New Zealand Trails

5-14 day, all-inclusive, guided adventure tours

Intro Map Itinerary Dates Accommodation FAQs Summary

The Grand Explorer

The ultimate way to explore the South Island of New Zealand.

Here at New Zealand Trails, we know that there comes a time in our lives when we’ve earned a superior kind of comfort and style in our travels. It doesn’t mean we want to sit back and just watch the spectacular views pass by the window, but rather that when we are out adventuring, it’ll be at a more relaxed and flexible pace! The Grand Explorer trip is at the very pinnacle when it comes to adventurous yet indulgent travel. Your days will be spent extensively exploring our magnificent National Parks and hiking the very best, and most exclusive parts of our Great Walks, all with your talented, knowledgeable, and local New Zealand guide at the helm. You’ll be out IN nature, experiencing the real New Zealand, rather than watching it rush by.  

The Grand Explorer takes you from the golden shores of Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island down to the majestic snow-capped mountains of Milford Sound in the far south. Each day is peppered with touches of luxury and ‘only in New Zealand’ experiences like a helicopter trip to a wildly beautiful and remote part of Mt Aspiring National Park, New Zealand’s best wine tasting in Marlborough Sounds, and watching sperm whales breach off the rugged coast of Kaikoura. It’s everything you’ve wanted to see and do here in New Zealand, and more!

Our standards are uncompromisingly high. You'll stay in the best possible accommodation, dine extremely well, travel in high-end comfort, and enjoy the most outstanding guiding imaginable. Everything is taken care of by us from the moment you arrive until the final goodbye so that you can relax, and fully give yourself over to experiencing our country’s natural beauty and unique wildlife, while learning all about what makes New Zealand an exceptional place - our history, culture, our people, and way of life.

We will only run an exclusive, limited number of departures for The Grand Explorer trip. This is due to the permits and planning required to gain access to these protected and sought-after locations. If you are a discerning traveller, looking for the ultimate way to explore New Zealand’s South Island or if this will be your second (or even third!) trip to New Zealand, then this is the trip for you.

Activity Level: On The Grand Explorer there is never any time pressure and everyone walks at the pace most comfortable for them. If you are generally active and enjoy physical hobbies like walking, cycling, golf, tennis or dancing then you will enjoy the walks and activities on this trip. On The Grand Explorer trip, you will walk between 2 to 4 hours each day on well-formed tracks. The average distance walked each day is 7km/4.3mi (more challenging options are available too, if you’d like). You can find details of each activity and elevation maps for each hike on The Grand Explorer Activity Levels Page. 

Trip Style: Enjoy our local cuisine in New Zealand’s best restaurants and eateries, sample award-winning wines and rest your head at the end of each day in perfectly located and supremely comfortable private ensuite accommodations. 

14 Days

South
ISLAND

map
Walking Walking Walking Walking Walking Walking
Starts

Queenstown

Finishes

Queenstown

Activity level activity
Accommodation

Hotels

Price
NZD$16699 NZD$16699 AUD$15099 USD$8999.00 +tax GBP£8549 CAD$11599.00 +tax
ALL INCLUSIVE!

Check Dates Book now

The Grand Explorer Route Map

GE MAP

The Grand Explorer Day-by-Day Itinerary

Day

1

Kepler Track
Te Anau

Includes

Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Accommodation

Te Anau

kepler track happy couple hiking
kepler track wetland group hike Kepler track forest walk

Day 1 – Welcome & day walk on the Kepler Track

After meeting your guides and fellow travellers in Queenstown, you’ll embark on your long-awaited New Zealand adventure. This morning we'll head to Fiordland National Park and your first Great Walk, The Kepler Track. The Kepler Track is renowned for its vivid green moss, native beech forest, and stunning mountain ranges. We’ll walk the section from Rainbow Reach up to Moturau Hut following the Waiau River through beech forest and wetlands until we emerge out onto the spectacular viewpoint at the lakeside Moturau Hut. Cast your eyes out over beautiful Lake Manapouri, framed against a backdrop of Fiordland peaks for a spectacular welcome, or welcome back, to New Zealand! Afterwards, we’ll head to our accommodation in Te Anau for a delicious meal and the chance to rest up before tomorrow’s adventures.

Tonight we stay at Distinction Te Anau*

Choice 1

Relaxed Option - Explore Te Anau

Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Take a stroll along the lakefront, explore the local shops or treat yourself to a Kiwi mince pie from the famous Miles Better Pies. 

Choice 2

Active Option - Hike on the Kepler Track

The Kepler Track is renowned for its vivid green moss, native beech forest, and stunning mountain ranges. We’ll walk the section from Rainbow Reach up to Moturau Hut following the Waiau River through beech forest and wetlands until we emerge out onto a spectacular view of the lake. 

