Wildlife & Nature Adventure to the South Island

Taking you off the beaten track, this 9-day itinerary is fully escorted with guided walks, first class service, superb food and luxurious accommodations. Discover local people and walk along deserted beaches, through ancient rain forests, view Pacific Island glaciers and experience the stillness in the magnificent Milford Sound.

Day 1: Arrival into Christchurch - Arthurs Pass

After being met by your guide, you will be driven through the “Garden City”, up to the Port Hills, which flanks of one of the ancient extinct volcanoes that form the Banks Peninsula there are spectacular views of the city. The Kaikoura Range may be seen far to the north, while the Pacific Ocean sparkles to the east. To the south and west the vast Canterbury Plains stretch to the horizon and in the distance, the Southern Alps beckon you to discover them. This is an opportunity to talk about where you will be going and what you will see on the tour, to get to know everyone and discover each individual’s expectations.

Having orientated yourselves, you will then escape Christchurch and start your journey west across the Canterbury Plains. As the distant mountains become closer, you may wonder, just like the Maori and the early settlers before, how one might pass through. Crossing Porter’s Pass, a dramatic landscape change occurs as you enter the high country, a high tussock grass basin bounded by the Torlesse Mountains to the east and the Craigieburn Mountains to the west.

Travelling through this region of glacial moraine you will stop and walk among the limestone formations of Castle Hill which dominate the landscape. Farther on, you will reach the wide expanse of the Waimakariri River and finally, your accommodation for the next two nights

Stay: Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass

Day 2: Arthurs Pass, A Day In The Mountains

Learn about New Zealand’s unique alpine landscape, plants and the animals in the spectacular Southern Alps.

From the lodge you will head into the heart of the Southern Alps. In Arthur’s Pass National Park, you can take walks to see waterfalls, learn about the forests and alpine plants of this area. The area has an incredible diversity of flora ranging from the eastern beech clad hills and tussock grass valleys to the luxuriant rain forest in the west.

You can explore the glacial landscape and learn about the features that the Ice Age left behind. Hopefully, you will also meet the cheeky Kea, a unique South Island personality who is mischievous, inquisitive, comical, rowdy and the world’s only alpine parrot. You may have to defend our vehicle, as they have been known to try and remove aerials and door trims and raid picnic hampers!

A tour of the high country sheep farm, which surrounds the lodge will enable you to visit the woolshed, see a sheepdog demonstration and learn about the industry’s significance to New Zealand’s economy.

Stay: Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass

Day 3: Arthur’s Pass - Hokitika - Franz Josef Glacier

After breakfast you will travel through Arthur’s Pass National Park and depart the Canterbury province for Westland. Originally used by the Maori to move greenstone from the west coast and later as a link to the gold rush fields, this route will reveal great mountain valleys and the marvel of the road as it winds its way down the spectacular Otira Gorge.

Follow rivers that flow to the West Coast and observe the changes to the rainforest and the many varieties of ferns that contribute to their character. Depending on conditions you may travel on a backcountry road, walk through old gold miners’ tunnels and wonder at the tenacity of the miners in their quest for gold. Visit Hokitika, once the capital of Westland, a roaring gold mining town and also a place where the Maori sought their treasured greenstone (jade). Greenstone is a feature in the town’s bustling centre of art and craft shops.

As you journey south, stop by Okarito, meet a few “coasters” in a village with a population of 18. You may want to take a boat tour or kayak (own expense) on the lagoon. Heading farther south, you see further evidence of the last Ice Age in the kettle lakes created by the melting ice sheets before arriving at Franz Josef. At Franz Josef, you will be staying at the Westwood Lodge for the night, which is a charming and tranquil lodge built from timber to reflect the West Coast forest environment.

 

Stay: Westwood Lodge

Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier - Lake Moeraki

A day at leisure to explore the glaciated landscape of the Franz and Fox Glacier region. Walks are available to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier and to a viewpoint to witness the glacier’s descent down the mountain into the rainforest. Here you can also experience a guided hike on the glaciers with an alpine guide or perhaps an exciting helicopter ride to view the Southern Alps with a snow landing on the upper reaches of the glacier. (Please note that the optional ‘On the glacier hike’ and helicopter trips are not included in the tour cost and are subject to the weather).

After lunch, a beautiful and tranquil walk can be taken around the edge of Lake Matheson. It is here that incredible reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the lake can often be seen.

From Franz Josef, travel south to the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki which is set in the heart of Te Wahi Pounamu – a South Western World heritage area. This lodge is a Tourism Award Winner providing a first class wilderness experience and will be your base for two nights.

 

Stay: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki

Day 5: Lake Moeraki

Another opportunity to spend a day at a Wilderness Lodge with its own special attractions. Untouched lowland rain forests spread between pristine lakes and rivers which drain the snowcapped Southern Alps.

Few places on earth can match the unique natural setting of Lake Moeraki in the heart of the 2.7 million hectare Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. This special place is home to breeding colonies of the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin (seasonal), the world’s smallest dolphin, the Hectors Dolphins and numerous native birds. Lake Moeraki is a nature lover’s paradise. Visits can be made to wild and remote beaches and activities include guided walks and kayaking to get close to the wildlife, learn about the forest, river and lake whilst experiencing amazing scenery.

