Itinerary & Photos
Dates & Prices
Private Departures

Because New Zealand is about two thirds the size of California, there’s a delicate balance between seeing and experiencing as much of the country as you can and spending too much time in the trip vehicle. The Kea trip is specifically designed for active people looking to experience the best of New Zealand in 12 adventure filled days, while at the same time keeping the driving component to a minimum.

Past guests have loved this tried and tested itinerary and told us that we have the balance of activities, drive times, accommodation and meals just right.

Trip Overview

Starts: Nelson
Ends: Queenstown
Trip Rating: Moderate
Ages: 10-110
Accommodation: Comfortable 4-star hotels and lodges for nine nights, with an upgrade for two nights at a 5-star retreat in Franz Josef Glacier.

Highlights include:

  • Two nights at a wilderness ecolodge in Abel Tasman National Park
  • Sea kayak from the lodge along the coast and in to a Marine Reserve
  • Take an exhilarating rafting trip through the granite gorges of the Buller River
  • Hike in Paparoa National Park amoung impressive limestone formations
  • Two nights staying at the 5 star Te Waihipounamu Forest Retreat in Franz Josef Glacier in Westland National park allows the opportunity to spend a full day exploring the area with an optional heli hike high up on the glacier
  • Fly by helicopter into the remote Siberia Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park. Hike for 2 to 3 hours in total wilderness below snowcapped peaks before boarding a jetboat for a fast and fun ride down river out of the wilderness
  • Two nights in the lakeside townships of Wanaka and Te Anau
  • Visit Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park and hike part of the famous Routeburn Track

Itinerary & Photos

Nelson is a sunny and vibrant town at the top of the South Island providing the perfect location to begin the trip with an orientation meeting followed by a welcome dinner.

Accommodations: Rutherford Hotel, Nelson
Meals Included: Dinner

Drive to Kaiteriteri to board a boat into Abel Tasman National Park. Hike to our wilderness lodge in Awaroa Bay on the Abel Tasman Coast Track known for its stunning coastal scenery and golden sand beaches.

Accommodations: Awaroa Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 1-hour private van transfer, boat transfer into the National Park
Activity: 5.5 miles hiking, 4-5 hours

Kayaking from Awaroa Bay we paddle along the coastline to Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Perhaps we’ll be rewarded with sights of dolphins, fur seals, or little blue penguins on the way. Arriving at Onetahuti Beach, we trade our paddles for hiking shoes and spend about an hour hiking back to the lodge with time to relax before dinner.

Accommodations: Awaroa Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Activity: 4–5 miles kayaking, 4–5 hours; 1 mile hiking, 1 hour

We travel by boat out of the National Park to Kaiteriteri, and board the trip vehicle to travel along the Motueka Valley, an area known for its fruit orchards and hop plantations. Continuing on to the small town of Murchison we follow the Buller River out to the West Coast, stopping on the way for a class III-IV rafting trip to experience exhilarating whitewater as the river surges through granite gorges topped with lush beech forest. On arrival at the wild West Coast we take a scenic coastal drive to our beachfront hotel in Punakaiki, the perfect venue to view the sunset.

Accommodations: Punakaiki Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 4:30-hour private van transfer; boat transfer out of the National Park
Activity: Class III-IV whitewater rafting

Spend the morning hiking near Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park, a unique area containing dramatic limestone formations formed 30 million years ago when marine flora and fauna settled on the ocean floor. After lunch continue on to the town of Hokitika. The rest of the afternoon is at our leisure to explore the wild beach adjacent to the hotel or to check out the artisan stores in town, many of which include carvings of locally sourced jade (known here as greenstone or pounamu).

Accommodations: Beachfront Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 1:30-hour private van transfer
Activity: 6 miles hiking, 3 hours (460′ elevation gain & loss)

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, showcasing the glaciated Southern Alps as they rise dramatically above the rainforest to the East, NZ’s largest unmodified wetland to the north, the wild and rugged coastline and Tasman Sea to the west and south. On a clear day, enjoy stunning views of New Zealand’s highest peak, Mt. Cook (known in Maori as Mt. Aoraki).

Accommodations: Te Waonui Forest Retreat
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Transportation: 2:30-hour private van transfer
Activity: 3-6 miles hiking, 2-3 hours (518′ elevation gain & loss)

Explore the stunningly beautiful and dynamic Franz Josef area on foot in the morning and hike up to the terminal face of the glacier. Spend the afternoon on another local hike and/or relaxing at our 5 star lodge, visiting a café in town, or soaking in local hot pools.

Perhaps choose one of our optional activities (all weather dependent):
i) early morning drive to Fox Glacier and hike to view the sunrise over the Southern Alps reflected in the calm waters of Lake Matheson: one of the West Coast’s (and NZ’s!) most iconic photo opportunities
ii) take a breath taking scenic helicopter flight above the highest mountains in the Southern Alps for stunning aerial views of the surrounding glaciers: Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier and Tasman Glacier
iii) book the highly-recommended “Heli-hike” where a helicopter transports us high onto the glacier before we strap on crampons and walk on the ice along seracs (ice ridges), through crevasses and search for ice caves. All while enjoying spectacular views of the icefall and lower glacier.

