Secret South

Secret South

Trip Highlights

Walking along the Mt Cook boardwalks&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Hiking New Zealand</i>
  • Take on the challenge of the Key Summit walk
  • Kayak out into the Fiords with stunning views of cascading waterfalls and abundant wildlife
  • Traverse through beautiful rainforest along the tops of the Hunter Range to Mt Burns
  • Enjoy the rich history & wildlife of the Catlins Coast
  • Enjoy some traditional cultural cooking, the Maori Hangi
  • Enjoy the old gold mining route in the high country landscape of Central Otago
  • Climb up onto the Ohau range with views of basins filled with tarns and alpine plants
  • Hike up to Sealy tarns and Mueller Hut to see New Zealand’s highest peak Mt Cook, surrounded by stunning icefalls and impressive glaciers

Trip Summary

Cannibal Bay in The Catlins&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;David Wall</i>

Many walking holidays in New Zealand focus on the South Island and the Secret South hiking safari will reveal to you some of the best reasons why. This trip includes hiking into the rugged mountains of Fiordland National Park to beautiful alpine lakes with stunning mountain views. You'll kayak beneath massive sea cliffs in Milford Sound while watching out for basking seals and leaping dolphins. Explore the spectacular Catlins coast, with beautiful beaches, luxuriant rain forest, fossilised trees and rare species of sea lions, dolphins and penguins. Hike up the rocky slopes of the Ohau Range and look down on turquoise glacial lakes. View the contorted forms of glaciers and the snow capped peaks of Mount Cook. Explore the remarkable volcanic topography of Mount Somers with its waterfalls and narrow canyons. This is one of New Zealand's most beautiful, varied and interesting walking holidays.

Trip Grading

Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days. Pack weights of 12-15kgs on some days. Altitude gains of up to 800m. Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings. No hiking experience necessary. Agility and fitness required. You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic. Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.


Note: You will need to make your own way to Queenstown I-site Visitor Centre, Cnr Camp and Shotover Sts by 8:00am on day one of the tour. Here you will meet up with your guide and the rest of your group. Meet at the Queenstown Visitor Centre at 8:00am and after a briefing by our guide head south into Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is the largest national park in the country and one of the largest in the world. The huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri border the spectacular inland coastline that is Fiordland. The area is dominated by water, either in the form of lakes or as falling rain, which has enabled the establishment of temperate rainforest. Prepare for our first hike to Key Summit on the renowned Routeburn Track – a great hike of around three hours. From here there are fantastic views across to the Darran Mountains. Make our way to the historic “Gunns Camp” in the Hollyford Valley. 6km/3 hours hiking

Meals:  L,D

Rise early and drive through the Homer Tunnel and down to Milford Sound. You can hire kayaks (optional - $110*) and be guided out into the fiord with its cascading waterfalls and views of Mitre Peak (1722 metres straight out of the sea). Fiordland crested penguins and New Zealand fur seals often play near our kayaks. This is the ideal way to experience the fiord. While kayaking there are lots of stops to view the wildlife and take photos. After returning to shore there is a drive back over the divide to our campsite on the shores of Lake Monowai. 8km/4 hours kayaking

Meals:  B,L,D

Morning drive to Borland Saddle (at 1000 metres) in Fiordland National Park for lunch and to organise food for our first overnight hike. The visual impact of this park is stunning; during the Ice Age, the glaciers gouged the fiords and lakes, hollowed out the rounded valleys, and shaped the granite mountain peaks. There are different forest types all over the park: on the eastern side red, silver and mountain beech fill the valleys, and in the northern sections, podocarp forests of matai, rimu, and totara can be found. From Borland Saddle the trail goes above the bush line onto the Hunter Range with great views over Fiordland. Traverse along the tops to Mt Burns (1634 metres – optional climb) and descend to Green Lake to a backcountry hut, or to a camp nearby. 12km/7 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

Have a leisurely breakfast in this idyllic site, before hiking out through beech forest and across tussock basins to the road. Have lunch and then drive through to Invercargill for a food shop. This is the southernmost city in New Zealand and its roots, as reflected by its name, are from Scottish settlers who came here in the late 1800’s. Many of the city’s tree-lined streets bear the names of Scottish rivers. Carry on to Curio Bay in the Catlins, an unspoiled scenic region of coast, rivers and podocarp forest – once an area inhabited by the giant moa (largest bird in the world - now extinct). Relax here and stay in a cosy crib (a New Zealand summer house). There is a chance to enjoy a swim in the sea and then a hot shower to complete our day. 7km/3 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning explore Curio Bay and try to spot Hector’s dolphins, which sometimes surf on the waves. Walk to a nearby tidal platform that contains tree stumps from a fossilised forest 180 million years old – it is one of the most extensive fossil forests in the world. The platforms are a palaeontologist’s dream. The fossils are evidence of New Zealand’s location in the ancient Gondwanaland; plant species identified here are similar to those found in South America. Drive along the coast to reach our next destination of Cannibal Bay. The bay takes its name from human bones discovered here last century that were possibly part of a Maori feast. You have a chance to see New Zealand sea-lions and yellow-eyed penguins, the rarest breeds of sea-lions and penguins in the world. Camp near the beach and prepare a hangi feast (Maori earth oven). 6km/2 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

