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Days: 6 days
(You need to be in reasonably good health)
Start/Finish: Auckland - 8:30am, pick up zone outside Sky City, 20m from Sky Tower base, corner Victoria and Federal Streets
Auckland - 3:00pm (approx.)
Meet your guide this morning and drive north out of Auckland along the scenic east coast, stopping to explore glowworm caves along the way. Negotiating some crazy coastal back roads gets us to remote coast, far from the maddening crowds. The beach is lined with bright pohutukawa trees (NZ Christmas Tree) which cover hidden coves. Have the first swim of the trip or take a stroll along this great stretch of coast, or do both. These waters also offer excellent snorkelling if the sea is calm, and are loaded with octopus, paua and many species of coastal fish. We eventually arrive at our grassy campsite, just above an idyllic Northland beach and miles from any shop, accommodation or internet. Includes lunch and dinner.
Tumble out of sleeping bags and leap into the sea for a refreshing wake up. We begin hiking 5 min from our campsite, ascending through regenerating native bush onto open ridge tops where we're treated to views of secret sandy coves and rocky headlands. Take a break and enjoy gazing across the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific. Along the trail, examine the whale pots of an old whaling station, left over from a time when whalers and sealers were the only Europeans interested in New Zealand. We stop for a picnic lunch in a quiet cove with turquoise water and funky palm trees. The trail takes us to the summit of Pukehuia (345m), the highest point in the Bay of Islands, and the best spot to get a view of this magnificent area. Descending from Pukehuia we finish up in a quiet bush lined bay dotted with yachts. This is a great chance to take a dip in the clear water and freshen up after our walk. From here it's a short drive to the historic township of Russell. Take the ferry across to Paihia and enjoy the vibe of this cool little town before we drive further north to our campsite at Tauranga Bay and a welcome hot shower. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Today you have the opportunity to go on a fantastic guided kayak trip (optional extra) along some of the areas most remote coastline. Launching from a private beach, you will paddle around red volcanic headlands and inshore islands, through sea caves and then enjoy lunch on an unspoiled sandy beach. Continue up into the sheltered waters of Whangaroa Harbour either kayaking into the mangrove forests at the harbour's end or scramble up the short (but impossibly steep!) volcanic conglomerate of Kairara Rock, before returning. If you would rather not kayak, chat to your guide about the range of other hiking options, or simply chill out for the day, swimming and eating ice creams at the most agreeable Tauranga Bay. Tonight we 'dine' at the famous Mangonui Wharf Fish Shop en route to the twin coves campsite, located in the charming Matai Bay. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Matai Bay is another great spot for swimming and snorkelling, so hit the water again this morning before we jump in the bus and drive north once more. Lap up the freedom and admire the waves rolling in from the Tasman Sea as we visit the sands at the top of Ninety Mile Beach. We arrive at Te Paki's mountainous sand dunes, grab a sandboard and impress the group with out of control fat-air-antics and displays of your brilliant balance. Once you've exhausted all your sandboard moves we continue on to yet another beautiful campsite in a small sandy cove. Plenty of time to set up camp in the afternoon sun, have a short zzzz and then either enjoy a cliff top walk, or grab a ride with the guide to the edge of the world - the spiritual Cape Reinga - where the waters of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. Watch the sun slip away from the northernmost tip of New Zealand and remember your friends are probably at work right now. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Today we explore a more secluded part of the Cape as we cross Te Paki Station to the surreal iron-stained sand dunes of Cape Maria Van Diemen. Climbing high, you will get grand views of this incredible piece of New Zealand landscape. Wander along an expansive stretch of empty beach before returning for lunch. Then we turn the van around and drive south through the town of Kaitaia, crossing the Hokianga Harbour on a car ferry and ending up in the grandeur of Waipoua Forest. Visit New Zealands biggest Kauri - Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) - an ancient giant estimated to be over 1250 years old. We pitch camp amongst the kauri and later do a night walk, creeping around to try and stumble into the endangered North Island Brown kiwi. Generally we are successful, but not always! Later listen for the screeching call of the kiwi as your curl up in your sleeping bag. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This morning wander around the Trounson Kauri Reserve and bask in the shadows of these huge trees. The reserve is an intensively managed mainland island surrounded by predator traps. The mainland island concept protects the resident birds from invasive pests and provides a refuge for many threatened species; it is home to a well-nurtured and protected population of kiwi. After lunch we continue south to the vibrant harbour city of Auckland, arriving around 3pm. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Tides: This tour is affected by tide times and sea conditions - particularly on Ninety Mile Beach. Plan B is to go in a different or reverse order, but very occasionally your guide may be forced to skip something altogether.
High Season: If you are doing this trip between Christmas and mid January expect to see more tents, sun-scorched folks, and ice-creamed kids at campsites. When it all goes too mad your guide may choose different campsites on night two and three to keep us all sane.