Day

2

Milford Sound
Fiordland National Park

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
BoatCruise Walking
Accommodation

Te Anau

2. Happy guest couple Milford Sound views
boating through milford sound guests on milford sound cruise

Day 2 – Cruise Milford Sound & explore Fiordland National Park

After waking up in Te Anau, it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, seeing Milford Sound! You’ll have time to appreciate Milford’s undeniable grandeur as we cruise to the mouth of the fiord leading out into the wild Tasman Sea. Whether the sun’s shining brightly or the sky’s clouded over, the beauty of Milford Sound never disappoints. In a perfect world, it would be raining heavily as that’s when the fiord’s hundreds of waterfalls are at their most powerful. Get close enough to feel the spray on your face as the thundering torrents cascade down the vertical rock faces – it’s an exhilarating experience.

This afternoon we’ll explore some of the shorter walks in Fiordland National Park including the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk, Mirror Lakes, and a stop at the Homer Tunnel to meet the cheeky Kea birds!

Tonight we stay at Distinction Te Anau again*

Day

3

Arrowtown
Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Accommodation

Mt Cook Region

Mount cook lily4
Arrowtown 6593 Historic Chinese village Arrowtown

Day 3 – Explore Arrowtown, High Country Lakes and Aoraki/Mount Cook

After a relaxed start this morning, we'll make our way to the gorgeous mountain setting of Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a quaint gold mining town bursting with history. We'll enjoy a walk along the Arrow River Trail and have the chance to explore the Chinese Goldmining Settlement. This afternoon we’ll journey to the heart of the Southern Alps, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, an area of vast snow-covered mountains and glacier-fed lakes. This National Park is truly a jewel in New Zealand’s crown. Named in honour of our highest peak, the majestic mountains tower above bright turquoise lakes surrounded by vast fields of golden tussock. With a settlement population of less than 100 people and building restrictions enforced, Aoraki/Mount Cook offers not only a feast for the eyes, but a rare tranquillity that soothes the soul.

Tonight we stay at The Hermitage Hotel*

Choice 1

Relaxed Option - Free time in Arrowtown

Explore the quaint historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. Check out the many boutique and craft shops, learn more about the history of the area at the Arrowtown Historic Museum, or sit back and relax with a coffee under the fruit trees in the garden of our favourite local cafe. 

Choice 2

Active Option - Arrow River Hike

Join your guide on a pleasant walk of the Arrow River Trail. A favourite with locals, this trail weaves its way alongside the picturesque Arrow River underneath a canopy of oak and poplar trees. 

Day

4

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
Glacier Boat Trip

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Accommodation

Mt Cook Region

12 tasman glacier boat cruise 1
Hooker Valley Track snow capped mountain views Hooker-Valley-Group-Walking

Day 4 – Glacier Boat Tour and options in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Today we have a full day to explore Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Some of New Zealand’s best alpine hikes are found here. Surrounded by the peaks where Sir Edmund Hillary honed his mountaineering skills before successfully summiting Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953, you’ll want to explore for yourself. Mount Cook, or Aoraki “the Cloud Piercer” as named by the Maori people, stands proudly at its heart rising up to the imposing height of 3724 metres (over 12,000 feet).  You have a choice of activities this morning including hiking, exploring the village or a glacier heli-hike for truly mind-blowing views. Whichever option you choose you won’t be disappointed. This afternoon a scenic glacier boat cruise takes us across the terminal lake to the ancient ice face of the Tasman Glacier, affording us incredible up-close views – keep your camera at the ready!

Tonight we stay at The Hermitage Hotel again*



Choice 1

Relaxed Option - Free time around Mt Cook Village

Today is a great opportunity to explore on your own. Visit the museum and planetarium in the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, take some short walks or just soak in the views with a coffee and a book.

Choice 2

Active Option - Walk the Hooker Valley Track

This is one of the South Island's most popular trails in glacier country. When you look down from the impressive swing bridges down to the rushing river below that leads you all the way to an alpine lake complete with icebergs, you'll understand why. For flower lovers, the Hooker Valley is one of the best places to see Mount Cook lilies in season.

Day 4 Optional Add-ons

Below are some of the optional add-ons you can also enjoy:


Tasman Glacier Heli-Hike

Climb aboard a chopper and land high up on the Tasman Glacier, where you’ll don crampons and explore the dramatic ice caves and clear blue glacial shards with a specialist guide.

