Day to day Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive, hike Mt. John. Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday evening, and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! You’ll take a short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by around 10 am. We’ll meet you there, and then head south for a hike at Mt. John. We’ll walk along the shores of Lake Tekapo then head uphill through fragrant wilding pine, before emerging above the treeline for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Then we’ll drive to the remote and beautiful Lake Ohau Lodge, near Mt. Cook. With awesome views of Lake Ohau, Glen Mary Glacier, Mt. Cook and the Lake Ohau Range, you’ll see why this is one of our favourite winter hideaways! The stars here are amazing too, as there is no artificial light for miles in any direction. You’ll have the rest of the afternoon to relax at the lodge or head out for another short walk to explore your surroundings. We always make sure the first day of our trips is relaxing and undemanding, so you can recover from your flight. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll probably find jetlag is no big deal. For instance, it’s a 12-hour direct overnight flight from the West Coast of the USA to Auckland, and there’s only a five-hour time difference between New Zealand and US Pacific time. If you have more time, by all means try to arrive in New Zealand a day or so early, especially if you’re coming from further afield. Accommodation: Lake Ohau Lodge, Lake Ohau (L,D)
Day 2: Hike Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park or ski Ohau Ski Area. We’ll have a leisurely start today. After a late breakfast on the balcony overlooking Lake Ohau, it’s a short drive to Mt. Cook village, at the head of Lake Pukaki. Here we’ll take an impressive hike up Hooker Valley to a glacial lake complete with icebergs! This is a great spot for lunch and on a clear day the views of Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, are stunning. Then we’ll return to Lake Ohau where we’ll enjoy a sumptuous dinner. Another option today is to spend the day skiing at the small and friendly Ohau Ski Area, one of the South Island’s more remote backcountry ski fields (for about US$100 including gear). Accommodation: Lake Ohau Lodge, Lake Ohau (B,L,D)
Day 3: Hike Mt. Aspiring National Park. Today we start the first of two memorable multi-day hikes. This hike is well suited to winter conditions, due to the sheer beauty and unpopulated nature of the area at this time of year. It is a gentle valley walk of less than three hours, but we have a great side hike to Rob Roy Glacier on the way to the hut, which is considered one of the best day hikes in the South Island on a good day. The trail passes tumbling rivers, towering snowfields and huge mountain peaks straight from the set of “The Lord of the Rings”! We hike up a narrow glacial valley, coming out of the forest in a dramatic alpine cirque, with incredible views of the Southern Alps. When we arrive at the hut, you can continue further up the valley or simply head for the cosy fireplace and relax. Mt. Aspiring Hut is a spacious mountain hut, albeit in the middle of nowhere, with floor to ceiling windows that perfectly frame Mt. Aspiring – one of New Zealand’s tallest peaks at nearly 10,000 feet – at the head of the valley. We limit numbers on this hike to minimise our impact on the area. If you prefer not to stay in the hut, we offer an alternative option, staying at the more luxurious Lake Wanaka Lodge and doing day hikes into the surrounding hills, or just relaxing and enjoying Wanaka’s laid-back, small town atmosphere! The choice is yours. Accommodation: Mt. Aspiring Hut, Mt. Aspiring National Park (B,L,D)
Day 4: Hike Mt. Aspiring National Park. We have a leisurely start today, enjoying a healthy breakfast and admiring the views, before hiking back out to the trailhead. From here we have a short drive to Wanaka where we’ll meet up with the rest of the group. Then we’ll cross the Cardrona Saddle and drop into Queenstown, a picturesque town set in a basin on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by snowy peaks. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days, and you’ll find all sorts of options to pique your interest! Accommodation: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown (B,L)
Day 5: Free day in Queenstown. We are based in Queenstown for a good reason – it’s the adventure capital of New Zealand and you’ll find all the comforts of civilisation: massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafés, window-shopping and adrenaline-pumping activities! You’ll also find incredible optional activities here too, such as hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, horse trekking, fishing and winery tours. Many of our clients have noted that the Winter Rimu caters very well to people with quite different interests and our time in Queenstown is a good example. For instance, there are great hiking, biking and kayaking opportunities in this region. Also, being winter, you can go skiing or snowboarding for the day at one of four ski areas – with some of the world’s best ski field views – all within an hour’s drive from central Queenstown (approximate cost US$100 for ski or snowboard hire, transport and lift pass – available as snow conditions suit, generally from July to September). Or you can do nothing and just soak up the atmosphere, or lounge about reading a book. Accommodation: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown.
