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 2 nights camping on the beach
  • Marvel at the Southern Alps from a remote backcountry hut in Arthur's Pass
  • Hike up to Sealy tarns and Mueller Hut to see New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki/Mt Cook
  • Cruise into the majestic Milford Sound by boat or kayak
  • Experience real backcountry 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 - visit Te Urewera and hike the best sections of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk and explore the volcanic wonderland of Tongariro National Park. Continuing to the South Island to hike, swim and paddle a waka in the pristine waters of the Abel Tasman National Park before travelling to the lush rainforests of the West Coast. We head back into the mountains at Arthur's Pass and hike into a remote backcountry hut for a night in the Edwards Valley. Explore the hiking trails around the majestic mountains of the Southern Alps at Mount Cook Village, home to NZ's highest peak, Aoraki/Mt Cook before travelling to Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. At Milford Sound we will have the chance to explore deep canyons, hike, kayak and cruise the fiords of this magnificent South Island gem. The tour ends in Queenstown, the perfect place to spend your final night in New Zealand or to head away on further adventures. During the trip we will travel by water taxi, by foot, kayak, bike and even boat to get access to some New Zealand's best kept secrets as well as must-see highlights. The six 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, backcountry 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 8 day Ultimate North and the 15 day Ultimate South Adventures.

Trip Grading

To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the amount of physical activity each day, the type of accommodation and the length of the trip. The Ultimate New Zealand adventure is graded moderate to challenging and is best suited to the active and more intrepid traveller. You will need a good level of fitness and you must be able to comfortably walk 4-5 hours per day on an average day, and up to 8-9 hours on longer days. You must be able to carry and walk uphill with a backpack weighing around 12-15kgs on 6 of the 15 days. Some days there are altitude gains of up to 800m. The tracks can be uneven, slippery, with tree roots and rough surfaces and there will be river crossings where you will get your hiking boots wet. This is a no frills trip, accommodation consists of mainly camping, staying in backcountry huts and lodges where facilities are basic and shared (but in the most wonderful locations), you will be required to help with the preparation of meals and washing up, so you need to be enthusiastic, agile and have a love of the big outdoors.

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 sort out gear and pack our backpacks for the hike into the rainforest. A further hours' drive gets us to the south end of this huge park. Our first hike is an easy one, descending 300m on a track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside the stunning Whirinaki river. We either camp or stay in a nearby hut with an evening campfire and time to enjoy the surrounds. Activities: 3 hours hiking, 11km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  L,D

This morning we continue down the valley track. This wilderness is off the tourist trail and we rarely see others, but we do often see rare blue ducks and robins, and hear kaka (a large bush parrot)! Lower down the valley, we hike beneath giant tree ferns and some of New Zealand’s most stunning podocarp rainforest trees. Later in the afternoon we drive east, into the rugged forest ranges of Te Urewera. This is the traditional home of the Tuhoe (Maori tribe) and one of the last places to have been reached by European settlers. After two hours winding through the most incredible rain forest, we reach the western arm of remote Lake Waikaremoana. We continue around the lake before stopping for the night at a camping area with sweet little cabins. Here we relax and cook a meal together in the communal kitchen. We usually stay in the simple cabins but occasionally camp. Activities: 5 hours hiking, 16km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we drive 20 min to the trail-head at the south end of the lake and ready ourselves for some spectacular views. We climb up the Panekiri Range through gnarled beech and bright green tawa forest ascending to a point over 500 metres above the lake. From here, we hike along with breath-taking vistas in every direction. After enjoying a lunch stop at Bald Knob, we return back along this undulating trail, and if time permits once back at the road end, we explore the fascinating ’caves’ trail. Enjoy a second night at the cabins (occasionally we camp). 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 our accommodation in the Tongariro National Park. Activities: 2 hours hiking, 4km Accommodation: Cabin

Meals:  B,L

Tongariro National Park is the oldest National Park in New Zealand and the fourth oldest in the world. In 1993, the park became a UNESCO mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site. Although many hikers walk the busy one-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing, few explore the more remote and drier east side of this volcanic range. Enjoy our secret side trips and short cuts but rest assured we will hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing – considered one of the world’s finest day walks – but at a less busy time of the day whenever possible. We sort out gear and pack our backpacks ready for our two nights away. In the late morning hike out of Whakapapa through tussock-grasslands and over the low saddle that cuts between the volcanoes Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Late afternoon we arrive at a simple but modern hut beside a quiet stream and among patches of mountain beech forest. There are great mountain-views from the spacious common room. Activities: 6 hours hiking, 15km Accommodation: Backcountry hut or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

