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Whale and Dolphin Explorer

from £3979 excluding flights

  • 20 nights
  • Year round
Home Destinations Australasia New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Explorer


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Search for dolphins on a cruise in the Bay of Islands

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Spot yellow-eyed penguins on Otago Peninsula

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Encounter sperm whales and other marine life in Kaikoura

Milford Sound

Experience stunning Milford Sound on an overnight cruise

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See the world's largest gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers

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Look for dolphins and seals in the Bay of Plenty

Why this trip...

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Tailor made

This itinerary can be tailor made to suit you and is intended to give you a guideline of what is possible in a given timeframe

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Explore at leisure

With the route, transport and accommodation sorted, each day offers the freedom to explore

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Activities included

This itinerary features a range of included activities


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.

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 see 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. Encounter 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 on-board 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.


Fly into Auckland on North Island where you will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel on the city’s North Shore for an overnight stay.

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Collect your rental vehicle and drive north to Russell in the beautiful Bay of Islands for a 2-night stay.

Join a full day sailing adventure and, conditions permitting, encounter wild dolphins. Relax as you set sail into the bay to experience the beauty of the Bay of Islands. Keep watch for dolphins and other marine wildlife, indulge in a delicious lunch, stop on beautiful remote islands and sink your toes into gorgeous sandy beaches. BBQ lunch included.

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Leave Northland and drive south via Auckland to Whitianga on the east coast of the Coromandel for a two-night stay.

Enjoy a day leisurely exploring the Coromandel Peninsula, a region filled with rainforest-clad gorges and pohutukawa-fringed beaches. Perhaps enjoying a soak in the thermal springs on Hot Water Beach, or a kayaking adventure at Cathedral Cove. Coromandel Town, at the northernmost part of the peninsula, is also worth a visit, with wonderful restaurants, bars and local craft shops on offer.

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Make your way to Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty for a two-night stay. Spend the afternoon at leisure exploring this laid-back town.

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.

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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.

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 the fascinating city of Napier.

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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 Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre.

Enjoy a morning of leisure, possibly visiting New Zealand’s National Museum Te Papa or Mt Victoria lookout. In the afternoon 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 make your way down the east coast to Kaikoura for a two night stay.

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Join a 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.

Make your way to the ancient volcanic peninsula of Akaroa via the picturesque city of Christchurch. In the 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).

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Drive south and follow the coastal route to Dunedin for a two-night stay, perhaps stopping at the Moeraki boulders en route.

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.

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Drive to Te Anau, the natural gateway to Fiordland National Park.

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).

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Return to Milford wharf and drive to Wanaka. Stop en route in Queenstown, situated along the eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu.

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.

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Lake Wanaka
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Drive to Christchurch for your final night before returning to the airport for departure the following day.

Accommodation Options

We have selected properties for this holiday in a mix of hotels, guesthouses and lodges. However, with a wide choice of accommodation in New Zealand, we can mix and match different grades and styles to suit your personal preference.

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  • white morph motor inn guestroom
  • 970 lonely bay lodge bedroom
  • 970 lonely bay lodge sun room

Prices and Departures

Price from £3979 excluding flights

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.
Note: Airfares tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • 7 breakfasts, 1 BBQ lunch and 1 dinner
  • Car rental throughout
  • Interislander ferry (premium plus cabin)
  • Private airport transfer on arrival
  • Carino Sailing & Dolphin Adventure in Bay of Islands
  • Dolphin and seal encounter in Whakatane
  • Half day gannet beach adventure at Cape Kidnappers
  • Kaikoura whale watch experience
  • Penguin place conservation tour in Dunedin
  • Overnight cruise onboard the Milford Mariner
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection

This itinerary starts from around £3,979 per person, based on 2 sharing a room with private bathroom in superior hotels, and rental of a compact SUV vehicle.

Prices may vary depending on departure date and booking date, as well as any changes to the included components. The final cost of a tailored holiday will be based on the level of accommodation, size of vehicle, included activities, travel season, and how far in advance it is booked. We will confirm the exact price for your holiday in your individual quotation, based on your chosen travel dates and inclusions.

As Standard, Complete Piece of Mind

We’re listening. We always care what our fellow travellers think and love building strong customer relationships so we continuously focus on improving future experiences based on feedback. How incredible for the last three years we have received the Feefo Platinum Award.


The World's Great. Pass it On

To mark our 40th anniversary, we've launched our Education Bursary Fund to help disadvantaged school children experience the wonders of travel. A percentage of revenue from every holiday booked will go into the bursary fund to pay for at least 40 students to join one of our school trips abroad.