Today is the day that you’ll forevermore recall the moment someone mentions New Zealand. Moody and dramatic, Milford Sound is simply stunning and offers what is surely the most spectacular fiord scenery in the southern hemisphere. After cruising on the Sound, we’ll take a helicopter into the remote and stunning Martins Bay for the night.
World Heritage – Our Original Luxury Walking Tour
The finest way to enjoy New Zealand's beautiful South Island.
World Heritage Route Map
Highlights of the World Heritage
1: Walk in Arthurs Pass National Park
Walk one of New Zealand’s best short hikes to a thundering 131m waterfall.
2: Paparoa National Park
Set foot on the newest of our Great Walks, the Paparoa Track, with its ancient forests and gold-mining history.
3: Franz Josef Glacier
Head through the rainforest to see the terminal face of this stunning glacier and its valley.
4: Mou Waho Island Eco Sanctuary
Cruise over the clear waters of Lake Wanaka to a predator-free island, home to precious rare birds.
5: Queenstown and the Routeburn Track
Experience one of the world’s most magnificent trails before heading to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.
6: Milford Sound
Spend the morning surrounded by waterfalls on your Milford Sound cruise.
7: Fiordland Experience
Helicopter into Martins Bay, sleep in a wilderness lodge and walk on the Hollyford Track.
8: Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park
Cruise to the face of the Tasman Glacier to gaze in awe at its 500 year-old ice crystals.
World Heritage Day-by-Day Itinerary
Hike Arthurs Pass
Day 1 – Arrive in Christchurch and Hike Arthur’s Pass National Park
After meeting your Trails guide and fellow travellers, we set off from Christchurch for the impressive Canterbury High Country. We’ll dust off any cobwebs with a refreshing but relaxed hike in beautiful Arthur’s Pass National Park, before continuing to the remote West Coast where we’ll stop in Punakaiki, home of the aptly named Pancake Rocks. After a delicious meal, you’ll spend the night in comfortable accommodation with the sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep.
Hiking in Arthur’s Pass National Park
Breathe in the fresh mountain air as we stretch our legs in one of New Zealand’s incredibly scenic National Parks. The majestic Southern Alps run like a backbone down the South Island, dividing it east and west into two distinct regions, with Arthur’s Pass serving as its gateway. This afternoon we’ll follow a flowing river to its source, the cascading water of the dramatic Devils Punchbowl Falls. With views up to Mount Rolleston and the permanent glaciers that carve their way down the mountain faces, this hike is a perfect introduction to your small group walking tour and New Zealand's beauty.
Tonight we stay at Punakaiki Resort.
Hiking & Glowworm Caves
Day 2 – Explore the Nile River Glowworm Caves and Hike Paparoa National Park
Today we’ll discover one of New Zealand’s most untouched areas. First, it’s a short but scenic trip up the coast to Paparoa National Park, where we’ll venture into the otherworldly Nile River Glowworm Caves. This afternoon you have the option to hike the Pororari River Track, following the water as it winds its way through the National Park. Or if you’d prefer, take an exhilarating stroll along Punakaiki Beach – be sure to keep an eye out for pods of Hectors dolphins playing in the waves!
Underworld Glowworm Caves
Upon arrival in Charleston, your guides will lead you on a walk through the rainforest to the Nile River Caves. These natural cathedral-like caverns were discovered relatively recently and the cave we’ll explore this morning is one of only a few in the world you can easily walk through and experience in the same state as it was found. The dry upper levels are a remarkable sight, complete with stalactites and stalagmites shimmering with galaxies of glowworms. We’ll get kitted up in wetsuits and walk a short distance to a fleet of small inflatable rafts, which we’ll use to float through this amazing subterranean environment. It’s a surreal, uniquely New Zealand experience you’ll never forget.
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 Resort again.
