Wildlife Wonders

Get up close and personal with New Zealand's wildlife

New Zealand is a haven for unique wildlife. This 14 day itinerary takes you around the best of the South Island, focusing on wildlife encounters with time for other experiences along the way.


  • Sea kayaking to the seals in Abel Tasman National Park
  • Punting on the River Avon in Christchurch
  • Relax in the hot pools of Hanmer Springs
  • Check out the dolphins and birdlife in the Marlborough Sounds
  • Whales, dolphins, seals and albatross of beautiful Kaikoura
  • Swim with the Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa
  • Visit the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsular
  • Watch the penguins come home at dusk
  • Marvel at the seals playing at Nugget Point
  • Spectacular Milford Sound
  • Get your adrenalin fix in Queenstown
  • Enjoy wine tasting and relax in cafes of Queenstown


Puntin on the Avon (Canterbury Tourism)

DAY 1: Arrive Christchurch

Enjoy a leisurely arrival day in Christchurch.  Take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens, enjoy a coffee at the Restart Mall, take a punting experience on the River Avon, or venture out on a city tour. Make time to visit the Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral, or for impressive views over the city take a ride on the Port Hills gondola.

Suggested Experiences:

  • City Tour
  • Gondola
  • Antarctic Centre
  • Wildlife Parks
  • Punting on the River Avon
Hanmer Springs (Photo: Canterbury Tourism)

DAY 2: Hanmer Springs

An easy day’s driving to start your South Island tour. Stop for a wine tasting before heading inland though the Canterbury farmland to the pretty alpine village of Hanmer Springs.  Relax in the thermal pools, hire a mountainbike, or discover the many hiking trails through the forest.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools
  • Mountainbiking
  • Jetboating
  • Quadbiking
  • Minigolf

Driving time: 4 hours

DAY 3: Drive to Nelson

Drive through the high country and over the spectacular Lewis Pass to sunny Nelson.  Visit the Abel Tasman National Park. Hike along the coastal trail, or kayak to the seals in their colony at Tonga Island.  Or save this for tomorrow and enjoy the vineyards, WOW Museum or visit the pest-free Brook Waimarama Sanctuary.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Abel Tasman National Park Cruise
  • Kayaking
  • WOW Museum
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Heli-fishing

Driving time: 4 hours

DAY 4: Nelson

If you didn’t do so yesterday today’s the day for visiting the Abel Tasman National Park.  If you relish a long day you could drive over Takaka Hill to Golden Bay, visiting the spectacular Wharariki Beach, Farewell Spit, Te Waikoropupu Springs, and the settlements of Collingwood and Takaka. Closer to home you’ll be spoilt for choice – relax on the beach, hike or mountain bike in the hills,  or take a wine tour.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Te Waikoropupu Springs
  • Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay
  • Farewell Spit tour
  • Wine Tours

DAY 5: Marlborough Sounds

Visit the beautiful Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island. Take a tour by boat to see dolphins or the bird sanctuary of Motuara Island, or hike the trails along the Queen Charlotte Track. Take an Eco tour or hire a bike and cycle though the vineyards.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Dolphin Tours
  • Queen Charlotte Track
  • Wine Tours
  • Eco Tours
  • Molesworth Station

Driving time: 2 hours

Nin Bins, Kaikoura (Photo: Canterbury Tourism)

DAY 6: Drive Kaikoura

On the way south to Kaikoura, stop off at Ohau Point to marvel at the seals on the rocks, and if it’s the right season take a short walk up the Ohau Creek to see dozens of seal pups in their very own crèche.  And if you’re feeling hungry, stop off at the famous Nin’s Bin caravan for some freshly caught crayfish.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Whale watching
  • Swim with Dolphins
  • Swim with Seals
  • Albatross Encounter
  • Nin’s Bin for fresh crayfish

Driving time: 2.5 hours

DAY 7: Kaikoura

Kaikoura is marine life paradise! – seals, dusky dolphins, whales and diverse sea birds, including the huge wandering albatross. This is the only place in New Zealand where the whales live all year round. Enjoy a magical whale watch tour, or if you’re after a close encounter, dive in and swim with the dusky dolphins or the playful seals.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Whale watching
  • Swim with Dolphins
  • Swim with Seals
  • Albatross Encounter
  • Sea fishing


