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Explore the South Island with escorted tours of New Zealand personalised to suit your group. Our escorted tours of New Zealand are hosted by one of the country’s leading tour guides. Your guide will meet your group at the airport and chauffeur your group to explore the destinations and activities included in your personalised tour package. They will tend to your needs and share valuable local knowledge with your group to enhance your holiday experience. We can cater for groups between 1-40 people.
Our escorted tours of New Zealand are flexible and are booked to suit your group’s travel dates and interests.
Read on for more details on the 21 Day South Island Paradise Private Guided Tour.
Your escorted tours of New Zealand begin when you arrive in Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital. Your tour guide will meet you at the airport and take you to your Queenstown accommodation.
In the afternoon explore downtown Queenstown with your tour guide. You have the option to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park, the Underwater Observatory or ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin.
Stay 3 nights in Queenstown.
Relax and explore Queenstown today. You might like to visit Arrowtown with your
In the evening, relive the elegance of turn-of-the-century travel with a cruise aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, the only coal fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Step aboard – watch the stokers fueling the fireboxes and hear the hiss of the steam engines working as the TSS Earnslaw takes you on a nostalgic cruise over beautiful Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm where you will enjoy a stunning evening meal. After that, an entertaining after dinner farm show provides a glimpse into high country farming life. Finally, on your return cruise, relax with a drink from the bar or join a fun sing-along with the ship’s pianist.
Today explore the Lord of the Rings film locations around Queenstown on a spectacular half day 4WD adventure! This scenic safari offers breathtaking mountain and forest views along the shore of Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy and the Paradise Valley.
Beyond Glenorchy, travel up the Dart Valley to the filming location for Isengard, set amongst snow-capped mountains beside the turquoise waters of the Dart River. This setting offers views of Mt Earnslaw and its hanging glacier, used in the first instalment of The Hobbit trilogy. Explore the Paradise Forest, the location for the Forest of Lothlorien. Leaving Glenorchy and returning towards Queenstown stop at 12 Mile Delta to explore the location of the Ithilien Camp.
Travel time Queenstown to Te Anau – 2.5 hours
In the afternoon take the magical Te Anau Glowworm Caves Tour. Explore a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of thousands of glowworms. Your Te Anau Glowworm Cave adventure begins with a cruise across beautiful Lake Te Anau on board the catamaran Luminosa to the western side of the lake. On arrival there is time to view the interesting displays at Cavern House before your friendly guides accompany you underground in small groups. As you explore by path and small boat, your senses will be overwhelmed. In this mysterious underground world discover fossils and rock formations, and view rushing waterfalls and whirlpools. Learn how the caves are still being carved out by the incredible and relentless power of nature, before gliding through silent darkness to the glowworm grotto. The delicate incandescence of thousands of tiny glowworms is a magical sight!
Stay 2 nights in Te Anau.
Travel time Te Anau to Manapouri – 30 minutes (each way)
Today go on an amazing Doubtful Sound day excursion! Located deep in the heart of a World Heritage Area, Doubtful Sound is an overwhelming place. You can feel the power of nature here – the remoteness, the wilderness and the peace. In Manapouri board your luxury catamaran and cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri. Subsequently, make a trip across New Zealand’s most expensive road, Wilmot Pass, pausing along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view Doubtful Sound glistening far below.
In Doubtful Sound, you will board another catamaran for a three hour cruise through this pristine fiord. During the cruise your knowledgeable and friendly nature guides will share with you their passion for the region through their commentary. They will answer questions, point out landmarks and provide you with information about the varied wildlife you may encounter like dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland crested penguin.
After that, relax and explore Te Anau in the evening.
Travel time Te Anau to Dunedin via the Catlins – 5 hours
Travel to Dunedin, one of the best
Stay 2 nights in Dunedin.
Today join the Taieri Gorge Railway – one of the world’s great train trips and an experience not to be missed. Departing from Dunedin’s beautiful railway station the Taieri Gorge Railway begins its scenic journey into some of New Zealand’s most ever-changing, spectacular and iconic scenery.
The train travels into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep gorge carved out over aeons by the ancient Taieri River. Negotiating the gorge with ease, the train travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts. The train will stop or slow down at various scenic points along the way for photos where you can disembark. Stand on the open air platforms while the train moves or enjoy a quiet drink and food from the onboard café while the train manager tells the story of the nature and history of the area.
Travel time Dunedin to Lake Tekapo – 4 hours
The drive to Lake Tekapo is stunning. On the way you will first come across the Moeraki Boulders, where you will see unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave cut Otago coast between Moeraki and Hampden.
Next you will pass through Oamaru, which is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and also features some of New Zealand’s best 19th century architecture. Then follow braided rivers and glacial lakes to reach Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo presents many world class attractions. For example, you will find the famous Church of the Good Shepherd, the luxurious spa complex Tekapo Springs and of course the world famous Mt John Observatory.
