new zealand south island hiking tour

Hiking in New Zealand

We set out for an array of adventures on the beautiful South Island, from swimming with wild dolphins to hiking on the Fox Glacier. Extend your journey with an unforgettable 3-day lodge-based hike on the Hollyford Track in Fiordland National Park.

Photo by Bob Strode

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New Zealand: South Island Adventure

A Hiker’s Dream Journey in Nature’s Wonderland

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5895  
Length: 13 days
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 2 dinners
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History, Whale or Dolphin Swimming
Trip Level: Moderate hiking, 3-4 hours a day on hiking days (4-7 hours a day on optional Hollyford Track extension), optional sea kayaking


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

New Zealand is incredibly welcoming—great food, good fun, and a world of waterfalls.Lynne G.—New York, NY

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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Currency Savings! The US Dollar has strengthened dramatically against the New Zealand Dollar so we’ve been able to reduce the trip cost for our 2015-16 departures by $400 from last year’s prices. This is the year to visit New Zealand— Call soon!

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.

Itinerary at a Glance

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

At Kaikoura, a fishing town on the north coast, we swim and snorkel with some famous local personalities—the playful dusky dolphins who frolic here in pods of hundreds. Heading north, we enjoy a vineyard lunch in Marlborough Sounds, renowned for its crisp white wines.

Days 4-7
Abel Tasman National Park / West Coast / Paparoa

In gorgeous Abel Tasman National Park, accessible only by boat, we hike through magical tree fern forests, with options for sea kayaking in aquamarine seas. Farther up the West Coast, we hike in luxuriant rainforests at Paparoa and visit the old gold mining town of Hokitika.

Days 8-11
Fox Glacier / Mount Aspiring / Gibbston

A walk on the Fox Glacier offers up-close views of a dynamic river of ice, and we hike to a natural amphitheater amid the alpine grandeur of Mount Aspiring National Park. We stroll along the mighty Kawarau River to the suspension bridge where bungy jumpers leap off this historic gateway to Queenstown (the stout-hearted among us might want to “have a go”). Later, we explore the quaint streets of the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown.

Days 12-13
Fiordland / Milford Sound

With sheer rock walls rising from the water’s edge, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. Our overnight cruise offers us wonderful options for kayaking and Zodiac excursions. Depart Day 13 via Queenstown.

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated Level 2+, Easy to Moderate. This is a trip for people who enjoy hiking. In general you can set your own pace while hiking, and there is no need to keep up with the fastest walkers. Although you carry only a daypack, there are some steep ascents and descents and some sections that cross rough or rocky trails. On one or two occasions, our hiking routes cross an estuary or small stream and you will likely get your shoes wet (bring some Tevas or shoes appropriate for walking through water). For your own enjoyment, we recommend that you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the trip. Daily walking and/or regular hiking (or using a stair-climbing machine at your gym) are excellent preparatory exercises. You should wear lightweight, well-broken-in hiking boots for maximum comfort on the trail.

Our vehicle touring is over good roads in a comfortable bus. The trip is designed to make the most of our time exploring the diverse landscapes of the South Island. We stay in a range of delightful accommodations along the way, including a charming bed-and-breakfast, a luxurious lodge accessible only by water taxi, and private cabins on a wonderful Milford Sound cruise boat.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Nov 8-20, 2015
Dec 6-18, 2015
Jan 3-15, 2016
Jan 17-29, 2016
Jan 31-Feb 12, 2016
Feb 14-26, 2016
Feb 28-Mar 11, 2016
Mar 13-25, 2016
Nov 6-18, 2016
Dec 4-16, 2016
Jan 1-13, 2017
Jan 15-27, 2017
Jan 29-Feb 10, 2017
Feb 12-24, 2017
Feb 26-Mar 10, 2017
Mar 12-24, 2017

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016
$5895 (10-12 members)
$6295 (6-9 members)
Single supplement: $1095
Forced single supplement: $895
more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations as noted
  • All meals except 2 dinners
  • Land and boat transportation as noted in the Full Trip Brochure
  • Airport or hotel transfer on the last day of the trip

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, airport departure taxes, optional activities, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic drinks, laundry, etc.).

Waves on the Esplanade

Waves on the Esplanade

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a quiet town spread out along the coastline, and the ocean views are sensational from our accommodation, with its great location on ...
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Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco Hotel

Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco Hotel

Day 3 (1 night), Nelson, New Zealand

With a waterside setting on the Waimea Estuary outside Nelson, the Grand Mercure is a new resort laid out like an English village, complete with ...
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Awaroa Lodge

Awaroa Lodge

Days 4 to 5 (2 nights), Kaiteriteri, Abel Tasman Nat'l Park, New Zealand

The location of this place can’t be beat—it is surrounded by native bush and pristine beaches right in the heart of Abel Tasman National ...
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Omau Settlers Lodge

Day 6 (1 night), Westport, New Zealand

You’ll experience renowned Kiwi hospitality at this owner-operated lodge, perfectly located by the sea. Eight private cottage studios offer wonderful views of the mountains and crashing surf right from the veranda. The lounge is a great place to relax by a roaring fire, sip a glass of wine, and chat with fellow travelers. You can also take a soak in the outdoor hot tub or amble on wooden boardwalks through the lodge’s property.

