South Island Adventure Itinerary



south island map

Monday - Arrive and snorkeling with seals in Kaikoura

Most people leave the Northern hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You'll lose a day to the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! You'll immediately take the short flight to Christchurch in the South Island where we'll meet you. You'll need to arrive in Christchurch by 10 am or so, then we'll meet you and drive up the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura, where we will spend the afternoon and evening. We'll take you out to the Kaikoura Peninsula for a snorkeling trip at the seal colony. You'll be supplied with a wetsuit, a mask and a snorkel, and you can swim within a couple of feet of the native New Zealand Fur Seals as they cavort in the water. This makes for a nice introduction to New Zealand and gives you the chance to spend most of the day relaxing and recovering from your flight. Depending on where you're coming from, you'll probably find jet lag is no big deal. For instance, it's a 12-hour direct overnight flight from the West Coast of the USA to Auckland and there's only a 3 hour time difference between New Zealand and US Pacific time. If you're coming from further, you'll appreciate the gentle start to your New magazine coverZealand adventure.

ACCOMMODATION: A lovely local Bed & Breakfast, Kaikoura. (L,D)

Tuesday - 3-day hiking in Nelson Lakes, mountain biking on Queen Charlotte Track, OR sea kayaking in Marlborough Sounds

We'll drive north for a couple of hours to Blenheim, in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. We'll visit Forest Estate Winery, where you can sample some of their fantastic wines while we picnic on the vineyard lawn. At the time of booking, you have the choice of a 3-day/2-night backpacking trip in Nelson Lakes National Park, a 3-day/2-night sea kayaking trip in the Marlborough Sounds, or a 3-day/2-night biking trip on the Queen Charlotte Track. The backpacking trip entails staying in mountain huts, while the cyclists and sea kayakers stay in more conventional lodgings, often with amenities like a hot tubs, private bathrooms and even a bar! Add $299 + tax for the sea kayaking or biking options. After lunch, we head off for our various activities:


Tuesday (Continued)
Nelson Lakes National Park

If you prefer hiking, we've got just the thing! Our hike starts at the charming village of St. Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park. To keep our hiking group sizes down in this beautiful but fragile environment, we keep our exact route and group composition flexible. We'll spend a relaxing afternoon hiking alongside Lake Rotoiti. We'll stay at Lakehead Hut overnight, a small mountain cabin in a gorgeous setting at the head of Lake Rotoiti, with a river running by and mountains everywhere you look. Nelson Lakes National Park straddles the northern part of the Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains. It's a special place and in our opinion vastly superior to its more famous neighbor, Abel Tasman National Park. This is serious wilderness country – no roads, no shops, no TVs – just incredible views and marvelous solitude. You don't have to carry a heavy pack – our guides are pretty tough and they'll carry the lion's share of the load. Most of our clients carry a sleeping bag, clothes for 3 days, and a little food – no need for any more than that, although we provide tents and so on if you prefer to camp.

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SEA KAYAKING OPTION [Add $299 + tax]

Tuesday (Continued)
Marlborough Sounds

After lunch at the winery you'll head for Anakiwa on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. The waters here are calm and isolated, surrounded by lush forests and rocky coastline. Here you'll be matched with a modern sea kayak and all the necessary safety equipment for paddling. You don't need any experience to do this option, but if you are an experienced sea kayaker, you won't be bored. After a thorough safety briefing, you'll head out with your guide. It'll be late afternoon by now, so it's a fairly gentle first day's paddle.



BIKING OPTION [Add $299 + tax]

Tuesday (Continued)
Queen Charlotte Track

Another option over this period of time is to do some biking. After lunch at the winery you'll head for Anakiwa on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound, where you'll be fitted with a modern mountain bike for a fairly gentle ride to start. We have a lot of flexibility with this option, so this afternoon's ride will give your guide the opportunity to tailor the next two days to your level of experience. We offer a range of fantastic trails to suit your experience and interests – from gentle pedaling along a wide, flat forest trail to more challenging single-track. It's your call. In the evening we'll enjoy an awesome dinner in a local lodge before the big day tomorrow.

Nelson Lakes National Park

Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets even better with each step! We walk alongside the Travers River, through native beech forest, before heading up the Hukere Stream to spend the rest of the day hiking up to the ridge line of the mountains. This is a steep hike, with an elevation gain of 3000 feet, but it's absolutely worth it. There is a gorgeous alpine lake at the top and the remote but comfortable Angelus Hut is ideally situated right on the edge of the lake. We have plenty of experience in getting people to the top, whatever your physical fitness level and age. If you're still keen for more, from Angelus Hut we'll scramble up a nearby peak to enjoy stunning views in every direction. If you prefer to hang out at the hut with a cuppa tea, that's fine too! Many of our clients who have chosen the hiking option tell us that the Angelus Circuit – still unspoiled and non-commercial – was the highlight of their New Zealand experience, and many Kiwis prefer this trip to the better-known Milford and Routeburn Tracks.
Marlborough Sounds

