Day 1: Christchurch – Punakaiki – Trip Orientation and Welcome Dinner
We’ll meet in the “Garden City” of Christchurch: This tour will entail a pre-trip overnight in Christchurch on March 8, giving us a chance to wander through this proud city that has rebuilt itself since the 2011 earthquakes. After meeting our guide at the pre-trip hotel (specific hotel to be confirmed) at 9 a.m. today we’ll drive to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass stopping for a short hike near the summit of the pass. Arthur’s Pass is the highest pass over the Southern Alps. (Long before surveyor Arthur Dudley Dobson found his way over the pass in 1864, it was known to Maori hunting parties as a route between the east and west.) Additionally, we’ll hike on the Inland Pack Track, created in the mid 1800's for gold miners to move through the area to the Pororari River Canyon. En route to our overnight accommodation we’ll visit Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, a heavily eroded and dramatically beautiful limestone area where the sea bursts through several vertical blowholes during high tide. Our guide will orient us to the trip’s adventures, and we’ll enjoy dinner together. Hike: 2-4 hours. 1st hike – 3.2km/2miles/200 m/655 ft gained. 2nd hike – 11km / 7 miles / 200m /655 ft gained and lost. Drive: 4.5 hours. Meals: L, D. Overnight: Havenz/The Treehouse and Oranui.
Day 2: Hokitika – West Coast Wilderness Cycleway
We’ll get fitted out with bikes in Hokitika, founded in 1864 and the center of New Zealand’s West Coast Gold Rush, and head out on a morning bike ride on the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Milltown toward Kumara. To quote the Trail’s website: “No one likes a bumpy bottom. And on these flat, even trails you can sit back, relax and just soak up the scenery. Or speeeeed along, giggling and squealing excitedly." We’ll drive to Fox Glacier in the afternoon. Bicycling: 3-4 hours cycling: Option 1 -37kms/ 20 miles, 330m/1000 ft elevation lost, 90m/300ft gained; Option 2 – 15km/9 miles, 1000 ft elevation lost, 330m/1000 ft elevation lost, 90m/300ft gained. Drive: 3.5 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: Fox Glacier Mountain View B&B and Ropatinis Homestay B&B. Note: both B&B’s are very nice and are located close to each other.
Day 3: Okarito Sea Kayaking and Fox Glacier Hike
We’ll head to Okarito Lagoon for kayaking in the morning. The Lagoon is huge area of shallow open water and tidal flats waiting to be explored, and the perfect location for sheltered sea kayaking. It is surrounded by lush native rainforest, above which rise the towering snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps. The area is an important feeding ground for thousands of wading birds that seem relatively unruffled by the wide-eyed people drifting quietly by in kayaks. Our Okarito kayaking outing is self-guided and the local kayak company will give a full briefing, and will provide maps and natural history interpretation books. We’ll return to Fox Glacier in the afternoon for a hike to the terminal face of the glacier. Fox Glacier is fed by four alpine glaciers and falls 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) on its 13 kilometer/8 mile journey from the Southern Alps down to the coast, having the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 meters/980 feet above sea level. Although retreating throughout much of the last 100 years, it has been advancing since 1985. There is also the option of taking a scenic helicopter flight or a heli-hike to hike on the upper reaches of the glacier (guided heli hike - $399NZD). Sea kayaking: 3-4 hours. Hike: 3-5 miles and approximately 300 ft elevation gain and loss. Drive: 1.5 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: Fox Glacier Mountain View B&B and and Ropatinis Homestay B&B.
Day 4: Aspiring National Park and Wanaka
There will be time this morning for another hike in the glacier region, possibly a circuit of Lake Matheson, famous for its reflected views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. A traditional mahinga kai (food gathering place) for Maori people, the lake contains long finned eel, as well as being home to many water birds. We’ll then drive through South Westland World Heritage Area stopping at Ship Creek and Blue Pools on Haast Pass for short hikes, or alternatively, we’ll enjoy a more challenging five hour option on The Brewster Track. The Track starts near Haast Pass and climbs steeply up to the bush line at 1160 meters (700 m altitude gain), where the views are stunning. It is possible to go further along the ridge and visit the Brewster Hut, which sits in a likewise stunning alpine setting. Hike: 2 or 5 hours. Brewster Hike: 5 kilometers/3 miles, 1160 meters/2300 ft elevation gain and loss. Drive: 4.5 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: Wanaka Edgewater Resort.
