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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

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Graduation gift of a lifetime

    As a recent college graduate, the one thing I wanted to do was travel. I was completely unfamiliar with New Zealand, and my parents wanted to ensure I was safe and could know where I was going each day. Active Adventures was a great way to have the time of my life while being safe. Our group ranged in activity levels, but Andy and Jo made sure we all were comfortable while encouraging us every step of the way. From my initial call with the Active team, to booking, and eventually the trip, I did not have a single problem and had the experience of a lifetime! Thanks Mom and Dad, and thank you Active Adventures!
    Sara Elwell Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, February 2017
  •   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
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    It doesn't get much better!

    What a fantastic time traveling with family and new-found friends! New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country, with thrills and adventure around every corner (and there a lot of them)! Our guides Ken and Elder were as good as they come; from their knowledge of the country, to their welcomed encouragement on the trail and the water. Oh, and did I mention their wholesome and delicious cooking?!?
    I would not hesitate to travel with Active Adventures again. Their organization, communication and willingness to please were simply over the top. Next year in Patagonia perhaps???
    Dean Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, February 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Even Cyclone Cook couldn't dampen our fun

    I hopped onto the last half of the Kauri after two weeks on the South Island in the Rimu adventure. It just so happened that we had a cyclone hit the island that week, so everything was very wet, to say the least. But everything still worked out okay! We still did lots of hiking in the rain, which was fun in itself. The views were not the same as they would be on a clear day, but different doesn't mean bad. They were unique, and there were a lot of rainbows thanks to the water. We even did the mountain biking in the downpour, which was hilariously muddy and still a lot of fun. Overall, the people were good, the guides were excellent, the food was fantastic, and the trip was terrific.
    Janine Carbone Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Kauri, April 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Well done, Andy & Jo

    Many thanks to Andy and Jo, guides to our 2nd half of the Kauri trip. The hiking was outstanding, and the varied other activities just made this trip that more special.
    Ted Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Kauri, 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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