Map of New Zealand South Island Adventure including New Zealand

Satisfy all your senses in the spectacular South Island

From an ancient world of forests and glaciers to a culture of hospitality that has long defined New Zealand’s people, discover the best of the South Island on a 12-day adventure. Take in highlights from Reefton to Franz Josef, Pancake Rocks to botanical gins, kayaking to spa soaking. Make your way to the shores of the South Island’s biggest lake and sail the silent waters of glacier-carved Fiordland National Park on an unforgettable cruise on Milford Sound. Cross to the cliffs of the Catlins and hike to coastal caves, then span the gap to untouched Stewart Island to explore the wilderness, listening out for the call of the kiwi. When it comes to natural wonders, it doesn’t get better than this.

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Start
Christchurch, New Zealand
Finish
Queenstown, New Zealand
Destination
New Zealand
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
PHSQC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Take in the magic of the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier regions during dips in hot pools weaving through rainforests and a walk around the shimmering Lake Matheson.

  • Witness the stunning, millions of years old scenery at the dramatic Pancake Rocks and the Hokitika Gorge, and spot fur seals at Cape Foulwind.

  • Soak up the silence of Milford Sound on a cruise across its waters – you’ll be left speechless by the hundreds of tumbling cascades and deeply forested mountains.

  • Explore the Cathedral Caves of the Catlins, an untamed coastal wilderness home to rugged cliffs, dense forest, and spectacular hidden waterfalls.

  • Cross the Foveaux Strait to unspoilt Stewart Island and spend two days cruising the bays and inlets to spot penguins and seabirds and walking along its forested coastal tracks in search of kiwis.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some walking over varied terrain and is best suited to travellers with a good level of mobility. Details on physical activities can be found in the itinerary.

