New Zealand Walking Tour Write a review
This tour is designed to showcase the best of New Zealand’s spectacular South Island. We take you from the top of the Marlborough Sounds down the east coast to Christchurch, then inland via Lake Tekapo to Queenstown and “The Remarkables,” the aptly-named range of mountains that tower over the town. You will experience the west coast during the Milford Sound day, which combines a scenic flight in a small aircraft followed by a cruise up Milford Sound to iconic Mitre Peak. The last three days of walking are along the famous Routeburn Track which allows you to get into some of New Zealand’s stunning high alpine terrain while enjoying luxury accommodation at the end of the day. The itinerary is also designed to limit vehicle transfers to not more than 4 hours on any given day.
New Zealand Walking Tour itinerary
Arrive independently in Blenheim, in the Marlborough wine country at the northeast corner of the island. Meet your guides at 6:30 p.m. for a welcome drink followed by dinner. There are many flights daily from Auckland and Christchurch to Blenheim. Overnight Blenheim. Hotel, airport transfer to the hotel, welcome drink and dinner included.
Today you begin the Queen Charlotte walking track, a relatively easy but scenic walk amongst the bays and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds. The track is unique for its stunning coastal views, historical landmarks, and wonderful variety of native bush and birdlife. The terrain is undulating with hills ranging from sea level to 400 metres (1,200 ft). Most of the track is wide and all major streams have been bridged. We start at Motuara, a predator-free island which is a sanctuary for many of New Zealand's indigenous birds. We begin our walk from Ship Cove, where Captain Cook rested and replenished during his three historic voyages to the South Pacific in the 1770s. Upon arrival at Furneaux Lodge, enjoy a cold drink on the terrace, or borrow a sea kayak for a paddle along Endeavour inlet. Walking Distance: 17 kms 10.5 mi. (about 4.5 - 5 hours of walking). Your bags are moved by water taxi. Overnight at Furneaux Lodge in luxury waterfront suites. Hotel, breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Exit the Queen Charlotte track via water taxi back to the mainland. Time for a "flat white" in Picton village before a 2-hour van transfer to Kaikoura. Along the way we stop for lunch at a lovely spot overlooking the beach and the surf. We also stop at a natural fur seal nursery and enjoy watching the seal pups cavort in the sea pools just below us. In Kaikoura we embark on a 5 km/3 mi walk along the coast which allows us to stretch our legs before continuing along this super scenic stretch of coast which features the towering peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura range on one side and the shimmering blue waters of the Pacific on the other. We soon arrive at the Ngaroma Beach House, a simple but comfortable house located 20m/60ft from the shore. We are now on a private farm track, created by two neighbouring "run holders" to diversify their farm income. Enjoy a leisurely evening stroll down the beach before dinner, which is catered by our hosts and features home grown produce. We are joined by Heather and Bruce, the owners of the farm, to get a little local lore about this isolated station and their life here. Walking distance: 5 kms/3 mi for Kaikoura walk, and as many as you like along the beach. Overnight at the Ngaroma Beach House, a farm cottage with separate rooms but shared WC and shower facilities. Overnight, breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Start the Kaikoura farm-track walk, a private walking track set up by two neighbouring families that extends across their farms. The “trail” starts along the beach and passes beneath cliffs embedded with 8,000-year-old tree stumps and fossils. You may see seals or dolphins playing in the surf, but chances are you will be too busy beachcombing as the sand reveals lots of natural treasures! You have a picnic lunch at the Circle Shelter nestled amongst coastal bush before climbing up some high terraces for immense views up and down the uninhabited coast. The trail then turns inland and weaves its way through covenanted land that is returning to native bush and forest. Fantails and bellbirds provide a natural soundtrack as we head for the Medina homestead where we spend the night. We will be joined by farm owners Sally and David who share many colourful stories about their 50+ plus years living a unique lifestyle on this land. Walking Distance: 13 km/8 mi. Overnight Medina. Overnight, breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Our day starts with a long but gradual climb up a ridge line through native forest and pine plantations. We emerge above the bush line and are rewarded with a spectacular view over rolling hills to the jagged peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura range. Lunch is enjoyed at a hut perched high above the valley, and in some cases, above the soft, fluffy sea mist that burns away during the morning. A gradual descent brings us back to the Ngaroma beach hut where we rest and enjoy a glass of homemade lemonade before hopping into the van for a scenic two-hour transfer to Christchurch. We will be staying just outside of Christchurch at the seaside village of Sumner in a very comfortable recently renovated 4 star hotel. There is even a washing machine and dryer available if you want to do some laundry. Dinner in the village. Overnight near Christchurch. Walking Distance: 11 kms/7 mi. Overnight, breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
