Our guides often come to us with great ideas for new activities and places to visit on our trips, so this past season we created an annual competition amongst our guides where they design a trip of their own - the “Guide's Choice trip” - and the winner gets to guide it! This year's winner was Lynette Warmington! We think she's come up with an awesome trip by combining our favorite activities with her favorite places, such as hiking on the Hump Ridge Track. In fact, after reading through her itinerary, many of us here in the NZ office are keen to explore them too!
Lynette has been with us for several years, and in that time she has become one of our most popular trip leaders. Her clients are always very impressed with her knowledge and enthusiasm, and we are too! We know you'll have a great trip with Lynette as she's really passionate about the activities you'll do, and knows the places you'll visit along the way intimately.
Day 1: Arrive, biking in Hanmer Forest & thermal pools.
Most people leave the Northern hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You'll lose a day when you cross the dateline - but you get it back on the way home! You'll immediately take the short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by 10 am or so. Lynette and her co-guide will meet you there and we'll drive up the coast to the mountain village of Hanmer Springs.
After lunch, for those that are keen, you'll get a chance to stretch your legs with a bike ride in the Hanmer Forest. In the evening you can soak, relax and get to know your co-travelers in the fresh water mineral spa at Hanmer Springs. This makes for a cruise introduction to New Zealand and gives you the chance to spend most of the day relaxing and recovering 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 3-hour time difference between New Zealand and US Pacific time. If you're coming from further afield, you'll appreciate the gentle start to your New Zealand adventure. Accommodation: Hanmer Springs lodgings, Hanmer Springs. Included: (L), (D).
Day 2: Hiking Lewis Pass & Cape Foulwind.
After breakfast we head out to walk on the Lewis Pass Nature Trail, a winding track up to a small beautiful mountain tarn near the summit of the pass. Here we'll experience some of the scenery you may have seen in the movie Lord of the Rings, with spectacular views of Cannibal Gorge. We'll then wind through the Southern Alps on to the wild West Coast, stopping along the way for a coastal hike at Cape Foulwind. There are great views of the Tasman Sea and surrounding Southern Alps from here and you'll likely see New Zealand Fur Seals cavorting in the waves along the rocky coastline and sea birds soaring above the cliff tops. Accommodation: West Coast lodgings - comfortable and quiet. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Hiking in Punakaiki & Castle Hill Basin.
We'll spend most of the day in Punakaiki to hike amongst the limestone canyons and lush rainforest of the Punakaiki River to Bullock Creek Track. This is one of Lynette's favorite places in the world, and you'll see why. The gold miners who first opened up the area over a century ago established this trail. We'll also check out the Pancake Rocks and the blowholes. The Punakaiki coastline is a magnet to marine mammals, and two species of dolphins often come right to the inner shore line. There's also a great deal of marine birdlife, including penguins that can be spotted if you're lucky!
After lunch, we head towards Arthurs Pass, and take a hike in the rugged Castle Hill Basin area. We follow Cave Stream for a short distance before heading up to the Landon saddle, and onwards to the top of Landon Hill. This is a superb viewpoint for the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges and the limestone landscape of Castle Hill Basin, where much of the recent film “Narnia - the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was made. From here, we'll head to a working New Zealand high-country sheep farm - Flock Hill Lodge, at the foothills of the mountains, where we'll spend the night. Accommodation: Flock Hill Lodge, Flock Hill. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Hiking in Peel Forest and star-gazing.
From Flock Hill, we'll travel south to Peel Forest to hike through ancient podocarp forest, dense with many different types of ferns. The fern is a national symbol of New Zealand, worn by our famous rugby team - the All Blacks. After lunch in the area, we'll travel inland towards Mt. Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. We stay near the shore of Lake Pukaki - a glacial lake with an unworldly turquoise-blue color.
It's the middle of nowhere out here! The wide open spaces, regular clear evenings and lack of artificial light gives us the perfect opportunity to check out some of the Southern Hemisphere's most well known stellar features, including the Southern Cross, the Coal Sack, and views of the Milky Way like you've never seen before. Accommodation: Glentanner lodgings, Mt. Cook. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Hiking near Mt. Cook.
