Ultimate South Island Adventure

  • 14 Days
  • Avg Group Size: 12
  • Activity Level 3
    • Activity Level 3

      Those who take on our Level 3 tours are looking for more challenging hikes that will raise their heart rate.

    Read more about the Active Range

  • Trip Start: Christchurch
  • Trip End: Christchurch
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Looking for a great, outdoorsy way to see New Zealand? Our signature trip, the Ultimate South Island Adventure, is the perfect hiking tour for you.

We'll take you on an unforgettable journey exploring our mountains in Mount Cook National Park and Nelson Lakes National Park, walking the West Coast rainforest and coastlines, getting up close to glaciers in Franz Josef, cycling incredibly scenic trails such as the Queenstown Trail, hiking sections of our Great Walks, and even cruising on Milford Sound. You'll experience our unique culture and wildlife along the way, and enjoy a tipple of the world's best wines at stunning vineyards. Each night, we'll stay in carefully hand-picked accommodations in some of New Zealand's most spectacular settings. We've been fine-tuning this perennial favorite since 1996, and it's simply an incredible trip. You'll explore the most beautiful, famous and little-known places in the South Island with legendary hospitality and unsurpassed attention to detail on our 14-day Ultimate South Island Adventure tour. Be prepared to leave a piece of your heart in New Zealand.

Trip Highlights

Punakaiki

HikingHiking

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

HikingHiking

Okarito Lagoon

KayakingKayaking

Alps To Ocean Trail in Mackenzie Basin

BikingBiking

Nelson Lakes (Comfort Option)

HikingHiking

Routeburn Track

HikingHiking

Kepler Track

HikingHiking

Nelson Lakes (Backcountry Option)

HikingHiking

West Coast

HikingHiking

Franz Josef Glacier (& Heli-hike option)

HikingHiking

Cruise Milford Sound

Plus...

Explore Queenstown

Plus...

Download Our Handy Trip Itinerary

Our Trip Itinerary contains all the exciting details you can expect to do on our trips. Get a clear picture of the adventures on this trip.

DOWNLOAD ITINERARY PDF

Ultimate South Island Adventure ~ Itinerary

Trip Start: Christchurch Trip End: Christchurch

Download our Handy Trip itenary

Our Trip Itinerary contains all the exciting details you can expect to do on our trips. Get a clear picture of the adventures on this trip

  • Day 1Arrive, visit Gore Bay and explore Kaikoura

  • Day 2Start of multi-day options

  • Day 3Multi-day options continued

  • Day 4Multi-day options continued

  • Day 5Hike Punakaiki Rainforest, explore Hokitika

  • Day 6Kayak Okarito Lagoon, hike coastal forest and beach

  • Day 7Hike near Franz Josef Glacier

  • Day 8Hike Rocky Mountain

  • Day 9Free day in Queenstown

  • Day 10Hike Kepler Track

  • Day 11Milford Sound Cruise, hike Routeburn Track

  • Day 12Bike Queenstown trail, Journey over Lindis Pass

  • Day 13Hike Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park

  • Day 14Depart for home

  • Day 1

    Arrive, visit Gore Bay and explore Kaikoura

    #11963

    Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday evening, arriving in Auckland early Monday morning. You’ll lose a day crossing the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! It’s a short flight from Auckland to Christchurch on the South Island where we’ll meet you. You’ll start your trip by travelling up the coast, stopping off at Gore Bay for a picnic lunch, and exploration of the rugged coast with its fresh air.

    You'll continue onto the seaside town of Kaikoura, passing weathered limestone cliffs, where we can walk to view fur seals basking on the rocks and playing in the eddies from a look-out point. This stretch of rugged coastline that was uplifted in the Kaikoura earthquake - it’s amazing to see this brand new land! Today is a relaxed introduction to New Zealand. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll probably find jetlag is no big deal. It’s a 12 to 13 hour direct overnight flight from the West Coast of the USA to Auckland so you’ll appreciate the gentle start to your New Zealand adventure.
    Accommodation: Sudima Kaikoura, Kaikoura
    Meals: Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 0.5-1 hour

  • Day 2

    Start of multi-day options

    #11964

    From Kaikoura, we’ll travel along spectacular coastline for a couple of hours to Blenheim, a town in the Marlborough wine region. We’ll have a picnic lunch before we head off to St Arnaud.