This morning we walk Christchurch's spectacular crater rim walkway. True to its name, it follows the rim of the ancient and now extinct volcanic crater which gave birth to Banks Peninsula, an area of 1,150 square km (440 sq.mi.). We start from historic Lytellton, Christchurch's charming port village and gradually. We cheat a little with a quick van transfer half way up the bridal path hill that eventually takes you 400 meters (1,200 ft) above sea level to the crater rim. The remains high, with alternating views of Christchurch city to the north and Whakaraupo Bay and Banks Peninsula to the south. Fantastic panoramas abound as you walk through open country to eventually arrive at Dyers Pass. From here we transport you to a historic pub in Governors bay for a delicious lunch with a view followed by a short walk along the waters edge. Return to our sea side oasis before dinner. Overnight near Christchurch. Walking Distance: 18 km/11 mi in the morning & 4 km/2.5 mi in the afternoon. Hotel, breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
The wild bluffs of Godley Head host us for our morning walk. The scenic path skirts high above the sea and leads us to the incongruous site of bunkers and gun emplacements that were hastily built in 1940 at the outbreak of WWII. The track eventually leads down to Taylor's Mistake, the locals’ favourite beach. You can't come all this way and not have a swim in the warm waters of the South Pacific! We then transfer south to the "Mackenzie country," a unique environment of harsh winters, hot summers, and mountainous terrain which produces the finest Merino wool in the world. We take you straight to the Grampians Station, an historic high-country sheep station which has my favourite view in New Zealand from their front porch. We are greeted by Eve Hope, one of the owners of the station, and she joins us for a 1.5-hr walk amongst the hills above the homestead. You are rewarded with incredible views of Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, and the snow-capped peaks of its adjacent rivals. We descend down to the house to enjoy the sunset view, followed by dinner in the old homestead with Eve, who will give you insights into the challenges of running a 50,000 acre Merino sheep station. After dinner it's time to look to the heavens because The Grampians is located in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This 4,300 sq.km (1,660 sq.mi.) area is the southern hemisphere’s sole dark sky reserve and one of only eight in the world. Light pollution is strictly controlled to provide a unique and unforgettable star-gazing experience. A 20-minute transfer takes us to Tekapo where we spend the night. Walking distance: 8 km/5 mi. in the morning and 6 km/4 mi. in the afternoon. (Drive time 3.5 hours). Overnight, breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
We say goodbye to the Mackenzie country as we head south for a super-scenic drive through the mountainous Lindis Pass to Queenstown. Along the way we will stop for a 45 minute walk along the shores of Lake Pukaki. The lake's brilliant blue glacier fed water is impressive enough, and with the Mount Cook towering in the distance you have one of the most stunning views in the world. This afternoon you will experience an exhilarating jet-boat ride through the canyons of the Shotover River. Enjoy some free time this afternoon to walk along the shore of Lake Wakatipu to take in the views onto "The Remarkables," the aptly named mountain range that lines the east shore of the lake. Queenstown is not only famous for its scenery and adventure sports, but also for the excellent wines that come from the “Central Otago” wine-growing region. Before dinner we can visit an ingenious wine bar where you can sample some of the highest-rated Pinots on the planet. Tonight is a free-night diner so you can dine as you please. There is much to choose from, including Michelin-starred chef Josh Emmet's "Rata" restaurant. Drive time: 3.5 – 4 hours. Overnight in Queenstown. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch included. Dinner not included.
Today is chock-o-block with stunning scenery. This morning we take a high-wing propeller aircraft flight from Queenstown over the the magnificent mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and fiords of Fiordland National Park. We land at the head of Milford Sound to board a launch to cruise the full length of the fjord to the base of Mitre peak, whose 1,683 m (5,551 ft) spire rises straight from the sea. Return to Queenstown by scenic flight over the world-famous Milford Track and Sutherland Falls. The excursion lasts 4 hours so we’ll be back in Queenstown in time for lunch followed by some free time, so you can choose to chill out by the lake, enjoy a spa treatment, an invigorating hike up Mount Ben Lomond or a serene walk that skirts the turquoise waters of Lake Wakatipu. Tonight is another “free night” dinner in Queenstown. Overnight Queenstown. Hotel, breakfast and lunch included. Dinner not included.