This morning it's a short drive to Mt. Cook Village, at the head of Lake Pukaki. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, and we have a stunning and little-known day hike (weather permitting) to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier, which is one of Lynette's favorite hikes from the Rimu trip. It's a tough slog up, but you'll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Main Divide forever! This area is also home to the largest buttercup in the world, which is oddly-named the Mt. Cook Lily. There are also other hiking options if you'd like to take it a little easier.
The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it's a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the Mueller hike, we'll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs! Then we head back to Glentanner where we'll enjoy a traditional Kiwi BBQ and a cold drink as we sit outside and watch the sun set over Mt. Cook. A unique option today is to take to sea-kayak on the Mueller glacial lake! Upon arrival in the Mt. Cook Village, you'll be matched with a modern sea kayak and all the necessary safety equipment for paddling.
You don't need any experience to do this option, but if you are an experienced sea kayaker, you won't be bored. After a thorough safety briefing, you'll head out with your guide for a paddle through glacial bays and around icebergs. From a safe distance in the water, you can watch avalanches as they thunder off the glaciers of Mt Sefton! The views of New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook, are incredible. You'll then park up on the Mueller Glacier itself for a stroll up to an area dotted with fresh water springs and plunge pools for the daring! This is truly a unique trip. (Sea kayak option approximately US$80 per person) Accommodation: Glentanner lodgings. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Visit Moeraki boulders, hike overlooking Dunedin.
After breakfast we'll follow the Waitaki River to the East Coast - a stunning drive alongside glacial melt-waters, lakes, and limestone country. Once we meet the coast, we'll be heading south towards Dunedin, stopping along the way at the Moeraki Boulders. These large geological spheres have eroded from the nearby sea cliffs, forming a bizarre alien-like landscape - it's simply out of this world! Lynette will tell you more about the Maori legend surrounding this mysterious geological phenomenon.
After lunch we'll continue on to Dunedin for a hike up Mt. Cargill for 360° views of Dunedin city, Otago Harbour and a scattering of extinct volcanoes along the north coast! This city is like a little piece of Scotland in the South Pacific - it has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. A long with the beautiful architecture you'll find all the comforts of civilization: massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, window-shopping, and some great art galleries and theatres!
You'll also find plenty of optional activities here too, such as a wildlife tour to Otago Peninsula to see the only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatrosses in the world, a visit to the historic Larnach Castle, or a trip to a colony of rare Yellow-eyed penguins - it's all here! There are also incredible windswept beaches to walk along, and numerous tracks through the native forest surrounding the city as well. Or you can do nothing, if you prefer to just soak up the atmosphere. Accommodation: George Street Villas, Dunedin - comfortable and central. Included: (B), (L).
Day 7: Free day in Dunedin.
It's all up to you today - enjoy! Accommodation: George Street Villas. Included: (B).
Day 8: Explore the Catlins coastline & view rare wildlife.
Today we head towards the South Island's most southern point. The Catlins region is a haven for rare wildlife. The Hooker's Sea Lion, the rarest in the world, can be found here, along with the Yellow-eyed Penguin, the New Zealand Fur Seal, the Hector's Dolphin, and even the occasional Elephant Seal visiting from the sub-Antarctic islands south of New Zealand.
We'll explore several of the stunning bays and points in this area including Nugget Point with its historic lighthouse, Cannibal Bay, Purakaunui Scenic Reserve, and Curio Bay - home to a fossilized forest from the Jurassic period. Later in the day, we'll drive west to our lodgings in Tuatapere, a small Southland country village. Before dinner we'll also have a pre-departure briefing for the Hump Ridge Track Guided Walk. Accommodation: Waiau Hotel, Tuatapere. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Hiking to Okaka Hut; 6-7 hours, 8 miles / 13 km.
After an early breakfast at the Waiau Hotel, we'll start our journey along the deserted Bluecliffs beach. At Flat Creek we head inland and start the steady climb up Hump Ridge through the dense Waitutu Forest. Dr. David Bellamy described the Waitutu forest as "probably the most important forest in the world". As the views open up you'll see surreal sandstone towers peering down on a series of raised marine coastal terraces and views back towards Te Waewae Bay where we began the day.
This ancient terraced forest rises out of the sea with each terrace 100,000 years older than the last. The thick vegetation eventually gives way to sub-alpine tussock grasses as we continue on towards Okaka Hut, our back country accommodations for the night. For the extra keen, a short loop track from Okaka Hut will lead you to views across Lake Poteriteri to rugged mountain ranges in Fiordland. Accommodation: Okaka Hut, Hump Ridge Track. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Hiking to Port Craig Hut; 8-9 hours, 12 miles / 19 km.
