The Best of New Zealand's South Island

12-Day Example Trip
From
 
A luxurious 12-day adventure to Marlborough, Kaikoura, Mount Cook and Queenstown

We create fully personalised trips from start to finish. From locations to accommodation and guides, everything is selected to suit you.

From expert private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your time off.

We give back to two regional charities in Australasia from the profits of each one of our trips.

Use our trip ideas to inspire your bespoke experience

Explore the beautiful bays, snow capped mountains, stunning wildlife and endless adventure of New Zealand’s South Island by road. Begin with a boat cruise into the heart the Marlborough Sounds, a spectacular South Island welcome if ever there was one, to the Bay of Many Coves, a wonderfully secluded waterfront resort where you’ll spend the next three nights. From here you can head out by kayak or motorboat to explore this exquisitely rugged coil of coastline, go fishing, hiking, spot dolphins or try Marlborough’s famed wines and meet some of the island’s famously down to earth people.

Next, drive south to quaint Kaikoura for two nights. A haven for wildlife enthusiasts, you’ll take to the skies in a light aircraft to spot the enormous whales that gracefully cruise past this seaside town from a unique and unforgettable perspective and head out to see playful dolphins in a most magnificent setting.

Continue southward via Christchurch to your lodge close to Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, a stunning alpine area home to New Zealand’s highest mountain. You’ll fly over Mount Cook’s peak and nearby glaciers, and visit a traditional farm where Lord of the Rings was filmed.

Finally, reach picturesque Queenstown for your final three nights. This is New Zealand’s adventure and outdoor capital, so thrill seekers are well catered for here, but the town itself is typically ‘South Island’ laid back and has a charm all of its own. We can tailor what you get up to here according to what you want to do, but no trip here would be complete without Milford Sound and the towering Mitre Peak, which you’ll see from the air and by boat. You’ll also experience the thrill of jet boating and mountain bike from colonial Arrowtown.

  • Privately guided tours and experiences
  • Whale watching, Mt Cook and Milford Sound scenic flights
  • Glacier helicopter flip
  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip

Trip Itinerary

 
Days 1-4: Marlborough Sounds and Wine Region
Flights & Transfers

Private transfer to Picton

 
Boat transfer from Picton to the Bay of Many Coves

Cruise out of Picton along the Cook Sound to the Bay of Many Coves.


Accommodation in Marlborough Sounds and Wine Region
Three nights at Bay of Many Coves
White Sailboat, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The Marlborough Sounds is an adventurer’s paradise where you can indulge your passions, challenge your senses, and try new things you’ve always dreamed of doing. Take the waters by kayak or motoryacht, arrange a fishing charter, or head out in search of dolphin - including the rare Hector’s dolphin - with the chance of swimming with these incredible marine mammals. You can also explore this beautiful ribbon of coastline by hiking a section of the famed Queen Charlotte Track, go bird watching, bush walking, tour the vineyards of Marlborough or relax on your own personal beach, by the pool or at the spa.


Queen Charlotte Track

Step ashore at Ship Cove, in the footsteps of explorer Captain Cook, for our this rightly popular 15km (9 miles) walk. Through magnificent virgin forest you’ll emerge at the ridgeline to breathtaking views of Cook Strait and Resolution Bay, before descending to the sheltered shoreline of Endeavour inlet.


Marlborough Icons tour

Marlborough has become world famous for two iconic areas - the Marlborough wine region and the Marlborough Sounds. Enjoy the best of both on this tour which starts in the heart of the Marlborough wine region, where you'll enjoy two fine wine experiences before heading for lunch on the waterfront in the Marlborough Sounds. Then in the afternoon enjoy a totally unique seafood cruise in the Marlborough Sounds where you'll learn about seafood farming, take in some stunning scenery and enjoy fresh local seafood with a glass of award-winning Marlborough wine.


Flights & Transfers

Rental car pick up in Picton

 
Days 4-6: Kaikoura
Accommodation in Kaikoura
Two nights in Kaikoura

Kaikoura, a quaint village between the snowcapped Kaikoura Range and Pacific Ocean, is a haven for wildlife fanatics and adventure sports enthusiasts alike. For the former, the region has been dubbed the ‘maritime Serengeti’, the sea here one of the best places in New Zealand to go whale and dolphin watching. If you’re here between May and October you may get to witness fur seal pups playing in the water below Ohau Waterfall and the bird watching is another big draw. For the active, there are wonderful hiking and mountain biking trails along the coast, fine surfing, sea kayaking and more.


