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24 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Up to 186kms (about 80 hrs) hiking, 39kms biking, and 15kms paddling

Days
24

Pricing From
$7890

Difficulty

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Overview

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The Ultimate New Zealand experience! This Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking tour incorporates 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 kayak and swim in the crystal clear waters of Abel Tasman National Park, stomp across the ice on Fox Glacier before being exhilarated by the adrenalin-packed activities of Queenstown. Be dwarfed by the peaks of Milford Sound and the awe-inspiring Aoraki/Mt Cook. 

The six multi-day hikes throughout the country flaunt the diversity of the New Zealand landscape.

Tour Grading: D

  • Average of 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days.
  • Pack weights of 10-12kgs* on some days (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19 and 20).
  • Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft) per day.
  • Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
  • No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
  • You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic and have good agility.
  • Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.

*Will vary depending on the weight of personal discretional items.

Please read our General Information guide on Hiking Safaris.

SPRINGUNZ

Tongariro National Park

Emerald Lake, Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park

Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Mitre Peak and Milford Sound

Reflection in Sealy Tarn near Mt Cook

Group at Sealy Tarns

Hiking at Mt Cook

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Aspiring Hut

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Cycling the West Coast

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Milford Sound

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Mueller Ridge, Aoraki/Mt Cook

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

River crossing

23 Day Ultimate New Zealand Kiwi Style Hiking

Hiking Arthur's Pass

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Auckland - Whirinaki9.5km/3 hours hiking (L, D)

We meet at 7am at the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland before heading south to Rotorua, with a café stop on route to fortify those who missed breakfast. Rotorua is renowned for its steaming thermal vents, bubbling mud-pools and stunning lakes. The area is also rich in Māori and early European history, including the violent 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption that buried a Māori village. We enjoy a quick stop by Lake Rotorua then veer off the beaten track, southeast into the Whirinaki.

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 conservation park.

The Whirinaki Forest is a preserved remnant of the vast forests believed to have covered the super-continent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago. Our first hike is an easy one, on a descending track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside the stunning Whirinaki river. We cook up our meal together and either stay in the hut or camp nearby with an evening campfire and time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 2Whirinaki - Lake Waikaremoana15km/5 hours hiking (B,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 our hike passes 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 Tūhoe (Māori 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 northern 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 3Lake Waikaremoana14km/7 hours hiking (B,L,D)

Ready yourself with the promise of spectacular views as we start the day with a 20 minute drive to the trailhead at the south end of the lake and begin the climb up the Panekiri Range. We ascend through gnarled beech and bright green tawa forest to a point over 500 metres above the lake and hike along with breath-taking vistas in every direction.

Take time to absorb the view with a lunch stop at Bald Knob before we return back along this undulating trail, and if time permits once back at the road end we will explore the fascinating Onepoto Caves trail. Enjoy a second night at the cabins (occasionally we camp). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 4Lake Waikaremoana - Whakapapa 4km/2 hours hiking (B,L)

We start the day with a drive to the Volcanic Plateau and its myriad natural wonders. Explore an extraordinary thermal park, bathe in a natural hot river and view the impressive Huka Falls. Feel the spray here as the mighty Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, plunges 11 metres into a stadium-like pool.

Later we arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Incredibly, this 600 square kilometre crater lake was formed in 186AD by the most powerful volcanic explosion in recorded history.

At Taupo, we grab our takeaway food and head to a lovely lake-side spot. Here we can relax on the unusual pumice beach and in summer enjoy an evening swim before continuing to our lodge accommodation in Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 5Whakapapa to Waihohonu Hut 15km/6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

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 the simple but modern Waihohonu Hut among patches of mountain beech forest beside a quiet stream. There are great mountain-views from the spacious common room. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 6Waihohonu Hut - Oturere Hut8-15km/3-8 hours hiking (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 a historic hut and then return to the 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 desert 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 the 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 7Oturere Hut to Whakapapa12km/6 hours hiking (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 takes 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 back to our 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. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 8Whakapapa - Wellington 1km/1-2 hours hiking (B)

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. Includes breakfast.

