Nature’s kaleidoscope unfolds on New Zealand’s South Island. New Zealand is full of tropical beaches, tiny rays, massive glaciers, glowworm caves, sperm whales, snowy mountains, and bucolic green valleys. No other island on Earth has such a diversity of landscapes, and this 17-day tour takes you around it all, including hiking, kayaking, canoeing, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, a scenic flight, a Heli Hike, and an overnight cruise.
Christchurch – Checking into a Welcoming City
Christchurch is the South Island’s central gateway city. You will touch down, transfer to a hotel in the city center, and take some time to settle in. New Zealand is a long way from home so you may want to rest before the adventure begins. Although devastated by a 2011 earthquake, the city has rebuilt and redefined itself over the last few years. It is a very charming and largely pedestrianized city to walk around, with a host of bars and restaurants near your hotel. If you have the energy, then head to the International Antarctic Centre, where simulations show a day in the life of what it is like on Antarctica.
Christchurch – Fur Seals and Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa
Christchurch – Whale Watching and More Dolphins in Kaikoura
Mount Cook Village – Scenic Flight Over Quintessential South Island Landscapes
Mount Cook Village – Guided Mountain Hike and Ancient Icebergs Up Close
Wanaka – Island Nature Walk and Lake Wanaka Cruise
Te Anau – A 12,000-Year-Old Network of Glowworm Caves
Doubtful Sound – Kayaking and Overnighting on the Fjord
Wanaka – Resting Up Along the Lake
Lake Moeraki – Across Epic Wilderness to the Wild West Coast
Lake Moeraki – Canoeing and Hiking in World Heritage Te Wahipounamu
Franz Josef – Intimate Glacier Experiences and the Rowi Kiwi
Franz Josef – Spectacular Heli Hike on Franz Josef Glacier
Arthur’s Pass National Park – Forest Hikes and Sheep Farms
Abel Tasman National Park – Relaxing on Tropical Beaches
Abel Tasman National Park – Rays, Turtles, Hiking and Kayaking
Nelson – Departure
- Take a helicopter ride above the rainforest and ice and then hike across the sculpted wonder of Franz Josef Glacier
- Hike and canoe in Abel Tasman National Park, where the landscapes are tropical, and you will not leave the beach
- Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins in Akaroa
- Hike in the majestic wilderness of Aoraki Mount Cook, then take a boat to see 500-year-old icebergs
- Spend 24 hours cruising on Doubtful Sound, which is an overnight experience that includes a beautiful kayaking excursion
- Introduce yourself to the rowi kiwi bird at the West Coast Wildlife Centre
- Explore glowworm caves in Te Anau, hike the forests of Arthur’s Pass, and spot rays in Abel Tasman
- Venture off the beaten track with a two-day stay around Lake Moeraki, which is a lesser-known part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area
- Take a scenic flight above Lake Tekapo and admire a confluence of the South Island’s different landscapes
- Go whale watching in Kaikoura to witness sperm whales among others
While volcanoes craft New Zealand’s North Island, the South Island is a dramatic display of nature’s various powers. Landscapes collide here, magnificent fjords emanate a wild mystique, glaciers tumble down through thick green rainforests, and tropical beaches and bays dot the north, which is home to rays and turtles. Wild Pacific waters will bring whales and dolphins to the east while pastoral plains will give way to huge, snowy mountains. Lakes are everywhere, pristine and blue as they guide your journey around the island. One afternoon can be hot and humid as you search for the rare rowi kiwi. The next morning, it may be sub-zero as you are hiking through a glacial ice tunnel.
Celebrating the island’s magnificent range of landscapes, this 17-day tour takes you to all the essential national parks and natural destinations. The tour is privately guided and travels overland from Christchurch to Nelson via Doubtful Sound and the Western Coast. As it is a handcrafted tour, it can be adapted to become a self-driven tour should you wish. At each destination, guided experiences will showcase the landscape in all of its glory. You will experience an overnight cruise, kayaking, canoeing, whale watching, various hikes, swimming with dolphins, a scenic flight, and a Heli Hike on the Franz Josef glacier. This tour is not just about passing through; it is an experiential journey.
You will begin with three days in Christchurch, including day trips to Akaroa for dolphins and Kaikoura for whales. Fly over Lake Tekapo en route to two nights beneath New Zealand’s highest mountain: Aoraki Mount Cook. Explore nature and cruise on Lake Wanaka before the glowworm caves of Te Anau become day seven’s main highlight. Spend 24 hours on Doubtful Sound and then carve a path through the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Two days at Lake Moeraki will take you off the beaten track while two nights at the Franz Josef glacier will bring intimate glacier and kiwi bird encounters. Then, Arthur’s Pass can be a contrasting stop en route to Abel Tasman, where you will end your trip by visiting tropical beaches and trails. Make sure your perfect vacation is an unforgettable one by seeing additional New Zealand travel ideas.
$4,245 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.
- 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.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.84 stars based on 1435 reviews.
Reviewed By Kristin B.
Reviewed By Chet D.
Reviewed By Karen S.
Reviewed By Chuck H.
Reviewed By Linda B.
Reviewed By Judy H.