Scenic whale watching flight

Whale watching by from the air offers a unique perspective and the opportunity to view whales and dolphins in their natural environment, experiencing the true magnitude of some of the world’s largest animals, and offering a fabulous view for photographers. This scenic flight lasts for around 30 minutes.


Dolphin cruise
kaikora-dolphin

Enjoy a private cruise to spot the dusky dolphins inhabit the coastal waters off Kaikoura all year round. They are renowned for their acrobatic leaps and interactive behaviour.


Flights & Transfers

Drive to your Lake Tekapo lodge, stopping for lunch in Christchurch

 
Days 6-8: Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mount Cook
Accommodation in Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mount Cook
Days by Lake Tekapo and Aroaki Mount Cook

New Zealand’s highest peak, Aroaki Mount Cook, is an arresting sight dominating the skyline of the national park which surrounds it. Its traditional Maori name means ‘cloud piercer’, apt in a stunning alpine landscape where 22 other snow-capped mountains stand over 3000m, towering above flowering meadows, glacial streams and turquoise lakes. One of the park’s highlights are the brightly hued waters of Lake Tekapo, watched over by the humble Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand.

A haven for climbers – this is where Sir Edmund Hillary trained before ascending Everest – the park also offers hikers dozens of stunning tracks and walks to choose from. Add to this dizzying mountain biking trails, the chance to kayak around floating hunks of ice, helicopter flights onto the enormous Tasman Glacier and even some skiing, it is an adventurer’s dream.


The 'Grand Traverse' scenic flight

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.


Tasman Downs Tour

Visit a private high country beef station, Tasman Downs. Your host and property owner Ian Hayman, will treat you to a quirky but informative tour of this three-generational property, sharing insights into a wonderful family history. This property was also transformed into one of the main film sites for The Hobbit Trilogy and you will stand on the shore where ‘Laketown’ was destroyed and its residents washed ashore. Ian will tell you of how 600 crew and cast, including Sir Peter Jackson took over the property for a month and the impact that had on their lives. The tour is conducted in a rather ‘unique vehicle’ so get ready for some fun!


Flights & Transfers

Drive to Queenstown

 
Days 8-12: Queenstown
Accommodation in Queenstown
Three nights in Queenstown

From the towering alpine ranges that envelop Queenstown, to its laidback lakeside sister Wanaka and the incredible Milford Sound, this is easily one of the most spectacular regions of the country. Seek out one of the endless thrills on offer here from skiing, white water rafting, canyon swinging, jet boating, mountain biking and bungy jumping, or slow down to the cosmopolitan pace of life in Queenstown and cool Wanaka and you’ll discover its flourishing arts scene, excellent vineyards, fine dining and quiet lakeside shores where you can take in the incredible scenery. And, of course, Milford Sound with its spectacular 1692m-high Mitre Peak (Rahotu in Maori) is unmissable.


Helicopter Experience: Milford Sound with fjord cruise
milford-sound-helicopter

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.


Kjet jet boat experience

Board your twin-engine jet boat and speed across crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu at breath-taking speed, surrounded by majestic mountains and mesmerising scenery. Zoom under the Kawarau Dam onto the deep green waters of The Kawarau River, complete with lots of 360° spins. You will then arrive at the pier for a complimentary view from Queenstown's Underwater Observatory.


Arrowtown bike tour

Enjoy a 13km bike ride (approx. 1.5hrs) from Arrowtown through to the Kawarau Bungy Bridge. Departing Arrowtown, you'll follow the Arrow River trail downstream, crossing five bridges - including two iconic suspension bridges. The ride is grade 1-2 with some undulating hills along the way, and the scenery is absolutely spectacular.

Once you have arrived at the Bungy Bridge, you have the option to cycle a bit further along the Gibbston trail to the wineries, where you can enjoy a wine or cheese tasting before being picked up from whereever you finish.


Flights & Transfers

Rental car drop off at Queenstown Airport