Hiking Tour of New Zealand’s South Island

South Island | New Zealand
5.00
4 REVIEWS
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to go hiking on the South Island

  • Trip Highlight

    No other place on Earth boasts such varied geological features

  • Trip Highlight

    Summit 3,000m peaks one day, unwind on golden sand beaches the next

  • Trip Highlight

    Discover South Island’s rich biodiversity—spot dolphins, seals and penguins

On this 10-day trip across New Zealand’s South Island, each morning is like waking up in a new dimension. One day you’re surrounded by the ice-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, the next you’re sailing and swimming among cerulean waters. One minute you’re making pancakes above eternal flames, the next you’re breathing in the ocean air as water bursts through the blowholes of limestone rocks. We haven’t even mentioned what Rudyard Kipling once deemed the eighth Wonder of the World… Listing everything would take forever, but luckily you can experience all the elements on this voyage across time and space.

Season

January through March

Nearest city

Your tour begins in Nelson, NZ

Duration

10 days

Skill level

Beginner to advanced

Itineraries

Book this adventure

Group Hiking Tour of the South Island

10 days

With its wide variety of natural phenomena and hiking trails, it might be too overwhelming to organize your days by yourself. You don’t have to worry about that on this trip—your expert guides will give you the best possible hiking adventure of the South Island in New Zealand. Embarking from Nelson City, set out on a 10-day hiking tour through the island’s finest natural attractions. Every day in your itinerary brings something new and unique, be it cruising on glacial lakes or traversing rainforest canyons. Accompanied with great food to fuel you for adventures and ensuite rooms in quality hotels and lodges to recharge your batteries, this hiking tour will provide you with the greatest scenic views of the island.

Trip Highlights

Itinerary

Day 1: Nelson

Meet your expert guide and your fellow hikers in the Rutherford Hotel foyer at 4 pm. You can either do a guided hike up Botanical Hill, also known as the “Center of New Zealand” to enjoy sweeping views of Tasman Bay and Nelson City, or you can independently explore this lively town—you’ll get the best recommendations for go-to places from your guides. Celebrate the start of the South Island tour by dining together in one of Nelson’s best restaurants.

Accommodation: Rutherford Hotel, Nelson
Meals: Dinner
Hiking: 1 hour, 1.5 miles/ 2.5 km

Aerial view of Nelson City and Tasman Bay from the Botanical Hill.

Day 2: Nelson — Abel Tasman National Park

Spend your day exploring the Abel Tasman National Park. At the beach resort of Kaiteriteri, board a water taxi and cruise the coastline past golden sand beaches, rugged granite headlands and bush clad islands. Step ashore at Bay Bark and hike the famed Abel Tasman Coast Track, tread native forests and walk along cascading streams. Following the well-formed path, you’ll reach Torrent Bay, where you can jump into the crystal clear waters of Cleopatra’s PoolJourney back to Kaiteriteri before heading back to Nelson. Here’s your chance to further explore this vibrant and artsy little town.

Accommodation: Rutherford Hotel, Nelson
Meals: Breakfast and lunch
Hiking: 4 hours, 7.5 miles/ 12 km

People boarding a boat on a beach in Abel Tasman National Park.

Day 3: Nelson — Punakaiki

As you make your way to the West Coast, you’ll stop for a hike at century-long burning natural flames. Access this unique phenomena with a local guide through a deer farm and relish a cup of billy tea and pancakes prepared over the flames. Continue your journey alongside the mighty Buller River as it cuts its way through the massive wilderness. You’ll arrive at Punakaiki, where you’ll catch the sunset and visit a local pub for dinner. Take an evening stroll around the famous Pancake Rocks, a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes. You’ll return to this area the following day if your expert guide sees that there’s a bigger chance for high tide.

Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 3 hours, 5 miles/ 8 km

Pancake Rocks in New Zealand.

Day 4: Punakaiki to Methven

Built in 1867, hike the Inland Pack Track which was once used by prospectors and miners to avoid coastal cliffs. The track today forms part of the Paparoa Track, which leads you through deep limestone canyons and towering rainforest of tropical nikau palms. There are plenty of lakes along the way, so feel free to jump in and cool off! After that, you’ll travel on a highway which offers views of lush green rainforests, glaciated Southern Alps and tussock grasslands. East of Arthur’s Pass, stop for a stroll around the limestone outcrops of Kura Tawhiti, a once important meeting place for Maori people which was named the “Spiritual Center of the Universe” by the Dalai Lama. To end your day, you’ll follow the back roads around Lake Lyndon and reach Methven, a ski town by winter with a spectacular backdrop of the Southern Alps.

Accommodation: Ski Time, Methven
Meals: Breakfast and lunch
Hiking: 3 hours, 6 miles/ 10 km

Kura Tawhiti, named the Spiritual Center of the World.