DAY 8: Akaroa

Drive via Christchurch to the French-inspired Akaroa, a beautiful port on the Banks Peninsular, first settled by the French. Enjoy the beautiful harbour with a nature-cruise to spot NZ’s own Hector’s dolphins, penguins and seabirds.  If you missed out in Kaikoura you have a second chance to swim with the dolphins for that special experience.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Nature Cruise
  • Swim with dolphins
  • 4WD tour
  • Sea kayaking
  • Hiking

Driving time: 4 hours

DAY 9: Drive to Dunedin

Today’s a long day driving so take your time. Head south on the main highway to the pretty town of Oamaru.  Wander through the streets and marvel at the white Oamaru Stone. Stop at the Moeraki Boulders, before continuing onto Dunedin.  The city is a lively University Town, with bars, cafes and restaurants, and is steeped in Scottish history.  Enjoy a well-earned rest before a full day tomorrow.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Moeraki Boulders
  • Oamaru

Driving time: 6 hours

DAY 10: Dunedin

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular, is full of wildlife. Take a tour of the National Albatross Centre, or join a 4WD adventure tour to see yellow-eyed penguins and seals, or watch the smaller blue penguins come in from the sea at dusk. Take a half day scenic train journey on the Taieri Gorge Railway, visit New Zealand’s only castle – Larnach, or learn more about the early settlers at the Otago Museum.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Royal Albatross Centre
  • Penguins
  • Wildlife Cruises
  • 4WD Adventures
  • Taieri Gorge Railway
  • Otago Museum

DAY 11: Drive via Catlins to Te Anau

Take the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins for rugged coastline, temperate rainforest and waterfalls.  Look out for seals, Hector’s dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins. Or take the shorter route to get you to Te Anau by the afternoon, giving you time for short walks around the lake, or a visit to the glow worm caves.  Don’t miss a visit to the cinema to watch Ata Whenua

Suggested Experiences:

  • Seals, Penguins and Hector’s dolphins
  • Purakaunui Falls
  • Glow Worm caves
  • Ata Whenua film

Driving Time: 4 – 6 hours

Milford Sound (Photo: Rob Suisted)

DAY 12: Milford Sound

Today you visit the world famous Milford Sound.  Hand over the driving to the experts, who will give you a guided tour, stopping at points of interest on the way.  At Milford Sound enjoy a nature cruise out to the Tasman Sea, and a visit to the underwater observatory and view magical black coral.  Alternatively, spend your day kayaking on the water instead, hopefully with a chance to get up close and personal with dolphins and seals.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Milford Sound Nature Cruise
  • Scenic Flights
  • Milford Sound Kayaking
Shotover Jet (Photo: Ngai Tahu Tourism)

DAY 13: Queenstown

Depart Te Anau and take the beautiful route to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.  Enjoy a leisurely ride in the gondola, a scenic flight, a quick bungy jump or jetboat ride, or just relax in the many cafes.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Jetboating
  • Bungy jumping
  • Gondola & Luge
  • Scenic flights
  • Skyline Luge
  • TSS Earnslaw

Driving time:  2 – 3 hours

Queenstown Trail (Photo: Miles Holden)

DAY 14: Queenstown

Take a half day trip to Glenorchy for a wilderness walk and jetboat ride, or try your hand at gold-panning in Arrowtown. Enjoy a half day guided tour of the local vineyards, and if you’re into the maximum in adrenalin rush, take a combi of jet boat, helicopter and white water rafting.  If you love mountain biking why not do a helibike tour, or if you’re interested in gold, take a 4WD trip to Skippers Canyon.

Suggested Experiences:

  • Jetboat & Wilderness Tour
  • Helibiking
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Horseriding
  • Arrowtown trip
  • Wine tasting tour

DAY 15: Depart Queenstown

Departure from Queenstown. Depending on your travel arrangements you might still have time for an early morning stroll through Queens Gardens or along the lake.

Take with you plenty of memories and photographs of your experiences and encounters with New Zealand wildlife.




At Greenstone Travel we offer total flexibility. All our vacations are tailored to include accommodation and experiences that appeal to you. This sample itinerary is a great starting point, so please contact us so we can customize it according to your individual preferences.

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