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The South Island of New Zealand has long been held sacred by nature lovers for its soaring alps, sweeping green valleys split by coursing rivers, pristine glacial-fed lakes, and incredible coastal beauty. Boundless Journeys has carefully crafted a hiking itinerary into the heart of it all, so you can connect to both the grandest vistas and the tiniest trailside details.
The locals call it "tramping"; we simply call it awe-inspiring, as we follow mountain-ringed footpaths, seaside walkways, and rainforest routes from east to west. All the while, we’ll reward each day’s efforts with the finest accommodations.
More than just another walk in the woods, this itinerary captures the full range of the South Island, whether we’re searching for dolphins and whales on the open sea, paddling a kayak into a rainforest Eden, experiencing Maori culture firsthand, or witnessing how merino wool is produced. Join Boundless Journeys on a New Zealand Alpine and Coastal Hiking adventure into some of the world’s most magnificent wilderness.
Our adventure on New Zealand's South Island begins in Nelson, only a short flight from Auckland. Considered the geographic center of New Zealand, Nelson is a relaxed arts community situated on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. We meet in the early afternoon to explore the town by foot, allowing us to experience Nelson's offbeat culture. After a stop at the Queen's Gardens, we hike up a small peak in one of Nelson's urban parks to a marker signifying the point "zero, zero," from which the island's first land surveys were conducted in the 1870s. This is a great opportunity to stretch our legs and get an excellent view of the city of Nelson, Tasman Bay, and mountains beyond.
Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant and stay in Nelson's historic hotel, the Rutherford, popular with hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Rutherford Hotel NelsonNelson, New Zealand
Centrally located in Nelson, the hotel is within easy walking distance of the citys main shopping streets and the landmark cathedral.
Abel Tasman National Park
Today we journey by private van about an hour and a half to scenic Marahau, a small settlement on Tasman Bay. Once here, we embark on our hike through Abel Tasman National Park, 87 square miles of sheer beauty founded through the efforts of ornithologist Perrine Moncrieff. Our hike today is on a small section of trail that is declared one of the nation's Great Walks by the Department of Conservation. We join the ranks of other "trampers" — as hikers are locally known — as we make our way past stunning white-sand beaches, sweeping bays and dense forest.
We are in the capable hands of local guides who provide us with an intimate glimpse into the flora and fauna of the area. Along the way we stop for a picnic lunch on a secluded beach, where we also have the chance to swim in the refreshing Tasman Bay. Our rewarding outing concludes with a water taxi ride to Kaiteriteri Beach before we return to Nelson (please note that the route we hike today will depend on the tides).
Dinner tonight is on your own to explore one of the many casual, ethnic, or fine dining establishments in Nelson.
Transfer to Kaikoura; Marlborough Wine Region
Our transfer today includes a scenic four-hour drive from Nelson. In the morning we visit a historic Marlborough Sounds farm to explore a unique forest and marine coastal reserve. We enjoy a scenic walk following a coastal trail through the lush forest reserves of the Marlborough Sounds region. Shaded by a canopy of beech and broadleaf trees, the Reserves contain native species including manuka, rimu, kahikatea and totara. Following the walk, our drive continues on to Blenheim through coastal villages, providing glimpses of the Pelorous Sound, one of the Marlborough Sounds.
On arrival in Blenheim, we have the opportunity to visit the world-famous Marlborough vineyards for lunch and a tasting of some of New Zealand's beloved wines. We then make our way to the small town of Kaikoura which enjoys a splendid setting, abutted by the sea and by the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains that reach very nearly to the shore. Our accommodations for the next two nights are in the village of Kaikoura, well-located for exploring the surrounding region.
Tonight we dine at a local restaurant renowned for meals produced from seasonal, local ingredients.
The White MorphKaikoura, New Zealand
Set on the esplanade in iconic Kaikoura, The White Morph enjoys commanding views of the ocean, to the distant horizon and mountains, and provides easy access to town and all of the region?s many experiences.
Dolphin Encounter & Optional Swimming with Dolphins; Exploration of the Maori Culture
Kaikoura is famous for its marine environment thanks to the peninsula south of town that swells the currents upward from the Hikurangi Trench. Dolphins, sperm whales, and sea birds thrive here, feeding on the food that's been buoyed by those currents. This morning, there are several activity options from which to choose.
