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See our trips
See our trips
See our trips
See our trips
AN ACTION-PACKED HIKING ADVENTURE
Central Otago Vineyards
West Coast Beaches
Abel Tasman (Option)
Multi-day Backpacking or Sea Kayaking
Swim with Dolphins
For those who want to play outdoors all day in the dramatic scenery while happily marinating in exercise-induced endorphins, we’ve saved the most heart-pumping and rewarding missions for you. The Kiwi Classic packs a lot in without rushing and there are lots of options, including challenges to really push yourself. Your guides cook up plenty of Kiwi fare to fuel your adventures and make sure you have a comfortable bed to fall into each night. Fresh air, sunshine, and encouragement provided - walk away with a grin and a real sense of accomplishment.
Combine this trip with our Sweet North for the best of both North and South islands over 19 days.
Kiwi Classic HIGHLIGHTS
“The aches are gone, but the memories are with me always.”
Milford Sound Overnight
Wake up in iconic Milford Sound and kayak out into the morning mist before the tourists arrive.
Hike Most Days
Hike amongst all sorts of jaw-dropping scenery from lush rainforests and rugged coastal tracks to underneath hanging glaciers and up to hidden mountain lakes.
Your Choice of Multi-Day Options
Challenge yourself on a multi-day backpacking trip up to Nelson Lakes or opt for kayaking Abel Tasman.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Stay on a working sheep farm near Aoraki/Mount Cook to see the night sky sparkle in this Dark Sky Reserve like never before.
Classic Kiwi Food
Enjoy local fare at our favourite cafés, pubs, and eateries as well as genuine home-cooked goodness by your guides!
Hike part of the Routeburn Track for one of the best views of Fiordland National Park.
Kiwi Classic ITINERARY
Kayak Milford Sound
Boat in Milford Sound
Day 1 – Arrive, Kayak and Overnight Cruise on Milford Sound
Time for sunshine and fresh mountain air! After introductions, we'll head for Fiordland National Park, where spectacular glacier-carved granite cliffs rise vertically from the valley floor, and waterfalls run down through dense rainforest everywhere you turn. Then we hop aboard and cruise out on stunning Milford Sound. We'll anchor in a secluded bay and head out with specialist guides on kayaks, or in tenders, to meet the local wildlife. There's no better place to spend your first night with us.
Journey into Fiordland National Park
We'll leave beautiful Queenstown on a spectacular journey, one of the most dramatic in terms of scenery, so we'll take our time soaking it all in with photo stops and short walks along the way to Milford Sound.
Day 2 – Cruise Back and Hike Routeburn Track to Key Summit
Waking up in Milford Sound is such a treat! This morning we'll cruise back to the dock, enjoying the waterfalls, wildlife and awe-inspiring alpine scenery en route, with a pod of dolphins leading the way if we're lucky. Once we arrive back at dock, we'll head off to explore Fiordland National Park on foot, with a hike up to Key Summit on the famed Routeburn Track to wake up the legs. Tonight you'll have time to explore the lakefront of Te Anau, where we'll spend the night.
Milford Sound Boat Cruise
If you're an early riser, enjoy a cup of coffee on deck at dawn and absorb the tranquil vibe of this beautiful fiord, surrounded by the vertical rock faces of the mountains. For a more relaxed wake-up, we'll bring you a cuppa in bed to your cabin before breakfast is served in the saloon. Often a pod of dolphins find us and join our bow or stern wake, and it's wonderful to watch them play in the waves, coming up to the boat, arcing right out of the water sometimes - great fun!
Hike Routeburn Track to Key Summit
Climbing steadily up through the dense beech forest, this walk on the world-famous Routeburn Track is well worth the effort. The view from the top is one of Fiordland's most iconic scenes - across the snow-capped Mount Christina, Mount Tutoko and the rest of the Darran Mountains – tranquil mountain tarns, jagged peaks, vertical granite cliffs and glacial blue rivers rushing to the Tasman Sea, which is clearly visible down the Hollyford Valley.
Arrive Te Anau
After a good dose of fresh air, we’ll drive through to Te Anau (your guides will help with pronunciation) where we’ll rest up for the night. A lovely place for a relaxed stroll or a run along the shore of Lake Te Anau this evening.
Biking near Queenstown
Dark Sky Reserve
Ohau/Mt Cook/Lake Pukaki
Day 3 – Bike near Queenstown & Wine Tasting Central Otago
Today we leave the rainforest of Fiordland and head for the arid high country lakes of Central Otago. Explore some of the best bits on two wheels outside of Queenstown and then picnic in quaint Old Cromwell before some wine tasting in Central Otago. We'll spend the next couple of nights in Ohau, part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, recognized as one of the best spots in the world for stargazing.
