Experience the mystical fjords, mountains, lakes, and other landscapes of New Zealand's South Island up close during wilderness hikes, sea kayak and white water rafting trips, and an overnight fjord cruise. 

Starting at: $8,195 Register Interest or Call 833-254-6678
 Rain forest walk in New Zealand  Kea in flight  Landscape of lupines and mountains on the South Island  Hiking trails along Marlborough Sound  Queen Charlotte Sound  Dolphins in the waters of Abel Tasman National Park   Fur seal lounging along the coast  Sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park  Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park  Kayaking amid dolphins  White-water rafting on the Buller River  A rafting salute  Landscape of Mount Cook National Park. Credit: David Swanson/Tourism New Zealand  The evocative Mt. Cook  Typical New Zealand landscape with sheep farm  Sheep farmer with visitors. Credit: Tourism New Zealand  Franz Josef Glacier and rain forest   View of Lake Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring  Waterfalls in Fiordland National Park  View of Doubtful Sound   Serene setting of Doubtful Sound

Hiking New Zealand’s South Island

15 days from $8,195

Experience the mystical fjords, mountains, lakes, and other landscapes of New Zealand's South Island up close during wilderness hikes, sea kayak and white water rafting trips, and an overnight fjord cruise. 

or Call 833-254-6678


Activity Level 4:  Active 

Expectations: This trip is part of the Smithsonian Active Journeys collection. These trips feature a daily schedule of physical activities—such as walking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, or bicycling—in addition to activities designed to offer cultural or historical context. Each trip entails a different level of physical expectations. As some trips are more difficult than others, please review the following activity level description—and feel free to contact an Active Journeys Specialist to discuss the trip at more length—to ensure this Active Journey is right for you.

 This is a multisport trip. No activity requires previous experience. Walks and hikes range from 2 to 9 miles (from two to five hours) at a leisurely to active pace, covering varied terrain that ranges from city streets to established trails. Shorter options may be available depending on weather and the group’s interest. Sturdy shoes or light hiking boots and day packs for daily necessities are a must. Rafting on the Buller River lasts approximately 2 hours, depending on water levels, with Class III-IV rapids. All necessary gear is provided. Kayaking in Abel Tasman will be in stable, two-person kayaks equipped with an optional sail and lasts approximately 4 hours.  

Each day features a natural history or cultural site or activity associated with the walk, such as a seal colony, culinary highlight, or meeting with local naturalists or farmers. It is often feasible to skip a day’s activities and relax at the hotel, if desired. During vehicle transfers, transport is by 15-passenger van. Accommodations feature city hotels, comfortable lodges, and a working sheep farm.

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit, expect an active pace, are comfortable participating in up to seven hours of physical activity per day, and enjoy a physical challenge.


Days 1 & 2 — Depart the U.S.

Depart the U.S. and cross the International Date Line.

Day 3 — Arrive in Blenheim, New Zealand

Arrive in Blenheim today and transfer to your hotel to freshen up and relax. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with your guides and fellow travelers. (D)

Day 4 — Queen Charlotte Sound

Transfer to Picton and take a stroll around town, then board your boat and set sail across Queen Charlotte Sound towards Ships Cove. From here, you will begin your hike on the Queen Charlotte Track, which takes you through a lush coastal forest preserve of tree ferns, nikau palms, and other plants en route to tonight's accommodation, Furneaux Lodge. The lodge is situated in the most scenic area of Marlborough Sounds, which Captain Cook first visited in 1769. Part of the beauty of this historic destination is the isolation—no roads lead to Furneaux Lodge. 4-5 hours hiking, 9 miles. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Queen Charlotte Sound / Nelson

Today, hike from Endeavour Inlet to Punga Cove, then take a boat ride around Queen Charlotte Sound and back to Picton. From here, begin the journey to Nelson, the sunniest region in New Zealand and situated at the top northwest area of the South Island. Nelson's diverse geography captures everything from long stretches of golden beaches to untouched forests and rugged mountains. Spend the late afternoon exploring Nelson followed by a delicious dinner. Hiking 7 miles, 3-4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Abel Tasman National Park / Sea Kayaking / Nelson

Today get an early morning start as you drive to the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park for a day of sea kayaking. Upon arrival at the park, board a water taxi and head towards the northern beach of Onetahuti. From there, paddle to Tonga Island and its flourishing seal colony. Enjoy the beauty of these sleek black mammals in their natural environment. Tides permitting, you can explore the spectacular Tonga Arches, enchanting Shag Harbour, or head south to Bark Bay followed by a lazy drift on Falls River. You'll find a dreamlike golden sand beach—the perfect spot for your picnic lunch. Return to the anchorage by kayak, and if the sea breeze builds, you can hoist your kayak's sail. Upon arival at the anchorage you'll be met by the water taxi, which takes you back to Marahau and then return to Nelson for the evening. Paddling 4-5 hours. (B,L)

Day 7 — Rafting the Buller River

Leaving Nelson, head west along the Wairau Valley to the town of Murchison. After donning wetsuits, drive to the put in for your raft trip through the Buller Gorge. You will experience exhilarating Class III-IV white-water rafting as the Buller River surges through the confines of granite gorges with lush beech forest above. However the relaxing pools also provide time to take in the rugged West Coast scenery.

