Hiking Tour of New Zealand - Kiwi Classic
Get further off the beaten track on our original South Island hiking adventure.
Kiwi Classic Route Map
Highlights of the Kiwi Classic
1: Hike Ben Lomond
2: Hike to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier
3: Multi-day hikes in Nelson Lakes National Park and Pelorus Sound
4: Swim with dolphins in Kaikoura
5: Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park
6: Cruise Milford Sound
7: Hike on the Routeburn Track to Key Summit
8: Hike on the Kepler Track
Kiwi Classic Day-by-Day Itinerary
Hike Ben Lomond
Day 1 – Arrive and hike Ben Lomond
It’s time to breathe in your first taste of pure New Zealand mountain air. After making our introductions, we’ll head for our first hike of the trip, Ben Lomond. This steady climb is the perfect introduction to New Zealand hiking, offering up panoramic views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
We will begin this adventure by ticking off one of our favourite Queenstown hikes, the stunning Ben Lomond track. We’ll hop on the gondola up to our start point and from there it doesn’t take long to emerge from the forest canopy out onto the tussock-wrapped hills. You’ll follow the ridgeline to the summit where you'll be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Tonight, we’ll bed down in the neighbouring town of Wanaka. This delightful little town is home to many bustling bars, cafes and of course ‘that Wanaka tree’, which is just a short stroll from our accommodation.
Tonight we stay at Altamont Lodge*
Day 2 – Your Choice in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Today's journey takes us over the high country tussock filled Lindis pass to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park where we'll enjoy some of New Zealand’s most spectacular hikes. With views normally reserved for serious mountaineers, our hikes today take us into the heart of the national park and provide jaw-dropping vistas for our efforts. Home to our highest and most sacred peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park also boasts a further 19 peaks topping more than 3,000 metres. Your options today include a choice of hikes, exploring the village at your leisure or splurging on a heli-hike or glacier boat tour.
Whichever option you decide on, you won’t be disappointed. After a full day of activities, we’ll meet up and return to our accommodation for a delicious meal and a chance to trade stories from the day. We’ll be staying in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, which means all you need to do is wander outside and look up for some world-class stargazing this evening.
Tonight we stay in Aoraki/Mt Cook Region*
Day 2 Optional Add-ons
Below are some of the optional add-ons you can also enjoy:
Glacier heli hiking
Take a helicopter up to land high on the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. In the company of an experienced guide, you’ll don crampons to explore the striking ice caves of this frozen wonderland.USD$390+TAX
Glacier lake boat tour
Hop aboard a Zodiac boat and set off across the iceberg-filled lake for an up-close encounter with the Tasman Glacier’s terminal face.USD$110+TAX
Day 3 – Hike Mount John, explore Mackenzie Country
Today’s journey takes us from mountain to ocean as we head from the fertile plains of Canterbury towards the Pacific Ocean. When we reach Tekapo, we’ll go for a hike up Mount John to experience the panoramic views of the beautifully desolate Mackenzie Country and across the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. After our hike, we’ll make our way towards Christchurch. We’ll take our time, stopping at some of our favourite spots along the way to stretch our legs and capture the glorious views.
This morning we’ll make the steady climb up Mount John through forest and tussock to the observatory at the top. As we walk, we’ll look out over 360-degree views across the impressive Mackenzie Basin flats and surrounding mountains and lakes. After our hike, we’ll check out the famous and much photographed Church of the Good Shepherd, as well as Tekapo’s statue to the working dog, commissioned in 1968 by local farmers to pay tribute to the role these intelligent canines played in working the land.
Tonight we stay at Quest Christchurch*
Day 4 – Swim with Dusky Dolphins in Kaikoura
Today is a special one and consistently one of our guests favourites. We’ll don wetsuits to swim with a pod of dusky dolphins in their natural environment. Of course, this is all dependent on whether the dolphins cooperate, but they usually do! The tour is an educational experience designed not to interfere with the natural behaviour, routines or habitat of the dolphins. There are strict regulations in place to protect and respect the dolphins, and to keep you safe in the water. Our boats are well-equipped with swimming/snorkelling platforms. Dusky dolphins are typically found in pods of around 100 and are well-known for their acrobatic feats and interactive behaviour. Whether you opt to get in the water, or watch from the boat, it’s a joyful experience for all. Many of our guests have told us this is one of the highlights of their New Zealand adventure.
