Southern Circuit

  • 3 Weeks

This tour of South Island highlights takes in a remarkable range of landscapes, offering diverse experiences from wine tasting to whale-watching to ice tramping.

Begin in Christchurch, the South Island's culture capital. Get a caffeine buzz at Supreme Supreme, then stroll through the pedestrian-friendly CBD to Christchurch Art Gallery and Canterbury Museum. Wander along the Avon River in the Botanic Gardens, and tour the city on the historic tram before heading up the Gondola for excellent views.

City-saturated? Take a day trip to pretty Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, then head north for whale-watching in Kaikoura. Continue through the Marlborough wine region and the harbour town of Picton, before whiling away a day or two in the Marlborough Sounds.

Detour west past artsy Nelson to ecofriendly Golden Bay before heading down the West Coast where Punakaiki and the glaciers – Franz Josef and Fox – are just the tip of the iceberg. Go crazy in adventurous Queenstown, be mesmerised by Doubtful Sound and chill out around the sleepy Catlins. Back up the East Coast, drop in to Scottish-flavoured Dunedin, then detour through the Waitaki Valley to the snowy heights of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, before rolling back into Christchurch.

Culinary Capers

  • 10 Days

Fruits, vegetables, seafood, dairy, game, grapes, hops – the fertile South Island is paradise for foodies. If your idea of a good holiday involves tantalising your tastebuds then you've come to the right place.

Hop into gear around Nelson, widely regarded as the nation’s craft-brewing capital and home to microbreweries such as Hop Federation and Townshend. Head over to Marlborough, NZ's best wine-touring territory, then down the South Island’s rugged East Coast to Kaikoura for delicious seafood at rustic eateries. Graduate to classier dining at the vineyard restaurants of the Waipara Valley – Pegasus Bay and Black Estate are great for leisurely lunches.

Journey into Christchurch to sample the restaurant scenes around Victoria and New Regent Sts, and Lyttelton, and don’t miss the excellent Christchurch Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. More craft-beer heaven awaits beer buffs at Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn and the Brewery.

From Christchurch continue south to North Otago and award-winning eateries such as Riverstone Kitchen in Oamaru and Fleur’s Place in Moeraki. Emerson’s and Speight's are the breweries to check out further south in Dunedin – sample a few at Albar or Tonic – before loading up the car with organic, free-range locavore goodies from Dunedin's Otago Farmers Market.

Animal Planet

  • 10 Days

Cast adrift from ancient Gondwanaland and uninhabited by humans until around 800 years ago, the South Island boasts a remarkable range of land and sea creatures. Experience this veritable menagerie on this tour.

From Christchurch, travel to Akaroa to swim with Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand’s smallest and rarest. Squeeze in a return trip up the coast to Kaikoura for whale-watching and swimming with NZ fur seals, before travelling south to Oamaru. A wonderful historic precinct and a fascination with steampunk culture draw visitors, but nature buffs should make a beeline for the little blue penguin colony, which comes alive at dusk.

From Oamaru continue south to the Otago Peninsula to spot more little blue penguins, as well as their extremely rare, shuffling cousin, the yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho). Join a tour to meet seals and sea lions before admiring the royal albatross colony on nearby Taiaroa Head. A seaborne journey with Elm Wildlife Tours is another essential Otago Peninsula experience.

Continue south to the rugged and isolated Catlins, where penguins, Hector’s dolphins and sea lions are all regular visitors at Curio Bay. Leave the South Island at Bluff for kiwi-spotting on wild and idiosyncratic Stewart Island/Rakiura.