Queenstown Southern Loop
From 09/12/2023 to 08/05/2025
Soak up the silence of Milford Sound on a cruise across its waters – you’ll be left speechless by the hundreds of tumbling cascades and deeply forested mountains.
Explore the Cathedral Caves of the Catlins, an untamed coastal wilderness home to rugged cliffs, dense forest, and spectacular hidden waterfalls.
Cross the Foveaux Strait to unspoilt Stewart Island, a haven for hikers and birdwatches and the place to spot a wild kiwi.
Enjoy two nights and one full day to explore the wilderness of Stewart Island, cruising the bays and inlets to spot penguins and seabirds and walking along its forested coastal tracks.
By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Forest & Bird.
Donations help them give nature a voice - protecting wildlife and wild places in Aotearoa New Zealand by advocating for conservation on the ground and at a government level.
Breakfasts Included: 5.
Hotel (2 nights),Hostel (twin share with shared facilities) (2 nights),Cabin (with shared facilities) (1 night).
Age: min 15.
Group Size: 1 - 12.
Milford Sound - Nature Boat Cruise.
Milford Sound - Leader-led walk to Milford Lookout.
Milford Sound - Walk to Mirror Lakes & Lake Gunn.
The Catlins - Leader-led walk to Nugget Point & McLean Falls.
Stewart Island - Scenic Ferry Crossing.
Itinerary / more information
1 - Queenstown Welcome to the South Island! Make your own way to the hotel, where the adventure kicks off with a welcome meeting where you'll join up with your leader and group. If you're looking for more time in 'Adventure Capital of the World', look to book in some time after the end of the trip. After the meeting, head to the lovely lakeside town of Te Anau - gateway to Fiordland National Park. Watch the stunning landscapes pass by as you round the bottom of Lake Wakatipu with the aptly named The Remarkables mountains in the background. The 3.5-hour drive will take you to the shores of the South Island's biggest lake, which extends into the fiords and deeply forested mountains. Once arrived, there are plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy the spectacular surrounding nature. Perhaps head out to see the glow worms on the opposite shore of the lake.
2 - Milford Sound The stunning, unforgettable sights of the fiords are best experienced by boat, so today you'll set off for a memorable cruise on Milford Sound, known locally as Piopiotahi. Sail along the waters that pour out into the Tasman Sea, and look out for bottlenose dolphins and fur seals at play. Nature feels close here in the silence of the sound as you make your way past countless tumbling, misting cascades, soaring icy peaks, lush rainforest and twisting inlets. Soak up the surrounds so stunning that they feel almost fake, and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Afterwards get a different perspective of the sound, surrounded by native bush, as you take on the lookout track with your leader. There's a bit of a climb, but the views are more than worth it to look down on the water and up at the peaks. The spectacular views keep on coming with a Mirror Lakes walk, where the peaks and greenery reflect in the clear lake waters. Return to Te Anau in time for dinner this evening - maybe seek out some local fare like venison or even lobster for dinner.
3 - The Catlins This morning it's time to swap one side of the island for the other as you make your way to what feels like a forgotten corner of Otago - the Catlins. This untamed coastal wilderness is home to rugged cliffs, dense forest, and some spectacular hidden waterfalls. Visit Nugget Point and its lighthouse, situated on a rocky outcrop jutting out into the South Pacific Ocean, and hike through dense forest to pretty McLean Falls. In the afternoon take the time to soak up the sights of pounding surf, windswept beaches and sunbathing sea lions as you stroll the sands with your leader.
4 - Stewart Island Head to the very bottom of the island and take a ferry across the Foveaux Strait to the country's third largest landmass, remote and rugged Stewart Island. It takes about one hour to travel the 30-kilometre strait. The island is almost entirely national park, which makes its unspoiled forests, beaches and bays a haven for hikers of all abilities as well as birdwatchers - it's home to endangered brown kiwi and the flightless Stewart Island kiwi. In the Maori language the island is known as Rakiura, which means 'the land of glowing skies'.
5 - Stewart Island Enjoy a full free day to explore the island as you discover the coast and Rakiura National Park. Optional activities include cruises on the bays and inlets spotting penguins and seabirds and walks along forested coastal tracks past early Maori settlements. Learn about the local flora and fauna, and relax on the beach for a picnic lunch. Take in the views over glistening William Bay and see if you can spot the mountains of the South Island in the distance. Return to your accommodation and enjoy the rest of the evening to relax after your full day of island exploration. Perhaps join the group for dinner at a local restaurant tonight.
6 - Stewart Island Head back over to the mainland, then continue back to Queenstown. Your trip comes to an end today when you arrive back in Queenstown at approximately 2pm. If you have extra time to spend in Queenstown, make sure to get out and take advantage of the numerous adventure activities on offer. The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu not only serve as spectacular props to get your adrenaline fix, they're also beautiful to look at. The town is also a great base for exploring Central Otago's excellent vineyards and historic mining towns.
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