Day 9Free Day in Wellington

Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance. Check out the vibrant city centre with museums, theatres, galleries and boutiques. It has been said that this pedestrian friendly city has more bars and restaurants per capita than New York and feels a bit like San Francisco. Take some time to soak in the creative vibes and check out the great craft beer and café scene during your visit. There are also some lovely city-bush-garden-hill top walks you can enjoy.

Craft the day to suit you; the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa), watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House), bus-out to the wild south coast with views to the South Island, visit Weta workshops (book in advance to avoid any Orc-ward moments), the Maritime museum, and the truly remarkable almost-in-the-city ecological restoration project ‘Zealandia’. 

Day 10Wellington - Abel Tasman National Park 9km/3 hours hiking (L,D)

Regroup at reception to meet the shuttle to the airport for the short flight across Cook Strait to Nelson and the South Island. (Note: the transfer from Wellington accommodation to Nelson Airport is without a guide). You’ll be met by your South Island guide at Nelson Airport, introduced to those joining the Ultimate South Island tour and head out of town around picturesque Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. 

Your guide will advise you on how to pack light and smart as we ready ourselves for our next adventure - a two-night stay in the park. A boat cruise around the coast takes us to the beautiful and less visited Awaroa Bay. Enjoy a picnic on the idyllic beach before starting our hike, following the Abel Tasman Coast Track south to Bark Bay where our tents and some gear were dropped by the boat. 

We pitch our tents and enjoy a delicious meal together before later falling asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 11Bark Bay - Anchorage8.5 - 12km/3-5 hours hiking (B,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 in the evening to cook and eat together. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 12Anchorage - Murchison 15 km/3 hours paddling (B,L,D)

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline by waka (Māori 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 Māori 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

*Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people. With smaller groups we return to Kaiteriteri via water taxi.

Day 13Murchison - Ballroom Overhang 8km/3-4 hours hiking (B,L,D)

After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Here is an opportunity to observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s.

After lunch begin the group hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, the park covers over 30,000 hectares. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers and wilderness areas. The hike involves several river crossings (your boots will get wet). Collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang.

Day 14Ballroom Overhang - Hokitika 6km/3 hours hiking (B,L)

We hike back out through the canyon this morning after a leisurely start and head first to Punakaiki to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Then it’s down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving goldrush town in the 1870s, it is now a great place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Māori for tools, jewellery and weapons.

Tonight’s lodge accommodation is centrally located and just a short distance from the beach. Tuck into 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 tomorrow's ride. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 15Hokitika - Arthur's Pass39km/4-5 hours biking (or 4 hrs hiking) (L,D)

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 tomorrow's hiking adventure into Edwards Valley. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 16Arthur's Pass - Edwards Hut9km/5-6 hours hiking (B,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 peaks, wild rivers and adventurous hiking trails. Our overnight hike takes us up the Edwards River to the Edwards Hut which sits just above the  bushline with a great view up this beautiful alpine 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 listen out for the distinct call of our national bird, the kiwi. Roroa or great spotted kiwi are known to inhabit this area. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 17Edwards Valley - Mt Somers9km/5-6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

Make the most of being in this wonderfully remote alpine valley by joining an optional hike this morning to explore further up towards Falling Mountain, where the views of the surrounding peaks open up even more. After returning to the hut we pack up and hike back out to the road having lunch along the way.

Heading east away from the divide the scenery changes dramatically with the steep forested slopes of the west replaced with wide braided rivers, tussock grassland, mountains flanked with scree and the surreal limestone formations of Castle Hill.

