Day 1: Christchurch
Arrive in Christchurch, acclimate, and explore. Check out the fabulous Botanic Gardens then stroll through the nearby Arts Centre, one of the most significant collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand.
Day 2: Kaikoura
Drive your rental car north to Kaikoura. Whales are the stars of the show here. Sperm whales feed off the coastline year-round, and depending on the time of year, you might also see orcas, humpback, pilot, blue, and southern right whales.
Days 3-4: Tekapo, Southern Alps
A gorgeous 5-hour drive takes you to your Southern Alps base of Tekapo, a picturesque alpine village on the shores of Lake Tekapo. A local naturalist guide takes you on an easy-paced hike in the stunning Hooker Valley.
Day 5: Ohau and Dunedin
An hour’s drive gets you to Ohau, where you’ll pick up a bike to ride a section of the world-famous Alps2Ocean cycling trail. It’s a beautiful trail with an easy grade, and your car is waiting for you at the end. Then it’s back in the car for a gorgeous 3-hour drive to Dunedin, on the Otago Peninsula.
Day 6: Otago Peninsula
The Otago Peninsula is considered New Zealand’s wildlife capital. The peninsula and its 12-mile-long harbor is home to albatross, penguins, New Zealand fur seals, and many other species. A naturalist guide takes you out for some fabulous wildlife watching on the peninsula and through Catlins Forest Park.
Day 7: Stewart Island
A short flight from Invercargill takes you over to Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest, and largely undeveloped, island. Spend the day with a naturalist guide exploring, hiking, and birding in the island’s pristine wilderness. Stewart Island is a birder’s paradise, filled with native and endangered species, including kiwis. There are actually more kiwis on Stewart Island than resident humans.
Days 8-10 Te Anau, Fiordlands, and Milford Sound
Fly back to Invercargill and make the 3-hour drive to Te Anau, the scenic gateway town to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Your stay in the area will include a full day of guided exploring in the wonders of Milford Sound, with four or five hours on the water to look for seals, penguins, dolphins, and other wildlife. This is also your chance to see the glowworm caves and take an independent or guided birding walk into Fiordlands National Park to look for tomtits, tui, bellbirds, and kea, aka the cheeky mountain parrot.
Day 11: Queenstown
Head to Queenstown today and enjoy one last evening in this Land of the Long White Cloud. Fly home tomorrow.
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