We have an early departure from Queenstown to access the start of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's GREAT WALKS. The track passes through two national parks, Fiordland and Mount Aspiring, and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage area. You will be walking amongst mountainous peaks, sheer rock faces, alpine basins, pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls, luxuriant forest, and aquamarine rivers. The track is equipped with several huts and shelters but you will be staying both nights in luxury lodges where you can enjoy a hot shower, clean towels, crisp linen and a three-course meal, not to mention a cold beer at the end of the day. We will be joining other like-minded hikers on this route, and we will have an additional four guides to look after us on the trail. Today's hike starts with a climb up a wide path to Key Summit for a huge vista. Here you can sit among the alpine flora and gaze down upon three valleys from which water flows to three different coasts. You then descend to the Lake Howden hut for a hot drink and picnic lunch before gradually climbing through a lush silver beech forest to the base of Earland Falls. You will look over the Hollyford Valley to the ice-capped Darran Mountains before descending to the lodge at Lake Mackenzie. Morning bus transfer: 3 hours. Walking Distance 15 km/9 mi. Overnight Lake Mackenzie. Hotel and all meals included.
A chorus of native birds greets you this morning. After a hearty continental and/or cooked breakfast you set out for one of the most scenic alpine walks in the world. You leave the ancient forest draped in moss and lichen and enter the world of daisies, buttercups, gentians and edelweiss as you gain altitude. At the top of the pass, revel in a full vista of the Darran Mountains across the Hollyford Valley, which slices through Fiordland to the distant Tasman Sea at Martin's Bay. On a clear day you can see the white froth from the rollers breaking on the coast. Lunch is at Harris Saddle hut, where flush toilets are available (this is sophisticated hiking!) in addition to the awesome panorama. A gradual descent takes you into the upper basins of the Routeburn Valley with towering mountains above you. We sleep tonight at the beautifully located Routeburn Falls Lodge. Chances are you will get a visit from a Kia, the world's only Alpine Parrot, and surely the cheekiest too. Walking Distance: 15 km/9 mi. Overnight Routburn Falls. Hotel and all meals included.
A leisurely and easy hike leads us along the banks of an emerald green stream, then stop for a break at some gorgeous rock pools. The track continues to shadow the river as it roars through a magnificent gorge before plunging beneath the unyielding rocks at the Sump. From here it is a gentle walk through the beech forest to the Road End at Routeburn flats. A bus will pick us up and take us to the Glenorchy pub for a welcome refreshment before we make our way back to Queenstown. We get back to town at about 4 pm. You will have a free afternoon in Queenstown before meeting up for our final dinner together to celebrate the end of a gorgeous tour. Walking Distance: 10 km/6mi. Overnight Queenstown. Hotel and all meals included.
After breakfast the tour officially ends. There are regular flights from Queenstown to Christchurch, Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, and Melbourne. Breakfast included.
On the last three days we walk the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” and as such the government has invested in upgrading the trail to make it safe and well maintained. This allows people without mountaineering and bush skills to experience the beauty of this high alpine area. The government maintains four huts along the route for backpackers, and has also given concessions for two luxury lodges to be built along the track. This means you don’t have to carry food and bedding for three days of hiking. It also means you get a comfortable bed, clean linen and towels, a hot shower, and a three-course meal at the end of the day, even in this remote alpine setting.
Please note that there are rooms with ensuite WC and shower available, which are the rooms that we book, but if you want to save a little money you can stay in a four-person room with shower and WC facilities around the corner. The ensuite rooms sell out quickly, and are allotted on a "first come, first served" basis.
You have to carry with you your clothes for three days of hiking, and a picnic lunch which is provided each morning. Your daypack will thus be slightly heavier than what you are used to since you’ll have to carry a change of clothes and some flip flops or light shoes for post-hike relaxing and evening wear. The evening scene is very, very casual. During the Routeburn portion of the tour we will be joining other like-minded hikers on this route, and we will have an additional four guides to look after us on the trail.
3 = Moderate.
In general: A Moderate tour for fit hikers, and a little challenging but do-able for not-so-fit hikers.
Terrain: Rolling to hilly terrain with frequent climbs and descents, often over rocky terrain. May have some short, relatively steep climbs and descents.
Actual walking time: between 2-5 hours per day, mostly in the morning but also in the afternoon.
Distances: Usually between 8 and 12kms/5 and 7 miles. Max distance is 14 kms/8 miles.
Surfaces: Trails consisting of mostly compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and on occasion rocky and uneven trails.
Footing: Good, but on occasion you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: We designed this ttrip to explore the best of the South Island. As a result, we have to spend more time than we usually like transfering by van. On some days we walk for a half-day and then have an afternoon transfer (the longest one is 3.5 hours). The first day has the longest hike (18 kms/11.5 miles) along good, wide trails on rolling coastal terrain, so it's not too demanding. The paths on the Routeburn track are good, but we'll be in the mountains so you should expect sustained climbs and descents, but never too difficult. Please see the supplemental information below about the Routeburn Track.