Back in the vehicle, follow the river towards the west coast. Explore the rugged coastline of Cape Foulwind, which stretches for 500 miles. You won't see any crowds here as only 40,000 people live in the entire region! Time permitting, enjoy a 1.5-hour coastal walk from Cape Foulwind south to Tauranga Bay, passing along the edge of an escarpment, undulating grazing pasture, a sandy beach, and granite bluffs. The walk offers panoramic views of the cape and the rugged coastline, and a side track leads to the Cape Foulwind lighthouse. Hiking 1.5 miles, 2 hours. Rafting 2 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Hiking in Paparoa National Park

Spend the morning around Punakaiki exploring Paparoa National Park. The limestone formations in the park make this area geologically unique compared to the other areas visited on the trip. The hikes this morning offer different perspectives, beginning with the Inland Pack Track and Pororari River Gorge. This hike takes you through lush native New Zealand forest and along a dramatic river gorge with towering limestone cliffs. You then make your way to the Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge. The lodge is on a 6,000-acre sheep farm and nature reserve surrounded by the mountains of Arthur's Pass National Park. Hiking 4 miles, 3-4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Farm Stay in the Southern Alps

Today, a naturalist and sheep farmer join you in exploring the heart of the Southern Alps. Discover alpine valleys and mountain lakes, search for rare wildlife, and experience life on a working sheep farm. The Wilderness Lodge's exciting program of guided adventure offers something for everyone. (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier

Back on the road, continue on a scenic coastal drive that brings you to the frontier town of Hokitika. Here you will have the option of exploring artisan stores around the town, many of which include carvings of jade sourced locally from the remote, steep rivers that drain the Southern Alps.

Continue south to the seaside hamlet of Okarito where you'll put on your hiking shoes for a beautiful afternoon walk through lush rain forest on a trail overlooking the ocean. This hike gives you a true appreciation for the incredible diversity of the area. To the west, you have views of the wild coastline, while turning east the glaciated Southern Alps tower dramatically above the rain forest. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Mount Cook, known as Aoraki in Maori, New Zealand’s highest peak, with Mount Tasman on its flank. A short drive takes you into the Glacier region where you end the day with a hike in the valley below Franz Josef Glacier. With a free night tonight you can choose your own dining option in the town of Franz Josef. Hiking 5 miles, 2-3 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Franz Josef Glacier

Set out on with your guides this morning for a hike to explore the Franz Josef area. Weather permitting, you may choose to book an optional heli-hike on the glacier or a scenic helicopter ride for aerial views of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Mt. Cook, and Mt. Tasman. Back in the vehicle, head farther south to the Southern Lakes District and Lake Wanaka. Hiking 3-4 hours. (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Hiking Rocky Mountain

Spend the morning and early afternoon hiking the Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain trail, which has stunning alpine views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. This afternoon enjoy a few hours of free time to relax or meander around Wanaka town before dinner. Hiking 4-5 miles, 2-3 hours. (B,L)

Day 13 — Cruising Doubtful Sound

This morning, drive to Doubtful Sound through a landscape that was carved, tumbled, and jumbled by grinding glaciers during the last Ice Age. You’ll arrive in Manapouri then take a short cruise across Lake Manapouri. Continue across Wilmot Pass on a sub-alpine road through dense rain forest to Deep Cove. Here you'll board the Fiordland Navigator for an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound.

As you cruise through some of the fjord’s most stunning scenery, knowledgeable nature guides will provide commentary ensuring that you miss nothing, be it a pod of resident dolphins, fur seals, or rare penguins. After dropping anchor in a sheltered cove, you can choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or tender boat or simply relax onboard the ship. For the more adventurous, there’s even a chance to go swimming!

In the evening, enjoy a delicious three-course buffet dinner prepared by your onboard chef and served in the dining saloon. Mingle with fellow travelers, savor some of the fine wines, and if the night skies are clear, spend some time on the upper deck gazing at the stars. (B,L,D)

Day 14 — Te Anau

Kick off the next day with a hearty cooked breakfast and spend the rest of the morning exploring other parts of the fjord. You then return to Deep Cove for the trip back to Manapouri. Continue to Te Anau, known as the "gateway to the fiords," and celebrate your adventure with a farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 15 — Departure

Bid farewell to New Zealand today. A transfer is provided to the Queenstown airport for return flights home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)