Exploring New Zealand

Destination: South Island, New Zealand

| Activities: Hiking with one day of biking and one day of kayaking

New Zealand is world famous as a paradise for those who love the outdoors. The South Island is divided by a mountain range, the Southern Alps, which are responsible for the islands' unique climate zones that include high alpine and glaciers, lush rainforest, beech forests, and plains. On this adventure, you'll explore the mountains in Mount Cook National Park and Nelson Lakes National Park, hike the rainforests and coastlines of the West Coast, get up close to glaciers in Franz Josef, cycle the Alps to Ocean trail, paddle the Okarito Lagoon, cruise around Milford Sound, and so much more. Along the way, experience New Zealand's unique culture and wildlife in a mix of famous and lesser-known places on the South Island.
Maximum group size: 14


  • Experiencing the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand on foot, bike, and kayak
  • Hiking in Lake Nelson National Park on one of New Zealand's most beautiful trails with spectacular views
  • Biking along the Alps to Ocean Trail
  • Cruise Milford Sound
  • Hiking in Mount Cook National Park
  • Stay in Queenstown and explore the beautiful town

Departures and Prices

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  • Two local New Zealand guides. There will not be an Adventures in Good Company guide on this trip.
  • Thirteen nights in twin/double room or shared bunk room with shared bathroom.
  • All meals as described on the itinerary.
  • All transportation within New Zealand.
  • All entrance fees and activities as described in the itinerary.

Not included: Transportation to or from the Christchurch airport, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities and trip insurance (mandatory).

Trip Info

This trip is designed for women in very good physical condition who enjoy hiking and other activities and want to explore New Zealand. Hiking is generally 3 - 7 hours on dirt trails, rocky paths, and occasionally uneven footing. Please note that Day 3 includes an optional hike with over 3,000 feet elevation gain and is more typical for trips that are rated 4. The biking and kayaking are suitable for novices. A rating of 3 requires aerobic conditioning, such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. For this trip you should be working out at the upper end of these ranges. Rating: 1 2 [3] 4 5

NOTE: For this trip, emergency/evacuation/medical insurance is required. This insurance can be added as an option after you have chosen your base insurance, and before the final payment section. This insurance should cover medical and helicopter evacuations.

This trip is designed as an exploration of the natural beauty and diversity of New Zealand's landscape, mountains, and waterways. We will be hiking 2-7 hours a day along and in New Zealand's mountains, beaches, rainforests and forests of southern New Zealand. We will kayak in a lagoon. We will also bike along the Alps to Ocean Trail.

Most of our accommodations are locally owned small lodges or hotels, 2-bed rooms with private bathrooms. We'll also spend 1-2 nights in the in backcountry huts. These cozy huts will have bunk beds (platform-shared bunks with mattresses) with outside compostable toilets. There are no showers or hot water. The water supply is good for drinking and washing. Two nights will be at the Crown Plaza in Queenstown, a large modern hotel.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