Kayak Okarito Lagoon
Day 3 – West Coast and Kayaking on Okarito Lagoon
It’s an enjoyable journey this morning as we travel down the coast to the tiny township of Okarito. Along the way, there’s panoramic views of the Southern Alps, virgin West Coast rainforest and rugged Tasman Sea coastline. Home to New Zealand’s largest coastal lagoon, the best way to appreciate Okarito is by kayak. Accompanied by specialist local guides, enjoy the majestic views and abundant birdlife. If you’d like to head out walking this afternoon, there’s a fantastic trail on our doorstep providing elevated views of the coastline. We’ll overnight in Okarito, resting comfortably in a bright and airy beach house.
Guided Kayaking on Okarito Lagoon
Gliding across the waters of Okarito Lagoon in a kayak is undoubtedly the most peaceful way to enjoy this spectacular coastal wetland. Okarito is known for its outstanding population of birdlife, over 70 species of birds have been recorded here. The lagoon is a common feeding ground for kotuku (white heron) and royal spoonbill, both of which breed in the nearby Waitangiroto Nature Reserve. Quietly paddling around this tranquil waterway, with the mighty Southern Alps as our backdrop, you’ll have the best chance of observing the birdlife in their natural habitat, without disturbing them.
Tonight we stay at Okarito Beach House.
Glaciers & Southern Alps
Day 4 – Glacier Country & Mt Aspiring National Park
Keep your camera handy today to capture the picture-perfect views of Lake Matheson and Franz Josef Glacier’s terminal face, as we enjoy our morning hike together in Glacier Country. We then continue along the West Coast to our third National Park of the trip, Mount Aspiring. You’ll sleep soundly tonight in the relaxed lakeside town of Wanaka.
Franz Josef Glacier
At 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) in length, Franz Josef Glacier is the largest and most accessible of the West Coast glaciers. The terminal valley itself is a testament to the sheer force of nature. The valleys and lakes around the Franz Josef township are remnants of the ice age and provide some excellent hiking trails for us today. We’ll hike to terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier, as well as stretching our legs on the Lake Matheson track. The reflections in the water of our highest peak Aoraki/Mount Cook are outstanding! For those who want to set foot on the ice, you have the option to take a heli hike up to the glacier itself.
The Haast Pass, Mount Aspiring National Park and the Wanaka Lakes
As we make our way down the coast and inland, the stunning views continue. Once over the Haast Pass, the landscape changes dramatically as we head into the mountains. Linking the West Coast to Central Otago, this pass was used by early Maori on Pounamu (jade) gathering expeditions. We follow the Haast River into Mount Aspiring National Park and the Wanaka Lakes area to continue our luxury walking tour of New Zealand.
Tonight we stay at Edgewater Resort.
Mou Waho Island
Day 5 – Lake Wanaka Boat Cruise and Hike in Mou Waho Island Wildlife Reserve
This morning we’ll 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. In the afternoon we’ll take in more breath-taking views as we make our way over the Crown Range to the alpine resort town of Queenstown, where we’ll stay for the next three nights.
Lake Wanaka Cruise & Island Wildlife Walk
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.
The Cardrona Valley and Queenstown
Our afternoon drive takes us through the Cardrona Valley and over the Crown Range, down into the Wakatipu Basin. Prepare to be wowed as we wind our way down the mountain road and towards the bustling hub of Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Tonight we stay at Novotel Queenstown Lakeside.
Hike Routeburn Track
Day 6 – Hike the famed Routeburn Track
This morning we travel to Glenorchy at the top of the lake following the shoreline road - a journey regularly voted one of the best drives in the world. And you can’t help but see why, the views are captivating. We have the whole day to wend our way on the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’. There are different options available depending on how far you’d like to hike. We’ll head back at the end of the day for our next night in Queenstown.
Hiking on the famous Routeburn Track
Today will be one of the hiking highlights of the trip, as we walk a section of the famous Routeburn Track. Once on the trail your guides will lead you through lush beech forest (Lord of the Rings fans might spot some familiar landscapes from the movies around here). The track meanders alongside the clear waters of the river and down into the meadows of Routeburn Flats – the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. If you’re keen to stretch your legs further, we’ll carry on and up to Routeburn Falls.
As with all our hikes, there’s lots of flexibility. If you want to push yourself and really get your pulse pumping, or you’d rather just enjoy a relaxed hike on the flat trail, there are options to suit. No matter what you decide, the views will be equally magnificent.
