Trekking New Zealand: Peaks, Rainforests, and Rocky Coasts
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking "Lord of the Rings"-like beauty of the New Zealand wilderness.
New Zealand: Drink It In
Explore New Zealand's incredible landscapes, predominantly on foot! Explore both islands as you weave your way through New Zealand on this active trip, visiting all the main highlights and many off-the-beaten-track attractions. Enjoy true wilderness campsites followed by comfortable lodges. Trek through Jurassic-like rainforest, hike along a glacier, climb up volcanic peaks and enjoy fish and chips on the beach. It is this mix which makes New Zealand extraordinary - it is majestic but down to earth, otherworldly yet reassuringly familiar. A range of activities and glacier walking (optional extra) complement the hikes superbly and keep this tour as diverse and exciting as the landscapes traveled!
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Explore Fox Glacier and the deep fjord complexes around Milford Sound.
• Hike surrounded by smoking volcanoes and climb among the soaring peaks of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.
• Travel overland mostly on foot with this highly enthusiastic, extremely eco-conscious operator.
From $9,449 per person
Policies and protocols provided before you book.
Nov 13-Dec 1, 2023
Jan 1-19, 2024
Jan 22-Feb 9, 2024
Feb 12-March 1, 2024
March 4-22, 2024
Ask us for later dates.
March, November, January 2023
Hover here for specific dates
Trip Sustainability Awards
Trains local porters and provides scholarships for female guides
Ban the Bottle campaign - 99% elimination of single-use plastics
Upholds a strict, industry-leading animal welfare policy
Day 1: Start Auckland
Start Auckland; afternoon free to relax at your central hotel or wander the downtown to get your bearings in New Zealand's largest city. Catch a ferry to Devonport or clamber up the Mt Eden volcanic cone to get panoramic views of the city and its bright blue harbours and gain a sense of the city’s complex volcanic past. There will be a briefing in the hotel foyer at 6pm this evening. Afterwards those who wish, can gather for a group meal, your leader will organise.
Day 2: Travel to Rotorua
We depart Auckland and head south through the dairy farming plains of the Thames Valley before passing over old ignimbrite flows to reach Lake Rotorua with its stunning crater lakes and volcanoes. We savour a picnic lunch sitting on the beach of Lake Tarawera - an ancient caldera crater amongst forest and volcanoes. In the afternoon we enjoy a bush walk along a good trail alongside this splendid lake - there are plenty of great swimming spots. We use a water taxi to travel one way. Sample good kiwi kai (food) with an evening meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants in Rotorua. This day includes Lunch.
Day 3: Whirinaki Forest Park & Waiotapu Thermal Reserve
It is a 1.5-hour drive to the Jurassic-like rainforest of Whirinaki Forest Park. This park covers an area of 60,000 hectares and is famous for its podocarp trees, an ancient off-shoot of the conifer family that evolved before flowering plants. It is thought that forests like this once covered the supercontinent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago. This is where the BBC ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ series was filmed. Step back in time as you hike amongst weeping ferns, forest giants and rare birdlife. On our way back to the vehicle we keep an eye out for the rare Blue Duck that are sometimes seen in this river.
En-route to Taupo we visit Waiotapu Thermal Reserve, where you can walk at your own pace through this fascinating thermal wonderland of geysers, bubbling mud, steaming ground, expansive vistas, huge volcanic craters and sinter terrace formations. We'll visit Huka Falls before arriving in Taupo, situated on the shores of the largest lake in New Zealand; which was formed by a series of massive volcanic eruptions over the last 2000 years. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 4: South to Tongariro; Bush and Alpine Walks
A 1-hour drive gets us to the Tongariro National Park. Established in 1887, it was New Zealand's first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a Maori chief (Tukino Te Hue Hue) who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect or sacredness) of the land - in particular the summits of the active volcanoes. It is also a dual World Heritage Area, a status which recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.
Enroute to the Park, we enjoy a short 1 hour hike through stunning forest around the slopes of Mt Pihanga and to the mystical Lake Rotopounamu (Lake of Greenstone). The next two nights are spent in a hotel on the edge of the park, providing a great opportunity for you to explore the area at your leisure. In the afternoon hike to Taranaki Falls, cascading 20 metres over a 15,000 year old lava flow. This day
Day 5: Trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Today is a full day's hike on the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, regarded as one of the best day walks in the world. The well-built track climbs, steeply at times, to the craters of Mt Tongariro. Hike up through a moon-like valley of contorted lava flows and ash fields before climbing up the last steep section to Red Crater, and down to the Emerald Lakes - our usual lunch stop. Admire the volcanic views and steaming vents that make this hike so outstanding. This is a tough walk so those who prefer a more restful day can find plenty to do at the village (unguided): Soda Springs walk, Taranaki Falls walk, or simply drink coffee and view the great exhibits at the Park Visitor Centre. Enjoy your second night in this village. This day includes Lunch.