USD390+TAX
Day

5

Tekapo
Christchurch

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Sightseeing Walking
Accommodation

Christchurch

mt cook tekapo couple
tekapo lupins church good shepherd tekapo otago

Day 5 - Explore Tekapo & Christchurch

Today’s journey takes us from mountain to ocean as we head through the fertile plains of Canterbury towards the East Coast. This morning we'll explore the lakeside town of Tekapo. The unreal colour of Lake Tekapo contrasts brilliantly against our highest peaks in the distance, creating the perfect backdrop for photos you’ll treasure in years to come. We'll take a walk along the lakefront before heading through to Christchurch in the afternoon. The city of Christchurch is a lovely spot with a mix of green parks and state-of-the-art architecture. The Avon River weaves its way through a city in the process of regeneration, with plenty to see including the colourful Spanish Mission architecture of New Regent Street, curious cardboard cathedral and lush botanical gardens. 

Tonight we stay at Quest Cathedral Junction*

Day

6

Whale watching
Kaikoura

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
BoatCruise Wildlife Sightseeing
Accommodation

Kaikoura

guest on kaikoura whale boat
Whale Watch Kaikoura kaikoura coastline hike

Day 6 - Whale watching in Kaikoura

Just north of Christchurch lies the small coastal town of Kaikoura. The Kaikoura Peninsula is a striking area set on the edge of a deep continental shelf where towering cliffs meet an ocean floor that plunges even further in the other direction. The nutrient-rich water and startling topography has created a unique mecca for an abundance of marine life. Whales, dolphins, fur seals and more are thriving in ideal conditions and are a regular sight in the waters off the mainland. This afternoon we'll board a purpose-built catamaran and head out on the water to search for whales. Using special hydrophones (underwater microphones) our captain will listen out for the whale clicks and songs that will lead us to where the whales are breaching. 

Tonight we stay at Sudima Kaikoura*

Day

7

Marlborough Sounds
Nelson

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch

Meals
Activities
Sightseeing Walking WineTasting
Accommodation

Nelson

luxury dining at kinross2
Visit Nelson on New Zealand hiking tours Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Day 7 - Marlborough Sounds wine tasting and Nelson

Today we'll follow the coastline northwest through the Marlborough Sounds to the golden beaches of Nelson, the gateway to the hikers’ paradise of Abel Tasman National Park. Marlborough is world-famous for its zesty Savignon Blancs and a journey through the region isn't complete without a delicious lunch and a spot of wine tasting before we venture onward. Once we arrive in Nelson you’ll have an afternoon to explore this coastal town which is known as one of the sunniest places in New Zealand! 

Tonight we stay in Nelson*

Day

8

Nelson
Abel Tasman National Park

Includes

Dinner

Meals
Activities
FreeDay BoatCruise
Accommodation

Torrent Bay

Abel 2eme jour
Great dining in Nelson on an adventure trip New Zealand Eco boat tours in Abel Tasman on the best New Zealand adventure tours

Day 8 - Explore Nelson and water taxi to Torrent Bay

Today is yours to enjoy as you wish. Nelson, “the sunniest place in NZ”, is famous for its arts scene, award-winning wines, craft beers and fruit orchards, with plenty to keep you entertained within walking distance. Most of our guests are happy to spend a relaxed day exploring Nelson, browsing the shops and galleries, strolling along the beach or reading a book – it’s a lovely place to re-energise yourself for the rest of your adventure. There are over 350 local craftspeople and artists creating Maori, traditional and contemporary art in the area, so it’s also a chance to discover what inspires New Zealanders creatively. 

Later in the day, you’ll head to Abel Tasman National Park where you'll board a water taxi from Kaiteriteri to the exclusive Torrent Bay Lodge, which is only accessible by boat or foot. Here you can relax on the beachfront sundeck, enjoy a lovely meal and stargaze before bed!

Tonight we stay at Torrent Bay Lodge*

Day

9

Abel Tasman

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Accommodation

Awaroa

awaroa hikers
torrent bay lodge able tasman new zealand kayaking torrent bay lodge3 Abel tasman 1

Day 9 - Walk on the Abel Tasman Track between Torrent Bay and Awaroa

Today you will embark on a truly stunning walk from Torrent Bay to Awaroa, where you’ll spend the night. You’ll follow the coastal track through lush native forest, before reaching more of the regions much-loved golden sand beaches. Today we have a relaxed and an active option so you can choose to walk as much or as little as you want to. 

This evening you'll stay beachfront again at Awaroa Meadowbank Homestead. This lodge is deep in the heart of Abel Tasman National Park and is only accessible by foot or boat. The original homestead dates from 1884 and the recently built lodge is set amongst the historic camelia and rhododendron gardens.

