South Island Horse Trekking Adventure, New Zealand

Otago and Canterbury Horse Trek Holidays

The glacial-fed rivers, lakes and valleys, beech forests, and towering snow-capped mountain ranges of the Southern Alps form the backdrop of your unforgettable South Island horse-trekking adventure in the heart of New Zealand's Canterbury and Otago regions. Or saddle up and venture into the sweeping plains, meandering rivers and rolling, tussock-clad hills of southern Canterbury in the footsteps of old Maori hunting parties and 19th century gold miners.

Whatever your fitness level and riding ability, you will find a ride that will take you back in time and deep into New Zealand's rugged wilderness and Gold Rush past. And if you are a Lord of the Rings fan, there are rides that will take you into iconic landscapes made famous by the films.

As the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown has an abundance of tourist and transport facilities that make it easy to explore the rest of the Otago Region. If you make Queenstown your base, you can easily be collected from there and transported to the homestead, cattle yards or nearby townships where you are introduced to your horse and pack up for the trek. Pick ups from Queenstown are provided on all trips except those on the "Gold Miners Pack Trail", which is located between Christchurch and Dunedin on the east coast. You will need to arrange your own transport or find a way to get to Waimate, the town closest to the trail.

As you venture deeper into and climb higher up Otago's imposing mountain ranges, views of the Southern Alps will greet you, with Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, and all the other tallest peaks in the country – Mt. Aspiring, Mt. St. Bathans – visible from your lofty perch. From your high vantage point, look down into expansive valleys like Ahuriri and Hunter, or glacier-fed lakes like the turquoise-colored Pukaki. Trot around Lake Wanaka as you admire its clear glacial waters reflecting the majestic mountain ranges.

Separated from Lake Wanaka by "The Neck", a strip of land just a kilometre at the narrowest point, the vivid blue waters of Lake Hawea are surrounded by weathered, craggy mountains dusted with snow in winter and covered in native bush in summer. Soak up magnificent views like this as you enjoy nibbles and wine, a hearty farm-cooked dinner, backcountry meal or Kiwi BBQ.

Expect river crossings during your trip, as you would in Hunter, Dingle and Ahuriri Rivers, and crossing one river many times, as you would in Dunstan. Some trips entail setting up a tent riverside, or allow you to enjoy a picnic by the banks. After an invigorating day's ride, nothing can be more refreshing and relaxing than a well-deserved dip on the clear waters of a river or fishing on a trout-rich lake. Along the trails, keep your eyes sharp for some of New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna: blue, pink and purple lupins in springtime; the friendly and equally colourful wild Alpine parrots or “k’ak’ap’o”; and the rare NZ falcon gliding overhead.

There's more than Gold Rush history scattered in these lands. Cattle and sheep farming have been keeping Otago's and Canterbury's high country stations busy through the years, and you will be staying in some of the region's historic hotels, homesteads and working farms, rustic alpine huts and shearer's quarters, some with log burners, hot showers and cosy beds. Alternatively, you can sleep out in the tents or under the stars and listen to the river murmuring and the horses munching.

Some of the trips ride exclusively on private land, allowing you to take in sensational scenery and experience isolation that's harder to come by in a highly connected digital world. So if you want to escape from civilization for a moment and truly plug into the breathtaking natural beauty that New Zealand is known for, embark on one of these horse-trekking adventures that will stay with you for a long time.