Please Note: Today and yesterday may be swapped around in order to take advantage of the best weather on the Tongariro Alpine crossing.
Day 6: To Wellington; Free Time
This morning we drive to Wellington, arriving in the early afternoon. Wellington is New Zealand’s wonderful harbour capital. The giant fault-created harbour almost encircled by steep suburbs gives it a giant coliseum feel. You have free time to enjoy walking around the central city and absorb the lively atmosphere. Wellington is well known for its vibrant café, art and culture scenes. There is no shortage of places to have a coffee or a drink - with more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York. You may like to visit the museum of New Zealand, called Te Papa, or the beehive (Parliament House). This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 7: Scenic Flight to Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park
We transfer to Wellington airport for the short flight across the Cook Strait to the South Island. Here we meet our South Island-based guide. A pleasant drive through the orchards and vineyards of Nelson Bay takes us to Kaiteriteri, a popular holiday spot for kiwis and a gateway into Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman’s wilderness flows unhindered to a coast of golden beaches and granite headlands; there are no roads here - just boat and walking access. We hail a water taxi to reach the lovely Onetahuti Beach in the heart of the park. From here we start our hike on the famed coastal track and hike through to our tranquil campsite at Bark Bay. A great spot to gaze at the stars before falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean. All meals included this day.
Day 8: Abel Tasman Coastal Track & Murchison
Today we wander through lush coastal forests, cross Falls River via a 47 metre suspension bridge then depending on the tides we may cross an estuary or follow the all tide track. Cleopatra's Pool is a worthwhile side trip, here the river has carved a smooth slide down the rocks into deep clear pools - you may not be able to resist taking a dip! We finish our hike on the golden sand beaches of Anchorage, where a water taxi takes us back to Kaiteriteri and our vehicle. We spend the night in Murchison, a quiet rural town on the edge of the wilds. This is the north eastern limit of the vast wilderness ranges and rivers that dominate much of the South Island. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 9: Paparoa National Park to Ballroom Overhang
This morning we drive west beside the mighty Buller River to the rugged West Coast. At Cape Foulwind we take a short walk to view a seal colony. The New Zealand fur seal pups are born in December and January. We might see the young pups frolicking around in rock pools sheltered from the heaving waves that pound this part of the coast.
After lunch we start an overnight hike in Paparoa National Park. Amongst the largest remaining tract of coastal native forest in New Zealand are towering limestone cliffs, caves and rivers - an ideal area for hiking. Starting at the mouth of the Fox River, we take a historic pack-horse route to Dilemma Creek, and then follow the river upwards to the Ballroom Overhang where we spend the night. Your guide will show you river crossing techniques and you will be thankful for your proper hiking boots, which are essential in this terrain. The Ballroom is a large limestone overhang which shelters a serene campsite just above the Fox River. The evening is spent sitting around the campfire and enjoying a delicious meal. This day includes all meals.
Day 10: Punakaiki, Pancake Rocks, Hokitika and Fox Glacier
After a leisurely breakfast we hike back down the Fox River before driving south along the coast to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. These 30-million-year-old limestone rocks have formed immense features with thousands of layers. Continuing south, we stop at Hokitika. Originally known as the 'Capital of the Goldfields',
Hokitika was once a thriving and prosperous port. Much of its old character remains and it is now a major centre for greenstone (pounamu) or jade. This hard stone is treasured by the Maori who used it for decorative jewellery and for carving some of their lethal weapons – the war clubs known as meres. From Hokitika we continue south to Fox Glacier, one of the few places in the world where you will see glaciers descending into the level of the rainforest. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 11:Fox Glacier Trek, Makarora & Wanaka
We make the most of being in the South Westland World Heritage Area this morning and hike to a viewpoint of the Franz Josef glacier. This dynamic glacier falls 2400m over 12kms as it makes its journey from high in the Southern Alps to temperate rainforest just 250m above sea level. After we return from the hike we continue our drive through this remarkable World Heritage Area on to Makarora crossing back over the Southern Alps en route at Haast Pass stopping to explore remote beaches and coastal lagoons and forests on the way. Tonight we stay in the lakeside town of Wanaka. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 12: Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park
After a relaxed breakfast enjoying the stunning views over Lake Wanaka we set off on today’s hike to the Rob Roy Glacier. We start off with a beautiful drive up the Matukituki Valley, driving through large sheep, cattle and deer farms along the way. Our hike starts from Raspberry Flat and crosses a suspension bridge across the Matukituki River before climbing through Beech forest alongside the raging boulder strewn stream of Rob Roy. Eventually the track emerges above the tree line in a delightful alpine meadow with a superb vista of the Rob Roy glacier. We take lunch here before wandering back down the valley to the vehicle. We drive over the Crown Range into Queenstown where we stay for the next two nights. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 13: Free Day in Queenstown
Labelled the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown offers the chance to sample numerous optional activities! Alternatively, you may choose to sit back, relax and take in the amazing views from the shores of Lake Wakatipu on this free day. There are also some great day walks (some up to eight hours) that leave from this bustling little town. Your guide will outline all the options on how to make the most of your day. No meals included this day.
