New Zealand: Off the Beaten Path

Remote Parks and Rare Wildlife of the South Island


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 three of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” (the Routeburn, Rakiura, and Kepler tracks) as well as a section of Te Araroa, New Zealand's “Long Pathway.” 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 have the option to 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. 

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
Bob’s Cove / Routeburn Track

From Queenstown, our first hike brings us through manuka and beech forests along the lake’s edge on the Bob’s Cove trail, a local favorite. In the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area, we hike a scenic section of the Routeburn Track, crossing swing-bridges over the roaring, jade-green waters of the Routeburn River. Our eco-retreat has cozy cabins, a colorful bar, and a central campfire.

Camp Glenorchy
Glenorchy, New Zealand
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Days 3-6
Central Otago / The Catlins Coast / Stewart Island / Rakiura Track / Kiwi-Spotting

We hike along Lake Wakatipu, stop in at the famous Kawarau Suspension Bridge (where bungee-jumping was invented), visit a craft brewery, and taste wines of Central Otago, home to noted pinot noirs. Heading to the remote Catlins Coast, we hike on deserted beaches and through pristine native forest, and from our lodge, take a night walk to see native glow worms shining in the forest—a surreal experience. We’ll look for rare Hector’s dolphins as we hike the beach at Porpoise Bay, then fly to remote Stewart Island for our second Great Walks trail, the Rakiura Track. One choice here is a sea kayaking excursion, and another is kiwi spotting at twilight, searching the forest margins for kiwi, New Zealand’s signature flightless bird, and morepork (New Zealand’s native owl).

Olivers Lodge and Stables
Clyde, New Zealand
Day 3 (1 night)
Whistling Frog
Owaka, New Zealand
Day 4 (1 night)
Stewart Island Lodge
Oban, New Zealand
Days 5 to 6 (2 nights)
Days 7-10
South Coast / Te Araroa / Heli-Hike the Kepler Track

Back on the mainland, we hike a section of the Te Araroa, the long-distance trail that traces the spine of the South Island of New Zealand, with spectacular panoramas across Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island as we cross farmlands to the seaside. A helicopter flight across Lake Te Anau carries us into the wonderland of Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest national park, with its 4,800 square miles of stupendous alpine landscapes. Our grand finale hike is along the stunning ridgelines of the Kepler Track. Depart on Day 10 via Queenstown.

The Cliffs Seaside Lodge
Papatotara, New Zealand
Days 7 to 8 (2 nights)
Te Anau Distinction Hotel
Te Anau, New Zealand
Day 9 (1 night)



Stunning hikes on the famed Routeburn, Rakiura, and Kepler tracks, and the Te Araroa trail
Unique wildlife, from yellow-eyed penguins to Hooker’s sea lions
Delightful accommodations, stargazing under a brilliant sky
Sea kayaking or kiwi spotting on remote and untamed Stewart Island


Length: 10 days
Cost From: $6995  
Arrive: Queenstown, New Zealand
Depart: Queenstown, New Zealand
Lodging: 9 nights vineyard cottages, B and B lodges, and our comfortable lodge in Fiordland National Park
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Wildlife and Natural History, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Moderate hiking, 3-6 hours a day