From the mountains to the sea, New Zealand’s entire South Island 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 along the powdery-white beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, scramble on the towering ice formations of Fox Glacier, and savor world-famed Milford Sound on a spectacular overnight cruise—the best way to experience this magical place. Adventures abound, and along the way, our journey reveals the unique culture, friendly Kiwi character, and wonderfully unhurried pace of this nature-blessed land.
It was a superb trip, and the country's beauty was highlighted every day. It was very evident that the trip guides are intensely proud of their country, and we had lots of discussion around the economy and political situation and the future.
— Kathy M., Des Moines, IA
Kaikoura Coast / Swim with Dolphins / Marlborough Sounds / Nelson
Hike along the Kaikoura Peninsula, then swim and snorkel with its most famous local personalities—the playful dusky dolphins who frolic here in pods numbering in the hundreds. In Marlborough Sounds, renowned for its elegant Sauvignon Blanc wines, we enjoy wine tasting and a vineyard picnic lunch, then end our day in the artists’ haven of Nelson.
Abel Tasman National Park / Paparoa
Our hikes in Abel Tasman National Park lead through mystical fern forests, along powdery beaches, past lagoons with turquoise waters, and up into headlands—all with fantastic coastal views. At Paparoa National Park, we explore water-sculpted limestone blowholes and hike through a magical “lost world” of subtropical rainforest.
Fox Glacier / Mount Aspiring
A walk near the terminus of the Fox Glacier offers up-close views of a dynamic river of ice, and we search for the rare Fiordland crested penguins at Munro Beach. In Mount Aspiring National Park, our hike leads to a natural amphitheater surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls pouring from hanging sheets of ice.
Fiordland / Milford Sound
With sheer 4,000-foot rock walls rising from the water’s edge, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. Our overnight cruise takes us out to an anchorage in a sheltered cove beneath towering Mount Pembroke, where we can explore the fjord by kayak or tender, or simply relax and enjoy the view. Depart on Day 13, or join our Queenstown or Hollyford Track extension.