This 12 day tour discovers the lush West Coast, pristine lakes and wondrous mountain valleys of the Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, the iconic Milford Sound, as well as the sweeping beaches of the remote Catlin coast, historic gold trails of Central Otago, and the awe-inspiring alps of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, all at a relaxed pace.
Day 1: Christchurch – Mt Cook. Your all inclusive adventure vacation package begins as we depart Christchurch for the drive across the Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo. After a picnic lunch we enjoy a gentle hike along the side of the lake and up to a viewpoint providing a tremendous view of the aqua lake and Alps beyond. We continue travelling along the scenic canal system to Lake Tekapo. The brave can enjoy an icy dip in the glacial lake, or simply take in the awe of Mt Cook in the distance. We spend the evening in rustic shearer’s quarters on a high country station, with a million dollar view of Mt Cook. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Mt Cook – Cromwell. We spend the morning in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, where there are several activity options. A 3 hour hike takes us up to the Sealy Tarns and mind-boggling views on the surrounding mountains, or alternatively a gentle hike takes you up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake. Take in the views by sea kayaking on a glacial lake, which allows you to get right up close to the wall of ice. Take a horseride in the high country terrain, or if you’re up for it, take a stunning scenic helicopter flight around the park. In the afternoon, we make our way over the Lindis Pass and into Central Otago, where we explore a few vineyards on the way to our accommodation nestled in the vines of a vineyard. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Cromwell – The Catlins. This morning we gain an insight into the gold-rush days of Central Otago by doing a hike amongst the goldfield sluicings, where old stone cottages and gold-mining relics remain. After a refreshing stop at a local vineyard famous for its Pinot Noir, we head down the Clutha River Valley and into the remote Catlins area. First up, we visit a seal colony on a battered rocky point. We then explore the picture-perfect waterfalls in the area, before heading to our amazing hill top accommodation in a beautifully restored home. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: The Catlins. Today is a free day for you to explore the sweeping beaches and lush native forest of the Catlins area. Spend the day on an enchanting river valley hike, relax at vast white sandy beach with a book or get in the waves on a surfboard. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: The Catlins – Lake Manapouri. We rise nice and early this morning for the chance to view the world’s rarest penguin – the Yellow Eyed Penguin in its natural habitat in Curio Bay. Hectors dolphins are also locals that you may get be lucky enough to meet. Curio Bay is also home to an incredible petrified forest – the original floor of the Jurassic forest, dating back some 160 million years, which we take the time to explore. We then drive inland up to Lake Manapouri, one of the prettiest and deepest lakes in the country. There we enjoy the lake and surrounding mountains with a hike through the native mountain beech forest to a superb viewpoint. Our accommodation tonight is in beautifully crafted huts overlooking the lake. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Lake Manapouri – Milford Sound. Today we take the time to explore the amazing Milford Road on the way into Milford Sound. We hike up through moss covered goblin-like beech trees to a great viewpoint of the Fiordland National Park. Small lakes and thundering waterfalls are also viewed on the way to the Sound. In the evening when most of the tourists have departed for the day, we board our vessel which takes us out into the sound. Seals, penguins, dolphins and an array of birds are visible as dusk falls. We spend the evening on board the vessel. There is the option of sea kayaking in the sound to appreciate the nature at a closer level. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Milford Sound – Arrowtown. Disembarking from our overnight cruise, we make our way to Arrowtown, via the famous Kawarau Suspension Bridge to view Queenstown’s most famous pursuit – the bungy jump, where any adventure vacation junkies are invited to make a jump. For the more reluctant, a famous vineyard is available across the road for wine-tasting. We spend the evening in a lovely cottage a stones throw from Arrowtown's restaurants and cafes. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 8: Arrowtown/ Queenstown. Today is a free day. Arrowtown is a mere 20 minutes from Queenstown, so any of the adventure vacation activities Queenstown has to offer such as rafting, mountain biking, horseriding, paragliding to name but a few are also available from Arrowtown. There is the option of visiting the hustle and bustle Queenstown for the day, or alternatively you can relax in the idyllic Arrowtown where there are plenty of cafes and shops to keep you occupied, or even some pleasant hikes. Includes: (B).
Day 9: Arrowtown – Haast. We tackle the spectacular Crown Range road (NZ’s highest highway) and head into the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka first up. We then continue over the magical Haast Pass to the village of Haast, nestled by the sea in the World Heritage Park. In the afternoon, we experience one of NZ’s greatest inventions, a jet boat ride up a remote and beautiful river as our guide provides excellent information about the local area whilst negotiating rapids and submerged logs. We spend the evening in a famous World Heritage Hotel and experience west coast hospitality at its best. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Haast – Okarito. We explore a rugged driftwood strewn beach at the forest edge on our way up the coast to the magical Fox Glacier. At Fox Glacier, remarkable in that it snakes right down to a temperate rain forest, you can opt to do a guided walk on the ice, or perhaps a helihike where you explore the upper reaches of the glacier after first viewing the area from a helicopter. Alternatively, other hikes are available that take you to a hidden viewpoint of the glacier, or around a forest fringed lake offering unparallel photo opportunities on a clear day. We continue to the tiny seaside settlement of Okarito where we spend the evening in a historic building. After dinner, a short walk to a viewpoint reveals the entire spine of the Southern Alps in the alpenglow of the sunset – one of the best views on the coast. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Okarito – Lake Kaniere. This morning we board a boat the takes us deep into the Okarito Lagoon, a huge unmodified wetland full of birds including the elusive Kotuku or White Heron, where we learn about the amazing history of the area and appreciate the large variety of native birds. On clear days the view of the Southern Alps from the across the lagoon are second to none. Alternatively, there is the option of exploring the lagoon by sea kayak. We then head up the coast and hike alongside Lake Kaniere, a large lake hidden amongst the native forest. We spend our final evening in a lodge overlooking the mountains. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 12: Lake Kaniere – Christchurch. We explore the town of Hokitika and visit a pounamu (greenstone) workshop where we learn about the history and significance of pounamu to Maori from this region and indeed the whole of the country. Then we drive over the spectacular Arthur’s Pass, stopping for a short walks to stretch our legs on the way back to Christchurch and the end of the tour. There is the option of taking the world class TranzAlpine Train across the Pass. Include: (B), (L).
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