Today we'll have a full day's paddling in the more remote reaches of Queen Charlotte Sound. You can paddle at your own pace and we'll make sure that you get as much or as little “sea time” as you like! Along the way we'll check out the secluded beaches and native forest that characterize the area, and we'll see all sorts of native birds. With a bit of luck, we'll be paddling alongside the local dolphins and even penguins! It's worth noting that you don't just paddle on this option – you have plenty of time to stop for short beach and forest walks as well. After the day's activities, you'll be able to have a hot shower, and enjoy a great dinner and a comfortable night's sleep.
Queen Charlotte Track

A big ride today if you like, or a gentle cruise, if you prefer. We have some challenging single-track riding on the renowned Queen Charlotte Track for the more experienced, or if you prefer, wide smooth trails that wind through the coastal forest. The Queen Charlotte Track is legendary because it is one of the few areas of wilderness where mountain bikes are permitted. No matter which trail you choose, you'll experience some of the pristine beaches, native forest and bird life that characterize this area. It's worth noting that you don't just cycle on this option – you have plenty of time to stop for short beach and forest walks as well.


Nelson Lakes National Park

This morning we'll wake up on top of the world. After breakfast, it's a four-hour walk out, first along the stark ridge line with dramatic views down to Tasman Bay and the mountains of Kahurangi National Park beyond, then down through native beech forest. It's a challenging walk out, but it's worth every drop of sweat! We'll hook up with the kayakers and cyclists before carrying on to the coast.

Marlborough Sounds

We spend the morning paddling to our takeout point at Anakiwa. Another chance to spot local wildlife before having lunch. After taking our kayaks out of the water, we'll transfer to St. Arnaud, where we hook up with the rest of the group before carrying on to the coast.

Queen Charlotte Track

We'll spend the morning biking back towards Anakiwa before rejoining the hikers and the kayakers in the afternoon and carrying on to the coast.

In addition to the above options we also offer a black water rafting trip through caves.

Thursday (Continued) Finish 3-day backpacking, biking, or sea kayaking

After regrouping we'll head to the wonderful West Coast area - 500 miles of coastline with a population of only 40,000 people on the whole coast! For dinner this evening, we'll stop at the tiny seaside settlement of Charleston to pick up the quintessential Kiwi dinner – fish and chips! If it's a fine evening, we'll enjoy our fish and chips on the beach before heading south down the stunning coastline towards the coastal village of Punakaiki.

ACCOMMODATION: West Coast lodgings. Comfortable and quiet. (B,L,D)

Friday - Hiking in Punakaiki & beach in Okarito Lagoon

We'll spend most of the day in Punakaiki to hike amongst the limestone canyons and lush rainforest of the Inland Pack Track. The gold miners who first opened up the area over a century ago originally established this trail. We'll also check out the Pancake Rocks and the blowholes. This is one of our favorite places in the world, and you'll see why. Finally we'll leave in the afternoon to drive down the scenic coastal road and stop at Hokitika to check out the local art galleries and pounamu carving workshops (“ pounamu” is Maori for jade). Then we'll carry on to Okarito Lagoon, a gem on the West Coast that is all but untouched due to it being 10 miles down a one-way road from an obscure highway turnoff. There are no shops, no restaurants and no traffic here – and a population of only 31 people!

ACCOMMODATION: Okarito Beach House, Okarito. Off-the-beaten-path, isolated and comfortable. (B,L,D).

Saturday - Kayaking in Okarito Lagoon, hiking & beach

You've got a lot of options at Okarito. You can spend a cushy day in this sleepy but beautiful beach town to recharge your batteries, or do some awesome hiking and kayaking. The Okarito Lagoon is unique in that it hosts the only white heron colony in New Zealand. You can sea kayak on the lagoon with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains for a few hours, then spend the rest of the day exploring the deserted beach or hiking in the rainforest. This evening - after a traditional Kiwi roast dinner (with vegetarian options of course) - we can head out to listen for New Zealand's most famous bird, the rare and elusive kiwi. You'll almost never see a kiwi, as they are nocturnal and very shy, but they have a very distinctive call, so it's great fun to go out and listen for them. And the sunsets around here are definitely not to be missed.

