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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: 2 - 6 mi
  • Daily Walking: 1 - 5 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking
  • Easy / Moderate
  • Plane

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

  • Walk the dramatic flanks of Mt. Robert for exceptional scenic vistas.
  • Discover the beauty of Lake Rotoiti while walking the Brunner Peninsula.
  • Soak in the rejuvenating waters of thermal Hanmer Springs.
  • Delight in the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park on a coastal trail.
  • Pace your walks with the tides at Totaranui—and take a dip, if you like.
  • Enjoy a picnic by Kerr Bay and a boutique lunch at a Moutere Valley vineyard.
  • Explore the rolling ridge that overlooks beautiful Te Mahia Bay.
  • Be on the lookout for whales, dolphins, and seals on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway.

What To Expect

This tour features a combination of easy terrain mixed with moderate hills. We walk primarily on dedicated footpaths, which may be rough at times and can become wet and muddy on rainy days. While in the Abel Tasman National Park and Marlborough Sounds, we 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. Our Trip Leaders often use this time in the van for to share more information about the route, so we can enjoy a more leisurely morning at breakfast.

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

Climate Information

Average Daily Temperature (°F) – Christchurch
Jan 71°  Feb 69°  Mar 67°  Apr 62°  May 56°  Dec 67°

Average Rainfall (in.) – Christchurch
Jan 2.1  Feb 1.8  Mar 2.1  Apr 2  May 2.7  Dec 2.2

What’s Included:

Walking Tour 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
  • 18 meals – 9 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners
  • Transfers
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip: Sydney – 3 nights for only $1145 • Post-trip: Queenstown – 2 nights for only $395

Both Vacation Options Include

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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $745 | Land Only Single Supplement: $695

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. 2015/2016 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

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

DAY 2: In flight to Christchurch

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

DAY 3: Arrive in Christchurch

Upon arrival at the Christchurch airport, gather your luggage at the international baggage collection area and proceed toward the main exit past the International Free phone area. Around the corner, look for the Super Shuttle vehicle. It will be parked in the International Shuttle Rank on your left. Use it to transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to your Christchurch hotel. 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 Christchurch 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: Chateau on the Park

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

VBT No-Air Package guests: Please plan to arrive at our Christchurch hotel by 8:30 a.m. If you are unable to arrive before 8:30 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.

We’ll transfer from Christchurch to St. Arnaud and the Nelson Lakes National Park. The longest transfer of the entire tour, today’s very scenic drive will take about five hours. We travel in comfortable, 12-seat Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans that feature tall windows, perfect for taking in the ever-changing landscapes of New Zealand’s South Island. We will stop en route for a short 20-minute sub-alpine walk and to have lunch.

Upon arrival in St. Arnaud, there is time to settle into our rooms at the lodge before we meet for some stretching, a safety briefing, and instruction on using the provided walking poles. Then we 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, we’ll join our Trip Leaders for a welcome reception followed by dinner. Our 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 us to the start of the Mr. Robert Circuit. This five-hour walk circles the flanks of Mt. Robert and offers incredible views. The first half features a steady climb. We take our time and make use of the huts and shelters along the route to enjoy the dramatic scenery before us.

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 lakes nearby beach and visitor center before returning to the lodge.

Our Trip Leaders will provide a picnic lunch for us to carry in our day packs.

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 our lodge’s dining room, options for an evening meal include the lodge’s 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

We leave St. Arnaud and the mountains, heading north for the coast. We shuttle along quiet, scenic roads and arrive at our destination, Kaiteriteri, in about two hours. Here you’ll have time to find a spot to pick up something for lunch before we transfer by Sea Shuttle to Abel Tasman National Park. Our 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 we 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.

We 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 us past rocky outcrops, sheltered coves, and golden, palm-fringed beaches.

We 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 may want to try the fresh seafood during our 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 we’ll experience more of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park. Our overnight accommodations in the middle of the park—together with our three-day Sea Shuttle Pass—allow us flexibility in choosing walks with the option to shuttle to and from various trail heads 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 our walks may change, our experience will always be rewarding.

Today’s suggested walks are either walking from our lodge to Totaranui—a leisurely 2.5-hour walk one way—and/or the reverse. The trail traverses the Awaroa inlet, then 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 us to carry in our day packs. After returning to the lodge, you’ll have time to visit beaches, swim, birdwatch, or seek out other wildlife in the Awaroa wetlands.

You may choose from the lodge’s two restaurants (before December, 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 40-60 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, we walk the five minutes from the lodge to the beach, where we catch the Sea Shuttle back to Kaiteriteri. Here we are reunited with our vans and shuttle to Havelock—gateway to the Marlborough Sounds. En route, we’ll stop in the Moutere Valley, where we’ll enjoy lunch at a boutique vineyard and have an opportunity to sample some excellent local wines.

In Havelock, we leave our vans behind again and board our private cruiser to reach our lodge on the Kenepuru Sound. As we cruise, we’ll learn about Greenshell Mussels, a local delicacy, from our captain, Mike. We’ll enjoy a glass of award-winning Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc while we sail past some of the most spectacular scenery on the South Island. Our 75-minute chartered cruise saves us a long and winding trip by road to Double Bay and Raetihi Lodge, our 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 us lies the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the country’s most spectacular walks.

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

Tonight we’ll gather for dinner in our lodge’s dining room.

Hotel: Raetihi Lodge
Meals: B, 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

We board our chartered cruiser for a return to Havelock this morning. From Havelock we drive to Yealands Estate winery, where we will discover the secrets to the achievement of carboNZeroCertTM certification. We 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. We just might catch sight of these aquatic creatures as we 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. We’ll take a break and enjoy our late lunch here.

Just a bit further down the road lies Hanmer Springs and our 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, arriving at approximately 10:30 a.m. This transfer is included in your package. Depending on guest flight times, a later transfer may be available. 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, arriving at approximately 10:30 a.m. This transfer is included in your package. You will then fly to Queenstown, arriving in the early afternoon. At the Queenstown airport, 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, arriving at the hotel at approximately 11:00 a.m. 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 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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Sir Stamford at Circular Quay

This boutique luxury hotel features an outdoor heated pool and deck that overlooks Sydney Harbor and Circular Quay. The award-winning restaurant and bar has views of the Royal Botanic Gardens. In the heart of Sydney on historic Macquarie Street, the hotel is a 5-minute walk from the world-famous Sydney Opera House. Each room features an executive work desk with broadband Internet access and a marble bathroom with a double vanity, a bathrobe, and slippers. Some of the rooms have an intimate Juliet balcony with stunning views. Sir Stamford at Circular Quay has one of Australia's largest private collections of fine art, and features 18th-century antiques, open fireplaces, and crystal chandeliers. The dining room has modern Australian cuisine and exceptional service in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Ideal for high tea, fine wines or cocktails, “The Bar” features a stylish gourmet bar menu.

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, 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.

Chateau on the Park

The Chateau on the Park is a resort-style hotel tucked between Hagley Park and the beautiful historic home and gardens of Mona Vale, just minutes from the center of Christchurch. Nestled in 5 acres of beautiful and tranquil gardens, the 193-room Chateau on the Park offers a unique escape, seemingly a world away from city life. Yet, just minutes from this secluded retreat is the sparkling city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Free WiFi Included

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

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Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With LOw-Cost Trip Extensions

Pre-Trip Extension - Sydney

3 nights for only $1145

Queenstown, NZ

Post-Trip Extension - Queenstown

2 nights for only $395

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