The trail to the next hut takes just 3 hours, so we have the morning to explore. Either amble (about an hour) to the splendid Ohineopango Springs and visit an historic hut and then return to hut for lunch, or we can negotiate an adventurous off-trail route over ash-moraine ridges and skirt lava cliffs to reach a viewpoint high above a remote lake. After lunch continue on, traversing stony deserts to an alpine hut at 1400m situated on the edge of an old lava flow. We stop to enjoy fantastic views of the Park’s three main peaks: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The latter starred as Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. It’s an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys. Evening provides an opportunity to share an alpine hut with hikers from all over the world. Oturere ‘sardine tin’ Hut is small, quite busy, but still our favourite spot. We usually sleep in the hut, but sometimes we camp. Activities: 3-8 hours hiking, 8-15km Accommodation: Backcountry hut or Camping

Meals:  B,L

We hike 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 alongside mineral-infused streams. In good conditions, we have the option of climbing high on 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 million-dollar volcanic views before dining in the alpine village. Activities: 6 hours hiking, 12km Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B,L

Driving south, we leave the volcanoes to descend through the beautiful river valleys of the Rangitikei and along the coast to Wellington, where we arrive mid-afternoon after a café break. Wellington is so much more than just New Zealand’s capital. It is also the nation’s stylish hub for arts, culture, cafés and politics. Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance. Options include enjoying the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) or watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House). Many visitors immerse themselves in the vibrant café scene and the 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 drive out of town around Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Here we pack our gear for a 2-night stay in the park and then board the water taxi. A boat cruise around the coast takes us to the beautiful and less visited part of the park at Awaroa. We enjoy a picnic on this idyllic beach before starting our hike following the Abel Tasman Coastal track south to Bark Bay, where our tents and some gear have been dropped been by boat. We pitch our tents and enjoy a delicious meal together. Fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Activities: 4 hours hiking, 13.5km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  L,D

After a relaxed breakfast we continue our hike on the Coastal Track to Anchorage. The hike from Bark Bay takes us through glades of manuka, over a low saddle and across a 47-metre suspension bridge at Falls River. The optional side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool is a must and a perfect place for a refreshing swim, and if you are feeling nimble you can join the guide for a boulder hop further up the valley exploring idyllic pools and waterfalls. Your guide may also talk you into taking another side trip up to the Falls River cascades another stunning swimming spot. We camp tonight at the bush-fringed and bright blue inlet of Anchorage. Relax, read a book and go for a swim – before we meet together in the evening to cook and eat together. Activities: 3-5 hours hiking, 8.5-12km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline by 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, where we observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – beautiful animals that were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. 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. After a picnic lunch and a restock on supplies in Motueka we drive south to our private campsite near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia rivers. We enjoy an organic meal that is home-cooked by our hosts. Activities: 3 hours paddling, 15km Accommodation: Camping *Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people.

Meals:  B,L,D

After driving through the Buller Gorge our first stop and experience of the wild west coast is at Charleston. We take a short hike through lush West Coast bush checking out the dramatic headlands, wild waves and secluded bays. After the hike we enjoy a picnic lunch and pack up for our next hike that takes us up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, this park covers more than 30,000 hectares. Its attractions include mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers, wilderness areas and coastlines. The first half of the trail is on a reasonably well-formed track and is relatively flat, while the second half involves multiple river crossings and sections 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, a fluviatile river cave. For those that are keen on more hiking you can join the guide and explore up a beautiful side canyon, following the stream until it disappears into a cave. Activities: 3-4 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

After a relaxed breakfast we hike back out the same way and 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. On arrival in Hokitika we get fitted out with bikes for tomorrows ride. Activities: 3 hours hiking, 6km 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. We will pedal our way through majestic native forest, cross crystal-clear rivers, and pass old reservoirs and water races. Today’s ride is unguided, but the trail is very well marked, and our local partners will give you a very thorough briefing on riding the trail. The thoughtfully restored Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara is the perfect place to celebrate our ride with a drink. After the ride sit back and enjoy the mountain and rainforest landscapes as we turn east to drive into the Southern Alps and stay in the quaint mountain village of Arthurs Pass. Lodgings tonight are at a private hut with showers and electricity. We prepare dinner together and get ready for tomorrows hiking adventure into Edwards Valley. Activities: 4-5 hours cycling, 39km Accommodation: Cabin

Meals:  L,D

While not as well-known as some of the other National Parks visited on the tour Arthur’s Pass will awe you with its rugged alpine peaks, wild rivers and adventurous hiking trails. Our overnight hike takes us up the Edwards Valley to the Edwards hut which sits just above the treeline with a great view up and down this beautiful valley. It is a challenging hike on a real ‘kiwi-style’ track. There are several river crossings and parts where you will need to use your hands for extra grip as the trail is rugged with steep slippery sections. We either camp or stay in the hut depending on how many other hikers are there. At nightfall we listen out for the distinct call of our national bird the kiwi. Roroa or Great spotted kiwi are known to inhabit this area. This species of Kiwi is known as the ‘Mountain Kiwi’ and prefer to live in sub-alpine areas. Activities: 5-6 hours hiking, 7km Accommodation: Camping or backcountry hut Note: Most departures will have 2 guides for this hike.

