South Island Nature Encounters

From $5,725 per person

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Friday 18 – Saturday 26 November 2022 (9 Days)

Get up close and personal with the wide range of nature and wildlife to be found between Christchurch and Stewart Island. Cruise around Akaroa Harbour, spend evenings spotting kiwis and watching penguin parades, explore the Catlins, and enjoy two nights on Stewart Island with many opportunities to encounter island wildlife.

Day 1              Friday 18 November 2022
Our tour commences today with a flight from Auckland to Christchurch. On arrival in Christchurch, we enjoy an orientation tour of the garden city, highlights include the Avon River, the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens before we are transferred to our accommodation.  The remainder of day at leisure to relax or stroll around Christchurch.  Tonight, we will enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel to meet our fellow travellers.
Accommodation: The Chateau on the Park Hotel, Christchurch – 2 nights

Day 2              Saturday 19 November 2022
This morning we visit the beautiful, unspoilt old French whaling depot of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula, enroute we pass Lake Ellesmere, one of New Zealand's most important wetlands. Akaroa was settled by the French in an early attempt to colonise New Zealand and still retains a good deal of French character in its street names, boutique shops and cafes. Take time to explore the local cafes for lunch (own cost), art and craft shops, and colonial style architecture. This afternoon we enjoy a cruise on Akaroa Harbour to spot local wildlife in the water and on land. If we are lucky, we will see the very rare Hector’s Dolphins (smallest species in the world), as well as a glimpse of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world. Searching the skies, we may see five different cormorant (shag) species who make their home here or spot on land, the endangered Yellow-eyed Penguin. You may also see New Zealand Fur Seals sunning themselves on the rocks near Seal Bay. We return to Christchurch in the late afternoon, travelling via Governors Bay and Lyttelton. Tonight we will enjoy dinner at our hotel.

Day 3              Sunday 20 November 2022
After a leisurely breakfast this morning we depart Christchurch and travel south passing through Ashburton and Temuka before arriving in Timaru. Purchase lunch (own cost) at a local café before we enjoy a short walk around the Otipua Wetlands. This one hour return walk will allow us to admire the efforts of the wetland restorative project, where there is a wide variety of native trees and other fauna being planted to form a Kahikatea forest in the future. Look over the four-hectare lake to view a variety of birdlife who nest in this haven, including Swans, Chestnut Breasted Shellducks, White-faced Herons to name a few. We then continue to the coastal town of Oamaru where we will stay overnight. With many of Oamaru’s old buildings having been constructed with local limestone, the southern part of the main business district ranks as one of New Zealand's most impressive streetscapes. There will be time here to explore the heritage precinct before we check in at our accommodation. We enjoy dinner in the hotel restaurant before our evening tour.  The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is home to the world’s smallest penguin, the Kororā, the Little Blue Penguin. Watch from the premium viewing platform as the little penguins make their nightly journey home to their cliff-side burrows from the beach.
Accommodation: Heritage Court Motor Lodge, Oamaru – 1 night

Day 4              Monday 21 November 2022          
OAMARU – DUNEDIN          (BD)
After our busy evening last night, take the opportunity for a sleep in this morning before we continue our travels to reach Dunedin. Along the way we stop at Moeraki to see the unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach. Before reaching Dunedin, we visit Orokonui Eco Sanctuary for a one hour guided tour. Travel through grassland, regenerating forest, and the start of an ancient forest habitat - home to a range of native fauna including Tuatara, Otago Skinks, Korimako, Tūī, and Kākā. Learn from the guides as they share their knowledge of Orokonui's history, its conservation stories, and discuss any taoka (treasured) native species we encounter along the way. The tour finishes at a viewing platform settled amongst a 600-year-old podocarp/broadleaf forest. Continuing on our travels, we arrive in Dunedin where we enjoy a sightseeing tour on arrival before reaching our accommodation. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a group dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross, Dunedin – 2 nights

Day 5              Tuesday 22 November 2022
Today we travel out to visit Natures Wonders at the tip of the Otago Peninsula.  Owned by the Reid Family, this is a self-funded conservation effort to ensure that this land is preserved for all future generations to enjoy, by protecting the penguins, fur seals and other wildlife. Onboard an 8-wheel all-terrain vehicle for an exhilarating 1-hour cross country tour we enjoy a very close encounter with a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals and their pups basking on the rocks and swimming in natural pools. Walk down to a purpose built hide on Penguin Beach to view little blue penguins in their nests (if in season) and if we are lucky, we may spot a shy yellow eyed penguin in the nest or on the beach. Heading up to 201 metres above sea level, we enjoy 360-degree views of the beautiful Otago Peninsula. Enjoy lunch at the onsite café (own cost) before we head to our next stop along the peninsula at Taiaroa Heads to visit the Royal Albatross Centre– the only mainland nesting site in the world.  Listen to a presentation on the life cycle of these majestic birds before walking up to the Observatory to view the nesting sites. Please note this is a steep pathway but will be taken at a leisurely pace. Weller’s Rock is our last stop of our exciting day on the Otago Peninsula, we depart on a one hour cruise aboard the Monarch vessel on the sparkling waters around Taiaroa Heads.  Spot a variety of sea birds who make their home along the cliff face, and if the weather is favourable we may see majestic Royal Albatross flying overhead.  Arriving back in Dunedin, the remainder of the evening is at leisure for you to explore the city and find a nicespot for dinner.