After meeting at the Christchurch airport on the South Island we'll start our adventure with a 2.5 hour drive up the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura. Kaikoura is known for its marine mammals, especially its local colony of fur seals. Passing weathered limestone cliffs, we'll watch a colony of fur seals basking on the rocks and playing in the eddies, on a stretch of rugged coastline that was uplifted in the Kaikoura earthquake - it's amazing to see this brand new land! Today is a relaxed introduction to New Zealand.
Overnight: Kaikoura. (L, D)
From Kaikoura, we'll travel along spectacular coastline for a couple of hours to Blenheim, in the Marlborough wine region. We'll visit Forrest Estate Winery to sample some of their fantastic wines and have a picnic lunch. Then we head off to Nelson Lakes National Park, known as being wilderness country, with incredible views and marvelous solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes, and even bigger mountains. Our 3-day hike starts on a relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut, a small mountain cabin at the head of the lake and our home for the night. We'll each carry a backpack with sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food. To protect this beautiful and fragile environment, we always keep our group sizes small and our exact route flexible. Hike: approx. 7 miles, mostly flat terrain, carrying an overnight backpack.
Hiking: 7 miles
Overnight: Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park. (B, L, D)
Today we'll split the group in two based on your desire for challenge and desire for a 2nd night at a hut. The first option is to hike to an alpine hut, Angelus Hut. Both groups will start Day 2 by crossing the Travers river and hiking around the Lake Rotoiti shoreline.
One group will then ascend up to Angelus Hut (Option A) for amazing views over the lake, which is a steeper hike with an elevation gain of 3,280 ft up to the ridgeline.
The other option (Option B) is to continue along to the township of St Arnaud, and so is a gentler option. This group will spend the night in St Arnaud at a local lodge. Because reservations need to be made at the lodge and the hut has a limited number of spaces we will ask you for your hiking choice a few months prior to the start of the trip.
Hiking: Option A - 7 miles, 3,500 ft elevation gain
Hiking: Option B - 6 miles, mostly flat
Overnight: Angelus Hut (Option A) or stay in St Arnaud (Option B) (B, L, D)
After breakfast, those who stayed in the Hut will hike out along the barren Robert Ridge with dramatic views of Tasman Bay and the mountainous Kahurangi National Park in the distance. Those who stayed in St Arnaud will hike up Robert Ridge, meeting those descending from Angelus Hut. Together we'll descend below the treeline again into native beech forest, completing the circuit on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.
After arriving back in Saint Arnaud, we'll head across the Southern Alps to New Zealand's iconic West Coast - a dramatic and rugged coastline stretching 372 miles, with a population of only 40,000 people. From the high mountains to the sea - indeed, this is a day of the contrasts that make New Zealand such an amazing country. We'll spend tonight in the seaside village of Punakaiki, recounting tales of our adventures over dinner.
From Angelus Hut, it's 7 miles with 450 ft elevation gain and 2,900 ft loss. From St Arnaud it's an out and back so the distance depends on when the other group is met.
Hiking: Option A - 7 miles, 2,700 ft descent
Hiking: Option B - 7 miles, 1,300 ft elevation gain Overnight: Punakaiki. (B, L, D)
We'll spend the morning hiking the Inland Pack Track through temperate rainforest and limestone canyons, following in the footsteps of gold miners who established this trail over a century ago. While we're in Punakaiki, we'll also check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes - aptly named limestone formations that have been sculpted through the relentless pounding of the Tasman Sea. Travelling along the scenic coastline, we'll stretch our legs in Hokitika and check out local art galleries and pounamu-carving workshops (pounamu is Maori for jade), before carrying on to the township of 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. Approx. total for day is a mostly flat 4 miles hiking.
Hiking: 4 miles, 425 ft elevation gain
Overnight: Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef. (B, L, D)
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. Later we'll hike through lush coastal forest to Three Mile Lagoon, and wander along the beautiful stony beach next to crashing waves. 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. Kayak 2-4 hours and hike 4.5 miles.

