Deep South Tour: Stewart Island & the Catlins

From Queenstown to Dunedin
  • Otago & Alpine Region
  • Stewart Island & Chatham Islands
  • Group
  • Wildlife and Nature
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Tour Description

Our small group tour of the Deep South explores the backroads of Southland, Stewart Island and the remote Catlin's, over 10 days filled with of wild nature and wildlife.

We journey from Queenstown to Dunedin, with plenty to do each day in-between!  Crossing Lake Wakatipu on the iconic steamship, the TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak high country station, take a road less travelled –  through the Von Valley and via the Mavora Lakes to Te Anau. Stop for picnic at a rustic country hut, or out in the open among the rolling hills and tussocks. Step up the pace and witness the wilderness of Fiordland by jet boat, and cruise the fjords of Doubtful Sound. Take to the air and fly low over Foveaux Strait, for great vistas of Stewart Island. 

Three nights on Rakiura, Stewart Island allows time for kiwi spotting, walking to hidden bays and coves, listening to bird song on Ulva Island, eating fresh Blue Cod at the pub, and learning about all the charms and quirks of local life on this island, the home of more kiwis than people! By ferry to Bluff, it is then off to explore the remote coastlines, forests and striking wild vistas of the Catlin's. Dunedin, full of cultural history and natural beauty is our last stop. Witness the majestic Northern Royal Albatross at the only mainland breeding colony of the species in the world. 

Join us on days full of discovery, adventure, stunning wild landscapes, hidden bays and beaches, and uncommon wildlife!

Viva's Best Bits...

Explore the backroads of the Deep South, the road to Mavora Lakes, Southland Scenic Route, Lee Bay on Stewart Island, remote Fiordland & the wild Catlins. Remember to keep your eyes and ears open for the striking calls of the kiwi!

Opportunities to see such a range of wildlife; kaka, kakariki, saddleback, tomtit, robins, albatross, dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland crested penguin.

One of our favourite places here at Viva -Stewart Island! Its the land of glowing skies, so get up for sunrise! Also a Dark Sky reserve, be sure to check out the Milky Way too. During the day, the bays, forests & beaches are great to explore!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Upon arrival into Queenstown you will be transferred from the airport to the Copthorne Lakefront Hotel for your stay for one night in a Lake view room. This 4 star hotel sits over-looking the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is only a short 5-10 minute walk to the town centre via the picturesque Queenstown gardens.

This evening meet your tour escort and the rest of your group for a welcome drink at the hotels’ Impressions Cocktail bar followed by dinner at Impressions Restaurant.

Day 2
Queenstown via Walter Peak Station & Mavora Lakes Te Anau

Following breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to Steamer Wharf in Queenstown where you will board the TSS Earnslaw steamship for a cruise across to Walter Peak Station. Enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains as you steam across Lake Wakatipu, taking time to explore the vessel, view the engine room and study the historic displays of the steamships former life.

From Walter Peak Station enjoy a road less travelled – the back road through the Von Valley and via the Mavora Lakes to Te Anau. You will travel along a scenic road into the remote Southland high country. The area is vast and unique with rolling hills covered in red tussock, with the occasional scattering of cattle and sheep, crystal clear rivers famous for fly fishing and distant snow-capped mountains. Due to the remoteness of this area you will see few people – the occasional game cyclist or hardy farm hand. There are ample opportunities for photographic and scenic stops, as well as short walks along the way. A picnic lunch will be included in a rustic hut or open grassland along the way.

On arrival into Te Anau you will visit the Fiordland Cinema for a viewing of ‘Ata Whenua – Shadowland’ a 30 minute film showcasing the Fiordland World Heritage Status wilderness you would otherwise never see. Mysterious, evocative and utterly spectacular, filmed mostly from a helicopter across extremes of season, climate and terrain. It will take you on an unforgettable journey through one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes on earth. Leaving Fiordland Cinema we travel a short distance to Fiordland Jet for a ‘Pure Wilderness’ jet boat experience exploring Fiordland National Park. Beginning with an exhilarating ride down the Waiau river, lined by ancient beech forest and featured in the Lord of the Rings movies. You will emerge from the river onto the breath-taking Lake Manapouri, surrounded by mountains that have been carved by snow and ice over centuries before returning to Te Anau.

After a full day, check into the Distinction Luxmore Hotel in Te Anau for two nights, located in the centre of Te Anau township. Dinner is included tonight.

