Australian Natural Adventures

nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific


New Zealand - the South Island


Day 1 – Nelson
Arrive today in Nelson, at the top of the South Island, and taxi the short distance to your hotel.

Day 2 – Abel Tasman National Park
Pick up your rental car, and take a scenic 45 minute drive to Kaiteriteri in Abel Tasman National Park to meet trnsfer boat at 8.40am on the beach. A 1.5 hour cruise, with morning tea, will transfer you to a sheltered bay where after simple lessons you will spend the rest of the day guided sea kayaking amid bays and mountains. Lunch will taken on a beach along the way. As snorkelling equipment is provided, you should take your swimsuit, although the water will be cool. If winds are favorable your return to the launch can be under sail, and you will arrive back at Kaiteriteri at 5.45pm, leaving ample time for your drive back to Nelson. You should take along towel, hat, sunscreen, warm top (plus polypropylene thermals if you have them), wind jacket, swimsuit, change of clothes, walking shoes. Dry bags are provided for your belongings.


Day 3 - Nelson / Kaikoura
This morning head east and south through the wine districts of Marlborough/Blenheim to Kaikoura, on the east coast. The drive will take an easy four hours. In Kaikoura join a whale-watching expedition offshore. Check in for this is at 3.30pm at the Whaleway Station, on the left, just off the main road as you arrive into the township. Kaikoura is famous world-wide for the ease of viewing of Sperm Whales which live in these waters. As well as the whales as many as three species of dolphins may be seen. Near to Kaikoura accommodation is a selection of good restaurants; one of these, the Craypot, is a simple restaurant but popular with locals.


Day 4 - Kaikoura / Christchurch
After breakfast you set out on a 2.5 hour pelagic seabird cruise. These waters are rich in these wind-chasers, including albatrosses, petrels and many others. At times the waters can be alive with these often huge birds – at up to 11ft, the Wandering Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird – and you are sure to see many. After the boat trip continue south to Christchurch, the capital of the south Island, often described as the most English city outside England. You should arrive about 3pm, and have the rest of the day and evening and next morning to see this cultured city. As your hotel is centrally located, you can return the car today as it will not be required for your Christchurch stay.


Day 5 - Christchurch / Invercargill / Stewart Island
This morning is free to continue your exploration of Christchurch. You may wish to visit the International Antarctic Center - Christchurch is a center for Antarctic exploration, including the US's efforts. Your then fly to Invercargill, arriving 4.15pm, then connect with a 20-minute 5pm flight to Stewart Island. Here you are met upon arrival by your host of Stewart Island Lodge, where you stay for the next two nights. This evening at dusk you will join in a search for Kiwis, the rarely seen emblem of New Zealand. Stewart Island is probably the best place in New Zealand to look for these nocturnal birds. Due to Wildlife Service restrictions, search tours are only permitted every second evening, so it is possible that the search will not occur until tomorrow night. As dusk is late at this time of the year, dinner tonight is at the Lodge.


Day 6 – Stewart Island
Today you will explore Stewart Island, a piece of New Zealand less changed than much of the rest of the country, and with prolific wildlife. There is a one-hour orientation tour, which can be booked through the lodge. Should you so choose, one well-known driver is Sam of Billy the Bus. While many people request him, he is somewhat of a colorful identity, full of jokes and comments that may seem less than tactful to Americans. While he knows the island thoroughly, other drivers may give a more serious commentary. It just depends on what you want to remember. You should spend part of the day will be spent on Ulva Island bird Sanctuary, a short boat ride away, which itself should offer the opportunity to see even more. Ask the lodge manager to arrange the water taxi to & from the island; you can walk the well-marked trails easily by yourselves.


Day 7 – Stewart Island / Te Anau
This morning fly back to Invercargill and pick up your rental car to begin your drive west and north to Te Anau, gateway to Milford Sound. As you drive the scenery changes from the gentler New Zealand landscape to the mountains of the Fjordland district. You’ll enter this majestic region, and be in its heart when you arrive at Te Anau. This evening boat across the lake to see the glowworms, so have an early dinner and make your way to the Te Anau wharf for a 6.25pm check in. You will get back to the wharf at about 9.15pm.


Day 8 – Te Anau / Milford Sound /Queenstown
This morning you will join the bus (pick-up at Fiordland Lodge is 8.10am) to Milford Sound, along a road often described as the most scenic in the world, and a rival to the Sound itself. There you will spend two hours on Milford Sound on this natural history oriented cruise, learning of the natural history of the area and taking in the magnificent scenery. A picnic lunch will be enjoyed aboard. You will arrive back at Te Anau a little after lunchtime, pick up your stuff and continue on to Queenstown, the home of adventure and extreme sports in New Zealand.



Day 9 – Queenstown
Today drive yourselves for about 45-60 minutes to Glenorchy in time for the 9am Dart River jetboat safari, a combination of exhilarating high-speed jetboating and nature excursion. As well as the excitement and river scenery, your 3-hour trip includes a guided nature walk deep in the river valley. After you return to Glenorchy the day is free to explore more of Queenstown’s offerings, including bungee jumping where it all started (well, not exactly – it really started with Vanuatu’s Pentecost Islander rite of passage, where young men leap from towers with vines attached to their legs to pass into manhood) at the Kawarau Bridge out from Queenstown. This evening enjoy a Maori dinner and cultural evening. Dinner is served from 7pm, and the show begins at 8.30pm. Tables are first come, first served, so the earlier you arrive, the closer to the front you can sit. The evening finishes at 9.30pm. Although obviously a tourist show, it nonetheless allows you to see aspects of the Maori culture.


Day 10 – Queenstown / Fox Glacier
This morning leave Queenstown and head northwest, through Haast Pass to the West Coast and Westland National Park. After arriving (it’s a five hour drive) you can enjoy a scenic helicopter flight over the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, and Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park. If the weather prevents a flight today, there is time to fly first thing in the morning. The helicopter will land to give you some time high on the alps.


Day 11 - Fox Glacier / Punakaiki
First thing this morning, before breakfast, take a walk to Lake Mathieson. This is postcard material early in the still morning, as the surrounding mountains are mirrored in the still lake. There is also the added benefit of the morning chorus of the local birds to start your day. After breakfast you will take guided walk on the glacier itself. Afterwards, around lunchtime, continue your drive north along this rugged coast, past Franz Josef Glacier, and the towns of Hokitika (a good place for crafts, especially the famous New Zealand jade) and Greymouth to Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park. The park is home to the Pancake Rocks, bizarre plate-like coastal formations that the area is so well known for. On the coast pounding waves have cut through the limestone in places creating blowholes which, when the tide is right, perform spectacularly. The majority of the park is wet temperate rainforest, and is a good place for an early morning bird walk. As there is a limited range of accommodation available in Punakaiki, location has been the key to your night’s stay at Punakaiki Rocks hotel on the beach. Cafes and restaurants are available nearby.


Day 12 - Punakaiki / Christchurch / Los Angeles
Today is the last of your New Zealand Adventure. It’s a four hour drive to Christchurch, and you have all day to get there before your flight home. This gives you time to cross the mountains, stopping along the way to see Keas, the famously cheeky mountain parrots. Be careful of your possessions, and even your car – Keas seem to have a liking for sunglasses and even the rubber of windscreen wipers and windscreen surrounds. Due to the International Date Line, you arrive back in Los Angeles in the morning of this same day.



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