Biking near Queenstown
The air in Queenstown practically exudes adrenaline and physical activity, and visitors and locals alike feed off this buzz. You’ll see people out running, riding their bikes, climbing mountains or paragliding from the hilltops – living in nature's playground has its advantages! One of these is the fantastic new purpose-built bike trails that wind their way around the Wakatipu Basin. We'll be fitted with bikes in Arrowtown, an old gold mining town with rich Chinese mining history, then ride following the Kawarau River out towards the Gibbston Valley vineyards and the world’s first commercial bungy bridge.
Wine Tasting Central Otago & High Country farm near Mount Cook
We'll carry on to quaint Old Cromwell for a picnic lunch and some wine tasting before we head into the Mackenzie Basin near Aoraki/Mt Cook, where we'll stay for the next couple of nights. Tonight you'll be staying on a working high-country station. 'Station' is Kiwi for ranch and high country means it's pretty tough farming country but incredibly scenic. It's in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, which means you only have to wander outside for some world-class stargazing.
Your Choice of Activities
Day 4 – Your Choice in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Some of the best alpine hikes in New Zealand are here in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It's home to not only its namesake, our highest and most sacred peak, but an impressive 19 peaks topping more than 3,000 meters. Your options today include a choice of hikes, exploring the village on your own or splurging on a glacier heli-hike tour or glacier boat tour.
These are the mountains where Edmund Hillary honed his mountaineering skills before he and Tenzing Norgay became the first pair to summit Mount Everest in 1953. Mt Cook, or Aoraki "the Cloud Piercer" as the Maori named it, stands proudly as our highest peak at 3724m (over 12,000 feet).
Day 4 Continued
Whichever option you choose, you won't be disappointed. After a full day of activities, we'll meet up and return to the Hermitage (our accommodation) for dinner and a chance to trade stories of the day. We're staying another night within one of the best Dark Sky Reserves in the world so tonight you have another chance to simply walk outside to enjoy some of the best stargazing anywhere.
Day 4 Optional Add-ons
Below are some of the optional add-ons you can also enjoy:
Glacier heli hiking
Take a chopper and land high up on the Tasman, New Zealand's longest glacier, where you'll don crampons and explore the dramatic ice caves and clear blue ice with a specialist guide.USD$390+TAX
Glacier lake boat tour
Jump aboard a Zodiac boat to set off across the iceberg-filled glacial lake for an up-close encounter with the Tasman Glacier’s terminal face.USD$110+TAX
Day 5 – Sightseeing & Explore Kaikoura Peninsula
Today's journey takes us all the way across the South Island, leaving the open spaces of the Mackenzie Country and the Alps through to farmlands in the green fertile plains of Canterbury and finally to Kaikoura on the East coast. We'll take our time to show you all of our favourite spots along the way for photos and short walks to stretch our legs. Overnight in the seaside settlement of Kaikoura.
The scenery changes gradually but dramatically as we travel today and we'll see much more civilization as we go until we drop down through Burke's Pass towards the coast.
Once we reach Christchurch, the South Island's biggest city, it's not far up the east coast to reach the small seaside town of Kaikoura. This is a stunning area just on the edge of a deep continental shelf, with towering inland and seaward Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side and the sea, running as deep as the mountains are high, on the other. The nutrient-rich water and startling geography create a mecca for marine life so keep an eye out for the whales, dolphins, fur seals and many more species that abound in these coastal waters.
Swim with Dolphins
Day 6 – Swim with Dolphins, Waterfalls
It's an unforgettable morning and a dream come true for wildlife lovers. You'll jump in bright and early to swim with Dusky dolphins and see how many different varieties of fish, seals and even whales we can spot in this special marine reserve. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch at Maruia Falls, waterfalls created by an earthquake in 1929, before we carry on north to Nelson, where we'll stay for the next couple of nights.
Dolphin Swimming Kaikoura
The early bird catches the worm today! We’re up early enough to catch the sunrise out on the Pacific ocean and it's worth an early start today for the best chance of meeting some of the marine wildlife that calls this part of the world home. First up, we'll don wetsuits and swim with a pod of dolphins in their natural environment (providing the dolphins co-operate, which they almost always do). There are strict regulations in place to protect the dolphins and keep you safe in the water, which usually allows us to achieve our goal of safely swimming with the dolphins in a respectful manner. The small Dusky dolphins can be in pods of around 400 and are well-known for their acrobatics and interactive behaviour. The experience is a joyful one, whether you jump in for a swim or opt to watch from the boat. Our boats are well-equipped with swimming/snorkelling platforms and the tours are designed to be educational experiences that do not interfere with the natural behaviours and day-to-day lives of the dolphins. Enjoy every second as it’s always over too soon. Many people have told us this was the absolute highlight of their New Zealand trip.