    DAY 2 ACTIVE OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking: St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut
    Your hike begins in the charming village of St Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park. This is serious wilderness country, with incredible views and marvelous solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains. You’ll hike the relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut and jetty. From here, we’ll board a water taxi to take us back to St Arnaud, where you’ll stay for the next couple of nights.
    Accommodation: Alpine Lodge, St Arnaud
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 6.8 miles (11 kilometers), 3-4 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 65 feet (20 meters) ascent, 65 feet (20 meters) descent

    DAY 2 CHALLENGING OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking: St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut
    The Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking option begins in the charming village of St Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park. This is serious wilderness country, with incredible views and marvelous solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains. You’ll hike the relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut, a small mountain cabin at the head of the lake and our home for the night. Our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. All you’ll be carrying is a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food. To protect this beautiful and fragile environment, we always keep our group sizes small and our exact route flexible.
    Accommodation: Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 6.8 miles (11 kilometers), 3-4 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 65 feet (20 meters) ascent, 65 feet (20 meters) descent

  • Day 3

    Multi-day options continued

    #11965

    DAY 3 ACTIVE OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking: Coldwater Hut to St Arnaud
    After breakfast, you’ll return by water taxi to the top end of the lake, and this time you’ll arrive at Coldwater hut and jetty – just across the river from Lakehead hut. From here you'll follow the trail as it gently winds its way around Lake Rotoiti to Whisky Creek, and the beautiful Whisky Falls. Feel free to fill up your water bottles from Whisky Creek, but it IS only water, honest! After a picnic lunch on the lakeshore, you’ll continue on to West Bay and loop back to St Arnaud for the evening.
    Accommodation: Alpine Lodge, St. Arnaud
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 8.7 miles (14 kilometers), 4-5 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 295 feet (90 meters) ascent, 295 feet (90 meters) descent

    DAY 3 CHALLENGING OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking: Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut
    Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets better with each step! You'll follow the Travers River through beech forest, before heading up the Hukere Stream towards the ridgeline. This is a challenging hike, with an elevation gain of 3,280 feet (1,000 meters), but it’s absolutely worth it. The Angelus Circuit has exceptional scenic diversity, so it provides a great reward for the efforts you put in. There’s no rush and your guides will be there to encourage you the whole way. It’s a tremendous feeling at the top when you reach Angelus Hut, nestled beside a gorgeous alpine lake. Many people tell us this hidden gem was the highlight of their New Zealand adventure, and a lot of Kiwis prefer the Angelus Circuit to better-known tracks.

    IMPORTANT: For guests participating in early season departures (i.e. September, October, and sometimes early November) access to Angelus Hut can be impeded due to the removal of the Hukere Stream bridge on the upper section of the Cascade Track, during the New Zealand winter months, to prevent possible avalanche damage. The reinstallation of the bridge depends on the amount of snow in the area and so in the event Angelus Hut cannot be accessed, we will either enjoy alternative hikes in the area and stay a second night at Lakehead Hut, or venture to Bushline Hut. 
    Accommodation: Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), 6-8 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,445 feet (1,050 meters) ascent

  • Day 4

    Multi-day options continued

    #11966

    DAY 4 ACTIVE OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking: Hike Roberts Ridge
    After breakfast, don your hiking boots and set out for this morning's walk. You'll explore the beautiful peninsula track, stretching out into Lake Rotoiti, before making our way to the Pinchgut Track. This trail gives access to Mt. Robert, and Robert's Ridge, where the rest of the group will be approaching from the Angelus Circuit. You'll wind our way up the trail through the native beech trees and manuka scrub to meet the group. Once we’re back together we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch, before carrying on to the West Coast. 

    Hiking: Up to 6.2 miles (10 kilometers)
    Elevation Gain/Loss: Up to 1,312 feet (400 meters) ascent, up to 1,312 feet (400 meters) descent

    DAY 4 CHALLENGING OPTION
    Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking: Angelus Hut to Lake Rotoiti
    Wake up on top of the world! After breakfast, you’ll hike out along the barren Robert Ridge with dramatic views of Tasman Bay and the mountainous Kahurangi National Park in the distance. You’ll descend below the tree line again into native beech forest completing our hike on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. Here, you’ll meet up with the Rotoiti Circuit explorers and share stories of our adventures, before carrying on to the West Coast.