Day 5: Methven — Aoraki/ Mount Cook

Continuing south, pass along the extensive Canterbury Plains and go into the intermontane Mackenzie Basin to Lake Tekapo, famous for its vibrant turquoise waters and a small church perched by the lake. Have a picnic lunch with the broad views of the Mackenzie Region in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps—braided riverbeds, glacial lakes and golden grasslands extend to distant mountains. On arrival at Mount Cook village, hike in Governors Bush and on up to Red Tarns for elevated views of Aoraki/ Mt Cook. Take in the panoramas before wandering back down to your accommodation.

Accommodation: Lodge within Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 3 hours, 3 miles/ 5 km

Camp with views of Mt Cook, Mackenzie Basin.

Day 6: Aoraki/ Mt Cook

Hike up the Sealy Tarns Track and enjoy the views of Mt Sefton, Mueller Glacier and up the Hooker Valley to Aoraki/ Mt Cook. If you’re feeling energetic, join your guide for a climb above the tarns to the crest of Mueller Ridge for even wider views of the alpine landscape. If you prefer to take it easy, you can explore the valley floor independently, take the walk up the Hooker Valley for views of the Mueller and Hooker Glacier terminal lakes or learn more about the national park in the visitor center.

Accommodation: Lodge within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 4 hours, 6 miles/ 10 km

Mueller Glacier and Hooker Valley.

Day 7: Aoraki/ Mt Cook — Wanaka

Travel up the Tasman Valley towards the country’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. Take a walk through glacial moraine and board a boat for a unique spin around the terminal lake, which is increasing in size every year due to the glacier’s retreat. This dynamic environment is dotted with icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Continue your day with climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district of Central Otago. You can sample the wine and learn about the sustainable winemaking practiced at an award winning vineyard, or enjoy a walk among the vines. Final stop of the day is Wanaka, a lovely lake-side holiday town.

Accommodation: Edgewater Resort, Wanaka
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 1 hour, 2 miles/ 3 km

Highway at Lindis Pass to Central Otago.

Day 8: Wanaka — Te Anau

Drive alongside Lake Wanaka and reach the peaks of Aspiring National Park. Hike in the Matukituki Valley on the Diamond Lake walk and on up Rocky Mountain, a distinctive glacially sculpted rock sheep for spectacular views over the lake, and to the Southern Alps and Mt Aspiring/ Tititea. After the hike, drive over the Crown Range into the Wakatipu Basin and the scenic wine growing area of Gibbston Valley, pressed between schist mountains and the rocky Kawerau Gorge. Sample fine wine, craft beer and locally sourced food over lunch before you journey on toward the Fiordland wilderness and lake Te Anau.

Accommodation: Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 3 hours, 4 miles/ 7 km

Diamond Lake and Lake Wanaka.

Day 9: Te Anau — Milford Sound

Described by Rudyard Kipling as one of the wonders of the world, the fjord of Milford Sound and the Fiordland mountains offer views and tranquility like no other place. You’ll stop at The Divide to walk a section of the Routeburn Track to Key Summit for panoramic views of the Humboldt and Darran Mountains. Easier short walks, and the preferred option if clouds rob Key Summit of views, are located below in the Hollyford Valley. Continue on to Milford Sound and cruise between glaciated mountains under sheer cliffs which plummet hundreds of meters into deep dark waters. Enjoy views of mile-high Mitre Peak and Lady Bowen Falls as you keep an eye out for marine wildlife. You may spot dusky dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and, if you’re lucky, the rare Fiordland crested penguin. Return to Te Anau in the afternoon.

Accommodation: Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Hiking: 3 hours, 4 miles/ 7 km

View from the boat sailing in the Milford Sound.

Day 10: Te Anau — Queenstown

On your last day, hike part of the famed Kepler Track onto the shores of Lake Manapouri, where you’ll find an abundance of small islands, bush fringed beaches, and mountain backdrop. Travel back up northwards where your South Island hiking tour ends in the lively scene of Queenstown. Queenstown is a town with many adventure activities to pick from—a jet boat ride, highest bungee jumping in New Zealand or a paddle down a river on a funyak. If you’re planning on prolonging your stay, you can also do one of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks. Go on a guided hike to Hollyford Track in the heart of Fiordland NP or journey back to Milford Sound which can be explored by boat. Whatever your preference, your expert guides can help you with any post-trip activities that you might like to add on to your New Zealand adventure!

