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 route-map

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 included except 2 dinners
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History
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 and Queenstown extension activities


  • Hike in Abel Tasman and Mount Aspiring national parks
  • Swim with dolphins, walk to the terminus of the Fox Glacier
  • Wonderful cuisine and local wines
  • Milford Sound overnight cruise, with spectacular sunset kayaking
  • Queenstown and Hollyford Track extensions

I learned so much about New Zealand that it made me want to come home and see my own country with new eyes.Kelly D.—San Antonio, TX

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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.

From the mountains to the sea, New Zealand’s South Island feels like one enormous national park. Snorkel and swim with dolphins on the Kaikoura Coast, hike and kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, and savor world-famed Milford Sound on a breathtaking overnight cruise. Pinot noirs and crisp white wines, delightful picnics and barbecues, wonderful lodging, superb Trip Leaders who make things fun every step of the way—our journey starts out amazing and gets more spectacular every day!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

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

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 crisp white wines, you’ll enjoy wine tasting and a vineyard lunch.

Days 4-7
Abel Tasman National Park / Paparoa

Our hikes in Abel Tasman National Park lead through mystical fern forests, past lagoons with crystalline waters, and up into headlands, all with fantastic coastal views. At Paparoa National Park, explore water-sculpted limestone blowholes and hike through a magical “lost world” of subtropical rainforest.

Days 8-11
Fox Glacier / Mount Aspiring

A walk to 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.

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 takes us out to an anchorage in a sheltered cove beneath Mount Pembroke where we can explore the fjord by kayak or tender, or simply relax and enjoy the view. Depart Day 13 or join our Queenstown or Hollyford Track extensions.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

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


Departures & Leaders

Feb 14-26, 2016   Chris Cochrane
Feb 28-Mar 11, 2016   Tony McCutcheon
Mar 13-25, 2016 *  Chris Cochrane
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 11-23, 2017

*Please note: date change since catalog publication

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016
$5895 (10-12 members)
$6295 (6-9 members)
Single supplement: $1095
Forced single supplement: $895
Kaikoura Optional Upgrade (Limited Availability): $180
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Hollyford Track Extension
   from: $2095
Queenstown Extension
   from: $935

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $600
90 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Up to 91 days prior to departure: No charge!
61-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
46-60 days prior to departure: 50% 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 included except 2 dinners
  • A glass of wine or beer with dinner
  • 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.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

Fall 2015-Spring 2016 Departures

Meeting Place:
Christchurch, New Zealand

Suggested Arrival Airport:

Christchurch, New Zealand (airport code CHC)
Suggested arrival date: Day 1
Suggested arrival time: before 3:00 pm
Queenstown, New Zealand

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Queenstown, New Zealand (airport code ZQN)
Suggested departure date: Day 13
Suggested departure time: after 4:00 pm

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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Edgewater Hotel

Edgewater Hotel

Day 9 (1 night), Wanaka, New Zealand

The Edgewater has a wonderful and peaceful lakefront location just outside the town of Wanaka (it’s about a 20-minute walk to the town ...
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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.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Chris Cochrane

Departure Dates: February 14-26, 2016, March 13-25, 2016

Chris Cochrane hails from Sydney, Australia, where he spent four years training as a chef. After graduation, he traveled to New Zealand to further his career. Upon arrival in Queenstown, he realized his chosen path was not the one he really wanted and set out to retrain himself for a life in the ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Tony McCutcheon

Departure Dates: February 28-March 11, 2016

When asked what he likes most about guiding Wilderness Travel trips, Tony McCutheon said, “I like the changes I see in people from the start of the trip when we first meet up and then how they are at the end, but mostly I like the friendships that develop during the trip with myself and ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Ian Wilkins

Ian Wilkins was raised in the Hutt Valley near Wellington, New Zealand, and spent his early years hiking through the Tararua mountains. As a veteran heli-ski guide, he knows the Southern Alps from many different angles and also spent several seasons guiding in Canada. After 10 years working in ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

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
4 days  -  Level 3

Queenstown Extension

Active Explorations in New Zealand's Adventure Capital

Cultural Adventures, Walking
4 days  -  Level 2

Client Comments

I learned so much about New Zealand that it made me want to come home and see my own country with new eyes. Kelly D., San Antonio, TX New Zealand is a beautiful country full of surprises. I would go back in a heartbeat. KT W., San Antonio, TX There were several days that really knocked our socks off: swimming with the dusky dolphins (there were hundreds of them around our boat); Abel Tasman NP (hiking, kayaking, swimming, and the great food!); Paparoa NP hike and visit to Pancake Rocks; Fox Glacier hike; the iconic Rob Roy hike; and magnificent Milford Sound (that boat trip was awesome!). We loved all the hiking! Accommodations and meals were excellent! I think we saw the best things on the South Island, and at a good pace, and with minimal effort on our part. Thank you for planning such a great trip! Sandra P., Seattle, WA As this was my first trip with Wilderness Travel I must say the overall experience was a positive one. The South Island as a destination is also hard to top! David B., Houston, TX Great itinerary! We were able to see many of the highlights of the South Island during the 2 weeks of the trip. Well done! Sylvia B., Canterbury, NH Every aspect of this trip was perfect! I suspect it is hard to have anything but a positive experience in a country as beautiful as New Zealand, but your attention to every detail ensured that ours was the very best. Thank you! Ellen M., Evanston, IL Outstanding trip, great design, food was great everywhere we went. Dee S., Okauchee, WI A wonderful trip with diverse activities. Will definitely travel with you in the future! Hisa Y., Duluth, GA 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
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 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 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 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 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 Fantastic trip! Excellent variety and good overview of the South Island. Deborah T., Napa, CA
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 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 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 Terrific experience! More than met our expectations. Must be on everyone's 'bucket list.' Tom L., Bellevue, WA 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 Loved this trip...New Zealand is so beautiful! Marsha H., Lafayette, CA 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 One of the best trips of a lifetime! Donald H., Farmington, CT 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 all time. Ken P., Santa Barbara, CA 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 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 We’ve traveled a lot and this was one of the very best trips ever! Howard G., Bethesda, MD The variety of hikes, scenery, and activities together with a great Trip Leader made this a fabulous trip. Heidi A., APO, AE 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 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 New Zealand is incredibly welcoming—great food, good fun, and a world of waterfalls. Lynne G., New York, NY