    Hiking: 6.8 miles 11 kilometers(), 4-6 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 230 feet (70 meters) ascent, 2,755 feet (840 meters) descent

    DAY 4
    Regroup, travel to West Coast
    After regrouping in St Arnaud, we’ll head across the Southern Alps to the West Coast – a dramatic and rugged coastline stretching 372 miles (600 kilometers), with a population of only 40,000 people. You’ll mingle with the ‘Coasters’ tonight in the seaside village of Punakaiki, exchanging tales of our adventures over dinner.
    Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Punakaiki
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Day 5

    Hike Punakaiki Rainforest, explore Hokitika

    #11967

    Spend the morning hiking the Inland Pack Track through temperate rainforest and limestone canyons, following in the footsteps of gold miners who established this trail over a century ago. While we’re in Punakaiki, you’ll also check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes – aptly named limestone formations that have been sculpted through the relentless pounding of the Tasman Sea.

    Traveling along the scenic coastline, we’ll stretch our legs in Hokitika and check out local art galleries and pounamu-carving workshops (pounamu is Maori for jade), before carrying on to the township of Franz Josef where we’ll stay for the next couple of nights. Nestled in the rainforestclad foothills of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef is the heart of New Zealand glacier country.
    Accommodation: Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 4 miles (6 kilometers), 2-3 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 425 feet (130 meters) ascent, 425 feet (130 meters) descent

  • Day 6

    Kayak Okarito Lagoon, hike coastal forest and beach

    #11968

    This morning we’ll take a short journey over to Okarito, a little-known beach community on the coast. You'll take to the water in sea kayaks and glide along a picturesque lagoon, set against a stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Okarito is home to the only native white heron colony in New Zealand, as well as a host of other interesting birds.

    Later we’ll head back to Franz Josef where you’ll have the option to take another walk or relax in the hot tub, before enjoying a night on your own for dinner.
    Accommodation: Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    Hiking: 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers), 1-2 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 394 feet (120 meters) ascent, 394 feet (120 meters) descent

    Kayaking: 2-4 hours

  • Day 7

    Hike near Franz Josef Glacier

    #11969

    With some 140 glaciers making their way down from the Southern Alps, this area is fittingly known as glacier country. Few sights equal the spectacle of two of these giant frozen rivers (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers) imperceptibly grinding their way down through temperate rainforest to just 820 feet (250 meters) above sea level. We’ll spend most of the day near Franz Josef Glacier hiking up through the forest to get incredible views of the ice. Wet weather can inhibit these hikes, so we may opt to hike around Lake Matheson and to the Blue Pools near Haast Pass instead.

    From Franz Josef, we’ll travel down the coast through lush forest and then inland to Makarora, a small village bordering Mt. Aspiring National Park, with incredible views of the snow-capped mountains.
    Accommodation: Wonderland Lodge, Makarora
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: Up to 5.5 miles (9.5 kilometers), 4-5 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: Up to 1,640 feet (500 meters) ascent, up to 1,640 feet (500 meters) descent

  • Day 8

    Hike Rocky Mountain

    #11970

    The landscape this morning changes rapidly from dense beech forest to semi-arid mountainous terrain. You’ll hike the Rocky Mountain track today, a spectacular circuit through an area carved out by Ice Age glaciers, with native forest and shrubland.

    Enjoy lunch after your hike in Wanaka before a short but dramatic journey over the Cardrona Saddle to Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, our base for the next couple of days.
    Accommodation: Heritage Hotel, Queenstown
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    Hiking: 4.5 miles (7 kilometers), 2-3 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,230 feet (375 meters) ascent, 1,230 feet (375 meters) descent

  • Day 9

    Free day in Queenstown

    #11971

    Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) and all the comforts of civilization are packed into this tiny resort town: restaurants galore, sidewalk cafés, stylish lounge bars, day spas and boutiques. You’ll also find incredible optional activities here including horse trekking, a gondola, kayaking, fishing, winery tours, hang gliding, mountain biking, bungy jumping, jet boating and skydiving, as well as some great hiking opportunities. Or you can just soak up the atmosphere or lounge about reading a book. Your guides will happily share their favorite haunts and point you in the right direction for your free day today.
    Accommodation: Heritage Hotel, Queenstown
    Meals: No meals

  • Day 10

    Hike Kepler Track

    #11972

    This morning we’ll make our way around Lake Wakatipu, leaving behind the towering Remarkables, and head west to the small town of Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound. This afternoon we’ll take a hike on the famous Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks - we follow the track through mountain beech forest and along the Wainu River. It’s an awesome hike with spectacular views!

