Hiking Highlights South & North Hiking Tour – 17 Day

New Zealand is the down-under paradise for nature lovers. Where else in the world can you find as many different landscapes, climate zones and vegetation types so close together as in New Zealand. Bush walking is the best way to explore this country’s natural beauty and this tour includes many walks in the most beautiful of the National Parks. You will discover extinct as well as active volcanoes, secluded beaches, deep mountain lakes, geysers and thermal activity areas, as well as fiords and rainforests. Experience the multi-culture of the Polynesians, Maoris and European settlers with their different traditions and feel the cosmopolitan flair of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.


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About Hiking Highlights South & North Hiking Tour – 17 Day

Day 1. Christchurch – Arrival

After your arrival in Christchurch, you will be transferred to your downtown hotel. In the afternoon there will be a short sightseeing tour around the Garden City, including a drive up the Port Hills to the Sign of the Kiwi for magnificent views (on a clear day) over the South Pacific and across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps.

 

Day 2. Christchurch – Tekapo (226km)

After a drive across the flat alluvial Canterbury Plains, we reach Geraldine, a small town located in the foothills which acts as a farm servicing centre for this rural district. It is a pleasant town in which to stop for coffee and to stretch our legs. We continue south on the inland road and climb to 709m at Burkes Pass before continuing on to Tekapo in The MacKenzie Basin. We are now in the true South Island High Country, famous for its Merino sheep, from which the fine wool is used to make a range of very high quality clothes and garments. This afternoon we hike to the Observatory at the top of Mt John from where there are views across the Lake to the majestic Godley Valley – one of the Wilderness Areas of Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park. It is only a 2hr return walk but we can also descend via an alternative (and slightly longer) route along the edge of the Lake. Alternatively, on a clear day, an optional Scenic Flight or helicopter ride around Mt Cook and the glaciers is well worthwhile. This evening why not relax with a soak in the Alpine Springs & Spa hot pools (optional).

 

Day 3. Tekapo – Queenstown via Mt Cook (362km)

This morning there is time to wander along the lakefront and visit the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd which was built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the MacKenzie Country. We leave Tekapo and drive south to Lake Pukaki where we take a sidetrip (weather permitting) to the Alpine Village of Aoraki/Mt Cook where there are many great walks. The guide will choose a short walk which will depend on the weather and the time available. The journey continues south over the Lindis Pass and alongside Lake Dunstan, one of the newest artificial lakes. We travel past fruit stalls and wind through the Kawarau River gorge. There is the opportunity to stop at the world famous A.J Hacket bungy bridge (optional bungy jump) before we arrive in Queenstown.

 

Day 4. Queenstown

This morning is free and you will have time for optional activities such as a jet boat ride, visit to the kiwi house, gondola ride or a cruise on the historical Earnslaw steamboat. Weather permitting we recommend a fly-cruise-fly excursion to Milford Sound (optional half day excursion) or a Doubtful Sound optional day trip. In the afternoon you will meet with your guide for a hike up Queenstown Hill for great views and photo opportunities of the Wakatipu Basin and its rugged mountain landscape.

 

Day 5. Queenstown – Wanaka (85km)

In the morning you leave Queenstown and first visit Arrowtown, the former gold-mining town with lots of history. Then drive up to the legendary “Cardrona Pub” via the Crown Range, the highest mountain road in New Zealand, back down and you reach Wanaka before noon. At the west end of Lake Wanaka you may see the glittering snow tops of Mount Aspiring (3027m). Before giving you time to explore Wanaka in the late afternoon, our guide leads you on a hike up to Diamond Lake. Depending on how far you want to go, this trip offers a great look in the Mt Aspiring National Park. In the evening, we recommend a walk on the Waterfront.

 

Day 6. Wanaka – Fox Glacier (265km)

The journey takes you alongside Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. First through arid countryside followed by dense rainforest on the border of Mount Aspiring National Park. After a short walk through Beech forest at Haast Pass you continue to the township of Fox Glacier. High mountains and the sea are close together. Here we will walk to the Glacier Face, or an optional scenic helicopter flight over the glaciers (including a landing on the Glacier).

