Remote Parks and Rare Wildlife of the South Island

Overview

Join us to experience the wildest and most untouched corners of New Zealand. For this new WT trip 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. Along the way, we head out for wonderful hikes, including some on three of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” (the Kepler Track, the Routeburn Track, and the Rakiura Track) as well as the remote and spectacular 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 and by boat 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 places 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
Gibbston Valley / Wine Tasting / Routeburn Track

From Queenstown, we head out to taste wines in the Gibbston Valley, with its famous pinot noirs and artisan cheeses, and hike on the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s alpine treasures. We cross swing bridges above the jade waters of the Routeburn River as we follow a well-graded track through the forest.

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Days 3-4
Central Otago / The Catlins Coast

Our journey takes us to the Pacific Ocean and the endless wild beaches and remote coastal communities of the Catlins Coast. We walk along the fine sand beach at Porpoise Bay, where Hector’s dolphins (found only in New Zealand) can often be seen playing in the waves. At Curio Bay, low tide reveals a petrified forest—180 million-year-old fossils left over from the Jurassic period. We catch sunset here and look for yellow-eyed penguins. One night, we hike in the forest to see glow worms, a surreal experience.

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Days 5-6
Stewart Island / Kiwi-Spotting / Rakiura Track

Incredible Stewart Island is a place the Maori people called Rakiura, which means “glowing skies.” We hike our second wilderness trail, the Rakiura Track, and at twilight, head out to search for kiwi, New Zealand’s signature bird.

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

Back on the mainland, we hike along the Waiau River through the Kepler Track’s moss-draped beech forest and amid prolific birdlife. A breathtaking helicopter flight takes us from Milford Sound to Martins Bay, where our coastal hike gives us a chance to see rare Fiordland crested penguins and native New Zealand fur seals. Our last adventures are a jet-boat ride up Lake McKerrow and a hike on the Hollyford Track through native beech forest beneath the gaze of the peaks of the mighty Southern Alps. Enjoy a farm lunch and visit a high country sheep station before departing on Day 10 via Queenstown.

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Highlights

Highlights

Incredible day hikes on the famed Routeburn, Kepler, and Rakiura 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, farm-to-table 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