Active Adventures |  Kiwi -  South Island Explorer

Christchurch to ChristchurchOn this South Island walking tour you'll experience beautiful, famous and little-known places – taking plenty of time to explore along the way - perfect for those new to adventure vacations!

  • Highlights

    Hike
    Routeburn Track
    Kepler Track
    Punakaiki
    Abel Tasman National Park
    Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
    Franz Josef Glacier
    West Coast beaches and rainforest

    Plus...
    Explore Queenstown
    Cruise Milford Sound
    Wine tasting
    Visit Kiwi Birdlife Park
    Whale watching option near Kaikoura

  • What's Included

    All accommodations
    A range of hotels, lodges, chalets and inns. The only tour company to overnight at the Milford Lodge in Milford Sound!

    All activities
    Hiking is at the heart of this trip. Complemented with some boat cruising, wine tasting and kayaking.

    All guiding services
    Two experienced New Zealand guides per trip. Having two guides allows for much greater flexibility, meaning you're able to go at your own pace.

    All meals
    Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days, except where indicated on the itinerary (usually 1 day per trip is a free day, allowing you to choose your own dining location).

    All transport
    Airport transfers on the first & last days.
    When you're not travelling under your own steam, there will be comfortable air-conditioned vans to stretch your legs.

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  • Itinerary

    DAY 1 - ARRIVE, VISIT GORE BAY AND HIKE KAIKOURA PENINSULA

    Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Thursday evening, arriving into Auckland early Saturday 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. We’ll travel north to Gore Bay to stretch our legs and get some fresh air after your flight. Then we’ll continue north to the seaside town of Kaikoura, referred to as the ‘Serengeti of the South Pacific’ as it has an amazing variety of whales, dolphins, fur seals and other marine life that feed from the surrounding waters. We’ll hike around the Kaikoura Peninsula to visit the local New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) colony, watch the sea birds and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding coastal mountains.Optional: Whale Watching (add US$150 + 15% tax)Alternatively, if you’re keen for an even closer view of Kaikoura’s abundant marine life, then the ultimate way is to hop aboard a uniquely designed catamaran and explore the krill-rich waters off the coast. With a 95% success rate of seeing whales year round, this is one of New Zealand’s most iconic wildlife viewing opportunities. Sperm whales and other species including humpback, blue, minke, southern right and beaked whales are common here. You may also get the chance to observe albatross, penguins, New Zealand fur seals and inquisitive local dolphins.This is an extremely popular activity, so we offer advance reservations with this operator. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, we can reserve a space for you, or you can leave your decision until the start of your trip and your guides will get you a spot if it’s available.Tonight, we’ll kick back and enjoy some delicious kiwi cuisine and get to know your fellow adventurous.Kaikoura Lodgings, Kaikoura (Lunch, Dinner)Gore Bay Hiking Distance: 1 kilometre (0.6 miles), 0.5-1 hourElevation Gain: 20 metres (65 feet)Elevation Loss: 20 metres (65 feet)Kaikoura Peninsula Hiking Distance: 6.5 kilometres (4 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 20 metres (65 feet)Elevation Loss: 20 metres (65 feet)

     

    DAY 2 - WINE TASTING AND HIKE PELORUS TRACK

    From Kaikoura, we’ll travel along the coast to Blenheim, a town in the Marlborough wine region. We’ll visit Forrest Estate Winery to sample some of their fantastic wines and have a picnic lunch, before we head back into the wilderness. The Pelorus River Track is our destination this afternoon, an idyllic spot for a hike, through cool, green native bush, alongside the Pelorus River. You can expect crystal clear waters in this enchanting scenic reserve and even a little bit of Middle-earth magic, as one of the locations for the filming of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Rutherford Hotel, Nelson (All meals)Hiking Distance: 3 kilometres (2 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 20 metres (65 feet)Elevation Loss: 20 metres (65 feet)

     

    DAY 3 - BOAT RIDE AND HIKE ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK

    Abel Tasman National Park is famous for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs and the world-renowned Abel Tasman Coast Track. This morning, we’ll take a water taxi through crystal clear, sheltered waters - we’re at the whim of the tides here, though our boat captains know the Abel Tasman Coastal Track like the back of their hands, so we’ll find the best section to hike. Once ashore, we’ll make our way along the coast through stands of ancient rimu, totara and rata. The rata (known as the South Island Kiwi Christmas tree) blossoms with brilliant red flowers between November and January. After our hike, we’ll relax on a white sandy beach and go for a dip in the ocean if you’d like. This area of New Zealand is famous for receiving the most sunshine hours of any place in the country.Rutherford Hotel, Nelson (All meals)Hiking Distance: 8.4 kilometres (5.2 miles), 3-4 hoursElevation Gain: 80 metres (260 feet)Elevation Loss: 80 metres (260 feet)

