Small group tour of New Zealand's South Island

Escorted 17 day small group tour of the West and East coast of New Zealand’s South island. Off the beaten track, for like minded people curious about history, culture, wine and landscapes. Your tour director and local guides share their knowledge with you the traveller on this New Zealand tour for senior travellers.

From $14,471NZD



  1. 1. Meet and learn from Maori greenstone carvers about the heritage and history of Maori
  2. 2. Spend time immersed in the Gold rush city of Dunedin
  3. 3. Learn about leading New Zealand wines particularly the Pinot Noir in Otago
  4. 4. Visit and learn about the history of the Victorian era colonial gold and then sheep rush in the South island
Small group tour of New Zealand's South Island itinerary

Departure Dates

Departure Date Price
21 October 2024

Ends 06 November 2024

$14,471 Twin

$16,767 Single

25 February 2025

Ends 12 March 2025

$14,471 Twin

$16,767 Single

20 October 2025

Ends 05 November 2025

$14,471 Twin

$16,767 Single


Small Group Tour of New Zealand's South island

Odyssey Traveller is pleased to introduce our new small group tour of New Zealand, focusing on the beautiful South Island. Our tour is for up to 15 people, typically mature and senior travellers joining as a couple or as solo traveller. This program will guide travellers through the history, Maori culture, and landscapes of the South Island of New Zealand including the World heirtage Fiordland national park and Milford sound. Our itinerary gets off the beaten track, following the east coast of the South Island through to the West coast, returning to Christchurch.

The arrival of Europeans - mostly British settlers - in New Zealand set in motion a startling and ultimately largely successful co-existence with the Maori people, that will be the focus of this small group South Island tour of New Zealand.

New Zealand was initially not of interest to colonial powers as there was no real mineral deposit wealth in the country. So the first few decades were tough for immigrants with low numbers dealing with a high proportion of mostly friendly but rather fierce and competent locals. Colonists were appealing to younger sons back in the British Isles to come and make their fortune in the South Pacific and making pastoral leases attractive to those with some money but not lots of it. The deal was you had to put a certain proportion of sheep onto a bit of land to gain a pastoral lease. This was just gathering pace in the late 1850s in New Zealand. Then there was a sniff of gold in the air, with the first major rush announced in Lawrence in 1861. The combination of available meat plus an immediate and large market worked together to kickstart the economic growth of New Zealand. Wool to England was a further bonus. The advent of electrification in 1882 then opened up meat exports to the UK which resulted in a healthy colony until the EEC appeared on the scene in the 1970s.

This tour focuses on that initial period in the bottom of the South Island. There was a flow of mining immigrants at the time which started in Europe, went to the US looking for gold (San Francisco 49ers), moved on to Victoria in the 1850s, and then onto New Zealand in the 1860s. Central Otago had very few trees at the time and the ones we admire today reflect that flow, with Redwoods from the California coast and gum trees from Australia.

On our small group tour of New Zealand:

New Zealand (Maori: Aotearoa) is an island country with a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most southernmost countries in the world, about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia. The country has two main islands: the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu), and about 600 smaller islands.

Our 17-day small group tour of New Zealand's South Island is the best guided tour of the island's west and east coast, designed especially for mature and senior travellers.

This small group tour will be accompanied by an Odyssey tour guide and are joined by expert local guides who will impart their knowledge about the places we will visit. Odyssey conducts educational tours designed for small groups of mature and senior travellers, focusing on history, culture, wildlife and other areas of particular interest where the trip is taking place. A small group tour is typically between 6 to 12 people. The cost of an Odyssey Traveller guided tour is inclusive of all entrances (unless otherwise indicated), tipping, and majority of the meals throughout the trip.

This particular tour has periods of free time built into the itinerary, allowing you explore each destination at your own pace, and choose from a variety of available activities. This way, we make sure that there is something to enjoy for every kind of traveller.

Articles about New Zealand published by Odyssey Traveller:

For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.

External articles to assist you on your visit to New Zealand:


17 days

Day 1 : Christchurch

Accommodation: Christchurch TBA

We meet in Christchurch, introducing ourselves and enjoying a welcome dinner with our tour leader.

Day 2: Christchurch

Accommodation: Christchurch . TBC

Today we head out to explore Christchurch and Sumner. Learning about the history of the this city and its bluestones.

Day 3: Hokitika via Arthurs pass

Accommodation: Cowboy Paradise or similar

Today the group travels across to the West coast via Arthurs pass, we may take the train while our coach travels separately. History and the settlement of the Canterbury plains is close to hand.