For those who are interested in having an up-close encounter with wildlife, you may choose to set off on a dolphin encounter, albatross encounter, or whale watching excursion. These activities are at an additional expense and must be booked in advance. After you reserve, your Trip Planner will provide more details about how to reserve your spot.
Those who prefer to stay on land may choose to rest and relax or head out for a scenic coastal walk with our guide. Options abound, and depending on energy levels, we may explore various trails and beaches by foot, while soaking up the majestic beauty of the dramatic Kaikoura peninsula and mountain ranges.
After lunch, we gain insight into the Maori people of the region through an informative museum tour. We learn about the region's indigenous tribes, customs, social structure, and traditions that still define the local culture today.
Dinner is on our own this evening, a wonderful opportunity to explore Kaikoura independently!
Transfer to Arthur’s Pass; Craigieburn Conservation Park
This morning we leave Kaikoura and transfer to Arthur's Pass (total drive time is about 3.5 hours), heading inland we stop for lunch in Oxford, a former logging town and now a quaint village at the edge of the foothills. We continue into the mountains, stopping at Kura Tawhiti Castle Hill to stretch our legs. Our afternoon hike traverses basins covered in dry eastern tussock, or snow grass, southern beech forest, and limestone boulders. Afternoon walking options abound, including an easy hike amongst stunning limestone boulders, or for the more adventurous, a climb to the top of a small peak for views of stunning tussock filled basins and the craggy peaks of the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges.
We arrive later at the Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass, situated on a merino sheep station with spectacular mountain views. This evening, we have the option to join the lodge staff for a guided nature walk. Or, on alternate nights, enjoy a tour of the sheep farm and learn about the production of soft merino wool; the lodge farm produces wool for the active wear company, Icebreaker. We stay here for two nights, so you will have the chance to join both early evening tours.
Wilderness Lodge Arthur's PassArthur's Pass, New Zealand
Nestled in mountain beech forest, midway between Greymouth and Christchurch, Wilderness Lodge Arthurs Pass offers comfort and warm hospitality in a spectacular mountain setting.
Arthur’s Pass National Park
We spend today among the sweeping alpine splendor of New Zealand's wilderness on a challenging and rewarding hike in Arthur's Pass National Park. The park hosts a wide diversity of alpine ecosystems, since it is split by the South Island's main divide. We focus our time on the eastern side, where a drier climate persists, and our hike today will depend on the weather and preference of the group.
The Bealey Spur, a popular destination in the area for its unrivaled views, is a likely option. We can reach the trail by foot from our lodge — winding through evergreen forest to the surrounding paddocks where the Cora Lynn sheep graze as part of the Wilderness Lodge farm. About twenty minutes of level hiking bring us to the official start of the Bealey Spur trail. The gradual incline traverses mountain-beech forest, tussock grassland, and subalpine scrub, offering sweeping views of the Waimakariri River Valley along the way. There are several options to stop for a picnic lunch with panoramic views of the impressive Southern Alps. For those who are feeling ambitious, we may continue on to the Bealey Spur hut, otherwise we return to the lodge for an afternoon of relaxation.
Before dinner at the lodge, we have time to rest or read up on David McLeod. McLeod, who owned the sheep station for nearly 50 years, was a writer who made this part of the South Island's high country famous in his many books.
Southern Alps; Transfer to Punakaiki
If weather permits, we begin today with an invigorating hike across the main divide of the Southern Alps. Setting out from the village of Arthur's Pass — a sleepy outpost of 30 residents that only receives one hour of sunlight per day in mid-winter — we ascend to Devil's Punchbowl, a cascading waterfall fed by the snowmelt of the Southern Alps.
We then retrace our steps briefly, before heading up the Arthur's Pass walking trail, through hobbit-like forests, and then emerging into a high-alpine valley with impressive views of Temple Basin (a local ski area) and Avalanche Peak. We enjoy a scenic picnic lunch alongside an icy cold mountain stream, where you can dip your feet or take a refreshing plunge!