Tonight, we’ll catch an impressive sunset over the ocean as we enjoy a delicious and quintessentially Kiwi dinner of fish and chips on the beach.
Tonight we stay at Kaikoura Quality Suites*
Two-day hike on Nydia Track
Day 5 – Hike the Nydia Track to Nydia Lodge
Overnight backpacking is our favourite way to truly experience New Zealand's backcountry and today we'll embark on the first of our two multi-day hiking adventures. On today's adventure we will hike for 3-4 hours on the Nydia Track carrying just what we need for our night spent at Nydia Lodge. We'll arrive at our accommodation in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time to soak in the surroundings, enjoy the native birdlife or have a dip in the ocean while your guides prepare a delicious meal for you (no freeze-dried food here!). In the evening you can expect some of the best stargazing in the country.
The overnight hikes on this trip have been designed for both novice and experienced hikers. If you've never done an overnight backpacking trip our guides will teach you everything you need to know and assist you along the way. We'll also provide you with all the gear you need including a larger hiking backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and hiking poles.
Tonight we stay at Nydia Lodge*
Day 6 – Pelorus Sound to Nelson
After a night spent in the backcountry, it’s time to return to the world of comfort and style with a visit to one of the iconic vineyards of Marlborough. The region is most renowned for its zesty Sauvignon Blanc, so ready your taste buds to sample some of the finest wines in the country.
This afternoon we will make our way to Nelson, “the sunniest place in NZ”. It's famous for its arts scene, award-winning wines, craft beers and fruit orchards, with plenty to keep you entertained within walking distance.
Tonight we stay at The Palms, Nelson*
Day 7 – Free day to explore Nelson
Today is yours to spend as you wish, and conveniently where we’ll be staying is just a short walk into town. Your guides can point you in the right direction if you’d like to go for a hike or bike ride. Nelson is a colourful wee town with a lively arts scene and fantastic beaches, so we recommend you enjoy a relaxing day and indulge in the fine seafood, local wine and craft beer. Or if you’d like to keep your heart rate up, the adrenaline activities on offer are plentiful – canyoning, jet boating, skydiving or quad biking, to mention just a few. One of the most popular options is a sea kayaking or hiking tour in nearby Abel Tasman National Park.
Tonight we stay at The Palms, Nelson again*
Nelson Lakes National Park
Two-day hike in Nelson Lakes National Park
Day 8 – Hike to Bushline Hut
Today we'll head to Nelson Lakes National Park. Our second multi-day hike will take us through wilderness backcountry to Bushline Hut. The anticipation for the adventure ahead builds as we travel to the start of our hike in St Arnaud. Our hike will take us up Pourangahau/Mount Robert on a well graded track through the beech forest. We will walk for 2 hours carrying just what we need for our night spent at Bushline Hut (a sleeping bag, change of clothes and a small portion of the food for the evening). We'll arrive at our accommodation in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time to either enjoy the panoramic views at the Hut or take a longer walk up the ridgeline while your guides prepare a delicious meal for you.
Tonight we stay at Bushline Hut
Nelson Lakes National Park
Day 9 – Bushline Hut to St Arnaud and the West Coast
After breakfast, we'll begin our descent down into St Arnaud, Lake Rotoiti glistening invitingly beneath us. There’ll be time for a quick swim in the lake at the end of our hike if you’re keen!
This afternoon we will make our way to the wild West Coast. With it's dramatic coastline, expansive rainforests and incredible wildlife, it's sure to be a highlight of your trip.
Tonight we stay at Omau Settlers Lodge
Pororari National Park
Tauranga Bay Seal Colony
Day 10 – Pororari River Track and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony
We’ll start our day with a short stroll on the Cape Foulwind Walkway. There, you’ll experience the Tasman Sea in all its glory, pounding on the cliffs below as you make your way to the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony, well known for its seal pup rookery.
Our second hike of the day is truly unique. Set amongst dense temperate rainforest with a backdrop of towering limestone cliffs, we’ll follow the Pororari River on the Paparoa Track as it winds its way through the lush undergrowth. Your guides will tell you about the fascinating flora and fauna along the way and maybe even offer you some ‘bush tucker’ to taste if you’re game!
