New Zealand: The South Island

Guided Walking Tour, New Zealand: The South IslandGuided Walking Tour, New Zealand: The South Island

New Zealand

The South Island

overview

NEW! As you cross the turquoise waters of Tasman Bay, New Zealand’s South Island reveals its grandeur: the golden curves of castaway beaches fronting a lush tapestry of manuka rainforest. Entering this land of contrasts, you’ll discover spectacular landscapes: snowy summits, rolling hills dotted with sheep, windswept coastal headlands, and subtropical forests populated with native birds. Here, you follow sections of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and don crampons to explore Fox Glacier. Witness the legacy of Maori settlers, who searched the island’s rushing gorges and emerald valleys for precious pounamu-green nephrite jade. Stay in welcoming inns and eco-lodges ideally situated in national parks and rugged mountain wildernesses. Celebrate New Zealand natural diversity on this exhilarating and rewarding adventure.

2015 Downloadable Itinerary

Activity Level
Moderate;
4-7 miles daily
Meet
Nelson, New Zealand
Depart
Queenstown, New Zealand
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
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From our blog

Guided Walking 
9 days, 8 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one lunch and one dinner; local wine included
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting point to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $945
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Abel Tasman National Park
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2
Abel Tasman National Park
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3
Punakaiki
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4
Punakaiki
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5
Fox Glacier
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6
Fox Glacier
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7
Wanaka
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8
Wanaka
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9
Southern Lakes District
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Day 1

Abel Tasman National Park

Meet in Nelson. Abel Tasman National Park: Bark Bay; 7 miles, moderate

The tour’s starting point is Nelson, established in 1841 and designated a city by royal charter in 1858. The second-oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island, Nelson was named in honor of the British hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson. Maori settlement of the region dates to about 700 years ago. Raids from aggressive northern tribes in the 1820s, led by Te Rauparaha and his Ngāti Toa, decimated the local population and quickly displaced them. Nelson has retained the Victorian character of its historical center, notably the Christ Church Cathedral towering above Trafalgar Street.

If you arrive a day early, you may get to know the city by exploring its charming streets and manicured parks. A stroll through the Botanical Gardens introduces you to some of the native flora, much of it unique to the island. A 20-minute walk takes you to the “center of New Zealand” at the top of the hill for panoramic views of the city and across Tasman Bay.

Soon after meeting your guides and group in Nelson, an approximately one-hour drive takes you across Tasman Bay to the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park. Here, you board a water taxi taking you deep into the park, to Bark Bay. A walk skirts north through lush coastal forest, over headlands, and across golden sand beaches. A beautiful and remote wilderness lodge is your home for the next two nights. Before a welcome dinner in the comfortable dining room, you can take a short stroll through the native manuka (tea tree) forest to the beach.

Awaroa Lodge

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

This four-star wilderness lodge offers luxurious accommodation in a pristine setting within the national park. Contemporary design and comfort are combined with sustainable practices and local building products in guest rooms and throughout the grounds. The restaurant and café offer organic fare, much of it from the lodge’s organic garden, or sourced from nearby providers.

Day 2

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park: Abel Tasman Track; 6 miles, moderate

After a relaxed morning to enjoy this remote location within the heart of the National Park, today’s route crosses the Awaroa Inlet and heads north through coastal forest lush with towering tree ferns and manuka. The headlands provide stunning vistas of the turquoise waters of the Abel Tasman while the golden beaches make an ideal picnic spot, tempting you to swim and relax at the water’s edge. In the afternoon, you meet a water taxi that whisks you back to the comforts of Awaroa Lodge.

This evening you have time to enjoy the tranquility of the lodge before indulging in its fine New Zealand cuisine. Before retiring, you may choose to venture out with a flashlight to discover the mysterious sights, sounds, and smells of the rainforest under the Southern Cross in the night sky. Listen for the call of the morepork, a small spotted owl, and find the shimmering strands of dangling glowworms.

Awaroa Lodge

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

This four-star wilderness lodge offers luxurious accommodation in a pristine setting within the national park. Contemporary design and comfort are combined with sustainable practices and local building products in guest rooms and throughout the grounds. The restaurant and café offer organic fare, much of it from the lodge’s organic garden, or sourced from nearby providers.

