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South Island

The South Island of New Zealand hardly needs an introduction - its reputation as an outdoor lover's paradise ensures its presence on many people's bucket lists. The South Island is divided north to south by an incredible mountain range, known as the Southern Alps. The Alps are responsible for the South Island's numerous unique climatic zones; from lush, temperate rainforest on the West Coast, to beech forests further inland, and the wide fertile plains on the East Coast. 

Of course, nature's diversity provides the ultimate playgound, and there's a long history to all of our hiking trails, many of which were first developed by Maori and early settlers, being used for both recreation and access to gold, coal and jade mining. Nowadays we have over five hundred incredible hiking trails here in the South Island, of which nine of the most popular trails (including the Milford Track), have been developed into 'Great Walks'.

These 'Great Walks' have impressive backcountry facilities, they're very popular and hiking passes need to be booked well ahead of time during the high season. Now, these nine Great Walks deserve their fame, they're simply stunning and we experience most of them on our trips down this way... but unfortunately, what most visitors to New Zealand don't realise is that there are literally hundreds of other trails that take you to cosy backcountry huts, in equally as stunning surroundings, with slightly more rustic amenities, but without the crowds of hikers you might find on the Great Walks. It's these lesser-known trails that us locals stick to, in our eyes it's the best way to see New Zealand, and you'll get a truly unforgettable wilderness experience.

If this sounds like something you'll enjoy - you're keen to get off that beaten path and discover the more wild and remote parts of our great kiwi countryside, you'll find that not all of these spots are easily discovered on foot, which is why we like to sprinkle a bit of kayaking and biking into some of our itineraries. Our coastline offers world class exploration by kayak, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area (all 2.6 million hectares!) has incredible fjords and lagoons to explore. Likewise, moutain biking is the perfect way to cover longer distances in a short amount of time, and under your own steam. In recent years the trail network in New Zealand has exploded, to the point where most locals can't even keep up with the new tracks on offer! 

Kayaking Okarito Lagoon with Active Adventures

There are two main gateways to the South Island; Christchurch, which is the midway point on the East Coast, and Queenstown, which is nestled on the edge of the Southern Alps, near the Southern end of the island. Both places have an international airport, though most of our trips start and finish in Christchurch, as it's the logical hub for a 2 week tour of the South Island. 

For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).

South Island Hiking Tours:

 

For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available):

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Smorgasbord.

    A great way to explore the North Island and get a taste of different activities.
    Ineke van Hasselt Review Image
    – British Columbia, Canada
    Kauri, May 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    This trip exceeded every expectation. Every activity was more exciting than the last, never was there a dull moment. The hikes, especially the hike to Cape Brett and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, were absolutely incredible. Andy and Jo were the perfect team. Andy always kept us occupied with good stories and always had a backup plan if we weren't able to do something on the itinerary. He took the time on hikes to stop and point out unique things that otherwise would have been missed. "Mama Jo" really looked after us and made sure we all had the most amazing time. I have no idea where she found the energy to always be the one running back up the mountain to help carry the backpacks of tired hikers and then get back to the accommodations and cook everybody a delicious dinner. They were more than just tour guides, they were our family. I highly recommend this trip!
    Cassidy Anderson Review Image
    – Vermont, United States
    Kauri, November 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    The Best Way to Spend my 30th Birthday!

    Going to New Zealand has been at the very top of my bucket list for quite a long time and I finally decided to scratch it off when I turned 30. Active Adventures was, from the beginning, the only tour group I would consider travelling with. They were the only group that not only had everything I wanted to do in New Zealand, but also had the highest level of professionalism and ratings that made me trust them.
    From the moment they picked us up at the airport I was certain I’d judged them correctly. Tess was simply an amazing tour guide (we called her mum because that’s exactly how we felt about her) not only was she fun, she took care of us, fed us, and kept us organized. Andy supplemented the tour with such interesting history and facts that I felt like I was on a school trip (in a good way!).
    All in all it was an amazing vacation, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it!
    Thank you Active Adventures for making my 30th the year to remember!
    Dani Felton Review Image
    – Florida, United States
    Rimu, November 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    What an adventure!

    Great adventure with wonderful guides Alex and Tia!
    Stephanie Eskuri Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, January 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Kiwi

    We had a great time. New Zealand is beautiful and our tour guides, Koru and Jess, showed it to us to perfection. Great hikes, terrific food, wonderful companions and ideal locations.
    Ellen Dole Review Image
    – Colorado, United States
    Kiwi, March 2017

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Approx NZ flight times

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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