DAY 1 - Wellington to Kaikoura via Picton
Contiki crew, are you ready? Our Southern adventure starts in Wellington, NZ's San Fran, where we'll dart across the Tasman via the Inter-Island ferry.
Our first port of call on the South Island will be Picton, the gateway to wine country. Sauv blanc, anyone?
Our next drive takes us through Marlborough’s wine country along the rugged east coast. Arriving in Kaikoura will see us amongst a seaside settlement known for whales & dolphins, so the camera needs to be on 110% charge as we roll around the coast. We'll stop at a seal colony, where you'll struggle not to break into a collective 'cuuuute' as you watch these guys sunning themselves on the rocks.
Next up, we'll visit Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue to meet a local wildlife biologist, Sabrina Leucht, who has been working to build a dedicated wildlife hospital in Kaikoura. We'll learn about the types of wildlife we might encounter here, which threats they face, and what we can all do to make a difference - locally and in our own hometowns.
After a busy day of wildlife wonders, we'll check into our seafront hotel, before heading out for a spot of dinner. Did you know that Kaikoura literally translates into 'eat (kai) crayfish (koura)'? So, no prizes for guessing what type of local cuisine we'll be trying!
DAY 2 - Kaikoura
We all love a free day - especially one spent in beautiful Kaikoura! We recommend taking a whale watching tour, where you'll have the opportunity to see giant sperm whales in action, as well cute seals, dusky dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Other free time add-ons include a thrilling helicopter ride over the Kaikoura Peninsula, a kayak trip across the coastline, and more. We'll stay another night in Kaikoura after an action-packed day, before heading to Christchurch tomorrow morning.
DAY 3 - Kaikoura to Christchurch
So long Kaikoura! We'll arrive in Christchurch by lunch-time, where we'll take an inspiring tour of the city that was totally rebuilt after the Christchurch earthquake. Look out for the Cardboard Cathedral, the only cathedral in the world to be built mostly from plain old cardboard!
DAY 4 - Christchurch to Franz Josef
Christchurch, it was short and sweet, but with with ice age action on the horizon we gots to move on.
Take in the beautiful scenery as we wind our way across the highest and most spectacular mountain pass across the Southern Alps.
In the gold rush town of Hokitika we'll watch authentic carvers get to work on green jade and take a look at traditional Maori art. Back on the coach we're coastline bound to one of the islands most jaw-droppingly beautiful spots...
Franz Josef Glacier
We'll pull up for the night in glorious Franz Josef, probably one of the most beautiful places you'll ever of clapped eyes on. A bold statement we know, but well deserved.
DAY 5 - Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier
This morning will be another big ol' tick off the list as we take to the ice of Franz Josef Glacier. We've got a heli ride over the glacier up for grabs, or the opportunity to carve your own Pounamu (jade) pendant, under the tuition of a Maori mastercraftsman. Pounamu is sacred to the Māori people, and this is a great way to learn about its cultural significance, while also creating a beautiful please of jewellery. An optional highlight today is a boat cruise across Lake Mapourika. But this ain't your ordinary boat cruise. You'll cruise up the glassy lake, framed by glaciers and mountains, before switching to a stand up paddle board and gliding along a narrow estuary. This takes you to your journey's destination, the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, where you'll get to meet New Zealand's adorable but vulnerable national bird.
DAY 6 - Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown
Franz Josef Glacier
Armed with a new found appreciation for frozen water, we'll hop back on the coach & start making our way to Queenstown, making a few cheeky stops along the way.
Our first piece of NZ eye-candy comes in the form of Haast Pass, beautified by ancient rainforests, small glaciers and waterfalls. Note how the scenery changes as we roll towards Queenstown through the Southern Alps and region of Otago.
Intermitting our scenic drive we'll stop for lunch in Wanaka, a pretty ski resort town situated on a lake front and dwarfed by mountains. This town is fast becoming one of NZ's most popular spots, and a trip to the 'Dough Bin' for a luscious pie should be high on the list today.
Welcome to the adventure capital of the world. Rest up tonight - the next few days are going to be BIG.
DAY 7 - Queenstown
Today is yours to get acquainted with Queenstown and spend some time mulling over the activities up for grabs in the next two days. First stop is the legendary Kawarau Bungy Bridge, get your morning adrenaline hit with a heart pounding jump at the world home of the bungy. Later, take a stroll around beautiful Queenstown, nestled in the Southern Alps this stunning town has plenty to offer other than adventure activities.
DAY 8 - Queenstown
With our last day in adrenalin city ahead of us, this is the time to push yourself to the limits and hurl over any mental barriers you've put up around yourself. Jump into #NOREGRETS spirit and conquer those niggling fears once and for all. For those who did their dash yesterday, a day staying mellow and enjoying this beautiful region will prove more than sufficient.
DAY 9 - Queenstown
It's times like this that you really start to work out what sort of traveller you are. And human for that matter. You might be the one trailing through wine country and doing a spot of horse back riding, or you may be that guy that crams in a bungy jump, a skydive and a heliraft & still craves more. It's your holiday - run wild as you see fit.
DAY 10 - Queenstown to Te Anau via Milford Sound
Alright, it's time to return our adrenaline levels to a normal level and make tracks to the spectacular natural wonder of Milford Sound.
Welcome to New Zealand's most stunning attraction, with a magical combination of mountain peaks, forest-clad cliffs and deep dark waters. We take an included cruise of the fiord and experience the beauty of this pristine destination by boat, the best way to see Milford Sound in all its glory.
Arriving in the stunning lakeside town of Te Anau, we'll visit a local farm, learning about life in the outback, as well as playing some games and activities. Laura, who runs the farm, founded the Fairlight Foundation, a charity helping local girls to learn a range of practical farming skills and gain important qualifications. The goal is to advance women in the agricultural industry. For every traveller that attends this Farm Experience, Contiki will donate more funds to the Fairlight Foundation! It's feels good to do good – especially when all it takes is meeting some locals in a spectacular setting.
After our trip to the farm, you'll have the day to do as you please. Decisions, decisions...If I were you, I'd opt to take a guided jet boat trip to Fiordland National Park. From Te Anau through Lake Manapouri, it's a pretty exhilirating way to soak up the scenery. Prefer to keep you feet (or wheels) on dry land. You can also take a trip to the ethereal glow worm caves (woaahhh) or simply cycle the gorgeous trails through native bush.
DAY 11 - Te Anau to Lake Ohau via Arrowtown
Departing Te Anau we will make a stop at a true Kiwi farm experience, to discover how country life really looks like in this corner of the world. Anyone up for sheep shearing or milking a cow?!
We make a quick stop for lunch in this historic gold mining town before heading onto Lake Ohau.
We will stop by a farm to experience true country NZ life. Envisage - Horse back farmers, mustering sheep using dogs. Following that we travel to Arrowtown for a lunch stop then onto Lake Ohau.
DAY 12 - Lake Ohau to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo
It's our last day, let's end it on a high!
We'll stop off to see the intense milky blue waters of glacially-fed Lake Tekapo. Here (from October 2020) we'll also get to enjoy an unforgettable Dark Sky experience, an interactive multimedia exhibition that mixes stargazing, science and traditional Māori astronomy, teaching us how the Māori people used to use stars to harvest food, and about the importance of reducing light pollution.
Onto Christchurch and there's sure to be some sadness. But don't worry - memories will put smiles on faces for many years to come.