Ultimate New Zealand Adventure

Ultimate New Zealand Adventure

Trip Highlights

  • Hike into the remote Urewera National Park to the beautiful Lake Waikaremoana
  • Complete the famous Tongariro Crossing, a spectacular day hike across volcanoes and lava flows
  • Walk into the idyllic Abel Tasman National Park and enjoy a night camping on the beach
  • Join a kiwi-spotting excursion at Okarito to see a kiwi in their natural habitat
  • Cruise into the majestic Milford Sound by boat or kayak
  • Hike up to Sealy tarns and Mueller Hut to see New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki/Mt Cook
  • Experience real back country New Zealand with wild camping and hutting

Trip Summary

The Ultimate New Zealand experience! This trip encompasses the very best that New Zealand has to offer - hike the best sections of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk and explore the volcanic wonderland of Tongariro National Park. In the South Island swim in the pristine waters of the Abel Tasman National Park and sleep under the giant Ballroom Overhang on the West Coast. Be exhilarated by the adrenalin-packed activities on offer in Queenstown or take the opportunity to escape the buzz of this alpine resort and hike in the surrounding hills. Be dwarfed by the peaks of Milford Sound and the flanks of New Zealand's highest mountain, the awe-inspring Aoraki/Mt Cook. The five multi-day hikes in this adventure are carefully chosen to highlight the diversity of New Zealand's landscapes and to experience a variety of accommodation options - including camping, back country huts, lodges and cabins, so you need to have a real sense of adventure and be able to revel in the outdoor atmosphere while sitting round a campfire.

This trip can be split into two: the 7 day Ultimate North and the 15 day Ultimate South Adventures.

Trip Grading

Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days. Pack weights of 12-15kgs on some days. Altitude gains of up to 800m. Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings. No hiking experience necessary. Agility and fitness required. You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic. Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.

Itinerary

We head south to Rotorua, with a café stop at 9am for those who missed breakfast. Rotorua has thermal areas and beautiful lakes, and with a backdrop of distant volcanoes it is quite unique. The area is also rich in Maori and early European history including the tragedy of the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption that buried a Maori village. We have a quick stop by Lake Rotorua before heading away from the beaten track, southeast into the Whirinaki. This huge park preserves a remnant of the vast forests believed to have covered the super continent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago. After a picnic lunch we hike a loop beside the stunning Whirinaki River, exploring ancient podocarp trees on our way to a waterfall. We overnight in the countryside with a mix of camping and simple cabins. Often, we are the only people here. We cook up a meal together and chill out by the flames of the outdoor brazier. Activities: 3 hours hiking, 11km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  L,D

This morning we drive east and further into the rugged forest ranges of the Te Urewera National Park. Home of the Tuhoe (Maori tribe) this area was so remote it was one of the last places in NZ where European influence was felt. After two hours winding through the most incredible rain forest we reach the western arm of the remote Lake Waikaremoana. We drive on to the southern end of the lake and stop for a picnic lunch and a chance to finish organising backpacks for the first hike. A water taxi skims us across the lake towards the trail, which forms one of New Zealand's nine Great Walks. We usually drop our packs at the lake-side hut or the campsite perched above a small beach before doing a 2 hour lake-side hike to a lovely waterfall. On return we set up camp here and as a group cook a meal. Soak up the surrounds; the reflections of wilderness in the lake, forest and mountains, bird song and tranquillity. On a still evening you can sometimes hear kiwi calls echo across the lake. Activities: 2 hours hiking, 7km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we shoulder our packs and ready ourselves for some spectacular views. We climb up to the Panekiri Range through bright green tawa and beech forest until we are 500m above the lake. from here, we hike along the range offering breathtaking vistas for many kilometres north, south and west. Stopping at Panekiri Hut, we devour a well-earned lunch before following an undulating trail along the ridge through gnarled beech forest, passing many brilliant view points before the final descent to the road end. A 20 minute early evening drive takes us to a little camping area with sweet little cabins. Here we can relax, sit on the nearby wharf and enjoy a drink. We cook a meal together in the communal kitchen. Activities: 8 hours hiking, 17km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we drive southwest to the Taupo volcanic plateau, stopping for lunch and to explore an extraordinary thermal park (entrance fee included). We stop to bathe in a natural hot river, one of those secret spots only known to locals. We also stop at Huka Falls, where we feel the spray of New Zealand's longest river, the mighty Waikato, as it plunges 11 meters into a deep circular basin. Later we arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand – a 600 sq km volcanic caldera crater created when the largest volcanic explosion known to humankind erupted in 186 AD. At Lake Taupo we either grab takeaway food (own cost) or rustle up a quick 'trailer' meal at a lovely lake-side spot on route. Here we can relax on the strange pumice beach or enjoy an evening swim. We might catch a pretty sunset before driving the last hour to the Tongariro National Park. Activities: 2 hours hiking, 4km Accommodation: Cabin or Lodge