We leave the main highway following an inland route past Lake Lyndon, through Rakaia Gorge and on to the tiny village of Mt Somers where we stay overnight. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 18Mt Somers - Aoraki/Mt Cook10km/6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

We spend the morning driving along the western margin 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 daypacks up to Sealy Tarns and possibly as far as Mueller Hut. Enjoy views across two valley glaciers to icefalls on Mount Sefton and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distant 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, in awe of our position in the heart of the Southern Alps, surrounded by mountains of such commanding presence. With luck, we can watch the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 19Aoraki/Mt Cook - Lake Hawea4km/2 hours hiking (B,L)

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast together with a postcard view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our dining room window.

There is the option today of joining a local operator for a guided heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier (NZ $599).* A helicopter flight will take you onto the upper glacier where you’ll attach crampons to your boots to explore ice formations and ice caves and no doubt marvel at the jagged landscape.

Those not heli-hiking can join the guide for a hike up the steep slopes of Sebastopol to the Red Tarns for more stunning views. If there is need to rest the legs today, either relax at the hut, take a walk on the valley floor or visit the information centre to learn more about the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers.

By mid-afternoon we re-unite with the heli-hikers and depart Aoraki/Mt 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. Take the night off cooking and dine at a local restaurant. Includes breakfast and lunch. 

*Price correct at time of publishing.

Day 20Lake Hawea - Aspiring Hut14km/ 6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

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 shoulder 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). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 21Aspiring Hut - Knobs Flat9km/3 hours hiking (B,L,D)

We start our return hike early this morning enjoying the pretty views and easy walking along the floor of this wide glacially formed valley. Once we are back in Wanaka recharge with 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 the Wakitipu Basin 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 22Knobs Flat - Milford2-hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option*), 5km/3 hours hiking (B,L,D)

This morning we drive beneath imposing granite cliffs and 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 and 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

* If you have chosen the kayaking option 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 the kayaking option, as space is limited.

Day 23Knobs Flat - Queenstown2km/45 minutes hiking (B,L)

After breakfast we take a short hike to check out a beautiful waterfall near our campsite, where you may want to soak up one last little bit of Fiordland by jumping under for a bracing 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. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 24Queenstown

Today your guide departs early for Christchurch marking the end of the tour. 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 and other activities to do in the area.

Please let us know if you would like to book a shuttle through to Christchurch for today ($60 – arrives Christchurch airport at 4pm).

Payment:

For bookings four or more months in advance of the departure a 25% deposit can be paid with the remainder due 65 days prior to your trip. For bookings within four months of the departure, full payment is required.

Cancellations:

  • More than 20 days prior to departure - 80% refund of full ticket price.
  • 20 to 10 days prior to departure - 50% refund of full ticket price.
  • Less than 10 days prior to departure - NO REFUND.
  • Deposits are not refunded.

Travel Insurance:

It is suggested that clients take out comprehensive travel insurance.

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Auckland - Whirinaki9.5km/3 hours hiking (L, D)

We meet at 7am at the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland before heading south to Rotorua, with a café stop on route to fortify those who missed breakfast. Rotorua is renowned for its steaming thermal vents, bubbling mud-pools and stunning lakes. The area is also rich in Māori and early European history, including the violent 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption that buried a Māori village. We enjoy a quick stop by Lake Rotorua then veer off the beaten track, southeast into the Whirinaki.

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 conservation park.

The Whirinaki Forest is a preserved remnant of the vast forests believed to have covered the super-continent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago. Our first hike is an easy one, on a descending track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside the stunning Whirinaki river. We cook up our meal together and either stay in the hut or camp nearby with an evening campfire and time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 2Whirinaki - Lake Waikaremoana15km/5 hours hiking (B,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 our hike passes 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 Tūhoe (Māori 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 northern 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 3Lake Waikaremoana14km/7 hours hiking (B,L,D)

Ready yourself with the promise of spectacular views as we start the day with a 20 minute drive to the trailhead at the south end of the lake and begin the climb up the Panekiri Range. We ascend through gnarled beech and bright green tawa forest to a point over 500 metres above the lake and hike along with breath-taking vistas in every direction.

