Whale & Dolphin Explorer

Kaikoura, South Island
from £2829 20 nights | Year round Exc. flights See price details
  • Departs:
  • Year round


Enjoy the best whale and dolphin encounters around New Zealand wrapped up in a great 20-day self drive touring itinerary. With a wide variety of whales and dolphins in the coastal waters and an abundance of unspoiled flora and fauna on land, New Zealand's two islands are a paradise for the wildlife and nature enthusiast.


The following highlights are all included activities

  • Bay of Islands dolphin cruise and the opportunity to swim with the dolphins
  • Guided walk with Coromandel's Kiwi Dundee
  • Dolphins and seals encounter in the Bay of Plenty
  • Gannet beach safari adventure in Hawke's Bay
  • Whale watch cruise and dolphin swimming in Kaikoura
  • Otago Peninsula penguin place conservation tour
  • Overnight cruise on Milford Sound

Experience the beautiful harbour city of Auckland and the stunning Bay of Islands, where a year round dolphin presence makes this one of the best places in New Zealand to swim with these amazing marine mammals. You'll also visit the white sandy beaches and rainforests of the Coromandel Peninsula and travel through New Zealand's less visited Bay of Plenty with its premier surf beaches and kiwi and citrus orchards.

Head to the South Island, where the grandeur and variety of scenery and wildlife is simply staggering. See the sperm whales off the coast of Kaikoura and witness the endangered yellow eyed penguin in Dunedin. You'll also visit the majestic Fiordland National Park where you'll spend the night onboard the Milford Mariner allowing plenty of time to view the spectacular waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife - you're bound to encounter seals and if you're lucky maybe dolphins and penguins.

Itinerary & Accommodation

Day 1 Arrive Auckland
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Overnight: Peace and Plenty Inn (including breakfast).
Day 2 Auckland - Bay of Islands
Collect your rental vehicle and drive north to Russell in the beautiful Bay of Islands for a 2-night stay.
Overnight: The Duke of Marlborough Hotel (including continental breakfast) (2 nights)
Day 3 Bay of Islands
Join a morning dolphin cruise around the bay and, conditions permitting, swim with the wild dolphins (available end October to March only). During May/October a Hole in the Rock Dolphin watching cruise is included instead and passengers will have the opportunity to swim on the day if conditions allow. Spend the afternoon at leisure exploring the area.
Day 4 Bay of Islands - Coromandel
Drive south via Auckland to Thames on the east coast of the Coromandel for a two-night stay.
Overnight: Cotswold Cottage (including breakfast) (2 nights)
Day 5 Coromandel
Take a morning guided walk with specialist guide Kiwi Dundee, enjoy the scenic beauty and natural history of this area. Spend this afternoon at leisure.
Day 6 Coromandel - Whakatane
Make your way to Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty for a 2-night stay. Spend this afternoon at leisure.
Overnight: White Island Rendezvous (2 nights)
Day 7 Whakatane
Enjoy up close encounters with marine mammals in the sub tropical waters surrounding the active White Island Marine Volcano and nearby Whale Island also known as Moutohora Island. Sightings often include large pods of dolphin as well as seals, seabirds and occasionally whales.
Day 8 Whakatane - Napier
Drive south to the city of Napier, completely rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1931, it features one of the densest concentrations of art deco buildings in the world.
Overnight: The Crown Hotel (2 nights)
Day 9 Napier
Discover the magic of Cape Kidnappers with an experienced guide at the largest mainland gannet colony in the world! Spend your afternoon at leisure exploring this fascinating city.
Day 10 Napier - Wellington
Drive to Wellington, through the Wairarapa region, best known for producing world-class Pinot Noir in its Martinborough vineyards as well as being home to the acclaimed Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.
Overnight: Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay.
Day 11 Wellington - Picton - Kaikoura
Enjoy a morning of leisure, possibly visiting New Zealand's National Museum Te Papa or Mt Victoria lookout. In the afternoon drop off your rental car at the ferry terminal depot and take the InterIslander ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island. Enjoy a relaxing ferry journey in the premium plus cabin where comfortable seating, complimentary drinks, light refreshments and internet access are available. On arrival in Picton collect your rental vehicle and drive down the East Coast to Kaikoura for a two night stay.
Overnight: White Morph Inn (2 nights)
Day 12 Kaikoura
Join the Whale Watch Cruise for a unique marine experience providing the opportunity to see sperm whales against the dramatic backdrop of the Kaikoura mountains. Other species of whale may also be seen, as may dusky dolphins, Hector's dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and a wide variety of sea birds.
Day 13 Kaikoura - Akaroa
Make your way to the ancient volcanic peninsula of Akaroa via the picturesque city of Christchurch. This afternoon explore the beautiful bays and harbour or enjoy the opportunity to see playful Hector's dolphins and other wildlife on a harbour cruise (additional cost).
Overnight: Beaufort House (including breakfast).
Day 14 Christchurch - Dunedin
Drive south and follow the coastal route to Dunedin for a two-night stay, perhaps stopping at the Moeraki boulders en route.
Overnight: Scenic Hotel Dunedin City.
Day 15 Dunedin
Explore the nearby Otago Peninsula, home to colonies of royal albatross and yellow-eyed penguins. Included is a penguin place conservation tour. Spend this afternoon at leisure in this very Scottish city, which boasts the country's oldest university and some interesting architecture.
Overnight: as above.
Day 16 Dunedin - Te Anau
Drive to Te Anau, the natural gateway to Fiordland National Park.
Overnight: Dunluce Bed and Breakfast (including full breakfast)
Day 17 Te Anau - Milford Sound
Drive to Milford along an amazingly scenic route and board the Milford Mariner for an overnight cruise on Milford Sound. Optional activities include kayaking and exploring the shoreline.