Hiking Poles: HIGHLY Recommended but not required, but if you habitually use hiking poles then you will find them helpful.
Compared to the Cinque Terre:The Lake Como hikes are a little easier than the hikes in the Cinque Terre.
Other: This tour is appropriate for fit first time “hikers” who enjoy walking and who have good balance and who are coordinated.
Moderate Tours: Tuscany Chianti, Dordogne Walk, Sicily Walk, Lake Como Walk,
Single Supplement: This is a bit complex. Read carefully!
Single supplement: $650 USD.
The single supplement is for single occupancy in Blenheim, Furneaux Lodge, Christchurch (2 nights), Tekapo, Queenstown (3 nights). If there are rooms available for single occupancy during the two nights during the Kaikoura farm track, you may also get single occupancy there, but you may have to share a twin room since there are only 5 rooms available in total.
The Routeburn Track segment: Single rooms are very rarely available during the two nights on the Routeburn track. You can request a single room with private ensuite WC and shower, and if they are available a further $630 USD is required for those two nights. If a twin share is not available during the Routeburn section of the tour (if there isn't another single on the trip, for example) and we are unable to provide a twin room with ensuite WC and shower, you will share a quadruple room with WC and shower facilities down the corridor. If you are in a quadruple room you will receive a $250 USD discount on the single supplement.
a) Base single supplement is $650 USD, single occupancy for 8 nights but with a twin share during the Routeburn Track (2 nights), and maybe a twin share during the Kaikoura Track (2 nights)
b) Base single supplement $650 USD + Routeburn Track single occupancy room with ensuite WC and shower $630 USD = Total supplement $1,280, and you may have to share during the Kaikoura Track (2 nights)
c) Base single supplement $650 USD - discount of $250 USD if you opt for -- or are required to -- share a quadruple room during the Routeburn Track Segment = $400 USD single supplement including the discount for sharing a quadruple room on the Routeburn Track.
Trip Cost includes: 12 nights accommodation (9 nights in four-star hotels/resorts with ensuite bathrooms/showers, 2 nights on the Kaikoura farm track where you have your own rooms but shared WC and shower facilities (singles may be forced to share a room for these two nights because there are only 5 rooms available), and one night at Burke's Pass in a rental house where you have your own rooms but shared WC and shower facilities); 12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, and 9 dinners; all van costs; pick-up from Blenheim airport and transfer to the first hotel; all luggage transfers and transport as per itinerary including water taxis during the Queen Charlotte hike. Special events include a scenic flight over the Southern Alps in a small aircraft to Milford Sound, a cruise on Milford Sound to Mitre peak, and jet-boating on the Shotover River in Queenstown. A Customwalks guide will be present for the whole tour and wil accompany you on all walks, while a second Customwalks guide will be present for the first five days. During the three-day Routeburn hike, four other guides will be present on the trail to look after you. The final transfer to Queenstown airport is not included.
The Routeburn Track: On the last three days we walk the Routeburn Track. It is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” and as such the government has invested in upgrading the trail to make it safe and well maintained. This allows people without mountaineering and bush skills to experience the beauty of this high alpine area. The government maintains four huts along the route for backpackers, and has also given concessions for two luxury lodges to be built along the track. This means you don’t have to carry food and bedding for three days of hiking. It also means you get a comfortable bed, clean linen and towels, a hot shower, and a three course meal at the end of the day, even in this remote alpine setting.
Please note that we book rooms with ensuite WC and shower for the Routeburn Track portion of the trip, but if you want to save a little money you can stay in a four-person room with shower and WC facilities down the hall. The ensuite rooms sell out quickly and are allotted on a first come, first served basis.
During the three days on the Routeburn Track, you'll have to carry a day-pack with you containing any spare clothes as well as a daily picnic lunch, which is provided to you each morning. Our partners who manage this section of the trip provide appropriate, good quality backpacks for these three days, free of charge. Your daypack will thus be slightly heavier than what you are used to since you’ll have to carry a change of clothes and some flip flops or light shoes for post-hike relaxing and evening wear. The evening scene is very, very casual. During this part of the tour we will be joining other like-minded hikers on this route, and we will have an additional four guides to look after us on the trail.
Booking: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a booking contract (or use the 'Contact Us' link at the top of this page), or click on the 'Book Now' button to the right.
Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below. Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime!
Getting There: the trip starts on February 18 (2020) with your independent arrival at our pre-booked hotel in Blenheim which is well connected by air with Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. See this website for handy information on getting to New Zealand, with links to all airports and airlines.
