South Island Penguin Discovery

Yellow-eyed penguins, Dunedin
from £3188 16 nights | Year round Exc. flights See price details
  • Departs:
  • Year round


Especially designed for those with a real passion for wildlife and nature, this independent self-drive offers the ultimate itinerary for nature enthusiasts. Based on the South Island and with penguins, marine mammals and birdlife taking centre stage, travel through alpine valleys and pristine rainforests, discover secluded beaches and epic fiords in search of some of New Zealand's rarest wildlife.


  • See playful Hector's dolphins on a harbour cruise in Akaroa
  • Watch blue penguins on the beach at Oamaru
  • Visit Otago Peninsula famed for its wildlife including penguins, fur seals & albatross
  • Stay overnight on majestic Doubtful Sound
  • Immerse yourself in nature at wilderness lodges in Arthurs Pass & Lake Moreaki
  • Enjoy a sperm whale watch experience in Kaikoura

There will be opportunity to see a number of penguin species including the world's smallest, the blue penguin as well as yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), native New Zealand penguins, and Fiordland crested penguins (tawaki) - the second rarest on the planet.

Other wildlife encounters include the rare Hector's dolphin, the worlds largest toothed predator the giant sperm whale, plus New Zealand fur seals, mischievous kea, wandering albatross and numerous other pelagic birds.

In addition to the spectacular wildlife encounters and natural wonders, this itinerary also delivers excellent, comfortable accommodation from warm and friendly hosts - typical of Kiwi hospitality. Including several two-night stays, enjoy travelling at a relaxed pace throughout.

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Itinerary & Accommodation

Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your accommodation in the city for an overnight stay.
Overnight: Orari B&B, including continental breakfast.
Day 2: Christchurch - Akaroa (81 km)
Collect your rental car today and travel to Akaroa located on the Banks Peninsula where you'll spend the next 2 nights.
Overnight: Beaufort House. including breakfast.
Day 3: Akaroa
This morning enjoy a 2 hour cruise on Akaroa Harbour where you will experience majestic scenery and stunning wildlife. You will see the rare, native dolphin - the Hector's dolphin as well as penguins and sea birds. Other highlights include a working salmon farm, Cathedral Cave and signs of Akaroa's past including early Maori, French and British settlement. This afternoon take a two hour guided tour by 4 wheel drive and visit Akaroa harbour. Stand on the crater rim at the 700 metre view point and hear about the history of this beautiful landscape by local guides who have lived here for up to five generations. You'll visit Pohatu Bay on the outer coast, a working sheep farm and penguin colony and enjoy panoramic views. You'll have an opportunity to monitor the penguin nesting boxes and learn about the conservation of the largest colony of little penguins on mainland New Zealand.
Overnight: Beaufort House. including breakfast.
Day 4: Akaroa - Oamaru (303 km)
Drive south today to Oamaru. Oamaru is a gorgeous harbour town centrally located on the South Island's east coast. Visitors can explore museums, shops and galleries within some of New Zealand's best 19th century architecture. With one of the country's oldest public gardens, two penguin colonies, four golf courses and many walking and cycling trails there are plenty of opportunities to experience nature at its best. Oamaru has a very proud heritage which is told through the Victorian Precinct and tours at a variety of locations in town.

This evening enjoy an evening penguin viewing, you will be seated in the general outdoor viewing area as you watch the Blue penguins return home from their days fishing, make their way onto the beach, up a stony ramp, and cross into the colony. Arrival numbers vary from summer to winter, from up to 180 birds in the summer to under 30 in winter. From when the first bird arrives, it takes approx. 1 - 1.5 hours for all the birds to return.
Overnight: Pen-Y-Bryn Lodge, including breakfast.
Day 5: Oamaru - Dunedin (112 km)

