Secrets of the South Island
Discover Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Dunedin and Coastal Otago like a local
Personalised journeys from start to finish
Save an acre of rainforest each time you travel
Every detail taken care of
- Fully escorted trip with the same guide throughout
- Luxury accommodation throughout
- Full support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip
At a glance
Discover the South Island like a local on this fully escorted 9-day trip, where you’ll have one guide accompany you the whole way, sharing their favourite spots and local knowledge.
Your discovery starts with a night in Christchurch before heading to beautiful Lake Tekapo, stopping en route to visit local galleries and pop into the Fairlie Bakehouse to sample their much loved sweet and savoury treats. Spend two nights enjoying the serenity of the lake, marvelling at the night sky as you star gaze from the International Dark Sky Reserve and appreciating this spectacular landscape from above with a flight over Mt Cook and Westland National Park. You’ll also take a 4WD scenic tour through the epic Cass Valley.
En route to the coastal town of Oamaru stop at Lake Rukaki and the Ostler Winery to enjoy lunch and wine tasting at the home of the owners. After a night in Oamaru and visiting its Victorian precinct packed with traditional craft shops and places to eat and drink, you’ll make your way to Dunedin. On the way stop by the mystical Moeraki Boulders, enormous spherical stones scatted across Koekohe Beach.
As you make your way further west, you’ll stop to visit the Royal Albatross Centre and explore the Bannockburn wine region. Your final destination is Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Get the adrenaline pumping as you fly through canyons on a Shotover jet boat experience and take to the skies with a scenic helicopter ride over the beautiful Milford Sound.
Example Trip Itinerary
Private transfer to your hotel in Christchurch
Accommodation in Christchurch
- 26 suites
- Restaurant and bar
On the edge of the tranquil Hagley Park and overlooking Cranmer Square, this luxury boutique hotel perfectly combines refined elegance and modern sophistication. In the heart of the city, the hotel is just steps away from the bustling Victoria Street. The beautifully furnished rooms make for a calm oasis while you’re visiting Christchurch. Contemporary art and luxury fabrics add a modern flavour to the décor. Each of the 26 spacious suites has its own private balcony, but the tranquil gardens also offer quiet spaces to relax, or enjoy a friendly game of croquet on the lawn. The hotel’s Polo Bar & Restaurant delivers a superb seasonal menu focused on unique Argentine sharing dishes. Enjoy small plates in a relaxing environment where you can sit and unwind with a glass of award-winning wine or a locally crafted beer.
- 53 Rooms
- Two restaurants
- Private Garden
- Mountain bikes to borrow
The George is renowned for offering guests personalised stays and supreme comfort. Located in the heart of Christchurch close to the cultural precinct and key attractions, the hotel overlooks the picturesque Hagley Park and Avon River. The 53 rooms are designed with a stylish eye for detail, complete with luxury amenities and captivating views through picture windows. Impeccable service and an intimate ambience are assured, thanks to the hotel’s one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, the George is all about opulence and elegance. Enjoy bistro food with modern flavours in the relaxed 50 Bistro. A stylish interior flows out to a generous outdoor area, complete with fire tables that reflect the warm hues of the onyx wall inside. The menu offers classics updated with 50 Bistro’s particular flair. Pescatore is seafood-focused restaurant offers an exciting conceptual dining experience, designed to engage the senses. The space is luxurious and modern, offering a minimalist and uncluttered approach to formal dining. Guests have complimentary access to mountain bikes, a gym, private garden and a library.
Enjoy an evening at leisure in Christchurch, once known as the most English city of New Zealand with its manicured gardens, quaint trams, stately houses and a vast central park. Since the earthquakes on 2010 and 2011, the city has reemerged as a cultural and creative hub with some wonderful restaurants, boutiques and friendly locals.
Enjoy a scenic drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo (approximately three hours) stopping to pop into local galleries and for a bite to eat at the famous Fairlie Bakehouse, known for its delicious savoury pies and sweet treats.
