No matter what you opinion on group travel, there are some occasions when joining a tour is recommended. Either for safety or for access you wouldn’t have on your own, tours can really enhance your trip. Check out these by-tour-only opportunities on your next trip to New Zealand.
Whale Watching Tours
Kaikoura, New Zealand is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. You’ll see why the second you arrive: the town is almost magically beautiful. Built at the foot of the Kaikoura Mountain range and the edge of the sea, Kaikoura is scenic even by New Zealand standards.
In addition to natural beauty, the area is teeming with interesting marine wildlife. From albatross to fur seals, there is plenty to see but the real show-stoppers are the whales. Attracted to the region by the deep waters of a nearby undersea canyon, a year-round population of sperm whales makes Kaikoura a major whale watching destination.
The only way to see these amazing creatures up close is to hop on a boat tour. Whale Watch Kaikoura has been operating since 1987 and reports a success rate of 95%. The knowledgeable locals who operate the company will make sure you have a great experience.
Nowhere else in the world are glaciers so accessible as they are in New Zealand. You can walk right up to the base of Franz Josef or Fox Glaciers on the South Island’s West Coast. However, if you want the full glacial experience, you had better book a tour.
Depending on your interest (and budget) you can either sign on for a guided hike into the center of the ice, or you can opt to be dropped off on the glacier by a helicopter. From there, your guide will take you (safely!) through ice caves and up slopes for the best views of the impressive tundra and its eerily blue ice.
New Zealand is gaining international notoriety as a fantastic wine producer, and the country has a handful of regions that produce a range of fantastic wines, from well-balanced sauvignon blancs in Marlborough to assertive cabernets around Auckland.
While it’s quite possible to drive yourself between wineries, the sobriety necessary to do so is a bit of a damper on the fun. You’re much better off joining one of the many wine tours available. In addition to having a chauffeur, you’re also likely to get better service from the wineries who have relationships with the tour companies.
Often considered New Zealand’s premier destination, the stunning Milford Sounds are only available by boat tour. The sounds are well worth the coast of the tour though: stunning rock formations that emerge dramatically from the glassy water, diverse wildlife and pounding waterfalls are typical sights on a journey.
You can arrange a tour starting in Queenstown (with a bus connecting to the docks at Milford Sound), or you can drive yourself (just be wary: the road to Milford is beautiful but notoriously hazardous in bad weather). There are an abundance of tours to choose from. From one and a half hour nature cruises to overnight journeys, you’ll find something to suit.
Author bio: Whitney Cox is a travel writer based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes regularly about local attractions and NZ tours.