After an exciting morning, our travels take us to Nelson, the sunniest spot in New Zealand. With geography that captures everything from golden beaches and pristine waters to glistening forests and rugged mountains, it’s the perfect place to enjoy for a couple of days. The evening is free to explore on your own.
Day 7 – Explore Nelson on your own
We'll be staying within an easy walk into town and today is all yours to spend as you wish. Your guides can point you in the right direction if you want to take off for a hike or a bike ride. Nelson is a gorgeous wee town with a cool art scene and great beaches so you could give yourself a rest day and indulge in fine seafood, local wine and craft beer. Or if you'd like to keep the adventure level up, book a tour for canyoning, jetboating, skydiving or quad biking. One of the most popular options is a sea kayaking tour in nearby Abel Tasman National Park.
Multi-Day Hiking or Sea Kayaking
Day 8 – Backpacking Nelson Lakes National Park OR Sea Kayaking Abel Tasman
New Zealand is full of outdoor enthusiasts who take to outdoor pursuits with gusto and never miss a chance to get out exploring. Choosing your adventure is all part of the fun, so we'll split up in Nelson for the next few days and leave the choice up to you. Either challenge yourself to complete a backpacking circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park or head off to Abel Tasman for a sea kayaking adventure.
Oh choices, choices...
Kiwis look forward to the weekend, when we can wake up and ponder which adventure we will take on that day. Will it be on water, foot, snow or bike? There are so many options, and in some places, it’s even possible to go surfing and skiing on the same day, which is really living the dream! Most of us have a garage full of ‘toys’ at the ready with various bikes, boats/kayaks and paddles, and at least a few pairs of well-worn hiking boots on standby, ready for the next adventure. The hardest part is narrowing down the options.
We'll split up in Nelson for our multi-day adventures – hikers will head to Nelson Lakes National Park and kayakers to Abel Tasman National Park. The hiking is in incredible backcountry and is best suited to those who are comfortable walking on rugged terrain. You'll be carrying a light pack while your guides carry the bulk of the gear. The sea kayaking is the gentler option but not without its challenges. You don’t need to be a technical expert for either and don't hesitate to talk to us if you're not sure which option is right for you.
or Sea Kayaking
Day 9 – Multi-Day Hiking or Sea Kayaking Continued
Today we continue with your choice of either backpacking the Angelus Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park, or sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. See below for more specific details.
Finish Multi-day Choices
West Coast Beach
Day 10 – Finish Hiking or Kayaking Options, Regroup and Head to the West Coast
Having spent the last two nights apart, our two groups will reconnect and head across to Punakaiki on the rugged West Coast where we'll stay for the night. We'll catch up over a drink or two and enjoy a favourite Kiwi treat -- ‘fish and chips’ at the local tavern!
Paparoa National Park
Day 11 – Hike Paparoa National Park & Explore Hokitika
This morning we'll hike the Pororari River Walk deep into the rainforest and feel like you're walking right into Jurassic Park! Then visit the Pancake Rocks to watch the ocean surge dramatically through blowholes in the rock before heading south to explore Hokitika. For the next couple of nights we're staying in one of our favourite spots, the tiny beach settlement of Okarito.
Hike Paparoa National Park
The hike today is one like no other, set amongst dense temperate rainforest, not unlike the scenery in the movie Jurassic Park, with towering limestone cliffs, tannin-stained rivers and the sound of the crashing ocean in the background. We’ll hike deep into the forest where your guides will tell you about the interesting flora and fauna and maybe even give you some ‘bush tucker’ to taste if you’re game. We’ll pop back out at the ocean and spend some time checking out the fascinating Pancake Rocks, with their curious stacks and thundering blow holes before heading south to Hokitika.
We’ll take the time to stop for a look around the quirky town of Hokitika, home of Pounamu (greenstone/jade) carving (an ancient Maori tradition) and also, when it's on, the Wild Foods Festival. Wild Foods festival-goers have the opportunity to try crocodile bites, chicken feet and grasshoppers amongst other scary sounding tastes, and the day ends with groups lighting bonfires along the beach as far as the eye can see. We’ll generally be sticking to more familiar fare on our visit, but you can branch out if you're feeling adventurous!