Hiking: 3 miles
Kayaking: 2 - 3 hours
Overnight: Rainforest Retreat (B, L, D)
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 meters (820 feet) above sea level. We'll spend most of the day near Franz Josef Glacier hiking up through the forest to Alex Knob, which gives incredible views of the ice.
From Franz Josef, we'll travel down the coast through lush forest and then inland to Makarora, a small village bordering Mt Aspiring National Park, with incredible views of the snow-capped mountains.
Hiking: 5 miles, 3,600 ft elevation gain
Overnight: Makarora. (B, L, D)
The landscape this morning changes rapidly from dense beech forest to semi-arid mountainous terrain. We'll hike the Rocky Mountain track today, a spectacular circuit through an area carved out by ice age glaciers, with stands of native forest and shrub land. We'll enjoy lunch after our hike in Wanaka before 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. You'll sleep sweetly tonight at a lakefront hotel located in the heart of Queenstown.
Hiking Distance: 4.5 miles, 2-3 hours. Elevation Gain/Loss 1,230 feet.
Overnight: Queenstown, Crowne Plaza Hotel or similar. (B, L)
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) and all the comforts of civilization are packed into this tiny resort town: restaurants galore, sidewalk cafes, stylish lounge bars, day spas, and boutiques. There is an endless variety of incredible optional activities here: kayaking, fishing, winery tours, horse trekking, a gondola, mountain biking, jet boating, as well as some great hiking opportunities. Or you can just soak up the atmosphere or lounge about reading a book. The guides will happily share their favorite haunts and point you in the right direction for anything you want to do on your free day today.
Overnight: Queenstown. (no meals included)
DAY 10
This morning we'll make our way around Lake Wakatipu, leaving behind the towering Remarkables and head west to the small town of Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound. This afternoon we'll take a hike on the famous Kepler Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks - we follow the track through mountain beech forest and along the Waiau River. It's an awesome hike with spectacular views! We will also visit the local bird sanctuary and discover some of New Zealand's endemic wildlife. Tonight we'll stay on the edge of Lake Te Anau, enjoying the scenery and the delicious local fare.
Hiking: 6 miles, negligable elevation agin
Overnight: Matai Lodge, Te Anau. (B, L, D)
DAY 11
We'll jump on board the first boat cruise of the day, where we'll have the water to ourselves, as we 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 may be lucky enough to encounter the friendly fur seals and dolphins that are sometimes in the area.
After the cruise, we'll enjoy a tasty lunch before heading out to explore more of Fiordland's wilderness on foot. We'll hike part of the Routeburn Track for unsurpassed views of the Hollyford Valley, as well as Lake Marian and Mt Christina, before making our way back to Te Anau for the night.
Hiking: 2 miles, 1,200 ft elevation gain
Overnight: Matai Lodge, Te Anau. (B, L, D)
DAY 12
After a relaxed start, we return to Queenstown, where you'll have a couple of hours to get some lunch before heading on to the remainder of the trip. Then we'll drive through the tussock country of Lindis Pass to Lake Pukaki, where we'll hop on bikes and ride a portion of the Alps to Ocean Trail, following the well-groomed trail around the alpine lake with views across to the magnificent Aoraki Mount Cook. We'll bike straight to our accommodation for our last two nights, with stunning views stretching across the Southern Alps.
Biking: 2 hours on gravel paths
Overnight: MacKenzie Lodgings, Twizel. (B, L, D)
DAY 13
Mt Cook, named Aoraki or 'cloud piercer' by South Island Maori, is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Directly opposite the mountain, we have a stunning day hike to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It's a bit of a hike, but you'll remember the view of the glacier and the surrounding peaks forever! The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it's a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the Mueller hike, or you'd like to take it a little easier, there's an impressive hike up to a glacial lake (complete with icebergs!) at the base of the Hooker Glacier. Then we head back to our accommodation for the last night to enjoy a farewell dinner.
Overnight: MacKenzie Lodgings, Twizel. (B, L, D)
DAY 14
After breakfast we'll head to Christchurch, arriving in time for afternoon flights. It's a 4-hour drive but we will stop for a picnic along the way. You will leave refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you'll have had in New Zealand! You can fly out any time after 3:00 PM. (B, L)


(30 reviews)
4.7 Food
4.3 Lodging
4.6 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

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Most Recent

Kathleen S.
7 months ago

One of the guides had the same food sensitivities, and cooked food just for she and I. That was unexpected and greatly appreciated. The country is beautiful, I enjoyed seeing as much as we did. The guides did a great job to take us to as many places as possible, stopping every hour for bathroom break or some kiwi treat when we were on the road. I saw colors there I have never seen in nature, wingless birds, incredible flora and fauna that only exists there. The guides were very informative, and showed their love of country.