Meals:  B,L

Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a far-sighted Maori chief who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect, sacredness, preciousness) of this land – in particular the summits of the active volcanoes. Although many hikers walk the busy one-day Alpine Crossing, only a fraction explore the remote and drier east side of this volcanic range like we are about to do, and almost no one does the side trips and short cuts we know about. Rest assured that we will hike the famous Crossing, considered one of the World's finest days walks, and we will aim to do that when there are less people about. After being dropped off at the trail start, we hike through waving tussock-grasslands near soaring volcanoes to a hut set in an enclave of native beech forest. Here we lunch before traversing stony deserts to an alpine hut at 1400m, perched on the edge of an old lava flow. From this hut there are fantastic views of the three main peaks in the park: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The latter starred as Mount Doom in Peter's Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. It's an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys. Enjoy the experience of sharing an alpine hut with hikers from all over the world. We usually sleep in the hut but very occasionally camp. Activities: 5 hours hiking, 13km Accommodation: Backcountry hut or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

Hike up through a moon-like valley of lava flows and ash fields before climbing steeply to the remarkable Emerald Lakes, which have graced the covers of many guidebooks. From here we join the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The next few hours of hiking take us through an unforgettable wonderland of lava valleys, steaming craters, and brooding volcanoes, before our descent through bonsai-like alpine foliage and mineral infused streams. In good conditions, there is an option to climb high on one of the volcanic peaks. An evening drive takes us to a lodge in the heart of the National Park, the perfect place to relax with a beer and enjoy the million-dollar views across to the volcanoes before dining in the alpine village. Activities: 6-8 hours hiking, 15km Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B,L

We begin the day by checking out the informative Park Visitor Centre before its time to go. As we drive south we leave the volcanoes to descend through the beautiful river valleys of the Rangitikei and finally along the coast to Wellington, where we arrive mid afternoon after a café break. Wellington is much more than New Zealand's stylish capital, it is also the nation's hub for arts, culture, cafés and politics. Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance. You might like to visit the museum of New Zealand, called Te Papa, or the 'Beehive' (Parliament House) to watch some political shenanigans. Many visitors immerse themselves in the vibrant café scene and accessible downtown area. Activities: 1-2 hours hiking, 1km Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B

You have the option of either a relaxing start to the day, a quick dash around Wellington CBD or a walk along the waterfront before catching the group shuttle to the airport for your short flight to Nelson, our first stop in the South Island. On arrival our South Island guide introduces us to the people who are joining the South Island portion of the trip. From Nelson, we take a picturesque drive around Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway for our two nights and three days in the Abel Tasman National Park. Our guide advises us on how to pack light as we ready ourselves for this next adventure. A drive to Caanan Downs, on Takaka Hill, takes us through groves of ancient beech forests, alpine meadows and craggy outcrops of limestone that might look familiar to fans of Middle-earth. Today’s hike starts near Harwoods Hole, a 183 metre vertical limestone shaft. We walk through beech, rata and dracophyllum forest into Moa Park, before eventually arriving at Castle Rocks hut. The hut is small, so we find a nearby clearing to pitch our lightweight tents. We come together for dinner and to chat about our day. Activities: 4 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  L,D

