New Zealand: South Island Adventure

A Hiker’s Dream Journey in Nature’s Wonderland

Overview

From the mountains to the sea, the entire South Island of New Zealand feels like one enormous national park—no wonder Kiwis celebrate any opportunity to “have a go” at outdoor adventure! We discover firsthand the natural beauty that inspires them as we swim among wild dolphins at Kaikoura, hike from mystical fern forests to powdery white-sand beaches in Abel Tasman National Park, discover the icy wonder of Fox Glacier, and take a deluxe overnight cruise in mountain-ringed Milford Sound. Outdoor adventure abounds (as does wine tasting and fresh farm-to-table cuisine), yet our journey also reveals the friendly Kiwi character and unhurried pace of this nature-blessed land.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Christchurch / Kaikoura Coast / Swim with Wild Dolphins / Marlborough Sounds / Nelson

We begin with a bang—swimming and snorkeling amid pods of playful dusky dolphins on the Kaikoura Peninsula. We hike the coastal clifftops here, and after a picnic and wine tasting in Marlborough Sounds’ renowned vineyards, end our day in Nelson, a haven for artists and horticulturalists.

Waves on the Esplanade
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
The White Morph
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Days 4-7
Abel Tasman National Park / Paparoa National Park

The golden beaches and coastal trails of Abel Tasman National Park are pure magic. From our lodge, accessible only on foot or by boat, we hike through fern forests to wild beaches with fantastic views across Tasman Bay. On the west coast, our hikes bring us along the seacliffs of Cape Foulwind and into Paparoa National Park, lush with nikau palms.

Awaroa Lodge
Kaiteriteri, Abel Tasman Nat'l Park, New Zealand
Days 4 to 5 (2 nights)
Omau Settlers Lodge
Westport, New Zealand
Day 6 (1 night)
Beachfront Hotel
Hokitika, New Zealand
Day 7 (1 night)
Days 8-11
Franz Josef Glacier / Mt. Aspiring National Park

Our walk below the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier gives us close perspectives of this mass of ice framed by the giants of the Southern Alps. At Munro Beach, we look for rare Fiordland crested penguins, and in Mt. Aspiring National Park, we hike through a fantastic river gorge to a natural amphitheater, the perfect place for our picnic lunch.

Rainforest Retreat
Franz Josef, New Zealand
Day 8 (1 night)
Edgewater Hotel
Wanaka, New Zealand
Day 9 (1 night)
Kinross Cottages & Vineyard
Gibbston, New Zealand
Days 10 to 11 (2 nights)
Days 12-13
Fiordland National Park / Milford Sound

With 4,000-foot granite walls, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. On our overnight cruise, we glide past waterfalls out to the edge of the Tasman Sea and explore by kayak or small craft, keeping an eye out for the dolphins who frequent these waters. Depart on Day 13 via Queenstown, or join our extension to Auckland and beyond on the North Island.

Highlights

Highlights

Spectacular hikes in Abel Tasman National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park
Swim with dolphins, hike below the Fox Glacier
Wonderful cuisine and wines, delightful picnics
Milford Sound overnight cruise, with spectacular sunset kayaking

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $7495  
Arrive: Christchurch, New Zealand
Depart: Queenstown, New Zealand
Lodging: 11 nights hotels, historic inns, and beachside lodges, 1 night private cabins on boat
Meals: All meals except 3 dinners as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

Moderate hiking, 3-4 hours a day on hiking days, optional sea kayaking