 

Day 7. Fox Glacier – Pancake Rocks – Reefton (361km)

At sunrise it is an unforgettable experience to walk to Mirror Lake and to admire the reflections of Aoraki (Mt Cook) and Mt Tasman in the bog water. We drive to Franz Josef Glacier where we can walk to the glacier lookout, before continuing to Hokitika. There may be time to visit a Greenstone factory, where you have the opportunity to buy jade carvings and jewellery at reasonable prices. Pounamu is the Maori name for Greenstone. Travelling north we visit the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ at Punakaiki in the Paparoa National Park. We then travel back along the scenic Buller River Gorge to the old mining village Reefton in the heart of the West Coast region. A dinner and a beer in the “local pub” is the best way to meet the locals and a fitting ending to this day.

 

Day 8. Reefton – Kaikoura (254km)

We will take you on a historical walk through the small town and you can learn a lot about the mining history and present mining on this “West Coast’ region. The Bearded Mining Company at the Miners Hut brings history to life! This replica hut depicting 1860s style housing is made of native cedar slabs and is set in the heart of town. Gavin, Peter and Geoff are ‘in residence’ all year, and welcome visitors in to learn how a miner lived in the 19th century when the promise of gold lured thousands of prospectors to the area. You can sit in front of the fire, enjoy a cup of tea, watch pieces of iron and steel being shaped on the blacksmith forge or try your hand at gold panning where flakes of gold are ‘guaranteed’ to be found’. We then start off by driving first through the typical rainforest of the West Coast over the Lewis pass and then through farmland and sub-alpine country. Tonight we stay at the coast in Kaikoura famous for its abundance of marine life due to the deep Hikurangi trench. We arrive in time for a short hike on the Kaikoura Peninsular, where we can watch fur seals and sea birds.

 

Day 9. Kaikoura – Picton (156km)

For early risers and subject to weather and wind conditions, there is the option to join a 5.30am tour to swim with the dolphins (optional) or a whale watching tour (optional). The rest of the group can enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then an interesting approximately 3-hour tour of the indigenous Maori culture experience (optional). Then a late morning drive along the coast towards Marlborough and Picton. After about 1 hour we interrupt the journey in Kekerengu to enjoy a coffee break in “The Store” restaurant. The wide terraces of the cafes offer uninterrupted views of the sea and the beach is perfect for a short walk. Afterwards you pass through the Marlborough wine region, which is renowned for the production of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We travel through Blenheim, the pretty economic center of the region, to finally arrive in the port town of Picton. Accommodation is just a short walk from the harbor and the center of Picton.

 

Day 10. Queen Charlotte Walkway in the Marlborough Sounds

A boat takes you through the picturesque Sound to Ships Cove, the starting point of today’s hike at the other end of the Queen Charlotte Walkway. It was here that Captain James Cook (during his exploration of the South Pacific) often rested and planted a vegetable garden for his team. In three to five hours you hike along the coast through dense rain forest with giant tree ferns to Furneaux Lodge and then you are taken by boat to Picton back to the marina to spend one more night in this beautiful place. Tonight is in the same hotel as the previous day.

 

Day 11. Picton to Wellington

After breakfast, enjoy the crossing with the Interislander ferry across Cook Strait and the fjord-like inlets of the Marlborough Sounds on the South Island to Wellington. At noon you reach the capital of New Zealand and have enough time to visit the national museum, Te Papa, one of the most innovative museums in the world. If there is still time in the eveing, your guide will take you to the Mt Victoria, from where you have a unique view of the city and harbor. Overnight at hotel in the center of Wellington.

 

Day 12. Wellington to Tongariro (348km)

Today we start with a sightseeing tour of New Zealand’s capital, you will see among other things the Parliamentary Buildings and the historical district with its St. Paul Cathedral. In the late morning we go to the Tongariro NP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will take a 1.5 – to 2-hour hike with superb views of the volcanoes Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. The place Whakapapa is the length of a stunning volcanic landscape. Overnight at hotel in Whakapapa.

 

Day 13. Tongariro to Rotorua (197km)

This morning you may still take a short hike near the visitor center of the National Park Tongaririo. Then leave Whakapapa and onto Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Later we continue along to the thermal area Wai-O-Tapu. Thousands of years ago, this area was dominated by volcanic activity and it is one of the most impressive thermal areas of New Zealand. High shooting geysers and bubbling mud holes are evidence of this. In the afternoon you will reach the thermal area in Rotorua. We take a short tour of the city visiting the most beautiful places in Rotorua. In the evening you can enjoy a traditional Hangi (dinner) a Maori concert experience live (optional). Tonight is in a motel within walking distance from the famous Whakawerawera Maori Village.