  • Please ensure you consult your local government’s advice regarding domestic travel prior to booking this trip.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 May 2022 to 30 Apr 2023.
View the 2021 itinerary
Welcome to your Intrepid exploration of the South Island! Your adventure begins in Christchurch, where a welcome meeting will take place at 8am for you to meet up with your local leader and fellow travellers. After your meeting, it’s time to hit the road, first heading to Maruia Springs in the Lewis Pass national reserve. Check out the natural hot pools surrounded by greenery as the snow dusted peaks of the Southern Alps look on. You can even opt to take a dip. Next up, travel to Reefton, a tiny town that punches above its size. Take a town walking tour with a local story-teller, learning about it's gold mining past. Step back in time as tea is prepared for you on the forge. Manuka leaf is introduced into the billy to produce a rich and sweet black tea which will be served with scones with manuka honey. Finally, drive on to the town of Westport and perhaps round off the day with group dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Reefton - Town Tour with Billy Tea, Scones & Honey
  • Reefton - Miners Hut visit
  • Reefton - Gold Panning Experience
Optional Activities
  • Lewis Pass - Maruia Hot Springs - NZD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting this morning as we will be checking insurance and emergency contact details at this time. If you are going to be late, please let an Intrepid representative or your travel agent know. Find details of the meeting point in your Essential Trip Information.
Start your day with a stop at the wild Cape Foulwind and admire incredible views of the mountains and rugged coastline. The headland is home to a fur seal breeding colony so keep your eyes peeled, they can easily blend in with the rocks! Then it’s time to stretch your legs with a walk through the historic mining settlement of Denniston – your leader will be able to give you an idea of what life once looked like for the miners and their families. Return to Westport for an evening at leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tauranga Bay - Fur Seal Colony
  • Westport - Cape Foulwind Walkway & Lighthouse
  • Westport - Seal Colony at Tauranga Bay
  • Denniston - Heritage Village Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel to Charleston this morning to join a train ride in open carriages through primeval rain forest. ‘The Nile River Rainforest Train’ recreates a bygone era where bush trams once prevailed. Experience the spectacular wilderness of the Nile River Canyon in Paparoa National Park. Next up is Punakaiki, a town with less than 100 residents, but famed for its so-called Pancake Rocks. These layers of fossilised animals and plants, formed over 30 million years ago, were thrust above the surface by the moving earth and sculpted by wind and water. At high tide the sea is forced through blowholes in the limestone to burst metres into the air – it’s an entertaining sight! Continue to Kumara, a former goldrush town with an intriguing history (this little place was the home of New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister!). On arrival, settle into your hotel, then head out to meet the town’s brightest residents. Just behind your hotel, you’ll find dazzling glow worms lighting up old mineshafts. Once the sun has gone down, be sure to look up. With very little light pollution, the stargazing in Kumara is absolutely out of this world (literally!).
Accommodation
  • Motel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Punakaiki - Pancake Rocks & Blowholes Walk
  • Kumara - Glow Worm Cave Visit
  • Charleston - Nile River Gorge Rainforest Train Ride
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today begins with a visit to the Hokitika Gorge, one of the West Coast’s most stunning spots. Shimmering turquoise waters wreathed with lush native bush make a sight to remember. Then it’s on to the Okarito Lagoon, alive with the calls of over 70 unique species of birds. Head out on a nature walk culminating in a lookout point from which, on a clear day, you can enjoy an unbeatable view over Westland (Tai Poutini) National Park from the snow-capped Southern Alps (Kā Tiritiri o te Moana) across extensive native forest to the lagoons and beaches of the coast. An optional activity here is to take an optional guided kayak trip across its still waters. Continue your journey south towards Franz Josef and pay a visit to the glacier hot pools, where you’ll enjoy some time to relax and unwind while tucked away among gorgeous rainforest. Later in the day, travel to the Fox Glacier township, your gateway to the dramatic and enormous Fox Glacier and your base for the evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Franz Josef Glacier - Hot Pools
  • Hokitika - Gorge Visit
  • Okarito - Okarito Lagoon Walk
Optional Activities
  • Okarito - Okarito Lagoon Kayaking Excursion - NZD110
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Please note that the walk and the optional kayaking at the Okarito Lagoon is weather dependent. In case of inclement weather an alternative activity will be suggested by the leader.
Today is yours to make the most of what this amazing slice of the country has to offer. Take a shuttle back to Franz Joseph Glacier or you may want to visit a pounamu (greenstone) workshop and learn how to carve your own original piece. Alternatively you can book a helicopter ride up to the glaciers, with the potential to add on a hike through the spectacular landscape. There’s also no shortage of interesting walks and cosy pubs if you fancy a more low-key afternoon – have a chat to your leader about your options for the day.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Franz Josef Glacier - Glacier Heli Hike - from - NZD485
  • Fox Glacier - Glacier Heli Hike - from - NZD499
  • Fox Glacier - Shuttle Bus to Franz Josef Glacier - NZD40
  • Franz Josef Glacier - Pounamu Greenstone Carving Workshop - NZD75
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
It is recommended you book your helicopter ride or helihike option in advance as spots are limited. Our local operator will be happy to assist in making bookings for this activity. You can call them on +64 9 520 5593.
Kick off the day with a gentle walk around the glittering Lake Matheson, dubbed the ‘mirror lake’ for its dark waters which perfectly reflect the towering Southern Alps – if you take one picture of your West Coast adventure, this should be it! Then make tracks for Wanaka, making plenty of interesting stops along the way. First up is Ship Creek, where you’ll take a walk through quintessentially rugged West Coast scenery. You can either walk through shady swamp forest, or explore windswept sand dunes and coastal forest. Then it’s on to Mt Aspiring National Park. Make the short walk to the incredible Thunder Creek Falls, featuring an impressive 96-metre-tall cascade. Your last stop is for a 1-hour walk along the wonderful Blue Pools Track, passing through forests of beech and podocarp which surround sapphire-blue pools of glacial water. Arrive in Wanaka and enjoy an evening at leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Fox Glacier - Lake Matheson Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depart Wanaka this morning and drive through the magnificent scenery of the Crown Range. Make a stop in the historic goldrush town of Arrowtown and let your leader fill you in on its history as you wander the charming treelined streets. Arrive in Queenstown in the early afternoon, then a meeting will take place to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next leg of your journey. After the meeting, head to the lovely lakeside town of Te Anau – gateway to Fiordland National Park. Watch the stunning landscapes pass by as you round the bottom of Lake Wakatipu with the aptly named The Remarkables mountains in the background. The five-hour drive will take you to the shores of the South Island’s biggest lake, which extends into the fiords and deeply forested mountains. Tonight you there's an optional chance to head underground by boat and see thousands of glow worms illuminate subterranean caves, to spectacular effect.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group will likely change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary.
The stunning, unforgettable sights of the fiords are best experienced by boat, so today you’ll set off for a memorable cruise on Milford Sound, known locally as Piopiotahi. Sail along the waters that pour out into the Tasman Sea, and look out for bottlenose dolphins and fur seals at play. Nature feels close here in the silence of the sound as you make your way past countless tumbling, misting cascades, soaring icy peaks, lush rainforest and twisting inlets. Soak up the surrounds so stunning that they feel almost fake, and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Afterwards get a different perspective of the sound, surrounded by native bush, as you take on the lookout track with your leader. There’s a bit of a climb, but the views are more than worth it to look down on the water and up at the peaks. The spectacular views keep on coming with a Mirror Lakes walk, where the peaks and greenery reflect in the clear lake waters. Return to Te Anau in time for dinner this evening – maybe seek out some local fare like venison or even lobster for dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Milford Sound - Nature Boat Cruise
  • Milford Sound - Leader-led walk to Milford Lookout
  • Milford Sound - Walk to Mirror Lakes & Lake Gunn
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning it’s time to swap one side of the island for the other as you make your way to what feels like a forgotten corner of Otago – the Catlins. This untamed coastal wilderness is home to rugged cliffs, dense forest, and some spectacular hidden waterfalls. Visit Nugget Point and its lighthouse, situated on a rocky outcrop jutting out into the South Pacific Ocean, and hike through dense forest to pretty McLean Falls. In the afternoon take the time to soak up the sights of pounding surf, windswept beaches and sunbathing sea lions as you stroll the sands with your leader.
Accommodation
  • Cabin (with shared facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • The Catlins - Leader-led walk to Nugget Point & McLean Falls
  • The Catlins - Leader-led walk to Cathedral Caves
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
If Cathedral Caves cannot be visited due to high tide we will instead journey to the thunderous McLean Falls.
Head to the very bottom of the island and take a ferry across the Foveaux Strait to the country’s third largest landmass, remote and rugged Stewart Island. It takes about one hour to travel the 30-kilometre strait. The island is almost entirely national park, which makes its unspoiled forests, beaches and bays a haven for hikers of all abilities as well as birdwatchers – it’s home to endangered brown kiwi, flightless Stewart Island kiwi and nearly extinct kakapo parrots. In the Maori language the island is known as Rakiura, which means ‘the land of glowing skies’. So tonight your leader will brief you and point you towards the best nearby vantage point to explore the night sky.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Stewart Island - Scenic Ferry Crossing
  • Stewart Island - Leader-led Dark Sky Briefing & Star Gazing
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a full free day to explore the island as you discover the coast and Rakiura National Park. Optional activities include cruises on the bays and inlets spotting penguins and seabirds and walks along forested coastal tracks past early Maori settlements. Learn about the local flora and fauna, and relax on the beach for a picnic lunch. Take in the views over glistening William Bay and see if you can spot the mountains of the South Island in the distance. Return to your accommodation and enjoy the rest of the evening to relax after your full day of island exploration. Perhaps join the group for dinner at a local restaurant tonight.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Stewart Island - Village & Bay Trip - NZD59
  • Stewart Island - Wild Kiwi Encounter - NZD215
  • Stewart Island - Beaks & Feathers Kiwi Spotting - NZD100
  • Stewart Island - Ulva Island Explorer - NZD115
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head back over to the mainland, then continue back to Queenstown. Your trip comes to an end today when you arrive back in Queenstown at approximately 2pm. If you have extra time to spend in Queenstown, make sure to get out and take advantage of the numerous adventure activities on offer. The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu not only serve as spectacular props to get your adrenaline fix, they’re also beautiful to look at. The town is also a great base for exploring Central Otago’s excellent vineyards and historic mining towns.
Included Activities
  • Stewart Island - Scenic Ferry Crossing
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