Stay 2 nights in Lake Tekapo.
Today enjoy a spectacular scenic flightseeing tour of Mount Cook and Westland World Heritage National Parks. Explore the alpine wonderland of New Zealand’s highest mountains, mighty alpine glaciers and lush coastal rain forests. View turquoise glacial lakes, golden tussock lands & braided rivers of the Mackenzie basin plus remote High Country Sheep Stations. Highlights include Mount Cook, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier! Every passenger has a window seat, all aircraft have wings-above for optimum viewing.
Relax and explore Lake Tekapo this afternoon with your guide. For instance, you may wish to explore walking tracks and attractions such as the famous Church of the Good Shepherd, the luxurious spa complex Tekapo Springs and the world famous Mt John Observatory.
Travel time Lake Tekapo to Akaroa – 4 hours
This far reaching road adventure takes you from the mountains to sea level. Climb through the tussocky wilds of the Mackenzie Country before reaching the flat green tranquillity of the Canterbury Plains before arriving in Akaroa.
Akaroa is a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of Banks Peninsula. Banks Peninsula is noted for its beauty and unique wildlife as craggy volcanic peaks give way to sandy beaches and two magnificent harbours.
Stay 2 nights in Akaroa.
Today join Pohatu Penguins Nature Tours – Pohatu is home to the largest Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. Enjoy a scenic 4WD Nature Tour! This is a scenic 4WD adventure over one of the highest passes on Banks Peninsula.
It enables you to experience the spectacular and dramatic scenery from crater rim of ancient Akaroa Volcano to volcanic coastal cliffs and Akaroa Head Reserve & Lighthouse. Includes a scenic drive to Pohatu Marine Reserve with photo stops en route, penguin monitoring during penguin breeding season, a walk through the beautiful Tutakahikura Scenic Bush Reserve, opportunity to view the Banks Peninsula Tree Weta; great variety of native birds, photo stop at crater rim, visit a working sheep farm, scenic drive to Akaroa head reserve and lighthouse, plus enjoy tea, coffee and a muffin.
Travel time Akaroa to Christchurch – 1.5 hours
Journey to New Zealand’s Garden City, Christchurch. Discover the vibrant and picturesque garden city, renowned for its natural beauty, lively entertainment scene, and strong cultural heritage. With its stunning botanical gardens and tree-lined avenues, Christchurch is both a sophisticated city and beautiful place to relax.
In the afternoon, experience all four of Christchurch’s must do activities: Christchurch Gondola, Tramway, Punting on the Avon River and Botanical Gardens Tour.
Gondola: Soar suspended above the suburbs as birds fly beneath your cabin. The Christchurch Gondola whisks you nearly a kilometre to the Crater Rim. Revive your spirits with a snack at the Red Rock Café, and browse what is on offer in the shop.
Tramway: Enjoy a journey in style through the changing face of Christchurch’s city centre on board the beautifully restored heritage Trams. Your day-long ticket allows you to hop on and off the Tram as much as you please.
Punting on the Avon River: Relax among the velvet cushions as your punter takes you down the river for 30 minutes on one of two routes – City or Park.
Botanical Gardens Tour: A visit to Christchurch is not complete until you visit the historic Botanical Gardens. Climb aboard an all-weather electric vehicle and tour in comfort.
Stay 1 night in Christchurch.
Travel time Christchurch to Kaikoura – 2.5 hours
Travel along the South Island’s stunning East Coast to reach Kaikoura. This picturesque town is famous for its delicious seafood delicacies and whale watching! As an important fishing port, Kaikoura is a mecca for seafood lovers. Local specialties include blue cod, paua (abalone) and of course crayfish (lobster).
Stay 1 night in Kaikoura.
Travel time Kaikoura to Blenheim – 2 hours
Relax in Kaikoura in the morning and discover this coastal paradise. In the afternoon meander around the coast to reach the Marlborough wine country. Marlborough is recognised internationally for its distinctive, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest winemaking region, with about 65 wineries and 290 grape growers. In addition, over 4,000 hectares are planted in grapes, mainly Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
In and around Blenheim you’ll find an array of cafés, restaurants, wineries, bars, shops, artisan food outlets and golf courses along with popular walkways along the Taylor River Reserve.
Stay 2 nights in Blenheim.
Today enjoy a Gourmet Lunch Wine Tour. This tour is a special tour for people who want to relax and enjoy a beautiful meal in a winery restaurant during the tour. After a few wineries you will feel hungry for the beautiful smells in the wineries restaurants. Why not enjoy them too!