Accommodations: Te Waonui Forest Retreat
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Activity: 5-6 miles hiking, 3-4 hours
Optional Activity (not included): Scenic helicopter flight and/or Heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier

This incredibly scenic drive takes us through South Westland, over the Southern Alps via Haast Pass and into the Southern Lakes District, an area where deep blue bodies of water are surrounded by large snowcapped mountains.

We break up the drive by stopping in Makarora to board a helicopter for a spectacular flight that takes us deep into Mount Aspiring National Park, and into the heart of the 2.6 million hectare South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

Landing in the incredibly remote and beautiful Siberia Valley we’re surrounded by an awe inspiring backdrop: the high mountains that make up the backbone of the Southern Alps are all around us. Once the helicopter disappears from the skies above we have ample time to enjoy this area. We enter native beechforest and hike above the Siberia and Wilkin Rivers before meeting our jet boat for an exhilarating ride down river to Makarora.

Following the shores of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, we arrive at the idyllic lakeside town of Wanaka to end an amazing day.

Accommodations: Oakridge Resort, Wanaka
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 4:30-hour private van transfer
Activity: 5 miles hiking, 2-3 hours (460′ elevation gain with 1115 ‘ elevation loss)

We spend the morning and early afternoon hiking the Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain hike, which has stunning alpine views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. In the afternoon there are a few hours of free time set aside to relax or wander around the town of Wanaka.

Accommodations: Oakridge Resort, Wanaka
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Transportation: 1-hour private van transfer
Activity: 4.5 miles hiking, 3 hours (1520’ elevation gain & loss)

Another impressive drive is in store today as we wind our way up and over the Crown Range and down into the Wakatipu basin and on to Queenstown. Continuing below the Remarkable Mountain Range and shores of Lake Wakatipu we enter the rolling hills and farms of Southland on our way to the lakeside town of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park.

A short water taxi carries us across Lake Te Anau to the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park, where we can hike around the lake back to our hotel.

Accommodations: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas, Te Anau
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 3-hour private van transfer
Activity: 6 miles hiking, 2.5 hours (minimal elevation gain/loss)

We follow the shores of Lake Te Anau and enter Fiordland National Park via the Eglington Valley. From here the drive into Milford Sound is truly spectacular. Board a boat for a cruise on Milford Sound to experience close up the serenity of New Zealand’s most renowned fjord: vertical granite walls rise high above from which waterfalls cascade down into the ocean.

After departing Milford Sound we arrive at “The Divide” of the Southern Alps to hike a section of the famous Routeburn Track. Hike up to Key Summit, and get rewarded with panoramic views of Fiordland National Park. We finish the day back in Te Anau, which provides a picture perfect setting for our farewell dinner.

Accommodations: Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas, Te Anau
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transportation: 3.5-hour private van transfer
Activity: 5 miles hiking, 3 hours (1300’ elevation gain & loss)

After breakfast, depart Te Anau for Queenstown and connect with flights home. Or choose to extend your stay on your own and explore Queenstown further.

Meals Included: Breakfast
Transportation: 2-hour private van transfer to Queenstown airport or Queenstown hotels.

What To Expect

Dates & Prices

2020 Departures

November 9 – 20, 2020
November 30 – December 11, 2020
December 20 – 31, 2020*

*NZ$400/person holiday surcharge

2020 Double Occupancy


US$ pricing at today’s exchange rates:

2020 Single Supplement


US$ pricing at today’s exchange rates:

2021 Departures

January 11 – 22, 2021
February 1 – 12, 2021
February 8 – 19, 2021**
February 22 – March 5, 2021
March 15 – 26, 2021
March 29 – April 9, 2021*
November 15 – 26, 2021
November 29 – December 10, 2021
December 20 – 31, 2021*

*NZ$400/person holiday surcharge
** Booked as a Private Departure

2021 prices to be advised by June 2020

2022 Departures

January 10 – 21, 2022
January 31 – February 11, 2022
February 7 – 18, 2022
February 21 – March 4, 2022
February 28 – March 11, 2022
March 14 – 25, 2022

2022 prices to be advised by June 2021

Price Includes

  • Expert leadership from experienced adventure guides
  • Accommodations (or a similar level) as noted in the itinerary
  • Daily activities and excursions as noted in the itinerary
  • Meals as noted in the daily itinerary
  • Potable water, snacks, and fruit throughout
  • Arrival and departure day airport transfers

Price Does Not Include

  • Airfares (international and domestic) before and after the trip, any airport taxes, or excess baggage charges
  • Optional tips and gratuities to guides and support staff
  • Discretionary items such as alcohol,  personal coffees/teas (except at breakfast) and sodas
  • Optional activities in Franz Josef Glacier
  • Airport transfers if arriving outside Day 1 and departing outside Day 12
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • New Zealand Visa or New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) for people from visa waiver countries
  • International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL)
  • Changes to the itinerary due to unforeseen weather events that result in road closures or bridges being uncrossable. If this happens we will initiate Plan B.