11 breakfasts

Transport

Private vehicle, Ferry

Accommodation

Hotel (9 nights), Motel (1 night), Cabin (with shared facilities) (1 night)

Included activities

  • Reefton - Town Tour with Billy Tea, Scones & Honey
  • Reefton - Miners Hut visit
  • Reefton - Gold Panning Experience
  • Tauranga Bay - Fur Seal Colony
  • Westport - Cape Foulwind Walkway & Lighthouse
  • Westport - Seal Colony at Tauranga Bay
  • Denniston - Heritage Village Walk
  • Punakaiki - Pancake Rocks & Blowholes Walk
  • Kumara - Glow Worm Cave Visit
  • Charleston - Nile River Gorge Rainforest Train Ride
  • Franz Josef Glacier - Hot Pools
  • Hokitika - Gorge Visit
  • Okarito - Okarito Lagoon Walk
  • Fox Glacier - Lake Matheson Walk
  • Milford Sound - Nature Boat Cruise
  • Milford Sound - Leader-led walk to Milford Lookout
  • Milford Sound - Walk to Mirror Lakes & Lake Gunn
  • The Catlins - Leader-led walk to Nugget Point & McLean Falls
  • The Catlins - Leader-led walk to Cathedral Caves
  • Stewart Island - Scenic Ferry Crossing
  • Stewart Island - Leader-led Dark Sky Briefing & Star Gazing

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our New Zealand South Island Adventure trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

Travellers on Intrepid trips are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Read details here.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
A single supplement is available to be booked on this trip, subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for more details.

START & END TIME
This trip starts at 8am in Christchurch on day 1 and finishes upon arrival in Queenstown on the last day at approximately 2pm. Please take this into account when making onward travel arrangements.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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