ACCOMMODATION: Okarito Beach House, Okarito. (B,L,D)

Sunday - Hiking near Franz Josef Glacier

Just south of Okarito there are two formidable glaciers descending from the mountains to the sea. In terms of scenery, this place is just off the chart! Today we'll take an awesome hike through the rainforest up to Roberts Point, overlooking the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier. We only do this hike in good weather, as the rocks get very slippery in the rain. If it's raining, we'll do a shorter walk to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier, hike around Lake Matheson, and visit the Blue Pools near the Haast Pass. From Franz Josef it's about three hours down the coast to Makarora (pop. 30), which is a camp settlement directly next to Mt. Aspiring National Park. We'll stay at a beautifully landscaped homestead on the edge of the camp, in the shadow of the mountains. A unique option this afternoon, instead of the Roberts Point hike, is to take a helicopter ride up towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps. If you choose this option, you'll be landing 4,000 feet up on the glacier itself to start a 3-hour hike on the ice, with crampons, ice axes etc. The helicopter will return to fly you back down to meet up with the rest of the group. (Heli-hike option approximately US$200).

ACCOMMODATION: The Homestead, Makarora. Very comfortable and spacious. (B,L,D)

Monday - Mount Aspiring National Park to Queenstown

We'll head down the road to Lake Wanaka for a short hike over-looking the lake and the surrounding mountains. A short drive across the mountains at Cardrona Saddle and we drop into Queenstown in time for lunch. Queenstown is a great place to spend a couple of days. It's the adventure capital of New Zealand – you'll find all the comforts of civilization: massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, window shopping, and adrenaline pumping activities! You'll find some incredible optional activities here, such as hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, horse trekking, fishing, and wine tours – it's all here! There are also incredible hikes and bike rides as well. Queenstown is not a big place – the population is about 5000 – but there's plenty to do! Or you can do nothing, if you prefer to just soak up the atmosphere. Many of our clients enjoy lounging about just reading a book after the hiking and paddling on the West Coast.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown condominiums. (B,L)

Tuesday - Free day in Queenstown

It's all up to you today - enjoy!

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown condominiums. (B)

Wednesday - Cycling Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys & hiking Routeburn Track

Today we begin a couple of days of the most unforgettable cycling you may ever do! This morning we head down through Te Anau towards Milford Sound. You'll be fitted with a 21-speed front suspension bike for a spectacular ride through the legendary Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys to The Divide. We maintain plenty of flexibility – keen cyclists can start early and cover 50 miles or more throughout the day. Moderately keen cyclists can be picked up anytime along the way, for a shorter ride. If cycling is not your thing, you can skip it and just enjoy the scenery – like all our activities, the cycling is completely optional. After recovering our cyclists, we'll hike part of the famous Routeburn Track up to Key Summit for unbelievable views of the surrounding peaks. The Routeburn is one of the best-known hiking tracks in New Zealand and we do the best part of the track, which overlooks the Hollyford Valley, Lake Marion, and Mt. Christina. After hiking back to the trailhead, cyclists can take to the bikes again for the short downhill ride to Gunn's Camp , in the Hollyford Valley. Gunn's Camp is an isolated and rustic establishment, originally set up in the 1930s for the workers who built the Homer Tunnel and the Milford Road. They didn't live in luxury, but they lived in a beautiful, tranquil place, with about a dozen cabins scattered about a central building. Gunn's Camp is right next to the Hollyford River and is surrounded by the towering peaks of Fiordland National Park. It's definitely not a 5-star hotel, but it's a great little place, and a wonderful place to hang out at the end of such an adventurous day!

ACCOMMODATION: Gunn's Camp, Hollyford Valley. Rustic but idyllic. (B,L,D)

Thursday - Sea kayaking in Milford Sound

It's an early start today. First we'll have a short drive through the Homer Tunnel, which comes out at the top of a spectacular alpine road that winds its way downhill to Milford Sound. The lush rainforest carpeting the lower slopes of the mountains gives way to the massively steep glacier-carved slopes and waterfalls of the Darren Range.
Milford Sound, rated the 8th Natural Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling, is breathtaking. Sheer rock walls plunge thousands of feet to the sea, surrounded by snow-capped mountains! Most people see Milford Sound from the deck of a cruise ship, but we've got a better way – gliding along in a sea kayak, causing minimum disruption to the seals and dolphins, which are very friendly and often eager to visit. This is an awesome trip, run by specialist kayak outfitters, and it's equally suitable for beginners or experts. When you get back from your morning's paddle, we'll head to Lake Manapouri, where we'll stay at the Lake Manapouri Inn, beautifully located on the lake's edge. You'll love the great views out over Lake Manapouri and the surrounding mountains of Fiordland National Park. We'll arrive by mid-afternoon so you can relax and enjoy the surroundings or take the bikes out to explore the countryside.

ACCOMMODATION: Lake Manapouri Inn, Lake Manapouri. (B,L,D)

Friday - Exploring high country sheep farm

Today we have a mid-morning start, to head back up the road to Queenstown, where we stop for a couple of hours. This gives you the chance to get some lunch, do any last minute shopping or send postcards to friends and family, or whatever you might need to do before heading back into the wilderness for the remainder of your trip. We'll drive up to Lake Pukaki, near Mt. Cook, where we stay on a 60,000-acre working, high-country sheep farm, called Braemar Station. (“Station” is the New Zealand word for a big ranch.) While we're here, we stay in the shearer's' quarters. Again, it's not a 5-star hotel, but many of our previous clients have told us this was one of their favorite places on the whole trip! The view out the kitchen window in the morning will knock your socks off – one huge mountain, rearing towards the sky on the other side of a gorgeous cobalt-blue lake. And with no lights for miles around, the stars on a clear night are like nothing you've ever seen – just the place for your last couple of nights in New Zealand!

ACCOMMODATION: Shearer's' Quarters, Braemar Station. A little rustic but the views are breathtaking! (B,D)

mt. cookSaturday - Hiking near Mt. Cook

This morning it's an hour or so to Mt. Cook village, at the head of Lake Pukaki. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and we have a stunning and little-known day hike (weather permitting) to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It's a tough slog up, but you'll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Main Divide forever! There are other hiking options if you'd like to take it a little easier. The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it is a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the Mueller hike, we'll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs! Then we head back to the shearer's' quarters for the last night of the Rimu . We'll enjoy a traditional Kiwi BBQ and a cold drink as we sit outside and watch the sun set over Mt. Cook.

ACCOMMODATION: Shearer's' quarters, Braemar Station. (B,L)

Sunday - Depart for home

This is the last day of your two-week trip around the South Island. If you have additional time we can offer extensions to the North Island or Australia, fondly known as New Zealand's “West Island”. We'll leave after breakfast for the three-hour drive to Christchurch, and arrive in the afternoon in time for the flights back to Auckland. Any flight after 4pm is ideal but we can make 3pm flights if we have a little notice. International flights from Auckland usually leave early evening, so if you're heading back to North America, you'll get home some time on Sunday, even though you left on Sunday evening! Flights back to Europe, of course, take a little longer. You'll be refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you'll have had with us in New Zealand! (B,L)


ACCOMMODATIONS: The Rimu is an activity-oriented trip around the South Island. We've chosen interesting and comfortable accommodations throughout. In some places it's quite luxurious. But many of the other places we stay are off the beaten track – and don't have many accommodation options – but they are really, really spectacular. Our clients often say a real highlight of the trip is meeting their New Zealand hosts. You'll love the places we stay!

RECOMMENDED FLIGHTS: If you're flying in on the first day of the trip, or out on the last day, we recommend arriving in Christchurch by approximately 9 – 10 am on Monday, and departing from Christchurch after 3 – 4 pm on Sunday. Other flight times may also be possible – if you are considering other flight times please let us know.

PICKUP INFORMATION: On the first day of the trip we can either pick you up from the Holiday Inn City Center in Christchurch at 10.30 am or at the Christchurch airport in front of the information desk at 11 am.

DROP OFF INFORMATION: On the last day of the trip we can drop you off at the Christchurch airport in time for the flights above, or anywhere in central Christchurch in mid-late afternoon.

FITNESS: You must have a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy yourself on the Rimu . You don't have to be young and extremely fit (although if you are, you won't be bored) but you should be in the habit of doing at least some exercise. Age and experience are not important. For example, a person in their 50s who hikes every couple of weeks will be happier than a 22-year-old couch potato. I

EXPERIENCE: You don't need any outdoor experience at all to enjoy our trips. All our trips allow you to make the most of New Zealand's incredible environment. Our experienced guides are highly trained, and will look after you! You don't have to carry a heavy pack. You don't need to have been in a sea kayak to enjoy kayaking Okarito Lagoon or Milford Sound. You don't need to be a serious cyclist to enjoy some of the rides we have available. In fact we have so many options available that you don't need to ride at all, if you'd rather hike, fish, or just laze around! All we ask is that you be energetic and in reasonable shape – and we guarantee you'll have an incredible time. The challenges are there, though, if you're looking for them. For instance, on the second day of the backpacking trip we spend the day climbing to Lake Angelus on the Robert Ridge. The views are incredible – and they get better the higher you go, so the fitter members of the party often push on to the top of the ridge for some unforgettable views of both sides of the South Island, while others enjoy just staying at the hut and admiring the view.

FLEXIBILITY: Because of the off-the-beaten-path and non-commercial nature of some of our accommodations on this trip, we sometimes need to change a night stop. For instance, every now and then the shearer's' quarters at Braemar Station are required by the shearer's. We try to make as few changes as possible, but we ask that you know we retain the flexibility to make sure your trip is as good as it can be.

INCLUDED: The trip fare is US$2999 + 12.5% NZ government taxes. You can also join for shorter periods of time, at a pro-rated fare. The trip fare includes just about everything, specifically:

  • All guiding services. We always have at least two guides per trip, and we usually take up to 14 clients per trip. This means we can really make sure you have a great time!
  • Comfortable accommodation for the entire period you are with us. We can also organize accommodation for you if you want to arrive earlier or leave later.
  • All your meals, except in Queenstown where we've found people prefer to check out the wide range of restaurants. Alcohol is not generally included, although we do spring for a few drinks here and there!

All hiking, cycling, and kayaking described in the itinerary, except optional extra activities, such as the heli-hike at Franz Josef. We have estimated the rates for optional extra activities operated by local activity operators in US dollars, including all required equipment, but these rates may vary according to the USD/NZD exchange rate of the day. There are many optional activities available at extra cost, particularly in Queenstown. None of these activities are compulsory, and nor will your trip seem less awesome if you do the cheap or free options. Although some people enjoy sampling hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, and so on, others prefer to focus more on the hiking, paddling and cycling, which is of course the reason you're coming to New Zealand in the first place!

The Manuka is an active hiking trip at a relaxed pace. It’s designed for people who are keen on the off-the-beaten-track, kiwi style of our trips, but who also enjoy their creature comforts and maybe want to take things a little easier than the folks on our more challenging trips. We have a strong focus on New Zealand’s natural history, and the more relaxed pace of the Manuka means our guides have plenty of time to interpret the flora and fauna and explain the geological and social history of the areas we visit. You’ll be hiking on most days, from lush rainforest on the West Coast and Franz Josef Glacier, to the snow-capped mountains of Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Cook National Parks. We’ve also included your choice of the famed Milford Track Guided Walk and the lesser-known, but more intimate and luxurious, Hollyford Track Guided Walk. Because of the limited availability of the two Guided Walks we strongly recommend booking the Manuka as early as you possibly can.

MANUKA: 14 days Christchurchto Christchurch
Mon: Arrive, hike Castle Hill
Tue: Rainforest and beach hikes in Punakaiki
Wed: Coastal hike, arts & crafts in Hokitika
Thu: Hiking at Franz Josef Glacier
Fri: Hike in Mt. Aspiring National Park, Queenstown
Sat: Free day in Queenstown
Sun: Milford Track Guided Walk or Hollyford Track Guided Walk
Mon: Guided Walk option continued
Tue: Guided Walk option continued
Wed: Guided Walk option continued
Thu: Guided Walk option continued
Fri: Hike the Sam Summers Loop Track, visit local winery
Sat: Hiking at Mt. Cook
Sun: Depart for home

Monday - Arrive, hike Temple Basin

Most people leave the Northern hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline - but you get it back on the way home! You’ll immediately take the short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by 10am or so. We’ll meet you and head west to Castle Hill in the Kuru Tawhiti Conservation Area located in the heart of the Southern Alps. We’ll take our first hike here - a gentle one-hour walk amongst imposing limestone tors which were once a meeting place for Moa hunters of the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe. The Dalai Lama visited this area in 2002, and described it as the “Spiritual Center of the Universe”!

After lunch in nearby Arthur’s Pass, we head to Greymouth and up the coastal road to the gorgeous seaside village of Punakaiki. We always make sure the first day of our trips is relaxing and undemanding so you can recover from your flight. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll probably find jetlag is no big deal - it’s a 12-hour direct overnight flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, and there’s only a three-hour time difference between New Zealand and US Pacific time. If you have more time, by all means arrive in New Zealand a day or so early.

ACCOMMODATION: West Coast lodgings, Punakaiki - comfortable and quiet (L,D)

Tuesday - Rainforest and beach hikes in Punakaiki

We have a whole day and another night at Punakaiki and we’ll certainly make the most of our time. Today we’ll hike the best section of the Inland Pack Track, from Bullock Creek to the Pororari River. We start at a classic “submergence”, where the river suddenly dries up mid-stream, and goes underground for a mile or so before resurfacing at Cave Creek. The rainforest in this area is unbelievably lush, and the limestone canyons and distant hazy mountains of Paparoa National Park make this an awesome day hike. We’ll also follow the Truman Track to a small surf beach and stroll around Punakaiki’s famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. The Punakaiki coastline is a magnet to marine mammals, which include the Hector’s Dolphin, the world’s smallest marine mammal, often seen close to the inner shore line. There’s also a great deal of marine birdlife, including Little Blue Penguins that can be spotted if you’re lucky!

ACCOMMODATION: West Coast lodgings (B,L,D)

Wednesday - Coastal hikes, arts & crafts in Hokitika

We’ll start with a short drive down the coast to Point Elizabeth for a hike through coastal forest and native flax. A traditional resource for the local Maori, flax was a widely used plant - from footwear to rope to weaved food storage baskets. Next it’s on to Hokitika where we’ll spend a little time checking out local art galleries and pounamu carving workshops (“pounamu” is Maori for jade). From here it’s a couple of hours down the coast to Franz Josef for dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner we can head out for a short night walk to look for the eerie lights of Arachnocampa luminosa - the native glow worm - and to listen for some of New Zealand’s nocturnal birdlife, such as the Morepork.

ACCOMMODATION: Franz Josef Lodgings, Franz Josef (B,L,D)

Thursday - Hiking at Franz Josef Glacier

Today we’ll visit the formidable glaciers of the South Island. We will take a morning hike to the historic Tatare Tunnels, and then continue on to the Franz Josef Glacier, where we walk right up to the impressive terminal face. The Franz Josef Glacier is an enormous river of ice, unusual in that it comes right down through the rainforest to sea level.

Heli-hike option (add US$240 + tax)

A less strenuous, but outrageously scenic option today is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you’ll board a modern turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 4,000 feet (1300m) above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels - no previous experience required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice, and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains, and back to civilization. 

The heli-hike is extremely popular with the general traveling public, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, you can reserve a space on the heli-hike, and we’ll make sure a spot is held for you. You can leave your decision until you’re actually on your trip, and we’ll get you a spot if it’s available.

Heli-hikers generally return a little earlier, so we all rendezvous at a local café, and head south. From Franz Josef it’s about three hours down the coast to Makarora (pop. 30), which is a small farming village directly next to Mt. Aspiring National Park. At Makarora we have a lovely family-style homestead in the shadow of the mountains to ourselves for the evening.

ACCOMMODATION: The Homestead, Makarora - very comfortable and spacious. (B,L,D)

Friday - Hike in Mt. Aspiring National Park, Queenstown

We begin with a drive from Makarora to Raspberry Creek, where we start a stunning hike up the Matukituki Valley, in the heart of Mt. Aspiring National Park. This is one of the best one-day hikes in the South Island, taking in tumbling rivers, towering snowfields, and huge mountain peaks straight from the set of The Lord of the Rings! We hike up a narrow glacial valley, coming out of the forest in a dramatic alpine cirque, with fabulous views of the Southern Alps. After lunch, we hike back to the trailhead, and head into Queenstown.

Queenstown, where ACTIVE NEW ZEALAND is based, is a picturesque town set in a basin on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by mountains. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days enjoying the comforts of civilization before heading out on the Milford or Hollyford Tracks.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown. (B,L)

Saturday - Free day in Queenstown

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand - you’ll find all the comforts of civilization: massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafés, art galleries, window-shopping and adrenaline pumping activities! You’ll find some incredible optional activities here, such as fishing, wine tours, Kiwi viewing, horse trekking, jet boating, hang gliding and even bungy jumping - it’s all here! Your guides can help you during the trip to book any of these optional activities, and can also point out the best local hikes. Queenstown is not a big place - the population is about 8000 - but there’s plenty to do! Or, you can do nothing if you prefer to just soak up the atmosphere. This afternoon we’ll also have a pre-departure briefing for the Milford Track and Hollyford Track Guided Walks.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments. (B)

Sunday - Wednesday Milford Track Guided Walk or Hollyford Track Guided Walk

At the time of booking, you can choose if you would like to hike the Milford Track or Hollyford Track Guided Walks. Both of these magnificent hikes are situated in Fiordland National Park, one of the world’s largest national parks and a renowned World Heritage area. Each is wonderful in its own way, so we’ll let you decide!

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The 5-day/4-night Milford Track is one of the longest established and best known walking tracks in the country. It starts on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau and crosses McKinnon Pass to Milford Sound, taking in glacial peaks, a mountain pass, New Zealand’s highest waterfall and the dense rainforest of the West Coast. You’ll have four days of exercise, good food and great scenery as you walk 33 miles (53km) from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. You’ll be spending three nights in comfortable mountain lodges, and the fourth night in Milford Sound itself, at Mitre Peak Lodge. By the end of this walk you’ll see why Rudyard Kipling referred to Milford Sound as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Because you are doing the Guided Walk you don’t have to carry a heavy pack. In fact, you’ll just be carrying a change of clothes and a packed lunch, so your pack won’t be much heavier than what you would bring on a regular day hike. Everything else is provided, including excellent meals at the lodges and on the trail, hot showers, and everything else you need to make the Milford Track an unforgettable experience. Rooming is in 4-6 bed bunk rooms with shared bathroom facilities. A great option, if you prefer your own space, is to request a private twin, queen or single room with private bathroom facilities (private room option - add US$600 + tax per room, as available).

Sunday- Boat ride and short hike

This morning we’ll head out from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs, stopping for lunch at the lakeside village of Te Anau. Then we take the boat to the head of Lake Te Anau, which is the start of the Milford Track. It’s a short, easy walk to Glade House, where we stay our first night.



HOLLYFORD TRACK GUIDED WALK OPTION (Sunday - Thursday) [Add US$299 + tax]

The Hollyford Track, although relatively unknown outside of New Zealand, has been a popular locals’ secret for decades. It still enjoys a complete absence of crowds and we’ll have the lodges all to ourselves, in the pristine wilderness of Fiordland National Park. We’ll hike through the rainforest of the Hollyford River valley down to Martins Bay, on the Tasman Sea. The Hollyford Track is run by Ngai Tahu, the local Maori people, and they have very comfortable lodges so we can share one of our favorite trails with you in high style! All rooms on the Hollyford Track are private twin share, with all the comforts you could hope for! We’ll do some great hiking, check out the mountains and the rainforest, and look for native New Zealand Fur Seals, dolphins, and during the months of November and December we might be lucky enough to spot Fiordland Crested Penguins – one of the world’s rarest obligate marine birds.

The Hollyford Track is 24 miles (38km) in total and a little less physically challenging than the Milford Track, but it’s still plenty active! Because you are doing the Guided Walk you don’t have to carry a heavy pack. In fact, you’ll just be carrying a change of clothes and a packed lunch, so your pack should be no heavier than what you would bring on a regular day hike. On the Hollyford Track, we have a real emphasis on comfort and gourmet cooking in “kiwi style”. For instance, if you catch your own whitebait (a local delicacy) then Mandy, the lodge manager, will whip up some whitebait fritters for you! Our Hollyford Track option finishes with a jaw-dropping scenic flight amongst the Southern Alps to Milford Sound and then a magnificent overnight cruise on the famous fiord, referred to as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling, before returning to Queenstown.

Sunday Hiking through beech forest to Pyke River Lodge

It’s an early start this morning as we head from Queenstown through the Eglinton Valley on to the start of the Hollyford Track. We’ll stop at an historic road workers’ camp for a breather, before taking to the trail itself. We follow the Hollyford River through a lovely native forest to a well-equipped, comfortable wilderness lodge. Pyke River Lodge is a magic place – it has absolute seclusion nestled in the midst of Fiordland National Park – but despite its isolation, has private rooms, hot showers, and awesome meals. We’ll also have another opportunity to see some glow worms as we’ll head out after dinner to Pyke River Lodge’s own glow worm grotto.

ACCOMMODATION: Pyke River Lodge (B,L,D)

Monday Milford Track Guided Walk - Hike in beech forest

We start the day by crossing Clinton River and wandering through unique beech forest to Hirere Falls, where we have lunch. After crossing the Prairie, the track gets a little steeper as we climb up to Pompolona Lodge. Today’s highlights include distinctive beech forest, all sorts of spectacular plants and occasional tantalizing glimpses of the way ahead (and up!) to Milford Sound.

ACCOMMODATION: Pompolona Lodge (B,L,D)

Monday Hollyford Track Guided Walk - Hike to Lake Alabaster and alongside Lake McKerrow

Today we hike to Lake Alabaster which is often shrouded in fog, giving it a wonderfully moody, misty feel in the morning. We then check out the podocarp rainforest in the area before hiking alongside Lake McKerrow towards the coast. This section of the track can be a little challenging, but don’t worry, there’s a jet boat waiting to pick us up and take us to Martins Bay Lodge at the end of the day. Because the Lodge is very close to the sea and on the banks of a river, tonight, after a hot shower, you can dine on kaimoana, or seafood, the traditional fare of the Maori people in this area.  

ACCOMMODATION: Martins Bay Lodge (B,L,D)

Andrew: “Martins Bay Lodge has a great little backcountry airstrip, sort of Alaska-style, and when I have friends come to stay, flying them into Martins Bay is always at the top of my list! The wild craggy mountains of Fiordland National Park, Lake McKerrow, the rainforest and the waterfalls - simply stunning, I love it!”

Tuesday Milford Track Guided Walk - Hike McKinnon Pass

Today is the most spectacular day of the Milford Track! We climb a series of switchbacks to cross McKinnon Pass. From the top of the Pass, the views of the Arthur Valley and the surrounding peaks are just magnificent. We’ll lunch at Pass Hut, then head down the pass to Quintin Lodge. Once we’ve arrived, those who are keen can take a 90-minute round-trip to see the Sutherland Falls - the fifth highest waterfall in the world.

ACCOMMODATION: Quintin Lodge (B,L,D)

Tuesday Scenic flight and overnight Milford Cruise boat on Milford Sound

This morning starts with a jet boat trip to Martins Bay beach for a chance to explore the four mile stretch of sand dunes and lagoon. After returning to Martins Bay Lodge we’ll take an unforgettable flight through the canyons and valleys of the Darran Mountains to Milford Sound, and then down to Milford Sound village. After lunch, we’ll board the Milford Mariner cruise boat, which has all the mod cons, but still maintains an old-world charm. You’ll have the chance to explore the fiord by sea kayak or tender craft, and then we’ll head northwest to watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea and visit the resident seal population lazing on the rocks. At some point along the journey, we’ll probably be visited by Milford Sound’s local pod of dolphins, who like nothing more than to play in the wave made by the boat’s bow.

