New Zealand's Te Araroa: The South Island

Queen Charlotte Sound to the South Coast with Jon Imhoof


New Zealand’s long-distance hiking trail, the Te Araroa, connects the North Island and South Island by way of spectacular parks and reserves. On our South Island journey, this famous trail brings us from the coastal forests of Queen Charlotte Sound to Fiordland National Park, where the Te Araroa meets the Southern Ocean. Our route largely follows the spine of the Southern Alps, crossing skyline ridges to alpine lakes and through native forests, farmlands, and tussock country. Days on the trail are rewarded by the natural showcase of New Zealand’s famously diverse landscapes, and we’ll stay in comfortable lodges en route, savoring the country’s world-class wines and fresh local cuisine every step of the way.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Blenheim / Marlborough Wine Country / Queen Charlotte Track

We meet in Blenheim, the gateway to Marlborough wine country, and head to the beautiful Queen Charlotte Track, one of New Zealand’s finest walking tracks. Here we’ll hike skyline ridges with incredible views across Marlborough Sounds’ secluded bays, islands, coves, and sheltered waterways. This area is a fine introduction to the richness of New Zealand’s lush native forest. Our lodge, built at the turn of the century, is accessible only by boat.

Days 5-6
Nelson Lakes National Park

We head to Nelson Lakes National Park, named for the 16 lovely alpine lakes cradled high in this beautiful stretch of the rugged Southern Alps. We’ll hike along Lake Rotoiti, where dense beech forest towers over a carpet of mosses and ferns, keeping an eye out for the native forest birds such as the fantail, tomtit, and bush robin.

Days 7-11
Queenstown / Southern Alps

We fly to Queenstown and head out for Te Araroa hikes above treeline in the Mototapu Valley, the perfect place for vistas across the snow-capped Southern Alps. After we visit the historic gold-mining village of Arrowtown, taste some of the famous local pinot noir at a winery, we’ll hike the mountains, lakes, forests, and tussock grasslands of Mavora Lakes Conservation Park, with its Middle Earth scenery.

Days 12-14
Fiordland National Park

We explore the tide pools before climbing up Howell’s Hill to Mores Scenic Reserve, where the views are phenomenal, extending out to Stewart Island, the third largest island in New Zealand, and the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean. We mark the end of the Te Araroa trail with a hike on the Foveaux Walkway along the coast, right along the edge of the Southern Ocean. Depart via Queenstown on Day 14.



Hike breathtaking trails that showcase the best scenery on New Zealand’s South Island
Explore the lush native forests of Queen Charlotte Sound
Revel in the the ethereal “Middle Earth” landscapes of Mavora Lakes
Soak in hot springs, visit historic gold-mining camps
Sample the famed wines of Marlborough
Enjoy Kiwi hospitality and delightful local cuisine


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $7895  
Arrive: Blenheim, New Zealand
Depart: Queenstown, New Zealand
Lodging: 13 nights hotels and lodges
Meals: All except 1 dinner as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Moderate to strenuous hiking, 3-8 hours a day, some sections on wet or rough trails