This classic tour begins in the 'adventure capital' Queenstown where we hike to the peak of Ben Lomond for extensive panoramic views over the surrounding region. From Queenstown we travel through the rolling hills of Central Otago, an area steeped in gold-mining history, which will provide a wonderful contrast to the ensuing days' walks that allow us to explore the native forests and dramatic seascapes of the windswept Catlins Coast. Continuing further south we visit unique Stewart Island, for a change of pace. Here we enjoy free time to explore this remote island and potentially sight New Zealand's flightless bird - the Kiwi - in its natural habitat. The Island is one of the few places in the country with the greatest chance of seeing this very shy creature. Returning to the mainland we travel north to Te Anau for a walk in the lower reaches of Fjordland National Park. A cruise on Milford Sound is breathtaking before a spectacular helicopter flight over dramatic mountain peaks into 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. We are truly surrounded by wilderness as there is no other habitation in this area. A short boat ride then sees us hiking through other-worldly rainforest on the Hollyford Track before we return to Te Anau. We travel back to Queenstown reflecting on a week of exceptional walking experiences.
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 your accommodation in Queenstown and start our adventure with a mountain hike. We take the gondola above the township and then access the walking track to Ben Lomond, meandering our way to the summit. With the amazing 360 degree views over Lake Wakitipu and the Queenstown basin, this is an inspiring start to our tour. After descending, we depart via the rugged Kawarau Gorge to Central Otago, following the Clutha River. Travelling via quiet backcountry roads we enter the Otago historical goldmining region and on some short trails we explore the gold mining past that links NZ to Australia and California as miners followed one elusive dream after another. Tonight we stay beside Lake Roxburgh, an artificial lake formed by damming the Clutha River during one of the first hydro-electric power projects in the South Island. The Roxburgh Hydro is now an eight unit power station supplying a significant amount of power to the South Island.
NOTE: The night before your tour departs your guide will call your pre tour accommodation to advise your pick-up time the following morning. (Please make sure you have given us information as to where you are staying). If you are not around when your guide calls they will leave a message at reception – its really important that you check with reception if you have not heard from your guide directly. If for any reason you have not heard from your guide by the morning of the tour please call us in the NZ office on 0800 00 11 66 (from within NZ).
Today we witness some changes in the landscape as we leave the Otago region and then follow the coast en route to the Catlins Conservation Park. This region is the most unexplored of our conservation regions and the trails on the rugged coast are unbelievable. Over this and the following day, we walk the trails to empty beaches, beautiful waterfalls and even a petrified forest revealed on the beach. The area is also known for its marine wildlife, Yellow Eyed penguins and the rare Hectors dolphin are often seen. The most southerly point on the South Island (Slope Point) is found along the Catlins coast.
From our base we venture forth to explore and walk the trails of the Catlins coast, visiting magnificent waterfalls and a bay with a resident seal population. We hike out to a remote lighthouse, occasionally encountering sea-lions and even dolphins if we are lucky. Our activities will be tailored to the weather and individual interest. In the late afternoon we enjoy a spectacular drive around the windswept coast to the town of Bluff. Here we meet the ferry for a 1 hour crossing to Stewart Island off the southern coast. Home of New Zealand's newest national park and the remote community of Oban, we arrive on the island ready for a full day of activity tomorrow.
Stewart Island is very diverse and this is a free day to allow you to wander. The options range from a visit to the unique predator-free Ulva Island, to sea kayaking the interior coastline around Patterson Inlet or a hike on the many coastal walkways, such as a section of the Rakiura Great Walk. Whatever the option, this is a magic day in a magic location.
Departing on the early ferry from Stewart Island back to the mainland, we travel through small towns and rural landscapes to Te Anau, on the edge of World Heritage Fjordland National Park. We explore on foot with a 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, depending on the weather. This evening we have a briefing for our Hollyford excursion tomorrow and an evening meal in Te Anau before we drive to our remote lodge accommodation for overnight.
Benefiting from our overnight location, we have a short drive into Milford Sound to board a public cruise down the Sound beneath the sheer rock walls that tower above the launch. By late morning we are back onshore and prepare to board a helicopter for the truly spectacular flight over the peaks amongst which we just cruised and on over the rugged west coast to Martin's Bay. On arrival we meet our hosts and are treated to a picnic lunch, after which we explore 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 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 18km 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. We drive back to Te Anau for overnight, reflecting on the best kept secret of the south which we have been fortunate enough to share.
After breakfast we travel back to Queenstown to complete our journey. Trip arrangements end early afternoon, on arrival in Queenstown where we will deliver you to your accommodation or the airport. (Please do not book onward flights departing before 15:00hrs)
Per Person, Twin Share
"The wide variety of scenery, hikes, animals and a local guide is what makes this a special gem"
Carol Galaty U.S.A