Accommodation in Lake Tekapo
- Two suites
- Dining room
Located near the shores of Lake Tekapo and just a short walk from the Church of the Good Shepherd, are Alpine Suites on Tekapo. With just two suites, guests will feel right at home here. Bright and airy, rooms feature private outdoor decks from where you will enjoy views of Lake Tekapo and the Two Thumb Mountain Range. Owner Kevin Bowie is a fine art landscape photographer and beautiful images of New Zealand’s stunning scenery are displayed on the walls. Breakfast is served in the dining room which enjoys views of the lake and the Southern Alps and guests will also enjoy complimentary New Zealand wines and craft beers along with local smoked salmon, cheeses and chutneys. You’re ideally located to explore Lake Tekapo as well as Lake Pukaki which is less than a hour away.
- Six rooms
- Media room
This luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Pukaki prides itself on being off-grid and spectacularly situated. The six bedrooms are beautifully appointed and comfortable. Floor to veiling windows offer uninterrupted views of Lake Pukaki and the Southern Alps. Meals are inpired by fresh local produce and menus change daily depending on what is available. And the chef will even prepare your fresh catch for you if you have a successful day out on the water. You’ll also find some of the best local wineries and craft breweries represented on the drinks menu. Head out into the mountains in a helicopter, enjoy a relaxing massage, go cycling through the countryside, or star gaze from your own private bathtub.
- 4 Rooms
- Private Spa
- On-site Observatory
- Wine Cellar
- Tennis Court
On the doorstep of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the exclusive Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat is set in a forest wilderness by the azure waters of Lake Pukaki, with spectacular, uninterrupted views towards the Southern Alps and Aoraki Mt Cook itself, New Zealand’s highest mountain. There is a range of accommodation options, from the private two-bedroom Ashley Mackenzie Villa and the Moraine Villas that overlook the magnificent Ben Ohau ranges, to the two-bedroom Pukaki Homestead, located just 350 metres from the villa. Breakfast provisions and a three-course evening meal are included. Visit the garden and choose your favourite vegetables for dinner. The garden is bursting with berries, herbs and vegetables – for everything else, pureness and authenticity are paramount when it comes to suppliers. The retreat is located in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. In the company of your hosts, enjoy a superb stargazing experience. Guests also have access to a tennis court, pétanque, croquet, and curling rink (winter).
The brightly hued waters of Lake Tekapo are watched over by the humble Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Close by are hot springs and the Mount John Observatory from which you can peer deep into starry nights of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve.
This evening enjoy a star gazing experience, discovering the night sky of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve at which Mount Cook is at the heart of. Use telescopes, high powered binoculars and the naked eye to identify and explore different elements of the spectacular southern sky.
Take a spectacular scenic flight that explores the Mt Cook and Westland National Parks and shows you the region from a privileged perspective. You will see beautiful turquoise glacial lakes, the braided river system of the Mackenzie basin, remote high country sheep stations, and New Zealand’s highest mountain Mount Cook, as well as Franz Joseph, Fox and Tasman glaciers.
This 4WD scenic tour takes you through the Cass Valley’s breathtaking wilderness and New Zealand’s finest merino wool high country stations. The Cass Valley is located on the western side of Lake Tekapo, and access to this stunning alpine valley is solely through Glenmore Station. The rocky steep scree slides, u-shaped valleys carved by glaciation, waterfalls, glaciers, lateral moraines and tussock-clad terraces create a truly unique and beautiful landscape. The Cass Valley's braided river system is also home to some of New Zealand’s most endangered nesting birds such as the black stilt, wry bill, black fronted turn, banded dotterel, black billed gull and oyster catcher.
Glenmore Station is an iconic high country sheep station in the heart of the South Island’s Mackenzie Country. It sits on the western shores of Lake Tekapo and runs deep into the Cass Valley and has been farming merino sheep since 1912. Its 19,000 hectares are home to 10,000 merino sheep, studs, Angus cattle and red deer. The high country has been supplying the world with some of the finest merino wool on offer, and supplies wool for the famous Icebreaker brand.
Drive to Kurow via Lake Rukaki for lunch and a private wine tasting at the home of the owners of Ostler wines, Jim and Annie Jerram. Ostler are producers of wines in the South Island's Waitaki Valley, North Otago. The passionate team produce cool climate wines including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Continue on to Oamaru.