Day 3

Punakaiki

West Coast: Cape Foulwind and Seal Colony; 2 miles, easy. Truman Track; 2 miles, easy

This morning, you depart Awaroa Lodge by boat, stopping to see the New Zealand fur seals at the Tonga Island sanctuary. Little blue penguins are frequently spotted here in the glassy morning waters as they begin their day fishing. Transitioning to land, a scenic drive passes through Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks and follows the mighty Buller River, before arriving on the wild West Coast. Today’s spectacular walk skirts coastal cliffs to a nursing colony of New Zealand fur seals and leads across one of the coast’s most beautiful beaches. After entering Paparoa National Park, you enter the coastal rainforest on a short walk to a gemstone beach. Podocarp and rata trees tower above thickets of vines and nikau palms. The track emerges on a spectacular coastline with cliffs, caverns, a blowhole, and a waterfall plummeting straight onto a rock-strewn beach. As the sun sets into the ocean, you couldn’t have a better view than from the dining room at the Punakaiki Resort.

Punakaiki Resort

Punakaiki, New Zealand

In a stunning ocean-side location, this sustainable resort complex is built among lush grounds just steps from the beach. Spacious guestrooms are contemporary and comfortable and common spaces include an ocean-view restaurant, wide deck, and fireside lounge.

Day 4

Punakaiki

West Coast: Punakaiki-Pororari Loop; 6 miles, moderate

This morning, you stroll along the beach in front of the resort and down to the Punakaiki River mouth. The trail crosses the Punakaiki River via a footbridge and then follows an easily graded climb through mature rainforest over the ridge dividing the Punakaiki River from the Pororari River. This is part of the Inland Pack Track, which was the route used before roads were constructed in this area. The track follows a spectacular limestone gorge with two main features—a river with huge rocks in deep pools and a beautiful forest featuring subtle changes from subtropical to temperate. Then it’s on to see the interesting geological formations known as the Pancake Rocks for another short walk with incredible views of the coast and distant mountains. You can immerse yourself in the views again this evening over a drink and dinner on the beachfront balcony, or by the fireside if it’s chilly.

Punakaiki Resort

Punakaiki, New Zealand

In a stunning ocean-side location, this sustainable resort complex is built among lush grounds just steps from the beach. Spacious guestrooms are contemporary and comfortable and common spaces include an ocean-view restaurant, wide deck, and fireside lounge.

Day 5

Fox Glacier

Westland region: Hokitika visit and Hari Hari coastal walk; 5 miles, easy to moderate

This morning, you travel south into the heart of Westland, a region unlike any other place in the world. Over 14,000 years ago, the last ice age retreated, leaving lowland areas covered in rainforests, grasslands, lagoons, and gravel-lined glacier lake beds. You visit the quaint town of Hokitika, once the “Goldfields Capital” at the heart of the gold rush. While the prospectors are long gone, the town now thrives as a center of farming, art, tourism, and conservation. Lunch is on your own today in Hokitika, where you also have time to browse the craft shops for leather, pottery, woodenware, and other regional crafts, or for something exceptional made from the iron-hard green stone called pounamu (nephite jade), prized by the Maoris for making weapons.

In the afternoon, you enjoy one of the most scenic walkways on the West Coast—soaking in spectacular views of forest, rivers, mountains, and coastline while walking through estuaries, bogs, and also a wetland forest. The track features remnants of old pack tracks, an old log tramway, and whitebaiters’ huts. Later, you drive approximately 1½ hours to your inn, located in the village of Fox Glacier, just a few miles away from the actual glacier.

Te Weheka Inn

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

This boutique hotel located just minutes from the charming town of Fox Glacier offers spacious rooms and private balconies with views of the surrounding mountains. Common areas include a cozy fireside lounge with superb mountain views, a dining room, and a well-stocked guest library.

Day 6

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe Valley Walk, 2½ miles, easy to moderate; Chalet Lookout Track, 3 miles, easy to moderate

After a hearty breakfast, you set off on two walks that give an overview of the Fox Glacier. Like its neighbor, Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier is one of the world’s most accessible, and also its lowest lying outside of the Arctic regions. It starts its descent in barren icy peaks at around 8,500 feet, then winds 8 miles through valleys of steep rock and green bush, finally terminating in lush rainforest, just under 1,000 feet above sea level. The Te Moeka o Tuawe Valley Walk takes you close to the terminal face and the glacial moraine called “dead ice,” the huge chunks of ice left behind when the glacier retreated in the 1960s. Later, the Chalet Lookout Track, as its name implies, provides broader views of the lower icefall of the glacier. You ascend gently through native forest along an old access road built in 1937. Past the huge Bivvy Rock boulder, the trail steepens to a higher moraine field; entering and reemerging from the forest, you arrive at the site of the historic Chalet Hut, dating from the early days of guided glacier exploration. You return to your inn in the late afternoon.