Take time to absorb the view with a lunch stop at Bald Knob before we return back along this undulating trail, and if time permits once back at the road end we will explore the fascinating Onepoto Caves trail. Enjoy a second night at the cabins (occasionally we camp). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 4Lake Waikaremoana - Whakapapa 4km/2 hours hiking (B,L)

We start the day with a drive to the Volcanic Plateau and its myriad natural wonders. Explore an extraordinary thermal park, bathe in a natural hot river and view the impressive Huka Falls. Feel the spray here as the mighty Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, plunges 11 metres into a stadium-like pool.

Later we arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Incredibly, this 600 square kilometre crater lake was formed in 186AD by the most powerful volcanic explosion in recorded history.

At Taupo, we grab our takeaway food and head to a lovely lake-side spot. Here we can relax on the unusual pumice beach and in summer enjoy an evening swim before continuing to our lodge accommodation in Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 5Whakapapa to Waihohonu Hut 15km/6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

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 the simple but modern Waihohonu Hut among patches of mountain beech forest beside a quiet stream. There are great mountain-views from the spacious common room. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 6Waihohonu Hut - Oturere Hut8-15km/3-8 hours hiking (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 a historic hut and then return to the 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 desert 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 the 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 7Oturere Hut to Whakapapa12km/6 hours hiking (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 takes 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 back to our 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. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 8Whakapapa - Wellington 1km/1-2 hours hiking (B)

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. Includes breakfast.

Day 9Free Day in Wellington

Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance. Check out the vibrant city centre with museums, theatres, galleries and boutiques. It has been said that this pedestrian friendly city has more bars and restaurants per capita than New York and feels a bit like San Francisco. Take some time to soak in the creative vibes and check out the great craft beer and café scene during your visit. There are also some lovely city-bush-garden-hill top walks you can enjoy.

Craft the day to suit you; the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa), watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House), bus-out to the wild south coast with views to the South Island, visit Weta workshops (book in advance to avoid any Orc-ward moments), the Maritime museum, and the truly remarkable almost-in-the-city ecological restoration project ‘Zealandia’. 

Day 10Wellington - Abel Tasman National Park 9km/3 hours hiking (L,D)

Regroup at reception to meet the shuttle to the airport for the short flight across Cook Strait to Nelson and the South Island. (Note: the transfer from Wellington accommodation to Nelson Airport is without a guide). You’ll be met by your South Island guide at Nelson Airport, introduced to those joining the Ultimate South Island tour and head out of town around picturesque Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. 

Your guide will advise you on how to pack light and smart as we ready ourselves for our next adventure - a two-night stay in the park. A boat cruise around the coast takes us to the beautiful and less visited Awaroa Bay. Enjoy a picnic on the idyllic beach before starting our hike, following the Abel Tasman Coast Track south to Bark Bay where our tents and some gear were dropped by the boat. 

We pitch our tents and enjoy a delicious meal together before later falling asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 11Bark Bay - Anchorage8.5 - 12km/3-5 hours hiking (B,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 in the evening to cook and eat together. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 12Anchorage - Murchison 15 km/3 hours paddling (B,L,D)

It’s time to hit the water and explore the Abel Tasman’s magical coastline by waka (Māori 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 Māori 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

*Note: The waka experience requires a minimum of 6 people. With smaller groups we return to Kaiteriteri via water taxi.

Day 13Murchison - Ballroom Overhang 8km/3-4 hours hiking (B,L,D)

After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Here is an opportunity to observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s.

After lunch begin the group hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, the park covers over 30,000 hectares. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers and wilderness areas. The hike involves several river crossings (your boots will get wet). Collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang.

Day 14Ballroom Overhang - Hokitika 6km/3 hours hiking (B,L)

We hike back out through the canyon this morning after a leisurely start and head first to Punakaiki to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Then it’s down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving goldrush town in the 1870s, it is now a great place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Māori for tools, jewellery and weapons.

