Enjoy the South Island portion of our flagship New Zealand Journey Tour. This incredible 9-day adventure will give you an in-depth experience to some of the South Island's most spectacular hidden gems, favourite activities and iconic locations. Our small groups, local Kiwi guides, luxury transport and top-notch accommodation and food, make for the ultimate New Zealand getaway!
Start/Finish:Wellington or Queenstown
*tour runs in both directions
Visit in three National Parks
Cross the Cook Strait Marlborough Sounds
Hike and boat through the Abel Tasman
Rejuvenate at the lush Maruia Hot Springs
Private Tekapo stargazing
Experience New Zealand’s longest glacier
See rare native birds
Enjoy scenic flights to and from Milford Sound
Hike and see waterfalls on the Milford Track
Enjoy a boat cruise under Milford Sound
After meeting in Wellington, we'll cross the Cook Strait to the South Island. During the crossing be sure to keep your eyes peeled for marine mammals and the first glimpse of the South Island. The real scenic part of the journey is we enter the Marlborough Sounds. Here the lush native forest drops steeply into the clear blue waters of the sounds, creating an impressive landscape that is broken up by sandy coves and sheltered inlets. After we disembark, we'll make our way toward Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park, stopping in at the Saint Claire Family Estate Vineyard for a tasty lunch. We'll also have the opportunity to taste some world-famous Marlborough Region wines. Our next stop is the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, where we will stretch our legs with a short 30-minute walk through the native forest or relax on the riverside and soak up the incredible views!
Today is one of our favourite days, spent exploring the Abel Tasman National Park. After driving to Marahau Beach, we'll board a water taxi to enjoy a scenic boat journey to be dropped right in the heart of Abel Tasman at Torrent Bay/Anchorage. You'll have plenty of time to explore the stunning white sand beach, enjoy a swim or perhaps make the 40-minute return walk to the nearby Te Pukatea Bay. After a delicious picnic lunch, there are two options, either catch a water taxi back to Marahau or hike back along the famed Abel Tasman Coast trail! The hike generally takes around four hours and provides a perfect taste of the Park with serene views of the coast and Adele Island, lush native bush, flowing streams and beautiful golden sand beaches.
After breakfast, we'll continue our journey south, right into the heart of the Southern Alps. Along the way, we'll stop to take in the incredible views, then enjoy a morning tea/coffee break in Murchinson. Our next stop is both the main attraction of the day and our accommodation for the evening, Maruia Hot Springs. The property is surrounded by pristine primary native beech forest and rugged high mountains and has a rich Maori history. Nowadays Maruia Hot Springs include luxury accommodation, a delicious restaurant, thermal pools, steam rooms, saunas, a day spa, plunge pools, private spas and so much more. There are also several fantastic walking trails from the Springs, including a beautiful waterfall trek, so feel free to join one of your guides or strike out on your own and explore the beautiful surroundings. Later in the evening, the on-site restaurant provides delicious, locally sourced meals to top off the day.
Stay: Maruia Hot Springs
Today we have a little driving to reach the beautiful Mackenzie Region, home to Tekapo, Mount Cook, the Tasman Glacier and an international dark sky reserve. We'll travel through the scenic Southern Alps before winding down to the Canterbury Plains, stopping along the way at one of our favourite local cafes. In the afternoon we'll enjoy a short hike in Port Hills, on a clear day we'll enjoy stunning views of the Banks Peninsula and Christchurch City. Our destination for the evening, Lake Tekapo, is located in the heart of the Mackenzie Region, surrounded by rolling hills, idyllic lakes, mountain views and provides some of the best stargazing in the world on a clear night. There are fantastic short walks, and the nearby Tekapo Springs has an excellent range of hot pools and if it's a clear night we have a few stargazing tricks up our sleeves!
Stay: Lake Tekapo
This morning you’ll have a chance to explore the Tekapo lakefront and the Church of the Good Shepard before we depart for Mount Cook National Park after breakfast. The drive to Mount Cook is one of the most stunning in New Zealand with Lake Pukaki on one side, rolling golden hills on the other, and New Zealand's tallest snowcapped mountains directly in front!