Air: You can fly directly into the Woodbourne Airport, which is only 8 km from Blenheim. Air New Zealand has up to four flights a day from Auckland, eight flights from Wellington and three flights daily from Christchurch. See all flight schedules and shuttle booking at the airport’s website.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: the trip ends after breakfast on Sunday March 1, 2020 in Queenstown. There are international flights between Queenstown and four Australian cities (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast), operated by Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia. Domestic flights are operated by Air New Zealand and Jetstar, linking Queenstown with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There are several flights a day to all of these destinations, so consult the airport’s website or your favorite airline for current schedules.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip, or e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
I really enjoyed the local content that was part of the itinerary. This included day walks on isolated beaches with abundant wild life, including seals, and paths up into the high country on sheep stations, ending up back at the Shearers’ Quarters, where accommodation was adequate . On these days, dinner and breakfast were supplied by the landowner who joined us for meals, a glass of wine and contributed local knowledge.The Milford flight to and from Queenstown was definitely a highlight, and we ‘lucked out’ with the weather, which can be very unpredictable. The 3 days and 2 nights on the Routeburne Track were fabulous days, with stunning scenery, and an average degree of difficulty. The optional hikes were challenging! This experience highlighted how committed the NZ Government is to eradicating invasive species and protecting their parks. Restaurant choices were excellent, and the wines wonderful. Packed lunches were more than adequate. It was an excellent idea to take along a cooler, Esky, chilly bin. Accommodation overall was good. The van was comfortable and roomy, and no drives were more than 4 hours, with coffee and lunch stops in nifty little cafes along the way. All the guides were excellent company, well organized and able to rapidly adapt to a change in plans or weather. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and my heartbeat has been around for a few years.
This NZ walking tour was incredibly well planned to really see and appreciate a lot of NZ in just 12 days. I especially liked meeting the people who owned and operated the sheep stations that we stayed overnight and had dinner with, this was a very unique opportunity to learn more about NZ first hand from natives and gain access to some beautiful beaches to walk along. Our guides Bill and Brett were exceptional having extensive first hand knowledge of the places visited and their great company and sense of humor was key to spending so much time together. This is my third Customwalks walking tour and will not be my last, I like their style and plan to walk through my retirement with Customwalks! With regards to the NZ walk I really loved that we got to see the Milford Sound area by both air and sea, which was great as the tour only allowed for hiking the Routeburn Track in that region; so beautiful! I would definitely recommend this tour and others.
Wonderful trip in a lovely country! Especially enjoyed the visits with the sheep farmers and the incredible scenery everywhere. The Routeburn Trek was an experience not to be missed and so glad we did it. The hikes were very challenging though and as one of the oldest on the trip was glad to know my younger traveling mates were also challenged. We were blessed with good weather for the most part and company was fabulous as well as the guides. Much to remember and relish!
My first time in New Zealand--great introduction to a beautiful place. The trip included varied landscapes and hiking experiences including the Queen Charlotte Track, Kaikoura Coast Track, and the Routeburn Track and well as walks in farmland and areas where the native vegetation is being restored. Accommodations, food and logistics were excellent. A good hiking experience.
This trip provided a great overview of the South Island of New Zealand from the north to the south. The lush sub tropical rain forest of the Queen Charolette Track, the mountainous Roteburn Track, the Kaikoura Coast Track and the Grampians Sheep farm were all marvelous examples of the varied habitats in New Zealand. The hikes were moderate and within the abilities of those that enjoy hiking. Food was excellent, guides were knowledgeable and personable providing insight into the New Zealand way.
I really enjoyed the local content that was part of the itinerary. This included day walks on isolated beaches with abundant wild life, including seals, and paths up into the high country on sheep stations, ending up back at the Shearers’ Quarters, where accommodation was adequate . On these days, dinner and breakfast were supplied by the landowner who joined us for meals, a glass of wine and contributed local knowledge.The Milford flight to and from Queenstown was definitely a highlight, and we ‘lucked out’ with the weather, which can be very unpredictable.
The 3 days and 2 nights on the Routeburne Track were fabulous days, with stunning scenery, and an average degree of difficulty. The optional hikes were challenging! This experience highlighted how committed the NZ Government is to eradicating invasive species and protecting their parks.
Restaurant choices were excellent, and the wines wonderful. Packed lunches were more than adequate. It was an excellent idea to take along a cooler, Esky, chilly bin. Accommodation overall was good. The van was comfortable and roomy, and no drives were more than 4 hours, with coffee and lunch stops in nifty little cafes along the way. All the guides were excellent company, well organized and able to rapidly adapt to a change in plans or weather. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and my heartbeat has been around for a few years.
by Ali B