Remote Parks and Rare Wildlife of the South Island

Overview

Join us to experience the wildest and most untouched corners of New Zealand on this hiker's journey well off the trodden tourist tracks. Enjoy half to full day hikes on most days through the land referred to by filmmakers as "Middle Earth." For this active adventure on the South Island, we take in some of our favorite places to explore, from the thyme-covered hills of Central Otago, southernmost wine-growing region in the world, to wild and remote Stewart Island, with its rare native birds. 

Among our hikes are two of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” (the Routeburn Track and the Rakiura Track) as well as a section of Te Araroa, New Zealand's “Long Pathway,” and the wildly remote Hollyford Track. We enjoy unique wildlife encounters as we explore, looking for Hooker’s sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, yellow-eyed penguins, Fiordland crested penguins, and more. One memorable evening, we’ll go “kiwi spotting,” searching on foot for the strange, flightless, and nocturnal bird whose name is also used to refer to the people of New Zealand. 

Arriving in Milford Sound, we’ll be whisked away by helicopter through the fiords to our own exclusive wilderness retreat at Martins Bay, our base for a hike on another famous trail in Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Our accommodations are at welcoming local lodges of character, and we can expect delicious and fresh food, most of it locally sourced. Our group size is a maximum of 12 people, which makes for a more intimate encounter with these rarely visited South Island gems. Come along and discover for yourself why author Jared Diamond said “New Zealand is as close as we will get to the opportunity to study life on another planet.”

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Mt. Crichton Loop / Routeburn Track

From Queenstown, our first hike brings us through manuka and beech forests and past tumbling waterfalls on the Mt. Crichton Loop. In the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area, we hike a beautiful section of the Routeburn Track, crossing swing-bridges over the roaring, jade-green waters of the Routeburn River.

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Days 3-6
Central Otago / The Catlins Coast / Stewart Island / Rakiura Track / Kiwi-Spotting

We hike along Lake Wakatipu, visit the Kawarau Suspension Bridge (where the sport of bungee-jumping was invented), and taste wines in Central Otago, home to noted pinot noirs. Heading to the remote Catlins Coast, we hike along the Catlin River, and from our lodge, take a night walk to see native glow worms—a surreal experience. We’ll look for rare Hector’s dolphins as we hike the beach at Porpoise Bay, then fly to far-flung Stewart Island. Here we take our second “Great Walks” trail, the Rakiura Track, and at twilight, search for kiwi, New Zealand’s signature bird.

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Days 7-10
South Coast / Milford Sound / Hollyford Track

Back on the mainland, we hike part of the Te Araroa Trail, then take a breathtaking helicopter flight along the coast to rugged Martins Bay in Milford Sound. We’ll look for Fiordland crested penguins and New Zealand fur seals on our coastal hike, and a jet-boat ride on Lake McKerrow brings us to our hike on the famous Hollyford Track, flanked by the mighty Southern Alps. Depart on Day 10 via Queenstown.

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Highlights

Highlights

Incredible day hikes on the famed Routeburn, Rakiura, Te Araroa, and Hollyford trails
New Zealand’s unique wildlife, from yellow-eyed penguins to Hooker’s sea lions
Relaxed rural settings, stargazing under a brilliant sky, delightful picnics
Distinguished New Zealand wines, delicious Kiwi cuisine

Details

Length: 10 days
Cost From: $6295  
Arrive: Queenstown, New Zealand
Depart: Queenstown, New Zealand
Lodging: 9 nights vineyard cottages, B&B lodges, and our exclusive lodge in Fiordland N.P.
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife & Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Moderate hiking, 3-6 hours a day