The West Coast Road is a journey voted by Lonely Planet readers as one of the best coastal drives in the world. Rivers, rainforests and tumbling glaciers meet isolated beaches and crashing waves, it’s easy to see why people are drawn to this barren but beautiful place. We’ll travel this afternoon to the small township at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier.
Tonight we stay at 10 Cottages, Franz Josef*
Franz Josef Glacier
Kayak Lake Mapourika
Day 11 – Hike Franz Josef Glacier and Kayak Lake Mapourika
Descending 12km from the Southern Alps into lush rainforest just 300m above sea level, Franz Josef Glacier is one of New Zealand's most accessible glaciers. This morning we'll take a relaxed hike to the terminal face of the glacier, learning about the geological formation and history of the area as we go.
This afternoon we'll paddle the beautiful and serene kettle lake, Lake Mapourika and enjoy the mountainous backdrop of the Southern Alps on the largest lake in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Watch out for the abundance of wildlife that call this place home, from the rare crested grebe, the white-faced heron, kingfisher, tui and so many more.
We'll travel over the Haast pass to Mt Aspiring National Park and our home for the night, the tiny riverside village of Makarora. We'll stop along the way to explore the Blue Pools. This short walk weaves through native beech and podocarp forest. You’ll be awe-struck when you first set eyes on the sparkling glacial water of the Blue Pools.
Tonight we stay at Wonderland Makarora*
Bike or Walk Arrowtown
Day 12 – Bike or hike near Queenstown
Today we'll travel alongside Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka and over the Crown Range to our backyard! Queenstown and the surrounding area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with many purpose-built tracks and trails ideal for hiking, biking or running. This morning we’ll explore the historic Arrowtown, a quaint old gold-mining settlement just a short drive from Queenstown. You’ll have the choice of either biking or walking the Arrow River Bridges Trail.
This evening we’ll head to Te Anau in preparation for tomorrow’s epic adventure in Fiordland National Park.
Tonight we stay at Matai Lodge*
Cruise Milford Sound
Day 13 – Hike Routeburn Track to Key Summit and Cruise Milford Sound
This morning we gear up for our adventure further into Fiordland. We'll start the day off with a heart-pumping hike up to one of our favourite spots in this area – Key Summit on the Routeburn Track. Climbing steadily up through dense beech forest, this hike on the world-famous Routeburn Track is well worth the effort. The view from the top is one of Fiordland’s most iconic landscapes – across to the snow-capped Mt Christina, Mt Tutoko and the imposing Darran Mountains. A natural tapestry of alpine tarns, jagged peaks, granite cliff faces and glacial blue rivers flowing towards the Tasman Sea and clearly visible down the Hollyford Valley.
We'll spend the afternoon on the water, with a cruise of the iconic 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.
Tonight we stay at Matai Lodge again*
Hike Kepler Track
Finish in Queenstown
Day 14 – Kepler Track & Finish in Queenstown
Breathe in the fresh Fiordland air and relax in the lakeside town of Te Anau, home to the South Island’s largest lake. Gateway to Fiordland’s Great Walks, this small town is bustling with hikers and there’s a real sense of adventure in the air. It’s the perfect place to sign off your own hiking journey with one last foray on the trails. If you’re up for stretching the legs this morning, we’ll hike a pleasant section of the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, following the Waiau River as it meanders through beech forest and wetlands before emerging at a spectacular viewpoint on the shores of Lake Manapouri – a fitting end to your New Zealand adventure tour.
Our last journey together is a scenic trip through tussock country and small farming towns, before tracing the shoreline of the impressive Lake Wakatipu back to Queenstown. Once there, 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’.
*For logistical reasons, we may make small changes to our itineraries or accommodation from time to time.
Photos of the Kiwi Classic
Key Summit, Routeburn Track.
Nydia Track, Pelorus Sound
Kayak Lake Mapourika.
Pororari Loop Track.
Dusky dolphins, Kaikoura.
Sealy Tarn, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.
Nelson Lakes National Park.
Hooker Lake, Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park.
Kiwi Classic Accommodation
Mt Cook Lodge
Frequently asked questions
It's very important to us that you have all your questions answered about our Kiwi Classic 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!
How fit do I need to be for the Kiwi Classic?
The Kiwi Classic is our most physically active trip but we always have easier or more challenging options available so that you can choose how much or little activity you enjoy each day. You will walk between 4 to 6 hours each day on well-formed trails. The average distance walked each day is 11km/6.8mi.