    Tonight we’ll stay on the edge of Lake Te Anau, enjoying the scenery and the delicious local fare.
    Accommodation: Matai Lodge, Te Anau
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 6 miles (9.5 kilometers), 2-3 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 165 feet (50 meters) ascent, 165 feet (50 meters) descent

  • Day 11

    Milford Sound Cruise, hike Routeburn Track

    #11973

    It’s an early start this morning as we set off for our largest and perhaps most spectacular national park, Fiordland. We’ll take a short drive through the Homer Tunnel and emerge at the top of a spectacular glacier-carved valley for a memorable descent to the shore of Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling rated this fiord as the eighth natural wonder of the world and it is truly breath-taking, with steep granite walls plunging over a thousand meters to the Tasman Sea and waterfalls cascading into deep inky water.

    We’ll jump on board the first boat cruise of the day, where we’ll have the water to ourselves, as we gaze in wonder at the waterfalls tumbling down enormous vertical rock faces all around and journey right out to the entrance of the fiord. We may be lucky enough to encounter the friendly fur seals and dolphins that are sometimes in the area.

    After the cruise, we’ll enjoy a tasty lunch before heading out to explore more of Fiordland’s wilderness on foot. We’ll hike part of the Routeburn Track for unsurpassed views of the Hollyford Valley, as well as Lake Marian and Mt. Christina, before making our way back to Te Anau for the night. 
    Accommodation: Matai Lodge, Te Anau
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Hiking: 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers), 3-4 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 1540 feet (470 meters) ascent, 1540 feet (470 meters) descent

  • Day 12

    Bike Queenstown trail, Journey over Lindis Pass

    #11974

    After an early breakfast, we’ll head back through Queenstown and jump on e-bikes to cycle a portion of the Queenstown Trail, following the well-groomed trail along the Arrow River, crossing the Edgar Bridge. You’ll have the opportunity to watch adrenaline junkies bungy jump off the famous Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge (the birthplace of bungy jumping!) before we carry on down the Gibbston Valley. We’ll finish our ride with lunch at The Church Cellar Door & Café where you can sample the exquisite local wines of Central Otago – one of the world’s most famous wine regions.

    After lunch, we’ll continue north, driving through the tussock country of Lindis Pass to the Mackenzie Country Basin where we’ll stay for our last two nights, with stunning views stretching across the Southern Alps. We stay in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, where light pollution is strictly controlled, so it’s the ideal spot to stargaze! 
    Accommodation: We use a variety of accommodation for stays in this region
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Biking: 10 miles (16 kilometers),1.5 hours
    Elevation: 360 feet (110 meters) ascent, 492 feet (150 meters) descent

  • Day 13

    Hike Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park

    #11975

    Mt. Cook, named Aoraki or ‘cloud piercer’ by South Island Maori, is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Directly opposite the mountain, we'll set off on a stunning day hike to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It’s a challenging hike, but you’ll remember the view of the glacier and the surrounding peaks forever! The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it’s a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts.

    If we aren’t able to do the Mueller Glacier hike, or you’d like to take it a little easier, there’s an impressive hike up to a glacial lake (complete with icebergs!) at the base of the Hooker Glacier.

    Then you'll head back to your accommodation for the last night of your adventure, where we’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner together and watch the sun set over the Southern Alps.
    Accommodation: We use a variety of accommodation for stays in this region
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    Mueller Ridge Hike: 4.4 miles (7.2 kilometers), 5-6 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,200 feet (975 meters) ascent, 3,200 feet (975 meters) descent

    Hooker Glacier Hike: 5.6 miles (9 kilometers), 3-4 hours
    Elevation Gain/Loss: 328 feet (100 meters) ascent, 328 feet (100 meters) descent

  • Day 14

    Depart for home

    #11976

    After breakfast you’ll head to Christchurch, arriving in time for afternoon flights. We hope you'll leave refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you’ll have had with us in New Zealand! 
    Accommodation: Not applicable
    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    If you're keen to extend your trip and see what the North Island has to offer (Maori culture, pristine beaches and geothermal areas) check out our 11-day Ultimate North Island Adventure (5day options also available).

Pick Your Multi-Day Option!

