Trip reference number: 11441

Trip Operator: Wildlife Worldwide

Kiwis & Whales Galore: South Island Self-Drive

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A comprehensive 23-day self-drive itinerary exploring New Zealand’s spectacular South Island, in search of its unique wildlife.

The trip begins in Nelson, for a short overnight stop to relax, before travelling to the picturesque Abel Tasman National Park where golden beaches and scenic trails await. Two nights in this spectacular park provide ample opportunities for walking, birdwatching and venturing out by boat to look for fur seals, common dolphins and little blue penguins. Bellbird, fantail, tui and pukeko are the birding highlights here. 

Continue to Bay of Many Coves to look for cetaceans, before stopping at Queen Charlotte Sound, Blenheim and Marlborough Sound to continue birdwatching and take in the incredible scenery. Two nights then follow in Kaikoura, for outstanding whale and dolphin watching, and an array of seabirds, before continuing south to Akaroa, to see the largest Australian little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand.

A night at a charming lodge in Oamaru follows with more opportunities for penguin watching, before continuing to the incredible Otago Peninsula, where the focus will be one of the rarest species of sealion in the world - the New Zealand sealion. In the south-eastern corner of the island you will find the Catlins, known for the vivid sunsets and the quirky Mohua or yellowhead.

A short ferry across to Stewart Island provides opportunities to see the southern brown kiwi, set against unspoilt scenery. The last part of the trip incorporates exploring the beautiful Fiordland area, with plenty of walking, birdlife, and cruises through the fjords. Overnights in Doubtful Sound and Te Anau are followed by a last night in Queenstown, to relax following an exciting drive through the stunning South Island.

All accommodation has been carefully selected for comfort, and colonial style, making the most of the varied scenic locations. 

Suggested itinerary

The full itinerary detail is available on our website.

  1. Day 1: Depart UK
  2. Day 3: Arrive Auckland, onward flight to Nelson
  3. Day 4: Abel Tasman National Park: boat trip & guided walk
  4. Day 5: Abel Tasman National Park: guided walk & kayaking
  5. Day 6: Kayaking in Abel Tasman, transfer to Nelson
  6. Day 7: Bay of Many Coves
  7. Day 8: Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, transfer to Blenheim
  8. Days 9-10: Kaikoura: whale watching & birding
  9. Day 11: Akaroa: penguin tour
  10. Day 12: Wildlife sailing cruise, drive to Oamaru
  11. Days 13-14: Otago Peninsula
  12. Day 15: The Catlins
  13. Day 16: Drive to Bluff, ferry to Stewart Island
  14. Day 17: Ulva Island excursion & evening kiwi spotting tour
  15. Day 18: Lake Te Anau, Fiordland
  16. Day 19: Cruising Doubtful Sound
  17. Day 20: Doubtful Sound to Lake Te Anau, glowing worm cave
  18. Day 21: Milford Sound
  19. Day 22: Transfer to Queenstown & depart
  20. Day 23: Arrive UK

Please note: All water-based tours are subject to suitable sea conditions on the day and minimum passenger numbers.

  • Available*: Sep to May
  • Price including flights from/to UK: From £6,395 pp
  • Price excluding international flights: From £5,145 pp
  • Activities available:
    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trip
    • Nature drive
    • Panga ride
    • Sea kayaking
    • Swimming
    • Walking

This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website

** If you see this next to a price, a specific price in your currency has not been provided, this is an estimated-only price based on a currency conversion, the price you pay may be different to that shown

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Wildlife Worldwide