Te Weheka Inn

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

This boutique hotel located just minutes from the charming town of Fox Glacier offers spacious rooms and private balconies with views of the surrounding mountains. Common areas include a cozy fireside lounge with superb mountain views, a dining room, and a well-stocked guest library.

Day 7

Wanaka

Te Wahipounamu: Monro Beach Walk; 3 miles, easy. Haast Pass Walk; 3 miles, easy to moderate

Today involves a combination of driving and walking in a beautiful area of striking contrasts. First you arrive at Lake Moeraki, which in Maori means “to sleep or dream by day.” An easy walk takes you through luxuriant coastal forest to the remote Monro Beach. Here, you discover the bird life, ferns, and ancient trees of this truly magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site. Between July and December, tawaki (Fiordland crested penguin) might be seen in the surf and on the beach.

After lunch, you drive (approximately one hour) to reach the Haast Pass, the lowest road pass in the Southern Alps. Here, the route follows sections of an old bridle path that once linked Otago and Westland. Along the way, you enter a shimmering forest composed almost exclusively of silver beech. You also walk through a thick carpet of ferns and mosses, with peppertrees, lancewoods, and coprosmas overhead. The track crosses a suspension bridge over Fish River, taking you over the thrilling plunge of the Makarora River Gorge.

Late in the afternoon, the drive continues on to Wanaka (approximately 1½ hours) and the day’s final destination, a lakeside hotel. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wanaka, your spacious rooms offer views of the lake or Alps; each offering a private balcony or patio. Tonight you are on your own for dinner, enjoying one of the small cafés or restaurants in town. You may also choose to relax at the resort to take advantage of the tennis courts, rent a kayak, take a dip, or wander the lakeside trail.

Edgewater Resort

Wanaka, New Zealand

This resort hotel is located on magnificent Lake Wanaka, with extensive lawns and gardens extending to the water’s edge against a backdrop of high peaks. Spacious guest rooms offer views from a patio or balcony. On-site facilities include tennis courts, sauna and spa, and putting green, as well as mountain bike or kayak rentals.

Day 8

Wanaka

Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park: Rob Roy Glacier; 7 miles, moderate to challenging, or Matukituki Valley; 4-6 miles, easy to moderate

A scenic drive of approximately one hour starts the day as you travel through the Matukituki Valley into Mount Aspiring National Park—a majestic alpine region of wide valleys, secluded flats, and massive mountains. The highest peak, the park’s namesake, is also known as Tititea (“peak of glistening white”) to the Maori. The walk to Rob Roy Glacier (elevation gain of approximately 1,200 feet) begins along a stretch of open flats to the Rob Roy stream. You cross a suspension bridge, then climb steadily for 3.5 miles through beech forest, with the massive ice cliffs of Rob Roy Glacier looming overhead. After picnicking with spectacular views of the glacier, you return to the valley in the afternoon, looking for kea (a unique alpine parrot) along the way. An easier walking option takes a route through the Matukituki Valley, also offering stunning views of the valleys and mountains.

Edgewater Resort

Wanaka, New Zealand

This resort hotel is located on magnificent Lake Wanaka, with extensive lawns and gardens extending to the water’s edge against a backdrop of high peaks. Spacious guest rooms offer views from a patio or balcony. On-site facilities include tennis courts, sauna and spa, and putting green, as well as mountain bike or kayak rentals.

Day 9

Southern Lakes District

The Southern Lakes District; Fisherman’s Track; 6 miles, easy to moderate. Queenstown departure

This morning’s walk is along the Fisherman’s Track, a rolling, well-maintained trail that follows the Clutha River from the outlet at Lake Wanaka to the small village of Albertown. Along the way, you spot trout in the river pools and enjoy views of the lovely Clutha Valley. Enjoy a picnic lunch sitting on the banks of this clear blue river.

Afterwards, you depart for the resort town of Queenstown with several stops en route to appreciate this remarkable region of mountains and wide valleys dotted with lakes. Our mid-afternoon arrival enables you to take late flights homeward, or you may prefer to spend a day or two in Queenstown, where there is always a festival going on (“Pure Inspiration” is the town’s official slogan).

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

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