17 days
PDF of Tour
Akaroa lighthouse

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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. 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 a 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:



Hokitika gorge New Zealand

Hokitika, New Zealand

5 mins read

Hokitika, New Zealand The epitome of a Gold Rush ‘boomtown’, Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is now officially known as the ‘cool little town’, an ideal gateway for…

Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

2 mins readNew Zealand

Queenstown is a resort town on the South Island of New Zealand. Built on the lakeshore of Lake Wakatipu, the town provides amazing views having the Remarkables Mountain Range as its background.

Odyssey Traveller

Questions about New Zealand for senior travellers

2 mins read

Questions About New Zealand for senior travellers Odyssey Traveller specialises in crafting unforgettable experiences for senior and mature-aged travellers interested in learning as a couple or as a solo traveller when they travel. Providing adventure…


While the South Island gets most of the attention thanks to Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Christchurch and more, the North Island has just as much to offer. You can learn about the volcanic and geothermal activity of the island and the Maori culture. Destinations worth a visit are the beautiful Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga up north with the Waitangi treaty grounds, Auckland and its volcanic islands, such as Waiheke Island and Rangitoto Island, Rotorua, Tongariro, the Waitomo glowworm caves, the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington.

Some of the main cities of the North Island are Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Rotorua, Hastings and Gisborne.

Maui is a very important demigod in the Maori mythology. One day he overheard his four brothers that they wanted to leave him behind while going fishing. Maui made a fishhook from a magical ancestral jawbone and hid in the brothers’ canoe. When they were far out on the sea, Maui revealed himself, and threw the magical fishhook in the sea while chanting powerful incantations. The hook caught fast, and with the help of his brothers Maui brought the fish to the surface. He then begged them to wait until he had appeased to Tangaroa, the god of the sea, but the brothers did not listen and started to carve out pieces for themselves, forming the many mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers and coastlines of the 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.

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.

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.

Related Tours

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

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

Accommodation: Christchurch TBA


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

Accommodation: Christchurch . TBC


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.

Accommodation: Cowboy Paradise or similar

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Cowboy Paradise or similar

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Makarora Ranch or similar.

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Makarora Ranch or similar.

Overview: Today we head down past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We willsStop 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.

Accommodation: Queenstown

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

Overview: In the morning we make a short trip to visit Glenorchy at the end of the lake, and possibly a high country station. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy and further explore the town.

Accommodation: Queenstown

Overview: In the morning we depart Queenstown and head to Arrowtown and visit the settlers museum and and the old Chinese gold diggings. We continue to Goldfields Mining Centre in the Kawarau Gorge for a touch of gold panning before ending up in Clyde.

Accommodation: Lord Clyde or similar

Overview: We start the day with 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.

Accommodation: Lord Clyde or similar

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

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

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

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

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

Accommodation: Dunedin TBA

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Oamaru TBA

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Oamaru TBA

Overview: 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.

Accommodation: Christchurch TBA

Overview: Our tour concludes today after breakfast.

Enjoy a scenic drive through the West Coast of the South island
Meet and learn from Maori greenstone carvers about the heritage and history of Maori
Spend time immersed in the Gold rush city of Dunedin
Learn about leading New Zealand wines particularly the Pinot Noir in Otago
Visit and learn about the history of the Victorian era colonial gold and then sheep rush in the South island

What’s included in our Tour

  • 17 nights accommodation.
  • 17 breakfasts, 1 picnic lunch, 8 dinners.
  • Transport by modern and comfortable coach.
  • Entrances and sightseeing as specified.
  • Services of 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.
Panoramic view nature landscape in queen town remarkable and arrowtown south island New Zealand Walking tour
Panoramic view nature landscape in queen town remarkable and arrowtown south island New Zealand Walking tour
Skyline complex, Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand
TSS Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand