Private guide vs. independent – what’s the best way to hike New Zealand?

It all comes down to what you want from your walking adventure, but a private guided hike takes the hassle away from planning so you can enjoy your holiday

One of the best ways to explore New Zealand is on foot. Visitors travel from far and wide to get amidst our stunning landscapes and on some of our famous walks. Being highly accessible, it comes as no surprise that many people choose to hike independently in New Zealand. However, if you want to pack in a lot in limited time and want your walk to be instilled in as much local knowledge as possible, then opt for a privately guided hike.
Consider these reasons for choosing a private guide before making your decision.

You’ll get a custom-made adventure

Do you have just a day or two in your itinerary to explore, but really want to experience the famed beauty of the Routeburn Track or get up close to the Giant Gate falls on the Milford Track? A private guide can turn your dream into a reality.

Because you don’t need to fit in with a group tour, you can choose the exact date and time you leave, and then customise the hike to meet your needs. A private guide can be tailored to fit any particular need you have, be it photography, fungi or birds. You can make the hike easygoing, or opt to climb to higher altitudes in order to be rewarded with epic alpine views. It is your hike, done your way, made possible by a local guide.

Set your own pace

Even though most guided walks in New Zealand are organised in small group, they are not tailored for your individual needs. The tour guide has to consider everyone’s needs when making decisions. With a private guide, you can define the pace of your hike, slowing down and spending longer in a spot that is perfect for a photograph. You don’t have to worry about slow hikers in a group holding you back when you’re just hitting your stride – your private guide will always match your pace and requirements.

Connect with a local

You will have the undivided attention of a knowledgeable local guide for the duration of your walk. Your guide will be a passionate local, wanting to share their slice of paradise as much with you as you want to learn about New Zealand. And because you’re not competing with others in a group to get his attention, you can even ask those niggling questions that are not totally related to the walk – why holiday homes in South Island are called ‘cribs’ for instance?

Learn about NZ’s unique flora and fauna

Often times your private guide will be someone who has been associated with the land for generations, and is perfectly placed to tell you about the history of the place, the unique birdlife and plants that thrive here. And because the hike is custom-made for you, the commentary can be suited to match your personal interests. And of course, there is no fighting for the guide’s attention to get your questions answered!

It’s your safety net

You can be assured that everything will work like clockwork as your private guide will sort out all logistics for the hike. Typically transfers from the accommodation are included in your private guided walk package.

It is also quite safe. There is no chance of getting lost on a track or injuring yourself and not being able to make your way back to safety. Private guides are trained professionals that have learnt to deal with any situation that may arise, providing peace of mind which is reassuring if a tourist in a foreign country.

You’re on holiday. Let that be your focus while your guide arranges everything for you!


Now that you’re convinced about hiring a private guide for your epic New Zealand walk, it’s time to decide which one you’d like to take on. The choices are quite literally endless – NZ’s National Parks are teeming with idyllic hiking trails. Here are five of our favourite New Zealand Great Walks that you must consider when choosing a hike that’s perfect for you. We offer a range of stunning hiking options in Fiordland National Park, with upgrades available on any of our small group tours to a private hiking guide.

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