As Kaka parrots chatter above us in the trees and the morning mist clears, we begin the day by traversing the Fiordland side of Hump Ridge towards the south coast. We'll soon be passing Luncheon Rock, where spectacular views of the Southern Ocean and surrounding forest are laid out in front of you. On a clear day, those with keen eyes might be able to make out Solander Island, an isolated volcanic pillar sticking out of the ocean, and beyond to Stewart Island. At midday we reach an old logging track and arrive at the 410-foot Percy Burn viaduct, the largest wooden viaduct in the world.
The Percy Burn stream cuts a deep gorge beneath the viaduct, and great views abound. It's a couple hours along an old tramway to the hut. Built amongst the remains of an abandoned logging village, Port Craig hut has a lot of history as it was once a major port town for the South Coast. Accommodation: Port Craig Hut, Hump Ridge Track. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Hiking from Port Craig to trailhead; 3-4 hours, 7 miles 11 km.
We spend our last day on the Hump Ridge track hiking along the coastline back to the Track Burn where we started a few days ago. If the tide is out, from Te Whata we can hike along the foreshore to Breakneck Beach, otherwise we'll take the inland route through the coastal forest. Either way, by early afternoon we'll be back at the Track Burn for our journey back to civilization.
Not many people venture this far south, but you'll have really enjoyed your time on the Hump Ridge! We'll head back to Tuatapere for a celebration drink before heading on to Manapouri for the evening. We'll stay at the Lake Manapouri Inn, beautifully located on the lake's edge. You'll love the great views out over the lake and the surrounding mountains of Fiordland National Park. Accommodation: Lake Manapouri Inn, Manapouri. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 12: Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound.
We've kept this morning pretty cruise; you can have a bit of a sleep in, relax on the lakefront with a book and a cuppa, or if you have the stamina, take a morning run surrounded by rolling hills and farmland. At midday we'll take the ferry across Lake Manapouri, disembarking at the head of the lake and traveling over the Wilmot Pass towards Deep Cove and the start of Doubtful Sound. As we reach the top of the pass, we get our first glimpse of Doubtful Sound stretching off into the distance. Both Doubtful Sound and the more well-known Milford Sound are within the Fiordland National Park.
The main difference between them, is that Doubtful is much more remote and chances are there will only be one boat on the water – yours! You'll stay overnight on the Fiordland Navigator, a charming vessel, that has all the mod cons, but still has that old-world charm. You'll have the chance to explore the fiord by sea-kayak or tender craft, and then we'll sail west to watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea and visit the local seal population lazing on the rocks. At some point along the journey, we'll probably be visited by Doubtful Sound's local pod of dolphins, that like nothing more than to play in the wave made by the boat's bow. Accommodation: Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 13: Explore Doubtful Sound and cycle Mavora Lakes.
Wake to the silence and serenity of Doubtful Sound. After breakfast there will be time to explore the sound once again before returning to Deep Cove. We then continue the journey through to Manapouri where we started this time yesterday! At midday we head towards the Mavora Lakes for a picnic lunch amongst the picturesque and isolated high country. You'll then be fitted with a 21-speed front-suspension specialized mountain bike for a spectacular ride past the Oreti River to Lake Wakatipu.
Along the way we'll meet the head waters of the Von River, which is surrounded by the towering Livingston Mountains, and follow its course to Lake Wakatipu - a true wilderness cycling experience on a deserted back road. We'll catch an early evening ferry ride on the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown for our final evening together. If cycling is not your thing, you can skip it and just enjoy the scenery on the drive around to Queenstown to meet up with the others – like all our activities, the cycling is completely optional. Accommodation: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 14: Depart for home.
This is the last day of your two-week trip around the South Island with Lynette! After breakfast Lynette and her co-guide will drop you at the airport for late-morning flights back to Christchurch or Auckland. International flights from Auckland usually leave early evening, so if you're heading back to North America, you'll get home some time on Sunday, even though you left on Sunday evening! Flights back to Europe, of course, take a little longer. You'll be refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you'll have had with us in New Zealand! Included: (B).
Also see tour packages in:
Australia and Oceania New Zealand Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Multi-activity