Tonight we stay at Awaroa Meadowbank Homestead*

Choice 1

Relaxed Option - Walk from Torrent Bay to Bark Bay

The relaxed option is a 2 hr walk from Torrent Bay to Medlands Beach (4.1km/2.5 miles). You'll cross the photogenic swing bridge beside stunning Bark Bay Falls before taking some extra time to relax on the golden sands of Bark Bay. You'll then continue on to picturesque Medlands Beach where a water taxi will meet you to take you to Awaroa Homestead. You'll have plenty of time this afternoon to enjoy the beachfront lodge. 

Choice 2

Active Option - Walk from Torrent Bay to Tonga Quarry

The active option today starts at Torrent Bay alongside the Relaxed option. You'll cross the photogenic swing bridge beside stunning Bark Bay Falls before stopping for lunch at the golden sand beach of Bark Bay. From Bark Bay you'll continue along the coastal track to Tonga Quarry where your water taxi will meet you to whisk you to Awaroa Homestead Lodge. You'll arrive at the lodge in the mid afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy Awaroa beach. 

Day

10

Abel Tasman National Park
West Coast

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Walking BoatCruise
Accommodation

Punakaiki

Awaroa Homestead Lodge
Abel tasman 2 explore abel tasman relaxed and active adventure new zealand4

Day 10 - Walk Awaroa to Totaranui and water taxi to Kaiteriteri

Leaving Awaroa by foot, you’ll spend the morning passing through secluded beaches and native forest on your way to the clear waters of Totaranui. From here, a water taxi will transport you back to Kaiteriteri where you’ll swap sea legs for wheels and begin your journey southwest to the seaside village of Punakaiki in the heart of Paparoa National Park.

Limestone and eons of time are responsible for most of Paparoa National Park’s impressive landscape. For thousands of years, water ran over the relatively soft rock forming a topography known as karst. Characterized by deep river canyons, sculpted mountain ridges and an extensive network of caves and sinkholes, Paparoa’s landscape is covered in a lush layer of thick green rainforest.

Tonight we stay at Punakaiki Beachside Resort*

Day

11

Paparoa National Park
Franz Josef Glacier

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Walking Wildlife
Accommodation

Franz Josef

West coast pancake rocks
walking paparoa national park paparoa track2

Day 11 - Hike Paparoa National Park and explore Pancake Rocks and Franz Josef Glacier

With its towering limestone cliffs and lush vegetation, this area feels like something straight out of Jurassic Park. We’ll hike the Porarari Loop Track this morning through Paparoa National Park, a visually rich area made up of dense sub-tropical forest and limestone cliff gorges. You’ll also have the chance to check out an interesting geographical phenomenon in the town of Punakaiki – the curious-looking but aptly named Pancake Rocks. The surge of the incoming sea is forced into chambers creating a geyser-like explosion through rock blowholes. The unusual limestone formations, overlaid with soft mud and clay, have been forged over millions of years by the immense pressure of the sea, wind and rain, creating the pancake effect we see today. After our hike, we’ll visit the quirky town of Hokitika, famous for its greenstone carvings and jewelry before heading through to Franz Josef for a short walk to the Glacier viewpoint. 

Tonight we stay at Scenic Hotel Franz Josef*

Day

12

Mt Aspiring National Park
Siberia Valley

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
Helicopter Jetboating Walking
Accommodation

Wanaka

4. Guests walking along the river Siberia Valley
people happy jetboat wilkin river otago couple in siberia valley

Day 12 - Scenic helicopter, hike and jetboat in Mount Aspiring National Park

Get ready for a real Kiwi backcountry experience - this is the stuff legendary holiday tales are made of! We’ll begin the day with a scenic helicopter ride deep into the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. After a tasty picnic lunch, we'll begin our walk along a well-marked track through the thick forest linking the Siberia Valley to the Wilkin Valley wilderness below. Be on the lookout for native birds along the way and the many photo opportunities as you immerse yourself in nature. On reaching the Wilkin River at Kerin Forks, jet boats will be waiting to take us for a thrilling 30-minute ride down the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers back to the Makarora Village. Get a whole different perspective on this dramatic valley as you watch the landscape rush by and feel the wind in your hair.

