Hiking New Zealand - Ultimate South Island Itinerary

The Ultimate South Island Adventure Tour

Nelson - Abel Tasman

You start your first day at noon in Nelson and meet with your guide and fellow adventurers whom you will be spending the next 15 days with. Today is relaxing as you have free time in the morning to wander this charming town before embarking a picturesque drive to the gateway of Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand’s smallest National Park.

After repacking for this 3 day 2 night adventure, our water taxi will transport us to our first destination of Awaroa. There is time for a relaxing swim (recommended) before following the renowned Abel Tasman Coastal Track south over Tonga Saddle to Onetahuti Beach. We hike 20 minutes to the campsite at Tonga Quarry where we set up camp and prepare a delicious meal together, spending the night getting to know one another in the group.

Included: Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Camping - 1 night

Abel Tasman National Park

Sorry due to the isolated nature of the Abel Tasman you have to experience an evening with no 'Mod Con's' - we doubt you will be able to have any internet connection. Bark Bay is another golden beach in the Abel Tasman National Park and has a beautiful tidal estuary which you can walk along. Bark was stripped from trees to be used in a Nelson tannery last century, hence the origin of the name of the bay (the bark has grown back)

Abel Tasman Camping Adventure


Bark Bay - Anchorage

8.5 - 12km/3-5 hours hiking

After a relaxed breakfast we continue our hike on the Coastal Track to Anchorage. The hike from Bark Bay takes us through glades of manuka, over a low saddle and across a 47-metre suspension bridge at Falls River.

The optional side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool is a must and a perfect place for a refreshing swim, and if you are feeling nimble you can join the guide for a boulder hop further up the valley exploring idyllic pools and waterfalls.

Your guide may also talk you into taking another side trip up to the Falls River cascades, another stunning swimming spot. We camp tonight at the bush-fringed and bright blue inlet of Anchorage. Relax, read a book and go for a swim – before we meet in the evening to cook and eat together.

Note: Please enquire at the time of booking for the sea kayaking option.

Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Camping - 1 night

Bark Bay Swingbridge

Located in Abel Tasman National Park is the Anchorage campsite, popular with kayakers and walkers alike it is one of the best equipped camps  within the park. Set in a beautiful north facing beach,(that’s sunny in the southern hemisphere) the site has great facilities Anchorage Camp site has kitchen shelters, flush toilets, fireplaces with dry firewood tap above sinks and also a filtered water tap for drinking.


Anchorage - Murchison

15km/3 hours paddling

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline by waka (Māori canoe).* After a traditional karakia (blessing) we learn the etiquette associated with joining a waka team. Then it’s time to climb aboard and paddle!

Depending on conditions, we explore several coves on the mainland and the wildlife refuge of Adele Island, where we observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – beautiful animals that were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. Along the way our waka guide enlightens us with stories of local Māori history and customs. We paddle into the beautiful Kaiteriteri beach at around midday, where our Hiking New Zealand guide awaits with our backpacks. After a picnic lunch and a restock on supplies in Motueka we drive south to our private campsite near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia rivers. We enjoy an organic meal that is home-cooked by our hosts. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

*Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people. With smaller groups we return to Kaiteriteri via water taxi.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Murchison - 1 night



Ballroom Overhang

8km/3-4 hours hiking
After driving through the Buller Gorge our first stop and experience of the wild west coast is at Charleston. We take a short hike through lush West Coast bush checking out the dramatic headlands, wild waves and secluded bays. 

After the hike we enjoy a picnic lunch and pack up for the next hike that takes us up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, this park covers more than 30,000 hectares. Its attractions include mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers, wilderness areas and coastlines. 

The first half of the trail is on a reasonably well-formed track and is relatively flat, while the second half involves multiple river crossings and sections where the riverbed itself is our route. Some boulders here can be slippery and good hiking shoes or boots are essential. Our guide teaches us how to cross rivers by linking arms with our companions. We collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang, a fluviatile cave. For those that are keen on more hiking you can join the guide and explore up a beautiful side canyon, following the stream until it disappears into a cave.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Camping - 1 night

Ballroom Overhang

The massive and breathtaking Ballroom Overhang, is an ancient overhanging limestone cliff face, that has been sheltering hikers tramping the Inland Pack Track since 1908. The Ballroom Overhang is close to the Fox River, perfect for a swim after a days walking.

Camping on the West Coast


Ballroom Overhang

6km/3 hours hiking

After a relaxed breakfast we hike back out the same way and head to the West Coast town of Punakaiki to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and seawater blowholes. Then it’s down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving gold rush town in the 1870s, Hokitika is now a great place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Māori for tools, jewellery and weapons.

