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Gardens, Mountains, and Penguins

Travel time year-round

Ask for a quote. The total price depends by your travel time, availability, number of people and your accommodation level. 
See the amazing scenery and unique animals of New Zealand's South Island. 

You can also start the tour in reverse from Dunedin and end in Christchurch. It is also easy to add a scenic train and ferry from Wellington and beautiful Queenstown in the south to the package. Ask more when we make your offer.

Day 1, Welcome to Christchurch 
After your arrival, your private transport will take you to your hotel. Spend the afternoon relaxing or take a walk to get your bearings.

For dinner, why not try one of the many restaurants around the vibrant Riverside markets area. 

Day 2, The Garden City 
Christchurch is known its many beautiful gardens. In fact, the city has over 1200 parks and gardens and  is known traditionally as “The Garden City”!  The largest city on the South Island, it offers beautiful views from the top of the surrounding green hills to the Pacific Ocean, and to the Canterbury Plains. In the distance you can also see the majestic Southern Alps. 

We recommend a visit to the majestic Christchurch Botanic Gardens,  joining a guided punting tour on the River Avon, taking a historic tram ride around the city or the a gondola up the surrounding hills.

The city’s heritage sites, museums, galleries and vibrant restaurant scene are also worth checking out.

We could also organise you a private, guided walking tour around the city centre. Ask more when we prepare your quote. 

Day 3, Sheep, plains and mountains
In the morning, pick up your rental car and start your way toward the Southern Alps. Enjoy the ever changing scenery while you drive through the plains and the hills towards the stunning mountains. 

There is estimated to be over 25 million sheep in New Zealand and you will see plenty on today’s drive!

Stop for morning tea at Geraldine, a cute small town and enjoy lunch at the beautiful lakeside town of Tekapo. 

At Tekapo, also visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue for great photo opportunities!

In the afternoon, you’ll arrive to Aoraki, Mount Cook Village and check in to your hotel. Dinner is included tonight at hotel restaurant with stunning views across the valley and mountains. 

Driving time is approximately 4 hours (without stops).

Day 4, Aoraki and stargazing
Aoraki, Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and the national park offers a variety of activities. 

Remember to take a good shoes, as there is many walking tracks from easy 3 hour walks to more demanding trails for keen hikers. 

You may also join a scenic flight with a snow landing on top of the mountain or borrow one of the mountain bikes from the hotel for a day (flights and bike rental are not included in the package, ask for more information when booking). 

When the sun has set, join a stargazing tour and learn more about the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere. Located at the Dark Sky Reserve, the area is one of the best to see the night sky and milky way - with hardly any light pollution, it is ideal for your stargazing experience. 

Dinner is included tonight at the hotel restaurant. 

Day 5, Lakes, hot tubs and Dunedin 
After your buffet breakfast, check out and continue your drive south. Only an hour drive away from the Aoraki, spoil yourself and spend 90 minutes with a relaxing soak in fully sustainable hot tubs featuring locally sourced wood and pure New Zealand Mountain water! 

After you have soaked enough, enjoy lunch across the street at the quirky café and gallery, “The Wrinkly Rams” before you continue your drive to the Pacific Coast. 

Your next stop is the historic city, Oamaru. Enjoy afternoon tea and check out the cool, niche and somewhat quirky museum, Steampunk HQ (entry fee not included, to be paid locally). 

Then it’s only short drive to your final destination, Dunedin. When you are coming into the city, visit the Signal Hill Lookout to get your bearings. Then return your car and make your way to your hotel. 

Day 6, Castles and wildlife
Join a wonderful day tour and journey back in time with a tour of New Zealand's only “castle”, followed by a special wildlife cruise experience and penguin spotting.
You will first visit New Zealand’s only castle, the Larnach Castle, which sits in the centre of the Otago Peninsula. The castle was built in 1871 and  took two hundred workers roughly three years to build the exterior shell and a further twelve years for master European craftsmen to finish the interior. We highly recommend a short walk around the beautiful gardens, recognised to be of international significance.

The tour continues along the Otago Peninsula to Wellers Rock Wharf, where you’ll board a one-hour Wildlife Cruise. The tour travels around Taiaroa Head, home of the world's only mainland nesting place of the Royal Albatross. Watch as these huge birds glide in from the ocean and soar high above their hillside nests.

You’ll cruise beneath a historic lighthouse, perched high above volcanic cliffs. Watch as fur seals play and swim near their breeding colonies below. Then it’s a short way out to sea where we spot other species of albatross, cormorants, petrels and other rarely seen ocean birds. Occasionally we might spot blue penguins, dusky or hectors dolphins or a large sea lion.

Your last stop will take you to Penguin Place Conservation Reserve. Discover why beautiful, quirky Yellow Eyed Penguins are the most endangered of the world’s penguin species. You’ll only find them in a few areas along the Southeast Coast of New Zealand and remote sub-Antarctic islands. You have a great opportunity to see these rare birds in the wild (penguin spotting is not guaranteed and viewing is varied depending on the time of year). 

But it’s not all about penguins, as you walk through the regenerating native bush the guide will point out special native plants. The team at Penguin Place have planted thousands of trees and plants to provide a safe environment for the penguins. The area is also home to NZ fur seal and blue penguin populations. 

You’ll learn about the conservation & volunteer work currently underway to ensure the survival of this special species. Your ticket cost goes directly towards helping these efforts.

The day tour then concludes with a relaxed drive back to the city, following the Otago Harbour shore. 

A moderate level of fitness and mobility is required for this tour. You may be required to walk up to 1.5km and use several flights of stairs.

Day 7, Victorian and Edwardian architecture
The oldest city of New Zealand has a large collection of Edwardian and Victorian buildings including it’s architectural masterpiece, the Dunedin Railway Station. 

Explore the city by foot and visit the Otago Museum or Toitu Otago Settlers Museum to learn the history of the area and its people. 

The city is also known as a UNESCO designated City of Literature. If you are interested, you can join a Literary Walking Tour or visit the “Hard to Find Bookshop” or the University Book Shop.

The city might be small, but it’s a lively university town with lots to see and do. You will find something for everyone - from galleries to street art, museums to restaurants, al fresco cafés and bars.

You will fall love to Dunedin and want to come back! (we certainly did!) 

Day 8, Where next? 
This is your final morning in Dunedin and your next journey awaits. Breakfast and airport transfers are included in your package. 

You could easily travel to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world from here. Queenstown is only short drive or flight away and the scenery is most amazing. Ask more, when we prepare your quote. 

The itinerary is mostly an independent tour. All hotel reservations, breakfasts and the mentioned transfers, excursions or meals are included in the package.

The itinerary is an example as the tour may change, depending on the season. We will confirm the program as we plan your itinerary.
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