Arrive in picturesque Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of the world. Meet your guides and your fellow group members at the hotel reception for an orientation before our welcome dinner.
Today we take a scenic drive along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the small town of Glenorchy at the head of the lake. You’ll soon realize why so many feature films and TV commercials have been filmed in the area – the scenery is simply stunning. We continue our journey north crossing over the glaciated waters of the Dart River and on to the Routeburn track. We’ll hike the Routeburn Nature Walk at the start of the Track, as well as one or two other hikes along the way, before returning to Queenstown. If you prefer to take the day off from this excursion, Queenstown has many activities you can book as an optional extra, ranging from relaxed to thrilling experiences. These can be booked the night before through your guide. (4 miles hiking, 2-4 hours)
Scenic Suites Queenstown (B,L,D)
We depart Queenstown this morning to journey into Fiordland National Park today, stopping for short hikes along the way. The drive into Milford Sound is truly spectacular. In the afternoon, set sail on the Milford Mariner or Milford Wanderer on the magnificent Milford Sound, cruising the full length of the fjord with a nature guide. You’ll spend the night onboard the ship moored in a sheltered cove.
Milford Mariner or Milford Wanderer (B,L,D)
After a leisurely breakfast on the ship, we leave Milford Sound and drive to the idyllic town of Wanaka. On the way we stop at the Divide of the Southern Alps to hike up to Key Summit, which provides panoramic views of the Southern Alps. (3 hours hiking: 2.1 miles)
Oakridge Resort (B,L,D)
Hit the trails this morning, hiking through glacier-carved landscapes to
Diamond Lake and then up to the summit of Rocky Mountain. Here, take
in a stunning vista of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. (4.5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Oakridge Resort (B,L,D)
We follow the shores of Lakes Hawea and Wanaka towards Haast Pass. Once over the pass we bid farewell to the Central Lakes District and follow the Haast River out to the West Coast and the settlement of Haast. From Haast we continue up the coast to the alpine township of Franz Josef Glacier. This is another incredibly scenic drive with impressive lake, mountain, river and ocean views. We have many short hike options on the way. Your guides will choose the best hikes depending on the weather conditions on the day. We finish the day in Franz Josef Glacier. With a free night tonight you can choose your own dining option in Franz Josef. Your guides will advise the best restaurant for you. (5-7 miles hiking, 2-4 hours)
Te Waonui Forest Retreat (B,L)
Set out on a hike this morning with our guide to explore the Franz Josef area by foot. Weather permitting, perhaps choose to book an optional flightseeing helicopter ride for views of the glacier (additional cost). This afternoon, relax at a café, or enjoy the glacier hot pools. (2 miles hiking, 2–3 hours)
Te Waonui Forest Retreat (B,D)
We begin the day with a hike in the valley below Franz Josef Glacier before continuing north to the seaside hamlet of Okarito. We hike through lush rainforest on a trail above the ocean before ascending up to the lookout. With 360 degree views of the area we gain a true appreciation of the incredible diversity of the area: to the west we have views of the wild coastline, while turning east the glaciated Southern Alps tower dramatically above the rainforest. On a clear day we’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Mt Cook (known as Mt Aoraki in Māori - New Zealand’s highest peak) with Mt Tasman on its flank. From Okarito we continue on to the frontier town of Hokitika. After checking into our accommodation we have the option of exploring artisan stores around the town. We’re also free to take a relaxing stroll along the wild beach adjacent to our accommodation. (5 miles hiking, 2.5 hours)
Beachfront Hotel Hokitika (B,L,D)
We take a scenic coastal drive up to Punakaiki to explore Paparoa National Park. The limestone formations in the Park make this area geologically unique compared to the other areas we visit on the trip. The three hikes we do today offer different perspectives, beginning with the Inland Pack Track and Pororari River Gorge. This hike takes us through lush native NZ forest and along a dramatic river gorge with towering limestone cliffs. The Truman Track is a short hike that winds its way through the bush to a cliff overlooking the Tasman Sea, showcasing some impressive native tress on the way. A stroll around Dolomite Point gives dramatic views of the Pancake Rocks formation before arriving at our beachfront hotel. (6 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Punakaiki Resort (B,L,D)
Back in the vehicle we embark on our final scenic drive that takes us north along the Coast before turning inland to follow the Buller River to the town of Murchison. Here we’ll be donning our wetsuits and driving to the put in for our class III-IV raft trip through the Buller Gorge. We experience exhilarating whitewater as the Buller River surges through the confines of granite gorges with lush beech forest above. From there we drive to Kaiteriteri, gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. From Kaiteriteri we can catch a water taxi into the Abel Tasman National Park until we reach the Lodge.
Awaroa Lodge (B,L,D)
Spend the day exploring the spectacular Tonga Island Marine Reserve by
sea kayak. Paddle into inlets and intimate coves, keeping an eye out for
dolphins, fur seals, and little blue penguins. From our take-out point on the
beach at Onetahuti, hike the Coast Track back to our lodge. (1 mile hiking,
1 hour; 4–5 miles paddling, 4–5 hours)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before returning via water taxi to Kaiteriteri. This
afternoon, transfer to the Nelson airport for your flight home.