Tonight’s lodge accommodation is centrally located and just a short distance from the beach. Tuck in to traditional Kiwi fish and chips on the beach or eat at one of the many cafés in this bustling little seaside town. On arrival in Hokitika, we get fitted out with bikes for tomorrow's ride.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Accommodation: Hokitika - 1 night

Pancake Rocks West Coast


Hokitika - Arthur's Pass

39km/4-5 hours biking

Before meeting the group grab breakfast at one of the great cafés in town. Today we get to cycle the stunning West Coast Wilderness Trail between the Arahura River bridge and the historic township of Kumara. 

We will pedal our way through majestic native forest, cross crystal-clear rivers, and pass old reservoirs and water races. Today’s ride is unguided, but the trail is very well marked, and our local partners will give you a very thorough briefing on riding the trail. The thoughtfully restored Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara is the perfect place to celebrate our ride with a drink. 

After the ride sit back and enjoy the mountain and rainforest landscapes as we turn east to drive into the Southern Alps and stay in the quaint mountain village of Arthurs Pass. Lodgings tonight are at a private hut with showers and electricity. We prepare dinner together and get ready for tomorrow's hiking adventure into Edwards Valley

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Accommodation: Arthurs Pass - 1 night

West Coast Cycling Trail


Arthur's Pass - Edwards Hut

7km/5-6 hours hiking
While not as well-known as some of the other National Parks visited on the tour, Arthur’s Pass will awe you with its rugged alpine peaks, wild rivers and adventurous hiking trails. Our overnight hike takes us up the Edwards Valley to the Edwards Hut which sits just above the treeline with a great view up and down this beautiful valley.* 

It is a challenging hike on a real ‘kiwi-style’ track. There are several river crossings and parts where you will need to use your hands for extra grip as the trail is rugged with steep slippery sections. 

We either camp or stay in the hut depending on how many other hikers are there.

At nightfall, we listen out for the distinct call of our national bird, the kiwi. Roroa or great spotted kiwi are known to inhabit this sub-alpine area.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Edwards Hutt - 1 night

Arthurs Pass


Edwards Valley - MT Somers

7km/5-6 hours hiking

We make the most of being in this wonderfully remote alpine valley with an optional hike to explore further up the valley this morning towards Falling Mountain, where the views of the surrounding mountains open up even more. 

After returning to the hut we pack up and hike back down the valley having lunch along the way. The scenery changes dramatically on the eastern side of the divide. The steep forested slopes of the west are replaced with wide braided rivers, scree slopes and the surreal limestone formations of Castle Hill. 

We leave the main highway following an inland route past Lake Lyndon, through the Rakaia gorge and onto the tiny village of Mt Somers where we stay overnight.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Accommodation: Mount Somers - 1 night

Mt Somers


Mt Somers - Aoraki/Mt Cook

8km/5 hours hiking

We spend the morning driving along the western boundary of the Canterbury plains and into the stunningly beautiful Mackenzie Country, an intermontane basin of huge glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains. 

By late morning we arrive at Aoraki/Mt Cook village ready to maximise our afternoon with a hike with day-packs up to Sealy Tarns and possibly as far as Mueller Hut. Enjoy views across two valley glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefalls and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distant avalanches are reminders of nature’s sheer power in this dynamic landscape. 

We return via the same track to our accommodation at a private hut/camp. We’re in the heart of the Southern Alps, surrounded by huge mountains of commanding presence. With luck, we can watch the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Mount Cook - 2 nights

Mt Cook
Nestled amongst native bush are our spacious, level tent sites located – so choose your own. Enjoy the panoramic views of Mount Cook and the surrounding Alps – camping at its best! Set amongst a working sheep station just 18km from Mt Cook National Park, Glentanner Park is the only fully equipped campground in the Mount Cook region.
Mt Cook


Aoraki/Mt Cook - Lake Hawea

4km/2 hours hiking

We enjoy a relaxing breakfast together with a postcard view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our dining room window. 

There is the option today of joining a local operator for a guided heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier (NZ $599).* A helicopter flight will take us onto the upper glacier where we attach crampons to our boots and marvel at the jagged landscape while exploring ice formations and ice caves. 

For those not heli-hiking, join the guide for a hike up the steep glacial moraines to Red Tarns. More stunning views from here! 

Those wanting to rest the legs today can either relax at the hut or visit the information centre and learn more about the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers. By mid-afternoon we have re-united with the heli-hikers and depart Aoraki/Mt Cook to continue our journey south through the Mackenzie Country and over Lindis Pass into the Central Otago region. We stay tonight near the shores of Lake Hawea, a glacially formed lake over 35kms in length ringed by mountains. We take the night off cooking tonight and dine at a local restaurant. 

Includes: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Lake Hawea - 1 night

Mt cook National Park


Lake Hawea - Aspiring Hut

14km/ 6 hours hiking

We drive to Wanaka township this morning, grab a coffee and take a wander around this vibrant lakeside resort town before we drive along Matukituki Valley to the end of the road. We shoulder our packs and hike along the valley, perhaps opting to climb up for a view of Rob Roy Glacier. Cheeky and inquisitive kea (alpine parrots) often mingle with our group at lunchtime, so we might need to keep an eye on our gear (kea love shiny zips)!