If you prefer to have a day of rest, then you can just relax in the lodge.

 

Stay: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki

Day 6: Lake Moeraki - Wanaka – Queenstown

From Moeraki, travel to nearby Ship Creek. Here, from the beach there is a good chance of seeing the rare Hectors Dolphin playing beyond the surf. Walk through a primeval swamp forest to see ancient “dinosaur” trees, view a coastal lagoon and fossick for greenstone on the remote beach.

After a little while the road turns east, following the Haast Highway. You can now observe how the landscape again changes dramatically as the road climbs over the Haast Pass from the dense rain forest of the West Coast to the drier tussock lands of the Otago province.

On the way, there are short walks to see waterfalls and if there has been recent rainfall, the Haast River passing through the gorge known as the Gates of Haast can be truly spectacular. The road follows the shoreline of Lake Hawea, before reaching the alpine village of Wanaka. This is a quiet mountain resort on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka.

From Wanaka, pass the old gold mining village of Cardrona and head over the rugged and remote Crown Range, the site of gold diggings in the 1860’s. From the top of the Crown Range there are dramatic views of the Queenstown district and then descend to the valley floor and reach the quaint and historic village of Arrowtown. It is then a short drive to your Queenstown accommodation for the next three nights.

Stay: Queenstown Country Lodge

Day 7: Queenstown

Today is left at your leisure to experience and enjoy some of the many activities which Queenstown has to offer. Please note that activities are not included although your guide is available to transfer you to the venues and activities of your choice, in the Queenstown area.

You might like to enjoy a relaxing cruise on the old steamship Earnslaw, the lady of the lake. For those wanting to combine scenery and excitement, try a jet boat trip on the Dart River or White Water raft on the Shotover River. Another New Zealand experience is a bungy jump at the Kawarau Bridge, the first bungy jumping site in the world. There are wineries to visit and also an art and craft trail around the district to visit some of the many artists and craft studios. Golf and horse trekking are other possibilities available in Queenstown.

For some, this is an ideal opportunity to do some shopping and a ride up the gondola offers spectacular views across to the mountains known as the Remarkables. For those who wish to hike, a climb up Queenstown Hill offers spectacular views or perhaps a walk around a remote and beautiful glacial lake.

 

Stay: Queenstown Country Lodge

Day 8: Milford Sound Excursion, Queenstown

The road to Milford Sound through the Fiordland National Park is justifiably almost as famous as the Sound itself. On the journey, you will greeted with a farmland, then lakes and tussock flats and then the breathtaking sheer U-shaped glaciated valleys. As the road proceeds, the landscape becomes more rugged and the sound of water becomes more prominent, especially after rain when there are waterfalls everywhere.

The Homer Tunnel, started in the Great Depression is a tribute to the laborers who made this route possible. Dug through the Darran Mountains into the Cleddau Valley, it gives us access to Milford Sound, a truly majestic place voted as one of the seven scenic wonders of the world. You will then explore the magic of the fiord on a small boat cruise before heading back to Queenstown.

Lastly, you could either take a return flight from Milford to Queenstown by plane or perhaps a private helicopter charter with a snow landing (cost not included).

 

Stay: Queenstown Country Lodge

Day 9: Departure

After breakfast, relax and indulge in a bit of pampering with some of the many health and beauty facilities that are available in Queenstown (cost not included). Spend the rest of your time on last minute shopping, or to experience a last piece of adventure before it is time for your guide to bid you farewell. Your guide will transfer you to the airport to catch your next flight home.

Looking for something different? Visit our main New Zealand page for further inspiration.

Itinerary

Duration Description Overnight
Day 1: Arrival into Christchurch - Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass
Day 2: Arthurs Pass, A Day In The Mountains Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass
Day 3: Arthur’s Pass - Hokitika - Franz Josef Glacier Westwood Lodge
Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier - Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki
Day 5: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki
Day 6: Lake Moeraki - Wanaka – Queenstown Queenstown Country Lodge
Day 7: Queenstown Queenstown Country Lodge
Day 8: Milford Sound Excursion, Queenstown Queenstown Country Lodge
Day 9: Departure

Inclusions

Included

  • Accommodation with daily breakfast
  • Excursions
  • Transfers or car hire
  • Activities with guides
  • 24 hour emergency contact

Not Included

  • International flights
  • Visa if necessary
  • Personal expenses
  • Hotel early check in / Late check out
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Travel insurance (please note that this is required for all Lightfoot Travel holidays)

Map

Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass Westwood Lodge Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki Queenstown Country Lodge

From USD 7232 per person

Notes on our prices

  • This price guide provides you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your holiday.
  • Prices are generally based on two people travelling together (unless stated otherwise) on a shared room basis.
  • Prices can fluctuate depending on season, standard of accommodation, excursions selected (private versus shared) etc.
  • This basic structure works very nicely, but don’t forget that Lightfoot Travel can provide a range of experiences and we tailor-make each itinerary based on your travel requirements. Get in touch to start planning your perfect trip with your own travel consultant.