Tonight we stay at Novotel Queenstown Lakeside again.
Free day to explore
Day 7 – Explore Queenstown
Today you’ll be spoilt for choice in the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’, Queenstown. A world-class mountain resort nestled on the shores of the sleeping giant, Lake Wakatipu. The activity options here are endless; on land, water and even in the air – relaxing also permitted, of course!
There’s something for everyone, from adrenalin activities like bungy jumping and jet boat rides, to more gentle pursuits such as wine tasting, a round of golf or a spa treatment. Famous as a winter ski destination, Queenstown is equally magnificent in spring, summer and autumn. Today is yours to make the most of what Queenstown has to offer, your guides will be able to point you in the right direction to ensure you do. After a day spent soaking it all up, you’ll enjoy a third night in your Queenstown lakeside accommodation.
Tonight we stay at Novotel Queenstown Lakeside again.
Fiordland National Park
Day 8 – Kepler Track & Te Anau
We’ll enjoy a relaxed start to the day before journeying to one of the most pristine corners of New Zealand for the next three days. You’ll get your first glimpse of the glorious Fiordland National Park on your afternoon hike along the Kepler Track. Tonight, you’ll enjoy a delightful dinner in Te Anau ahead of tomorrow’s adventure.
Hiking on the Kepler Track
This is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, renowned for its vivid green moss and stunning mountain ranges. We’ll follow the Waiau River as it weaves through native beech forest, emerging out onto a spectacular viewpoint at the lakeside Moturau Hut. There, you’ll enjoy views of the beautiful Lake Manapouri. After you’ve had your fill of the vista, we’ll head back to Te Anau for the night.
Tomorrow, we’ll commence the pinnacle experience of our World Heritage Walking Tour, our Fiordland Experience. This is the sole trip out of all the trips we run where you will stay right in the heart of Fiordland National Park. When all the tour buses leave, that is when this iconic part of World Heritage New Zealand really comes alive.
Tonight we stay at Distinction Te Anau.
Hiking & Martins Bay
Martins Bay Lodge
Day 9 – The Fiordland Experience: Milford Sound Cruise, Helicopter & Jetboat in Martins Bay
Fiordland National Park
Hike Hollyford Track
Day 10 – Fiordland Backcountry, Jetboat Ride and Walk the Hollyford Track
We start the day with a second thrilling jetboat ride, this time up the Hollyford River and across Lake McKerrow, an area regarded by many as New Zealand’s most beautiful wilderness valley. Just when you thought your time in Fiordland couldn’t possibly get any better, we’ll enjoy a full-day guided hike on the superb Hollyford Track. We’ll travel back to Te Anau for dinner with lake views and a good night’s rest.
Hiking on the Hollyford Track
Wandering through the Hollyford Valley is like stepping into a lost world, a prehistoric wilderness unchanged for thousands of years. The Hollyford Track is the only major track in Fiordland at a consistently low altitude throughout, gently undulating through native forests, past picturesque lakes and roaring waterfalls, following the clear swift waters of the Hollyford River. The valley is home to a diverse array of vegetation; 1000-year-old rimu trees, ancient beech forest and crimson southern rata stand tall, as intricate ferns, emerald mosses and velvet lichens blanket the roots. An area truly worthy of its World Heritage status.
We have options available for all fitness levels. Get in touch to discuss the best one for you.
Tonight we stay at Distinction Te Anau.
Mt Cook Village
Day 11 – Gibbston Valley, High Country Lakes, Aoraki/Mount Cook
After a relaxed start this morning, we'll make our way to the gorgeous mountain setting of Gibbston Valley, where we'll enjoy a selection of locally-produced wines and a leisurely lunch. 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. We’ll then stay the night in our most famous mountain hotel, the Hermitage at Mount Cook.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
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.