A relaxed breakfast prepares us for a hike through subtle changes in forest vegetation as we descend to sea level. The sparkling blue waters and golden sands of Anchorage and Torrent bays offer tantalising views along the way. On arrival at Anchorage campsite, we set up camp among groves of kanuka trees. We have time to explore more of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track with a brisk hike to Cleopatra’s Pools or the serene Watering Cove. Otherwise we can relax on the beach or take a swim – we’ve earned it! Activities: 5-6 hours hiking, 14km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline. We have a treat today because we get to paddle a waka (Maori canoe). After a traditional karakia (blessing) we learn the etiquette associated with joining a waka team. Then it’s time to climb aboard and paddle! Depending on conditions, we explore several coves on the mainland and the wildlife refuge of Adele Island, stopping for some kai (food) along the way. Our waka guide enlightens us with stories of local Maori history and customs. We paddle into the beautiful Kaiteriteri beach at around midday, where our Hiking New Zealand guide awaits with our backpacks. It’s just a short drive from the beach to the Riwaka Resurgence, where the Riwaka River emerges from the depths of the Takaka Hill. The brave among us might plunge in for a cold water swim. Our campsite tonight is near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia rivers. We enjoy an organic meal that is home-cooked by our hosts. Please Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people. With smaller groups, we hike the coastal path to Medlands Beach and return to Kaiteriteri via water taxi. Activities: 3 hours paddling, 15km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first major stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Here we observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. After lunch, we begin our hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in the Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, the park covers over 30,000 hectares. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers, wilderness areas and coastlines. The first half of the trail is on reasonably well-formed track and is relatively flat, while the second half involves multiple river crossings where the riverbed itself is our route. Some boulders here can be slippery, and good hiking shoes or boots are essential. Our guide teaches us how to cross rivers by linking arms with our companions. We collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang. Activities: 3-4 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

We splash up a beautiful side canyon, following the stream until it disappears into a cave. Our return hike will either be on the track we came in on yesterday or if the river conditions are right and the group is feeling adventurous we will follow the river all the way out the canyon, offering a great chance to use our new river-crossing skills. After hiking out, we head to the West Coast town of Punakaiki to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and seawater blowholes. Then it’s down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving gold rush town in the 1870s, Hokitika is now a great place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Maori for tools, jewellery and weapons. Tonight’s lodge accommodation is centrally located and just a short distance from the beach. Tuck in to traditional Kiwi fish and chips on the beach or eat at one of the many cafés in this bustling little seaside town. Our guide goes off duty for 24 hours from this afternoon but you will be well looked after by our local guide Chris who will meet with you on arrival in Hokitika. Activities: 3-4 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B,L

Before meeting the group grab breakfast at one of the great cafés in town. Today we get to cycle the stunning West Coast Wilderness Trail between the Arahura River bridge and the historic township of Kumara. Chris will transport us out to the trail and ride with us for a short distance before returning to the vehicle. We will pedal our way through majestic native forest, cross crystal-clear rivers, and pass old reservoirs and water races. The beautifully restored Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara is the perfect place to celebrate our ride with a drink. Our guide Chris, meets us here and whisks us back to Hokitika. We then drive on to the charming coastal village of Okarito, where we stay in a small campground near the pounding surf. Tonight is our chance to hike with a kiwi-spotting guide to find kiwi in their natural habitat. The lowland native forests around Okarito are the last mainland habitat of the rowi (brown kiwi), and we have a very good chance of hearing their distinctive calls and perhaps even seeing them. For those not wanting to go on the bike ride, Chris can drop you off at Lake Kaniere for an unguided hike alongside the historic water races (2-3 hours). Please let us know when you book if you would like to do the kiwi walk. Cost: NZ$75 Activities: 4-5 hours cycling, 39km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  L,D