     

    DAY 4 - HIKE CAPE FOULWIND AND PUNAKAIKI RAINFOREST

    Today we journey to Cape Foulwind on the West Coast, where we’ll hike a spectacular track that takes us to a view point overlooking a New Zealand fur seal breeding colony, then on to a lighthouse, taking in panoramic views of the coastline. The sparsely populated West Coast stretches 600 kilometres (372 miles) from north to south and is home to temperate coastal rainforest and two magnificent glaciers. After a picnic lunch, we’ll hike the Pororari River Trail in Paparoa National Park, which passes beneath magnificent limestone cliffs and through dense temperate rainforest full of distinctive coastal plants including the southern rata and towering rimu. This area has a unique micro-climate that supports the native nikau palm, a tree usually found much further north. In nearby Punakaiki, we’ll also visit the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes – aptly named limestone formations that have been sculpted through relentless pounding by the Tasman Sea.West Coast Lodgings, Punakaiki (All meals)Hiking Distance: 3.5 kilometres (2 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 20 metres (65 feet)Elevation Loss: 65 metres (210 feet)

     

    DAY 5 - HIKE TRUMAN’S TRACK, VISIT HOKITIKA AND EXPLORE LAKE MAHINAPUA

    We’ll begin the day travelling on the coast to the start of Truman Track, rated one of New Zealand’s finest short walks. We’ll hike through dense native forest with tall flax stands near the ocean, eventually giving way to a pebbled bay and barren sandstone cliffs. Travelling along the scenic coastline, we’ll stop in Hokitika to check out local art galleries and pounamu-carving workshops (pounamu is Maori for jade). Next we’ll get to explore Lake Mahinapua, a beautiful coastal lake surrounded by dense bush and birdlife. We can wander along one of the many paths that wind their way through the bush, and enjoy the serenity of the area. From here, we’ll carry on down to Franz Josef where we’ll stay for the next couple of nights. Nestled in the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef is the heart of New Zealand glacier country. Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef (All meals)Hiking Distance: 6 kilometres (4 miles), 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 130 metres (426 feet)Elevation Loss: 130 metres (426 feet)

     

    DAY 6 - HIKE COASTAL FOREST AND BEACH, KAYAK OKARITO LAGOON (OPTIONAL)

    This morning we’ll take a short journey over to Okarito, a little-known beach community on the coast. We’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. If you’d prefer not to kayak, we’ll point you in the right direction for a relaxing hike through lush coastal forest or along the black sand beach. Later we’ll head back to Franz Josef where you’ll have the option to take another hike or relax in the hot tub, before enjoying a traditional Kiwi roast dinner.Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef (All meals)Kayaking Time: 2-4 hoursHiking Distance: 4.2 kilometres (2.6 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 120 metres (394 feet)Elevation Loss: 120 metres (394 feet)

     

    DAY 7 - HIKE AT FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER

    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 250 metres (820 feet) above sea level. Our hike will take us along the Waiho River bed up the valley right to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier.Heli-hike option (extra fee applies)An outrageously scenic alternative to today’s hike is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you’ll board a turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 1300 metres (4265 feet) above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels – no previous experience is required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains and back to civilisation.The heli-hike is extremely popular, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, we can reserve a space for you, or you can leave your decision until the start of your trip and your guides will get you a spot if it’s available.From Franz Josef, we’ll travel down the coast through lush forest visiting historic Ship Creek to explore the Kahikatea forest, providing a glimpse back in time to what the West Coast may have looked like prior to human settlement. Tonight we’ll stay in the small settlement of Makarora, where you can enjoy incredible views of the mountains right outside your window.Makarora Lodgings, Makarora (All meals)Hiking Distance: 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 20 metres (66 feet)Elevation Loss: 20 metres (66 feet)

     

    DAY 8 - HIKE MT IRON, VISIT THE KIWI BIRDLIFE PARK

    The landscape this morning changes rapidly from dense beech forest to semi-arid terrain before transforming to an impressive vista of lakes and mountains. At Lake Wanaka, we’ll hike the Mt Iron track, a spectacular circuit with great views of Mt Aspiring National Park.  From Wanaka, it’s 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.  This afternoon we’ll visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park to view and learn about New Zealand’s icon, the flightless kiwi bird. You’ll sleep sweetly tonight at a lakefront hotel located in the heart of Queenstown.Crowne Plaza Hotel, Queenstown (Breakfast, Lunch)Hiking Distance: 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 220 metres (722 feet)Elevation Loss: 220 metres (722 feet)