Following lunch, we ascend the final bit of the track to Arthur's Pass divide for some fantastic views of the surrounding peaks (please note that this hike is not possible in inclement weather, in which case we will offer an alternative hike today). Following our hike, we take a scenic drive (about 1.5 hours) west to Lake Brunner, an inland lake, famous for trout fishing and surrounded by densely forested hills. As we journey toward the Tasman Sea, the climate transforms into sub-tropical.
Later today, we arrive at our hotel for the next two nights, situated amongst the wilderness and stunning scenery of the region.
Punakaiki ResortPunakaiki, New Zealand
Situated on New Zealands wild West Coast, and just south of the famous Pancakes Rocks and Blowholes, the resort is surrounded by the Paparoa National Park and is only a stones throw from the beach.
Paparoa National Park
We start today with a drive to Paparoa National Park on the Tasman Sea coast. An easy paved trail enables close up views of limestone stacks and blowholes. These unique geologic formations are made up of heavily eroded limestone that has formed vertical shafts. As the high tide rushes in and under the rocks, geysers of sea water burst through the holes.
Afterward, we hike the Punakaiki-Porarari Rivers Loop, a moderate hike through spectacular limestone canyons clothed in sub-tropical forests containing New Zealand's single endemic species of palm, the Nikau. We encounter interesting stacks of karst limestone boulders in the river that were once part of the canyon roof. As we enjoy the stunning coastal views, we may see the rare Westland Petrel taking flight. We conclude our hike at the Punakaiki Tavern, a local pub that serves some excellent fish & chips, and of course tasty microbrews.
After lunch, we follow the coast on foot back to our starting point, then return to our lovely accommodations for dinner this evening.
Transfer to Lake Moeraki; Okarito
Following an early breakfast, we begin our transfer to Lake Moeraki. En route we enjoy a moderate hike at Okarito, home to wetlands that support more than 70 species of native birds, including the Okarito kiwi, white heron, and royal spoonbill. Following the Wetland Walk and Three Mile Track across a forest-covered glacial moraine, we then ascend a gentle climb on a well-defined trail to a high point known as the Okarito Trig viewpoint. From here, we take in astonishing vistas of lagoons, beaches, ancient forest-covered glacial moraines, and snow-covered mountains of Aoraki Mount Cook and Westland National Parks. From Okarito Trig we get a sense of the scale of Te Wahi Pounamu South Westland UNESCO World Heritage Site — the combined areas of four national parks — which makes up about 10% of New Zealand's total land mass.
We spend the next two nights at the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, in the heart of Te Wahi Pounamu South Westland, situated near spectacular beaches that harbor fur seals and crested penguins. Here, untouched lowland rainforests lie between pristine lakes and rivers that drain the snow-capped Southern Alps. The lodge sits in the heart of the 6.4 million-acre World Heritage Area, nestled in a lakeside clearing surrounded by 1,000-year-old trees and lovely Moeraki rapids. The sister lodge to Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass, Lake Moeraki offers a unique South Westland rainforest experience surrounded by true wilderness.
Wilderness Lodge Lake MoerakiHokitika, New Zealand
The lodge offers a high level of comfort in attractive rooms with lounges and a restaurant that overlook the lovely Moeraki rapids. Radiating from the lodge is a network of rainforest and Tasman seacoast walks.
Lake Moeraki & the Tasman Sea
We have a few options as to how we would like explore Te Wahi Pounamu South Westland World Heritage Site today. The best way to experience Lake Moeraki and its surroundings is on foot and by kayak. For those of us who would like a peaceful start, we explore the quiet water of Lake Moeraki by kayak. Our guides give us basic instruction in our stable boats before we paddle upriver for one hour through magnificent rainforest to enter the shallow wetlands of Lake Moeraki.
After returning to the lodge for lunch, there will be an option to venture a bit farther afield to discover the dramatic coastline of the Tasman Sea. On this wet-footed walk, we scramble over beach rocks along the shore in order to see a variety of wildlife — the Fiordland crested penguin if we are lucky (August to early December only), or even the New Zealand fur seal. For the more adventurous hikers, there is the option to go on a true "tramp" on the Haast Paringa Cattle Track, the main route used before the current road was completed in 1965, that takes you up to a back country hut, with a narrow suspension bridge to cross over one of the main rivers feeding into Lake Moeraki.
