A Dream Journey in Nature’s Wonderland

Overview

From the mountains to the sea, the entire South Island of New Zealand feels like one enormous national park—no wonder Kiwis celebrate any opportunity to “have a go” at outdoor adventure! We discover the natural beauty that inspires them as we swim among wild dolphins at Kaikoura, hike through fern forests to powdery white-sand beaches in Abel Tasman National Park, discover the icy wonder of Franz Josef Glacier, and take an overnight cruise in stunning Milford Sound. Outdoor adventure abounds (as does wine tasting and farm-to-table cuisine), and we’ll enjoy the friendly Kiwi character and unhurried pace of this nature-blessed land.

Itinerary at a Glance

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

We begin with a bang—swimming and snorkeling amid pods of playful dusky dolphins, some of Kaikoura’s famous local personalities. We hike the coastal clifftops of the Kaikoura Peninsula, and after a picnic and wine tasting in Marlborough Sounds’ renowned vineyards, end our day in Nelson, a haven for artists and horticulturalists.

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

With golden beaches, aquamarine waters, and magnificent coastal trails, Abel Tasman National Park is pure magic. From our lodge, accessible only on foot or by boat, we hike through fern forests to headlands and wild beaches with fantastic views across Tasman Bay. On the wild West Coast, our hikes bring us along the seacliffs of Cape Foulwind and into Paparoa National Park, lush with nikau palms.

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Days 8-11
Franz Josef Glacier / Mt. Aspiring National Park

The Franz Josef Glacier is framed by the snowy giants of the Southern Alps. Our exciting walk gives us close perspectives, and as we hike, we may hear the glacier creaking. A walk on a rainforest track brings us to Munro Beach in search of rare Fiordland crested penguins, and in the Matukituki Valley in Mt. Aspiring National Park, we hike through a spectacular river gorge to a natural amphitheater—the perfect place for our picnic lunch.

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Days 12-13
Fiordland National Park / Milford Sound

With 4,000-foot granite walls rising from the water’s edge, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. On our overnight cruise, we glide past waterfalls and out to the edge of the Tasman Sea and explore the fjord by kayak or small craft, keeping an eye out for the dolphins who frequent these waters. Depart on Day 13 via Queenstown, or join our extension to Auckland and beyond on the North Island.

Highlights

Highlights

Spectacular hikes in Abel Tasman and Mt. Aspiring national parks
Swim with dolphins, hike below Franz Josef Glacier
Milford Sound overnight cruise, with spectacular sunset kayaking
Wonderful cuisine, from fresh seafood to tender local lamb
Extend your adventure with our extension to Auckland and beyond

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $6895  
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 (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

Moderate hiking, 3-4 hours a day on hiking days, optional sea kayaking (no previous experience necessary)