Home/New Zealand Holidays/New Zealand Escorted Tours/Highlights Of The South Island A Small Group Tour

Highlights of the South Island a Small Group Tour

  • Wellington
  • Nelson NZ
  • Abel Tasman
  • Punakaiki
  • Fox Glacier
  • Wanaka
  • Te Anau
  • Queenstown
  • Christchurch
  • 13 nights from
  • £7,700 per person
  • Trip Code: ES-1358

Holiday Overview

Highlights of the South Island a Small Group Tour

On this 14-day small group tour with Pure Discoveries you will explore the highlights of New Zealand’s South Island. This itinerary showcases the South Island’s natural beauty, history, and culture. Visiting Te Papa Museum, the perfect introduction to New Zealand’s culture and history, enjoy wine tasting in Marlborough famous for its famous Sauvignon Blanc. Take in breathtaking scenery as you cruise the Queen Charlotte Sound and Milford Sound, explore the golden sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of Abel Tasman National Park and the famous split apple rock, visiting the majestic glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef Glacier. This is just some of the spectacular scenery you will see on this small group tour.

This small group tour with Pure Discoveries is the perfect way to explore the South Island with a local, fun and helpful guide who will take you to the lesser known stops whilst providing true Kiwi hospitality.

Highlights of the South Island a Small Group Tour includes:

  • Return Flights from the UK
  • 13 Nights Hotel Accommodation
  • Small Coach Transportation - Maximum 16 Passengers
  • Experienced, fun and local tour guide
  • 16 Meals - 13 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
  • Wine tasting in Marlborough
  • Explore the Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki
  • Cruise the Milford Sound with a picnic lunch
  • Travel on a restored heritage tram through Christchurch

Day 1 - Arrive Wellington

Haere mai – Welcome!  Today is yours to explore New Zealand’s friendly capital city. Wander along Oriental Parade and around the bays, or explore Cuba Street with its eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes and restaurants. A visit to Te Papa, the national museum and one of the most exciting museums in the world, is highly recommended for insights into New Zealand history, culture, wildlife and landscapes.  

Featured accommodation

DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington


Day 2 - Wellington to Nelson

Your day commences with one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. Travelling through the waters of Cook Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound the ferry is often accompanied by dolphins riding the bow waves. Disembarking in Picton travel the short distance to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine country.  What better way to enjoy this region famous for its Sauvignon Blanc than with wine tasting at one of Marlborough’s premier wineries?   From Marlborough cross to the Nelson district a corner of the South Island blessed with a sunny microclimate and your base for the next two nights.   

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Rutherford Hotel


Day 3 - Abel Tasman National Park

Paradise found!  Abel Tasman National Park is a mosaic of golden coves and turquoise lagoons sheltered by forested ranges to the south.  With few roads in this pristine wilderness, most journeys are made by boat. 

This morning from Kaiteriteri, your tour includes a choice of one activity from these three options:


a) Non - Walking Option:

Full Park Scenic Cruise (3-4 hour cruise)

Enjoy a morning cruise exploration of New Zealand’s smallest National Park.  View world-famous Split Apple Rock, New Zealand Fur Seals, golden sands and the turquoise waters of Anchorage, Bark Bay, Tonga Quarry, Awaroa and Tōtaranui Beach. Enjoy time at your leisure in Kaiteriteri and return to Nelson on the late afternoon transfer.   


b) Walking Option 1: 

Astrolabe Beaches and Bays (7km, 2.5 hour walk)

After the Full Park Scenic Cruise, disembark at Apple Tree Bay for a self-guided walk to fabulous Anchorage Beach.  Late afternoon shuttle transfer back to Nelson.  


c) Walking Option 2: 

Forest and Swing-Bridge (10.5km, 4 hour walk)

After the Full Park Scenic Cruise, disembark at Medlands Beach for a rewarding and varied self-guided walk to Anchorage Beach including the scenic highlights of the South Head lookout, the famous Falls River swing-bridge and Cleopatra’s Pool.  Late afternoon shuttle transfer back to Nelson.  


Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Rutherford Hotel


Day 4 - Nelson to Punakaiki

Driving via the Nelson Lakes National Park - an enchanting alpine landscape of rugged peaks, forests, stunning glacial lakes and the beginning of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps make a stop at the quaint village of Saint Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.  Turn inland to follow the Buller River Gorge - one of the world’s best but least-known scenic drives, carved out of the forest by 19th-century prospectors, it follows the deep river gorge, often crossing it on single-track bridges.  Emerging from the forest the road hugs the coastline south to the small settlement of Punakaiki - renowned for its wild, rugged coastline and the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ - these stratified limestone stacks are an extraordinary monument of nature.  

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Scenic Hotel


Day 5 - Punakaiki to Fox Glacier

Journey south along the Great Coast Road which was recently voted one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.  Pass through historic towns reaching Hokitika and its galleries specialising in pounamu (greenstone) jewellery and art works.   Stretch your legs at the dramatic Hokitika Gorge where the blue/green waters pass through the rugged rocks.  Continue south through forests and farmland, with views of the Alps to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, to Franz Josef then on to the small remote village of Fox.  The huge rivers of snow and ice of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers flow from vast snowfields high in the Southern Alps, down almost to sea level.  Weather permitting, an optional helicopter ride with a snow landing is a terrific way to experience the sheer grandeur of these West Coast glaciers (extra cost).    

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier


Day 6 - Fox Glacier to Wanaka

Have your camera ready for your visit to nearby Lake Matheson for a morning stroll - when conditions are right the lake perfectly mirrors beautiful Mt. Cook in its still waters. Head over the Haast Pass along the river road beside the icy river and deep into Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The atmosphere lightens as we reach lovely Lake Wanaka, reflecting the mountain peaks that in winter offer superb skiing, and the pretty resort town of Wanaka.  

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation



Day 7 - Wanaka

This morning you have the choice of two excursions:


a) Today join a passionate local eco-guide - as you depart Wānaka by boat and quickly leave civilization behind as you cruise across the lake to a predator-free island.  The walking track leads from the landing and climbs steadily through native vegetation - filled with very vocal birdlife - to the top to the “island’s secret”; a lake on top of the island with small islands in it!  Unique and very photogenic, the echo of birdsong here is astounding.   Carrying on a little further you come to the very top of the island and have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wānaka, its surrounding mountains and valleys, and the Arethusa Pool below.  This is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the panorama. The flightless Buff Weka often join visitors on the island; this rare flightless bird has been extinct on Mainland NZ since 1920.


b) Experience New Zealand's most authentic 4WD adventure - the perfect mix of incredible scenery, history, heritage and farming life.  Explore remote and seldom travelled back roads of an authentic New Zealand High Country farm overlooking sparkling Lake Wānaka.  Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, glaciers and wild river valleys you'll see farm animals including Red Deer, cattle and sheep up close and in their natural environment.  Visit historical sites and experience what life was like for Wānaka's first farmers.  With two optional walks, through pristine alpine meadows and ancient lakeside forests, this journey offers a unique insight into Wānaka’s rich history, heritage, modern-day farming life and breath-taking scenery.


This afternoon is at your leisure to relax or enjoy your own choice of activities.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation



Day 8 - Wanaka to Te Anau

Depart Wānaka with our first stop at the much photographed Cardrona Pub before traversing the Crown Range road to visit historic Arrowtown – a delightful gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River.  Continue your journey via the road pinned between the base of the Remarkables mountain range and spectacular Lake Wakatipu. Journey through a glacial formed valley that is now farmland, to reach Lake Te Anau, the largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the South Island and gateway to Fiordland National Park. 