Average of 4-5 hrs physical activity per day; up to 6 hours.
At times carrying small backpack of 4-5kgs.
Tracks generally in good condition.
Altitude gains of up to 600m on harder days.
No hiking experience necessary.
Reasonable standard of fitness required
Some energetic sections and climbs, but includes lots of time for relaxation and other activities.
New Zealand's weather is very changeable so you need to be prepared for any eventuality. Thankfully, it's warmer up north so thermal underwear and warm hats become an option rather than a necessity. However, you still need to take the essential items listed below.
Watch the video of our Kiwi-Style Hiking packing list.
Optional items (but highly recommended):
Walking poles, camera, rain trousers, flashlight/headlamp
First aid kit, drinking water, safety equipment and maps.
There is an allowance of one large pack, bag or suitcase plus one day pack.
We have high quality hiking equipment which you can hire for our Hiking Tours. Please arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for a hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.
You will travel in a 10 or 12 seat minibus towing a trailer with camp equipment and your luggage. All vehicles have a public address system, and a stereo with a variety of music. It is also equipped with a range of natural history reference books. The average driving time per day is around 2-3 hours and there will be a range of roads - sealed and unsealed. The guide will often stop the vehicle for you to take photos. On some of the nights you will be camping by the vehicle.
Everybody is involved with the preparation and cooking of meals: barbecues, salads, pancakes, curries, pasta, stir-fries etc. Vegetarian meals are no problem. For all specific dietary requirements we ask that you notify us prior to departure. That way we can ensure we are catering correctly for your needs. When you are on overnight hikes the group will usually eat pasta and rice meals (gluten free is usually an option). There is always a lot of hiking food - muesli bars, chocolate, biscuits fruit and dried fruit. The vehicles carry a full range of cooking equipment including gas burners, woks, frying pans and billies. When you go on an overnight hike the group will carry portable stoves.
Camping - You will camp in a range of campsites; on the Far North you will camp near the vehicle in Department of Conservation campsites or private campsites (single tent available on request). If the weather is not great for camping, eg very wet, stormy or cold conditions, your guide will seek out alternative accommodation, eg lodge, cabin or crib.
Optional activities: Sea Kayaking NZ$115* or half day NZ$90* (minimum of 2 people)
Optional activities are paid for during the trip.
*Prices correct at time of publishing.
An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. That is why we work hard to make sure we hire the best guides. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. Our guides will ensure that your time with us is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.
Please be gentle with your guide - good guides are hard to find!
Chai Pyle is the current Hiking NZ record holder for diverse work experience. Nepal rescue Kayaker/trainer to YMCA kids instructor to dementia carer to apple picker to adventure photographer to corporate caterer to coffee barista to semi professional wheelbarrow racer. Hopefully not all these skills are used on Chai’s trips. Chai is pretty interested in sustainability - permaculture practice and healthy sustainable self-sufficient ways.
Linda Pugh somehow finds time to work for us in between her hectic schedule of sea kayaking and tramping. She rates the 142 day 'Te Araroa trail' as one of her best trips. In 'all' her spare time Linda and her husband run a craft sheepskin and possum products outfitter business. Linda is a superb camp cook - ask her about the famous cinnamon apple fritters!
Dave Murphy has spent a lot of time overseas honing his wilderness skills. He has recently come back to New Zealand after hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. Dave’s geology degree (including years of geology experience in Asia and Australia) and his solid understanding of environment bring a wonderful depth of wisdom to his trips. But more importantly Dave holds the current Hiking NZ pancake distance record.
Graham Frith as had a lifetime of teaching, instructing and guiding and continues to take the odd hiking trip for us. Graham (a.k.a "Grum") has spent the last two and a half years cycling around the whole planet raising awareness for prostate cancer. Grum also teaches wilderness first aid and risk management and is an avid mountain biker.
John Williamson has a BSc and has ridden a horse across Mongolia. It made enough of an impression on him (the Mongolian adventure not the BSc) that he set up a horse trekking business in Mongolia over ten years ago. He now combines guiding in New Zealand with the treks in Mongolia during the New Zealand winters. John is often complimented for his stylish retro hiking attire and usually takes out the “most stylish guide” award.
Eigill Wahlberg don’t be fooled by the exotic name, this guy is a true kiwi bushman if there ever was one! Eigill has spent most of his working life in the backcountry of New Zealand. A lot of this time has been spent working for the Department of Conservation as a ranger, a hut warden and in pest control. Three years in the army gave him superb marching skills - and occasionally you might hear him muttering to himself “left, right, left right…”. He is a great cook and has been known to bake a cake over the campfire!
Justin Cowan doesn’t just talk conservation, he’s written a thesis on it (biodiversity and sustainable development). Previously with Department of Conservation Justin also ran international conservation volunteer projects before we snaffled him. On quizz night you want this guy on your team - and don’t make the mistake of thinking he only talks environment! His sport / history and general knowledge also go the distance. As do his long legs.
