Te Wai Pounamu Journey​

Experience an epic 13 day journey through some of New Zealand’s premium waterways
South Island — Nelson to Queenstown, via Milford Sound

Journey Overview

Waterways are weaved into the culture and existence of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. The beauty of this enchanting Island is not so secret anymore, however, if you have the mind, the desire and the ability, New Zealand Water Journeys will make this unique and epic adventure one to remember for a lifetime.

Travel from the beautiful sunny wine region of the Marlborough sounds at the top of the South Island, all the way down to the famed Milford Sound with its staggering world record breaking sea cliffs and its waterfalls that topple into the Tasman Sea.

Along the way we will visit Mt Cook village and escape the crowds by taking a small open motor boat to experience the Tasman Glacier Lake, to view New Zealand’s highest mountain — Aoraki (Mt Cook, the cloud piercer). After exploring our inland lakes and rivers and both of our coast lines, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, our Odyssey will end in the queen of all towns, Queenstown.

From Queenstown you can catch an international connecting flight, or stay and enjoy what many call the adventure capital of the world. Some early morning starts will ensure magical sunrises, early morning birdsong from some of our endemic birds and a chance to experience the joy and solitude of nature as the first people to this land enjoyed it.


  • Waka Ama (canoe with outrigger) or Waka Tuarua (double hull canoe) – both traditional Maori craft
  • Rafting
  • Sea kayaking
  • Scenic flight on Helicopter
  • Jet boating (developed in NZ to access steep shallow water ways)
  • Wilderness hiking
  • Boat cruising
  • Boutique and quirky lodgings
  • All meals (except personal day in Kaikoura)
  • Transport


Marlborough Sounds – Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand

13 days / 12 nights

$13,500 NZD per person incl. tax

Our trip to New Zealand with NZWJ was awesome! Our guide Alex was the best! She was so much fun! She took such great care of us and took us to some amazing places!

JC McKinney from Florida, USA

Trip Itinerary

Pickup Nelson hotel or airport. Today we ease into your journey.

We travel 30 minutes to Tasman Bay to enjoy a local winery, one of the most prominent industries of the region. There is the opportunity of a wine tasting and to purchase from the cellar door. We then continue 45 minutes to the golden beaches of Kaiterteri where we will spend the night. Kaiteriteri has a rich Maori history and has been regularly ranked in a variety of polls as one of the top 100 beaches of the world. The area is also famous for its sunshine and its hops grown for the thriving craft beer industry. There will be a chance to walk, swim or have a massage to refresh from your flights.  As we say in New Zealand, “just chill out” before we all meet for dinner.

Accommodation: Kaiteriteri (Walking access to beach) 
Meals: Lunch and Dinner

Multi day Waka ama or Waka Tuarua (out rigger or double hull canoe) journey down the Abel Tasman Coast to Anchorage Bay

Today is an early morning start. We will travel to the northern end of the Abel Tasman National Park to Onetahuti Beach, to meet our Waka Whanau (canoe family) and begin our journey down the coast. We have exclusive access to the waka and will spend the day exploring the coastline, stopping in at white sandy beaches and learning Tikanga Maori (traditions and protocols).

It is likely we will be welcomed by some friendly local marine life. Dolphins and little blue penguins are frequent to the area and there is a New Zealand fur seal colony. Our destination will be Anchorage Beach for the evening. Our comfortable campsite will be set up upon arrival and ready for you to enjoy some local tasty kai (food). There will be ample time to enjoy a short afternoon walk and maybe see some glowworms in the evening. Abel Tasman is well known for the most sunshine hours in New Zealand and also New Zealand’s first interaction/altercation between the native Maori and Europeans in 1642.

Accommodation: High end camping, Anchorage Beach.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Abel Tasman National Park – Continue multi day Waka to Kaiteriteri

For those early risers there is a chance for a first light hoe (paddle) to enjoy the sunrise before breakfast. We will spend the morning exploring along the coastline and Adele Island, swimming is optional but recommended. Weather permitting we will pass the local seal colony. We will end our waka journey in the seaside holiday destination of Kaiteriteri and meet up with our mini bus to travel to the Marlborough Sounds, a 2 hour scenic drive away.