Accommodation in Oamaru
- Five rooms
- Table d’hôte-style dining
- Small fitness room
This Victorian mansion at the top of South Hill in Oamaru was built in 1889, and is believed to be the largest single-storey wooden dwelling in Australasia. The current owners bought the lodge in 2010 and have focussed on ensuring the historic homestead continues to be a welcoming and luxurious retreat for visitors to the coastal town. The lodge and its five individually decorated guest rooms are filled with antiques and furnishings that date right back to the original owners. The story goes that while the house was being built, they spent four years travelling Europe collecting all the fitting and artworks they wanted to feature in their home. That original collection now also includes pieces left to the new owners by the families that owned the house over the years. Some of the rooms offer views out over the stone terrace and gardens or the Pacific Ocean and the Kakanui Ranges. Dining is a highlight and exquisite meals are created using seasonal and locally-sourced produce, some of it from the hotel’s own gardens. Meals are served table d’hôte style and guests often sit together at the large tables in the dining room, although private dining can be arranged for those keen on a more secluded dining experience. All dietary needs can be catered for. Guests can either make use of the hotel’s small fitness room or a nearby fitness centre. Massages and treatments can also be arranged.
The coastal town of Oamaru is known for its white stone architecture and preserved heritage buildings. In the late 19th century, the town prospered thanks to gold mining and quarrying, and several elegant buildings were built from the local limestone. Oamaru Harbour is also home to a colony of little blue penguins – head to the beach just before sunset and see them waddling down to their resting place for the night.
At the Victorian Precinct you can visit galleries, museums, shop for traditional crafts and look for rare and out-of-print books. There are plenty of spots to eat and drink, and there is also the option to enjoy whisky, wine and beer tasting.
The mystical Moeraki Boulders are enormous spherical rocks, weighing several tonnes each, scattered across Koekohe Beach. It is believed they formed in the sea floor sediment around 60 million years ago. Maori legend has it that the boulders are remains of gourds and eel baskets that were washed ashore when the legendarry canoe, the Araiteruru was wrecked at Shag Point.
You'll also stop at Fleurs Place for lunch, a lovely restaurant right on the waterfront where the specialty is fresh fish straight from Moeraki Bay. Continue on to Dunedin.
Accommodation in Dunedin
- Five bedrooms
- Dinner at the castle available for booking
- Award-winning gardens
Head out into the countryside of Dunedin for a luxurious rural getaway. On the grounds of Larnach Castle, just a short distance from the castle gate, you’ll find the glamorous Camp Estate country house with five spacious bedrooms. The spacious rooms are decorated in the Neoclassical style and have cosy fireplaces and pastoral views out over the countryside. Guests are invited to dinner in one of the Castle’s historic dining rooms, where a three-course table d’hôte menu is served house party style. The menu boasts traditional New Zealand flavours and features locally-sourced meat and vegetables, as well as a large selection of Otago and New Zealand wines. Continental and cooked breakfasts are prepared by the host at Camp Estate. Spend time exploring Larnach Castle, which dates back to 1871, and its seven acres of carefully tended award-winning gardens, and some of the Otago Peninsula’s most popular attractions are close by.
The main city of the southern part of the South Island, Dunedin is a vibrant place to spend a few days. Its name is distinctly Scottish and the city has a strong and proud Celtic history. The city is full of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and its centre is compact and easy to explore. It is centred around The Octagon, which itself is surrounded by the Public Art Gallery, municipal chambers and St. Pauls cathedral.
The Royal Albatross Centre is located at the foot of Taiaroa Head, and is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatrosses. While here you can also explore the hidden tunnels of historic Fort Taiaroa and see the little blue penguin colony at Pilots Beach.
Continue on to Clyde stopping at Roxburgh, located on the banks of the Clutha River.
