Day 1: Christchurch – Kaikoura. Snowcapped peaks beside the ocean at Kaikoura. We depart Christchurch at 8:30 am and head north over the vast Canterbury Plains, New Zealand's flattest area. Our first stop is for a gentle coastal hike (1,5 hrs easy) that leads across a secluded beach, and through native forest to a 180 degree viewpoint of the east coast. After a picnic lunch we continue up the rugged eastern coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura. Explore the local crafts and cafes, and enjoy a short afternoon walk (1,5 hrs easy) around the peninsular looking out for the resident New Zealand fur seals on the rocks below and the dolphins and whales in the waters beyond. Relax over a bbq at our secluded accommodation. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 2: Kaikoura - Marlborough Sounds. Experience a glimpse of the iconic whale-tail as it descends into the Pacific at sunrise on the whale-watching cruise. Alternatively you may prefer to swim with the seals or experience an Albatross encounter cruise. Leaving Kaikoura we continue up the coast to the premier wine-growing region of Marlborough. Lunch and a wine-tasting stop gives you the chance to sample world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc. We make our way to a quiet secluded bay in the Marlborough Sounds by water taxi and spend the next two night’s at a lodge in the sounds, close by the Queen Charlotte Walkway. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Marlborough Sounds. Enjoying lunch with a view in the Sounds. Today is a free day for you to relax and enjoy the stunning Marlborough Sounds. There are many walking options today including hiking part of the Queen Charlotte walkway. This is an excellent walk that gently meanders through regenerating native forest around the top of the numerous bays, occasionally dropping in to a secluded bay (5 hrs easy). There may also be kayaking and fishing options, or you may wish to simply relax under a tree, take in the views and write postcards. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Marlborough Sounds – Abel Tasman National Park. Leaving the Sounds we make our way to sunny Tasman Bay, where you can explore the delightful city of Nelson. We then drive on to the Abel Tasman National Park, one of the most beautiful regions in the country with it's lovely sandy beaches and secluded coves fringed by native forest. You can spend the afternoon exploring the walking trails at the edge of the Park, take a swim or relax on the beach. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Abel Tasman National Park - Golden Bay. This morning a water taxi takes you into the heart of the park, where you can join the coastal hiking trail that leads through native bush, providing stunning views of enchanting bays below, and alongside sandy beaches (4 hrs easy). Alternatively, explore the lovely golden beaches and secluded bays on an optional guided sea kayaking trip ($150). In the late afternoon, we drive to our secluded lodge in Golden Bay, stopping for dinner at the famous Mussel Inn restaurant. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Golden Bay. We wave goodbye to the Heaphy walkers, and enjoy a free day to explore the remote tip of the South Island. Hike (3 hrs moderate) along the spectacular coastline or take an optional nature tour ($85) to Farewell Spit, the longest natural sandbar in the world. Do an optional horse trek ($70) on the Cape, or simply take time out to relax on the beach and write postcards. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Golden Bay - Nelson Lakes. We begin the day with a short hike (1/2 hr easy) alongside the crystal clear waters of Pupu Springs. We leave Golden Bay and head inland over Takaka Hill to the Nelson Lakes National Park. In the afternoon relax beside the beautiful Lake Rotoiti or take a gentle hike along its shores in the native beech forest. We stay in log chalets near the lake for the next two nights. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Nelson Lakes National Park. Today is free to spend exploring the park. Hike through the beech forest and discover the hidden bays of Lake Rotoiti (5 hrs easy), or venture beyond for a hike [5 hrs hard] up Mt Robert, offering stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the lake below. Alternatively, opt to try your hand at fishing on the Lake or in the trout filled rivers, or simply relax by the Lake. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Nelson Lakes - Mokihinui. We head towards the West Coast along the mighty Buller River, stopping for a short walk [1 hr easy] through native bush at the site of an old gold-mining town, still littered with relics of the bygone era. Continuing up the beautiful palm fringed coast to a tiny seaside village, we spend the afternoon hiking [2 hrs easy] along the beach and through lush rainforest. Reuniting with the Heaphy walkers, we enjoy a meal out in the local restaurant. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 11: Punakaiki - Christchurch. This morning we view the blowholes of the famous Pancake Rocks. Continuing down the spectacular coast road, we enjoy a hike (1,5 hrs easy) through forest and coastal flax bushes before heading to Greymouth. Sit back and relax for the last leg of our journey, the drive over the spectacular Arthur’s Pass, stopping for a short walk (1 hr easy) to stretch our legs on the way back to Christchurch. Alternatively opt to take the TranzAlpine ($125) train across the Pass, acclaimed as one of the best alpine train journeys in the world. We arrive in Christchurch at approximately 5:00 pm. Includes: (B), (L).
