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 firsthand the natural beauty that inspires them as we swim among wild dolphins at Kaikoura, hike from mystical fern forests to powdery white-sand beaches in Abel Tasman National Park, discover the icy wonder of Fox Glacier, and take an overnight cruise in mountain-ringed Milford Sound. Outdoor adventure abounds (as does wine tasting and fresh farm-to-table cuisine), yet our journey also reveals the friendly Kiwi character and unhurried pace of this nature-blessed land. At journey’s end, extend the fun with a three-day hike on the Hollyford Track in Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Site.

Itinerary at a Glance

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

We begin with a bang—a swim amid pods of playful dusky dolphins, some of Kaikoura’s famous local personalities. With wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins, we enter the world of these amazing marine creatures, then hike the coastal clifftops of the Kaikoura Peninsula. After a picnic and wine tasting in Marlborough Sounds’ renowned vineyards, we 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, native forests, and magnificent coastal trails, Abel Tasman National Park is pure magic for hiking. From our lodge, accessible only on foot or by boat, we follow trails through delicate 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, northern rata, and cabbage trees.

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Days 8-11
Fox Glacier / Mount Aspiring National Park

The Fox Glacier is flanked by emerald rainforests and framed by the snowy giants of the Southern Alps. Our exciting walk gives us close perspectives of the remnant glacier that has carved this landscape, and as we hike, we may hear it creaking and groaning in the distance. A walk on a rainforest track brings us to Munro Beach in search of rare Fiordland crested penguins, and in the majestic Matukituki Valley in Mount 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 / Milford Sound

With 4,000-foot rock walls rising from the water’s edge, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. We set out for an overnight cruise through this spectacular body of water, gliding past waterfalls and out to the edge of the Tasman Sea. Our anchorage for the night is in sheltered Harrison Cove beneath towering Mount Pembroke. Before sunset, we explore the fjord by kayak or tender craft, or simply relax on deck, keeping an eye out for the dolphins who frequent these waters. Depart on Day 13 via Queenstown, or join our Hollyford Track Extension.

Highlights

Highlights

Spectacular hikes in Abel Tasman and Mount Aspiring national parks
Swim with dolphins, hike below the Fox Glacier
Milford Sound overnight cruise, with spectacular sunset kayaking
Farm-to-table cuisine, from fresh seafood to tender local lamb
Enjoy our Hollyford Track Extension

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $6795  
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 (4-9 hours a day on optional Hollyford Track extension), optional sea kayaking activities (no previous experience necessary)