Our New Zealand itinerary features incredible vistas in some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks. You will enjoy hiking the South Island’s West Coast with local guides and will spend your nights in comfortable lodge and cabin accommodations. Day trips include hiking and biking along glacial lakes and old-growth rainforests, kayaking in spectacular lagoons, and exploring alpine highlands. Visit golden beaches, bird sanctuaries, hidden waterfalls, and the Cloud Piercer, Aoraki/Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Your journey along coastal and inland trails offers an incredible variety of environments and activities.
Sample ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Begin your journey in Christchurch; hike in Arthur's Pass National Park before heading to the Papora coastline.
The tour begins after breakfast in Christchurch which is also known as the Garden City. After a trip orientation from your guide, you will head across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps which form the backbone of the South Island. Drive through Arthur’s Pass National Park stopping for a short hike before continuing along this engineering marvel of a road as it descends from the alpine zone into the rainforests of West Coast region. From here, we follow the coastal highway to Paparoa National Park and the village of Punakaiki, visiting the Pancake Rocks. These 30 million-year-old limestone rocks have formed into what look like immense layers of pancakes. When the tide is high, or the weather rough, water surges into caverns below the rocks and squirts through mighty blowholes, bearing a great resemblance to natural geysers. Stay in a lodge perfectly situated for enjoying this wild and unspoiled piece of Paparoa coastline. (Lunch & Dinner included)
Day 2: Spend the day exploring Paproa National Park and the wild West Coast beaches.
You will have a whole day to hike and explore Paparoa National Park and the beautiful natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers, and wilderness areas. You will start on the Pororari River track which passes through groves of Nikau palms as it winds up this spectacular limestone canyon. There may be great opportunities to swim in the beautiful deep pools of the Pororari River. The trail then climbs gently into the Punakaiki Valley. In the afternoon there will be an optional hike to Cave Creek, a river resurgence surrounded in primeval rainforest. Or enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the lodge fossicking on the beach and watching the thumping waves crash ashore. Before dinner, head down the Truman track through glades of Nikau palm and swathes of harakeke (native flax) to a headland. Tides permitting, do some coastal exploring of sea caves that were used as shelter by early Maori while collecting the abundant sea food found in this area. (Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included)
Day 3: Visit the quaint town of Hokitika and mountain bike along the West Coast Cycle Trail.
Take a short drive down the coast to the historic and quaint town of Hokitika where a part of the stunning West Coast Cycle Trail can be enjoyed. After being fitted for e-bikes, choose from one of two stunning trails. One meanders along the historic Kaniere Water Races (hand-dug in 1875) toward Lake Kaniere which is home to towering kahikatea trees and a stack of cheeky birdlife. Or, cross the Hokitika Bridge and travel on the historic Mahinapua tramline through wetlands, native forest, and old mill sites with some cracking views of Lake Mahinapua. After the ride, grab a coffee and have a wander around the streets of Hokitika before we drive south to Franz Josef Glacier, home for the next 2 nights. Dine out at a local restaurant for dinner. (Breakfast & Lunch included)
Day 4: Kayak across Okarito Lagoon and hike along the beaches of the Tasman Sea.
This morning we visit the tiny coastal village of Okarito and kayak across Okarito Lagoon into virgin rainforest. This lagoon is New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland and home to a huge variety of migratory birds, including the “kotuku” (white heron). After lunch, hike along this wild, windswept, and driftwood strewn beach and up to a trig point for panoramic views of the Southern Alps. Spend a second night in Franz Josef. (Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included)
Day 5: View Franz Josef glacier and visit the South Westland World Heritage Area while making your way to Queenstown.
In the morning, hike up the Waiho Valley track to get a closer view of the Franz Josef glacier. This glacier descends from a height of 8,800 to 900 feet above sea level in just 7 miles. The West Coast of the South Island is one of the few places in the world where you will find a glacier descending into rainforest. Take a walk along Lake Matheson, with tremendous view across the foothills to the glaciers and summits of the Southern Alps. The views are also famously reflected in the brackish lake water. We drive south along the coast and through the pristine wilderness of South Westland World Heritage area, stopping for a short walk at Ship Creek. This trail follows a boardwalk through a swamp forest of towering Kahikatea trees, and you may also see the rare and endangered Hectors dolphin playing in the surf here. We will drive across the Southern Alps over Haast Pass, this remarkable journey then follows the shores of lakes Wanaka and Hawea before crossing the Crown Range and arriving in Queenstown - a beautiful and vibrant town cradled in the mountains. (Breakfast & Lunch included)
Day 6: Enjoy an Adventure in Queenstown or Marvel at the sights of the Milford Sound.
Enjoy a free day in Queenstown - New Zealand’s famous alpine resort town and adventure capital of the world. Choose from a range of adventure activities on offer or just relax and enjoy the vibe of this fun town. You may choose to visit Milford Sound, accessible by bus or plane, weather permitting. Your guide will talk you through the different options for this incredible day trip. Alternatively, join your guide for a hike through native beech forest and alpine meadows to an old miners hut near Moke Lake. (Breakfast included)
Day 7: Visit Lake Wanaka and Aspiring National Park.
