Wilderness Travel New Zealand
From the mountains to the sea, New Zealand’s entire South Island feels like one enormous national park—no wonder Kiwis celebrate any opportunity to “have a go” at outdoor adventure! We discover firsthand the natural beauty that inspires them as we swim among wild dolphins at Kaikoura, hike along the powdery-white beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, scramble on the towering ice formations of Fox Glacier, and savor world-famed Milford Sound on a spectacular overnight cruise—the best way to experience this magical place. Adventures abound, and along the way, our journey reveals the unique culture, friendly Kiwi character, and wonderfully unhurried pace of this nature-blessed land.
It was a superb trip, and the country's beauty was highlighted every day. It was very evident that the trip guides are intensely proud of their country, and we had lots of discussion around the economy and political situation and the future.
— Kathy M., Des Moines, IA
Kaikoura Coast / Swim with Dolphins / Marlborough Sounds / Nelson
Hike along the Kaikoura Peninsula, then swim and snorkel with its most famous local personalities—the playful dusky dolphins who frolic here in pods numbering in the hundreds. In Marlborough Sounds, renowned for its elegant Sauvignon Blanc wines, we enjoy wine tasting and a vineyard picnic lunch, then end our day in the artists’ haven of Nelson.View Lodging Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura is a quiet town spread out along the coastline, and the ocean views are sensational from our accommodation, with its great location on Kaikoura’s main street. Please note that on these two nights, trip members will be sharing one two-bedroom apartment on a double occupancy basis. They are well-furnished two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments with spacious living rooms, kitchens, and balconies for enjoying the view. Each apartment has two bathrooms (one bathroom is en suite and the other is in a hall, but both bathrooms are private). It’s just a 5-minute walk to our Dolphin Encounter base, where we get outfitted for snorkeling with Kaikoura’s friendly pods! Optional upgrade for your own private apartment for the two-night stay is at an additional cost and subject to availability.
Day 3 (1 night), Nelson, New Zealand
With a waterside setting on the Waimea Estuary outside Nelson, the Grand Mercure is a new resort laid out like an English village, complete with pedestrian streets and an inviting village green. Our accommodation at the resort is in spacious studio apartments with living area, kitchenette, and en suite bathrooms. The resort also offers a pool, laundry facilities, spa services, hair salon, and shops. The restaurant, the Orangerie, is very good, with a menu that blends local ingredients and French style.
Abel Tasman National Park / Paparoa
Our hikes in Abel Tasman National Park lead through mystical fern forests, along powdery beaches, past lagoons with turquoise waters, and up into headlands—all with fantastic coastal views. At Paparoa National Park, we explore water-sculpted limestone blowholes and hike through a magical “lost world” of subtropical rainforest.View Lodging Days 4 to 5 (2 nights), Kaiteriteri, Abel Tasman Nat'l Park, New Zealand
Though this lodge is a bit rustic, its location can’t be beat—it's surrounded by native bush and pristine beaches right in the heart of Abel Tasman National Park. The lodge is accessible only via trail, boat, or helicopter. We arrive at a trailhead by water taxi, hop into the water, and wade to shore. We then hike to the lodge. Rooms are small but lovely, with sunny private decks. The restaurant is very good, well known among the hikers and yachters who frequent the area. From the lodge, we can hike right onto Abel Tasman’s stunning trails.
Day 7 (1 night), Hokitika, New Zealand
As the name implies, this comfortable hotel is set right on the beach, close to the heart of Hokitika. We have guest rooms facing the Tasman Sea, so we can experience the raw wild beauty of the West Coast—and a stunning sunset as well!
Fox Glacier / Mount Aspiring
A walk near the terminus of the Fox Glacier offers up-close views of a dynamic river of ice, and we search for the rare Fiordland crested penguins at Munro Beach. In Mount Aspiring National Park, our hike leads to a natural amphitheater surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls pouring from hanging sheets of ice.View Lodging Day 8 (1 night), Fox Glacier Township, New Zealand
A minute’s walk from the cafes and pubs in the “one street” town of Fox Glacier Township, the Westhaven is a nice new motel with clean, comfortable, and spacious rooms. There aren’t many choices in this little village, and the Westhaven has a great location and a friendly staff. The electric blankets and heated bathroom floors are a nice touch.
Day 9 (1 night), Wanaka, New Zealand
The Edgewater has a wonderful and peaceful lakefront location just outside the town of Wanaka (it’s about a 20-minute walk to the town center). Guest rooms are spacious and comfortable, and sport spectacular lake views right from the balcony or patio. Hotel facilities include a day spa and sauna.
Days 10 to 11 (2 nights), Gibbston, New Zealand
These brand-new chalet-style duplex cottages are set on a 50-acre vineyard in the Gibbston Valley just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Here you'll soak up the pioneering history of the Kinross station and family, plus enjoy the romance of a working vineyard that grows Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer grape varieties. Kinross offers comfortable studio and family cottages for up to 28 guests, each with bath or shower option, full kitchen, and super king or split twin beds.
Fiordland / Milford Sound
With sheer 4, 000-foot rock walls rising from the water’s edge, Milford Sound is a dramatic meeting of mountains and sea. Our overnight cruise takes us out to an anchorage in a sheltered cove beneath towering Mount Pembroke, where we can explore the fjord by kayak or tender, or simply relax and enjoy the view. Depart on Day 13, or join our Queenstown or Hollyford Track extension.View Lodging