Your tour begins in Nelson, in the north of the South Island. The first hike begins after lunch from Flora Saddle. Leaving the vehicle behind we’ll ascend through virgin beech forest and up onto the sprawling tablelands of New Zealand’s second largest national park – Kahurangi. An old gold mining area, the initial track climbs up pack trails and above a stream where native blue duck reside. Emerging onto the tussock covered tablelands gives panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and a sense of true wilderness. We spend the night getting to know each other in an old gold miners rock shelter, staring at the stars and trying to spot Morepork (native owl) in the campfire light.
Hiking: 11km/4 hours hiking Meals: Lunch, Dinner
We have an early start this morning, and after a quick breakfast we continue across the tablelands to explore a New Zealand karst landscape of sinkholes and caves. This whole area is of geological interest as it is in a range of marble and limestone hills, the interior being riddled with potholes. We climb up through mossy forest to the bushline and then onwards to Gordon’s Pyramid (1489 metres). We continue across a basin of crystalline marble karst to the shoulder of Mount Arthur and, if weather and time permit, fitter members can trek to the summit (1795 metres) for panoramic views of the Nelson region. We return to Flora Saddle and drive to a private campsite overlooking the Buller Gorge where we camp for the night.
Hiking: 15km/7 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The day begins with a relaxing drive toward the West Coast along the mighty Buller River. On the drive we get our first glimpse of New Zealand’s impressive Podocarp forest. Arriving at the coast, your guide will drop you at the top of the relaxing coastal walk to Cape Foulwind (aptly named by Captain Cook – the seals are a bit smelly!). They then meet you at the seal colony near Tauranga Bay before driving along the scenic West Coast en route to one of the country’s best-kept secrets – Paparoa National Park. Walking up the Fox River, the group will learn the unique Kiwi art of river crossing. This will come in handy in order to reach the campsite under tonight accommodation – the Ballroom Overhang – a massive fluvatile cave. Crank up the campfire and settle in for the night.
Hiking: 8km/4 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today we have a chance to explore the nearby limestone canyon and caves (some people may want to swim) with stalactites, and stalagmites, cave wetas (large wingless insects), glow-worms and the tallest moss in the world (Dawsonia superba). We then hike along the historic Inland Pack Track to Bullock Creek, and arrive back in Punakaiki by mid-afternoon. Return to camp/cabin accommodation. Visit the Pancake Rocks. These 30 million-year-old limestone rocks have formed into what look like immense layers of pancakes. When the tide is high, or the weather rough, the water surges into caverns below the rocks and squirts through mighty blowholes, bearing a great resemblance to natural geysers.
Hiking: 12km/6 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
If you’re not too busy sleeping in, take the opportunity this morning to explore the rugged coast around Punakaiki, rich in Maori history. The picturesque scenery continues as we drive south along the coast toward Greymouth, where we stock up on supplies. The drive continues in the afternoon through the quirky towns of the West Coast, each loaded with history and stories. Our home for the next two nights is the sleepy little village of Okarito. After pitching tents in the quaint campground, feel free to stretch your legs before dinner along Okarito wild beach.
Hiking: 5km/2 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Start the day by exploring the areas main attraction – the exceptional Okarito Lagoon. Here you can observe some of New Zealand’s famous native birds, including white herons and tui, all from the comfort of your sea kayak. Paddle up secluded river channels where 60m native Kahikatea trees tower above you, and admire the snow capped Southern Alps in the distance. After lunch, feel free to walk one of the easy tracks nearby that wind through coastal rainforest and up to great viewpoints, walk along the beach, or simply relax around camp. Dinner tonight is cooked underground in a hangi – a traditional Maori method of cooking. This process is enjoyed by the whole group, from preparation to consumption! Let the night take hold with a bonfire on the beach.
Hiking: 10km/4 hours kayaking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning we make the short drive to the tourist village of Fox Glacier. One of the only glaciers in the world that descends into rainforest. Either join the guide for a hike up through the rainforest to a spectacular viewpoint of the glacier, then afterwards we hike up to the terminal face of the glacier itself, a chance to see close up the effects rapidly advancing and retreating glaciers have had on this amazing landscape. If you want to get onto the ice, take the option of a guided heli hike with a local guiding company. Get kitted out with crampons for your boots before flying up onto the mid section of the glacier. Marvel at the ice carved landscape, towering seracs and deep crevasses. This is an incredibly unique alpine experience with incredible views (and photo opportunities) of some of New Zealand’s highest mountain peaks. In the afternoon we hike around Lake Matheson, the mountains and rainforest are often mirrored in the waters of the lake, so have your camera ready. Tonight we stay in comfortable cabins near the start of the Copland Track.
Hiking: 10km/4 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning we begin our three-day sojourn up the Copland Valley. The track meanders along the glacially fed Copland River, over side streams and through ancient podocarp forest. Enjoy a picnic lunch beside the river and try to spot endangered blue duck swimming in the rapids. The walk finishes at the salubrious Welcome Flat Hut. Explorers named this area Welcome Flat thanks to the natural hot pools nearby. After dinner slip into one of the pools and soak away the days efforts while admiring the jagged peaks of the Sierra Range.
Hiking: 18km/7 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today you can choose to relax around the hut, take a short walk on your own up the valley or join the guide for an exploration up one of the stunning side streams above the hut. Boulder hopping up the stream, you will eventually reach a brilliant alpine waterfall where the bold can have a shower, or swim in the pool below. Have a picnic lunch as you dry out on the rocks and enjoy the views of the valley below. On a clear day the top of New Zealand’s highest mountain – Aoraki/Mt Cook is clearly visible to the east. Descend back down the stream to the hut, and ease back into the hot pools whenever you fancy.
Hiking: 8km/4 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today we wander out of the Copland Valley and drive south once more, stopping at a local salmon farm to grab a coffee at their cafe and pick up our dinner! We also pull into Knights Point for the great cliff top views and Ships Creek, where the native Hectors Dolphin can sometimes be seen from the beach. The last night is spent camping in the remote town of Haast. Here we enjoy a fresh salmon dinner, cooked on the fire, before heading down to the local pub.
Hiking: 18km/6 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Finally it’s time to leave the rugged West Coast and turn inland, driving over the dramatic Haast Pass, one of the last mountain routes to be opened in New Zealand. This road also borders the edge of Mt. Aspiring National Park and takes us between the edges of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We stop along the way to hike up past Diamond Lake to Rocky Mountain – a huge rock massif shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. The summit offers stunning views of Lake Wanaka, it’s islands and the surrounding peaks. After our hike, we pull into a secluded bay on the shores of Lake Wanaka for lunch and one last swim. The road conveniently passes the historical Cardrona Pub where we enjoy a drink in the garden bar before we drive over the steep and stunning Crown Range and into the electric atmosphere of Queenstown. Get glammed up and hit the town for a group dinner somewhere special.
Hiking: 3-8km/2-5 hours hiking Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 1 starts in Nelson, 8am
Day 11 finishes in Queenstown, 7pm
Departure guaranteed with a minimum of 4 pax and max 11 pax per tour.
The safari is a combination of ‘wild nights’, which is the nights where you are truly in the wilderness, staying in backcountry huts or camping in locations that may be several hours walk from the nearest road or populated area. Versus nights in civilization where you may stay in cabins, lodges or camp by the vehicle at Department of Conservation campsites. Some of these locations may still be relatively remote and in the wilderness but they can be reached by the vehicle.
This tour is graded 3/4 Moderate.