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Deluxe Hiking Tour of New Zealand’s South Island

Daniel Murphy, Malcolm O’Neill, Hiking New Zealand
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1 Person
10 day
Daniel Murphy, Malcolm O’Neill, Hiking New Zealand
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  • 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.

    • Meet your expert guide and your fellow hikers at the Rutherford Hotel foyer in Nelson 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: 3.3 km (2 miles), 1-1.5 hours
      Elevation: +/-170 m (560 ft)

      Aerial view of Nelson City and Tasman Bay from the Botanical Hill.
    • 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 Pool. Journey 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: 12.2 km (7.6 miles), 4 hours
      Elevation: +/-700 m (2,300 ft)

      People boarding a boat on a beach in Abel Tasman National Park.
    • 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: Ocean View Retreat, Punakaiki
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
      Hiking: 6 km (3.7 miles), 2 hours
      Elevation: +/-170 m (560 ft)

      Pancake Rocks in New Zealand.
    • 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: 9.6 km (6 miles), 3-3.5 hours
      Elevation: +/-360 m (1,180 ft)

      Kura Tawhiti, named the Spiritual Center of the World.
    • 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: 8.2 km (5.1 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation:+/-380 m (1,280 ft)

    • 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: 5.3 km (3.3 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation: +/-590 (1,940 ft) or

      Hiking: 10.2 km (6.3 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation: +/-270 m (890 ft)


      Mueller Glacier and Hooker Valley.
    • 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: Oakridge Resort, Wanaka
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
      Hiking: 2.9 km (1.8 miles), 1 hour hiking
      Elevation: +/-70 m (230 ft)

      Highway through the Lindis Pass.
    • 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 Te Anau Hotel & Villas
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
      Hiking: 7.2 km (4.5 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation: +/-650 m (2,130 ft)

      Diamond Lake and Lake Wanaka.
    • 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 Te Anau Hotel & Villas
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
      Hiking: 7.2 km (4.5 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation: +/-490 m (1,610 ft)

      View from the boat sailing in the Milford Sound.
    • 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: 9.8 km (6.1 miles), 3 hours
      Elevation: +/-180 m (430 ft)

      Aerial view of Queenstown.
    • 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 quality hotels and lodges (based on double occupancy – single rooms available for an additional surcharge)
        • 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 
        • Accommodation before and after the tour
        • Travel and health/emergency insurance 
    • This is a beginner-friendly tour of New Zealand’s South Island — no prior hiking experience is necessary! Keep in mind that you should still be reasonably fit as you’ll be hiking 4 to 5 hours per day, 10 days in a row. The most you’ll hike on some days is 6 miles (10 km) with altitude gains of up to 600 m (2,000 ft) on harder days.

      There are options along the trip when you can choose more energetic or more restful days. Keep in mind that you’ll also be carrying your daypack weighing 4-5 kg (8-10 lbs). We suggest going on half-day hikes or other aerobic activities in weeks prior to the trip. 

    • 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)

      Bring comfortable clothes that you can move in and that is appropriate for the weather. November through March is summer in New Zealand’s South Island, offering generally pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 25°C (64°F to 77°F). This period enjoys longer daylight hours and is ideal for outdoor activities. However, weather conditions and occasional showers are not uncommon. B

      e prepared for sun, wind, and the possibility of sudden changes, especially in alpine areas. Overall, it’s a fantastic time for hiking and exploring the stunning landscapes of the South Island.

    • During the South Island guided hiking trip, you’ll experience a high standard of accommodation in carefully chosen hotels and quality lodges known for their excellent standards and stunning locations. All rooms come with ensuite bathrooms, and some lodges offer units with two bedrooms per unit. Accommodation is typically twin share or doubles, and solo travelers will share a room with a fellow traveler of the same gender unless a single supplement is requested. Please note that advertised accommodation may vary based on availability, ensuring you enjoy an equivalent high standard throughout your journey.

      Most of your meals are included during the adventure. However, you’ll have the flexibility to explore local restaurants at your leisure on two evenings.  Breakfasts are typically continental-style, though not always, in the lodges and hotels. If you prefer to venture out in the morning, there are numerous local cafes to explore.

      Lunch is often served “on the run” in picturesque picnic areas or along trails. Guides set out lunch food, which includes healthy and fresh options. There’s a chance you might join in the preparations at times.

      Dinners are frequently enjoyed in lodge restaurants, with menus ranging from set options to à la carte. Occasionally, you might experience dining in unique settings beyond the typical town restaurant.

    • 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 $1,050.

      Deluxe hiking on the South Island can be arranged for larger and for private 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.

    • 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, 27 Nile Street, Nelson at 4 pm on Day 1 of your tour.

    • We highly recommend that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more.

      Travel insurance covers canceled flights, natural disasters and other scenarios that may interrupt your travel plans.

      We also expect you to respect local regulations and take measures to protect yourselves, your guides, and the communities you’re traveling to. Find more information on the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Information page on New Zealand

      If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

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