A short onward drive away from civilization and down a seemingly quiet lane, we’ll arrive at the tiny settlement of Okarito, where driftwood scatters the beach and a small number of people (less than 30) enjoy a simple and uncomplicated existence. Okarito is a little-known spot, a huge hit with visitors and somewhere we can never resist returning to.
Kayak Okarito Lagoon
Day 12 – Kayak Okarito Lagoon and Okarito Trig Walk
You can paddle out this morning in sea kayaks to soak in the tranquility on Okarito Lagoon. More than 70 bird species have been found here, including the rare Kotuku (White Heron), but you may be too busy catching the reflections of the snow-capped mountains on the water to notice. This afternoon it's up to you whether you'd like to relax with a book, stroll along the deserted beach, or join your guides for a hike up to the Okarito Trig for extraordinary views of the rugged coastline, mountains, rainforest and the lagoon.
Kayak Okarito Lagoon
Get into the Okarito pace of life today – it’s laid back, unrushed and simple. We’ll start this morning by taking to sea kayaks to discover the Okarito Lagoon just a short walk down the road. This quiet inlet of branching waterways is home to over 70 bird species, including white herons (Kotuku), royal spoonbills and pied stilts. You can quietly cruise the waterways and enjoy the rainforest surrounds and the backdrop of the Southern Alps in the distance.
Hike Okarito Trig
After lunch, you can take yourself down to the beach for some peace and quiet, walk the sands, make driftwood ornaments, or if you’re feeling more energetic, your guide will take you up to the Okarito Trig. This hike offers yet more amazing views of mountains, seas and the lagoon you got to know this morning. We’ll stay overnight again at Okarito and if we're lucky we can enjoy one of its famous sunsets, perhaps over a beach bonfire.
Hike near Fox Glacier
Hike Lake Matheson
Day 13 – Hike near Fox Glacier & Lake Matheson
Mountains, beaches and glaciers, all in one wild day! We hike near Fox Glacier for impressive views of the terminal face emerging from the rainforest. Then capture the stunning reflections of Lake Matheson as we head into the vast beauty and open spaces of Central Otago. Overnight in Wanaka, a favourite lakeside holiday resort town for Kiwis.
The West Coast road is a journey that was recently voted by Lonely Planet readers as one of the best coastal drives in the world. Rivers, rainforests and tumbling glaciers meet lonely beaches; and it’s easy to see why people are mesmerised by this barren place. We’ll travel this morning to the small township at the foot of Fox Glacier. Fox Glacier tumbles 13km from the Southern Alps ending in lush rainforest at just 300m above sea level on the West Coast. This is one of the most accessible glaciers anywhere so we have an easy hike today to learn about the geology and surrounding area and get dramatic views of the terminal face.
West Coast Beaches
We’ll finish our journey down the coast with a couple of stops on isolated rocky beaches, where we often have the whole beach to ourselves. Keep your eyes out for Hector's dolphins (our smallest dolphin) dancing in the surf, and search for little pieces of greenstone on the beach. To finish our day, we’ll climb back over the Southern Alps via the Haast Pass to the beautiful relaxed mountain town of Wanaka where we’ll spend our last night together.
Hike Rocky Mountain, Wanaka
Finish in Queenstown
Finish in Queenstown
Day 14 – Hike in Wanaka & Finish in Queenstown
This morning we’ll hike to Diamond Lake then carry on with a steady climb to Rocky Mountain. Once we break through the tree line, we'll be rewarded with epic views over Lake Wanaka and Diamond Lake! What a way to end on a high note before returning to Wanaka for a last minute souvenir hunt and final Flat White. Then it’s a short trip back to Queenstown, where we complete our adventure and say our goodbyes.
Hike Diamond Lake
Today we’ll stretch our legs in the morning air with a hike to Diamond Lake, where we’ll be able to see out over the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka, then carry on all the way to Rocky Mountain for even better views above the tree line. It’s a perfect end to your trip, with 360 degree views of the whole area and Lake Wanaka, one of the largest lakes in New Zealand. If you’re not keen on a hike, there is plenty to explore in the township or take a short stroll along the lakefront and soak up the last of the fresh New Zealand mountain air before your trip home.
Finish in Queenstown
After lunch, we’ll drive over the short but spectacular Crown Range road and back into Queenstown, where we will drop you at the airport or your Queenstown accommodation. After your epic South Island adventure, you’ll leave us feeling like you’ve seen the very best of New Zealand and you’ll be ready to come back and show your friends around – now that you’re practically a local!
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!
FAQs specific to this trip...
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!
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.