Tonight’s lodge accommodation is centrally located and just a short distance from the beach. Tuck into 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 tomorrow's ride. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 15Hokitika - Arthur's Pass39km/4-5 hours biking (or 4 hrs hiking) (L,D)

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 tomorrow's hiking adventure into Edwards Valley. Includes lunch and dinner.

Day 16Arthur's Pass - Edwards Hut9km/5-6 hours hiking (B,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 peaks, wild rivers and adventurous hiking trails. Our overnight hike takes us up the Edwards River to the Edwards Hut which sits just above the  bushline with a great view up this beautiful alpine 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 listen out for the distinct call of our national bird, the kiwi. Roroa or great spotted kiwi are known to inhabit this area. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 17Edwards Valley - Mt Somers9km/5-6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

Make the most of being in this wonderfully remote alpine valley by joining an optional hike this morning to explore further up towards Falling Mountain, where the views of the surrounding peaks open up even more. After returning to the hut we pack up and hike back out to the road having lunch along the way.

Heading east away from the divide the scenery changes dramatically with the steep forested slopes of the west replaced with wide braided rivers, tussock grassland, mountains flanked with scree and the surreal limestone formations of Castle Hill.

We leave the main highway following an inland route past Lake Lyndon, through Rakaia Gorge and on to the tiny village of Mt Somers where we stay overnight. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 18Mt Somers - Aoraki/Mt Cook10km/6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

We spend the morning driving along the western margin 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 daypacks up to Sealy Tarns and possibly as far as Mueller Hut. Enjoy views across two valley glaciers to icefalls on Mount Sefton and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Towering moraine walls, glacial lakes and the frequent rumbling of distant 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, in awe of our position in the heart of the Southern Alps, surrounded by mountains of such commanding presence. With luck, we can watch the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook turn from white to pink with the sun’s last rays. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 19Aoraki/Mt Cook - Lake Hawea4km/2 hours hiking (B,L)

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast together with a postcard view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our dining room window.

There is the option today of joining a local operator for a guided heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier (NZ $599).* A helicopter flight will take you onto the upper glacier where you’ll attach crampons to your boots to explore ice formations and ice caves and no doubt marvel at the jagged landscape.

Those not heli-hiking can join the guide for a hike up the steep slopes of Sebastopol to the Red Tarns for more stunning views. If there is need to rest the legs today, either relax at the hut, take a walk on the valley floor or visit the information centre to learn more about the park’s natural history and the feats of pioneering mountaineers.

By mid-afternoon we re-unite with the heli-hikers and depart Aoraki/Mt 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. Take the night off cooking and dine at a local restaurant. Includes breakfast and lunch. 

*Price correct at time of publishing.

Day 20Lake Hawea - Aspiring Hut14km/ 6 hours hiking (B,L,D)

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 shoulder 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). Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 21Aspiring Hut - Knobs Flat9km/3 hours hiking (B,L,D)

We start our return hike early this morning enjoying the pretty views and easy walking along the floor of this wide glacially formed valley. Once we are back in Wanaka recharge with 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 the Wakitipu Basin 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 22Knobs Flat - Milford2-hour cruise (or Milford kayaking option*), 5km/3 hours hiking (B,L,D)

This morning we drive beneath imposing granite cliffs and 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 and 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. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

* If you have chosen the kayaking option 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 the kayaking option, as space is limited.

Day 23Knobs Flat - Queenstown2km/45 minutes hiking (B,L)

After breakfast we take a short hike to check out a beautiful waterfall near our campsite, where you may want to soak up one last little bit of Fiordland by jumping under for a bracing 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. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 24Queenstown

Today your guide departs early for Christchurch marking the end of the tour. 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 and other activities to do in the area.

Please let us know if you would like to book a shuttle through to Christchurch for today ($60 – arrives Christchurch airport at 4pm).

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