Location > the tours > experience tours overview > the south island experience

Welcome to the mainland.

Our top-selling tour, this trip offers the best of the South Island, including journeys into six of the most pristine national parks in the world. Here are some of the 14-day tour highlights:

  • sea kayak along stunning, bush-laden coastline in the Abel Tasman
  • recline amongst the vines at a Marlborough winery
  • go dolphin- and penguin spotting on a nature cruise
  • float beneath cave constellations on the wild West Coast
  • soar over glaciers via helicopter and land on Fox Glacier's neve
  • cruise beneath towering fiords in Milford Sound
  • starts in Wellington, finishes in Queenstown
  • 14 days / 13 nights
  • See Dates & Rates for tour schedule and pricing

Day 1: Capital Kick-off - Wellington
Upon your arrival in New Zealand, travel to the picturesque capital city of Wellington and enjoy a day exploring on your own. Visit Te Papa, the country's extraordinary national museum; tour the city's government buildings; ride the historic cable car to the botanical gardens; or stroll through the galleries and along the busy waterfront--all within an easy walk of your hotel in the heart of the city.

Day 2: Water and Wine - To Nelson
Ferry across the Cook Strait and along the spectacular coastline of the Marlborough Sounds to the South Island. On land, visit the world-renowned Marlborough wine region, stopping for lunch amongst the vines. Drink in the South Island's relaxed atmosphere (both figuratively and literally) then head to the vibrant city of Nelson on the picturesque Tasman Bay where you'll settle in for your two-night stay.

Day 3: Abel Tasman Adventure - Nelson
Sea kayak, cruise or hike along the stunning shoreline of arguably one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Aquamarine waters, temperate forest, golden sand beaches--no arguments here. At the end of the day, note how the colloquialism 'Good day, mate' rolls off your tongue. 

Day 4: Nelson Trails - Nelson
After yesterday's wilderness adventure, relax and enjoy Nelson's more bucolic offerings. Spend the day exploring a region renowned for its artists, wineries, gardens and specialty foods. Visit pottery and glass-blowing studios and the famous Jens Hansen Jewellers, maker of the Lord of the Rings One Ring. Enjoy tastings at premiere wineries and lunch at a cafe voted New Zealand's best. (Note, the March 2017 tour replaces this day with a night in the alpine thermal resort village of Hanmer Springs. Ask one of our Travel Shepherds for details.).

Day 5: Christchurch Bound 
Pass through the beautiful Nelson Lakes region and Lewis Pass on route to Christchurch, described as the most English of New Zealand's cities. The ever-changing cityscape is a fascinating exhibition of hope and ingenuity as the city rebuilds from the 2011 earthquake, masking reconstruction sites with creative art installations. Enjoy the sights and take a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens before settling into your boutique central city hotel for the next two nights.

Day 6: La Bonne Vie - Akaroa Day Trip
Take a day trip over the Banks Peninsula to the charming seaside village of Akaroa. This quaint settlement strives to retain its French roots with its street names, shops, boutique cheese factory, public herb gardens, and more. Take a nature cruise on the picturesque bay, searching for unique wildlife, including the rare Hector's dolphin, blue penguins and more as you learn about Akaroa's history. Return to Christchurch this evening full of joie de vivre.

Day 7: From the Mountains to the Sea - To Punakaiki
Board the renowned TranzAlpine train for a trip over the glorious Southern Alps. Cross alpine rivers, pass beneath snow-capped peaks and descend to the wild and woolly West Coast. Wind your way along stunning, bush-laden coast to your lodging at the base of the Paparoa National Park. Note that you are definitely not in Kansas.

Day 8: West Coast Wonderland - Punakaiki
In fact, today it's more like MiddleEarth as you explore the limestone cave systems that honeycomb this region. View delicate, unspoiled formations on a Scenic Caving trip, or take a Cave Rafting adventure, featuring glow-worm constellations, an underground river, a whole lot of rubber, and plenty of laughs. Above-ground, rubber-free options also available.

Day 9: Glacial Glory - The Glacier Region
Head south to New Zealand's spectacular glacier region. Thank yourself for choosing a guided trip, because you can't take your eyes off the scenery--a serious no-no on these roads. In the village of Franz Josef, take a scenic helicopter flight, passing near Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, and landing on the glacier's neve. Back on terra firma, hike to the glacier face and visit a stand of old-growth rainforest. Marvel at how ferns and ice can be within cooee of each other (that's 'really close' in Kiwi).

Day 10: Scenic Journey - To Queenstown
Hike around the peaceful, reflective water of a glacial kettle lake, then head south to Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital. On the way, explore hidden trails and secluded waterfalls before descending into Queenstown. Resting on the shores of lovely Lake Wakatipu and flanked by The Remarkables, this is a stunning setting in which to base ourselves for the next few days.

Day 11: Mother Nature on Steroids - Queenstown
Queenstown has been described as Mother Nature on steroids and there are plenty of natural highs to be had here. To cater to your diverse interests, we have left the day free for you to pick and choose whatever optional activities you desire, be they jet boating, hiking, biking, horse-trekking,
sky diving, or bungy jumping (to name a few), or more leisurely pursuits such as walking, shopping, golf, and wine trails. 

Day 12: Fiordland Escape - Fiordland National Park
Pack an overnight back for a night in the fiords. As you travel through the Fiordland National Park, ask yourself how on earth things could get any more beautiful, then find the answer around each new corner. At the fiord, board your vessel for a unique overnight stay, highlighted by cruising, wildlife-spotting, and kayaking beneath the sheer cliffs of the fiord. Very few see Fiordland in this way and it allows you maximum time to absorb its overwhelming beauty.

Day 13: A Time to Celebrate - Queenstown
Cruise back to shore as a rare witness to a Fiordland dawn. On the way back to Queenstown, stop to explore the native flora and fauna. Note the caffeine-like effect of New Zealand air. Back in Queenstown, enjoy a leisurely afternoon before gathering for a farewell dinner to celebrate the friendships you've made and the memories shared. While making a speech, accidentally call your guide 'Mommy'.

Day 14: Fond Farewells - Queenstown to Home
Depending on your flight schedule, take time to relax, make final purchases, or reconsider that bungy jump before traveling home or to your next destination. We’re confident you’ll leave New Zealand with memories and friendships that will enrich your life for years to come

For those with a bit more time...
Consider a multi-day hike on one of New Zealand's famous Great Walks, such as the Milford or Routeburn Track, contact us us for more details...