Click here to go to a handy page with a summary of the distances and approximate times for every walk and activity on our Kiwi Classic!
What is the accommodation like on the Kiwi Classic?
Our most physically challenging trip has all the more reason to demand an excellent place to stay each night – you’ll need to have plenty of comfortable space to reflect back on your day and prepare for your next adventures. You’ll stay in a range of places and enjoy a different experience in each. Click here to find out more about the accommodation on this trip.
What time does the Kiwi Classic trip start and finish?
Pick up information
We can pick you up on the first day of your trip in Queenstown at:
8.30am from Queenstown International Airport
9.00am from the lobby of our joining hotel - Ramada Queenstown Central
Drop off information
We can drop you off on the last day of your trip in Queenstown at:
4.00pm at Queenstown International Airport
4.30pm at your hotel in the city
When booking your flights, please make sure you:
Arrive on day one no later than 7.30am International 8.00am Domestic
Depart on the final day no earlier than 6.00pm International 5.00pm Domestic
**If your travel plans fall outside of these times please check with us before you book.
What's not included on my Kiwi Classic tour?
Airfares to and from New Zealand. Airfares between the North and South Island of New Zealand if you are joining our Sweet North trip.
Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages with lunch and dinner.
What's included in my Kiwi Classic tour?
An experienced New Zealand Trails Guide to guide you on your tour.
All meals except dinner the night you arrive in Nelson and breakfast, lunch and dinner on your free day in Nelson when guests like to explore the outstanding local restaurants and cafés.
Activities, hikes and guides as shown in the itinerary.
Accommodation as indicated in your final itinerary.
Biking isn't really my thing. Do you have other options?
If biking isn't really your thing no worries! We have lots of guests join us who prefer to walk instead of bike. The trails we bike on are shared walking/biking trails so you'll be able to join your guide on a walk of the Arrow River Trail instead of biking if you'd like.
What hikes are included in the Kiwi Classic trip?
On the Kiwi Classic trip you'll get to experience New Zealand's most iconic walks along with a some of our personal off-the-beaten track favorites including:- Fiordland National Park: The Routeburn Track, The Kepler Track
- Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park: Mueller Ridge
- Paparoa National Park: Pororari River track
- Franz Josef Glacier walk
- Tauranga Bay Seal colony walk
- Ben Lomond near Queenstown
What activities are included on the Kiwi Classic trip?
On your Kiwi Classic trip you'll get the chance to experience some very special Kiwi activities including:
- Swimming with dusky dolphins in Kaikoura
- Nature cruise on Milford Sound
- Sunset kayak on Lake Mapourika
- Bike in Central Otago
- Wine tasting in Marlborough
- Visit the Pancake Rocks near Punakaiki
Will I have WiFi or internet access throughout the trip?
Yes – we are well connected in New Zealand! You will have access to the internet, at your accommodation whether free or for a small fee, during 8 of your 13 nights on your trip. Due to its remote location, there is no internet connection or cellphone reception the night we stay at Ohau Lodge in the Aoraki/Mt Cook Region or at the Department of Conservation Huts that we will stay in on the overnight hikes in Pelorus Sound and Nelson Lakes National Park. Your guides will have access to a satellite phone to access outside assistance if they need to.
While New Zealand is quite tech savvy the wifi at some accommodation may not be of the speed you are used to back home.
Is there electricity at all of the places we stay on the Kiwi Classic trip?
All of the places we stay on the Kiwi Classic trip have electricity except the huts on the two overnight hikes. On the overnight hikes you will stay at stunning and remote backcountry huts. This is a true Kiwi backpacking experience and the huts don't have electricity. We recommend bringing a small rechargeable power pack if you'd like to charge your phone or camera batteries during your overnight hikes.
Tell me about your safety standards
Safety is always our top priority. We take great pride in our impeccable safety record and our safety management plans. Your New Zealand Trails Guides are highly experienced outdoors professionals who are first aid qualified and fully equipped with a satellite phone, personal locator beacon and first aid kit. Our trips have direct access to our highly experienced operations team and other outside services 24 hours a day.
What National Parks and Great Walks does the Kiwi Classic trip visit?