Group Dinner.

Day 4 : Hokitika

Accommodation: Cowboy Paradise or similar

Today we spend the day with Maori greenstone maters carver and gold prospector Bevan Climo, understanding those early years, early interaction with Maori and gold mining. Bevan has also prospected for gold in Australia.

We’ll also see some historic sights around Hokitika.

Day 5: Makarora

Accommodation: Makarora Ranch or similar.

We drive down the west coast of the island with a stop at Okarito Lagoon, an international port and at Whataroa where two tectonic plates are exposed. We cross the Haast Pass and will end our journey at Makarora Ranch.

Day 6: Makarora

Accommodation: Makarora Ranch or similar.

You may take the day as a quiet one to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Or alternatively this is a rare time when we offer this as pre- booked option for the day at an additional cost. Travellers can discover the back country from the air with a helicopter experience followed by a 3 hour hike on old trails, at the end we meet with a jetboat for our trip back to our accommodation.

Day 7: Queenstown

Accommodation: Queenstown

Today we head down past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We will stop for lunch somewhere very scenic owned by a local geologist who is full of stories before we continue through Wanaka and over the Crown Range Road – the original way Queenstown was first found. At Cardrona Tavern we take a short stop and the opportunity for a refreshing drink or a pint.

Day 8: Queenstown

Today we explore the picturesque Queenstown in the morning and enjoy a wine tasting in the afternoon.

Day 9: Queenstown

Accommodation: Te Anau TBA.

In the morning we make a short trip to visit Glenorchy at the end of the lake, and possibly a high country station. This afternoon we drive through to Te Anau.

Group evening meal.

Day 10: Clyde

Accommodation: Arrowtown. TBA.

In the morning we depart for Milford sound. The group joins the morning cruise up to 2 hours. After pausing for lunch, the group travel back around to stay in Arrowtown.

Group evening meal

Day 11: Clyde

Accommodation: Lord Clyde or similar

We start the day with exploring Arrowtown and then visit St Bathans, Ophir and other gold mining sites in the area. Following, we drop into Lauderdale for lunch and a walk around a property which was a former high country station farmstead and a successful gold miner’s residence. Later in the afternoon we return to Clyde.

Day 12: Dunedin

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

Today our group heads south to see the original gold strike location at Lawrence, then continue around to Dunedin.

Day 13: Dunedin

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

Our day is spent exploring Dunedin on a historic tour, including Port Chalmers where the first refrigeration ship left for the UK.

Day 14: Dunedin

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

In the morning we visit Dunedin’s museums followed by a free afternoon.

Day 15: Oamaru

Accommodation: Oamaru TBA

We continue our journey around the South Island today, we depart Dunedin and visit a private coastal farm which is home to our native yellow-eyed penguin and a decent population of seals and sea lions and onto Oamaru.

Day 16 : Oamaru

Accommodation: Oamaru TBA

We will visit the old flour mill today, and see it back in operation especially for our small group. Our day continues with a visit to a historic farm and the historic port area of Oamaru.

Day 17: Christchurch

Accommodation: Christchurch TBA

After breakfast we depart and make our way to Christchurch, approximately 3h drive. We will visit nearby Akaroa and then return to Christchurch for our group farewell dinner.

Day 18: Christchurch

Our tour concludes today after breakfast.

Includes / Excludes

What’s included in our Tour

  • 17 nights accommodation.
  • 17 breakfasts, 2 picnic lunch, 10 dinners.
  • Transport by modern and comfortable coach.
  • Entrances and sightseeing as specified.
  • Services of a Tour Leader for the duration of tour.
  • Detailed Preparatory Information.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Return international airfares.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature, such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Helicopter and jet boat experience in the Southern Alps on Day 6.
Level 2 - Moderate

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.

Book now


21 October 2024


Ends 06 November 2024 • 17 days

Change departure date


Room Type

Single Traveller
Two Travellers
$14,471 pp

By booking two travellers sharing a room you save $2120 per person.

Payment Type

You can reserve your spot by paying a $1,000 pp deposit, for full details please see our Terms & Conditions .

Pay Deposit
Pay Full

Prices are per person and valid until 30th December 2024.

Need Help?

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Make it a private tour

If you have a group of 6 friends or more you can book this tour as a private departure, with all the benefits of our small group tours.
Get in touch to find out more.

