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How to plan a trip to New Zealand: An easy 5 step guide.

Not many travel companies will share these unbiased truths about how to choose your trip. Read on to discover the 5 essential steps that you should take, to make sure that you choose the New Zealand hiking and adventure tour that you’ll talk about for the rest of your life, for all the right reasons.

See this button, we’ll talk about that in step 1:

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Step 1: Information is FREE! Collect as much as you can

It may be an obvious point we make here, but unlike purchasing a new car, you can’t test-drive a trip to New Zealand! So make sure you have the right tools to satisfy the test-driving requirement, from the comfort of your own home.

For most people, an adventure trip to New Zealand is a chance to get offline and disconnect with the digital world, so why not start before you leave home? There’s nothing like making a hot cuppa coffee, kicking your feet up and immersing yourself in a physical booklet – which we’ll send to you – wherever you are in the world, from all the way down here in Queenstown, New Zealand!

But if you love trees as much as we do, we’ve created an interactive, digital version of our popular New Zealand travel brochure. It comes complete with incredible videos of our trips, and it’s a direct path to checking a trip’s availability, or chatting online with one of our epic New Zealand travel experts.

Step 2: Pick a travel date

Relax – there’s never a bad time to visit New Zealand! Most of our guests either have a specific set of dates in mind, or they’re open to ideas. Either way, this is one of the most enjoyable parts of planning your trip – because when you look at a calendar and pick a date, you’ll realise that’s only ‘this many sleeps’, or ‘that many weeks’, or ‘Christmas seems to come around sooner every year, and we leave just after!’ So this is your first big hit of reality.

We (like most operators) run trips all year round. New Zealand’s wider summer window spans from October to April, and the winter months are still mild enough to hike through the valleys and lower mountain passes on the South Island (there are loads of blue sky days with snow capped mountains, which makes for epic photography!), and the North Island's tropical climate almost seems winter-less. 

The most popular time to visit is in the height of summer – from December through February, and for good reason. These days are long, warm and the trails are bustling with life. And as busy as our trails get at this time of the year – it’s important to remember that we’ve specifically designed our trips to take you off the beaten path, on trails that us Kiwi’s hike to avoid the crowds.

Step 3: Decide what sort of hiking you would like to do

Before you wonder what’s wrong with the ‘less popular’ trails we mentioned above in 'step 2', we’ll stop that thought in its tracks. As we’re sure you already know, New Zealand’s wilderness is some of the most wild and dramatic in the world. Epic granite mountain peaks are clad in lush rain forest, overseeing beautiful meadows full of lakes, rivers and (you guessed it) over 500 incredible hiking trails! Trails that are easily lost, just by taking a few steps off the path.

So in years gone by, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation required all hikers to check into the local DOC office at the start and finish of a hike. Before embarking on the journey, hikers would register their intention for a hike – including start and finish dates, where they’ll sleep etc. Upon their return, all hikers had to check back into the office to say that they made it out of the mountains safely. But the system was flawed – people forgot to check in at the end of their hike, and helicopters with Search and Rescue teams were deployed to find them – while the 'apparently lost' hikers were already sipping a late in the next town! So the decision was made by the New Zealand Government to create the 10 Great Walks of New Zealand.

The Great Walks of New Zealand offer a safe and easily navigable trial network, which dramatically reduces the number of hikers getting lost in the wilderness. These trails are 4 feet wide at their narrowest point, and a huge marketing effort by New Zealand Tourism has put trails like the Milford Track, Tongariro Crossing and Abel Tasman Coast Track on the world map, and priority on most hiker’s ‘bucket lists’.

But what most people don’t realise, is that amazing single-day hiking options are available on the Great Walks – so it’s easy to indulge yourself in the Great Walks, while not having to spend your entire trip to New Zealand on one single trail. Wouldn’t you rather spend your back country multi-day hike on a trail that you can hike for days on end without seeing another hiker?

Here’s an example to wet your appetite, the little-known Angelus Circuit in the Nelson Lakes National Park:

Step 4: Make sure you trust your information

Trusting an adventure tour company goes beyond their impeccable safety record  (like ours!), the fact that they only hire the best guides (like ours!) and the fact that they have 2 guides on every trip, so every person can take their own pace (like on our trips!).

And did you know that only 10% of travel websites offering New Zealand travel packages are actually from New Zealand? So who are the other 90%?! They’re offshore operators, trying to get a piece of the New Zealand tourism boom. Most of them are good at what they do, but they’ll never do New Zealand as well as people from New Zealand.

So, we’re here to tell you that we’re the real deal, and here’s why. Writing this article, my name’s Will, I’m a born and bred Kiwi lad. I’ve been a part of the team here at Active HQ in Queenstown (New Zealand) for over 5 years now, and I grew up in the countryside near Nelson.