Tonight we stay at Edgewater Wanaka*

Day

13

Wanaka
Mou Waho Island

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner

Meals
Activities
BoatCruise Wildlife Walking
Accommodation

Wanaka

Guide Hayley Lake Wanaka
happy couple with Lake Wanaka views Beautiful Weka in the sun

Day 13 – Lake Wanaka boat cruise and hike in Mou Waho Island wildlife reserve

This morning you'll have free time to explore the peaceful lakeside town of Wanaka before we take an afternoon cruise across picturesque Lake Wanaka to the tiny island wildlife sanctuary of Mou Waho. Guided by an experienced ecologist, we’ll explore one of the most magical spots on the South Island. Close to the centre of Lake Wanaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve, accessible by a 35-minute boat ride. Accompanied by our favourite eco warrior and long-time local guide, we’ll walk a well-formed track that gently climbs through native bush to the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. Just before the top we come to Arethusa Pool, a small lake on the island, with yet more islands in it – very intriguing. From our vantage point there’s a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains and valleys. On a hot day, there’s nothing like a refreshing dip in the cool clean waters of the lake.

Tonight we stay at Edgewater Wanaka*

Day

14

Routeburn Track
Queenstown

Includes

Breakfast
Lunch

Meals
Activities
Accommodation

Finish Queenstown

routeburn track river otago1
Robin on Routeburn Track DOC Sign river at routeburn flats

Day 14 - Day walk on the Routeburn Track

This morning we'll head over the Crown Range and towards Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu. This is one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand and you’ll be greeted by mountain peaks and endless impressive vistas before we reach another of our fine Great Walks, the Routeburn Track. Your guide will fill you in on the local history and special flora and fauna of the area as you walk through beautiful native beech forest alongside a crystal clear glacial river. Our destination today is the expansive open meadow at Routeburn Flats, where you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch alongside the Routeburn River.

This afternoon we'll finish our adventure in Queenstown, and it’s time to say goodbye to your guides, travel companions and new-found friends as we drop you at the airport or your accommodation. If you’re joining us to explore the North Island on our Sweet North trip, we’ll ensure a smooth transition for you. If not, we hope to see you again soon in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Choice 1

Relaxed Option - Walk to Forge Flats

The relaxed option is an easy return walk from the Routeburn Shelter to Forge Flats. You'll walk on a well-formed track under a canopy of stunning beech forest and alongside the crystal-clear Routeburn River to Forge Flats.

Choice 2

Active Option - Walk to Routeburn Flats Hut

The active option today starts at the Routeburn Shelter alongside the Relaxed option. You'll stop for a hot drink and snacks at Forge Flat and from there you'll continue along the Routeburn Track until you reach the expansive meadow of Routeburn Flats. 

Photos of the The Grand Explorer

The Grand Explorer Accommodation

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Frequently asked questions

It's very important to us that you have all your questions answered about The Grand Explorer trip. We’ve collected some of the questions we get asked most often and answered them below. Or visit our general FAQ page here for more answers!

And if you still can’t find the answers you need, give us a call or send us an email and we’ll help you out!

What is the accommodation like on The Grand Explorer trip?

How fit do I need to be for The Grand Explorer trip?

What time does The Grand Explorer trip start and finish?

What's included in The Grand Explorer trip?

What's not included on The Grand Explorer trip?

Will I have WiFi or internet access throughout the trip?

What are the bathroom facilities like on The Grand Explorer trip?

Tell me about your safety standards.

What National Parks and Great Walks does The Grand Explorer trip visit?

What kind of people will be on The Grand Explorer trip?

Do I have to pay extra if I'm travelling by myself?

Do you need any outdoors experience for The Grand Explorer trip?

How many people will be on my trip?

More frequently asked questions

Tour dates

Redefine adventure as you explore the very best of the South Island in comfort and style on the Grand Explorer trip. Set foot on New Zealand’s Great Walks, explore six National Parks and delight in the tranquillity of remote wilderness locations. Throughout, you’ll enjoy true Kiwi hospitality, fine cuisine, local wine and all the comforts of home in beautifully appointed accommodations.

Combine this trip with our Sweet North for the best of both the North and South islands over 19 days.

With limited departures, places in our Grand Explorer trip fill up quickly. You can check trip dates and availability below using the handy date picker.

2023

Nov 13
Nov 26
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2024

Feb 05
Feb 18
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Limited availability!
Mar 04
Mar 17
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The Grand Explorer – ready to book?

Ready to start your New Zealand adventure?

Your New Zealand 'Trip of a Lifetime' - with New Zealand's best walks, very comfortable accommodation, great food, iconic New Zealand activities in a friendly, small group setting led by your New Zealand guide.

What’s included:

Local New Zealand guide, small group

All inclusive

All food (except where noted on itinerary), transportation and activities

The very best accommodation

Local naturalist guides

Helicopter transfer

NZD$16699 AUD$15099 USD$8999.00+tax GBP£8549 NZD$16699 CAD$11599.00+tax
per person (twin or double share)

river at routeburn flats2

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