Travel south to the historic city of Dunedin, with its distinctly Scottish flavour. From here you can explore the nearby Otago Peninsula famed for viewing wildlife such as albatross, penguins, sea-lions and fur seals.
Overnight: Apartments at St Clair.
Day 6: Dunedin
This morning enjoy some time at leisure in Dunedin and this afternoon explore the Otago Peninsula and one of its best wildlife attractions, Penguin Place. Your tour begins with a short talk outlining the issues Yellow-eyed penguins are facing, their life cycle and how the project is carried out. Travel by bus out to the reserve where your guide will lead you on foot through a unique system of covered trenches into viewing hides, allowing access to the living areas and breeding grounds of this shy penguin, providing the opportunity to witness and photograph undisturbed activity at close range. Visitors will gain first hand information of these wonderful birds from distances down to less than a metre. Your tour concludes approximately 90 minutes later and you can enjoy the rest of your afternoon at leisure.
Overnight: Apartments at St Clair.
Day 7: Dunedin - Te Anau (289 km)
Today make your way to Te Anau, situated beside a lake, this town is the gateway to Fiordland National Park, thus is an ideal base for exploration.
Overnight: Dock Bay Lodge including breakfast.
Day 8: Te Anau - Doubtful Sound
Your day will begin with a journey by coach to Lake Manapouri, before cruising across the crystal waters of this sparkling lake. The journey continues by coach over the rise of Wilmot Pass and through the dense emerald rainforest. At Deep Cove, travellers board the Fiordland Navigator for a leisurely journey across Doubtful Sound. Keep an eye out for wildlife, if your lucky you may see the Fiordland Crested penguin. The vessel has spacious deck areas offering stunning views of waterfalls, abundant wildlife, rainforest and mountains and in late afternoon it anchors in a secluded spot where a 3-course buffet evening meal is served.
Overnight: Twin share, ensuite cabin on board the Fiordland Navigator, including breakfast and dinner.
Day 9: Doubtful Sound - Te Anau
This morning enjoy breakfast and further cruising before returning to Te Anau.
Overnight: Dock Bay Lodge, including breakfast.
Day 10: Te Anau - Wanaka (226 km)
This beautiful lakeside town has an abundance of outdoor activities in a stunning natural setting. It is a slightly quieter alternative to Queenstown and is in close proximity to Mt Aspiring National Park. The ideal location for keen hikers and those wanting to explore pristine landscapes.
Overnight: Wanaka Springs Lodge, including breakfast.
Day 11: Wanaka - Lake Moeraki (174 km)
Today make your way north along the West Coast over Haast Pass to Lake Moeraki. Arrive at Lake Moeraki and settle in to your room, stretch your legs on one of their rainforest trails or visit spectacular Monro Beach.
Overnight: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, including breakfast and dinner.
Day 12: Lake Moeraki
Today is free for you to explore. Join a complimentary guided nature trip (twice daily, each 1 to 1.5 hours duration). With daily changes, guests will be given a copy of the programme on arrival at the lodge. There is an additional charge for the small group trips which covers your guide, refreshments, Conservation Department guiding licence, equipment and any transportation required. A minimum of 2-4 people are generally required for these to depart and they are booked directly with the lodge on arrival. The longer guided tour programme also changes daily. Exclusive and privately guided day tours are also available on request and must be pre-booked.
Overnight: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, including breakfast and dinner.
Day 13: Lake Moeraki - Arthur's Pass (342 km)
Depart Lake Moeraki today for Arthur's Pass, located mid way between Greymouth and Christchurch. Arthur's Pass National Park offers a true alpine wilderness environment and is the perfect choice for anyone connecting the coasts of the South Island. There may be opportunity for you to join one of the complimentary short guided nature trips which operate twice daily. These trips vary to suit the weather, wildlife and visitors interests, such as beech forest, mistletoe, rifleman and bellbird discovery walks, tussock, thorn forest and waterbird wilderness walks, merino sheep mustering. There are also Southern Cross night sky guided walks.
Overnight: Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass, including breakfast and dinner
Day 14: Arthur's Pass - Kaikoura (302 kms)
Today make your way to Kaikoura. A visit to Kaikoura is the perfect chance to experience eco-tourism at it best. Kaikoura has a diversity of marine mammals and bird-life so accessible to its shores - a truly unique area to New Zealand.
Overnight: Lemon Tree Lodge, including continental breakfast.
Day 15: Kaikoura
Today join a whale watching tour to see sperm whales that congregate in the deep water just offshore. You will travel onboard a modern catamaran designed especially for whale watching. The main passenger cabin is enclosed, air-conditioned and fitted with comfortable seating, while large outside decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities. You may also see migratory humpback whales, Hector's and dusky dolphins, orcas and New Zealand fur seals, as well as plenty of bird species including royal albatross, petrels and shearwaters.
Overnight: Lemon Tree Lodge, including continental breakfast.
Day 16: Kaikoura - Christchurch (181 km)
Today travel back to Christchurch for your last night in New Zealand. You may like to explore the city's parks and gardens which are a key attraction year round and are renowned for their beauty, especially in spring.
Overnight: Orari B&B including continental breakfast.
Day 17: Depart Christchurch
Drop off your rental vehicle at the airport depot today and depart.