Will and Ali

My wife (Ali) and I on the Crown Range, overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

The Nelson Lakes National Park is where I learnt to fly fish with my family, Lake Rotoiti is where I learnt to sail a yacht, I spent my winters skiing in the isolated club fields of Mount Robert and Rainbow Ski Area – often skipping the comfort of sleeping in cosy mountain huts for the adventure of falling asleep to the echo of my brother’s laughter in our hand-dug snow cave high on a ridge, overlooking the valley below. And most importantly, it’s where I fell in love with hiking.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have the unique opportunity to share this beautiful part of the world (and my childhood) with avid adventurers, just like you! The Angelus Circuit is the multi-day hiking option on our signature trip – the ‘Rimu - Ultimate South Island Adventure’ trip here on the South Island. But don’t worry, we’ll only go into the park when the days are long, warm, with no sign of snow caves! Every big day of hiking will be rewarded with dramatic sunsets, followed by delicious candle lit dinners in the cosy mountain huts.

And as I’m looking around the office, I’m surrounded by friends/colleagues from all over New Zealand, brought together by a shared love for adventure. We all have a similar story to tell, from another part of this epic country that we call home. So this is what makes an Active trip to New Zealand so unique – if we’re not the real deal, who is?!

Step 5: Don't be afraid to talk to an expert

Because at the end of the day, we don’t know what we don’t know! Whether you’re travelling solo, or with friends, family or a hiking group – whether you want to spend all of your time hiking, bike or kayaking, on the Great Walks, avoiding the Great Walks, whatever your dream trip is in your mind, it’s nice to know that your perfect trip does exist! We’ve spent the past 22+ years perfecting the art of find the perfect trip for everyone – if you don’t believe us then take a look at our raving reviews – while over 40% of travellers go on to do another trip in one of our other destinations – which is a true testament to the calibre of our trips!

But at the end of the day, we want what’s best for you – and if that’s joining us to explore the most wild and remote parts of New Zealand’s countryside, then we’ll make it happen. But if you can’t find one of our trips to suit your needs, we promise we’ll point you in the right direction for a trip that does.

So go ahead, start with step 1 now! I have a load of brochures behind me that are dying to get thrown in an envelope and sent to your letterbox today. Otherwise, save a tree and get yourself a digital E-Brochure emailed directly to your inbox. And rest assured, nothing is automated, you’ll be personally emailed by one of our amazing New Zealand travel guru’s

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Absolutely Amazing!

“My Rimu trip was fantastic! It was very well organized, guides Koru and Carrie were very knowledgeable about the areas we visited and it was great to get a feel for what New Zealand is all about. I loved staying in some of the smaller, less known areas, and the choices of hikes were fabulous and really highlighted the beautiful nature in New Zealand. We also lucked into some great weather, especially for it being so close to winter, and I knew I was seeing some amazing sights when both guides were out snapping pictures right alongside us! This was definitely a trip of a lifetime and one I will always look back on with a huge smile on my face. I would come back in a heartbeat!”
British Columbia, Canada
Rimu, June 2018
Read Reviews

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)


    Travelling to New Zealand has been on my bucket list for nearly half my life, and I'm so glad I spent three weeks there with Active! I was a bit worried going by myself, but it turned out to be the best vacation of my life. They took us to so many spots that I probably would have never seen if I tried to organize everything on my own. It was great to have them feed me, drive me, hike me, and take me to our accommodations at night - not once did I have to worry about anything. The accommodations themselves were so fun and unique, staying in them was a highlight of my trip. Our guides, Kim and Ashleigh, were fantastic young ladies. Ash was an amazing chef and Kim rocked the in-bus narration. I also think we had a phenomenal group of people who clicked very well, and absolutely the best weather one could wish for.

    Even when there were a few changes to the itinerary due to road damages, weather issues, or anything else, the guides were on top of it so fast that we barely even noticed there was a problem. We did miss out on snorkeling with the fur seals, and our Franz Josef Heli-Hike was cancelled, but we were still able to see seals and take a helicopter ride to a glacier at another time. No loss whatsoever.

    I'm a fairly active person under thirty, who lives in an mountainous region, and I was still challenged by the hikes and activities they provided. I also have bad knees, and was still able to get up and down the more difficult mountains. For those wondering abut the multi-day hike, it's definitely a work-out, but totally worth it! And be sure to invest in a hydration bladder, you'll really appreciate it! If you're looking for an outdoor adventure with lots of activity and fun, this is definitely one of the better ways to explore New Zealand.
    Janine Carbone Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Rimu, April 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Lots of fun, great guides

    Guides Phil & Jo kept us busy with a variety of fun activities. The time just flew. I'd love to join another trip led by Phil & Jo.
    Rich Partridge Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Kauri, March 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Great trip with fun and knowledgable guides. Accommodations and food were great.

    David Brodie Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Kauri, April 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Tui Adventure

    This trip was all I had hoped for and then some. I expected beautiful scenery and exciting activities, but I did not expect the personal touch from our guides. One of the group members mentioned chips and salsa... that night we had chips and salsa to go with our appetizers. They knew I love birds, so I was introduced to every bird possible - along with descriptions of the birds’ personalities and habits. There seemed to be no end to Dani and Emma’s knowledge about New Zealand and that made a huge impact on our trip! We all felt like family by the end of the week, and for a person traveling alone, that is a wonderful gift!
    Janet Slover Review Image
    – Texas, United States
    Tui, March 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Rimu Rocks!

    The trip was awesome! I met a great bunch of fellow travelers and now have family in New Zealand in Jackie and Emma! I felt like we saw a lot of the South Island in 2 weeks. I loved my first experience in New Zealand and plan on coming back in 2020!
    Terry McNamara Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, January 2018



Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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