Easing your journey

Crossing international borders with restrictions

The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:

Pre-departure checklist for travelling across International borders.
Support over email or phone available 24/7 for any questions you have.

For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.

Book With Confidence

If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.

See Terms and conditions for details.

Peace of Mind Travel

The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.

See Peace of Mind Travel for details.

Reading List Download PDF

History and Traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand Prior to 1840

Stephenson Percy Smith

Excerpt from History and Traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand Prior to 1840

This history is much longer than perhaps suits the ordinary reader indeed, it is over a hundred pages more than was originally contemplated. But the amount of information collected will prove of interest to those living in the localities mentioned in after times; and it could never be collected again, for the old men who gave it have now passed on to Te Hono-i-wairua.

To others than members of the Polynesian Society it is right to say that the book has been published in the Society's Journal by instalments - it would otherwise never have appeared on account of the expense - and that the number of maps in it is due to the liberality of the Government, who had them drawn and printed at their expense.

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works.


New Zealand: People, Places and Events that Shaped the History of New Zealand

James Boyle

New Zealand is a country that has forever been admired for its beautiful landscapes – a wilderness that barely seems to be touched by humans. The populated areas are surrounded by forests, plains, rocky mountains – even beaches. All of this gives New Zealand that heavenly vibe.
However, the place we admire today has been heavily affected by its history. People who wanted to farm the land versus people who wanted to keep the land the way it is. A land that, despite the wars it had been through, has managed to hang on to its beauty.
Packed with colonization, war and expansion, the history of New Zealand is something everyone should know and study in this day and age.


The Penguin History of New Zealand

Michael King

New Zealand was the last country in the world to be discovered and settled by humankind. It was also the first to introduce full democracy. Between those events, and in the century that followed, the movements and conflicts of human history have been played out more intensively and more rapidly in New Zealand than anywhere else on Earth.

The Penguin History of New Zealand tells that story in all its colour and drama. The narrative that emerges is an inclusive one about men and women, Maori and Pakeha. It shows that British motives in colonising New Zealand were essentially humane; and that Maori, far from being passive victims of a 'fatal impact', coped heroically with colonisation and survived by selectively accepting and adapting what Western technology and culture had to offer.


Pounamu Pounamu

Witi Ihimaera

Pounamu Pounamu is classic Ihimaera. First published om 1972, it was immediately endorsed by Maori and Pakeha alike for its original stories that showed how important Maori identity is for all New Zealanders. As Katherine Mansfield did in her first collection In a German Pension (1911), and Janet Frame in The Lagoon (1951), Witi Ihimaera explores in Pounamu Pounamu what it is like to be a New Zealander - but from a Maori perspective. The seeds of Ihimaera's later works are first introduced in this ground-breaking collection: The Whale Rider in his story 'The Whale', The Rope of Man in 'Tangi', and the character of Simeon form Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies in 'One Summer Morning'; and the themes of aroha (love), whanaungatanga (kinship) and manaakitanga (supporting each other), which are so intergral to Ihimaera's work.


Do They Speak English Down There?

Susan C. Tunney

Read how one family transformed a fantasy into reality when they traded in their San Diego lifestyle to move to rural New Zealand along with the challenges it presented adapting to a new culture. From duct tape to #8 wire, its been one helluva journey.




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Alpine Fault at Gaunt Creek, New Zealand

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Christchurch, New Zealand

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Founding Dunedin - Gold Rush

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Why book your South Island holiday with us?

Odyssey specialises in educational small group tours for seniors, typically groups sizes are between 6 to 12 people. Our tours are designed for active, inquisitive travellers in a small group environment.

Our escorted 17-day small group tour of New Zealand’s South Island, is off the beaten track and for like-minded people curious about history, culture, wine and landscapes. Your tour director and local guides share their knowledge with you on this tour for seniors.

Where should I stay in South Island?

In larger cities (Christchurch and Queenstown) Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 start hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. During our 17-day to of the South Island, we stay in Christchurch, Hokitika, Makarora, Queenstown, Clyde, Dunedin and Oamaru.

Crossing from the North Island to the South Island

If you want to cross from the North to the South Island, you either have to fly or take the ferry across the Cook Strait. The Interislander ferry operates between Wellington and Picton since 1962, and it takes about 3-3.5 hours to complete the crossing.

The ferry route is part of the Great Journey’s of New Zealand, and if you are in no rush, you can marvel at the beauty of the north coast of the South Island, named as Marlborough Sounds, which is made up of 1500 kilometres of sunken river valleys.

