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Days: 10 days
(River crossings, some uneven terrain, you need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic)
Start/Finish: Nelson iSite 1:00pm
Queenstown Airport 4:00pm
November 2019: 18
Period 1st Oct 19 - 30th Sep 20
Our trip starts in Nelson in the early afternoon, giving you time in the morning to wander around this vibrant and charming city. From Nelson, it is a picturesque drive around Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park.
Here you can pack your gear for a 2-night stay in the park and then board the water taxi. A relaxing cruise around the coast takes us to the beautiful Bark Bay. Pitch your tent and enjoy dinner together. Fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. Accommodation: camping. Includes lunch and dinner.
Today offers the opportunity to hike in this magical National Park and wander along the sheltered coastline marvelling at the crystal-clear waters and stunning scenery of this marine reserve.
The hike from Bark Bay takes us through glades of Manuka, over a low saddle and across a 47-metre suspension bridge at Falls River. The optional side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool is a must and a perfect place for a swim on a warm summer’s day.
Tonight’s campsite is at Anchorage, a stunning bush-fringed bright blue inlet. Time to take another swim, read a book or have a snooze, before preparing and enjoying another evening meal together.
Sea kayaking can be arranged for this day (4-5 hours) if requested at the time of booking (NZ$175). The kayaking starts and finishes in the same place so you will hike as well as kayak if you take this option at the time of booking. Accommodation: camping. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Have a sleep in or join the guide for a stroll out to Te Pukatea Bay and Pitt Head – the site of an old Maori Pa. Then back to camp and maybe a swim before leaving behind the beautiful Anchorage Bay for a gentle ramble over a saddle and through lush beech forest with large Kanuka trees.
The guide will take all of the group gear and tents by water taxi so you can enjoy the hike along the well-marked trail with a lighter pack. We’ll pass through several picturesque bays before eventually emerging out into the estuary. Finish walking the track by crossing the Marahau causeway where your guide will meet you with the vehicle. Time to rest the legs on the drive to tonight’s accommodation in Murchison. Accommodation: Murchison Lodge. Includes breakfast and lunch.
After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Here is an opportunity to observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s.
After lunch, hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, the park covers over 30,000 hectares. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers and wilderness areas. The hike involves several river crossings (your boots will get wet).
Collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang. Accommodation: camping. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Heading out from the Ballroom, we wander along quaint rivers, channelled through towering limestone cliffs covered in lush native rainforest. The scenery in this area is truly breath-taking and unparalleled in the South Island. Take the opportunity to explore a nearby canyon where the river disappears into a cave. Leaving the rivers behind, walk along an old inland pack-track that winds its way through tranquil native forest before emerging at the road end where our vehicle awaits.
A short drive gets us to the small tourist town of Punakaiki. We have lunch at the local cafe and wander through the geologic phenomenon that is the Pancake Rocks – scientists still cannot agree on how they formed. If the tide is right, you will get to witness the magnificent blowholes in action.
Tonight we step back in time and stay in the West Coast’s only restored miners’ hotel, and once world-renowned theatre. Accommodation: Theatre Royal Hotel, Kumara. Includes breakfast.
Today we travel along a remarkable highway which travels up from the lush green rainforests of the West Coast and into the glaciated Southern Alps. This is one of the most cleverly engineered roads in New Zealand.
We will stop in Arthur’s Pass Village for a stroll around this alpine settlement. This is an ideal opportunity to see our cheeky alpine parrot, the kea.
Just east of the village we start our overnight hike into Edwards Hut. We are now experts at crossing rivers, and get our boots wet as soon as we start the hike as we cross the Bealey River. The track rises and falls several times avoiding the gullies below. We will emerge onto the upper river flats among the red tussocks and make away amongst the grasses before a short final hike through the forest where the hut comes into view.
This remote alpine valley is the domain of our national bird, the kiwi, so we keep our ears tuned tonight for their distinctive call. Accommodation: Edwards Hut. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We soak up the serenity and solitude some more with a wander up to the head of the valley and the aptly named Falling Mountain. Named so after the 1929 Arthur’s Pass earthquake caused a 900m high section of the mountain to crumble into the valley below.
After morning tea back at the hut, we head back out via the same track, a little easier in this direction as it is mostly downhill. Arriving back at the vehicle we drive through the stunning Craigieburn basin with its sweeping mountain vistas and limestone crags and escarpments. Leaving the main highway, a backroad takes us around Lake Lyndon and through the Rakaia Gorge to Methven. Accommodation: Methven Lodge & B&B. Includes breakfast and lunch.
We drive south following the edge of the Canterbury plains to Lake Tekapo, famous for its stunning turquoise waters and the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd, perched daintily by the lake. The sweeping Mackenzie basin is a sparsely populated region in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps; tawny-brown drylands, braided riverbeds and startling glacial lakes extend to the horizon.
From Twizel, those wishing to cycle get fitted out with bikes ($70) to ride a section of the impressive Alps to Ocean cycle trail. The cyclists will cycle along the quiet canal roads before crossing the Lake Ohau weir and weaving their way around the lake on a purpose-built cycle track. The views are amazing and there will be plenty of time to stop, take photos and admire the mountains and the amazing blue of the glacially fed Lake Ohau before arriving at the lodge.
Those people not wishing to cycle will travel by vehicles with the guide to the lodge and choose between relaxing on the decks overlooking the lake or going for a short self-guided walk on the Alps to Ocean trail. Tonight we enjoy a delicious meal at the lodge and admire the beautiful, yet stark landscape of the Mackenzie High Country. Accommodation: Ohau Lodge. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our drive to Wanaka follows the Mackenzie country south before climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district. We continue through the township and drive around Lake Wanaka and up the Matukituki Valley to the start of our hike in the walkers’ paradise of Mt Aspiring National Park.
