New Zealand: Ultimate South Island

Hike the “Great Walks” in Four National Parks


This journey brings you everything you could want to do on the South Island—that’s why we named it “ultimate” South Island! We hike four of the country’s Great Walks: the alpine Routeburn Track, plus the lush pathways of the Rakiura, Kepler, and Abel Tasman tracks, all protected in pristine national parks filled with soaring landscapes. We’ll also savor an overnight cruise in Milford Sound (the jewel of Fiordland National Park), hike and sea kayak in coastal paradise of Abel Tasman National Park, look for kiwis (the feathered kind) on remote Stewart Island, and sip wines in Central Otago. We’ve arranged three internal flights so we can get to the South Island’s most diverse settings.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Queenstown / Mount Crichton / Routeburn Track

From New Zealand’s “adventure capital,” Queenstown, we stretch our legs with a hike on the Mount Crichton Loop Track, enjoying vistas of 50-mile-long Lake Wakatipu. In Aspiring National Park, a fantastic walk on the Routeburn Track takes us 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 / Rakiura Track / Kepler Track / Optional Heli-Hike

A short flight brings us to remote Stewart Island, more commonly known by its Maori name, Rakiura. Taking a water taxi out to Ulva Island, predator-free and a birder’s paradise, we hike the Rakiura Track along the coast. One evening, there’s an option to visit a private conservation area to search for the nocturnal and flightless Stewart Island kiwi. Flying back to the mainland on Day 6, we’ll hike our third “Great Walk,” the Kepler Track, through red beech forests along Lake Te Anau in Fiordland National Park, with an optional thrilling alpine heli-hike from the Luxmore Hut.

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 / Arrowtown

Nestled amid the towering peaks of Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a spectacular meeting of mountain and sea, with 4,000-foot-high walls rising from the water’s edge. We’ll board our three-sailed vessel for an overnight cruise through this majestic body of water. On Day 9, we explore Gibbston, one of the most scenic parts of New Zealand wine country, set between rugged mountains and the dramatic Kawarau Gorge. Here we can sample the pinot noirs for which Central Otago is famous and explore the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown.

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 / Mount Aspiring National Park / Rob Roy Glacier Track

In the majestic Matukituki Valley, we hike the Rocky Mountain Track to Diamond Lake for panoramas of the Southern Alps. The next day’s hike is a fantastic journey across 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

Flying to Nelson, we’ll make an exciting journey by water taxi out to Abel Tasman National Park for a grand finale in a world of aquamarine waters, native forests, golden beaches, and magnificent coastal trails. Wading to shore from the boat, we’ll hike a coastal trail to our lodge by way of mystical fern forests and lagoons. Our lodge, the Awaroa, is set in a 47-acre private reserve inside Abel Tasman National Park itself. From this beautiful setting right in the park, 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
Sea kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, take an overnight cruise in UNESCO-listed Milford Sound
Optional kiwi-spotting, heli-hiking, and jet boating, special access to the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Mt. Aspiring National Park
Savor New Zealand’s best wines and 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)