Christine T.
7 months ago

Exploring a new place - New Zealand is fantastic - standing in a rain forest and looking up at snow covered mountains - fantastic

Laurie L.
8 months ago

Very full trip with exposure to large amount of South Island

Diane F.
8 months ago

Andrea B.
1 year ago

We saw lots of NZ’s South Island. Guides were organized, worked well together, and friendly. They were flexible and created easier activities for those who desired. Walking about daily felt great.

Lisa D.
1 year ago

The itinerary is splendid and the scenery at all points was spectacular. Just what the doctor ordered after years of C0VID.

Patti T.
1 year ago

The trip was very well planned to allow us to thoroughly enjoy every moment. The guides were amazing and informative. The country is remarkably beautiful. I found myself smiling every day along the trail.

Kimberly L.
1 year ago

Easy going pace, more than excellent guides

Patricia L.
1 year ago

Excellent, personable and well informed guides.

Mari G.
1 year ago

Fabulous hiking and views!

Patricia G.
5 years ago

The country was beautiful and our two guides were excellent.

Deneil L.
5 years ago

The activities, scenery and the people plus the guides were amazing fun to be around.

Jan M.
5 years ago

Whenever you thought it couldn't get any better, it did. Just spectacular.

Jana O.
5 years ago

Great location local guides were outstanding . Well planned trip with good overall feel of South Island

Sandi H.
5 years ago

The Active Adventures guides were AMAZING! New Zealand is a pretty special place - truly spectacular landscape and culture. The people on the trip were super fun. The prep info from ACG was really helpful.

Christina L.
5 years ago

It was as described in the itinerary but for the last Sunday morning. That was a bit upsetting.

Kathy D.
5 years ago

Great New Zealand leaders. Very accommodating and pleasant to travel with.

Tracy J.
5 years ago

It was a wonderful trip! The guides Tess and Astrid were phenomenal.

Gail M.
5 years ago

The guides were great! We covered all of the highlights on the South Island. Plenty of exercise and great food.

Joellen P.
5 years ago

The more AGC trips I go on, the more women I know who are on the trip and we begin to decide on next year’s trip. NZ was a surprise in terms of exceeding what I imagined in terms of beauty, range of options offered, interaction with excellent guides from Active Adventures on behalf of AGC.

Joyce G.
6 years ago

I loved every day, every activity and all the new friends I met!

Deborah S.
6 years ago

Location fabulous, well organized, great guides.

Janelle S.
6 years ago

The wonderful hikes the positive guides and great women I met. (Scenery and Food)

Teresa R.
6 years ago

The country itself plus excellent guides and perfect weather

Judith W.
6 years ago

Extremely well organized each day - yet as a participant, there was no feeling of being rushed. I'm amazed at the variety of different sties we were able to see in the short period of time available.

6 years ago

So many hikes...crossing the river...staying in the hut...biking...meals together... great people!

Mary K.
6 years ago

Loved the beauty of the South Island!! The mountains, lakes, rivers, and scenery exceeded my expectations! I thoroughly enjoyed the biking and kayaking and most of the hiking. The other women on the trip were the best - tremendous group of women!

Judith W.
6 years ago

Seeing a large part of the South Island.

Beverly H.
6 years ago

Fording an icy rushing river linked to 3 other women! Biking 18 miles on one of the most beautifully scenic trails imaginable! Kayaking on calm waters in iconic Milford Sound! Having the most excellent Kiwi guides escort/cajole/feed us through their beautiful country!

Sylvie H.
6 years ago

Epic! Great balance of activities and remote locations only the locals would know about. Food, accomodations and service were top notch! All guides were just awesome!

  1. Where do we eat?

    Most breakfasts and dinners will be in restaurants where you can order off the menu. Most lunches will be picnic style with the guides putting out lunch and you serving yourself.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, your guides can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and they cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
  4. Why don't you send an AGC guide on this trip?

    This is already a very expensive trip and sending an AGC guide would make it even more so. Our New Zealand guides are excellent and share the same philosophy as our AGC guides, and we are confident the trip will be run to the same standard.