The hike to Aspiring Hut is unforgettable with views of high glaciated mountains and ice-carved valleys. Depending on the weather, we may make the side hike up to Rob Roy Glacier today. From the hut, we enjoy stunning alpine views as we hike the valley to Aspiring Hut. Between high peaks we catch glimpses of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m). Accommodation: Mt Aspiring Hut. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the last day of this tour, we can walk to the viewpoint of Rob Roy Glacier if this was not done yesterday. As we reach the treeline the beech forest gives way to alpine vegetation. The hanging glaciers beneath Mt Rob Roy are spectacular. The glacier is active and you may be able to hear and see avalanches from this safe viewing point.
On the return walk to the vehicle, we will meander alongside the Rob Roy Stream and take in the beautiful waterfalls dotted along the track. We stop in Wanaka for a look around this lakeside alpine resort and a chance to enjoy a café lunch at our leisure. The final leg of the journey is a remarkable drive over the Crown Range. From the summit there are breath-taking views across the Wakatipu Basin and lakes. We continue the drive into Queenstown - New Zealand’s Adventure Capital. Includes breakfast.
Average of 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on the longer days.
Altitude gains of up to 800m.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic, and have good agility.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.
Note on some days your backpack (with sleeping bag, food and equipment etc) will weigh approximately 10-12kgs*.
*Will vary depending on the weight of personal discretional items.
New Zealand's weather is changeable and we can experience extremely cold weather at any time of year, especially in the mountains. Our huts/camps vary in altitude from sea level to over 1000 metres. It is necessary to have warm clothing. Jeans are not suitable for hiking.
Watch the video of our Kiwi-Style Hiking packing list.
Gaiters, binoculars, earplugs, walking poles.
Therm-a-rest sleeping mat, tents, cooking equipment, plates/cutlery, first aid kit, safety equipment and maps.
We allow space for 120 litres per person (one large pack plus one day pack). You may be required to forward excess luggage if you exceed this. Any gear you do not need while hiking can be locked in the custom-built trailer. We highly recommend travel insurance.
*Ultimate New Zealand only - for the flight between Wellington and Nelson, the checked luggage allowance is 23kgs per person, with a carry-on luggage allowance of 7 kg.
We have high quality hiking equipment which you can hire for our Kiwi-Style Hiking trips. Please arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.
The average driving time per day varies, some times you are in the wilderness and won't see the vehicle for 2 or 3 days! On other days you might be in the vehicle for 2-3 hrs or occasionally more. The driving time is a chance to rest and enjoy the fantastic scenery which is forever changing. You will travel in a minibus towing a custom-built trailer with camp equipment and your luggage. They are also equipped with a range of natural history reference books. There will be a range of roads - sealed and unsealed. The guide will often stop the vehicle if there is a great photo opportunity or primo ice cream shop!
As well as being the time to rest, refuel and recharge, meal times are also a great time to get to know your fellow travellers better, sit back and enjoy the amazing surroundings and enjoy some great food! Everybody has a turn with the preparation and cooking of meals: barbecues, salads, pancakes, curries, pasta, stir-fries... Vegetarian meals are no problem. On the "wild nights" the group will usually eat pasta and rice meals (special "secret" recipes used). There is always a lot of hiking food - chocolate, nuts, raisins, biscuits. The vehicles carry a full range of cooking equipment including gas burners, woks, frying pans and billies (cooking pot). When you go on an overnight hike the group will carry a portable stove.
"Wild nights" vs nights in civilisation...The Splendours of the South is a combination of “wild nights”, which are the nights where you are truly in the wilderness, staying in backcountry huts or camping in locations that may be several hours walk from the nearest road or populated area, versus nights in civilisation where you may stay in a variety of accommodations including lodges and B&Bs.
Huts - New Zealand has an excellent network of backcountry huts and you will stay in huts on several nights. They are equipped with mattresses, running water and an outside toilet. Cooking is done on a portable stove. Huts are only accessible on foot and shared with other hikers. You also have the option of camping near the hut if that is your preference.
Lodges/B&Bs - You will stay in lodge or B&B type accommodation on some of the nights; these are usually twin/double rooms generally with ensuites.
Camping - You will camp in a range of campsites. On the "wild nights" you may camp under natural rock shelters, on remote beaches or even sleep out under the stars (single tent available on request)!
Bathroom facilities - On the wild nights there will be long drop (pit) toilets. There will be rivers or lakes nearby for washing, and sometimes there are even natural hot pools! This trip is set up so after a couple of nights of "roughing it" in the wilderness, you will stay somewhere where you can enjoy a shower and a few home comforts (including laundry facilities) before the next foray into the wild!
Meals: Meals that are not included in the trip price are detailed at the bottom of each day’s itinerary.
Optional activities: Abel Tasman sea kayaking (NZ$175*), Alps to Ocean cycle trail (NZ$70*)
*Prices are 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 wilderness sections of this 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, dont 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 kiwi-style hiking trips are travelling alone. The kiwi-style hiking trips 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 it's not your thing that is also OK. Time is allowed for people to be by themselves during the trip 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 15 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 the kiwi-style hiking tour?
About two or three times per kiwi-style hiking 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 a kiwi-style hiking tour?
Yes, at least once, usually halfway 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.
When booking please indicate if you would like to participate in the Abel Tasman sea kayaking. No refund for pre-booked optional activities cancelled within 48 hours of the activity commencing.
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 comprehensive travel insurance. We ask you to fill out a disclaimer before you begin a Hiking Tour. You must follow the instructions of your guide at all times. World Nomads Travel Insurance provides online quotes.