Day 12 – Glacier Boat Tour and options in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
The last full day on your New Zealand luxury walking tour will be one of the most unforgettable. Home to not only our highest and most sacred mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park boasts a further 19 peaks topping over 3000 metres. After a scenic glacier boat tour this morning, options this afternoon include hiking, exploring the village or a glacier heli-hike for truly mind-blowing views. Whichever option you choose you won’t be disappointed. After a full day of activities, we’ll meet up and return to the Hermitage Hotel for our final dinner together and a chance to trade stories from the day. Your last night of the trip will be a memorable evening as you look back on your adventure and the places you’ve travelled.
Glacier boat and Hiking in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
Some of New Zealand’s best alpine hikes are found here. Surrounded by the peaks where 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 raising up to the imposing height of 3724 metres (over 12,000 feet). The glacier boat cruise this morning 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.
Day 12 Optional Add-ons
Below are some of the optional add-ons you can also enjoy:
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
Finish the trip in Christchurch
Day 13 – Tekapo and the Mackenzie Country, Depart Christchurch
Enjoy your final taste of the incredible Mackenzie Country scenery as we make our way back to the city of Christchurch. The unreal colours of Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo contrast against our highest peaks in the distance, creating the perfect backdrop for photos you’ll treasure in years to come. After 13 days of extraordinary experiences, adventures, friendship and fun, we’ll say our goodbyes with drop-offs at Christchurch airport or your city accommodation. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and satisfied in the knowledge that you’ve made the very most of your time in New Zealand.
Photos of the World Heritage
Tawaki / Fiordland crested penguin
Jetboat, Lake McKerrow.
Tasman Glacier heli-hike
The Hollyford Track.
Paparoa National Park.
Mou Waho Island wildlife sanctuary.
Mou Waho Island wildlife sanctuary.
World Heritage Accommodation
Novotel Lakeside Hotel.
Martins Bay Lodge.
Frequently asked questions
It's very important to us that you have all your questions answered about our World Heritage Walking Tour. 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!
Which hikes are included in the World Heritage Walking tour?
You’ll enjoy the best walking in New Zealand and explore several UNESCO World Heritage sites: Kepler Track – Guided day hike from Rainbow Reach to Motarau Hut. Routeburn Track – Guided day hiking from the Routeburn road-end to either Routeburn Falls or Routeburn Flats. Hollyford Track – Guided day hike from the Pyke River Confluence to the Hollyford road-end. Also, a guided afternoon hike from Martin’s Bay to Long Reef seal colony. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park – Guided day walk on the Hooker Valley track. Arthur's Pass National Park – Short guided hike on the Devil's Punchbowl track. Mou Waho Island – Guided nature walk on this island eco-sanctuary in the middle of Lake Wanaka. Paparoa National Park – afternoon guided hike on the Pororari River track. You can check out each hike here.
What is the accommodation like on the World Heritage Walking Tour?
The World Heritage trip takes advantage of our best accommodation, staying in laid-back luxury accommodation throughout. You will have a spacious room with an ensuite every night bar one on this trip, with the exception being a night in a remote corner of Fiordland National Park in a lodge that has shared single-sex bathroom facilities. Some of these places are so special we stay more than one night! Each night is a treat in itself. Click here for a detailed look at the accommodation on this trip.
How fit do I need to be for the World Heritage trip?
Everyone walks at the pace most comfortable for them and there is never any time pressure on our walks. If you are generally active and enjoy physical hobbies like hiking, cycling, golf, tennis or dancing then you will have no problems with the walks and activities on the tour. If you’d like to do a little preparation for your tour we recommend regular short walks anywhere from one to four hours in the six weeks leading up to your trip. We’ve had people of all ages and abilities on our World Heritage Walking Tour and everyone’s had a great time! Click here to go to a handy page with a summary of the distances and approximate times for every walk and activity on our World Heritage Walking Tour!
What time does the World Heritage trip start and finish?
Pick up information
We can pick you up on the first day of your trip in Christchurch at:
- 9.30am from the lobby of our joining hotel – Chateau on the Park (Double Tree by Hilton)
- 10.00am Christchurch International Airport at the international information desk.