 

Day 14. Rotorua – Whitianga (245km)

We depart the active thermal area of Rotorua in good time and drive either through TePuke – New Zealand’s kiwifruit capitals or on the scenic Pyes Pa Road to Tauranga. It takes about three hours. We then continue along the Bay of Plenty and pass many popular beach resorts on the Coromandel Peninsula. At the beginning of the 19th Century this region was part of the ‘gold rush’. In the afternoon we do our guided walk through the retired Broken Hills gold mining area near Hikuai and Pauanui. It is a reminder of these turbulent times. Then it is not far to the popular seaside resort Whitianga.

 

Day 15. Whitianga

Coromandel Peninsula has a diverse landscape on a small scale. On one side are bare mountains of volcanic origin and on the other side a rugged coastline with beautiful beaches. The day has a lot to offer, including kayaking, hiking on some of the local bush trails, and an excursion to Hot Water Beach. The beach was so named because a hot spring bubbles up through the sand, making it a lovely warm place to relax at low tide and watch swimmers enjoying the sea and surf.

 

Day 16. Whitianga – Auckland (205km)

We leave Whitianga Coromandel Town over a small pass and soon reach the village of Waiomu. We do a 2 hour hike to see some of the last giant kauri trees. Then we take the road along the beautiful coastline, ‘Gulf of Thames’ to the biggest city in New Zealand. In the late afternoon, take a sightseeing tour of Auckland, where you can view, the Harbour Bridge, Mt Eden, see the huge marina, the Skytower and other sights. Accommodation in the “City of Sails” is in a hotel near the famous “Viaduct Basin” – the marina of millionaires Auckland. Many good restaurants and bars are within walking distance from the hotel.

 

Day 17. Auckland – Departure

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport in time to connect with your (refer scheduled times below) flight.

Please note that your trip may differ from the above itinerary either to better suit the needs of the group or due to circumstances beyond our control such as the weather.

Tour Information

Tour includes:

South Island Package (Christchurch to Wellington):
Airport transfers:
Day 1 only: Christchurch (between 7am & 3.30pm from the Airport). Transfers outside these days/times are your own arrangements

Accommodation: 11 nights in 3–4 star (NZ standard) hotels & motels

Meals: No meals included. There is an option to contribute to a group kitty for the occasional breakfast and many picnic lunches. For those that are interested (purely optional), the tour guide will collect approx NZ$150.00 per person

Tour guide (who is also the driver)

Support vehicle (coaster bus) with luggage compartment (for 1 bag per person)

Boat transport in Queen Charlotte Sound from Picton (with luggage transfers also)

Ferry crossing Picton to Wellington (normally early morning crossing)

All National Park and other entry fees, except the ‘optional’ ones

 

North Island Package (Wellington to Auckland):

Airport transfers:
Day 17 (= Day 6 North Island) only: Auckland (between 7am & 2.00pm from the Hotel). Transfers outside these days/times are your own arrangements

Accommodation: 6 nights in 3–4 star (NZ standard) hotels & motels

Meals: no meals included. There is an option to contribute to a group kitty for the occasional
breakfast and many picnic lunches. For those that are interested
(purely optional), the tour guide will collect approx NZ$50.00 per person

Tour guide (who is also the driver)

Support vehicle (coaster bus) with luggage compartment (for 1 bag per person)

Wai-O-Tapu entry near Rotorua (geothermal reserve)

All National Park and other entry fees, except the ‘optional’ ones

 

Tour Excludes:

International flights & airport taxes

Airport transfers outside the days/times specified above

Travel Insurance

Meals

Drinks (except daily drinking water), phone calls and minibar expenses

Personal expenses (including any specific medical related requirements)

 

Travel Insurance

Meals (except 1 breakfast & 1 dinner as specified above)

Drinks (except daily drinking water), phone calls & minibar expenses

Personal expenses (including any specific medical related requirements)

 

TOUR GRADE

This tour is graded 3/4 Moderate.