Active Option: Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking

The Rotoiti Circuit will have you experience hiking in the Nelson Lakes National Park, from the comfort of a St Arnaud Lodge! You’ll be heading out on day hikes so you'll only require a day pack for each day. The remainder of your gear will stay behind at your accommodation in St Arnaud.

Challenging Option: Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking

The Angelus Circuit option is a remote one-way hike through the Nelson Lakes National Park wilderness area for three days and two nights. You’ll be hiking a loop track from hut to hut carrying everything you need in your own backpack. While your guides carry the lion’s share of the load, you’ll still need to carry your own gear (sleeping bag, dry clothes and toiletries) and a portion of the group’s food. Any excess gear is stored securely for you at the start of the trail.

 

Ultimate South Island Adventure Departure Dates

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Included

  • Our own highly experienced guides, driver, and cook, with you from start to finish
  • Industry-leading Guest-to-Guide ratio (averaging 6:1)
  • Your own ‘Account’, an online space with everything required for your adventure
  • Our knowledgeable Customer Service Team to answer your queries - just a phone call, email or chat away
  • Customer Service pre-trip phone calls to ensure you’re 'trip ready'
  • All accommodations for the duration of your trip
  • All meals except where indicated in the itinerary
  • Unlimited snacks to keep you fueled
  • All activities outlined in the itinerary
  • All necessary equipment (well-maintained and safe) for activities, including Hiking Poles
  • All park and other entry fees
  • Transportation in our air-conditioned vans - safe, clean, modern, and comfortable!



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Take 10% off the trip price when you book a trip and pay in full

By paying in full we are able to pass on savings to our guests, but please note that by opting for this payment plan, your booking becomes non-refundable, non-cancellable, and non-changeable. This offer is only valid for reservations where the trip is no sooner than 180 days from the departure date at time of booking.

We highly recommend that you purchase Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) insurance. We recommend Redpoint Insurance - you can find details here.

*Terms & conditions apply – read more here

 

Useful Info

Where does the trip start?

On the first morning of the trip, our two pick-up locations are Rydges Latimer Square Hotel at 10:30am or the Christchurch airport (CHC) in front of the Help Desk (near door 7) at 11am. You are welcome to book your pre-trip stay at this hotel directly or any other hotel in Christchurch, though you must make your own way to one of the two pick-up points at the pre-designated times.

Where does the trip end?

Your trip ends with a drop-off at either the Christchurch Airport (CHC) in time for flights below or anywhere in Central Christchurch around 3pm.

What flights would you recommend?

Arrival: We recommend arriving in Christchurch by 10am. Many guests like to arrive a day or two early to accommodate potential flight delays and/or explore the city prior to your trip start.

Departure: Flying out on the last day of the trip, we recommend departing from Christchurch after 4pm. Earlier flight times will require a separate transfer booked at your own expense.

How fit do I need to be?

As an Activity Level 3-4 trip, you’ll need a good level of fitness for this trip as it’s one of our more adventurous trips. Typically, hikes range between two and five hours to complete, more, or less hiking is available depending on your multi-day option.

Please head to our Fitness Guide for great tips on how to prepare along with a workout plan!

What accommodations do we stay at on this trip?

We’ve selected the accommodation on your trip for the stunning settings, unique character and adventuresome feel. We prefer to stay in quaint, comfortable bed and breakfasts, lodges and apartments, some of which have private bathrooms and some shared bathrooms. You may be sharing a two bedroom apartment or bathroom with other group members at some stage. Some places are fairly basic – like the huts on the Nelson Lakes hiking option – and the true Kiwi experience makes it all worthwhile.

If you've selected a single supplement for your trip, the Nelson Lakes hiking option is not included as no single rooms are available in the huts, and the single supplement price takes this into account.

While there are laundry facilities at most locations, they may not be convenient or there may only be one machine to service your entire group. We recommend bringing enough clothing to only have to do laundry a couple of times during your trip. The best time will be during your two night stay in Queenstown (during your free day). 

How much luggage can I bring on this trip?

You are allowed one piece of luggage on your trip, plus a daypack. Your main piece of luggage should not exceed 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and can be anything from a duffle bag to a sports bag with wheels or a suitcase. You’ll also want a good quality backpack sized 25-30 liters (2000 cubic inches) to use throughout the days. 