Drop off information
We can drop you off on the last day of your trip in Christchurch at:
- 4.00pm at Christchurch 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 9:00am International or 9:30am Domestic
Depart on the final day no earlier than 6:00pm International or 5:00pm Domestic
**If your travel plans fall outside of these times please check with us before you book.
What are the bathroom facilities like on the World Heritage Walking Tour?
You will have a spacious room with an ensuite every night bar one on this trip, with the exception being a night in a remote corner of Fiordland National Park in a lodge that has well-equipped shared single-sex bathroom facilities. On travel days our guides will regularly stop at bathroom facilities in between destinations and on the walking trails there are basic toilets available at regular intervals
Is there electricity at all of the places we stay on the World Heritage Walking Tour?
Yes, all of the places we stay on the World Heritage Walking Tour have electricity. At the remote Martins Bay Lodge in Fiordland electricity is run on a generator and is limited overnight to lights and wall sockets. If you have a CPAP machine or other medical device that requires electricity overnight, please just let us know when you sign up for your trip and we will pass this information onto the Lodge staff at Martins Bay who can easily accommodate this.
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 12 of your 13 nights on your World Heritage Trip. While New Zealand is quite tech savvy the wifi at some accommodation may not be of the speed you are used to back home. Due to its remote location, there is no internet connection or cellphone reception the night we stay at Martins Bay Lodge in Fiordland. Your guides and lodge hosts will have a satellite phone to access outside assistance if they need to.
How far in advance should I book my World Heritage Walking Tour?
Due to the permits required to access the UNESCO World Heritage areas of New Zealand we have a limited number of World Heritage Walking Tour departures. As our tours are in small groups, we are usually fully booked during the summer season so we advise booking as soon as possible in order to avoid disappointment. It's normal for guests to book on our World Heritage Walking Tour 12 months in advance. To make planning your trip go as smoothly as possible we suggest you book your tour first, before you book any flights to New Zealand.
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 Trip Director is a highly experienced outdoors professional who is 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 World Heritage Walking Tour visit?
The World Heritage Walking Tour visits 6 of New Zealand’s National Parks - Paparoa, Arthurs Pass, Mt Aspiring, Fiordland, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini. You will have the opportunity to hike on three Great Walks, the Paparoa Track, Routeburn Track and Milford Track, as well as experiencing the Hollyford Track, Franz Josef Glacier walk, Hooker Valley and the eco sanctuary of Mou Waho island.
What's included in my World Heritage Walking Tour?
Local naturalist guides on the Hollyford Track, Mou Waho island, Okarito Lagoon Kayaking, Charleston Caves tour and the Glacier Explorers tour in Mt Cook.
An experienced New Zealand Trails Trip Director to guide you on your tour.
All meals except dinner the night you arrive in Queenstown and lunch and dinner on your free day in Queenstown 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.
What's not included on my World Heritage Walking 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.
Why do you run the World Heritage Walking Tour in two different directions?
Our World Heritage Walking Tour is very popular and we often run two trips departing on the same date, with no more than 14 guests on any one trip. This trip has been carefully crafted to give you exclusive access to New Zealand's best walks, activities, and accommodations. By running one trip eastbound and the other westbound we are able to give every guest this exclusive experience. The published itinerary is the westbound trip, though it doesn't matter which direction you go as both trips start and finish in Christchurch and the itineraries are identical, they just run in opposite directions. If for any reason you would like to be on a particular departure direction then just let us know.
Redefine adventure as you explore the very best of the South Island in comfort and style on our iconic World Heritage walking tour. Set foot on New Zealand’s Great Walks, soak up the views in UNESCO World Heritage areas 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 laid-back luxury accommodations.
Combine this trip with our Sweet North for the best of both the North and South islands over 18 days.
The World Heritage is our most popular trip and places in our small groups fill up quickly. You can check trip dates and availability below using the handy date picker.
World Heritage – 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 Trip Director.
✓ Local Trip Director, small groups
✓ All inclusive
✓ All food (except where noted on itinerary), transportation and activities
✓ The very best accommodation
✓ Local naturalist guides and guest speakers
✓ Helicopter transfer
What more information?
Get a free New Zealand Trails brochure!
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