Days 12-13: Christchurch. These two days are free days for you to take time out and recharge your batteries for the rest of the tour! Explore the many shops, restaurants, parks and local sights that this lovely city have to offer. Your meals and accommodation on these two days are not provided, although we are happy to organise you accommodation in a central city B&B on your behalf.
Day 14: Christchurch – Aoraki/Mt Cook. Walking up Mt John with Lake Tekapo beyondWe depart Christchurch at 8:30am and head south over the Canterbury Plains to Lake Tekapo. This surreal lake is a terrific aqua blue colour due to the presence of glacial rock flour in the water, and is most striking against the yellow and brown hues of the surrounding hills of the MacKenzie Basin. We enjoy this stunning vista with a gentle hike (3 hrs moderate) along the side of the lake and up to a viewpoint providing a tremendous 360 degree view of the lake and Alps beyond. Our drive continues along the scenic canal system to Lake Tekapo where the imposing peak of Aoraki/Mt. Cook can be seen in the distance. We spend the evening in a lodge on a high country station, with a million dollar view of Aoraki/Mt Cook. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 15: Aoraki/Mt Cook – Clyde. We spend the morning in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, where there are several activity options. Hike up to the Sealy Tarns (3,5 hrs hard) for mind-boggling views of the surrounding mountains, or alternatively do a gentle hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake (4 hrs easy). Other options that are available here are sea kayaking ($75) on a glacial lake; horse riding ($70) in the high country terrain; or if you’re up for it, take a stunning scenic helicopter flight ($160-$350) around the many peaks of the park. In the afternoon, we make our way over the Lindis Pass and into the dry region of Central Otago. We stay at a colourful pub in the historic gold mining precinct of Clyde, and eat out at a local restaurant. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 16: Clyde – The Catlins. This morning we do a walk beside the Clutha River under the restful willow trees, where during the 1860's gold rush miners would have been abound, to the next town (2,5 hrs easy). After lunch and a refreshing stop at a local vineyard famous for its Pinot Noir, we head down the river valley and into the remote Catlins area, at the southern tip of the island. The Catlins region is relatively undeveloped and the road was only sealed in March 2005! So needless to say, we don't encounter too many people, and the scenery is just stunning. First up, we visit a seal colony on a battered rocky point with great views of the South Pacific Ocean and beyond. We continue on and explore the picture-perfect waterfalls nestled amongst the lush virgin native podocarp forest in the area, before heading to our quiet hill top accommodation in a beautifully restored home. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 17: The Catlins. We spend the day exploring the vast sweeping white beaches, hidden lakes and waterfalls, and beautiful lush vegetation of this region with several shorter walks and a gentle hike (2 hrs easy). Relax on the white sandy beach with a book, or take a refreshing swim. We make our way a short distance to Curio Bay, home of an incredible petrified forest that is visible at low tide - the original floor of the Jurassic forest, dating back some 160 million years. The very rare Yellow Eyed Penguins are resident in this bay, and we may be lucky enough to see the birds arriving back from a days fishing at sea in the late afternoon. Hector’s dolphins, one of the smallest dolphin's in the world, are also resident in the bay. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 18: The Catlins – Te Anau. This morning we drive inland to Lake Manapouri, one of the prettiest and deepest lakes in the country, flanked by high mountain ranges and fringed with native beech forest. After a picnic lunch by the lake, we do a superb hike through the cool cover of the beech forest with springy leaf litter underfoot, up to a superb viewpoint giving impressive views of the lake below, and the snow-capped Kepler Mountains beyond (4 hrs moderate). We continue a short distance to our accommodation in the sleepy town of Te Anau. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 19: Te Anau – Milford Sound. Today we take the time to explore the amazing Milford Road on the way into Milford Sound, stopping to admire the many small lakes and viewpoints along the way. We do a remarkable hike (4 hrs moderate) up through moss covered goblin-like beech trees to a great viewpoint of a hanging lake high in the mountains. 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, as 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 20: Milford Sound – Arrowtown. Disembarking from our overnight cruise, we make our way to the lovely quiet village of Arrowtown, via the famous Kawarau Suspension Bridge to view Queenstown’s most famous pursuit – the bungee jump ($130), 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 next two evenings in a lovely cottage a stones throw from Arrowtown's restaurants and cafes. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 21: Arrowtown/Queenstown. Today is a free day. Arrowtown is a mere 20 minutes from Queenstown and there is the option is visiting the hustle and bustle of the 'adrenalin capital of the world' for the day. There are many adventure activities at hand to invigorate the body and soul such as rafting ($150), mountain biking ($100), horseriding ($80), and paragliding ($150) to name but a few, as well as endless souvenir and the like shopping. Alternatively you can relax in idyllic Arrowtown where there are plenty of cafes and shops to keep you occupied, or even some pleasant short and long hiking trails. Includes: (B).
Day 22: Arrowtown – Haast. Decked out in swannies on the Waiatoto! We tackle the spectacular Crown Range road (NZ’s highest highway) and head into the beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka. After a quick chance to explore and a latte, we continue to the mystical Haast Pass where you can stretch your legs and walk the final few kilometres to the top on the old bridle path (1 hr easy). This trail follows a gentle stream through mountain beech forest, and there are many of our native birds singing out along the way.
We continue in the bus to Haast, nestled by the roaring sea in the World Heritage Park, and in the afternoon we experience one of New Zealand’s greatest inventions, a jet boat ride. This exhilarating ride takes us up a remote and beautiful river as our guide Roger provides us with excellent information about the local area whilst negotiating rapids and submerged logs. We spend the evening in a motel style lodge and experience west coast cuisine at its best. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 23: Haast – Franz Josef. We do a short walk to explore a rugged driftwood strewn beach at the forest edge on our way up the coast to the mighty glaciers. At Fox Glacier, remarkable in that it snakes right down into a temperate rain forest, you can opt to do a guided walk on the ice ($55), or perhaps a helihike ($230) where you explore the upper reaches of the glacier after first viewing the river of ice from a helicopter. Alternatively, we can take you on another hike to a hidden viewpoint of the glacier (2 hrs moderate), or around a forest fringed lake offering unparallel photo opportunities on a clear day (1,5 hrs easy). We stay in the alpine village of Franz Josef. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 24: Franz Josef – Lake Kaniere. We continue north and turn off the main highway to the tiny seaside settlement of Okarito. Here 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 wading birds. On clear days the view of the Southern Alps from the across the lagoon are second to none. We then head up the coast and hike (4 hrs moderate) alongside Lake Mahinapua, a large lake hidden amongst the native forest. We spend our final evening in a lodge overlooking the mountains. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 25: 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 walk through mountain beech forest (45 min. easy) to stretch our legs on the way back to Christchurch and the end of the tour. We will be back in Christchurch by approximately 5 pm. If you are flying out of Christchurch this evening, we can drop you at the airport on the way into the city (book flights after 6:00 pm)]. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Note: All prices are in New Zealand dollars.
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