Day 14: Te Anau; The Kepler Track
We head into Fiordland National Park - World Heritage Area, the largest National Park in New Zealand. The huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri are the border of Fiordland’s dramatic inland coast. The area is dominated by water, either in the form of lakes, ocean fiords or as falling rain – which has enabled the establishment of temperate rainforest.
We hike on the Kepler track, firstly around the lake shore before climbing gently up through the forest and limestone outcrops to the bush-line. From these broad tussock tops you are rewarded with the sweeping views of the Fiordland wilderness including the Murchison and Kepler mountains and Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri. Descend back to the lake and follow the lakeside trail back to the vehicle. We base ourselves in Te Anau for the next two nights. An ideal base to explore and experience Fiordland National Park. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 15: Milford Sound
We rise early and drive through the Homer Tunnel and down to Milford Sound itself. Here we have the option to take a cruise on the fjord with its cascading waterfalls and views of Mitre Peak (1722m). Fiordland crested penguins and New Zealand fur seals often play near the boat.
An afternoon hike takes us up to Key Summit (the tail end of the renowned Routeburn track) for fantastic views across the gneiss and granite Darran Mountains. After the hike return to Te Anau via the splendid Eglinton Valley, one of the only road accessible valleys in Fiordland National Park. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 16: Mackenzie Country to Aoraki/Mt Cook
After several days of rigorous hiking, give the legs a rest today on our drive north to Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park. A stop in Cromwell is a good opportunity to sample some of the delicious fruit that is grown in this area as well as taking a stroll through the quaint and lovingly restored historical precinct of the town.
Central Otago’s high country landscape contains some of New Zealand’s largest high country sheep stations, many measuring tens of thousands of hectares – Patagonian like in size and splendor. Crossing Lindis Pass we continue through the MacKenzie country to the shores of Lake Pukaki and then west to Aoraki/Mt Cook (3724m). Arriving late in the afternoon the remainder of the afternoon is yours to do as you please, either hike (unguided) the nearby Red Tarns track or relax and enjoy the stunning views of Aoraki. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 17: Mueller Ridge via Sealy Tarns
Today we hike up the Mueller Ridge via Sealy Tarns, with awesome views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman (the two highest peaks in New Zealand) and Mueller Glacier with its terminal meltwater lakes. There is time in the afternoon to take another hike up to the Hooker Valley, or alternatively take a stroll around the village and visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center. All meals included this day.
Day 18: Tasman Glacier, Across Canterbury Plains to Christchurch
Time for one final hike this morning, as we explore the nearby Tasman Valley, a stunning area of alpine vistas, lakes and glacial moraines. Leaving Mt Cook we continue north through the MacKenzie country,
taking a break at Lake Tekapo - aqua blue waters framed by the Southern Alps. Tekapo is filled by glacially fed rivers which deposit tons of glacial flour (finely ground rock) into the lake; this flour is so fine that it is suspended in the water and refracts the light giving the lake a stunning colour. After crossing the Canterbury plains we arrive in Christchurch in the mid afternoon, and here the trip concludes after 3 weeks of hiking through volcanoes, thermal wonderlands, rainforests, glaciers and remote mountain valleys. This day includes Breakfast and Lunch.
Day 19: End Christchurch
Activity Level: Moderate/Challenging. Treks vary in length and terrain: half day to full day, to overnight, on well formed tracks to remote valleys. Away from the tourist areas, tracks can become slippery and rough and there are a number of river crossings (your boots will get wet!). We hike together as a group stopping for lunch and regular snacks. On hiking days we average 3-5 hours a day, with the longest day being 6-7 hours walking, not including rests.
On the day walks you will need a small (30) litre day pack. However, there is two overnight hikes on which you will need to carry your own sleeping bag, clothing and a share of the group equipment so a larger (50 litre) pack is required. For the second overnight hike expect packs to weigh up to 10kgs as equipment will be shared among the group (the Abel Tasman hike has most of the gear transported by boat). Please be advised during this trip that usually the group and leader prepare the meals together as many of the meals are picnic/buffet style lunches or dinners.
Accommodations: 16 nights of hotels (with en suite facilities), lodges and cabins (some en suite and some with shared facilities) and 2 nights huts/camping with shared facilities. The camping is in a wilderness setting, basic facilities and generally the group will be expected to put up and take down their own tents and pitch in with cooking and washing up. Single rooms are available for 15 nights of this tour for a supplement, and must be requested in advance, so please inform your Travel Curator at the time of booking. En suite bathrooms are unlikely on nights 2, 3, 8, 10 and 11. Single tents are provided for the camps (the 2 remaining nights).
If you're pretty fit, this extraordinary hiking program across the stunning wilderness of New Zealand would show you the heart and soul of this land featured in so many dearly loved films.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: