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Walking New Zealand: Splendor of the South Island

It’s not a coincidence that Kiwis have perfected the art of “tramping” when you consider the soaring coastal mountains, sparkling lakes, verdant meadows and pristine beaches. Discover it all on famed walking paths like the Abel Tasman Coastal Track that turn this active tour into a walker’s paradise.

  • 12 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy / Moderate
  • Daily Mileage: 4 - 8 mi
  • Daily Walking: 2 - 5 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking Activity
  • Ideal for those who walk for a morning or afternoon on a regular basis. Footing may be on a variety of surfaces. No extended ascents or descents, but some rewarding climbs.
  • Airfare Packages Available

Why You'll Love This Tour


Walking New Zealand: Splendor of the South Island

Palm-fringed beaches, alpine lakes, rugged mountain peaks, and tranquil forests—all this and more await the avid walker and curious traveler in New Zealand’s alluring Southern Island. While staying at serene, comfortable lodges set in national parks, we’ll explore fertile wetlands, cliff-top habitats, coastal inlets, and rugged peninsulas, each with its own unique wildlife and ambiance. We’ll also soak in thermal springs, delight in crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and fresh Greenshell Mussels, and relax on a chartered cruise. Our daily walks immerse us in varied natural beauty, a balm to the spirit and a joy for the senses.

Cultural Highlights

• Pause on your circuit of the flanks of Mt. Robert to take in spectacular views
• Picnic on the shores of Lake Rotoiti—and perhaps take a dip
• View the Southern Cross constellation, seen only in the Southern Hemisphere
• Enjoy an ocean’s-eye view of passing scenery aboard the Sea Shuttle
• Experience the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”
• Be one of the lucky few with accommodations right in Abel Tasman National Park
• Admire breathtaking views of the coastline from the Sky Track Trail
• Savor lunch and a wine tasting at a boutique vineyard
• Learn about Greenshell Mussels, a local delicacy, from a ship captain
• Delight in incredible views on the Queen Charlotte Track
• Sample fresh seafood from food trucks renowned for their creative fare
• Soak in the soothing waters of an open-air thermal pool

What To Expect

This tour features a combination of easy terrain mixed with moderate hills. You’ll walk primarily on dedicated footpaths, which may be rough at times and can become wet on rainy days. While in the Abel Tasman National Park and Marlborough Sounds, you’ll travel via water taxis, which require stepping over a transom. Several of the walks require a transfer from our hotel to the start of the walk. Your Trip Leaders often use this time in the van to share more information about the route, so you can enjoy a more leisurely breakfast.

Average Daily Mileage: 4 – 8 miles
Average Walking Time: 2 – 5 hours

Climate Information

Average High/Low Temperature (°F) – Nelson
Jan 74º/54º  Feb 73º/54º  Mar 70º/51º  Oct 64º/43º  Nov 68º/48º  Dec 71º/52º

Average Precipitation (in.) – Nelson
Jan 2.9  Feb 2.8  Mar 2.9   Oct 3.5  Nov 3  Dec 3

What’s Included:

Walking Vacation Only – without Air

  • 8 nights in comfortable lodgings
  • 17 meals – 8 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • 9 nights in comfortable lodgings
  • 19 meals – 9 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners
  • Transfers
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip:Wellington* – 3 nights for only $445 • Post-trip: Queenstown – 2 nights for only $395

*Please Note: For January through March departures the Pre-trip Extension is 3 nights in Sydney, Australia for $1,045.

Both Vacation Options Include

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Return: Thu, Dec 21

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Departure: Wednesday, December 13
Return: Thursday, December 21

From $3,995
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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $795 | Land Only Single Supplement: $745

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.


Itinerary & Map
Or, Expand All Days
DAY 1: Depart from home and begin your flight over the Pacific Ocean

 – Please Note: January through March departures follow an alternate itinerary. Call our Tour Consultants for more details: 800-245-3868 –

Depart from home for Nelson, New Zealand. The particulars of your arrival are detailed with your flight itinerary.

DAY 2: In flight to Nelson

Flying from home to New Zealand requires crossing the International Date Line, so this day is “lost.”

DAY 3: Arrive in Nelson

Upon arrival at the Nelson airport, gather your luggage at the baggage collection area and proceed toward the main exit and look for the Super Shuttle rank. Give the driver your name and let them know that you are with VBT. The shuttle will transfer you to your hotel (approximately 20 minutes). If your flight is delayed, please notify Super Shuttle at 0800 748885. Once you arrive at the hotel, the rest of the day is yours to relax or explore on your own.

Your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 p.m. If you are early, you may store your luggage at the reception desk. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations about what to see and do in Nelson during your stay.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you arrive earlier than the scheduled program dates, transportation from the airport will be at your own expense.

Hotel: Rutherford Hotel Nelson

DAY 4: All guests meet at Nelson/ Travel to Nelson Lakes National Park / Honey Dew Walk / Welcome reception

VBT No-Air Package guests: Please plan to arrive at our Nelson hotel by 10:00 a.m. If you are unable to arrive before 10:00 a.m., please contact the hotel, which will notify your Trip Leaders.

VBT Air and Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet your VBT Trip Leaders at 8:30 a.m. at the hotel reception area. Trip Leaders will be wearing VBT staff garments. Please be checked out of the hotel, have your day pack with you, and be dressed for walking.

Today’s transfer from Nelson to St. Arnaud and the Nelson Lakes National Park takes about 90 minutes. You’ll travel in a comfortable, 12-seat Mercedes Benz Sprinter van that features tall windows, perfect for taking in the ever-changing landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island. There will be a stop en route for a short walk and lunch.

Upon arrival in St. Arnaud, there is time to settle into your room at the lodge before rejoining your small group for some stretching, a safety briefing, and instruction on using the provided walking poles. Then, head off directly from the lodge on a loop trail along the Honey Dew Walk. This mostly flat trail offers a wonderful introduction to the plant and bird life in the area.

Nelson Lakes National Park is situated in the northernmost ranges of the Southern Alps. Although best known for its sparkling alpine lakes, most notably Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa, the 250,000-acre park also boasts robust beech forests, soaring mountain peaks, and clear, tranquil streams.

Tonight, you’ll join your fellow travelers and Trip Leaders for a welcome reception followed by dinner. The lodge’s quiet setting is sure to invite a restful night’s sleep.

Hotel: Alpine Lodge
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) during transfer plus 2 miles on flat, dirt paths with some tree roots and stones / 20 min walk plus 1 hour walk

DAY 5: Nelson Lakes National Park / Mt. Robert Circuit / Brunner Peninsula Walk

Today a short shuttle carries you to the start of the Mt. Robert Circuit. This five-hour walk circles the flanks of Mt. Robert and offers incredible views. The first half features a steady climb. Take your time and make use of the huts and shelters along the route to enjoy the dramatic scenery before you.

The Brunner Peninsula walk is a loop trail along the Brunner Peninsula. This mostly flat trail offers views from Kerr Bay and West Bay across Lake Rotoiti to the surrounding peaks. It’s possible to spend time on the lake’s nearby beach and visitor center before returning to the lodge.

Your Trip Leaders will provide a picnic lunch for your to carry in your day pack.

Due to New Zealand’s unpredictable weather, particularly in the mountains, there will be wet-weather options provided. Your guides will provide details.

Back at the lodge, you can relax or go for a swim in the lake.

Dinner tonight is at your leisure. In addition to the lodge’s dining room, options for an evening meal include its bar and the historic Tophouse Hotel (a short shuttle ride away; reservations required), which claims to be New Zealand’s smallest bar (participation may be limited!).

Later, you might take a walk and look skyward for the Southern Cross, a constellation that can be seen year-round—but only from the Southern Hemisphere. Among the smallest constellations, the Southern Cross contains four bright stars located close together, making it easy to spot.