Accommodation in Clyde
- 11 rooms
- Restaurant and bar
This historic stone building in the heart of Clyde was once a general store for prospectors seeking their fortunes during the Otago gold rush back in the 1860s. Careful restoration has seen it transformed into a luxurious hotel, its fascinating heritage protected and celebrated. The owners are passionate about helping to protect the quaint village and are faithfully restoring the homestead, old store, coach sheds, stables and barns while paying particular attention to environmental sustainability. Divided into Stables and Lodge accommodation, the hotel’s 11 rooms are inviting, and the décor celebrates bygone days, while combining the old with modern comfort. The rustic five Stables rooms overlook the courtyard and boast schist walls, stone floors, exposed wooden beams and stable doors. For a more modern aesthetic, choose one of the six Lodge rooms which feature more contemporary furnishing. Savour fresh, clean flavours at Olivers Restaurant where local produce features. The Olivers complex is also home to the Merchant of Clyde, a café-bakery-delicatessen, and the Victoria Store Brewery which produces a range of craft beers.
Enjoy an evening relaxing at Olivers Lodge in the heart of Clyde. Enjoy great food and drink at the restaurant, deli and the on-site brewery.
Stop and enjoy lunch at Wild Earth Wines in the Kawarau Gorge, producers of fantastic Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Rose. You'll also visit the Gibbston Valley Cheesery before arriving in Queenstown.
Accommodation in Queenstown
- 6 rooms
- Kitchen garden
- Designed by acclaimed designer Neil McLachlan
A relic of stately Victorian elegance, Hulbert House is a luxury villa that operates as one of Queenstown’s oldest residences. Built in 1888, this boutique hotel offers historic charm with contemporary comforts and modern amenities. Transformed by an award-winning designer, the interiors are vibrant while paying tribute to the antiquity of the property. The six luxury suites are all individually designed, carrying through a feeling of old-world opulence with extravagant, bold and fresh furnishing. Each has views over either Lake Wakatipu, Skyline Hill or the well-kept gardens. A scrumptious breakfast of fresh and delicious ingredients waits those early morning risers, while the kitchen can provide tasty snacks throughout the day. Ideally placed, Hulbert House is found in close proximity to many of the attractions of Queenstown, with popular cafes, restaurants and shops all within walking distance. It is also only 450m from the banks of the large Lake Wakatipu and just a little further from the Skyline Gondola and Luge.
- 16 rooms
- Dining options
Sat on the shores of the deep Lake Wakatipu, Matakauri Lodge is a tranquil haven of serene blue waters and sweeping mountain landscapes. Snow-capped peaks reach towards the sky, providing a backdrop like no other to this incredible luxury establishment. Modern, bright and with plenty of room, the 16 suites have been styled by the highly celebrated designer Virginia Fisher. Four suites are found in the main lodge section while others have been built in a native forest with alpine panoramas. All have their own private balcony, lounge area and decadent bathroom, not to mention the cosy fireplace. The sizeable Owner’s Cottage is an idyllic getaway for larger groups or families. Boasting a menu that changes constantly with the availability of seasonal produce, the kitchen at Matakauri Lodge focuses on a clean and fresh experience for the palate. There are a number of settings in which to savour this modern New Zealand cuisine, from the privacy of your own patio to the property’s spacious courtyards. Located near great pine thickets, the spa provides an exclusive space where you can rejuvenate and reinvigorate your body with completely personalised treatments. Fall in love with the heated pool, let off some steam in the sauna or enjoy a leisurely time in the hot tub. Whether you arrive to the long, warm days of summer or to a winter wonderland of snow, there is always so much to do during your stay at Matakauri. Walks and hikes dominate the area, as do scenic horse riding trails and wine tours. Avid golfers will rejoice to know a PGA-rated course is nearby; The Hills is surely one of the most stunning and gorgeously isolated round of 18 you can play anywhere in the world.
