ay 1 - Auckland - Rotorua - 1-2km/2 hours hiking
Meet your North Island guide and the rest of the group in the Heritage Hotel foyer at 7am before driving south through the classic patchwork green farming country alongside the Waikato River. Arriving at the Waitomo Caves area descend into the vaulted galleries of the Ruakuri Cave with its limestone formations and crystals. Be captivated by the thousands of tiny glowworms that cling to the cave ceiling and mimic a starlit night sky. Later we emerge into the sunshine and wander on a loop trail through an outstanding limestone canyon. We arrive in the volcanically active area of Rotorua late afternoon. Rotorua is also the centre of Maori cultural tourism in New Zealand and tonight we enjoy an evening meal and cultural performance. Distinction Hotel, Rotorua. Includes lunch and dinner.
Day 2 - Rotorua - Lake Taupo - 8km/5 hours hiking
Hike alongside the beautifully clear Lake Tarawera, enjoying the shade that towering tree ferns and ignimbrite cliffs offer. Plop into the water to cool off at any one of the tiny pumice beaches as you wait for the others to catch up. There are astonishing views all along this trail, giving glimpses of how expansive this massive wilderness of forest, lakes and volcanoes really is. In the afternoon we explore some of the amazing thermal areas located a little south of Rotorua. Wander along boardwalks that connect pools of bubbling mud, mineral-tainted hot pools and plumes of rising steam as you wonder at this unique area. Grab a cuppa before we drive toward the lakeside town of Taupo. At Huka Falls feel the power as the huge Waikato River gets pinched through a narrow rock corridor. Our accommodation is in Taupo. Relax with a drink and enjoy the views. Beechtree Suites, Taupo (Note: January 26th 2017 departure is accommodated at Millenium Hotel, Lake Taupo). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 3 - Tongariro - 8km/2-4 hours hiking
We drive around Lake Taupo's shores to New Zealand's first national park - Tongariro. Take a leisurely morning walk through stunning forest around the slopes of Mt Pihanga and to the mystical Lake Rotopounamu (Lake of Greenstone). The next two nights are spent in a hotel on the edge of the park, providing a great opportunity for you to explore the area at your leisure. Join the guide this afternoon for a great walk to Taranaki Falls, cascading 20 metres over a 15,000 year-old lava flow. Enjoy dinner with the group in the comfort of the Chateau. Chateau Tongariro, Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 4 - Tongariro - 23km/6-8 hours hiking
Join the guide today for a full days walking on the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, regarded as one of the best day walks in the world. The track is extremely well built and even a novice hiker will enjoy the gradual ascent up to the top of Mt Tongariro. Your guide will set a pace that lets you stop and admire the views of the Red Crater, Emerald Lakes and steaming vents that make this hike so iconic. It will all be worth it when you celebrate at dinner with a bottle of fine New Zealand wine. Those who prefer a more restful day can find plenty to do at the village: Soda Springs walk, Taranaki Falls walk, or simply drink coffee and view the great exhibits at the Park Visitor Centre. Enjoy your second night in this alpine village. Chateau Tongariro, Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 5 - Tongariro - Wellington
Rest your legs this morning as we drive south through rolling hill country to the capital city of Wellington. The rest of the afternoon is yours, so take your time as you stroll along the fabulous waterfront and through the busy streets of this buzzing wee city. Absorb some of New Zealands history in the national museum - Te Papa, explore the waterfront or simply get lost admiring the heritage houses along one of the many improbably steep streets. Nowhere is very far in Wellington. You are spoilt for choice for places to dine this evening, so take your pick. Distinction Hotel, Wellington. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Day 6 - Wellington - Abel Tasman National Park - 11.7km/4 hours hiking
Before boarding your plane grab a fast breakfast at one of the groovy airport cafes. Enjoy your scenic flight over Cook Strait as you hop from the North to the South Island. Your southern guide will meet you at the Nelson airport before your picturesque drive to Kaiteriteri. This seaside village is the gateway to the popular Abel Tasman National Park, and a trendy vacation spot for kiwis. Board a water taxi for a jaunt into the heart of the National Park. Step ashore at Bark Bay and follow the famed Abel Tasman coastal track through native forests and along golden sand beaches. A well-formed trail leads us up and over a gentle ridge into Torrent Bay, where the lovely clear fresh waters of Cleopatra's Pool may tempt you to take a dip or for those more daring a slide down the naturally formed hydro-slide! At Anchorage we will meet the water taxi for a return journey to Kaiteriteri. On our return to Nelson there is time to freshen up before strolling downtown for dinner, the town centre is well known for its vibrant and arty atmosphere. Rutherford Hotel, Nelson. Includes lunch and dinner.