Hotel: Alpine Lodge
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 5 miles (8 km) on rolling dirt paths with an option for higher ascent & descent and 2 miles (3.2 km) along the lake / 5 hours and 1 hour

DAY 6: St. Arnaud to Kaiteriteri / Abel Tasman Coastal Track / Awaroa Bay

Leaving St. Arnaud and the mountains behind, you’ll head north for the coast. Shuttle along quiet, scenic roads and arrive at your destination, Kaiteriteri, in about two hours. Here you’ll have time to find a spot to pick up something for lunch before transferring by Sea Shuttle to Abel Tasman National Park. Your Sea Shuttle boards directly from the beach, with easy walk-on/walk-off access. You may enjoy your lunch under cover or on open decks as you cruise past the famous Split Apple Rock, a massive granite boulder cleaved in nearly equal halves by wind and water; Tonga Island, known for its colony of fur seals; and pristine beaches edged by crystal-clear turquoise waters.

Disembark at one of the beaches and walk along the well-known Abel Tasman Coastal Track to our lodge at Awaroa. Designated one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” by the Department of Conservation, this route will take you past rocky outcrops, sheltered coves, and golden, palm-fringed beaches.

Arrive at the lodge in the late afternoon. You may choose to head down to the beach for a swim or relax on your room’s private deck. While the lodge is a bit busier during the day with walkers passing through, evenings and mornings are quiet, with just a lucky few having overnight accommodations within the park.

You might want to try the fresh seafood during your included dinner this evening.

Hotel: Peppers Awaroa Lodge
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 3 miles (5 km) on sand paths with short ascents / descents and a low tide water crossing.

DAY 7: Abel Tasman Coastal Track / Awaroa Beach

Today you’ll experience more of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park. Overnight accommodations in the middle of the park—together with your three-day Sea Shuttle Pass—give you flexibility in choosing walks with the option to shuttle to and from various trailheads within the park. Please note: Park walks to and from Awaroa Lodge involve tidal crossings, which are limited and subject to change, depending on tidal activity. While the location or direction of your walks may change, your experience will always be rewarding.

Today’s suggested walks are either walking from the lodge to Totaranui—a leisurely 2.5-hour walk one way—and/or the reverse. The trail traverses the Awaroa inlet; passes through beech, rimu, and matai forest; and then descends into Totaranui, passing giant rata trees in their cliff-top habitats. At Totaranui’s National Park Headquarters, there is an informative ecological display. There will be opportunities to visit the beaches and take a swim before you catch your Sea Shuttle back to Awaroa.

Again, we will time our walks and shuttles to work with the tides. The lodge will pack a lunch for you to carry in your day packs. Upon returning to the lodge, you’ll have time to visit beaches, swim, bird watch, or seek out other wildlife in the Awaroa wetlands.

You may choose from the lodge’s two restaurants (in November, only a single restaurant is available) for dinner on your own tonight.

Hotel: Peppers Awaroa Lodge
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 7.25 miles (11.5 km) on sand paths with short ascents/descents and a low tide water crossing / 4 hours

DAY 8: Sky Track Walk / Nelson / Greenshell Mussel Cruise / Marlborough Sounds

This morning, have “a lie in,” as the locals say, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Once you’re fueled up for the day, you might want to try the Sky Track trail. Open only to lodge guests, the 40- to 60-minute circular walk is a 300-foot scenic climb above the inlet. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coastline.

In the late morning, walk the five minutes from the lodge to the beach to catch the Sea Shuttle back to Kaiteriteri. Here, you are reunited with your van and shuttle to Havelock—gateway to the Marlborough Sounds. En route, the van stops in the Moutere Valley, where you’ll enjoy lunch at a boutique vineyard and have an opportunity to sample some excellent local wines.

In Havelock, leave your van behind again and board a private cruiser to reach your lodge on the Kenepuru Sound. As you cruise, you’ll learn about Greenshell Mussels, a local delicacy, from your captain, Mike. Enjoy a glass of award-winning Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as you sail past some of the most spectacular scenery on the South Island. This 75-minute chartered cruise saves you a long and winding trip by road to Double Bay and Raetihi Lodge, your home for the next two nights.

Hotel: Raetihi Lodge
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 1 mile (1.5 km) on sand paths with short ascents/descents and a low tide water crossing / 1 hour

DAY 9: Queen Charlotte Track / Lookout Track / Skiddaw Reserve Walk / Marlborough Sounds

Raetihi Lodge is ideally positioned, affording easy access to all things on Kenepuru Sound from the lodge dock. Bikes and kayaks are available for use at no charge to VBT guests. Across the sound in front of you lies the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the country’s most spectacular walks.