     

    DAY 9 - FREE DAY IN QUEENSTOWN

    Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) and all the comforts of civilisation are packed into this tiny resort town: restaurants galore, stylish lounge bars, day spas, and boutiques. You’ll also find incredible optional activities here including horse trekking, a gondola, fishing, winery tours, a historic steamship, bungy jumping, jet boating and skydiving, as well as some great hiking opportunities. Or you can just soak up the atmosphere at one of many local cafés. Your guides will happily share their favourite haunts and point you in the right direction for your free day today.Crowne Plaza Hotel, Queenstown (No meals included)

     

    DAY 10 - HIKE KEPLER TRACK

    This morning we’ll take a scenic drive through to Te Anau, our base for the next couple of nights. We’ll enjoy a tasty lunch before heading out to explore Fiordland’s wilderness on foot where 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 Waiau 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.Te Anau Lodgings, Te Anau (All meals)Hiking Distance: 9.5 kilometres (6 miles), 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 50 metres (165 feet)Elevation Loss: 50 metres (165 feet)

     

    DAY 11 - CRUISE MILFORD SOUND, HIKE ROUTEBURN TRACK

    This morning, 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 metres to the Tasman Sea and waterfalls cascading into deep inky water. We’ll jump on board a boat cruise, where you’ll gaze in wonder at the waterfalls tumbling down enormous vertical rock faces all around and journey right out to the entrance of the fiord. Afterwards we’ll hike part of the Routeburn Track for unsurpassed views of the Hollyford Valley, as well as Lake Marian and Mt Christina, before heading back to Te Anau for the night.Te Anau Lodgings, Te Anau (All meals)Hiking Distance: 3.4 kilometres (2 miles), 3-4 hoursElevation Gain: 380 metres (1,246 feet)Elevation Loss: 380 metres (1,246 feet)

     

    DAY 12 - VISIT CROMWELL OLD TOWN, JOURNEY OVER LINDIS PASS

    Carefully relocated or lovingly reconstructed, the buildings of Cromwell Old Town represent the character of Cromwell’s gold-mining history. We’ll explore the intriguing buildings and eat lunch here together. Then we’ll drive through the tussock country of Lindis Pass to the remote and beautiful Lake Ohau Lodge. The lodge is tucked in beside an alpine lake, with stunning views stretching across to Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps – the ideal spot to soak in the hot tub and star gaze!Lake Ohau Lodge, Ohau (All meals)

     

    DAY 13 - HIKE AORAKI MT COOK NATIONAL PARK

    The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook was first named Aoraki or ‘cloud piercer’ by South Island Maori. This region was Sir Edmund Hillary’s training ground as he prepared for his and Tenzing Norgay’s famous summit of Mt Everest in 1953. Feeling inspired, we’ll take an impressive hike up to a lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs! The track is surrounded by peaks, glaciers, native vegetation and mountain streams, and provides excellent views of Aoraki/Mt Cook on a fine day. If you’re keen for a challenge, another option is to take a day hike to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It’s a tough hike and the weather would need to cooperate, but the views across the Southern Alps are worth it! Afterwards, we’ll return to Lake Ohau Lodge for the last night of the ‘Kiwi’ and we’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner as we sit outside and watch the sun set on Aoraki/Mt Cook.Lake Ohau Lodge, Ohau (All meals)Hooker Valley Hiking Distance: 9 kilometres (5.6 miles), 3-4 hoursElevation Gain: 100 metres (328 feet)Elevation Loss: 100 metres (328 feet) Sealy Tarns Hiking Distance: 6 kilometres (3.7 miles), 2-4 hoursElevation Gain: 650 metres (2,132 feet)Elevation Loss: 650 metres (2,132 feet)

     

    DAY 14 - VISIT TEKAPO, DEPART FOR HOME

    After breakfast we’ll head north past Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo. With yet more views of Aoraki/Mt Cook to your left, you’ll be amazed at the sheer scale of these lakes and their cobalt blue allure. We’ll stretch our legs with a visit to the Church of the Good Shepherd, easily one of the most scenic locations for a church you’ll ever come across!  After our lunch stop, we’ll head to Christchurch, arriving in time for afternoon flights. This is the end of your ‘Kiwi’ trip, and we’ll leave you refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you’ll have had with us in New Zealand! For a great way to see the North Island too, where you’ll experience Maori culture, pristine beaches and geothermal areas, combine this trip with our 11-day ‘Kauri’ (5-day ‘Kauri’ options available).(Breakfast, Lunch)

 

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