We rise early for a quick dash (optional) up to the Okarito trig for superb views of the lagoon, forests and Southern Alps before returning to camp for breakfast. After breaking camp, we leave the coast and drive a short distance to the Franz Josef Glacier access road. We hike the Roberts Point track. Hike along a groovy old gantry bolted to a rock face, cross a very long swing bridge, climb through some gnarly West Coast rain forest before the trail emerges onto some glacially smoothed rocks which offer superb views of the valley below. The hike ends at a viewing platform with great views of this dynamic glacier, which is retreating back up the valley. We return the same way. Depending on the weather, we may instead visit Gillespies Beach. In the afternoon we enjoy a scenic drive through the heart of South Westland World Heritage Area - Te Wahipounamu. We stop at Ship Creek to look for the rare Hector’s dolphin before leaving the coast and crossing the mountains at Haast Pass. Tonight we sleep in cabins at Makarora, beside Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s been another epic day, so relax in the local bar, have dinner and a game of pool in classic West Coast style. Activities: 5-6 hours hiking, 13km Accommodation: Cabin

Meals:  B,L

We drive alongside the pretty glacier lakes of Hawea and Wanaka, both are great for a swim - if it’s warm enough. We continue through Wanaka township before heading along Matukituki Valley to the end of the road. We grab our packs and hike along the valley, perhaps opting to climb up for a view of Rob Roy Glacier. Cheeky and inquisitive Kea (alpine parrots) often mingle with our group at lunchtime, so we might need to keep an eye on our gear (Kea love shiny zips)! In the afternoon, we enjoy stunning alpine views as we hike the valley to Aspiring Hut. Between high peaks we catch glimpses of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m). Activities: 6 hours hiking, 14km Accommodation: Backcountry hut

Meals:  B,L,D

We return down the valley, enjoying pretty views from the river flats and a picnic lunch by Lake Wanaka. Next up is a remarkable drive over the Crown Range, offering breath-taking summit views of Wakitipu Valley and lakes. By late afternoon, we’re past Te Anau and well on our way to Milford Sound. We camp for the next two nights at the beautiful Knobs Flat campsite, relaxing and making the most of the welcome hot showers. Activities: 3 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we drive beside imposing granite cliffs and through hanging valleys into the heart of Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is one of the largest national parks in the world, with its huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri bordering a series of spectacular fiords. By mid-morning, we are at Milford and ready to join one of the world’s great day-cruises. Our vessel takes us out to Anita Bay and the entrance to Milford Sound. We enjoy stunning views of cascading waterfalls and the iconic Mitre Peak, which soars 1722m above the sea. We keep our eyes peeled for dolphins, Fiordland crested penguins, and New Zealand fur seals, which often play near our boat. Before returning to Knobs Flat, we enjoy a hike up to Key Summit. This is the final section of the famous Routeburn Track, which is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks. We enjoy an informative nature walk and views of the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley. Those of us kayaking are picked up at 6.30am by the kayak company to travel to Milford Sound. We spend 3 to 3.5 hours paddling a double sea kayak to waterfalls, spotting rare wildlife, and generally feeling dwarfed by the enormity of the fiords. Returning to land, we will be reunited with the group after their cruise. Please advise us at the time of booking if interested in the kayaking option, as space is limited. Cost: NZ$100 Activities: 2 hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option), 3 hours hiking, 5km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