Day 6             Wednesday 23 November 2022
After breakfast this morning, we travel along the Southern Scenic route of the Catlins. This area showcases native forests, fringed by high cliffs and golden beaches where an array of marine life make their homes, from sea lions on the beaches to dolphins in the shallows. With multiple stops throughout the Catlins, we visit the quiet settlement of Pounawea, Purakaunui Falls situated amongst lush podocarp and beech forest and Curio Bay (if the tides are right). We also walk amongst the Petrified Forest before arriving in Invercargill. Tonight we’ll enjoy a group dinner at our hotel.
Accommodation: Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill – 1 night

Day 7              Thursday 24 November 2022
This morning we travel to Bluff where we board the catamaran to Stewart Island where we enjoy the Village and Bays Tour. Our friendly guide provides an insight into Stewart Island’s community, history and environment of this unspoiled, incredibly beautiful island that is steeped in Maori legends. Highlights of the tour include the Rakiura National Park entrance at Lee Bay, Halfmoon and Horseshoe Bays and views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock – there will be plenty of opportunities to take photos and have short walks. For the remainder of the afternoon, explore Stewart Island at leisure finding some lunch (own cost). After enjoying a group dinner at South Sea Hotel we join a kiwi spotting tour as night falls.  Travel by boat and walk uphill by torch/flash light to a remote beach where you may see these flightless birds foraging for insects among the seaweed on the shoreline.
Accommodation: South Sea Hotel, Stewart Island – 2 nights

Day 8              Friday 25 November 2022
We begin our day with a walk over the hill to Golden Bay Wharf where we depart by boat for a half-day excursion visiting the bird sanctuary of Ulva Island.  A local guide takes us for a walking tour of this picturesque, forested island, which is predator free and has become an open sanctuary for species of native birds.  There are recently released rare South Island saddlebacks and the threatened South Island Robin as well as other native birds. Arriving back to Golden Bay Wharf, we walk back to Oban where the remainder of the day can be for relaxing or going for a walk. Dinner tonight will be at the South Sea Hotel.

Day 9              Saturday 26 November 2022
Leaving behind Stewart Island early this morning, we reach Bluff on the ferry before travelling to Invercargill Airport. Our tour has come to an end and we return home with memories of our many amazing nature encounters.

Please noteA good level of fitness and agility is required.  You will require comfortable walking shoes/boots and a warm jacket/sweater. 

Chateau on the Park

Chateau on the Park

Set in five acres of beautifully landscaped garden, The Chateau on the Park boasts a moat, private vineyard and a rose garden, a tranquil retreat only minutes from the many attractions of the area. The Deluxe Rooms offer a comfortable stay in a spacious, well equipped guest room featuring spectacular garden views, small seating area and ensuite

Heritage Court Motor Lodge Oamaru

Hanmer Springs Retreat

Set amongst landscaped gardens with views of the surrounding mountains, the Heritage Gateway Hotel is a peaceful place to stay. Featuring 98 comfortably furnished guest rooms, restaurant & bar.

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross Dunedin, Exterior from across the street

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross is a landmark building that reflects Dunedin's distinctive charm and heritage along with the modern day comforts in which guests demand. The hotel is located in a prime position, with easy access to Dunedin’s best local attractions and city highlights. Scenic Hotel Southern Cross features 178 attractive rooms and suites, and extensive hotel facilities. The hotel prides itself on a very high standard of customer service to ensure travellers enjoy their stay.

Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill exterior at night

Kelvin Hotel

Kelvin Hotel is situated in the city centre, only a short walk to major attractions and a 10-minute drive to the Invercargill Airport. The hotel offers rooms with a flat-screen TV, mini bar and free Wi-Fi access. There is an on-site bar and restaurant.

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross Dunedin, Exterior from across the street

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross

Scenic Hotel Southern Cross is a landmark building that reflects Dunedin's distinctive charm and heritage along with the modern-day comforts in which guests demand. The hotel is located in a prime position, with easy access to Dunedin’s best local attractions and city highlights. Scenic Hotel Southern Cross features 178 attractive rooms and suites, and extensive hotel facilities. The hotel prides itself on a very high standard of customer service to ensure travellers enjoy their stay.