ACCOMMODATION: Milford Mariner on Milford Sound (B,L,D)

Wednesday Milford Track Guided Walk - Hike to Milford Sound

This is your last day on the track. It’s 13 miles (21km) of varied terrain, slightly downhill, with no significant climbing. If you weren't in top shape by the time you started your ACTIVE NEW ZEALAND trip, you certainly will be by now! The small waterfalls to be found just off the track make for a delightful day. You’ll be picked up at Sand fly Point this afternoon for a short cruise to the jetty, and arrive at Mitre Peak Lodge for the last night in Milford Sound. Now we’re back in civilization - but you’ll almost regret it!

ACCOMMODATION: Mitre Peak Lodge (B,L,D)

Wednesday Hollyford Track Guided Walk - Return to Queenstown

Upon arrival back in Milford Sound, we’ll drive through to the lakeside village of Te Anau for lunch, before a short drive back through to Queenstown leaving you with a free afternoon to enjoy all to yourself.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B,L)

Thursday Milford Track Guided Walk - Milford Sound boat cruise

After breakfast we have a morning boat cruise on Milford Sound. After exploring the full length of Milford Sound, we’ll head back to the jetty and drive back to Queenstown via Te Anau, arriving in the late afternoon. An option today is to take a scenic helicopter flight from Milford Sound back to Queenstown. It’s a stunning flight and will get you back in time for a free afternoon in Queenstown to enjoy all to yourself (scenic helicopter flight option about US$340 per person). This evening we’ll meet up with those that hiked the Hollyford Track to catch up on our experiences over dinner.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B,L,D)

Thursday Hollyford Track Guided Walk - Hike Ben Lomond

After a relaxed breakfast we’ll ride up the Queenstown Gondola which climbs its way to the top of a tree-covered rocky crag, known as Bob’s Peak, to start an alpine hike. Ben Lomond, one of Queenstown’s prominent peaks, was named by the early Scottish settlers in the area who were reminded of the highlands of their home country. From Bob’s Peak, we hike through open alpine tussock-land to the Ben Lomond saddle where you’ll find yourself immersed in amazing views over Queenstown Bay and Lake Wakatipu which are themselves dwarfed by the surrounding mountains of the Southern Alps. For those keen to press on to the top, Ben Lomond’s summit reveals views of Mt. Earnslaw and Mt. Aspiring, two of New Zealand’s highest peaks. This evening we’ll meet up with those that hiked the Milford Track to chat about our experiences over dinner.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B,L,D)

Friday - Hiking the Sam Summers Loop Track, visit local winery

After breakfast, we head out around Lake Wakatipu to 12 Mile Delta where we’ll hike the Sam Summers Track. The area was mined for gold until the 1930’s and there are still many relics to be seen along the way. After this hike, we’ll head to the historic village of Arrowtown for lunch before continuing on to Amisfield Winery. This region’s dry and sunny climate is ideal for grape growing, and is becoming well known for producing world-class, cool-climate Pinot Noir, and other quality wines. We’ll enjoy a glass or two, and then head north to Lake Ohau Lodge. Here we’re staying beside a beautiful alpine lake, with stunning views stretching across to Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps.

ACCOMMODATION: Lake Ohau Lodge, Lake Ohau. (B,L,D)

Saturday - Hike in Mt. Cook National Park

It’s a short drive to Mt. Cook Village, where we have a stunning and little-known day hike up to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. This area has a unique alpine environment, and includes endemic flora such as Ranunculus lyallii - the world’s largest buttercup, more commonly known as the Mt. Cook Lily. It’s a tough three-hour slog up this track, but you’ll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the peaks of the Main Divide forever! Many of our clients have said this is the greatest hike they have ever done, and it’s a splendid way to finish off a great trip. There are other hiking options too though for those who’d like to take it a little easier. The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it’s a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the ridge hike, we’ll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs! After hiking, it’s well under two hours to Lake Tekapo Village. You’ll spend your last night in New Zealand in one last beautiful location, beside the sky-blue Lake Tekapo, with the mountains shining in the background.

ACCOMMODATION: Lakeside lodgings, Lake Tekapo. (B,L,D)

Sunday - Depart for home

The Manuka is a backcountry wilderness trip. You’ll be staying in the highest level of accommodations available in the remote places we take you. While it features more creature comforts than some of our other trips, it’s not a scenic tour of the luxury hotels of the South Island. We prefer to stay in comfortable bed and breakfasts, lodges and apartments. Rooming is based on twin-share, although single rooms are available upon request. Rooming on the Milford Track Guided Walk is in 4-6 bed bunk rooms - again private rooms are available upon request. As there's a variety of accommodations on this trip, most places will have private bathrooms and one or two will have shared bathrooms - so we may ask you to share a bathroom with other group members on occasion.

The trip fare is US$3,799.



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