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While New Zealand's North Island is known for its spectacular coastline, the South Island is gifted with gorgeous coast, rugged mountains, pristine glacier-carved landscapes and renowned wine. We're not going to pick which one is better, but - you get the idea. Beginning and ending in Queenstown, this ten-day adventure takes you to the charming, gold rush town of Arrowtown, the rugged Catlins coastline, across the Foveaux Strait to unspoiled Stewart Island and to the breathtaking Fiordland National Park. With the perfect balance of organised activities and free time, this comfort style trip is the best way to explore the many treasures of New Zealand's south.
Day 1: Queenstown
Welcome to the South Island! Make your own way to the hotel, where the adventure kicks off with a 6 pm welcome meeting where you'll meet your tour guide and travel group. If you arrive early, make sure to get out and explore the 'Adventure Capital of the World'. The aptly-named Remarkables mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu not only serve as spectacular props to get your adrenaline fix, they’re simply beautiful to look. The town is also a great base for exploring the Central Otago’s excellent vineyards and historic mining towns. You’ll have plenty of time to get active in Queenstown when you return at the end of the trip, so perhaps use free time to admire the stunning surrounds and explore the cosmopolitan town.
Day 2: Queenstown - Wanaka
After breakfast, take a short drive to the well-preserved, gold mining town of Arrowtown. This charming town has retained much of its rich heritage and historic buildings. Get a sense of what it was like during the gold rush days as you stretch your legs on a guided walk. There’s time to browse some of the art galleries and museums, then it’s on to Wanaka. Head to the iconic Cardrona Hotel – one of the country’s oldest and most photographed hotels – for a bite to eat in its award-winning restaurant (not included). Meet some proper southern locals and make sure to grab a photo in front of the tavern’s historic facade, then enjoy a free afternoon to explore this quaint, lakeside township at your own pace. Later on, meet up with your group for an included traditional farm dinner and a night of glamping.
Day 3: Wanaka - Dunedin
This morning you’ll head to a stunning location to learn about Maori culture. The destination: the shores of Lake Wanaka. With rugged mountains looming behind it, and the curved branches of a much-photographed tree emerged from the lake’s waters, there’s no better place to be treated to the Hongi greeting, Haka performance (traditional Maori war cry and dance) and hear traditional Maori tales. Afterwards, continue through Central Otago to the island’s south-east coast. Often overlooked by travellers, the university town of Dunedin is bound to surprise. With its thriving food scene, quirky street art, beautiful heritage buildings, live music venues and coastal walking trails, Dunedin just might be New Zealand’s coolest little city. Its dramatic landscapes are also home to colonies of albatross, sea lions and rare yellow-eyed penguins. See Royal Albatross at sunset on an optional tour. Otherwise, enjoy free time for the rest of the day.
Day 4: Dunedin - Catlins
After breakfast, hop in your transport and continue down the coast to discover the thick forests, rugged coastlines, hidden lakes and stunning waterfalls of The Caitlins. Explore the Cathedral Caves, which owe its name to its immense size (it measures up to 30 metres high and 200 metres long). After lunch (not included), witness sea lions sunbathing on the golden beaches while strolling the sands with your leader.
Day 5: Caitlins - Stewart Island
Take a ferry across the Foveaux Strait to New Zealand’s third largest island, Stewart Island. It takes about one hour to travel the 30-km strait. A haven for birdwatchers, Stewart Island’s unspoiled forests, beaches and bays are home to a variety of bird species including endangered brown kiwi, flightless Stewart Island kiwi and nearly extinct kakapo parrots. It’s also a great spot for hiking, with walks for all levels of fitness available. Explore the incredible surrounds on your own or choose to take part in an organised tour where a nature guide will lead you across the peninsula, providing information about the flora and fauna as you go (optional). For a quintessential Kiwi experience, tuck into some fish and chips on the beach before you get exploring.
Day 6: Stewart Island - Te Anau
Head to the lovely lakeside town of Te Anau – gateway to Fiordland National Park. Watch the tranquil landscapes pass by, catch up on some sleep or watch a film that provides eye-opening insight into Fiordland National Park called Ata Whenua as you make the five-hour drive. Tonight, don’t miss the chance to head underground by boat and see thousands of glow worms illuminate underground caves to spectacular effect.
Day 7: Doubtful Sound
Today you’ll set off on an unforgettable cruise to Doubtful Sound, the second largest fiord in the national park. Sail along Lake Manapouri, looking out for dolphins and seals at play, as you make your way past hundreds of plunging waterfalls, rugged peaks, lush rainforest and twisting inlets. Lunch will be a picnic onboard the boat. Return to Te Anau in time for dinner (not included).
Day 8: Te Anau - Queenstown
After breakfast, make the leisurely journey back to Queenstown today. Stop along the way for a wine and cave tour at a winery in the Gibbston Valley, also known as the ‘Valley of Vines’. The majority of the grapes grown in this region are pinot noir, though other varieties include chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. Upon arrival in Queenstown, the rest of your day is free to spend how you please.
Day 9: Queenstown
Enjoy a free day in Queenstown to see the sights you missed at the start of the trip or to get your adrenaline fix in the 'Adventure Capital of the World'. Your leader can help to organise a range of optional activities on offer. Otherwise, the day is yours to spend how you please before reconvening with the group in the evening for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 10: Queenstown
Your South Island Discovery comes to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned today.
- Cardrona Hotel
- Arrowtown Visit
- Farm tour
- Wanahaka Maori Culture Experience
- Cathedral Caves
- Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
- Wine tasting at Gibbston Winery and Cheesery plus cave tour
8 Breakfast(s) Included
1 Lunch(es) Included
2 Dinner(s) Included
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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