The Kiwi Classic visits 6 of New Zealand’s National Parks - Paparoa, Mt Aspiring, Fiordland, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Nelson Lakes National Park and Westland Tai Poutini. You will also have the option to visit the Abel Tasman National Park on your free day. You will have the opportunity to hike on three Great Walks, the Paparoa Track, Routeburn Track and the Kepler Track. You will also have the option to walk part of the Abel Tasman Track on your free day.
What kind of people will be on my Kiwi Classic trip?
Our guests are like-minded people from Australia, the UK, Canada and America, and come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. On average, we have a 50/50 split between men and women, with several single travellers on each trip as well as couples and friends travelling together.
If you would like to see the actual people that come on our Kiwi Classic hiking tour, check out our photo gallery.
Do I have to pay extra if I'm travelling by myself?
There is no additional charge for solo travellers on our trips. If you are a solo traveller, as many of our guests are, we will team you up with another solo traveller of the same sex to share with for the duration of your trip. If you would like to guarantee your own room as a solo traveller, then there is the option to pay a solo supplement.
Do you need any outdoors experience for the Kiwi Classic trip?
You certainly don’t need any technical outdoors experience to enjoy the Kiwi Classic. This is our most active trip and has a hiking focused itinerary, so if you enjoy hiking on backcountry trails then you will have no problem completing the activities and hikes.
You will get to experience two overnight hikes on your Kiwi Classic trip. While you will be carrying your gear for these hikes and heading into a remote backcountry area, you don’t need any outdoors experience for this section of the trip. Your guides will brief you on everything you need to know for these adventures and they will take care of all safety aspects along the way so you can just enjoy the hiking.
The kayaking activity on your trip is suitable for beginners and is on a calm lake. There’s no need for you to have ever been kayaking before. You will be in double sea kayaks, which are very stable. A specialist kayak guide will teach you everything you need to know before you head out and will be with you out on the water.
You will need some biking experience to complete the bike ride on your trip. The trail is an undulating gravel track that is rated as an “easy” trail ride but you’ll need to have done some biking before to comfortably and safely take part in the bike rides. The activities on our trips are very flexible and many of our guests opt to walk instead of bike. The trails we bike on are shared walking/biking trails so you’ll be able to enjoy a walk with your guide if you prefer.
How many people will be on my trip?
We run small-group tours, so along with your guides there will be up to a maximum of 14 in your group. We have found this number to be perfect for making sure everyone has the best time.
I've never done a multi-day hike before, what can I expect?
Overnight backpacking is our favourite way to get out into New Zealand's backcountry and you will get the chance to experience this on Days 5/6 and 8/9 of the Kiwi Classic. On each of the overnight hikes on the Kiwi Classic we will hike for 3-4 hours each day carrying just what we need for our night spent at the Department of Conservation Hut (a sleeping bag, change of clothes and a small portion of the food for the evening). We'll arrive at our accommodation in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time to soak in the surroundings, enjoy the native birdlife or have a dip in the ocean while your guides prepare a delicious meal for you (no freeze-dried food here!). In the evening you can expect some of the best stargazing in the country.
Nydia Lodge and Bushline Hut are the two Department of Conservation Huts that you'll stay in on your Kiwi Classic trip. They are basic but their location and the chance to really get "off-the-grid" in such a remote part of New Zealand's backcountry more than makes up for that.
The two overnight hikes on this trip have been designed for both novice and experienced hikers. If you've never done an overnight backpacking trip our guides will teach you everything you need to know and assist you along the way. We'll also provide you with all the gear you need including a larger hiking backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and hiking poles.
Discover the South Island and challenge yourself on our most action-packed adventure. Make like a local and hike stunning backcountry, bike mountain trails, kayak coastal lagoons and swim with wild dolphins. You’re bound to work up an appetite, but we’ll keep you well fed with hearty and delicious Kiwi fare. At the end of an exciting day, there’ll be time to rest and relax in clean, comfortable lodgings as you reflect on your uniquely New Zealand experiences.
Combine this adventure with our Sweet North tour to enjoy the best of both North and South over 19 days.
Find the dates that work best for you using our date picker below and check availability as trips often fill up fast.
Kiwi Classic – ready to book?
Ready to start your New Zealand adventure?
The Kiwi Classic is our most action packed adventure, taking in all the parts of the South Island that best suit the physically active traveller.
✓ Local guides, small groups
✓ All food (except where noted on itinerary), transportation and activities
✓ All inclusive
✓ All accommodation
Want more information?
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