If you've chosen the Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking option, you'll also require a good quality trekking pack with well-fitting shoulder and waist straps. Your pack should be 60 litre size (3500 cubic inches), large enough to fit your sleeping bag inside along with all your multi-day gear. 

Will we encounter snow on this trip?

During bumper snow years the snow may stay on the mountains into October and November. If so, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (equivalent of the USA’s National Park Service) will not allow us to travel over heavily snowed terrain for safety reasons and we heed their warnings. As a result, we may not be able to access some higher elevation hikes such as Mueller Ridge in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park and Robert’s Ridge in Nelson Lakes National Park - both at 1,500 metres (4500 feet) in our itinerary. Luckily, New Zealand is full of stunning hikes so we’ll select an alternative hike that allows you to enjoy the snow-capped peaks from a safe distance.

Trip direction

Some departures for this trip run in the reverse direction, which means the stated itinerary will simply operate in reverse. Contact us, or check your Travel Wallet once booked, to get the specific itinerary for your trip.

Tell me about the Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking

The Nelson Lakes Comfort Hiking will have you experience hiking in the Nelson Lakes National Park, from the comfort of a St Arnaud Lodge! You’ll be heading out on day hikes so you'll only require a day pack for each day. The remainder of your gear will stay behind at your accommodation in St Arnaud.

On the first day you'll hike in to Lakehead Hut with the Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking group, before water taxiing back to St Arnaud. The next day you'll head back out on the lake, then continue hiking around the other side of the lake before staying a second night in St Arnaud. After waking up in St Arnaud the next morning, we’ll head out to the Mount Robert carpark and hike to a viewpoint over Lake Rotoiti, just above the treeline, where we’ll meet up with the Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking guests - if there are others doing this option. There’s a total elevation gain of 400 metres (1,312 feet) and the views are worth it, looking out over Lake Rotoiti from a different perspective.

The average distance that we cover on this hike is around 11 kilometres (7 miles) a day. 

Tell me about the Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking

The Nelson Lakes Backcountry Hiking option is a remote one way hike through the Nelson Lakes National Park wilderness area for three days and two nights. You’ll be hiking a loop track from hut to hut carrying everything you need in your own backpack. While your guides carry the lion’s share of the load, you’ll still need to carry your own gear (sleeping bag, dry clothes and toiletries) and a portion of the group’s food. Any excess gear is stored securely for you at the start of the trail.

The first day is an undulating hike along the shores Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut. The following morning we begin our most challenging day, starting out along the Travers River and then turning to hike beside Hukere Stream where the path takes you to more demanding sections with tangles of roots, to the end of the valley. After it’s a steeper climb upto the ridgeline, on a rocky scree track. There’s a total elevation gain of 1000 metres (3000 feet) and the views are worth it, with Angelus hut perched next to a beautiful alpine lake. After a hearty breakfast the next day it’s a four to five hour hike out along the Roberts Ridge along a rocky trail, over boulders and some steep terrain before descending back through the trees to the road, where we’ll meet up with the others - if there are others doing these options.

The average distance we cover on this hike is around 11 kilometres (7 miles) a day. While we must complete each day’s hike to get to our home for the night, we can take as long as we need to get there.

While on the hiking option you’ll be sleeping in Department of Conservation (DOC) owned mountain huts. These unique huts are open to the public and are warm, dry and comfortable. They’re located in very remote areas (with amazing scenery) so they don’t have private rooms, electricity, hot water, phones or flushing toilets - and the view from the outhouse is second to none! This really is New Zealand’s wildest country and because it’s not possible to book these huts, you’ll meet and share the experience with other mountain adventurers and explorers.

What is not included?

Flights to and from trip start/end points
15% NZ Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Pre/Post Accommodation
Optional extra activities
Travel insurance
Gratuities for your guides
Trekking packs and sleeping bags (if applicable)

Is tipping expected in New Zealand?

Tipping is neither required nor routinely expected in New Zealand, but it is appropriate for very good service. In New Zealand you don't usually tip in restaurants, or if you take a taxi, or get a haircut. Many of our guests do choose to tip our guides and we recommend USD$20 per day, per guest, per guide. You are welcome to tip an equivalent amount in the local currency. There are plenty of ATM’s and banks in the larger towns of New Zealand.

What additional activities are on offer in New Zealand?

You’ll be participating in loads of amazing activities during your tour, however, you may be wondering what other cool stuff you can do before or after your trip to make the most of your time in New Zealand.  