Visa and Tourism Levies

The New Zealand Government requires that all visitors to the country have a visa. If you are from a visa waiver country this requirement is waived, but you must hold a New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before you travel. A list of visa waiver countries can be found at Immigration New Zealand: Visa Waiver Countries and Territories.

In addition to a visa or NZeTA, all visitors to New Zealand must also pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). The cost is NZ$35.

You can request an NZeTA and pay for the NZeTA and IVL at https://nzeta.immigration.govt.nz/

Payments & Cancellations

Please see our Payments & Cancellations page for details.

Private Departures

There is a minimum of 10 people required to book a private Kea Trip departure. If you have 10 or more people in your group there is no additional cost per person to have your own private trip. If you have less than 10 people (1 to 9 people) in your group, you will need to pay the total price for 10 people to secure your private trip.

With your own private Kea Trip you get to choose who is on the trip with you. You’ll also have the flexibility to modify the activities in the itinerary and upgrade the accommodation for an additional fee (the upgrade fee depends on the accommodation you choose). In most areas the trip stays at the best accommodation available. However, you can also upgrade from 4-star to 5-star accommodation in some locations if there are rooms available (Nelson, Wanaka, Te Anau, and post-trip in Queenstown).


At what altitudes will I be hiking?

We do not travel to high elevations on this trip. The highest altitude we will reach hiking is 2,754 feet (840 meters) on Key Summit. We will sleep no higher than 1,000 feet (305 meters) above sea level at any time.

Do I need to have rafting or kayaking experience?

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.

What kind of vehicles are used?

We travel in comfortable 12 seater or 17 seater vans, in which each seat has a seatbelt. The van has air conditioning. On larger trips we travel with a trailer, where luggage is stored en route.

What level of difficulty is this trip rated?

Moderate. A moderate level of fitness is required. We mainly hike on well formed trails.

What is the minimum number to confirm a trip?

Each departure requires a minimum of 6 full paying guests to confirm.

What is the guide ratio?

The guide ratio is 11 guests to 1 guide, so if a 12th person books on a departure we’ll add a second guide.

What is the maximum group size?

The maximum group size is 16 guests + 2 guides.

Is there an additional fee for booking my own room?

Yes. Accommodation is not cheap in New Zealand. The trip price is based on two people sharing a room. If you are traveling alone or prefer your own room you will be charged a single supplement to offset the additional cost of your room.

If I’m traveling alone, can I share a room with someone else to avoid paying the single supplement fee?

Yes. If there is another person traveling alone on your trip AND they are willing to share a room, we will do our best to match the two of you together to share a room. If this happens there is no additional room cost per person on top of the normal trip price.

Why is a holiday surcharge added to some trips?

New Zealand has strong labour laws. All employees are required to be paid 2.5 times their normal rate when working on a NZ public holiday. This accounts to a big increase in guide wages. Many restaurants implement a holiday surcharge to offset this wage increase (or close for the day to avoid paying it). As the demand for accommodation has increased in New Zealand, many hotels have implemented peak season pricing which tops out during public holidays. All these additional costs make operating trips over Christmas and Easter more expensive.

What happens if we have to switch to Plan B due to road closures closures related to extreme weather?

State Highway 6 is the only road on the western side of the Southern Alps. A road/bridge closure on the West Coast means that we can not get the group to our pre-booked accommodation in the normal timeframe. In the event that a road or bridge is closed we will switch to Plan B, which will most likely include using a helicopter to fly guests over an uncrossable bridge or section of closed road. Depending on where the road closure occurs, Plan B could also require that an additional bus needs to be chartered to deliver guests to accommodation, while the guide relocates the bus on an alternative route around the Southern Alps (which could take up to 10 hours in some locations). The additional cost of the helicopter and bus charter would be divided up equally among all the guests on the trip. This is the best way to ensure the least interruption to the guest experience we provide. Depending on where a road closure occurs, the cost of implementing Plan B (a helicopter ride and a bus charter) could be in the range of NZ$200 to NZ$500 per person.

In our first seven seasons of operation we have never had to initiate Plan B, but during that time, some road closures did occur on the West Coast. We have been very lucky with our trip timing that road closures due to weather events have not affected our trips. One day our luck will run out and we will have to initiate Plan B and pass this unforeseen cost onto our guests to ensure they have the best experience possible. We do not recommend that our guests join the guide in the bus for the long drive through the night to relocate the trip bus. We recommend that you have travel insurance to cover this potential expense and confirm in advance with your insurance provider that they would cover such a scenario. We hope we never have to implement Plan B on one of our trips but think it is important to let you know in advance that this scenario could happen, and how we would respond if it does.

Contact Us About Booking a Kea Trip