After arriving in Mount Cook Village, we'll set off on the famous Hooker Valley Track. This three-hour return trail winds right into the Hooker Lake, formed by the terminal edge of the Hooker Glacier which can be seen at the far end of the lake. Towering high above is the impressive Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch right in the heart of the Southern Alps before returning to Mount Cook Village. This afternoon/evening, we have three options to choose from, have a look below!
Stay: Mount Cook Village
Join one of your Sole Ventures guides for a short hike to a stunning viewpoint of the lower reaches of the Tasman Glacier, and it’s the terminal glacier lake. Often there will be several icebergs drifting across the lake. As the sun gets lower, the valley truly has a magical feel too it. If you're a keen photographer, then this is a fantastic opportunity to spend time at one of New Zealand's most photogenic locations.
Duration: 1h30m | 1h walk
The only place in the world where you'll get to fly in a ski plane and a helicopter during one experience. Fly up the Tasman Valley over the breathtaking blue glacier lake. See the Hochstetter Icefall, the Grand Plateau and the cloud-piercing Aoraki/Mount Cook before landing on the upper snowfields of New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier. Take time to enjoy this unique alpine environment before swapping aircraft and returning to Mount Cook Airport. These mountains are covered in snow and ice all year round, and the aircraft shuts down on landing so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
Duration: 1h30m | 45m flight/glacier landing tim
Departing from our accommodation, enjoy a fantastic encounter with Tasman Glacier and its terminal lake. The bus will take you to the Tasman Valley, followed by a 30-minute alpine walk through the moraine and beautiful National Park. From here board your custom-built MAC boat, and cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size periodically tear away from the glacier, allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500-year-old glacial crystals.
Duration: 2h30m (45m – 1h on the lake)
After a leisurely breakfast spent enjoying the panoramic views, we'll get on the road for Wanaka, taking in the beautifully scenic high country along the way. In Wanaka, we'll join an eco-cruise across the Picturesque Lake Wanaka to the remote and magical Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. This predator-free island is home to the rare flightless Buff Weka and a host of other unique birds and wildlife. We'll explore with a guided walk to the top of the island, where we'll have afternoon tea, enjoy the panoramic views and learn about the fascinating environment. You'll also have the opportunity to plant a tree as part of the eco-experience to give back to New Zealand's pristine environment! After returning to Wanaka, we'll settle into our lakefront accommodation and enjoy the sun setting over the Southern Alps and stunning Lake Wanaka.
Stay: Lake Wanaka
Today we'll kick the morning off with one of our favourite hikes, The Rob Roy Glacier Track. This hike winds through an ancient glacial valley, following the gurgling river through the lush native bush until we break free of the tree line to a truly spectacular view. The Rob Roy Glacier tumbles over thousand-foot-high cliffs into the valley floor, making for an impressive sight! On some days, we may even be lucky enough to see massive chunks of ice falling over the cliff face. After returning to the luxury coach, we'll travel to Queenstown, stopping at the historic Cardrona Hotel to enjoy a drink together. Once we arrive at our Queenstown accommodation, you'll have time to explore the iconic lakefront town and take in the surroundings.
Today we discover the breathtaking Milford Sound in several different ways. Today is an absolute highlight for many guests as we fit so many Milford Sound highlights in one day. We start with a beautiful scenic flight over the Southern Alps into Fiordland, before taking a short boat ride to hike part of the famous Milford Track to Giant Gate Falls. Next, we join a scenic Mitre Peak boat cruise across the idyllic Milford Sounds before a scenic return flight to Queenstown. On the return flight, we'll pass by the spectacular Sutherland falls standing over 1,900ft (580m) tall. All in one day!
Being the last day of the tour, we'll enjoy a delicious group brunch together and reminisce over the incredible sights of the previous two weeks. Your two guides will be in Queenstown all day, so if you have a later flight back to Auckland, they would love to spend some more time together. Additionally, we can organize another fantastic activity for you to enjoy. You'll leave with life-long memories and a bunch of fabulous new friends after spending two weeks exploring our stunning country, enjoying delicious meals, unwinding and feeling reinvigorated for your return home. We don't do goodbyes but instead say 'see you next time!'.
Activities and Entrance Fees
Optional Activities (additional cost)