Meals:  B,L,D

We make the most of being in this wonderfully remote alpine valley with an optional hike to explore further up the valley this morning towards Falling Mountain, where the views of the surrounding mountains open up even more. After returning to the hut we pack up and hike back down the valley having lunch along the way. The scenery changes dramatically on the eastern side of the divide, the steep forested slopes of the west are replaced with wide braided rivers, scree slopes and the surreal limestone formations of Castle Hill. We leave the main highway and follow an inland route past Lake Lyndon and through the Rakaia gorge and onto the tiny village of Mt Somers where we stay overnight. Activities: 5-6 hours hiking, 7km Accommodation: Cabin or Camping

Meals:  B,L,D

We spend the morning driving across the western boundary of the Canterbury plains and into the stunningly beautiful Mackenzie Country, an intermontane basin of huge glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains. By late morning we arrive at Aoraki/Mt Cook village ready to maximise our afternoon with a hike with day-packs up to Sealy Tarns and possibly as far as Mueller Hut. Enjoy views across two glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefall and Aoraki/Mount Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distance avalanches are reminders of nature’s sheer power in this dynamic landscape. We return via the same track to our accommodation at a private hut. 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/Mount Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays. Activities: 5 hours hiking, 8km Accommodation: Cabin

Meals:  B,L,D

We enjoy a relaxing breakfast together with a postcard view of Aoraki from our dining room window. There is the option today of joining a local operator for a guided heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier (own expense). A helicopter flight will take us onto the upper glacier where we attach crampons to our boots and marvel at the jagged landscape while exploring ice formations and ice caves. For those not heli-hiking, join the guide for a hike up the steep glacial moraines to Red Tarns. More stunning views from here! Those wanting to rest the legs today can either relax at the hut or visit the information centre and learn more about the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers. By mid-afternoon we have re-united with the heli hikers and depart Aoraki/Mount Cook to continue our journey south through the Mackenzie country and over Lindis Pass into the Central Otago region. We stay tonight near the shores of Lake Hawea, a glacially formed lake over 35kms in length ringed by mountains. We take the night off cooking tonight and dine at local restaurant. Activities: 2 hours hiking, 4km Accommodation: Camping or Cabins

Meals:  B,L

We drive to Wanaka township this morning, grab a coffee and take a wander around this vibrant lakeside resort town before we drive 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 early this morning enjoying the pretty views and easy hiking along the floor of this wide glacially formed valley. Once we are back in Wanaka we have a lakeside picnic and you may want to dive into the lake for a swim. 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 fjords. 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 1722 metres 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. Activities: 2 hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option*); 3 hours hiking, 5km, Accommodation: Camping *Note: If you have chosen the kayaking option (additional expense) you will be picked up at 6.30am by the kayak company to travel to Milford Sound. Paddle for 3 to 3.5 hours in double kayaks to waterfalls, spotting rare wildlife, and generally feeling dwarfed by the enormity of the fjords. Returning to land, you will be reunited with the group after their cruise. Please advise us at the time of booking if interested in kayaking, as space is limited.

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast we take a short hike to check out a beautiful waterfall near our campsite, you may want to soak up one last little bit of Fiordland by jumping under for a shower! We then make our final drive to Queenstown arriving in the early afternoon. The afternoon is free for you to use as you wish. Our lodge is within easy walking distance to town. We meet up in the early evening and head out to celebrate the great hikes and adventures we have had together over the last two weeks. Activities: 45 minutes hiking, 2km Accommodation: Lodge

Meals:  B,L

Today is the end of the tour. Our guide departs early for Christchurch. For those staying on in Queenstown you will be spoilt for choice of adventure activities to try. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and is surrounded by stunning landscapes with superb hiking and cycling tracks. Don’t hesitate to ask one of our helpful team for tips of great hikes to do in the area at the conclusion of your trip. Please let us know if you would like to book a return shuttle to Christchurch (NZ$60 – arrives Christchurch airport at 4pm).

Meals:  Nil

What's Included

  • 19 breakfasts, 21 lunches, 16 dinners
  • 22 nights accommodation: 9 nights camping, 5 nights lodge, 4 nights cabin, 4 nights backcountry hut
  • Visit to Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland near Rotorua, Abel Tasman waka experiece, cycling on the West Coast Wilderness trail and a cruise on the Milford Sound
  • Domestic flight from Wellington to Nelson
  • 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, raisins, 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$125, Mt Cook Heli-hike NZ$599)
  • 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:Queenstown
Activities:17 days walking, 1 day mountain biking, 2 half days kayaking
Grade:Moderate to Challenging  Click for more information
Trip Code:UNZ
Prices From:NZD$6450