Customize Your Trip: When you book, you have the choice of a multi-day cycling and kayaking option in Fiordland National Park, or a skiing/snowboarding option in Queenstown. Each is wonderful in its own way, so we’ll let you decide!
Day 6: Start multi-day options. After breakfast together, we head off for our various activities. Option I: Cycling and kayaking in Queenstown and Milford Sound
Day 7: Cycling or a free day in Queenstown. Today is a cycling day, for the keen cyclists among us! You’ll be fitted with a 21-speed front-suspension Specialized mountain bike for a spectacular ride near Queenstown, or if you prefer to avoid cycling in winter, you’ll have most of today available for extra Queenstown options. We’ll do one of the many cycling tracks in the area, and the biking is guaranteed to suit all levels of ability. At the end of the day, we have a two-hour drive to Lake Manapouri, which will be the base for our sea kayaking adventure to Milford Sound. We’ll stay at Lake Manapouri Inn, with great views over the lake and the surrounding mountains of Fiordland National Park. Accommodation: Lake Manapouri Inn, Manapouri (B,L,D)
Day 8: Sea kayak Milford Sound. The day starts very early this morning as we head towards Milford Sound. Milford was rated the 8th Natural Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling and it’s easy to see why. Sheer granite walls plunge thousands of feet into calm indigo water, broken only by the reflection of the towering snowy peaks that border the sound. Most people see Milford Sound from the deck of a cruise ship, but we’ve got a better way – gliding along in a sea kayak, causing minimum disruption to the seals and dolphins that are very friendly and often eager to visit. This is an awesome trip, run by specialist kayak outfitters and suitable for beginners or experts. When you finish your paddle, we’ll head back to Lake Manapouri and arrive by mid afternoon for a BBQ dinner. Accommodation: Lake Manapouri Inn, Manapouri (B,L,D)
(morning) - Morning walk or jog near Lake Manapouri. Manapouri is surrounded by beautiful rolling farmland which is great for a morning stroll or run if you’re keen to stretch your legs. The earlier you set out, the more ground you’ll cover. The rest of the group can enjoy a late-morning start and we’ll pick up the runners on our way to Queenstown, where we’ll stop for lunch and meet up with the skiers/snowboarders. You’ll have the chance to do any last-minute shopping, send post cards home, or whatever you need before heading back into the wilderness for the rest of the trip.
Option 2: Skiing or snowboarding in Queenstown. (available as snow conditions suit – generally July to September)
Day 9: Skiing or snowboarding in Queenstown. With Coronet Peak, the Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone ski areas all within an hours drive of Queenstown, there are plenty of skiing and snowboarding options for novices and experts alike, and being locals we’ll be happy to point you to the best of them! You’ll get two full days enjoying the snow, with lift passes and transportation to either ski area provided. If you want to brush up on your skills, or if you’re relatively new to the sport, lessons are a great option. You can bring your own gear, or you can rent gear down here (gear hire is about US$40 per day). Conditions vary throughout the season, but you can expect good skiing and riding, on and off-piste, with scenery that will blow you away! If you want to go skiing, but you don’t want to miss out on Milford Sound, you can also use today or tomorrow to take a day trip to the world famous Fiordland National Park. We’ll pass onto your guide that it’s something that you’re keen to do and they can help arrange this for you. Accommodation: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown (B)
Day 10: Skiing or snowboarding. Now that you’ve got your ‘ski-legs’, today is the day to really carve it up – have fun out there! Accommodation: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown (B)
Day 11: (morning) - Skiing or snowboardingWe’ll spend the morning relaxing in Queenstown before rejoining the cycling and kayaking group around lunch time and heading north to Makarora.
