Australian Natural Adventures

nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific

New Zealand

Natural History Itinerary - Just theSouth Island
Natural History Itinerary - North & South Island


This North & South Island itinerary can be enjoyed for most of the year, but we don't recommend it during the austral Winter - June to August. The weather is generally mild in New Zealand, but even in high Summer - December and January - cool and wet weather can be experienced, especially on the South Island.

Although not itemized on this itinerary, many meals are included.

Day 1 - Los Angeles / In flight
Depart Los Angeles on an evening flight

Day 2 - In Flight
Today is lost due to the International Dateline, but regained on the return journey.

Day 3 - Auckland/Orewa
Arrive early this morning into Auckland, the “City of Sails,” located on the shores of two stunning harbors. Later take an easy guided walk in the Waitakere Ranges, among the ancient Kauri trees, to learn something of New Zealand’s unique vegetation. A pleasant drive through farmlands, orchards and vineyards, with a relaxing tea break, brings you to spectacular Muriwai Beach. Here enjoy close-up views of a mainland Australasian Gannet breeding colony—one of only three in the world. There’s time for a stroll along the black iron sand beach and a paddle in the Tasman Sea before returning to Auckland. Tonight there is an introductory presentation by your guide and a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Day 4 - Orewa / Tiri Tiri Matangi
This morning board the Tiri catamaran for a short cruise to Tiri Tiri Matangi. Tiri is part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, one of several parks protecting the marine and island environment of this conservation-minded country. Your guide and a conservation officer or local expert discuss the development of the island before we set off through this sanctuary to view Bellbirds, Tuis, Kakariki (parakeets) and the rare Saddleback. We also look for Brown Teal, Whiteheads and the elusive Takahe—a flightless rail. Enjoy a picnic lunch before heading back to the mainland this afternoon.

Day 5 - Orewa / Rotorua
Return to Auckland and continue on to Rotorua (Maori for “two lakes”), the center for Maori culture and thermal activity in New Zealand. On arrival at Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve a Maori guide tells of the significance of Maori arts and crafts and guides you through the reserve to view the bubbling mud pools and fumaroles. Tonight enjoy a welcome hangi dinner (cooking on hot stones in the ground) and Maori concert at a Maori marae (sacred community meeting place). Spend the next two nights in Rotorua.

Day 6 - Rotorua
An early start this morning to visit a nearby forest and listen to the beautiful morning chorus of birds, taking the time to admire the mature Kahikatea, Rimu and Totara trees. These are gymnosperms, an ancient plant group that includes such diverse members as gingkos, sequoias, yews, Norfolk Island Pine and cycads. Growing under these relics of the past is a variety of ferns, orchids and epiphytes. Moving on, explore the world’s largest hot spring and the craters of Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley. A cruise on the crater-lake Rotomahana passes steaming cliffs, craters and geysers. This lake is home to a crestless grebe known as the Dabchick. You also visit Rainbow Springs, a wildlife sanctuary that presents an opportunity for a close-up view of the Kiwi and the Tuatara. Left over from the age of dinosaurs, this lizard-like reptile is unusual because it can be active at very low temperatures. The Tuatara is only found on a couple of offshore islands where it inhabits burrows.

Day 7 - Rotorua / Christchurch / Arthur’s Pass National Park
After breakfast fly to Christchurch on the South Island. This scenic town is the home of the International Antarctic Centre and considered by New Zealand as the “Gateway to the Antarctic.” The United States and other countries have built an award winning Visitor Centre replete with photographic, hands-on and audiovisual displays. A drive through remote river gorges takes you into the heart of the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass National Park. Here a short bush walk may encounter Keas—the large and dark-colored mountain parrots known for their cheeky and sometimes destructive manners. Rifleman, Bellbird and Silvereye are other endemic birds found here. Dine and overnight at the quaint Arthur’s Pass Chalets located in the heart of Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Day 8 - Arthur’s Pass / Fox Glacier
Today continue to the rugged west coast, stopping at Hokitika to view local artisans working with jade, gold and glass. Following the coastline south to Franz Josef Glacier and take a short walk in the glacial valley with an expert guide. There is time a ski-plane flight (additional expense, weather permitting) before continuing south along the Heritage Highway to Fox Glacier and the traditionally styled Fox Glacier Hotel for a two-night stay.

Day 9 - Fox Glacier / West Coast
Today begins with a short walk to Lake Matheson in which the magnificent reflections of the mountains can be seen, looking for Tomtits, Fantails, Tuis and native Wood Pigeons on the way through the bush. You can also choose a walk to the terminal of the glacier or take an optional scenic flight (an additional cost) over the glaciers and Mount Cook. A side trip to Okarito Lagoon enables a 20-minute jetboat ride to view the only nesting site in New Zealand of the White Heron (Kotuku). We may also see Royal Spoonbills, another nester here.

