- Hike sections of three of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks, including the red beech forests of the Kepler Track and the glacially-carved wilderness of the Routeburn Track.
- Sea kayak among dolphins and fur seals on the coast of Abel Tasman National Park and trek along the park's soaring cliffs and gold-sand beaches.
- Cruise the waters of magnificent Milford Sound, gliding past cascading waterfalls and searching for marine life.
- Fly by helicopter into the heart of Mount Aspiring National Park and hike through this pristine landscape, then return by river on a thrilling jet boat ride.
New Zealand’s South Island is split by the snowcapped spine of the Southern Alps, fringed with wild beaches and lush forests, laced with gorgeous fjords, and iced with glaciers. Set off on an unforgettable multi-sport adventure through this enchanting land, paddling along the pristine northern coast in a sea kayak, trekking across national parks dotted with sparkling lakes, and soaring by helicopter to a remote wilderness trail. Get to know the charm and personality of towns like Nelson and Wanaka, and gaze at majestic Mount Cook—the sacred Aoraki in Maori culture and New Zealand’s highest peak. Cap off your adventure with a cruise on the breathtaking Milford Sound.
Arrive in Nelson, a sunny hub of artists and craftspeople on the northern shores of the South Island. Enjoy time to discover this vibrant town before gathering for a welcome dinner.
Travel to Marahua and catch a water taxi into Abel Tasman National Park. Set out on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, declared one of New Zealand’s Great Walks by the Department of Conservation. Hike through lush native forests along granite and limestone cliffs and pristine gold-sand beaches, and arrive at our eco-lodge on the edge of Awaroa Bay. (6-7 miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
Spend the day sea kayaking Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Paddle into inlets and intimate coves, keeping an eye out for dolphins, fur seals, and blue penguins. From our take-out point on the beach at Onetahuti, hike the Coast Track back to our lodge. (4–5 miles paddling, 4–5 hours; 2-3 miles hiking, 1-2 hours)
Depart the park by water taxi, then drive through Motueka Valley, dotted with orchards, hop plantations, and sheep and cattle farms. Arrive at the town of Murchison. Here, we walk through a privately-owned deer farm to Murchison’s “eternal flames”—an endlessly blazing fire in the middle of the forest floor, fed by methane gas from deep underground. According to local lore, the fire was ignited in the 1920s by the match of a careless hunter and hasn’t stopped burning since. Enjoy hot pancakes and a cup of traditional “billy tea”—tea boiled over open flames in a tin “billy.” Back in our vehicle, follow the Buller River towards the West Coast. The coastline stretches for 500 miles, but you’ll never have to worry about crowds—only 40,000 people live in the entire region! Then check in to our beachfront hotel in Punakaiki. (3 miles hiking, 1-2 hours)
This morning, set off on a hike that follows the Pororari River upstream into the diverse landscapes of Paparoa National Park. Pass through the Pororari River Gorge, a valley lined on both sides by dramatic limestone cliffs and bluffs, and visit the famous Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki—bizarre geological formations created 30 million years ago from the remains of marine flora and fauna. (4-5 miles hiking, 2-3 hours)
Drive south along the dramatic Great Coast Road before heading inland to Canterbury. Keep an eye out for the endemic kea parrot as you enjoy a short hike in Arthur’s Pass National Park, located in the heart of the Southern Alps. Wander among the enchanting limestone outcrops of Castle Hill, where early Maori people hunted and grew kumara. Continue to Methven, a ski town in winter and a popular base for outdoor adventures throughout the year. (2–3 miles hiking, 1–2 hours)
Drive to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, winding our way among picturesque hills, rolling farmlands, and turquoise-hued glacial lakes. Ascend the Sealy Tarns Track, and enjoy stunning views of the majestic Southern Alps, including Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak—locally known as Aoraki. (3 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
This morning, set out on the spectacular Hooker Valley track, following the Hooker River below snowcapped peaks and ascending to a glacial lake. Along the way, learn about this dynamic, ice-carved landscape. After lunch, head to the charming lakeside town of Wanaka, an ideal launching pad for our exploration of Mount Aspiring National Park. (6 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Spend the day on an unforgettable adventure in Mount Aspiring National Park. Drive north, passing Hawea and Wanaka Lakes en route to Makarora, a tiny settlement on the Haast Pass road. Then board a helicopter for an extraordinary flight among the ice-carved peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park—the southern extension of the South Westland UNESCO World Heritage area. Land in the remote Siberia Valley and embark on a hike along an old pack trail down through beech forest to the Wilkin River. Here, we set off on a thrilling jet boat ride, skimming for miles along the river's calm waters below snow-dusted peaks and emerald valleys. (4-5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Drive down the sweeping Crown Range Road to Te Anau, a mountain-framed town known as the “gateway to fjords.” Set out on the Kepler Track—another Great Walk—hiking along the shores of Lake Te Anau and traversing red beech forests edged by limestone cliffs. Opt to continue on the track as it climbs through forest up to a tussock-covered meadow, and take in exhilarating views of the lakes and peaks of the Fiordland wilderness. (Short option: 3 miles hiking, 1–2 hours; Long option: 10 miles hiking, 6–8 hours)
Venture into Fiordland National Park, home to nearly three million acres of verdant, glacially carved wilderness. Embark on a cruise through Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Glide past cascading waterfalls and sharply hewn cliffs, and look out for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and, during the breeding season, rare Fiordland crested penguins. Then, hike a part of the Routeburn Track—our third Great Walk. Return to Te Anau for a farewell dinner to toast your New Zealand adventure. (4–5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
After breakfast, depart Te Anau for Queenstown and connect with your flight home. Or choose to extend your stay on your own and explore Queenstown further.