In Wilderness Lodge style, guests are invited to participate in a short evening forest adventure before or after a well-earned dinner.
Transfer to Queenstown; Wanaka
After breakfast, we bid farewell to the wilderness of Lake Moeraki and transfer by road to Queenstown. Along the way, we pause to stretch our legs in Wanaka to stroll through the town or enjoy a short walk up Mt. Iron. We are free to enjoy lunch on our own in Wanaka before partaking in a wine tasting just outside of town at a local vineyard where we toast our adventures together.
You will be transferred to your hotel between 5:30 and 6:00 or to the airport if you are flying out that evening.
If you choose to extend your stay in and around Queenstown, you'll find many other ways to experience the South Island. Options include joining an excursion to the beautiful Milford or Doubtful Sound, bungee-jumping, or sampling the vintages at some of the central Otago wineries. If you'd like to spend more time hiking, walk the Milford Track or Routeburn Track, two routes that tread through spectacular scenery.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Oct 28-Nov 7, 2019
Take over a date for your group! See "Make It Private" on Dates & Prices tab.
From $5,995 Per Person
First two reserved:$295
See single supplement policy below.
Mar 23-Apr 2, 2020
Oct 19-29, 2020
$6,295 Per Person
First two reserved:$495
10+ Guests: $6,295 per person
4 to 9 Guests: $6,995 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. New Zealand: Alpine & Coastal Hiking is rated 3, moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous).
The hikes on this trip are day hikes with minimal vehicle support. Because of the nature of the trails, we often hike "out and back" on the same trail.
The hikes will be moderate with some moderately strenuous options, 4-7 hours per day; also there will be easy flatwater kayaking options (no experience necessary).
Nelson, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Most Convenient Airport for Arrival: Nelson Airport (airport code: NSN)
Most Convenient Airport for Departure:Queenstown Frankton Airport (airport code: ZQN)
Meeting Time and Place: Your guide(s) will meet you on the first day of your trip at 1:00 pm in the lobby of the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson. Please be dressed for hiking and ready to depart at that time.
Departure Time and Place: On the final day of the tour (Day 11) you will be transferring from Lake Moeraki to Queenstown, arriving in Queenstown in the early evening. Please do not schedule any departure flights on this day earlier than a 6:30 pm departure time.
Winter in New Zealand falls between June and August, while summer is from December to February. Average rainfall is approximately two inches per month, although the Southern Alps form a barrier to much of the precipitation coming in from the west. East of the mountains the climate is characteristically more dry, although as a maritime climate, the weather may change fairly rapidly.
You may find more detailed weather information at www.weatherbase.com.
Warmer months are, for us, the best time to travel to New Zealand. November is considered spring time and a very nice time to go. March is one of the best months to be in New Zealand as it is still quite warm and not overly crowded.
In the past decade, New Zealand has earned a reputation for its fine food. With an abundance of natural resources, and its strong agricultural tradition, New Zealand provides its chefs with an incredible bounty of ingredients to work with. You'll find a wide variety of fresh and saltwater seafood on most menus, including green-lipped mussels (prized worldwide for their nutritive qualities) and the New Zealand trout that is envied among fishermen everywhere. Lamb and farm-raised venison are staples and these, coupled with some of New Zealand's ample fresh produce, boutique cheeses, and local wines with an international reputation for excellent quality, make for some truly incredible meals! Even the casual fare is noteworthy: fish and chips or meat pies from "takeaway" shops are terrific, and don't forget to have fresh kiwi fruit while you visit — you'll never have it better. Vegetarians can be accommodated.
Nicky grew up roaming the mountains and river valleys of rural Canterbury in New Zealand’s South Island. After earning her diploma in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and a stint working for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, Nicky began guiding nature-based walking adventures. After two decades of adventure travel and working in the nature tourism industry, Nicky returned to study for a Masters in Environmental Policy. When not guiding, Nicky works for New Zealand’s leading environmental non-government organization as an advocate for the preservation of nature and water. In her spare time Nicky likes to walk, ride her mountain bike, and backcountry ski.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Moderate hiking, 4-8 hours per day; easy kayaking options (no experience necessary).
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Katya d'Angelo
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