Day 7 - Nelson - Punakaiki - 6km/3 hours hiking
On the way to the West Coast we stop for a remarkable hike to marvel at natural flames which have been burning since the 1920's. We access this phenomenon with a local guide over a privately owned working deer farm. Unlike the Eternal Flames of the Chimera in Turkey these flames are surrounded by lush tree ferns and beech forest. A cup of 'billy tea' and hot cakes prepared over the flames gives this experience a distinctly kiwi flavour. We continue our journey alongside the mighty Buller River as it cuts through the massive wilderness of the upper South Island, arriving on the coast at Westport. We take a short stroll at Cape Foulwind to view a colony of New Zealand fur seals playfully splashing around in the rock pools. We then head south to catch the sunset at Punakaiki and visit a local pub for dinner. Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 8 - Punakaiki - 11km/4 hours hiking
Hike the Inland Pack Track from Punakaiki to Pororari. This historic route was once used by prospectors and miners to avoid the immense coastal cliffs while travelling the West Coast. Pass through deep limestone canyons, towering rainforests and groves of Nikau Palms. You may not be able to resist a speedy swim in one of the many deep clear pools you pass on the way! After lunch hike along the Truman track to reach stunning waterfalls, sea cliffs and wild beaches. And of course no visit to Punakaiki is complete without a trip to the Pancake Rocks and blowholes. We walk at high tide when the blowholes are most impressive, blasting sprays of salt water skyward. Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 9 - Punakaiki - Christchurch - 4km/2 hours hiking
This remarkable highway takes us from the lush green rainforests of the West Coast and over the glaciated Southern Alps to the parched soft yellow savannahs of Canterbury. This is one of the most cleverly engineered roads in New Zealand. From Arthurs Pass hike (unguided) four kilometres down to the village on a well-formed walking track. The trail has superb mountain views, thundering waterfalls and a diverse range of alpine plants. We catch a glimpse of our colonial past as we pass Jacks Hut, a restored roadmans cottage. East of the pass, stretch your legs again and stroll around the enchanting limestone outcrops of Kura Tawhiti (Castle Hill). This area was an important meeting place and food gathering area for early Maori people. Interestingly it was also bestowed as a "spiritual centre of the universe" by the Dalai Lama when he visited in 2002. Today it is a haven for rock climbers who climb and boulder on the multitude of rock forms. Arrive in Christchurch in the mid afternoon, time to explore the inner district and see some of the innovative and exciting methods used to rebuild the heart of the city following the devastating 2011 earthquake. Hotel Ibis. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Day 10 - Christchurch - Aoraki/Mount Cook - 2km/1 hour hiking
Our mid-morning departure allows time to discover some city cafes or see one of the parks in the Garden City. Our drive west takes us to Lake Tekapo, famous for its stunning turquoise waters and the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd, perched daintily by the lake. Hike up through wilding conifers and tussock grasslands to the summit of Mt John. Revel in the 360-degree views of the Patagonia-like landscape. The sweeping Mackenzie basin is a sparsely populated region in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps; tawny-brown drylands, braided riverbeds and startling glacial lakes extend to the horizon. Arrive at Aoraki/Mount Cook in the late afternoon. Relax and enjoy breathtaking views of New Zealand's highest mountain (3,724 metres). Aoraki / Mount Cook Alpine Lodge. Includes Includes lunch and dinner.
Day 11 - Mt Cook - 5-8km/4 hours hiking
Hike up to Sealey Tarns and enjoy the awesome views of Mt Sefton, Mueller Glacier and across the Hooker Valley to Aoraki/Mount Cook. If youre feeling energetic, join the guide for a further climb from the tarns up to the crest of Mueller Ridge for even wider views of this magnificent alpine landscape. Those not wanting to climb to Sealey or Mueller can take the flatter option and walk up the Hooker Valley (unguided), enjoying close up views of the Mueller and Hooker Glaciers on the way. Aoraki / Mount Cook Alpine Lodge. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 12 - Mt Cook - Wanaka - 2km/1 hour hiking
Travel up the Tasman Valley towards the longest glacier in New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier. Take a short walk through the glacial moraine and board a custom-built boat for a unique spin around the terminal lake. Like most glaciers in the world the Tasman Glacier is retreating and the terminal lake increases in size every year. This dynamic environment is dotted with icebergs of all shapes and sizes from the collapsing terminal wall of the glacier. Our drive to Wanaka follows the Mackenzie country south before climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district. Wanaka is a lovely holiday town on the lake-side. Edgewater Resort, Wanaka. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Day 13 - Wanaka - Queenstown - 10km/4 hours hiking
A beautiful drive alongside Lake Wanaka leads us to Aspiring National Park. We hike up the Matukituki Valley beneath some fine peaks before turning up the Rob Roy side stream and climbing abruptly to the bushline. This gorgeous trail through virgin beech forest emerges into a splendid alpine basin below the bulking mass of the Rob Roy Glacier. Watch water tumble off the glaciers snout as you relax and enjoy lunch. Keep an eye out for cheeky kea (alpine parrot). You probably wont need to look too hard as these curious birds normally call in when food is around (although its important to never offer them any titbits and upset their natural foraging behaviour)! After the hike grab a drink and unwind on the lawn of the famous old drovers hotel at Cardrona, before we drive over the Crown Range and into the lively scene of Queenstown. Your tour finishes here in the late afternoon. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Adventures from Queenstown Queenstown is a beautiful town tucked under the mountains and beside the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu. The area offers a huge number of adventure activities on offer there. You might like to take a thrilling jetboat ride, face your fears on the highest bungy in New Zealand, or paddle peacefully down a river on an inflatable ‘funyak’.
Many of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks start within reach of Queenstown. The dramatic Hollyford Track in the heart of Fiordland National Park is a wonderful guided walk option. The unforgettable Milford Sound is a half-day drive from Queenstown. Steep cliffs and dense rainforest border this spectacular fiord that can be explored by boat. Whatever your preference, we can help you with any post-trip activities that you might like to add on to your New Zealand adventure.
Hiking & Fitness
Grade B* Up to 4-5 hours of physical activity per day. At times carrying a backpack of 10-11lbs. Tracks generally in good condition. Altitude gains of up to 2000ft on harder days. No hiking experience necessary
*The full (optional) Tongariro Alpine Crossing on day 4 takes 6-7 hours and has an altitude gain of 2400ft.
Additional trip information and FAQ