Day 10 - Fox Glacier / Queenstown
After breakfast journey through the most historic, yet most recently opened of the transalpine routes. Stopping for a short bush walk to Thunder Creek Falls, enjoy a late lunch with a friendly family on a working high-country farm overlooking Lake Hawea. Continue to Lake Wanaka, a popular summer and winter holiday location, and through the fruit-growing region of Cromwell to Queenstown.

Day 11 - Queenstown
This morning visit the Kiwi House for a behind-the-scenes view of New Zealand’s national emblem, and to learn about the artificial breeding program established in an effort to increase the numbers of this rare bird. The rest of the day is free to explore Queenstown. It is possible to take the Dart River jetboat safari into the backcountry to experience one of New Zealand’s “inaccessible” areas with views of high peaks, glaciers, ancient forests, spectacular waterfalls and unique birdlife. There is an option to cruise on Lake Wakatipu on the coal-fired vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw, join the thrill seekers at the bungy-jump bridge, or simply relax. Tonight dinner is at the Skyline Restaurant reached by gondola cableway; the view from Bob’s Peak is magnificent.

Day 12 - Milford Sound / Lake Te Anau / Farm Stay
Today travel to Milford Sound, often described as the most beautiful waterway in the world. The road to Milford, between towering, snow-clad mountains, is sufficient reason to visit the sound, where a natural history boat ride explores the inlets and peaks of this pristine area. After lunch, taken onboard, visit the historic township of Milford, then continue to the town of Te Anau for dinner, and overnight at a local farm, a chance to socialize with New Zealanders at home. Tonight there is an optional excursion across the lake to the Te Anau glow worm caves.

Day 13 - Te Anau / Invercargill / Stewart Island
A pleasant drive to Invercargill, the southernmost city of New Zealand, this morning where there's time to visit the Southland Museum before a short flight to Stewart Island (or Rakiura, a Maori word meaning “heavenly glow”). A local expert guide gives us an orientation tour of Half Moon Bay, the island’s only permanent settlement. Considerable bird life abounds near the village where we enjoy short bush walks and witness some of the world’s most beautiful ferns, scented native orchids and temperate plants in this unique remnant of natural New Zealand. A visit to the museum and Visitor Centre follows this afternoon. After dinner, featuring freshly caught seafood and local venison, our guide takes us on an easy walk to Ackers Point to look for Little Blue Penguins and Sooty Shearwaters.

Day 14 - Stewart Island
Today explore the island and take a boat excursion (weather permitting) into the rich marine waters which serve as feeding grounds for Stewart Island Shags, Bullers and Whitecapped Albatrosses, Cape Petrels and other pelagic birds. View the salmon farms in Big Glory Bay and spend time on Ulva Island, a sanctuary for native birds, where abundant forest drips with native ferns and orchids. Tonight’s highlight is an excursion by boat to Ocean Beach to try to see the Stewart Island Kiwi in its natural environment. ocean Beach ois probably the only place in New Zealand where the Kiwi is frequently and reasonabley relaibly seen.

Day 15 - Stewart Island / Invercargill / Auckland / Los Angeles
Sadly, your last day in New Zealand. After a farewell breakfast return to the mainland, then fly to Auckland. If the flight schedule allows, visit Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter. Later this evening fly back across the Dateline, regaining the day lost coming out, and arriving back in Los Angeles in the morning of this same day.


This option can be done during the breeding season from about October until March, although the Albatross Colony can only be viewed from late november.

Day 15 - Stewart Island / Dunedin
Returning to Invercargill today, by plane or catamaran, armed with picnic lunches, travel north via the Catlins Coast Forest Park, stopping to view the spectacular coves en route. At Nugget Point Lighthouse rockstacks are home to the Australasian Gannet, Southern Black-backed Gulls, Spotted Shags and New Zealand Fur Seal.

Day 17 - Dunedin / Otago Peninsula
This morning visit the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre at Portobello and view a slide show on southern oceans—an introduction to the marine environment of southern New Zealand, and the ecology of local species and conservation issues. At the aquarium discover the variety of life in the southern seas, including pigfish, octopus, seahorses, crayfish and red krill. After a light lunch travel out on the peninsula to view the carefully protected, and very rare Yellow-eyed Penguins at close quarters from camouflaged hides. Then see the world’s only mainland colony of Royal Albatross and enjoy a short nature cruise to view the colony from the sea.

Day 18 - Dunedin / Auckland / Los Angeles
Following breakfast transfer to the Dunedin Airport for a morning flight to Auckland. If the flight schedule allows, visit Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter. Later this evening fly back across the Dateline, regaining the day lost coming out, and arriving back in Los Angeles in the morning of this same day.

Don't forget we have many other options on our New Zealand website.

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