New Zealand: Ultimate South Island

Hike the “Great Walks” in Four National Parks


This dream journey brings you everything you could want to do on the South Island—that’s why we named it Ultimate South Island! It includes hikes on four of the country’s celebrated Great Walks: the alpine Routeburn Track, plus the lush Rakiura, Kepler, and Abel Tasman tracks, all protected in pristine national parks filled with soaring landscapes and native forests. Besides our wonderful hikes, we’ll take an overnight cruise in stunning Milford Sound (the jewel of Fiordland National Park), sea kayak in the azure waters of Abel Tasman National Park, look for kiwis (the feathered kind) on remote Stewart Island, and sip wines in the renowned vineyards of Central Otago. We’ve arranged three internal flights on the South Island to make the most of our time and get to the South Island’s most diverse settings. New Zealand’s acclaimed food and drink scene and our friendly lodges and inns keep us comfy along the way.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Queenstown / Mount Crichton / Routeburn Track

From the “adventure capital” of Queenstown, hike the Mount Crichton Loop Track, with magnificent views of vast Lake Wakatipu, and in Mt. Aspiring National Park, take a fantastic walk on the Routeburn Track across swing bridges above the jade-green Routeburn River.

Heritage Hotel Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand
Day 1 (1 night)
Headwaters Eco Lodge
Glenorchy, New Zealand
Days 2 to 3 (2 nights)
Days 4-6
Stewart Island / Kiwi-Spotting / Rakiura Track / Kepler Track

A quick flight brings us to remote Stewart Island and Rakiura National Park. Here we’ll hike the Rakiura Track along the coast and look for kiwis on predator-free Ulva Island. Back on the mainland, we’ll hike our third “Great Walk,” the Kepler Track, through red beech forests along Lake Te Anau in Fiordland National Park.

Stewart Island Lodge
Oban, New Zealand
Days 4 to 5 (2 nights)
Te Anau Distinction Hotel
Te Anau, New Zealand
Day 6 (1 night)
Days 7-9
Milford Sound Cruise / Gibbston Vineyards

Enjoy an overnight cruise in 8-mile-long Milford Sound, a spectacular meeting of mountains and sea, then from our cottages in Gibbston wine country, sample the pinot noirs for which Central Otago is famous.

Milford Mariner
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Day 7 (1 night)
Kinross Cottages & Vineyard
Gibbston, New Zealand
Days 8 to 9 (2 nights)
Days 10-11
Wanaka / Mt. Aspiring National Park / Rob Roy Glacier Track

Our hike on the Rocky Mountain Track to Diamond Lake brings panoramas of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, and in Mt. Aspiring National Park, we take the Rob Roy Glacier Track into a dramatic setting of snowfields, hanging glaciers, cliffs, and waterfalls.

Edgewater Hotel
Wanaka, New Zealand
Days 10 to 11 (2 nights)
Days 12-15
Abel Tasman National Park / Hiking and Sea Kayaking / Nelson

Our grand finale is Abel Tasman National Park, with its aquamarine seas, golden beaches, mystical forests of giant tree ferns, and magnificent coastal trails. From our beautiful lodge right in the park itself, we’ll hike to our heart’s delight and explore by sea kayak. Depart via Nelson on Day 15.

Awaroa Lodge
Kaiteriteri, Abel Tasman Nat'l Park, New Zealand
Days 12 to 13 (2 nights)



Hike four of the “Great Walks”: the Routeburn, Rakiura, Kepler, Abel Tasman trails
Enjoy special access to the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Mt. Aspiring National Park—our favorite walk in NZ!
Go sea kayaking in the sheltered waters of Abel Tasman National Park
Take an overnight cruise in UNESCO-listed Milford Sound, taste award-winning wines
Optional kiwi-spotting, heli-hiking, and jet boating
Savor New Zealand’s local farm-to-table cuisine


Length: 15 days
Cost From: $10,195  
Arrive: Queenstown, New Zealand
Depart: Nelson, New Zealand
Lodging: 14 nights hotels, B and Bs, and lodges
Meals: All meals included except 2 dinners as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

Moderate hiking, 3-6 hours a day on hiking days, optional sea kayaking (no previous experience necessary)