Beachfront Hotel

Beachfront Hotel

Day 7 (1 night), Hokitika, New Zealand

As the name implies, this comfortable hotel is set right on the beach, close to the heart of Hokitika. We have guest rooms facing the Tasman Sea, so ...
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The Westhaven

The Westhaven

Day 8 (1 night), Fox Glacier Township, New Zealand

A minute’s walk from the cafes and pubs in the “one street” town of Fox Glacier Township, the Westhaven is a nice new motel with ...
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Te Wanaka Lodge

Te Wanaka Lodge

Day 9 (1 night), Wanaka, New Zealand

This is a cozy B&B with great hosts in the quiet lakeside town of Wanaka. The rooms are small but very clean and nicely decorated. Tea and cake ...
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Kinross Cottages & Vineyard

Kinross Cottages & Vineyard

Days 10 to 11 (2 nights), Gibbston, New Zealand

These brand-new chalet-style duplex cottages are set on a 50-acre vineyard in the Gibbston Valley just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Here ...
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Milford Mariner

Milford Mariner

Day 12 (1 night), Milford Sound, New Zealand

For our overnight cruise in spectacular Milford Sound, we have comfortable private cabins with en suite bathrooms on the 60-passenger Milford ...
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Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

New Zealand

Hollyford Track Extension

From Mountains to Sea in Fiordland National Park

Hiking / Trekking
5 days  -  Level 3

Queenstown Extension

Cultural Adventures, Walking
4 days  -  Level 2

Client Comments

New Zealand is incredibly welcoming—great food, good fun, and a world of waterfalls. Lynne G., New York, NY The trip was spectacular. Like other WT trips, the itinerary started out amazing and seemed to get more spectacular every day. I would encourage anyone to go on this trip! Candace S., Palo Alto, CA I think this trip allowed me to see places and have experiences that I would not have seen or done on a do-it-yourself trip. This was a wonderful trip with a great group of people. Linda S., Benicia, CA The variety of hikes, scenery, and activities together with a great Trip Leader made this a fabulous trip. Heidi A., APO, AE We’ve traveled a lot and this was one of the very best trips ever! Howard G., Bethesda, MD Good trip design combined with the island’s natural beauty made this one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken. Josephus N., Seattle, WA I may repeat this trip in the future. I bet I will be telling my children and grandchildren about this trip. Matt P., Cape May, NJ One of the best trips of all time. Ken P., Santa Barbara, CA I felt that I was able to see all the highlights of the South Island on this one trip! Darrell B., Menlo Park, CA One of the best trips of a lifetime! Donald H., Farmington, CT This was just about the most perfectly planned, executed, and delivered tour I have ever been on. The pace, scenic hikes, lunch picnics, dinner barbecues, cafes, and hotels were all so well planned and the food all along the way was over the top delicious. It was just awesome! Marlene S., Washington, DC Loved this trip...New Zealand is so beautiful! Marsha H., Lafayette, CA The itinerary, from dolphins to Milford Sound, was truly exceptional. The variety of experiences and consistency of hiking opportunities made this one of our favorites out of many successful Wilderness Travel adventures. Bonnie B., Bakersfield, CA Terrific experience! More than met our expectations. Must be on everyone's 'bucket list.' Tom L., Bellevue, WA The pace of the trip, the scenic hikes, the lunch picnics, dinner barbecues, cafes, hotels were all so well planned and the food all along the way was over the top delicious. I did not want our trip to end! Marlene S., Washington, DC
New Zealand is a spectacular country and we were given a wonderful variety of activities. My group of traveling companions was the best ever, which made the trip memorable! Stinceon D., Greenwich, CT The New Zealand trip was fabulous, with stunning scenery, great kayaking, delightful dolphin swimming and hikes, and our guide, Chris, was knowledgeable and very entertaining. The trip was everything I imagined and hoped it would be! Mary Ellen M., Nanuet, NY Fantastic trip! Excellent variety and good overview of the South Island. Deborah T., Napa, CA One of my best ever trips, mostly due to the beauty and variety of the country. (All WT trips are great.) Susan S., Chicago, IL This was an outstanding tour, with interesting and fascinating experiences every day. The trip is very well organized and prepared. I loved it! Angela D., Fairfield, CT This trip should be on everyone's bucket list of 5 trips most wanted. Do not die before you have gone to New Zealand! Phil F., Naples, FL What makes this trip unique is that Wilderness Travel takes you from hiking on a glacier to visiting beautiful coastal beaches—all within a day's time. New Zealand's South Island is packed with a variety of landscapes, terrain, and activity, and WT provides the maximum experience. Ally F., San Diego, CA This trip is an outstanding view of South Island's most exciting and beautiful places. The journey—activities, places we explored and visited, especially hiking, were perfect. Pam K., West Dennis, MA The trip far exceeded my expectations. I especially enjoyed the wonderful variety of activities on both land and water. Best of all was our terrific guide, Tony McCutcheon, who went above and beyond to make it an enjoyable experience for all. Wilderness Travel comes through again! Wally I., Honolulu, HI
New Zealand: South Island Adventure
A wonderful trip with diverse activities. Will definitely travel with you in the future! Hisa Y., Duluth, GA Outstanding trip, great design, food was great everywhere we went. Dee S., Okauchee, WI