With its glorious fjords, glaciers, mountains, lakes, and rivers, the rugged West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is an active traveler's dream. Hike at Franz Josef Glacier, take the famous Queen Charlotte Track, go white-water rafting in Buller Gorge, and picnic below the dramatic Rob Roy Glacier. Fly over the spectacularly remote New Zealand World Heritage Area (Te Wahipounamu) in a helicopter and return by jetboat. Along the way, enjoy exclusive lodges and out-of-the-way hamlets, taste world-class sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, and encounter rare Fiordland crested penguins.
Take an exhilarating rafting trip through the granite gorges of the Buller River
Hike for two days through lush coastal forest on the iconic Queen Charlotte Track
Explore the remote and beautiful Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area by helicopter and jetboat
Meet your MT Sobek representative outside of arrivals at the airport in Blenheim. This is the heart of Malborough's renowned wine country, famous for its excellent sauvignon blanc. Relax with lunch at one of the winery restaurants, then check into your hotel. Gather in the evening for a welcome dinner at another winery with the group.
Take a stroll around the town of Picton, then set sail across Queen Charlotte Sound towards Ship Cove. Begin your hike on the Queen Charlotte Track, which takes you through a lush coastal forest preserve of tree ferns, nikau palms, and other plants. Stop at the remote Furneaux Lodge, which overlooks the calm, clear water of the bay and is surrounded by virgin forest, unchanged since Captain Cook's first visit to the inlet in 1770. Part of the beauty of this historic destination is the isolation: no roads lead here.
After breakfast, walk to Punga Cove to take in great views of the Marlborough Sounds before taking a boat ride around Queen Charlotte Sound. The Punga Loop section of the track generally follows the coastline around Endeavour Inlet, much of which consists of regenerating native bush, with a predominance of manuka, kanuka and five finger. Once back in Picton, begin your journey to Nelson. Situated at the top north-west of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand, with long, golden beaches, untouched forests, and rugged mountains.
Start early for an invigorating day of sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. Start at the northern beach of Onetahuti and paddle to Tonga Island, where you can watch a colony of sleek, black seals in their natural environment. Tides permitting, explore the spectacular Tonga Arches and enchanting Shag Harbour, or head south to Bark Bay followed by a lazy drift on Falls River. Stop at a dreamlike golden sand beach for a picnic lunch before returning to Nelson for the evening.
Don a wetsuit and put in for a raft trip on the Buller River. Experience exhilarating, Class III-IV whitewater rafting as the water surges through granite gorges topped with lush beech forest. Afterward, drive along the river towards the West Coast before heading south to Punakaiki, home to the dramatic limestone country of the Paparoa National Park.
Spend the morning hiking near Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park. Continue on to the town of Hokitika and take a stroll through the spectacular Hokitika River gorge. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore the wild beach adjacent to your hotel or check out the artisan stores in town, many of which include carvings of locally sourced jade (known here as greenstone).
Continue south to the seaside hamlet of Okarito and hike through lush rainforest on a trail above the ocean. At the top, take in 360-degree views of the area, including wild coastline and the glaciated Southern Alps towering dramatically above the rainforest. On a clear day, enjoy stunning views of New Zealand's highest peak, Mt. Cook (known in Maori as Mt. Aoraki). End the day with a hike in the valley below Franz Josef Glacier. Tonight, dinner is on your own.
Set out on a morning hike to explore the Franz Josef area on foot. If weather permits, book an optional helicopter ride for aerial views of glaciers and mountains, or book the highly-recommended "Heli-hike" package that takes you onto the glacier by helicopter. Strap on crampons and follow ice steps cut by the guides on a route that takes you through crevasses and ice ridges and leads you onto the middle of the glacier for spectacular views of the icefall and lower glacier.
Head inland by private transport and follow the Haast River. Board a helicopter in Makarora and enjoy a spectacular flight into the heart of the 2.7-million-hectare South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, or "Te Wahipounamu." After exploring this incredibly remote and beautiful area, hike alongside the Wilkin River through lush rainforest before meeting your jet boat for an exhilarating ride back to Makarora. Transfer to the Southern Lakes District, where deep blue lakes are surrounded by large snow-capped mountains, and arrive at the idyllic town of Wanaka.
Take an awe-inspiring drive to Mount Aspiring National Park and hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier. This spectacular area was the setting for The Lord of the Rings, and it's one of the best day hikes on the South Island. Hiking up a narrow glacial valley, take in views of tumbling rivers, towering snowfields, and lofty mountain peaks. Travel through forest to a dramatic alpine cirque with fabulous views of the Rob Roy Glacier towering overhead. After lunch, return to the trailhead for a drive back into Wanaka.
Enjoy a relaxed breakfast in Wanaka before taking one last scenic drive over the Crown Range to Queenstown where the trip ends. Spend a few extra days on your own exploring Queenstown, or fly back to Auckland and connect with your homeward-bound flight.
MT Sobek has been exploring the Pacific for over 20 years, working with the best local guides for an immersive and fun experiences.
Our classic New Zealand trip is one of our most popular itineraries thanks to its perfect blend of active adventure and relaxed cultural exploration.
Our adventure combines the romance of New Zealand's famous wine country, with the rugged west coast, and New Zealand's iconic Queenstown.
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Hiking 2-8 miles per day, plus wine tasting, helicopter rides, kayaking, and whitewater rafting on Class III-IV rapids.
Comfortable, contemporary, and amenity-laden hotels, mostly situated within spectacular natural settings.
Temperatures can vary between 50F to 90F during the day and can include sunshine, rain, and even snow at higher altitudes.
We do not travel to high elevations on this trip. The highest altitude we will reach hiking is 1,840 feet on Rob Roy Glacier. We will sleep no higher than 1,000 feet above sea level at any time.
The main itinerary does not include Milford Sound. However, we do offer several extension options to visit the Sound, including a day tour and an overnight cruise option.
No previous rafting or kayaking experience is required. These activities are suitable for the beginner and advanced paddlers alike! If you wish to skip the rafting portion, we offer an optional hike instead.
On Day 9, we take a scenic helicopter flight into Mount Aspiring National Park - an extremely remote area that is difficult to access by road. The helicopter transfer is a necessity.
We travel in a comfortable 18 seater van, in which each seat has a seatbelts. The van has air conditioning. We travel with a trailer, where luggage is stored en route.
We offer a few different hiking extensions including tours of Milford Sound and multi-day hiking excursions on the Milford Trek, Routeburn Trek, and Hollyford Trek. The hiking extensions sell out many months in advance, and we recommend booking early!
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"My first experience with MT Sobek was a trip to New Zealand. Everything about it met or exceeded my expectations. The guides, the dining, the accommodations, the activities were all top notch and I would recommend MT Sobek without hesitation!"
MT Sobek Guest, New Zealand's Wild West Coast
"Our adventure through the wild west coast of New Zealand was a trip of a lifetime. Our guides were phenomenal. The places we hiked, kayaked, jet boated, rafted, and helicoptered into were spectacular."
MT Sobek Guest, New Zealand's Wild West Coast