The Best New Zealand Small Group Tours

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By Claire Todd

8 minute read

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There are many ways to see New Zealand and no matter which way you decide to go, you’re likely to have an incredible time because New Zealand is, for want of a better word... awesome. But with your well-deserved vacation time and hard-earned dollars at the forefront of your mind, no doubt you want to be sure you’re doing it all justice by choosing the absolute best way to spend your time in New Zealand.

Here at New Zealand Trails, we pride ourselves in offering our discerning guests the very finest in New Zealand hiking and adventure tours and we humbly challenge any naysayers to prove us wrong! If you’re currently umming and ahhing over the best way to see New Zealand, read on for an insight into why small group tours of New Zealand might be just the thing you’re looking for.

Why do New Zealand small group tours work so well?

New Zealand is a country of relatively petite proportions, it’s possible to drive from one end of the country to the other in about 24 hours if you were driving non-stop and didn’t look up from the road the whole time. At the other end of the scale, thinking about somewhere like Australia (which is HUGE), it’s much easier to fly from place to place, rather than drive. You could drive for days through the desert, without so much as a piece of tumbleweed to keep you company.

Here in New Zealand though, despite our somewhat diminutive size, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to our scenery. As a nation of road-trippers, we’re used to hitting the road to get to our favourite holiday spots. No matter where you’re headed, the journey is typically all part of the adventure as you travel via golden sand beaches, thick rainforests, alpine passes and glacial lakes.

Sealy Tarns, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Small group travel can be the best way to discover some amazing spots, whether you're walking to these incredible views or simply driving by.

The size and constant barrage of scenic vistas mean that New Zealand is the ideal place to discover with small group travel. A well-planned itinerary will ensure that you see a huge variety of places in just a week or two, all the while experiencing the best New Zealand has to offer. Each day brings with it a new adventure and new scenery. If you’re worried it might all be too rushed though, rest assured that there’s plenty of time to relax. Trails trips seamlessly blend activities, travel and downtime to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated at the end of your vacation.

Benefits of small group travel

As a visitor to our country, you could rent a car and tackle the driving yourself, but it can often be far more relaxing to let someone else take care of the driving for you, especially if they have the knowledge and experience of our narrow, winding roads and can anticipate any challenges ahead. That way, you get to sit back, listen to some tunes and soak in the views, safe in the knowledge that you’re in the hands of an expert. It’s far better than arguing over who’s driving next, who took a wrong turn on the map, who ate the last of the lollies, or whose turn it is the fill up the car with petrol – trust me!

6. Drive to Mt Cook

Our roads twist and turn through epic landscapes, from dramatic coastlines to breathtaking alpine passes. How about this drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook?

Our New Zealand small group tours usually travel around the country in mid-sized luxury vehicles, equipped for groups ranging in size between 4 and 14 people. Unlike large impersonal coach tours, we travel in comfort and style in late-model Mercedes minibuses thoughtfully kitted out for the needs of a small group. Maps, reading materials, fresh water supplies, and snacks are all part of the experience onboard a Trails vehicle.

Whilst the driving isn’t the main feature of our trips by a long stretch, it is, of course, necessary to get from one incredible place to the next. We work hard to make it an enjoyable experience, never spending too long on the road and always with regular stops for photo opportunities and short walks along the way. There’s plenty of room to stretch out onboard (no knees squashed up against the seat in front) and big, clean windows to take in the views. If you enjoy a road-trip, then this is the gold-star of road-tripping.

Finding a place to stay

If you’re won over by the thought of travelling New Zealand by road, but perhaps you’re leaning towards a campervan or hire car, bear in mind you’ll have to carefully plan out your route, considering the weather and any road closures. You’ll also need to book your accommodations well in advance and you’ll have to do plenty of research, relying on online reviews to ensure you don’t wind up staying at Fawlty Towers or the Bates Motel - hyperbole, but you get my point.

Lochmara Lodge

Here's something to write home about - a lodge that is so far off the beaten track we kayak to it. Leave the masses behind as we have the place all to ourselves.

Of course, you could always get in touch with the New Zealand travel specialists here at Trails and take all the hard work out of finding and booking accommodation. As a small team of dedicated professionals with a wealth of experience, we know all the best spots to stay – stylish places with incredible views, comfortable beds and excellent water pressure. We’ve hand-picked each location (and bounced on the beds – standard industry practice) so we can personally attest to the quality. Your accommodation is all part of the trip and included in the price, so you get to enjoy each day with the anticipation of a delightful night’s rest ahead in superb accommodations. No grubby hostels or sub-par B&Bs in sight!

Enjoying the local cuisine

Travelling independently means you have to take care of yourself as far as food goes. Vacations are about exploring, relaxing and absorbing new cultures, not trips to the supermarket (ok, maybe once for curiosity’s sake). On a Trails small group tours of New Zealand, we take our food seriously and we know that our guests expect excellent cuisine and fresh local fare. Depending on which tour you take, we eat out at a range of excellent restaurants and cafes and enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and favourite Kiwi specialities.

Grazing platter

Enjoy our favourite spots with us - the food and fare will nourish not just your body, but your soul, too.

