Trip Type : Group Tour
Mountains glacier New Zealand_3679420_1920_p

South Island Explorer

Active Adventures New Zealand
4.9 . Excellent
100%
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Full day hiking or trekking over medium to long distances. Moderate expectation of physical fitness. Strenuous
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
14 days
From: $ 5,799 $ 414 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Enjoy Hike Routeburn Track
  • Visit the famous Pancake Rock
  • Hike Abel Tasman National Park
  • Enjoy Franz Josef Glacier

Short Description

New to adventure vacations or not quite ready to hang up your hiking boots just yet? On this South Island walking tour you'll experience beautiful, famous and little-known places – taking plenty of time to explore along the way! For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5 day 'Kauri' options available).

Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Trip Type Group Tour
Spend most of the time outdoors. Common trip themes and activities include cycling, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting.
Itinerary Focus Active
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Christchurch
End City Christchurch

Trip Includes

All guiding services

Two experienced guides per trip. In New Zealand you'll have a lead guide and a co guide.

All accommodations

A range of hotels, lodges, chalets, inns, sheep stations and backcountry huts, depending on which trip you choose.

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 activities

Hiking, kayaking, biking, rafting, scenic flights, jet boating and more!

All transport

Airport transfers.

When you're not travelling under your own steam, they'll be comfortable air-conditioned vans to stretch your legs.

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive, visit Gore Bay and hike Kaikoura Peninsula

Meals: Lunch and Dinner

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 + 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

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. Later, we’ll settle into our lodgings for the night in Marahau, a small settlement in the Tasman Region and the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman Lodge, Marahau

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.

Abel Tasman Lodge, Marahau

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

Day 5: Hike Truman Track, visit Hokitika, explore West Coast Treetop Walk

We’ll begin the day travelling on the coast to Te Miko and 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 experience the West Coast Treetop Walk, a treetop adventure among giants. This walk will take you up above the forest floor, allowing you to pass through an ancient canopy of rimu and kamahi trees. 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

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

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 (add US$350 + tax)

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 (4000 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

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)

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 Routeburn Track

This morning, we set off for our largest and perhaps most spectacular national park, Fiordland. We’ll hike part of the Routeburn Track for unsurpassed views of the Hollyford Valley, as well as Lake Marian and Mt Christina. 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 breathtaking, with steep granite walls plunging over a thousand metres to the Tasman Sea and waterfalls cascading into deep inky water.

Milford Lodge Chalets, Milford Sound

Day 11: Cruise Milford Sound, hike Kepler Track

Today you’ll have the opportunity to explore Milford Sound and hopefully spot some friendly fur seals and dolphins. 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. We’re on a smaller boat than is typical in Milford Sound, which means we’ll be able to get up close to the wildlife and also have a good chat to the specialist nature guides who’ll give a lively and informative commentary. This afternoon, we’ll explore the Fiordland wilderness on foot to check out some of its endemic flora and fauna, like the kea (Nestor notabilis), New Zealand’s notoriously cheeky and intelligent alpine parrot and the kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticate), the world’s largest fuchsia. Later we’ll hike a section of the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

Lake Manapouri Inn, Manapouri

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

Day 13: Hike Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

This morning you won’t have to pack your bags as we’ll be returning to this wonderful setting in the evening. 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)

Day 14: Visit Tekapo, depart for home

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

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).

Availability

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Price From $ 5,799
Price Per Day: $ 414 per day
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Start DateEnd DateDouble StandardAvailability 
Dec-14-2019Dec-27-2019$ 5,799Limited Reserve
Jan-11-2020Jan-24-2020$ 5,799Limited Reserve
Feb-08-2020Feb-24-2020$ 5,799Limited Reserve
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Stride Featured in

Stride Feature In

16 Active Adventures New Zealand Travel Reviews & Ratings

100%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 15
Great 1
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.9
Guide
4.9
Activities
4.9
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.9
Meals
4.9

South Island Explorer

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Company Reviews

Fantastic company and they create amazing trips

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
This is a fantastic company and they create amazing trips. I did the Rimu and the Kauri in New Zealand in January of 2010, and more recently the Annapurna Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in November of 2015. They have only the BEST guides working for them. I can't recommend them highly enough! Take the leap--it's the experience of a lifetime. I think my next trip will be the Condor in South America, although I have to say that Nepal really got under my skin and I'm yearning to go back... The name Active Adventures truly says it all.
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Active Adventures made it a trip of a lifetime for me.