Accommodation: Picton or surrounds, Marlborough Sounds.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Clarence River – 3 day Heli Rafting Adventure

Today is an early start to another unforgettable day!  We will make our way two hours south by mini bus, to the tiny township of Clarence. You blink and you miss it. Here we meet our rafting guides, grab our kit and catch a helicopter to the starting point.  The rafting adventure is graded 2-3 and is fun without being intimidating. The Clarence is an incredibly scenic river which twists and turns its way from mountains to the sea through New Zealand’s biggest Beef & Cattle Station, Molesworth Station. For the next two evenings we set up camp near the river and enjoy the evening with our guides demonstrating their master chef skills around the campfire. No glamping here. This is the real outdoors! Multi-day rafting allows the best of both worlds – access to the backcountry with the ability to take all the gear for added comfort, so rest assured we are warm and dry in our comfortable tents.

The rafting adventure is graded 2-3… what does that mean?

The Clarence water levels are regularly running at Grade 2 except when the river is high there are a couple of rapids which are rated as Grade 3.  Grade 2 has small-medium sized waves of less than 1 metre (3 feet). The route through the rapids is easy to recognise and generally unobstructed although there may be rocks in the main current or over hanging branches. Grade 3 has larger waves up to 2 metres (6 foot). The river is easy yet playful. There are times when participation is needed and other times when you can relax and enjoy the stunning scenery while your guides do all the work!

Accommodation: Camping beside the Clarence River.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 5:

Clarence River – 3 day Heli Rafting Adventure

We will be using the river as our road and the raft as our vehicle to experience this remote valley at its best. Every twist and turn in the river brings a new vista. There will be plenty of time today to unwind and relax and enjoy the beauty of the geology and the solitude the valley has to offer. 

Accommodation: Camping beside the Clarence River.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 6:

Clarence River – 3 day Heli Rafting Adventure

Today we continue to wind our way down the river and make our way towards the Pacific Ocean just north of the seaside town of Kaikoura. Say goodbye to our Rafting Team then travel 30 minutes by mini bus to Kaikoura.  Enjoy the coastal views and limestone cliffs where we may see seals sunbathing on the rocks or playing amongst the calmer pools on a stretch of new coastline that was uplifted in the 2017 Kaikoura earthquake. Kaikoura will be our base to recuperate from our exertions for the next couple of nights.

Accommodation: Boutique Lodging in Kaikoura
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Free Day Kaikoura

Kaikoura is renowned for its whales, dolphins, seal colonies and mouth-watering crayfish (lobster). The little seaside town offers a range of activities, cafes, restaurants and sidewalks. Optional activities today can be enjoyed and include whale watching, swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking, sea or fly fishing and hiking.  Your guides will happily share their local knowledge and assist you with booking optional tours.

Accommodation: Boutique Lodging in Kaikoura
Meals: Breakfast

Kaikoura to McKenzie Country via Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Today we need to cover some miles in our trusty Mercedes van. After breakfast we travel three hours to Christchurch to visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve for an educational experience and to see our endemic Kiwi and Tuatara (the world’s oldest living reptile). We continue towards Twizel via the glacial Lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki. With clear weather you will get your first glimpse of Mt Cook/Aoraki – The Cloud Piercer. We spend the night in the Twizel area of the McKenzie Country. McKenzie Country is well known for its star gazing as there is minimal light pollution in this sparsely populated region – absolutely mesmerising.

Accommodation: Twizel area
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Boat the Tasman Glacier Lake, Mt Cook National Park

By boat is the ultimate way to experience the magnificence of Mt Cook National Park, away from the ever increasing crowds. While on the lake we are beneath towering glaciated mountains and have premium views of the majestic Aoraki (Mt Cook). We may get lucky if there is a fresh carving and have a chance to get up close and personal with our own icebergs! We then continue for 2 hours by bus over the Southern Alps and Lindis Pass through what is known as tussock country. The stunning lakeside town of Wanaka will be our home for the next 2 nights.

Accommodation: Boutique lodging, Wanaka
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Pack raft, Jet Boat and Hike – Mt Aspiring National Park

Spend the morning enjoying the ‘real deal jet boating’ up the remote Matukituki Valley beneath the glaciers of Mt Aspiring National Park. Then follows a short hike with our pack rafts through native Beech Forests to a calm and peaceful pool. Here we will inflate our pack rafts and learn paddling techniques. Pack rafts are designed to be small, lightweight and stable and are perfect for our safe wilderness experience to come.