We cater for any dietary requirements, so you won’t go hungry if you’re vegetarian, gluten-free or have any other specific requests. Taking a small-group tour with meals included means you won’t have to hunt out a grocery store that sells tasty tofu or search for an excellent restaurant that serves up sizzling steak, we’ve done it for you. One less thing to worry about means more time to enjoy New Zealand, and who doesn’t want that?

Local knowledge

Going-it-alone certainly requires more planning both prior and during your trip. You not only need to decide where to stay, what to eat and what your budget is, but you also need to think about where you’re going and what you want to see. You could always grab a well-thumbed copy of the Lonely Planet and follow in the footsteps of countless tourists ahead of you, or you could travel with the locals for a real taste of New Zealand.

Kayaking solo across Lake Mapourika

So quiet that you won't hear anything beyond your paddles.

We’re Kiwis through and through and we know this gorgeous little country inside out. We can get you to places only the locals know about – stunning secret lookouts and off-the-beaten-path tracks and trails. We’ve secured permits and accommodations that aren’t available to regular visitors to our country – coach trips, campervans and rental cars need not apply. You can trust the experts to ensure that your time in New Zealand is exactly the way you want to be.

Friendly Kiwi guides

It would be remiss not to mention the incredible Kiwi guides that work tirelessly to take care of our guests during their trip. We’ve scoured the country high and low, looking for the very-best Kiwis to guide our tours. Highly trained and experienced outdoors people with the most beautiful personalities, you’d be hard pressed to find someone you’d rather have show you around.

MP Feb Cass at Key Summit

Great views in great hands - our guides on our small group tours of New Zealand are second to none!

Many travellers underestimate the rugged New Zealand landscape and venture out on their own into the backcountry without adequate understanding or preparation, often regretting their decision once it's too late. With a depth of knowledge that spans culture, history, wildlife, the environment and the landscape itself, you’ll feel safe exploring New Zealand’s pristine wilderness with our Super Guides. Plus, they have excellent taste in music and know a few good jokes to keep you chuckling during your time on the road.

New friends and future travels

Speaking of a good giggle, there’s nothing better than travelling with a handful of close friends who share your vacation objectives and enjoy the same style of travel. Perhaps the thought of travelling with new people makes you nervous? The good news is that our guests typically have lots in common with each other. They enjoy spending time in the outdoors and learning about new places and are usually well-travelled, with a good sense of humour. Hailing from various countries around the globe, they’re looking for the best way to see New Zealand and value the local insight and authenticity our trips provide. So, the chances are you’ll get on very well indeed.

Small group travel means just that, we keep our group sizes small and typically have no more than 8 to 10 people on board, with an absolute maximum of 14. You’ll have a chance to get to know your fellow travellers in a relaxed and comfortable environment, sharing a bottle of wine or good meal as you recount stories from your travels so far. In fact, many of our travellers form strong friendships based on their shared adventures and quite often plan more trips together down the track.

Our guests at Key Summit.

Whether you're travelling with old friends or making new ones, you'll be in great company.

That’s not to say that you’ll spend every waking minute together of course – we all need a bit of time to ourselves to unpack the day and take a breather. Even the most social of butterflies need to land and take a nap sometimes. We’ve designed our trips with this fact in mind, so you’ll notice there’s plenty of time along the way to chill out with a good book or soak in the views in peaceful solitude, in fact, we encourage it!

Small group tours of New Zealand take the hard work out of planning your trip

When you’re planning a big vacation overseas there’s always lots to think about, but choosing New Zealand small group tours takes the hard work out of it. We’ll take care of everything, all you need to do is get on the plane and meet us at the airport on the other side. From there, get set for an incredible adventure around New Zealand, taking in the best walks and hikes, experiencing quintessential Kiwi pursuits, visiting the most famous places (as well as those a little further off the beaten track), meeting awesome new friends, enjoying tasty local food and lovely accommodations, all the while content, and dare I say it, a little smug in the knowledge that you have found the BEST way to see New Zealand.

And if you still have questions or need help deciding which of our trips is right for you, then don’t hesitate to call us for a chat – we’d be happy to help point you in the right direction.

Check our trip schedules and availability on our availability page. To work out which trip suits you best, check out Which Trip is Right For Me.

Request your FREE NEW ZEALAND TRAILS Brochure for articles, stories and information on our five guided trip options

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Let’s talk – we’d love to hear what you think. Pop your details in below and have your say.

  • lisa brownie, Usa August 2023

    Traveling solo for the first time. Looking to get away and enjoy meeting new people

    • Jodi Narbey, August 2023

      Hi Lisa,

      It's Jodi here from New Zealand Trails. That is so exciting! You'll be in excellent company as over a third of our guests are solo travellers, looking to have an adventure with like-minded people. I'd love to chat more about your plans! Feel free to reach me on my free call number 1-877-796-0416, or my email

  • Joy Rich, New zealand December 2022

    Single 69 year old female would like to travel Jan 26 for 5 to 7 days. Love people, their culture, history, nature, creatures and beauty. Not interested in luxury. Prefer clean neat accommodations. Prefer eating like locals.

  • Barb Goff, US July 2019

    2020 trip: my wish list!!!
    Natural Sights, Cultural immersion with First People, Native Healers, Birdwatching.
    Do any of your trips cover these?

  • Muhammad zia , Pakistan April 2019

    My dream new Zealand

  • Adam , Morocco February 2019

    I love new zealand wild it's beauty

    • Anita, Australia February 2019

      I love to be here in this group

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