We pick you up in the lobby of the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside at 8.30am. We drop you off at 3.30pm at Queenstown International Airport or at your in-town accommodation around 4pm.
Let us know if you need assistance with arranging flights or with arranging your pre and post-trip accommodation. We have lots of great options.
Kiwi Classic Photos
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Kiwi Classic Reviews
I will recommend NZ Trails to others with pride
Tim O'Shea Canada
“Keep doing what you are doing...fabulous. Our driver Alex was such a ‘professional’; I don’t say this lightly as I am a commercial driver/instructor. There was never any shortage of delicious food; And our guides were very attentive to dietary needs; also went to lengths to ensure that every guest was comfortable with the NZ cuisine and new foods. Alex and Amanda were an outstanding pair of professionals who were first class ambassadors for NZ Trails and New Zealand. You earned my marks!”Photos of Tim's trip
We are still reeling from the stunning views
Shawn Aebi Washington, USA
“Thanks so much for all of your help in preparing our family holiday tour. We all had a wonderful time and we are still reeling from the stunning views at Milford Sound, Lake Pukaki, Mt. Cook and the fun of Queenstown, Christchurch, and Nelson. Our guides Bruce and Kim were stellar - prepared, informed, helpful and of course fun!”Photos of Shawn's trip
This trip was my best holiday yet!
Jessica Poon Australia
“This trip was my best holiday yet!! My super friendly and accommodating guides Shona and Dave were a huge reason for the trip being so amazing. It was great to hop on and off the vehicle and not need to drive nor wait public transport. We made such good use of our time, and they always had recommendations for extra activities (eg morning walks, where to watch the sunrise etc.) In addiction to what was on the itinerary so I got to see and do heaps from dawn to dusk. Thanks so much!”Photos of Jessica's trip
Your guides are amazing…
Jay Naik New Jersey, USA
“What made the trip extra special for me and what I am going to tell all my friends about is my experience with Josh and Ellie – your Guides are AMAZING, unbelievable even, they exceeded all of my expectations. Very understanding, easy going, nice to talk with, learn from, and just all around family feel. I would LOVE to go on more adventures with your company if I know I would be able to hang out with Josh and Ellie. Yes, New Zealand has amazing sights and great food, but without great company (especially when you are traveling solo like I was), the trip wouldn't have been as much fun… so I am extremely grateful (By the way I rarely give feedback so this is all because I had such an AMAZING time.)”Photos of Jay's trip
Laura Salvay USA
The personal attention and ease of traveling will never be matched. My 20 year old daughter and I felt like we were on a private trip. Josh thought of ways to challenge her on the trip so she had the opportunity to push herself physically. Josh was such a great guide that I may never be able to go on another tour!See Laura's trip here
So much more than a brochure, and you can read it in the bath!
• Five guided tour options with detailed itineraries and maps.
• Find out if small group travel is right for you.
• Hidden gems, the must-see destinations you won't find travelling on your own.
• A local's guide to New Zealand food, culture, and the lingo.
• Everything you need and want to know about New Zealand to plan your adventure.
FREE TRAILS MAGAZINE
Our magazine is an extension of our tours – a collection of everything that makes New Zealand unique. Some might say we shouldn't have put so much love and elbow grease into creating a magazine, when you can find anything you want on the internet, but we say nope, we're proud of our work and we reckon you'll love it too! Here, you'll find a carefully thought out collection of 80+ pages of gorgeous pictures & inspiring Kiwi stories. You can read it anytime, anywhere. Even in the bath! You'll find maps, itineraries for our five trips, gear advice, stories from the locals, extraordinary landscapes and much more. Kick back and relax as we take you on a journey to New Zealand and introduce you to the people and stories behind the places, our laid-back outdoor lifestyle, Māori heritage, vintage Kiwiana and cheeky NZ pop culture.
Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei, and see you soon!
Jodi & the New Zealand Trails crew
Kiwi Classic Tour
14 Day South Island Tour – Queenstown to Queenstown. All inclusive. Our trip prices are set in US dollars. If that’s not your home currency, get an indication of what it converts to by using our currency converter below. Or ask us for trip prices in your home currency. US$47994799 + tax, per person (twin or double share)
Combine this trip with the Sweet North to see both islands in 19 days! We do have shorter trip options and solo travellers don’t pay more, unless you’d like an upgrade to a private room. PLEASE NOTE: This is a sample of our current itinerary. Keep in mind we are constantly fine-tuning and improving our trips based on feedback from our guests and guides, availability, etc. So your trip will be at least this good, but we reserve the right to make slight alterations without notice to make it even better!