Enjoy lunch in this pristine environment and then set off down the glacial fed river paddling your pack rafts. We will be pack rafting down the glacial fed river. The valley is so breath takingly beautiful you won’t want to leave! If you do not wish to pack raft then you can return by jet boat. In the evening we will enjoy a kiwi style BBQ.

Accommodation: Boutique lodging Wanaka.
Meals: Breakfast. Lunch, Dinner

Hike Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park

Today we take a break from our waterways and explore some of Fiordland’s wilderness by foot. After a hearty breakfast we travel a scenic route three hours to Te Anau with a few photo stops along the way.

This afternoon we will take a self-guided hike along a section of the famous Kepler Track – one of New Zealand’s nine great walks. It is a fantastic hike, winding its way along the Waiau River with spectacular views through native Mountain and Red Beech Forest. Once you have finished the hike we will make our way into Fiordland National Park where will stay the night. We will be surrounded by rugged mountains and breath taking views.

Fiordland National Park is said to be New Zealand’s largest national park and most spectacular one. We’ll let you be the judges of that!

Accommodation: Te Anau Downs Lodging, Fiordland National Park
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Kayak & cruise Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

We set off extremely early this morning to Milford Sound – a 1.5 hour journey. We want you to have the opportunity to enjoy the calm waters and peace of the Fiord before the many other daily visitors arrive by tour bus! We will be paddling in sturdy double sea kayaks. Once you return from kayaking, you’ll board the cruise boat for a 2hour nature cruise to the head of the spectacular Fiord.

We may be greeted by the resident fur seals and pods of dolphins that frequent the area and if we are really lucky the Fiordland crested penguin. Whales and leopard seals have also been known to enter the Fiord. Local guides say you can’t have a bad day in Milford Sound — whether it’s misty mountains, bluebird views or 1600m (4500 ft) rain generated waterfalls, it is a guide’s favourite! After lunch we make our way back to Te Anau to enjoy a celebratory dinner.

Accommodation: Te Anau Boutique Lodging
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart for home. Te Anau – Queenstown

This morning we return to Queenstown arriving approximately midday. This is the end of your journey with us. Hopefully we are leaving you refreshed and energised on life with many great times and memories to take home!

We do recommend an extra night or two in Queenstown.  We would be pleased to reserve accommodation on your behalf. Please let us know early as rooms in peak season book out quickly.

Haere Ra!

Meals: Breakfast

Journey Information

This Journey is designed to avoid the ever-increasing crowds in tourist hot spots whilst still accessing the most scenic spots.

Indigenous canoe, rafting, kayaking, jet boating, boat cruising, pack rafting, scenic helicopter flight with some driving, light hiking and great food.

1600 miles or 2500km’s of water therapy in 13 days. Multiple activities. One free/rest/personal day

Fitness level:
The programme has been designed to be “adventurous” but has options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience.

Gear included:
All technical gear.
Complimentary NZWJ Merino Polyester blend t-shirt.

All meals provided except free/rest/personal day on day 7. We will showcase the local food and beverages that best represents the region we stay in.

Owner operators committed to making this experience awesome. With more than 22 years in the field, if not guiding the trip ourselves, we have a plethora of exceptional guides we trust to provide you with the trip you are expecting.

We stay at a range of comfortable and quirky accommodation ranging from boutique lodges, farm cottages, hotels and motels to 3 nights in tents while in remote locations. We always endeavor to provide 5-star scenic locations and a room with your own washroom.

The South Island of New Zealand isn’t quite small enough to paddle around in 13 days so to incorporate all the highlights we will be connecting some of our journey by Mercedes Sprinter mini bus driven by one of our guides

Mercedes Sprinters are our preferred mode of transportation. An 8-seater people mover is used for our smaller and bespoke trips otherwise it is 12, 15 and 17-seater sprinters with a maximum of 11 people plus two guides.

Not included:

  • Flights to and from Nelson and Queenstown
  • Extra accommodation in Nelson and Queenstown
  • Activities and meals on free day (day 7)

Please note: The itinerary on the website is subject to modification and change by New Zealand Water Journeys. Every reasonable effort will be made to operate the Journey as planned but alterations may still occur due to unforeseen circumstances.

Journey Map

Departure Dates

Temporary closure due to COVID-19

Journey Cost

$13,500 NZD per person
based on a twin share

Tax included

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New Zealand Water Journeys caters to all experience levels, ages, and ethnicities — speak to one of our friendly management team

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