The Gourmet tour lets you enjoy a lovely three course meal and a glass of delightful Marlborough Wine in one of the beautiful winery restaurants in this region. The starter is generally Breads and Dips to get your mouth watering. A main meal from the yummy range of choices on the menu. And for the sweet tooth a scrumptious dessert. And to compliment your main meal, a glass of the wineries estate wine to match your tastes and your food choice. After lunch visit a few more top wineries, before being delivered back to your accommodation.
Travel time Blenheim to Abel Tasman – 3 hours
Travel through native bush to reach the Abel Tasman area. This region is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, rich unmodified estuaries, and long sunshine hours. Moreover, the Abel Tasman is home to the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track.
You can visit Te Puketea Bay, a perfect crescent of golden sand with a walking track that leads up Pitt Head to an ancient Maori pa (fort) site. Terracing and food pits are still visible, and it’s easy to see why the location was chosen as a defensive site – the views are huge.
Native wildlife is an essential part of the scenery. Tui and bellbird song fills the forest; shags (cormorants), gannets and little blue penguins dive for their dinner; fur seals lounge on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island.
Stay 2 nights in Abel Tasman.
Today, take a boat cruise into Abel Tasman National Park today, where you can relax on the hot golden sand, enjoy a day walk, or simply remain aboard for the return cruise. Soak in the natural beauty and enjoy!
This trip allows you to explore sections of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Firstly, the boat will stop at scenic points where you can disembark and walk a section of the track. After that, the boat will collect you later in the day. You could also just pack a picnic lunch and beach towels and laze on the beach for the day.
Travel time Abel Tasman to Hokitika – 5 hours
Discover the rugged West Coast as you travel to Hokitika, famous for its arts and crafts. Watch a masterpiece being crafted from gold, silver, molten glass, bone, silk or greywacke or carve your own creation from wood or jade “pounamu.” Take in Hokitika’s natural beauty, enjoy its expansive beach or one of the many walking and mountain bike tracks.
While in Hokitika, you may wish to make the scenic drive to Hokitika Gorge, where an impressive turquoise river flows through a narrow canyon, or Lake Kaniere, a beautiful lake nestled beneath the mountains.
You could also visit the National Kiwi Centre, where you will be able to see a rare kiwi; view New Zealand’s living dinosaur, the Tuatara; and participate in feeding the giant eels. Or make a drive north to Shantytown. Explore the heritage village, ride the steam train, try your hand at panning for gold, and take old-time styled photos.
Stay 1 night in Hokitika.
Travel time Hokitika to Franz Josef – 2 hours
Continue south through dense rain forest towards New Zealand’s glaciers. Stay in Franz Josef Glacier township.
While in Franz Josef you may wish to soak in the Glacier Hot Pools, nestled in lush rainforest in a haven of natural tranquility. In addition, you can walk to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier to take a look at the ice, or enjoy one of the local walks. In Franz Josef township you have the chance to see New Zealand’s rarest kiwi at the West Coast Wildlife Centre, a unique and interactive experience that brings together nature, conservation, and wildlife all under one roof.
Activity Option: In the afternoon, take a 20 minute scenic helicopter flight sweeping above Westland National Park as you explore Franz Josef Glacier before landing in the snow to enjoy exceptional views of the majestic Southern Alps.
Stay 1 night in Franz Josef.
Travel time Franz Josef to Wanaka – 4 hours
The change in landscape will amaze you as you travel down the West Coast with peeks of the Tasman Sea. Take the Haast Pass Highway and admire waterfalls and many viewing points and short walks along the way. Finally, you will reach Wanaka, an alpine paradise with views so good it’s hard to put down your camera.
Wanaka has the buzz of a genuine alpine town and is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures. In addition, with Mount Aspiring National Park located close by, it’s the perfect destination for exploring the Southern Alps.
Stay 2 nights in Wanaka.
Relax in Wanaka, exploring attractions with your guide such as Puzzling World, Wanaka’s illusional attraction, or the National Toy and Transport Museum. Other options include strolling along one of Wanaka’s stunning walking tracks, relaxing on the lake’s edge or browsing through Wanaka’s boutique shops.
You could also visit Rippon Vineyard and Tasting Room to sample local wines, or catch a film at Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka’s quirky local theatre.
Travel time Wanaka to Queenstown – 1 hour
As your New Zealand escorted tours draw to a close, your guide will deliver you to Queenstown Airport for your departing flight.
As each traveller is different, each of the New Zealand escorted tours that we plan and book is different. Our team will work with you to design the perfect itinerary to suit your interests.
Our New Zealand escorted tours include all transportation, from airport to airport, as well as the services of your guide throughout your holiday. In addition, we include excellent accommodation plus a range of fantastic activities to help you experience the best of our country.
As you begin planning your guided tour of New Zealand, you may wish to explore our New Zealand Guided Tours brand. We offer a wide range of itineraries of all lengths to serve as inspiration.
Contact New Zealand Travel Organiser today to begin planning your bespoke New Zealand escorted tours.
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