- 10 rooms
- Bar with tapas menu
- In-house spa treatments
With a history intertwined with the region’s gold rush, the building of Eichardt’s Private Hotel carries with it the understated and classic elegance of a bygone era. With sweeping views of Lake Wakatipu’s emerald blue waters and eminent mountain peaks, it is a gateway to Queenstown and the untouched wilderness beyond. Choose from Eichardt’s lake view or mountain view suites, or the one- or two-bedroom apartments. For more privacy, or for those looking for a group getaway or family foray, there is the stand-alone three-bed Eichardt’s Residence which has a spacious kitchen, private dining area and sweeping balconies. The hotel bar has been considered a town favourite since 1867, providing the perfect environment in which friends and colleagues can sit down for a refreshing cocktail or a refined vintage from the famed Otago wine region. For those feeling peckish, there are comprehensive tapas menus to suit every palate, with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. The bar also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cosy dining area with a fireplace. From the hotel you can treat yourself to an extensive range of in-room spa treatments provided by a local spa, wander down to the lake edge or head into the heart of the action in bustling Queenstown.
- 10 Suites
- Restaurant and Bar
- Gym Access
Nestled in the heart of Queenstown, The Spire Hotel offers award-winning luxury combining genuine hospitality, serenity and style. Ten spacious suites boast fine contemporary furnishings and design elements, large balconies and roomy bathrooms. Enjoy outstanding local produce prepared with a Mediterranean twist at the in-house bar and restaurant No5 Church Lane. Choose from a variety of Otago and international wines, and signature cocktails. Featuring work by local artists and contemporary furnishings, the restaurant offers a chic yet casual place to relax. The five-star hotel is located within walking distance of the city’s vibrant cultural scene. There are plenty of shops and cafes to explore, as well as an active nightlife and a variety of lake and mountain activities to make your stay a memorable one.
- Nine private villas
- Dining room
- Private sun deck
Azur Lodge consists of nine private villas set on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu. The open-plan villas feature a lounge, dining room and a bath tub which has been set into a bay window so you can enjoy the scenic views as you soak. There is also a private sun deck from which to gaze out across the wilderness. Breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapes are included, and there is the option to dine in the main lodge or in the privacy of your villa. You are conveniently located just 20 minutes from the airport and five minutes from downtown Queenstown, so exploring this wonderful part of New Zealand couldn’t be easier.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most picturesque towns, sitting on the tip of the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu. It’s a bustling hub of international and local visitors come to seek out one of the endless thrills on offer here from skiing, white water rafting, canyon swinging, jet boating, mountain biking and bungy jumping.
But Queenstown is not just a gathering point for adrenaline junkies, slow down to the cosmopolitan pace of life and you’ll discover its flourishing arts scene, excellent vineyards, fine dining, international-standard golf courses and quiet lakeside shores where you can take in the incredible scenery.
The Shotover Jet has thrilled over 3 million people since 1965. Take a breathtaking ride through dramatic and narrow canyons, and hold on tight for exhilarating full 360° spins.
Arrowtown is a living historic settlement with many stories to tell. Wander the tree-lined streets of restored cottages and explore gold mining sites alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River. The town was established in 1862, during the height of the Otago gold rush, with pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches, more than 60 of which can still be seen today. A special highlight is the Chinese settlement at the edge of the river.
Then hop on a bike and ride the special bike trails which will take you along the Arrow River, across suspension bridges, along Kawarau Gorge and into the heart of the Gibbston Valley. This is a leisurely cycle and you will be met along the way with a picnic lunch. You will have a choice of a front suspension mountain bike or an e-bike which will make the ride a little easier on the mild but sometimes rolling terrain.
Drive over Crown Ranges to the Cardrone Distillery, where you'll enjoy a tour and learn about the spirit making process from grain to glass. You will see where the malt is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled and matured before tasting the end product with a tutored spirit tasting of Cardrona spirits and lunch. Visit the famous Cardrona Pub on the way back to Queenstown.
Explore Milford Sound's stunning fjord from both the air and the water. Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter flight past spectacular rivers, valleys and mountains with blue-green ice falls, and land on Mt Tutoko glacier in the heart of Fiordland National Park. Upon landing in Milford, you'll enjoy an unforgettable cruise past sheer cliffs and waterfalls - keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, seals and penguins.
Private transfer to Queenstown Airport
Flight from Queenstown to Auckland
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Secrets of the South Island
How We Work
We create fully personalised trips from start to finish, working with you to pick locations, accommodation and guides that suit you.
Each time you travel with us, you preserve an acre of precious rainforest through our partnerships.
From in-depth private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your journey.