(afternoon) - Finish multi-day options. After regrouping we’ll head through the stunning South Lakes over Haast Pass to the tiny hamlet of Haast, located on the West Coast, where we’ll enjoy a homely meal – venison pie! Accommodation: World Heritage Heartland Hotel, Haast (B,D)
Day 12: Hike to Copland Hot Pools, Westland National Park. We are very privileged to be able to do this hike. We’ll walk into a stunningly beautiful mountain basin, set directly underneath the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, with an awesome accoutrement – reliable natural hot pools! It’s a challenging six to seven hour hike (17 km/10 miles) up the Copland Valley with a gradual 1,000 foot elevation gain, but it’s worth it to have all of tomorrow to take side hikes, soak in the hot pools and enjoy your alpine surroundings. You don’t have to carry a very heavy pack – our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. You’ll be carrying a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and some food – no need for any more than that. Once we reach the hot pools, we stay in one of New Zealand’s most modern and spacious backcountry huts. It’s a hut in name only – it’s a comfortable two-storied building (a palace compared to many New Zealand huts) and one of the best things about hiking this track in winter is we may well have it all to ourselves! Accommodation: Welcome Flat Hut, Westland National Park (B,L,D)
Day 13: Hike to Douglas Rock and soak in the hot pools. Today we will hike further up the track towards Douglas Rock for even more amazing scenery and views of multiple glaciers clinging to the top of the mountain valley. If you prefer, you can have a relaxing day at the hut – soak in the hot pools, enjoy the stunning scenery, or even just hang out with a book! Either way, the hot pools are without a doubt the star attraction here; closely followed by the spectacular meals we’ll be serving up! Accommodation: Welcome Flat Hut, Westland National Park (B,L,D)
Day 14: Hike Copland Valley and relax in Okarito. An early start sees us on the track and walking back to the trailhead. It’s a little quicker this time, being slightly downhill, and we’ll be back by mid-afternoon. With a really early start, we’ll have time to stop at Fox Glacier afterwards, for a walk to a view of the terminal face. Fox Glacier is an enormous river of ice, unusual in that it comes right down through the rainforest to sea level. Then we’ll carry on to Okarito Lagoon, a West Coast gem that is all but untouched due to it being 10 miles down a one-way road from an obscure highway turnoff. There are no shops, no restaurants, no traffic, and a population of only 31 people! We stay at the Okarito Beach House, and you’ll love this place. There’s plenty to do here so we’ll stay two nights, to catch our breath and relax. Tonight you can sprawl by the fire with a glass of mulled wine (or hot chocolate!) after your long hike. Accommodation: Okarito Beach House, Okarito (B,L,D)
Day 15: Kayak Okarito Lagoon, hike beach and forest. Today you can spend a relaxing day in this sleepy but beautiful beach town to recharge your batteries, or get out for awesome hiking and kayaking. Okarito Lagoon is home to the only native white heron colony in New Zealand, as well as lots of other amazing birdlife including the Okarito Brown kiwi. You can sea kayak on the lagoon with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains for a few hours, then spend the rest of the day hiking along the beach or in coastal rainforest. Accommodation: Okarito Beach House, Okarito (B,L,D)
Day 16: Hike Punakaiki rainforest and beaches. This morning we’ll drive along the coast to Hokitika to check out local art galleries and a pounamu carving workshop (‘pounamu’ is Maori for jade). Then after lunch, we’ll carry on to Punakaiki, where we’ll spend the afternoon hiking among the limestone canyons and lush rainforest of the Inland Pack Track. We start at a classic ‘submergence’ – where the river suddenly dries up mid-stream and goes underground for a mile or so before resurfacing at Cave Creek. The rainforest in this area is unbelievably lush, and the limestone canyons and distant hazy mountains of Paparoa National Park make this an awesome day hike. The trail was originally established by gold miners over a century ago, so there’s plenty of history in the area as well. We’ll also check out Punakaiki’s famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Accommodation: West Coast lodgings, Punakaiki (B,L,D)
Day 17: Depart for home. This is the last day of your two-week trip around the South Island. We’ll leave after breakfast for the four-hour drive to Christchurch, and arrive early in the afternoon for flights back to Auckland. Any flight after 4 pm is ideal but we can make 3 pm flights with a little notice. International flights from Auckland usually leave early evening, so if you’re crossing the dateline you’ll get home some time on Sunday, even though you left on Sunday evening! Flights to Europe, of course, take a little longer. Wherever you’re travelling to, you’ll go back refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest and great times you’ll have had with us in New Zealand! (B,L)
Also see tour packages in:
Australia and Oceania New Zealand Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Skiing & Snowboarding