In the afternoon, we enjoy stunning alpine views as we hike the valley to Aspiring Hut. Between high peaks we catch glimpses of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m). 

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Accommodation: Aspiring Hut - 1 night

Knobs Flat

This historic stone hut, located in the spectacular Matukituki Valley in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. The views are endless and unforgettable, It is a mixture of wonderful and remote wilderness, lovely river valleys and beautiful high mountains. Managed by DOC, has a wood burner for heating, mattresses and tank water, a favorite for many climbers and trampers.

Aspiring Hut


Aspiring Hut - Knobs Flat

8km/3 hours hiking

We return down the valley early this morning enjoying the pretty views and easy hiking along the floor of this wide glacially formed valley. Once we are back in Wanaka we have a lakeside picnic and you may want to dive into the lake for a swim.

Next up is a remarkable drive over the Crown Range, offering breath-taking summit views of the Wakitipu Basin and lakes. By late afternoon, we’re past Te Anau and well on our way to Milford Sound. 

We camp for the next two nights at the beautiful Knobs Flat campsite, relaxing and making the most of the welcome hot showers.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Accommodation: Knobs Flat - 3 nights

Hiking Knobs Flat
This campground is small and quiet and in one of the most beautiful regions in New Zealand - Fiordland! The showers are hot and the kitchen ready and waiting for you. There overnight tent and campervan sites in the picturesque setting of Knobs Flat here in Fiordland National Park. This is the only serviced campsite on the main highway between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
Knobs Flat


Milford Sound Cruise

2-hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option*), 5km/3 hours hiking

This morning we drive beneath imposing granite cliffs and hanging valleys into the heart of Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is one of the largest national parks in the world, with its huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri and spectacular fjords. 

By mid-morning, we are at Milford and ready to join one of the world’s great day-cruises. Our vessel takes us out to Anita Bay and the entrance to Milford Sound. We enjoy stunning views of cascading waterfalls and the iconic Mitre Peak, which soars 1722 metres above the sea. We keep our eyes peeled for dolphins, Fiordland crested penguins and New Zealand fur seals, which often play near our boat. 

Before returning to Knobs Flat, we enjoy a hike up to Key Summit. This is the final section of the famous Routeburn Track, which is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks. We enjoy an informative nature walk and views of the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

* If you have chosen the kayaking option you will be picked up at 6.30am by the kayak company to travel to Milford Sound. Paddle for 3 to 3.5 hours in double kayaks to waterfalls, spotting rare wildlife, and generally feeling dwarfed by the enormity of the fjords. Returning to land, you will be reunited with the group after their cruise. 

Please advise us at the time of booking if interested in the kayaking option, as space is limited. Cost: NZ$125

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Milford Sound Cruise


Knobs Flat - Queenstown

2km/45 minutes hiking

After breakfast we take a short hike to check out a beautiful waterfall near our campsite, where you may want to soak up one last little bit of Fiordland by jumping under for a shower! We then make our final drive to Queenstown arriving in the early afternoon. 

The afternoon is free for you to use as you wish. Our lodge is within easy walking distance to town. We meet up in the early evening and head out to celebrate the great hikes and adventures we have had together over the last two weeks. 

Includes: Breakfast and Lunch


Just a short 7 minute walk from the energetic centre of Queenstown and a convenient two-minute ride away from Queenstowns awesome 'Bike Park' this modern facility is surrounded by majestic alpine scenery. Pinewood Lodge has plenty of off-street parking, a relaxing spa and many other facilities to enjoy. 

Pinewood Lodge


Queenstown - Tour Ends

Today is the end of the tour. Our guide departs early for Christchurch. For those staying on in Queenstown you will be spoilt for choice of adventure activities to try. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and is surrounded by stunning landscapes with superb hiking and cycling tracks. Don’t hesitate to ask one of our helpful team for tips of great hikes to do in the area at the conclusion of your trip. 



Included Highlights

  • Three multi-day hikes
  • Golden sands of Abel Tasman Coastal Track
  • Crystal clear rivers and limestone canyons of the West Coast
  • Cycling the Wilderness Trail
  • Cruising the magnificent Milford Sound


  • 12 seater minibus
  • A guide
  • All meals
  • Therm-a-rest sleeping mat
  • Tents
  • Cooking equipment
  • Plates/cutlery
  • First aid kit
  • Safety equipment
  • Maps

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What Kasey says about this tour: This terrific itinerary takes in five of New Zealand's National Parks. Your small group will be guided along this 15 day ultimate adventure with a combination of multi-day hikes, kayaking and cycling. Step on up!
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