The deep south of New Zealand is home to some of the country's most pristine and spectacular landscapes. The Fiordland National Park, home to the world renowned Milford Sound, and Stewart Island offer walkers the choice of an exceptional array of day hikes, which we feature on this superb week of walking. This trip begins in the 'adventure capital' Queenstown where we hike the lower slopes of Ben Lomond for extensive panoramic views over Lake Wakitipu before travelling to Invercargill. Crossing over to Stewart Island you will enjoy some short walks as well as a free day to explore this remote island on foot, kayak or even try to sight New Zealand's iconic flightless bird - the Kiwi. Stewart Island is one of the few places in the country with the greatest chance of seeing this very shy creature. Returning to the mainland, travel to Te Anau for walks in Fiordland National Park before boarding a breathtaking helicopter flight over dramatic peaks into uninhabited Martins Bay, the heart of the Hollyford region. We enjoy an afternoon walk along the rugged coastline, which is frequented by penguins and seals in season, before settling into our cosy lodge for the night. The trip continues with a walk along the Hollyford Valley and a section of the Routeburn Track before heading back to Queenstown.
To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the altitude, the number of pass crossings and the length of the trip.
Trails on this itinerary are largely formed paths and tracks which can involve hiking for 2-3 hours at a time. Often information panels are available to provide more information but the Catlins region is more remote. This tour is ideal for those looking to explore a region without engaging in too much trekking at one time. For you to be able to really enjoy this trip we recommend that you are to walk comfortably for a few hours at a time (with breaks included).
We recommend 60 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (either cycling, jogging or power walking) three times a week for the three months leading up to your trip.
This morning we collect you from a central location in Queenstown and start our adventure with a nearby mountain hike. We take the gondola above the township and then access the walking track to Ben Lomond, slowly meandering our way to a highpoint lookout. With the amazing views over Lake Wakitipu and the Queenstown basin this is an inspiring start to this fantastic walking trip. After descending, we depart via the rugged Kawarau Gorge, the birthplace of the Bungy jump, to New Zealand's southernmost city, Invercargill, a good base to start our journey to remote Stewart Island the following day. Overnight Invercargill.
This morning we drive a short distance to the windswept coastal town of Bluff. Here, we meet the morning ferry for the one hour (approx) crossing to Stewart Island, off the southern coast. Home to New Zealand's newest national park and the remote community of Oban, we arrive on Stewart Island ready for some walking activity. After a casual lunch we walk for about 10km (4hrs) on part of the Rakiura Track with lovely coastal views and prominent bird life. We will probably take a water taxi one way and the availability of this will influence the direction and location of our walk.
Arriving back into Oban village late in the afternoon, we have time to check into our accommodation, freshen up and explore the various options on offer for tomorrow. It’s then time to regroup for dinner, the fresh local Blue Cod, or the famous Bluff Oysters are a must try.
Stewart Island is very diverse environment and today is a free day to allow you to wander as you please. The activity options range from a visit to the unique predator-free Ulva Island, to sea kayaking the interior coastline around Patterson Inlet, or even a hike on the many coastal walkways, such as the one to Ackers Point lighthouse. Whatever you choose, this will be a magical day in a magnificent location.
Departing on the early ferry from Stewart Island back to the mainland, we then travel through small towns and rural landscapes to Te Anau, on the edge of World Heritage Fjordland National Park. Here you can enjoy a fine walk on one of the lower reaches of the Kepler track, passing through wetlands and mosses and ancient native forests. There are a couple of options for return hikes to remote and secluded bush-clad bays on either Lake Manapouri or Lake Te Anau, the choice will depend on the weather. This evening we have a briefing on the upcoming Hollyford adventure and enjoy dinner with an air of anticipation for the next couple of days.
Today we drive into the world famous Milford Sound to enjoy a few short walks and stops at points of interest along this incredibly scenic journey. By late morning we arrive at Milford Sound and prepare to board a helicopter for the truly spectacular flight over the peaks and rugged west coast to Martin's Bay in the Hollyford region. On arrival we meet our hosts and are treated to a picnic lunch. It’s then time to begin exploring this amazing landscape on foot with a walk through lush forest and coastal heath to a rocky bay. If we are lucky we may spot fur seals and the rare Fjordland Crested Penguin (in season) that inhabit these shores. Returning to Martin's Bay Lodge by jet boat we enjoy a gourmet meal and relax in cosy accommodation in this very special uninhabited wilderness location.
After a hearty breakfast we journey once again by jet boat up Lake McKerrow to the Hollyford River, the dramatic mountainscapes leaving us in awe of the beauty of this region. A little further along we leave the boat to commence our 20km hike along the Hollyford Valley, following the footsteps of early explorers through native beech forest speckled with elegantly flowing waterfalls. The undulating track brings us to the trail head, with a lunch stop and interesting interpretation of our surrounds along the way. After a short drive we arrive at our remote overnight accommodation, Knobs Flat, which puts us in the perfect spot for one final spectacular Fiordland walk the following day.
On our final morning we enjoy one more iconic walk, this time along the Routeburn Track to Key Summit, where we can take in sweeping views over the beautiful Hollyford Valley. Along the trail we will have the chance to reflect on a week of exceptional walking experiences with our new found friends before boarding the vehicle for a late afternoon drive back to Queenstown. Trip arrangements conclude with a drop off in central Queenstown. We advise not to book any departure flights this evening in case our drive home is delayed for any reason.
The wide variety of scenery, hikes, animals and a local guide is what makes this a special gem.
Carol Galaty, USA
Helicopter, jet boat, loved the Catlins, Loved Stewart Island. All good - especially the Pinot Noir!
Rosalie W, Australia, 06 Mar 2017
Per Person, Twin Share