, including an adventure at Franz Josef Glacier

Detailed Description

Mountain peaks will stand like sentinels across the South Island, and dramatic cliffs will create fjords in the island’s wild West. Waterfalls will tumble, and glacial rivers will cut across the vast wilderness. Such dazzling surroundings means nature always takes over on the South Island, which makes the story of its settlers even more engaging. From the early Maori to an Antarctic explorer, this island has forged some of the most innovative communities on the planet. Their achievements can be seen in traditional greenstone art, remote railway lines, and farmsteads.

This handcrafted tour uses the island’s natural history as a backdrop to explore heritage and culture. You will start with the present, landing in Christchurch to see how the city is rebuilding itself after the 2011 earthquake. Then, gain an official welcome with a Maori Pōwhiri ceremony and Hāngi dinner. The food will be slow roasted in an underground pit. You will then spend day three with a Maori family in Kaikoura, which will be an intimate insight into 800 years of tradition and heritage. New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary learned many of his mountaineering and wilderness skills around Mount Cook. There is now a Hillary alpine center beneath New Zealand’s highest mountain, and you will have a chance to learn about the island’s explorer heritage before you make a personal adventure to the surrounding national park.

Much of the island’s European settler history is in the South. Crafted from local white-stone, the Victorian architecture of Oamaru is unique to the world. Dunedin has a Scottish flavor and is not the only New Zealand castle on the Otago Peninsula nearby. Somehow, pioneers carved a railway line through Taieri Gorge, and you will travel on the single track, before ending day eight with a Maori Haka, a ceremonial war dance, on a mountain above Queenstown. Gold mining villages and traditional farmsteads will be part of a heritage tour on day nine, with Queenstown’s natural setting keeping one foot firmly in a wilderness realm.

Nearing the end of your journey, you will take a beautiful overland journey through UNESCO World Heritage landscapes on day ten, where you will admire how ancient glaciers have carved the magnificent landscape. Your trip will come to an end in Franz Josef, where you will have the opportunity to see the incredibly rare rowi kiwi bird. To the Maori, the South Island is referred to as Te Wai Pounamu, which translates to “The Waters of Greenstone.” The precious jade is sacred to the natives, and you will help cut and carve a keepsake piece with a meaning, while a Maori artist explains different techniques and meanings for different shapes. Finally, you will end the 13-day trip with another historical train journey, from Greymouth back to Christchurch on the TranzAlpine train. Learn more about how the luxury New Zealand tour companies we work with can personalize the vacation of your dreams.

Starting Price

$3,245 per person (excluding international flights)

Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.

What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all activities and tours
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip

Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.

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