After breakfast, take a quick 15-minute water-taxi ride from your lodge’s dock to Portage Bay or a 10-minute ride to Te Mahia Bay. There you start your walk on the Queen Charlotte Track. The Portage Track features rolling ascents and descents. As you walk the ridge, delight in incredible views over the sounds on both sides. Taking your time, your walk ends with a descent to Te Mahia Bay. The Lookout Track from Te Mahia Bay climbs on the old Bridle Path, and you may go as far as you want in the timeframe provided, returning to Te Mahia Bay. A return water taxi takes you back to your lodge, where you’ll have some time for independent exploration. As with other days, there are alternative walk options available today.

Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for dinner in the lodge’s dining room.

Hotel: Raetihi Lodge
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) on a dirt path with several moderate ascents/descents / 4-5 hours

DAY 10: Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway / Hanmer Springs

Board a chartered cruiser for your return to Havelock this morning. From Havelock, you’ll shuttle to Yealands Estate winery, where you’ll discover the secrets to the achievement of carboNZeroCertTM certification. Continue southeast to Kaikoura, a rugged peninsula where steep mountains tumble to the sea. As you might expect from an area whose name is the Maori word for crayfish, the area is known for its abundant marine life, including whales, dolphins, and fur seals. You just might catch sight of these aquatic creatures as you stroll along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, where an array of information panels offers insight into local history and wildlife.

Alongside the road to the Peninsula Walkway, a number of food trucks have created a buzz with their creative and delicious menus. They have attracted attention mostly for their incredibly fresh seafood—including oysters, scallops, abalone, whitebait, and, of course, crayfish—but other options are available as well. Take a break and enjoy a late lunch here.

Just a bit further down the road lies Hanmer Springs and your lodge, which is located in a spectacular setting outside the town center. Rooms here boast arresting views of the surrounding wilderness.

Dine at the lodge tonight, or enjoy a ten-minute shuttle into town for a wide range of dinner options.

Hotel: Select Braemar Lodge & Spa
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 2.4 miles (3.8 km) on flat, paved and dirt paths / 1 hour

DAY 11: Conical Hill Walk, Hanmer Forest / Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools

Enjoy breakfast with a view. Set in the midst of a wide range of “tramping” options, Hanmer Springs is a walker’s paradise. You may opt for the Conical Hill walk, where a gentle climb will reward you with tremendous views from the lookout shelter. As you climb, you’ll pass through exotic varieties of trees, including Japanese cypress and giant fir. Near the shelter, you’ll notice a plaque commemorating the work of Duncan Rutherford, who helped develop the Hanmer Basin.

Later in the day, spend some time at leisure in the charming town center, which offers galleries, shops, and restaurants. Then enjoy an included visit to the open-air thermal pools for which the town is named. A soak in the springs’ soothing, mineral-rich waters is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

This evening, enjoy a memorable farewell dinner with fellow guests and your Trip Leaders.

Hotel: Select Braemar Lodge & Spa
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 3 miles (4.8 km) on dirt paths with an option for a moderate extension ascent/descent / 2 hours

DAY 12: Depart for home or begin your optional trip extension in Queenstown

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast, transfer to the Christchurch airport, arriving at approximately 10:30 a.m. This transfer is included in your package.

VBT Air Package guests: After breakfast, transfer to the Christchurch airport. This transfer is included in your package. If you arrive at the airport with time to spare, we recommend a visit to the Antarctic Centre, within easy walking distance of the terminals. Visitors to the Antarctic Centre may take advantage of their complimentary shuttle bus to and from Christchurch city center.

VBT Post-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, transfer to the Christchurch airport and fly to Queenstown where you will be transferred by Super Shuttle to the Hotel St. Moritz. This transfer is included in your package.

VBT guests joining the VBT New Zealand bicycling vacation: After breakfast, leave the lodge by VBT van for the two-hour trip to Christchurch and Chateau on the Park. This transfer is included in your package. You will join the first land-package day of our New Zealand bike tour, staying tonight at Chateau on the Park.

