Fly into New Zealand’s south island at Christchurch before transferring to Queenstown and heading to the beautiful fjord of Milford Sound, where you can cruise around waterfalls and bays filled with seals and the occasional dolphin. See penguins at Martins Bay and visit the township of Te Anau, before travelling to Stewart Island, where you can dive, kayak or fish. Sail to nearby Ulva Island for a tour of its incredible birdlife and spend a day birdwatching at Port William, where you can see penguins, parakeets, cuckoo and many more. Transfer to Dunedin for a leisurely day exploring the city, before travelling into the Otago Peninsula to see yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals and albatross. Head up to Kaikoura for whale-watching and then Nelson for more birding at Farewell Spit Nature Reserve, before heading back to Christchurch for your departure.

Key information

Destinations New Zealand
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Photography, Birdwatching, National Parks
Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

See regeneration in action in Christchurch

Day 1 in Christchurch

Most travellers use Christchurch as a base for exploring the south island, but there is plenty to see in this upwardly-mobile city. Hit by a series of earthquakes between 2010-13 that destroyed many of its buildings, Christchurch is now an intriguing mix of cutting-edge architecture and historic buildings.

Cruise Milford Sound

Cruise Milford Sound

Day 2–3 in Milford Sound

Even by New Zealand’s standards, Milford Sound is a truly spectacular sight. Located in the southwest of the South Island, the beautiful fjord is packed with jaw-droppingly beautiful natural features, including Mitre Peak, rainforests and stunning waterfalls, such as Stirling and Bowen Falls.

Explore wildlife on Stewart Island

Explore wildlife on Stewart Island

Day 4–6 in Stewart Island

Sparsely populated Stewart Island is home to some of New Zealand’s most interesting wildlife, including penguins, dolphins and albatross. Head to tiny Ulva Island for birdwatching.

Walk the ‘boutique’ city of Dunedin and go penguin spotting

Walk the ‘boutique’ city of Dunedin and go penguin spotting

Day 7–8 in Dunedin

As well as being one of New Zealand’s most attractive cities, full of pretty gardens and boutique cafes and with its neo-gothic architecture, Dunedin offers a wealth of natural and wildlife-related activities.

The Otago Peninsula — within the city limits — is home to little blue penguins, albatross, and fur seal colonies, which can be seen independently or from cruises on the harbour.

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Day 9–10 in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is the place to see wildlife in New Zealand, set against the might of the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range, this is a stunningly beautiful stop.

The ocean currents and deep trench offshore mean the seas around Kaikoura are home to a huge variety of marine life year-round. Sperm whales, humpback whales, blue whales, orca, dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, seals, albatross, penguins and sea birds, who come for the nutrient-rich waters that are perfect for feeding, can be seen on sightseeing cruises or flights (note a minimum age of three for cruises, but not flights).

Birding & Wildlife Watching at Nelson and Farewell Spit

Birding & Wildlife Watching at Nelson and Farewell Spit

Day 11–13 in Nelson

Nelson Tasman is known as one of New Zealand’s most artistic places, with painters, sculptor and jewellery makers are living here. Head to the local art market to discover what makes this such a creative place.

The mountains of the Nelson Lakes National Park mark the start of the Southern Alps mountains that run through the centre of the South Island.

Multi-day hiking is the only way to reach some of the 16 lakes in the park, including Blue Lake, thought to be the clearest lake in the world. But, Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa are easy to drive to. There are short (and longer) walks around these lakes, and water taxi services in season.

Don't miss

Sample Nelson's vineyards on a bike tour

Sample Nelson's vineyards on a bike tour

Visit the small but sweet wine region of Nelson, situated in the north of New Zealand’s South Island, for an unforgettable wine tour. The area produces boutique wines and offers a wide range of outdoor activities. With its pleasant climate and rolling green plains, it’s best explored by bike.

See seals at Farewell Spit Nature Reserve

See seals at Farewell Spit Nature Reserve

Farewell Spit Nature Reserve is a bird sanctuary offering refuge to migratory birds including godwits, gannets and black swans. Head to Cape Farewell’s clifftops and you can spot seals basking on the rocks all year round.

Where to stay

Classic

Fletcher Lodge

Situated just minutes from the heart of Dunedin, this property is a registered Historic Places Trust building and has been beautifully refurbished with elegant styling and modern amenities, surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens.

The four luxury rooms in the original house are richly furnished with antique, hand-carved furniture, cast-iron claw foot baths, underfloor heating, and French doors leading out to sunny private balconies overlooking the gardens and valley below.

Superior

Lochmara Lodge

This unique hideaway in the Marlborough Sounds is the perfect place to disconnect and soak up the breathtaking natural beauty of the region.

Surrounded by pristine bushland, Lochmara Lodge has no road access, with guests arriving via the private Lochmara Bay on a 15 minute boat ride from Picton. You can also hike or cycle in through the Queen Charlotte Track.

It offers spacious, comfortable units that are perfect for families, while couples can retreat to the romantic chalets with balconies overlooking the bay.

Deluxe

Greenhill Lodge

Greenhill Lodge is a historic homestead located in the heart of Hawke’s Bay, a stretch of beautiful coastline on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

The region’s rolling hills and winding rivers are perfect for fishing, swimming, golfing and canoeing, among other outdoor activities. This is also an agricultural region and you’ll be treated to local produce and wines from the vineyards here during your stay.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from £10,500pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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