Day 3
Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound is a beautiful fiord; three times longer than Milford Sound, with twisting arms, it has a surface area ten times larger. With its rugged peaks, verdant rainforest and twisting, hidden inlets, Doubtful Sound will take your breath away. There’s no direct road access, so the only way you can to get to Doubtful Sound is a cruise across the picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over Wilmot Pass - New Zealand's most expensive (and majestic) road. We’ll pause along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view Doubtful Sound glistening below. This isolation makes this fiord a very special place, only those in the know get to see. Once you arrive, you will board the Fiordland Navigator for a 3 hour (approximately) cruise on Doubtful Sound - a spectacular pristine fiord. During the cruise our knowledgeable and friendly nature guides will share with you their passion for the region. They’re always ready to answer questions, point out landmarks and provide all the information about the varied wildlife you may see, including dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland crested penguin.

Overnight in Te Anau

Day 4
Te Anau via Brightview Farm & Southern Scenic Route Invercargill

Following breakfast at the hotel you will be collected for your journey to Invercargill. Travel via Western Southland to Brightview Farm.

Upon arrival at Brightview Farm you will experience a guided farm tour of this mixed stock farm with a working coal mine. The farm has been the recipient of numerous environmental and employment awards, leading the way to regenerate the land after generations of mining in the area. Your tour will culminate with afternoon tea at the main farm house. After your tour you will drive west to join the southern scenic route travelling through Tuatapere before reaching the wild and raw southern coast line at Te Waewae Bay. Continue to Colac Bay, one of New Zealand’s top surfing spots and through the affectionately known Riviera of the South – Riverton, a small town populated by an interesting mix of locals, artists and fishermen.

Once in Invercargill, you will arrive at your centrally located Kelvin Hotel where dinner will be included.

Day 5
Invercargill Stewart Island

Enjoy breakfast at our hotel, before transferring to Invercargill airport for our flight to Rakiura, Stewart Island.

A spectacular 20 minute flight will see us flying low over Oreti Beach, the test track for world record holder Burt Munro, and Foveaux Strait, in a small wing aircraft, a 9 seater
Britten Norman Islander. You will see the forested hills and bays of Rakiura as you come into land, certainly an exciting start to a Stewart Island adventure.

Then the days of explorations begin by getting to know this charming island and her stories, on a Villages and Bays tour. We will explore Oban and the surrounding bays and our local guide will share their local knowledge and help us gain an entertaining insight into New Zealand’s southernmost community. Stewart Islanders are proud of their island, enjoying its simpler, slower pace. During your tour, there is plenty of time available for photo stops and short walks. Highlights include Lee Bay, the gateway to Rakiura National Park and stunning views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock.

There is time for a lunch break in town, before we head out onto the water to explore the bays of Paterson Inlet, Whaler Base, and learn more of the fascinating local history. Discover a little-known part of Stewart Island’s fascinating history: between 1923 and 1933 the Ross Sea Whaling Company of Norway made 9 expeditions to Antarctica while using a base in Paterson Inlet. The ‘Whaler’s Base’ was used to repair the whale chasers in between seasons.

There is some time at your leisure to settle into the island life. Perhaps take a short stroll and enjoy a local meal, there are always great local seafood and other options available at the South Sea pub or places like the "kai kart".

This evening will likely be one of the highlights, as we head out in small groups on a kiwi spotting tour. This tour offers you a special opportunity to experience kiwi in their natural environment. We have exclusive access to private land where New Zealand’s precious kiwi come out at night to feed.

Day 6
Stewart Island

Enjoy waking up to breakfast, and most likely the sound of the local native Kaka birds from your room! Keep an eye out early for a stunning sunrise too - after all you are in Rakiura - the land of the glowing skies!

Today it is time to visit another highlight, the renowned bird sanctuary of Ulva Island.
It is a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet, past hidden coves and unspoilt beaches to get to Ulva. While on board, keep a lookout for fur seals, penguins and other wildlife, as sightings are common.

Then disembark at Ulva Island, a renowned wildlife sanctuary for a 45-minute guided walk with a specialist nature guide. View rare plants and rich birdlife, including the inquisitive weka, which are often seen on the beach.

For the remainder of the cruise around Paterson Inlet, relax on board our modern catamaran and enjoy the coastal scenery before heading back to base.

The rest of the day is at your leisure. There is so much to do, just ask your guide for any help you may need.

Day 7
Stewart Island

Rise and is going to be another wonderful day in Rakiura.

Take a local walk, perhaps to the lighthouse, or to stunning Bathers Beach, there are so many trails to take...if you are keen on hiking, you could even book a guided walk to Port William & Maori Beach - its one of our favourites! The local museum, art galleries and quirky movie theatre are all worth a visit. Nature lovers, there are so many options, another cruise, or even a return trip to Ulva Island is a popular choice. Keen on something more adventurous - how about snorkelling, fishing or kayaking?