Tour Inclusions

  • Door to door home collection & drop off service available from select areas – refer to flyer for further information
  • Auckland – Christchurch and Invercargill - Auckland flights with Air New Zealand - other ports on application / price on application
  • 8 nights accommodation - twin/double rooms, all with private facilities (single rooms available with surcharge)
  • Tour admissions as per itinerary
  • Touring in modern air-conditioned vehicle
  • Breakfasts (B), Dinners (D) where indicated on your daily itinerary – 8x breakfasts, 7x dinners
  • Akaroa Nature Cruise
  • Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony
  • Royal Albatross Centre
  • Wild Kiwi Encounter tour on Stewart Island
  • Guided Tour of Orokonui Eco Sanctuary
  • Guided Tour of Ulva Island
  • 1-hour Cross Country Tour with Natures Wonders
  • 1-hour Wildlife Cruse on the Otago Peninsula
  • Village & Bays Tour on Stewart Island

Tour Payments Per Person ($NZD)

Club Member Guaranteed Twin Share Cost: $5,680.00
Non Member Guaranteed Twin Share Cost: $5,725.00
Single Supplement: $990.00
Non-refundable deposit due at time of booking $200.00

Full balance of tour payment due by Friday 07 October 2022

Early Bird Offer Book and pay in full byThursday 21 July 2022 and receive $150.00 discount per person!

Are door to door collections included on this tour? YES

Yes. Leisure Time Tours offers a free home collection and drop off service from selected Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and most Auckland City areas. Our complimentary collections are based on your individual post code, other home collection locations available at an additional cost. Alternatively you may wish to meet us at our Hamilton depot in which case you can park your car in our secure yard free of charge for the duration of your holiday. For all tours that have a flight component, we can also offer door to door collections from Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin city areas.

Please refer to our Home Collection flyer for further information about this service.

Is the Guaranteed twin Share Price available on this tour? YES

Yes. Our Guaranteed Twin Share price is available for those passengers willing to share with another single traveller of the same gender. If there isn’t another passenger of the same gender to share with we GUARANTEE our twin share price. Leisure Times Tours accepts no responsibility for the compatibility of passengers travelling under this arrangement. If someone is not compatible with the person they have been matched up with, all additional costs incurred to assist with changing their shared room type to two single rooms will be at the expense of both travellers and will be subject to availability. Acceptance of a guaranteed twin share room is subject to the individual’s medical condition being suitable for this type of arrangement.

Please note that the guaranteed twin share pricing is not available to pre & post tour accommodation arrangements.

What fitness level is required for this tour? MODERATE LEVEL

To ensure that you select the right tour for you, we’ve developed a very clear set of fitness recommendations for our tours. These physical ratings clearly explain how much physical exertion is required to participate on each tour.

Level 1 – Easy

  • Relaxed paced tour
  • Be able to participate in guided or unguided small walking tours at a relaxed pace.
  • Walk on mostly level ground
  • Tackle an occasional flight of stairs
  • Occasionally need to stand for up to 10 minutes
  • Able to get on and off transportation unaided

Level 2 – Moderate

  • Be able to participate in walking tours with time to rest at least every 10 minutes
  • Stand for 15 minutes without needing to sit down
  • Tackle a flight of stairs or incline
  • Able to get on and off transportation unaided
  • Walk confidently on bush tracks

 Level 3 – Active

  • Participate in walking tours without having to rest for up to 20 minutes
  • Walk up an incline equal to a flight of stairs without stopping
  • Stand for 30 minutes without needing to sit down
  • Walk over uneven ground and walk through soft sand
  • Able to get on and off transportation unaided
Will there be a daily seat rotation on this tour? YES

Passengers rotate seats in the coach daily so that all passengers have the opportunity to enjoy forward and window seating. All passengers are expected to participate as a booking condition.

Can you assist with pre & post tour accommodation? YES

Yes we can. Should you wish to arrive earlier or stay longer we can book in some pre and post tour accommodation for you. Please ask at the time of booking if you require this.

Is this tour a guaranteed departure? NO

This tour will be guaranteed once there are 10 passengers booked on the tour.

Are roadside morning teas included on our tours? YES

Yes. A point of difference is that wherever possible we offer our passengers roadside refreshments served from the coach. This gives all passengers the chance to mix and mingle over a hot cuppa allowing us to share our experiences as we journey together.

Do I need travel insurance?

Leisure Time Tours strongly advises all passengers to purchase a travel insurance policy. A comprehensive travel insurance policy may prevent you from spending extra money in case of an emergency and will help you feel protected during your holiday. We are agents for Cover More Travel Insurance. Ask us for a no obligation insurance quote today. 

How much luggage can I bring?

Luggage is restricted to one suitcase and one small item of hand luggage per person. Baggage handling of one suitcase per person, at each hotel, is included in the trip price. Carry-on/hand luggage handling is the responsibility of each guest and all personal items must be taken off the coach by you each day of the trip.

What clothing should I pack?

When on tour, dress is generally relaxed and casual with an informal dress standard on most occasions. Casual wear is recommended for travelling with something a little more formal for evening dining. If taking part in outdoor activities, make sure you have a waterproof coat, comfortable footwear and dress in layers to help you adjust to any sudden changes in climate. Be prepared for New Zealand’s powerful sun, even on cold windy days, bringing a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

South Island Nature Encounter Map

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