Which one is bigger, the North or the South Island?

The North Island’s area is 113,729 square kilometres (43,911 sq mi), making it the world’s 14th largest island. With 150,437 square kilometres (58,084 sq mi), the South Island is the 12th largest, and thus the bigger of the main islands of New Zealand.

North Island vs South Island population?

The population of New Zealand is around 4.9 million people, and according to the latest census, 76% lives on the North Island, equalling about 3.7 million people, while the South Island accounts for 23%, and the rest of the 600 islands for 1%. This means the North Island is the smaller but more populous island between the two main islands.

Initially Pakeha (European New Zealanders) settled on the South Island, and it wasn’t until 1911 that the population of the North Island overtook the South Island (56% vs 44%). The drift north still continues, with Auckland, the biggest economic hub of the country being the main driver of the change.

What to do in Christchurch?

Christchurch, known for its English heritage, is the most walkable city in New Zealand. The city is constantly evolving, always giving locals and visitors something new to explore. After the devastating earthquakes in 2011, Christchurch was rebuilt as a more creative and funky urban centre. Wander through the streets admiring the colourful murals that tell stories of the city’s resilience and indomitable spirit.

The Hooker Valley Track, in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, is one of the finest half-day walks in the region. You’ll get to spot the peak of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook, across a glacial lake scattered with icebergs.

Visit Castle Hill, 80min north-west of Christchurch, famous for beautiful landscapes and being declared by the Dalai Lama as a ‘spiritual centre of the universe”.

Take a day trip to Kaikoura, 180 km north of Christchurch, many New Zealanders number one most beautiful place in their country.

What to do in Queenstown?

Queenstown is famous for offering adventure and adrenaline. Surrounded by towering mountains, positioned on the edge of a lake,

Queenstown sits on the shore of Lake Wakatipu among dramatic alpine ranges.

There’s skiing from winter right through to spring, and activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking and river rafting all year round.

If hardcore adventure isn’t your thing, there are plenty of mellow options available. Experience one of the many walking and hiking trails, sightseeing tours or indulge yourself with spa treatments, boutique shopping and excellent food and wine.

What do things cost in New Zealand?

You should plan to spend around NZ$185 ($129) per day on your vacation in New Zealand, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travellers have spent, on average, NZ$41 ($29) on meals for one day and NZ$27 ($19) on local transportation.

Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound?

Both Milford and Doubtful Sound are located in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Milford Sound sits to the north of Fiordland and is the last fiord in the national park. Doubtful Sound, on the other hand, is located much further south and is roughly in the middle of Fiordland National Park. Milford Sound is easily the most visited place in Fiordland National Park and arguably the most beautiful and offers the widest range of experiences out of the two fiords. This makes Milford an easy front runner for those who love to personalize their experience and make it one the whole family will love. Doubtful Sound is a rather untouched paradise that’s off the beaten path. It’s an adventurous journey and one you’ll share with fewer people.

Which New Zealand glacier to visit?

There are many stunning glaciers in New Zealand. There are few places in the world you can easily access glaciers at low altitudes and New Zealand is one of them. There are over 3,000 glaciers in New Zealand. The South Island’s West Coast is home to New Zealand’s two most famous glaciersFox and Franz Josef. It’s an easy walk to the terminal faces of both glaciers. Or, if you’re adventurous, then a helicopter ride or a guided ice walk are simply unforgettable experiences.

On the other side of the Southern Alps, the Tasman Glacier is the largest in New Zealand. The Tasman Glacier has a beautiful terminal lake. It’s a short walk to view the glacier.

What is the best time to visit New Zealand?

If you enjoy the many outdoor activities available, such as hiking and mountain biking, you should visit New Zealand during the summer months of December to March, which brings long, bright and sunny days and temperatures of 16°C to 24°C. If you are a winter sports fan, you should visit from June to the first week in October, Though temperatures in the mountains are cold; once you get away from there, the winters are relatively short and mild.

How fit do you have to be to enjoy short walks in New Zealand?

Our tour of New Zealand exploring Maori and Wairua is rated as Level 2 – Moderate on our fitness scale. For more information on our fitness levels click here.

Our Level 2 guidelines suggest that:

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking/hiking up to 8 kilometres on uneven ground per day.

What do you need to bring to enjoy short walks in New Zealand?

Essentials include hat, sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes, warm clothing, a water bottle and a camera! For more suggestions, take a look at our list of things to bring on an Odyssey walking tour.

We also have a number of packing guides:

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