Upon arrival in Queenstown, the remainder of the day is yours to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you’ll join an excursion to breathtaking Milford Sound, climb aboard a jet-boat for a thrilling ride through the Shotover River Canyons, cruise Lake Wakatipu aboard the historic T.S.S. Earnslaw steamer for a behind-the-scenes look at a working sheep station, or embark on a scenic gondola ride.

After a full day of travel and exploration, relax at the hotel this evening. Dinner is on your own tonight. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations about what to see and do in Queenstown during your stay.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Hotel: Hotel St. Mortiz
Meals: B


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Select Braemar Lodge & Spa

Only a 10-minute drive from the village, Select Braemar Lodge & Spa offers outstanding views across the valley toward the mountains and alpine forests. The location is perfect for those who want to be close to the village but far enough away for peace and tranquility. The lodge offers the largest suites in Hanmer Springs. Each of its 24 open-plan suites has floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that open to a private balcony. Some suites come with a private outdoor hot tub. While here, perhaps you’ll also take advantage of Spa Braemar, which offers a full range of spa treatments, from traditional and therapeutic body treatments to premium beauty therapies. The treatment rooms are spacious and serene.
Free WiFi Included

Raetihi Lodge

The Marlborough Sounds are one of New Zealand’s iconic playgrounds. For more than 100 years, they have attracted local and international visitors who share a passion for activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, sailing, diving, and relaxing. Raetihi Lodge has built a reputation as a popular destination in the Marlborough Sounds since the 1930s. Extensively rebuilt, this 4-star accommodation offers luxury and comfort amid the natural serenity of the Marlborough Sounds.
Free WiFi Included

Peppers Awaroa Lodge

Located in the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, this 26-room eco-lodge is both intimate and remote. Inaccessible by road, it can be reached only by air, sea, or on foot. Surrounded by the lush Awaroa wetlands, it’s just minutes away from the spectacularly scenic Abel Tasman Coastal Track, a 75-mile route along the South Island’s northeastern tip. Amenities include a cafe, a library, and a restaurant serving fresh produce picked daily from the on-site organic garden. Each air-conditioned room features a private deck area, en-suite bath with hair dryer, mini-fridge, and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Alpine Lodge

Alpine Lodge is located in the St. Arnaud’s Nelson Lakes National Park neighborhood, close to northern shore of Lake Rotoiti. The lodge’s restaurant proudly offers fresh, local cuisine. Alpine-style rooms feature natural woods and large windows to take in the forest views. High-speed, wired Internet access is available in public areas. Wireless Internet access is available for a surcharge. All guestrooms at Alpine Lodge feature coffee/tea makers. The property is family-owned and operated by the daughter of the lodge’s founder and her husband. Alexandra and Leighton will take great care of you.

Hotel St. Moritz

Idyllically situated in the heart of Queenstown, with wonderful views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, Hotel St. Moritz embodies the spirit of its location. Combining luxury and warm hospitality, the hotel offers well-appointed rooms that blend timeless classics with modern essentials. Enjoy the hotel’s Lombardi Restaurant, bar, library, gymnasium, and hot tub garden.
Free WiFi Included

Rutherford Hotel Nelson

The Rutherford Hotel Nelson offers comfortable hotel accommodation with a full range of superior guest facilities including two restaurants, a cafe and a location that is only a couple of minutes’ walk from Nelson's main shopping district and landmark cathedral.
Free WiFi Included

Bolton Hotel

The Bolton Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel in Wellington, New Zealand. With contemporary-styled guest rooms and suites, a fully equipped gym, heated swimming pool, spa pool, sauna and in-house restaurant, the award winning Bolton Hotel experience is like no other. Conveniently located in the heart of Wellington’s shopping precinct, with popular attractions nearby and just 5 minutes’ walk to the railway station.  
Free WiFi Included

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Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With LOw-Cost Trip Extensions

New Zealand Pre Trip Extension in Wellington

Pre-Trip Extension - Wellington*

3 nights for only $445

Queenstown New Zealand Bike Tour Post Trip

Post-Trip Extension - Queenstown

2 nights for only $395

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