The drive to Queenstown takes about 3 hours. Our lodge is within easy walking distance to town and with two nights here you have plenty of time to enjoy the area’s many attractions. Take time to relax in twin ensuite rooms, plug into the free wi-fi and catch up on some laundry. Those keen for a hike (unguided) can head up the steep tussock-lands of Ben Lomond, enjoying views of the region’s beautiful lakes and mountains. There are several other great day hikes from the town centre into the surrounding mountains, promising stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the aptly-named Remarkables mountain range. Queenstown earns its reputation as New Zealand’s adventure capital with heart-stopping activities such as bungy jumping, canyon swings, skydiving, mountain biking and jet boating. Those wanting to schedule some of these high-adrenalin activities in advance can talk with our team while booking, or chat with our guide at the beginning of the tour. Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B,L

This is a free day to get your adrenalin pumping on one of the many activities offered around town. Or you can sit back with a really good coffee and relish the dining choices on offer. This is your day to spend as you would like. Your guide will happily offer advice on the many options available to you. Queenstown is a stunning spot and a playground for outdoor activity; you’ll be spoilt for choice in how to occupy your day here. Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B

We regroup this morning before driving north through the Central Otago high country, over Lindis Pass and into Mackenzie Country. This area is home to some of New Zealand’s largest sheep stations, including some that encompass thousands of hectares. It is renowned for the high quality of the wool produced by the merino sheep which graze these mountains. After arriving at Mount Cook Village, we spend our afternoon hiking steep glacial moraines to the Red Tarns, so named for the colour of their pond-weed. Our campsite or lodge accommodation is at the foot of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook (3754m) – the Maori name means ‘cloud piercer’. We hit the local pub for some wholesome Kiwi kai (food). Activities: 2 hours hiking, 4km Accommodation: Camping or Lodge

Meals:  B,L

We hike with day-packs up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut, enjoying views across two glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefall and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes, and the frequent rumbling of distance avalanches are reminders of nature’s sheer power in this dynamic landscape. An alternative to this option is a helicopter ride with a local operator onto Tasman Glacier (NZ $575). Here, we attach crampons to our boots and marvel at the jagged landscape while exploring ice formations and possibly ice caves. This afternoon offers time to relax or visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. Here, we learn of the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers. Tonight is our last night of the trip – and what a place to spend it! We’re in the heart of the Southern Alps, surrounded by huge mountains of commanding presence. With luck, we can watch the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays. Activities: 5 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Camping or Lodge

Meals:  B,L,D

Before turning east to Canterbury we explore the Tasman Valley. The Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier in New Zealand. It is rapidly retreating and has an astonishing melt water lake at its snout. Make the most of being in this special place and wander around the glacial moraines and tarns. Our final drive takes us across the plains to Christchurch where the tour ends at approx 6:00pm. Activities: 3-4 hours hiking, 8km

Meals:  B,L

What's Included

  • 19 breakfasts, 20 lunches, 13 dinners
  • 21 nights accommodation: 9 nights camping, 5 nights lodge, 5 nights cabin, 2 nights back country hut
  • Visit to Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland near Rotorua, boat cruise on Lake Waikaremoana, Abel Tasman waka experiece, cycling on the West Coast Wilderness trail and a cruise on the Milford Sound
  • Professional qualified driver/guide
  • Private vehicle transport
  • Tent
  • Inflatable sleeping mat
  • Backpack liner (large plastic bag)
  • Cooking equipment, plates & cutlery
  • Snacks while hiking such as chocolate, nuts, raisons, biscuits
  • First aid kit, safety equipment, maps
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Optional activities (eg Milford Sound Kayaking NZ$100, Mt Cook Heli-hike NZ$575 or Okarito kiwi walk NZ$75)
  • Sleeping bag, backpack, thermal top and long-johns, rain jacket, fleece jacket, gaiters and walking poles - all can be hired if needed. Speak to our sales team pre tour
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

Upcoming Travel Dates

 

AT A GLANCE

Duration:22 Days
Starting Point:Auckland
Finishing Point:Christchurch
Activities:17 days walking
1 day mountain biking
Grade:Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:UNZ
Prices From:NZD$6450