Travel to Wanaka through the Gibbston Valley – Valley of the Vines, named so for the abundance of wineries in the area. This beautiful drive alongside Lake Wanaka will lead to the peaks of Aspiring National Park. Take a hike in the lower Matukituki Valley on the Diamond Lake Walk and on up Rocky Mountain, a distinctive glacially sculpted “roche moutonnee” (rock sheep) for spectacular views over the lake, and to the Souther Alps and Mount Aspiring/Tititea. Stay in the lakeside resort town of Wanaka and enjoy a walk along the lakeshore in the afternoon. (Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included)
Day 8: Arrive at Aoraki (Mount Cook) Village and take in the stunning vistas as you trek up glacial moraines.
Spend the morning driving up through the Central Otago High Country crossing Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country. This Patagonian like landscape makes an incredible contrast to the lush rainforests of the West Coast. Arrive at Aoraki (Mount Cook) Village in the afternoon and choose from two hiking options. One to hike up the steps to the Red Tarns, named for the red pondweed that grows in them. These tarns are nestled beneath Mt. Sebastapol and offer stunning views of Aoraki, New Zealand’s tallest mountain which translates to Cloud Piercer, and the Hooker glacier. For an easier option, you can hike through the Governors Bush. (Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included)
Day 9: Hike up the Hooker Valley to see the Cloud Piercer up close.
Spend the morning hiking up to Sealy Tarns. There are impressive views across the Hooker and Mueller glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefall and Aoraki/Mount Cook. On this walk you can see the forces of nature at work – huge moraines deposited over thousands of years by glaciers, and more recently avalanches and rocks that tumble down distant mountain faces. In the afternoon, take time to either hike up the Hooker Valley or relax in the village and visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. This is a great place to be inspired by the courageous stories of pioneering mountaineers and to learn about the park’s natural history. Tonight is the last night of the trip and what a place to spend it – in the heart of the Southern Alps surrounded by that special kind of silence that only big mountains can command. If you are lucky you will see the summit of Aoraki/Mount Cook turn from white to pink as it catches the last of the sun’s rays. (Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner included)
Day 10: Explore the Tasman Valley before saying farewell to your trip mates in Christchurch.
Before turning east to Canterbury we will explore the Tasman Valley. The Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand. It is rapidly retreating and has an astonishing melt water lake at its snout. Make the most of being in this special place and wander around the glacial moraines and tarns. Our final drive takes us across the plains to Christchurch where the tour ends. (Breakfast & Lunch included)
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
ACCOMMODATIONS: You will enjoy a good night’s sleep in a variety of lodges, cabins, and motels. Typically, there are 2 people per room. In most rooms, solo travelers have single beds and couples share beds.Read more »
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Camelot Motor Lodge at 8:00 AM (local time)
End: Camelot Motor Lodge at 6:00 PM (local time)
This trip begins in Christchurch, New Zealand, at 8:00 AM at the Camelot Motor Lodge. The trip ends at 6:00 PM at the same location. If you are flying from the U.S., you will need to fly out two days earlier, to accommodate crossing the International Date Line. For assistance in making your travel arrangements for this trip, we recommend contacting Travel One, at (800) 247-1311 or www.traveloneinc.com. They are very familiar with our trips and can help you make the best flight connections at the best prices. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.
Is the New Zealand trip physically difficult?
This trip is one of our more difficult trips physically -- lots of hiking and some steep hills. However, there are always options for you if you want a less strenuous day. For example, at Mount Cook the hike to the Sealy Tarns is steep and straight up -- some of our participants say it is the hardest hike they have done on a Wilderness Inquiry trip. But, if you don't want to do it, you don't have to. Instead you can enjoy the fabulous Hooker Valley hike to Hooker Lake at the base of Mount Cook. There are options throughout this trip.
Do you recommend New Zealand for persons with disabilities?
It depends. Since hiking is one of the main components, if you use a wheelchair or an assistive device for mobility we do not recommend New Zealand Hike and Explore. We have had a number of people with visual impairments or other disabilities successfully participate. If you have a disability we recommend that you call us to discuss, or complete the registration form and we'll call you.
If you use a wheelchair there are many Wilderness Inquiry trips that are well suited for you, including safari, kayak, canoeing and dogsledding adventures. We welcome all to these adventures!
Which immunizations do you recommend when traveling to an international destination?
Prior to departure, we recommend that you check with your doctor as early as possible to ensure you are up to date on your standard immunizations. Your doctor is in the best position to recommend specific vaccinations to specific destinations.
Do I need to clean my boots before going to New Zealand?
We recommend that you clean all mud, grass, and any vegetation from your boots, hiking poles, or gear before entering New Zealand. As an isolated island environment, New Zealand has pretty strict customs rules for environmental hazards. If they find mud on your boots, you may experience a 1-2 hour delay getting in to the country.
Do you have a single supplement for New Zealand Hike and Explore?
You can elect to guarantee a single room for the duration of the trip for $450 during the registration process.