Hiking: 3 hours, 6 miles/ 10 km

Aerial view of Queenstown.
Reviews

Reviews (4)

Celia B about Hiking New Zealand

Recently back from the Southern Slice trip – it really WAS a Wonderful Trip! The walks which had been chosen really were iconic walks showcasing what the South Island has to offer. John was a great guide and driver, the distances we travelled each day were relaxing, safe, enjoyable. Eva looked after us non stop, I don’t know how she did it! She not only guided us in a very professional way but shopped for us, prepared our lunch, and provided us with a constant supply of snacks! The whole trip was really well organised and well thought out, many thanks to Eva, John and Hiking New Zealand for a FAB experience, would recommend it to anybody!

Wander739990 about Hiking New Zealand

Excellent in every way. Luxury accommodation, meals and service with spectacular itinerary and first class guides (two per minibus). Challenging walks and exciting excursions without white knuckle experiences, and there is always an easier option if required. Every day is filled with activities or travelling and suites solos, families and groups of moderate or better walking abilities. Worth every penny, enjoyed every minute.

jlo2100 about Hiking New Zealand

What a fabulous trip! Very educational! A great way to see and learn about the southern portion of New Zealand. Mel was the best guide I could have hoped for. She was incredibly knowledgeable, capable & interesting. We had a great group of trekkers. Weather was perfect. Overall, not as difficult of hiking as I thought it might be.
An excellent value for the cost of the trip.

Daniel B about Hiking New Zealand

We had a fabulous trip with guides Andre and Katie. So many great hikes and activities covering so many iconic spots throughout the South Island. Small friendly group, well-paced for a range of fitness levels, comfy accommodations. Can’t say enough great things about this trip. Far exceeded our expectations.

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Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in New Zealand

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in New Zealand, please refer to the official New Zealand travel website.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get on this adventure:

  • An experienced, local hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
  • 10 days of hiking and exploration
  • Accommodation in hotels and lodges
  • All activities outlined in itinerary
  • Abel Tasman boat cruise, Natural Flames, Glacier boat trip and Milford Sound cruise
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary

What’s not included:

  • Breakfast and lunch on day 1
  • Dinner on day 2 and day 4
  • Meals on day 10
  • Accommodation before and after the tour

How fit do I need to be?

Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

  • Day pack large enough to carry all the items listed (around a 25-40L bag)
  • Hiking poles — optional
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder (2L capacity)
  • Lightweight hiking boots or shoes
  • Spare clothes for layering
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Warm fleece/ wool jersey
  • Thermal underwear
  • Warm hat or balaclava
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Shorts
  • Gloves
  • Casual clothing for travel and evenings
  • Dry bag for clothes
  • Spare lightweight shoes or sandals
  • Swimming costume
  • Towel
  • Rain trousers
  • Sunhat
  • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera — optional (but recommended)

Dress comfortably and for the weather in clothes you can move in. We suggest bringing clothing appropriate for the season. Layers are best and don’t wear jeans.

 

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and prices:

  • For this adventure, the usual client to guide ratio is 13:1.
  • The cost does not decrease as the group grows.
  • In case you would like to ensure a room to yourself, and not share it with anybody, there is a possibility of a single supplement for an additional $1015.

Hiking on the South Island can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

  • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
  • Minors younger than 18 may be permitted to join the hike on a case-by-case basis, but must be in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.

If your group has hikers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Deposits and cancellation policy

A 25% deposit to secure your place is due upon booking. The remaining amount is paid 95 days prior to departure. For bookings within four (4) months of the departure, full payment is required.

Once the trip is confirmed by the guide, the cancellation policy stated below applies.

  • If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to ninety-five (95) days before the departure, Client gets an 80% refund of the deposit back.
  • If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to twenty-one (21) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of eighty percent (80%) of the total amount paid when Booking.
  • For cancellations twenty (20) to eleven (11) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking.
  • After that deadline, Client is not entitled to any refund. Any reimbursable expenses arising out of the Booking incurred by Guide prior to the date of cancellation (including but not limited to plane tickets, car rental payments, and lodging or transportation fees) are non-refundable as soon as they are incurred by the Guide.

Getting there and meeting location

The beginning of this tour is in Nelson. To get there, most people fly into Christchurch International Airport, which is located on the South Island. From there, Nelson is a scenic 5-hour drive away. There’s also a possibility of flying from Christchurch to Nelson.

You’ll meet your South Island hiking guide and the rest of the group in the Rutherford Hotel, Nelson at 4 pm on Day 1 of your tour.

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Wired for a better world

Outdoor adventuring makes us fall in love with our planet and people, it gets our brains rewired differently and forces us to rethink our life priorities.

For years, we’ve dreamt of building a company that can make an impact on things that we deeply care about. Here are some initiatives we are grateful to be contributing to.

1% of our sales goes to environmental non-profits
We provide work to thousands of local guides worldwide
We operate on carbon neutral and renewable energy
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