Day 5: Aspiring National Park and Cadrona
Today we’ll hike to Rob Roy Glacier in Aspiring National Park. The Rob Roy Glacier Track leads you into Mount Aspiring National Park, an amazing world of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. From Wanaka, the experience begins with a one hour drive along the beautiful Matukituki Valley into the national park. At the road's end, the track follows Rob Roy Stream through beech forest, where we’ll enjoy waterfalls and the luxuriant understory of ferns and mosses. At the tree line, the forest gives way to alpine vegetation and spectacular views of the hanging glaciers beneath Mount Rob Roy. We’ll settle into our fun hotel, the Cardrona Hotel, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels, for the evening. The Cardrona settlement began in the 1860s as hundreds of prospectors flocked to the area chasing the miner’s dream. The Cardrona Hotel was built during this time (no worries, it has since been updated) when it was one of four hotels in the township offering accommodation, livery services and a coaching stop for gold miners and itinerant travelers. It rustic charm, stunning mountain setting and rich history are legendary, and behind the historic façade lies a stunning beer garden, charming hotel rooms, and an excellent restaurant serving traditional pub fare.Hike: 4 hours, 10 km/6 miles, 400 meters/1300ft elevation gain and loss. Drive: 2 hours. Meals: B, L.Overnight: Cardrona Hotel.
Day 6: Te Anau – Kepler Track
We’ll drive to Te Anau in the morning on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island at the border of Fjorland National Park. Many people travel to Te Anau to visit the famous nearby fjords of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and as a base for undertaking the Milford Track and the Kepler Track: we’ll experience part of the latter this afternoon when we hike from Rainbow Reach to Shallow Bay. (By the way, Doubtful Sound was named 'Doubtful Harbour' in 1770 by Captain Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail. It was later renamed Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers, although it is technically a fjord, and not a sound.) A more challenging eight hour option today would be to climb Mount Luxmore, also on the Kepler Track, which would be a full day of hiking. Those interested in enjoying the Shallow Bay hike could do so on a self-guided basis while others could hike up Mount Luxmore with the guide. We’ll toast the day in our chic, 4-star hotel surrounded by extensive gardens overlooking spectacular Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland ranges. Hike: 3 hours or 8 hours, 13km/9 miles, 1000m/3300ft elevation gain and loss; easier option to Shallow Bay and back: 6kms/4 miles with little elevation gain or loss. Drive: 3 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: Te Anau Distinction Hotel.
Day 7: Te Anau – Milford Sound – Routeburn Track
Today we’ll travel to Milford Sound, named after Milford Haven Waterway, a natural harbor in Wales, experiencing one of the most stunning drives in New Zealand. On arrival at Milford Sound we’ll board a boat for a cruise on the fiord to Anita Bay. After the cruise we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch near the Homer Saddle and hike in the afternoon to Key Summit, a fabulous hike, on the renowned Routeburn Track, which wends through meadows, alpine gardens and ice-carved valleys below the peaks of the Southern Alps. Cruise: 2 hours. Hike: 3 hours, 3.4kms/2.5 miles, 420m/1400 ft elevation gained and lost. Drive: 2.5 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: Te Anau Distinction Hotel.
Day 8: Queenstown – Ben Lomond
We’ll drive to beautiful Queenstown in the morning. We’ll hike up Ben Lomond in the afternoon for a spectacular vantage point over Queenstown. Ben Lomond was named by an early shepherd after a distinctive mountain of the same name in the Scottish Highlands; it lies just 4 kilometers / 2.5 miles northwest of the town center. Hike: 4 hour 6.5kms/4 miles, 600 meters/1900 ft gained and lost to saddle. Note option of taking a gondola part way up. We’ll be staying in the beautiful, circa 1874, Historic Stonehouse tonight in spacious apartments just a two minute walk from central Queenstown. Drive: 2.5 hours. Meals: B, L. Overnight: The Historic Stonehouse.
Day 9: Queenstown
We’ll relax during a free day for activities or rest. (Some of the many options will be listed in our Trip Planner.) Queenstown, surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal Lake Wakitipu, is known for its stunning scenery, huge range of activities and warm welcome. While our local guide will drive back up to Christchurch today, Deborah Lewis will remain with you and share the day’s fun with you. Please note – if anyone needs to get back to Christchurch, they would be welcome to join the guide for the drive up (approx. 7 hours). Overnight: The Historic Stonehouse. Meals: B.
Day 10: Depart Queenstown
After breakfast we’ll offer one group transfer to the Queenstown Airport by 9:00 for departure to the U.S. or other destinations. Meals: B.
Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual hikes, activities and sites may vary due to season, special events or weather. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. We are always on the look-out for fun surprises to add to the itinerary.