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
My Rimu trip of December, 2015 exceeded all of my expectations. New Zealand is truly a magical place to visit and seeing and experiencing it with Active Adventures made it a trip of a lifetime for me. Our guides (and driver and cook) Vanessa and Tess were part parent and part coach who saw to every detail, pushing me to accomplish every aspect of the trip in great humor. Coming from someone who loves and lives for the outdoors, I can't say enough great things about Active Adventures.
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Amazing experience!

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
It is so, so easy to write a great review of these folks. My wife and I spent two weeks with them in December 2015, and a gang of walkers, kayakers, cyclists (well, we also included rock climbers, but didn't do that on this trip), and wine drinkers. THIS is the way to do the South Island. Vanessa and Tess drove us to gorgeous places without gangs of tourists, cooked real good food, and even played some of my music on the bus/van speakers as we zoomed around the country.

We swam with seals, walked with weird local birds, and intensely hiked up to high country huts. They drove. You don't wanna drive, at least not your first trip. You wanna look.

Steph and I are pretty active. Some of our group were a little less compulsive, so the group split into two for a few days, and half of us packed gear up the big hills, while others paddled. Do let your organizer know how fit you are.

As you know from reading their materials, lodgings are not 5-star, but they are clean and comfortable -- Remember, much of the S Island boonies' infrastructure is the USA in the 1950's. Food is good, sometimes real good. But, again, not 5-star, or you would be on a Nat Geo trip, at twice the price and half the activity, wouldn't you?

Ah yes.....Their coffee each morning was to die for. They bought from a local roaster from Queenstown or CC. And, of course, we never lacked for superb wine.

All those pictures posted on their website: Yep. Real. THAT will be your trip if you hire these folks.

Steph and I are happy to discuss our experiences with Active if you want to email or call us. Just ask the person you are emailing with at the company to give you my email, and we can connect. We live in DC. (They did that for us as we were deciding on how to see the country, and a couple of calls to DC locals who were still in Kiwi withdrawal did the trick for us.)

BTW, for your flight down, Air NZ runs one of the loveliest lounges in the airport world, at LAX. So, if you use your United miles to upgrade to Air NZ biz class lie flat seats, or spring for round trip paid biz class lie flat seat tickets, your vacation will seriously start when you hit that lounge. And, thanks to Qantas, AA and United, airfare prices will be dropping as all these folks compete with Air NZ for your business. In any event, do try to get a good sleep on the way over there, whether you fly direct from N America, or you substantially cut your costs by buying two loops, with Hawaii as your pivot point.
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Adventures created a unique experience

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
The word "Amazing" does not do justice to the trip and experience we had with Active Adventures. We are a family that has traveled the world and never used a tour company. Active Adventures created a unique experience that you can't achieve on your own. Extremely knowledgeable guides along with a great travel plan allowed us to have a once in a lifetime experience in New Zealand. We look forward to our next Active Adventure trip.
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So many great experiences

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
We spent our honeymoon in October 2008 traveling through New Zealand on an Active Adventures guided tour. It was an amazing trip! We had a small group and three awesome and experienced guides. The photos from the trip are beautiful! There were so many great experiences that my husband and I still talk about and joke about. For instance, our kayak experience was a hoot! It was calm as could be in the lagoon, and then coming across to get to land we hit a headwind and we paddled and paddled like mad and were getting nowhere together. It was so hilarious we could not stop laughing! We are an active couple, and a social couple and this tour was magnificent. The guides were beyond incredible. They made the trip even better with their fun personalities, positive spirit and wonderful knowledge! A shout out and big thank you to Ken, Tim and Zoe, from Nadine & Bob
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Great Experience

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Best way to see New Zealand! It was great to experience New Zealand through the eyes of our kiwi guides. They know how to make all the little details perfect, and were really knowledgeable about New Zealand nature and history. Take your next trip with Active Adventures!
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Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max

Trip ID#:

SouIslAct

Meals Included:

12 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches and 11 Dinners

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