The great thing is, you have an expert guide to help you plan, and a day to do as you please!

Day 8
Stewart Island, ferry to Bluff, Catlins Coast Dunedin

Enjoy breakfast at the motel before the next leg of our journey, the ferry from Stewart Island to Bluff.

Experience a one-hour crossing of Foveaux Strait onboard a catamaran. Onboard commentary will point out interesting landmarks commonly seen, including Dog Island Lighthouse, Ruapuke Island, the Titi Islands and Mt Anglem - Stewart Island’s highest point, and of course, always look out for wildlife - watching mollymawks (albatross) soaring above the ferry is a fantastic sight.

On arrival in Bluff, you will be met by our coach and driver. From Bluff you will travel north along the magical Catlins Coast. Today’s journey will take you to Dunedin via the Catlins Coast and Southern Coastal Scenic Route.

The Catlins cover the bottom South East corner of the South Island. This is a relatively unknown gem of New Zealand and today you will travel through the area stopping at stunning coastal viewpoints, and for a few walks as we go. The itinerary is flexible based the day and the group, however most likely will include highlights such as Nugget Point and its photogenic lighthouse and Curio Bay. Continue to Dunedin.

Day 9

Today you will explore the cultural history and natural beauty of the ‘Edinburgh of the South’.

Your first stop this morning will be the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula. Your visit will include a fully guided tour; short film, presentation on the Albatross breeding cycle and short walk up the hill for viewing from the exclusive glassed albatross observatory, and then continuing through the underground fort tunnels to see the fully restored Armstrong Disappearing Gun and learn all about the fascinating history of Taiaroa Head.

After your tour there will be time for lunch (at own expense) prior to heading to Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula. Larnach Castle sits above MacAndrew Bay and Portobello, it has an exciting, sometimes scandalous and tragic history, magnificent carved ceilings, New Zealand antiques and breath taking views. The Castle offers you a vision of the past and present. Today, it is the home of the Barker family, who have spent forty-five years lovingly restoring the building and recreating the beauty of the 14 hectares of gardens and grounds. Your visit to Larnach Castle will include access to the Castle, Gardens and Grounds.

After your visit to the castle you will return to the hotel, where you will have the rest of the afternoon at leisure. You may choose to take the opportunity to explore the near-by city centre or relax at the hotel, Dinner is included this evening at your hotel.

Day 10
Depart Dunedin

After breakfast this morning you will be transferred to the airport for your onward journey.

What’s Included

  • Included Copy 20 9 nights in 3&4 star accommodation
  • Included Copy 31 Single room supplement NZD 1113
  • Included Copy 20 Daily breakfast, 1 lunch, 4 dinners
Fees & Services
  • Included Copy 20 Small group tour, minimum 10 maximum 15 passengers
  • Included Copy 20 Tour escort for the duration of the tour
  • Included Copy 20 Flight from Invercargill to Oban, 15kg check in luggage allowance
  • Included Copy 20 Return from Oban to Bluff by ferry
  • Included Copy 20 Transport in modern A/C vehicle
  • Included Copy 20 Concession fees for National Parks
  • Included Copy 20 TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise & Walter Peak Station Tour
  • Included Copy 20 Pure Wilderness Jet Boat Experience
  • Included Copy 20 Ata Whenua – Shadowland viewing at Fiordland Cinema
  • Included Copy 20 Doubtful Sound Cruise
  • Included Copy 20 Explore the backroads; visit Mavora Lakes, drive the Southern Scenic Route and more
  • Included Copy 20 Brightview Farm visit with local farmer
  • Included Copy 20 Stewart Island Village and Bays Sightseeing Tour
  • Included Copy 20 Kiwi Spotting Tour at Night & Ulva Island Guided Walk
  • Included Copy 20 Cruise Paterson Inlet on a Whaler’s Base History Tour
  • Included Copy 20 The Catlins Coast Day Tour
  • Included Copy 20 Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula visit
  • Included Copy 20 Larnach Castle entry
Stewart Island flight


  • Included Small group tour of Deep South & Stewart Island with a private guide
  • Included Cruise: Stewart Islands Paterson Inlet, Lake Wakatipu and majestic Doubtful Sound
  • Included Tour from Bluff to Dunedin via the remote and windswept Catlins Coast
  • Included Kiwi spotting - there are more kiwis on Stewart Island than people
  • Included Experience Fiordland National Park wilderness by jet boat
  • Included Tour the backroads of Southland, including a unique farm visit
  • Included Wildlife spotting: birdlife galore on Ulva Island, penguins, sea lions, albatross & more!
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