We’ve teamed up with the good folk at Everything Travel and you’re welcome to book any pre or post-trip ‘things to do’ directly with them.  

For trips starting and/or ending in the South Island, check out things to do before and/or after your trip here.

For trips starting and/or ending in North Island, check out things to do before and/or after your trip here.

Make sure any activities you book are before or after your trip only as your tour itself is already filled to the brim with the adventures we offer!

How do rooming arrangements work?

Trip prices are based on shared arrangements (typically two guests per room), unless otherwise stated. For solo travelers, we’ll pair you with another person of the same gender to share rooms and if there’s no one suitable to share with, there’s no forced single supplement. However, if you specifically request your own rooms, you can opt to pay the single supplement. Solo travelers who book within 90 days of departure, where there are no other solo travelers willing to share, will be required to pay the single supplement. 

For Family Vacation bookings, families consisting of four guests traveling with children aged 17 and under will be automatically assigned one shared room. However, the following alternative rooming allocations are available:

  • Families consisting of four guests with all children aged 13 and above are welcome to opt for additional rooms as per advertised double occupancy adult rates.
  • Families consisting of four guests with at least one child aged 12 and under are automatically assigned a shared room. However, families can opt to pay the adult rates for all guests in their family to have an additional room.
  • The same principles apply for families consisting of more than four guests.

Rooming preferences are subject to availability and must be communicated in writing at time of booking. Automatic assignments as per this policy will be applied in the absence of any specification provided by guests. Any request for additional rooms during trips will be at guests’ own expense and subject to rates made available by the accommodation provider at the time. All minors (guests aged 17 and under) must be accompanied by at least one adult.

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Want to see more? Add on the North Island too!

New Zealand

Ultimate North Island Adventure

4.76

  • Duration 11 days
  • Activity Level Level 3 
    • Activity Level 3

      Those who take on our Level 3 tours are looking for more challenging hikes that will raise their heart rate.

    Read more about the Active Range

Discover your favorite part of the North Island as you hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, bike through redwood forests in Rotorua, snorkel or kayak the Poor Knights Islands, and walk through the otherworldly Waitomo Caves.

Trip Start: Auckland Trip End: Auckland

New Zealand

Northland Adventure

ActiveAdventures

Operated by our sister brand Active Adventures

5.50

  • Duration 5 days
  • Activity Level Level 2 
    • Activity Level 2

      Hikes on our Level 2 adventures are considered easy to moderate in difficulty.

    Read more about the Active Range

Take five days to discover the charms of the North Island. Explore colossal kauri forests, dive or snorkel the Poor Knights Islands, and learn about the Maori culture as you make your way along some of the best coastline of New Zealand.

Trip Start: Auckland Trip End: Auckland

New Zealand

North Island Volcanic Adventure

ActiveAdventures

Operated by our sister brand Active Adventures

4.00

  • Duration 5 days
  • Activity Level Level 3 
    • Activity Level 3

      Those who take on our Level 3 tours are looking for more challenging hikes that will raise their heart rate.

    Read more about the Active Range

Explore volcanic landscapes as you hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Soak in hot pools, hike by geysers and boiling mud pools, and explore caves in search of mystical glowworms on this short, action-packed North Island adventure.

Trip Start: Auckland Trip End: Auckland

Your Local New Zealand Guides

Why Travel With Us

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Just-right group sizes allow you to get off the beaten path

With an average of 12 guests per departure and an industry-leading average 6:1 guest-to-guide ratio, you’ll enjoy a highly personalized experience.

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Award-winning guides lead the way

It’s so much easier to relax and enjoy your adventure when you have fun, caring guides who know the land, sweat all the details and whip up incredible meals, too!

benefit all inclusive

You’ll never need to sweat the details

When we say all inclusive, we mean it! Meals and snacks, activities, lodging, transportation, guiding services and more. All you need to do is show up!

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Enjoy freedom to push your boundaries – safely

Every aspect of your trip is thoroughly considered for your safety, from highly vetted partners and well-maintained equipment to extensively trained guides.

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Decades of expertise mean you’ll experience only the best

Family travel and North American National Parks are our specialty. We’ve perfected our itineraries for decades, ensuring you'll experience your destination to the fullest.

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"Wow Moments” take your trip from enjoyable to extraordinary

For us, the extra mile is never extra, it’s part of the way! Count on special touches throughout your trip that will amplify your experience.