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Distinction Luxmore


Day 9 - Te Anau to Milford Sound to Queenstown

The journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic experiences you can have on four wheels.   Fiordland National Park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area is one of the great wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere.  The scenery is spectacular with lofty mountains and deep valleys carved out by Ice Age glaciers.  Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is breath-taking in any weather.  Board a comfortable vessel for a cruise past towering Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea.  Keep an eye peeled for seals and dolphins which are often seen in the waters of the fiord.  Following the cruise, retrace your journey back to Te Anau travelling via the Cleddeau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and the lovely Eglinton Valley then across the Southland farmlands and around spectacular Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. 

Meals Included: Breakfast & Lunch

Featured accommodation

Scenic Suites Queenstown


Day 10 - Queentown

Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty and the unique energy of Queenstown create the perfect backdrop for a visit full of adventure, exploration or relaxation. Today is free for you to do your own thing: thrill-seekers may choose to zip-line at Bob’s Peak, get drenched on a Shotover jet-boat ride or go white-water rafting.  Other enjoyable but less hair-raising activities include the gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, or a 4WD safari to Skippers Canyon.  Boutique wineries and local gardens welcome visitors and the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw is an elegant way to discover Lake Wakatipu during a cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm.  

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Scenic Suites Queenstown


Day 11 - Queenstown to Mt Cook to Twizel

Continue north through the rugged Kawarau Gorge, past pretty Lake Dunstan and across the distinctive Central Otago countryside to the Lindis Pass.  Descend into the unique Mackenzie Basin where the Southern Alps dominate the horizon.  Take a beautiful drive along Lake Pukaki to Mt. Cook Village, home to New Zealand’s tallest peak, Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Overnight in the rural town of Twizel.

Hotel: Distinction Mackenzie Country Hotel. Meals Included: Breakfast


Day 12 - Twizel to Christchurch

Visit a local home set on the shores of Lake Tekapo and learn the secrets of making a Pavlova - a truly Kiwi dessert!  For morning tea, enjoy the taste of your pavlova as you drink in the views of this beautiful lake.   View the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of New Zealand’s most-photographed spots: a tiny church set against a majestic backdrop of the Southern Alps.  Pass across the high country’s tussock plains, through the small rural towns of Fairlie and Geraldine and onto Ashburton.  From here travel across the fertile Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.  This most English of New Zealand cities suffered a succession of terrible earthquakes in 2010/11.   Post-earthquake the city combines urban regeneration and innovation with heritage, culture and creativity.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Featured accommodation

Distinction Hotel Christchurch


Day 13 - Christchurch

This morning we join punting boatmen, resplendent with straw boaters and traditional Edwardian dress for a relaxing cruise in flat-bottomed punts along the River Avon through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.   Enjoy a journey in style onboard a beautifully restored heritage tram through the changing face of Christchurch’s city centre.  This is the final part of our journey together so tonight we enjoy a relaxed farewell dinner at a local restaurant. 

Meals Included: Breakfast & Dinner

Featured accommodation

Distinction Hotel Christchurch


Day 14 - Depart Christchurch

Haere rā – farewell from New Zealand.  After breakfast you are transferred to the Christchurch Airport for your return home, taking with you your fond memories of your time in New Zealand.  Alternatively, should you wish to extend your stay, we can assist you with additional travel arrangements. 

Meals Included: Breakfast

We go above and beyond to make your holiday perfect

Tailor Made for You

  • We tailor make every holiday made around you.
  • Tell us what you'd like to see, what type of accommodation you prefer and how you'd like to travel.
  • We'll plan your perfect holiday, helping you to get the most from your time and budget.

Expert Advice

  • We don't just know travel, we love it!
  • Our Travel Experts have travelled throughout the World. They'll answer your questions with facts not guesses.
  • You'll have a dedicated Travel Expert to look after each stage of your booking.

100% Protected

  • Part of the Stewart Travel group, We've been helping people explore the World for more than 30 years.
  • Every trip is 100% ATOL protected.
  • We're only ever a phone call away.