Note: the overnight cruise does not operate from mid May to mid September. During these months the itinerary takes you from Te Anau-Milford Sound-Queenstown and includes a nature day cruise in Milford Sound with picnic lunch and an extra night in Queenstown. (Breakfast and evening buffet dinner included on board).
Day 18 Milford Sound - Wanaka
Return to Milford wharf and drive to Wanaka. Stop en route in Queenstown, situated along the eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Overnight: Wanaka Springs Lodge (including breakfast).
Day 19 Wanaka - Mt Cook
Spend the morning at leisure in Wanaka before making your way to the alpine village of Mount Cook and New Zealand's highest peak. A wide variety of walking tracks are available to see the mountains and glaciers at their best.
Overnight: The Hermitage Hotel.
Days 20-21 Mt Cook - Christchurch
Drive to Christchurch for your final night before returning to the airport for departure the following day.
Overnight: The George Hotel

Accommodation Options

Peace and Plenty Inn, Devonport

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

This beautifully restored Victorian villa features only …

The Duke of Marlborough, Russell

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Unique and Boutique

Located in Russell, 'The Duke' has been providing travel…

White Morph Motor Inn, Kaikoura

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Hotel

A 22-room waterfront hotel, this motor inn is found in t…

Beaufort House

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

Enjoy bed and breakfast accommodation in this charming V…

Dunluce B&B, Te Anau

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

A contemporary home in 1.5 acres of landscaped gardens o…

Wanaka Springs Lodge

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Luxury Lodge

A boutique lodge that offers generous New Zealand hospit…

The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook

  • Grade: Standard
  • Type: Hotel

Superbly situated in Mt Cook National Park, the Hermitag…

The George

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Hotel

Located about 20 minutes from Christchurch International…

Cotswold Cottage, Thames

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Unique and Boutique

Set in the Thames hills overlooking the Kauaeranga River…

The Crown Hotel, Napier

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Hotel

Set overlooking the waterfront in the historical village…

Copthorne Oriental Bay, Wellington

  • Grade: Superior
  • Type: Hotel

Located just 2 minutes walk from Te Papa, the national m…


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.

Gannet Safaris Overland Tour, Hastings

The largest and most accessible mainland gannet colony in t…

Kiwi Dundee Nature & Coast Adventure, Coromandel

A personalised guided walk on the insurpassable Coromandel …

Penguin Place, Dunedin

A unique and private conservation site that aims at saving …

Swim with Dolphins Cruise, Northland

Swim with dolphins in their natural habitat in the Bay of I…

Whale Watch, Kaikoura

A marvellous place to see a range of cetaceans.

Prices & Dates

Price from £ per person

 Twin Share

Price Includes
Private airport transfer on arrival ● Accommodation and meals as specified ● Excursions: Bay of Islands dolphin cruise; Kiwi Dundee half day privately guided walk; Dolphin and seal encounter in Whakatane; Half day gannet beach adventure; Kaikoura whale watch; Penguin place conservation tour in Dunedin ● Overnight cruise onboard the Milford Mariner (ex Te Anau) ●  Interislander ferry (premium plus cabin) ● Vehicle rental (including unlimited kilometres, & vehicle insurance subject to an insurance excess). For 1-3 persons a group CDAR (Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.6-2.0 litre 4/5 door automatic with air conditioning, or similar). For 4 persons a group FDAR (Ford Falcon 3.0-4.0 litre 4 door automatic with air conditioning, or similar).

Other car types are available - please contact us for further details.

Price Excludes
Flights and airport taxes ● Fuel ● Vehicle insurance excess waiver fee ● Tips and gratuities ● Personal expenses ● Travel insurance

How to book

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