Accommodation Options

Beaufort House

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Guesthouse / B&B

Enjoy bed and breakfast accommodation in this charming V…

Pen-y-bryn Lodge, Oamaru

  • Grade: Deluxe
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

Pen-y-bryn is North Otago's only luxury lodge, an elegan…

Wanaka Springs Lodge

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

A boutique lodge that offers generous New Zealand hospit…

Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodgeᅠ

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

A 24-unit lodge on a spectacular 2,400 hectare nature re…

Lemon Tree Lodge, Kaikoura

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Guesthouse / B&B

Offering a high standard of accommodation in a secluded …

Orari Bed and Breakfast, Christchurch

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Unique and Boutique

A boutique, Grade II heritage listed Victorian accommoda…

Dock Bay Lodge, Te Anau

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

Dock Bay Lodge is a lux…

Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Hokitika

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

An eco-friendly lodge that offers 28 suites in the vast …


A variety of accommodation options are included in this holiday, some of which are listed above. For further details, please contact us.



A number of excursions are included in this itinerary, some of which are listed in more detail below. Your Travel Specialist will be able to advise on additional or upgraded excursion options to suit your interests.

Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise, Manapouri

One of our most popular excursions on the South Island.

Penguin Place, Dunedin

A unique and private conservation site that aims at saving …

Whale Watch, Kaikoura

A marvellous place to see a range of cetaceans.

Prices & Dates

Airfares start from around £825 per person and are quoted separately to the holiday price.

When enquiring, our Travel Specialists will provide the best fare possible from your preferred airline / airport. We recommend booking early to secure the best airfares.

Price from £ per person

 Twin Share

Price Includes
Meet and greet and airport transfer on arrival ● Accommodation and meals as specified ● Excursions: Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise, Akaroa 2 Hour Guided Nature Tour, Entry to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony Evening Viewing, Penguin Place Conservation Tour in Dunedin, Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise and Kaikoura Whale Watching ● 16 days mid-range vehicle rental (including unlimited kilometres, & vehicle insurance subject to an insurance excess). For 1-2 persons a Budget CDAR (Ford Focus, 1.8-2.0 litre, 5 door automatic with air conditioning, or similar. Other car types are available - please contact us for further details).

Price Excludes
International and domestic flights and airport taxes ● Travel insurance ● Fuel and vehicle insurance excess waiver fee ● Personal expenses ● Tips and gratuities

We pride ourselves on our ability to tailor make holidays for our clients. Please let us know if you have any specific requests.


FREE Singapore stopover with New Zealand holidays!

Book by 30 Jun 2018
Worth over £200 per person

How to book

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So that we may send you a personalised quote and confirmation of availability, please click on the link below and complete our Enquiry form. One of our Travel Specialists will then be in touch to complete your booking or answer any further questions you might have.

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