Kath Watzig pretty much lives off her land in the Far North and her home is a beautiful wee mud-brick house she built herself. Amongst a myriad of other things, Kath is very active in Northland conservation groups and a keen sea kayaker - her energy seems boundless. Kath is more convincing than a politician’s PR company and has more grit than the Lake Waikaremoana road - basically she is a legend.
Simon O’Donnell is an experienced climber, kayaker, mountaineer and bushman with many years professional instructing under his belt - from rafting to climbing to hiking. Now back studying in the winter, Simon joins us for the summer guiding seasons.
Rory Hart has well and truly earned his “hiking badge”. Rory clocked up about 2900 kms when he walked the Te Araroa Trail over the summer of 2014-2015, a long distance hike which spans the length of New Zealand. He took a couple of weeks off before heading to America and walking 4300 kms on the Pacific Crest Trail from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. A geologist by trade, Rory has an amazing knowledge and understanding of glaciers and spent several weeks camping on New Zealand's Tasman Glacier while researching for his thesis, followed by a six week stint camping on the grounding line of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Despite the long periods of enforced solitude, Rory does like people and is a great fun guide to be around!
Malcolm O’Neill has a BSc in physical geography. He co-authored the guidebook Classic New Zealand Adventures, which involved lots of fun all over the country. Malcolm’s interests include mountain biking, travel, skiing/boarding, photography, making furniture and jumping into rivers. Malcolm does more business stuff than guiding these days as he is a director of Hiking New Zealand, but he can still be found getting his hands dirty!
Daniel Murphy studied something years ago at university but can no longer remember what it was! From agricultural roots he worked on farms and in the rural service industry before adventures and travel lured him overseas into the tourism industry. Hiking, mountain biking and day dreaming about great adventures are his main hobbies. Dan is the Operations Manager and a director for Hiking New Zealand. Dan is either a fantastic liar, or has had the oddest things possible happen to him - be sure to probe him for stories.
Other guides may be used during peak periods.
Does everyone get involved with camp duties?
Everyone is fully involved with the running of the trip, from collecting firewood, to setting up camp and cooking meals. You are expected to do your share of work. If you are not a great cook, don't worry - your guide and other people in the group will help you.
Does it matter if I am travelling alone?
Most of the people on our tours are travelling alone. The tours are strong on group activities and participation including playing outdoor games, going for swims, helping one another to cross rivers, exploring secret places, and overcoming obstacles and challenges. You are encouraged to participate in activities, but if its not your thing that is also OK. Time is allowed for people to be by themselves if they need it.
What do I do with my valuables (passport, airline tickets, money, etc.) while hiking?
Keep them with you in your hiking pack. You can pack all those things in plastic bags to keep them dry and keep them with you while hiking.
I have specific dietary requirements - is that a problem??
Vegetarians, gluten free and dairy free hikers join our trips regularly. Please let us know in advance as meals take more planning. Everyone takes a turn in meal preparations, if you have complex dietary requirements you may need to be involved more frequently. It is advisable to join the trip with some of your own food items if you are worried. Once you are on the trip the guide may ask you to join him/her when they go food shopping. Preparing meals for several different dietary requirements in the wilderness with limited facilities can be challenging but with your help we can make it work.
What is the weather going to be like?
New Zealand experiences very changeable weather - especially in the remote mountainous regions where you will spend most of your time. Some days you can be broiling in 30 degrees and then the next day you could be freezing in a cool southerly from the sub Antarctic. It is best to be prepared for the worst conditions you are likely to expect - see the What to Take section. You may get some rain on the trip so a good waterproof raincoat is important.
Who is in my group?
A small group (maximum 11 people), with a range of ages, nationalities and work backgrounds. Seventy percent of people are between 20 and 40, though there are sometimes people from 17 to 72. On average, half are women and half are men. Everyone shares an enthusiasm for outdoor adventure and an appreciation of nature.
What if I can't keep up with the rest of the group?
The group hikes together, stopping often for snacks and a good lunch. Some activities are optional if you feel like having some time out.
Can I charge my camera/phone/laptop, etc. while on tour?
About two or three times per trip you stay at places that have electricity so you will be able to recharge batteries. If you have a vehicle adapter, bring it along as there may be an opportunity to charge items while driving.
Can I do laundry on tour?
Yes, at least once, usually half way through the trip. It is recommended that you bring items that are quick drying and plenty of spare pairs of socks and underwear, since you will most likely have to line-dry clothing.
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.
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.
We strongly recommend that you have travel insurance. You will be asked to fill out a disclaimer before you begin a Hiking Safari. You must follow the instructions of your guide at all times. World Nomads Travel Insurance provides online quotes.