Today is an optional rest day in the picturesque town of Alexandra in the heart of Central Otago. If you are feeling energetic, you can join a cycle tour (optional - $90*) on the historic rail trail that winds its way through the vast and mountainous landscape of Central Otago, through tunnels and across many viaducts. Alternatively you can relax in Alexandra and visit the local cafes or vineyards. No cooking tonight, as there are some excellent local restaurants to choose from. Rest day/optional cycling

Meals:  B

After a leisurely breakfast drive through the high country. This part of the South Island is home to some of New Zealand’s largest sheep stations, many measuring tens of thousands of hectares. Cross Lindis Pass into Mackenzie Country to arrive at Lake Ohau. There is time to relax and have a swim in this spectacular setting before packing for our next overnight hike. Head up through beech forest to a camp beside Freehold Creek, just below the bush line. 7km/3 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

Up early, leave our camp and head off with day packs to explore a beautiful basin filled with tarns (small alpine lakes). The basin contains an incredible variety of alpine plants, including Spaniards (prickly), and the world’s largest buttercup, named the Mount Cook Lily (Ranunculus lyalli), because of its large round lily-like leaves. The fit can climb up onto the Ohau range (1915 metres) to enjoy views of the Southern Alps, including Mount Cook, and the Mackenzie Basin. Return to pack up camp, and hike back to the vehicle. Tonight’s lodging is “Buscot Station”, a high country sheep station. There is the option of camping or staying in the homestead. 14km/7 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

After a short drive set off with day packs to hike up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut in Mount Cook National Park. There are impressive views of the Hooker and Mueller glaciers, Mount Sefton icefall and New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook – 3754 metres (the Maori name translates to ‘Cloud Piercer’). On our walk learn about glaciers, mountain building and the New Zealand climate. Descend back down to our vehicle and drive to the southern end of Lake Pukaki – artificially raised 30 metres for hydroelectric power generation. This lake is an exquisite turquoise colour caused by the fine glacial silt suspended in the water. Camp on the shores of Lake Pukaki and enjoy beautiful views across to New Zealand’s highest peaks. 8km/5 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

Continue through the Mackenzie Basin (an area named after a legendary sheep rustler) and pass Lake Tekapo before reaching our destination, Mt Somers. Hike up a river canyon and climb out to a Trig Point with great views into the Rakaia Basin. There are several altitudinal plant sequences during our hike, along with regenerating beech forest. The New Zealand falcon is frequently seen flying in this area. Stay in a grand backcountry hut tonight. 5km/4 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L,D

Spend our final day together exploring water caves (you get a bit wet!), Tri-Falls Stream and swimming in Emerald Pool or under a pounding waterfall known as the ‘Spa’. Hike back along the canyon rim to an abandoned coal mine to explore some relics. It’s then a short drop back to the car park. Have lunch before leaving this beautiful park. After cleaning up the vehicle and sorting our gear, drive across the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch, arriving in the early evening. 5km/4 hours hiking

Meals:  B,L

What's Included

  • Professional guide and transport
  • 10 nights accommodation, mix of camping/backcountry hut, NZ summer house (crib) and homestead
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • Therm-a-rest sleeping mat
  • Tents
  • Cooking equipment, plates/cutlery
  • First aid kit, safety equipment and maps
  • NZ Goods and Servies Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • Personal expenses
  • Sleeping bag, backpack, thermal top and long-johns, rain jacket, fleece jacket, gaiters and walking poles - all can be hired if needed. Speak to our sales team pre tour
  • Gratuities, tipping is not expected in NZ but gratefully received


Duration:11 Days
Starting Point:Queenstown
Activities:9 days walking
Grade:Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:SSS
Prices From:NZD$2695

"The whole trip was fantastic. I really enjoyed the hikes up to the snow line, Mt Cook National Park was majestic, fantastic to hear and see ice falls off the glaciers and slide in the snow descending from Mueller hut. The campsite beside Freehold Creek - day 7/8 was a beautiful setting with rock pools and waterfalls and a carpet of orange and yellow beach leaves on the ground" JuanSpain