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Days: 11 days
Grade: D
(River crossings and some uneven terrain)
Start/Finish: Nelson i-SITE Visitor Centre, Cnr Halifax St & Trafalgar St,


Period 31st May 18 - 31st May 20
  Please contact us for pricing details, from NZD $3,050.00



Nelson to Kahurangi

11km/4 hours hiking

Meet up with your guide and the rest of the crew in central Nelson before escaping to the hills via the scenic Motueka region. The first hike begins after lunch from Flora Saddle. Leaving the vehicle behind we’'ll ascend through virgin beech forest and up onto the sprawling tablelands of New Zealand’'s second largest national park, Kahurangi. An old gold mining area, the initial track climbs up pack trails and above a stream where native blue duck reside. Emerging onto the tussock covered tablelands gives panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and a sense of true wilderness. We spend the night getting to know each other in an old gold miners rock shelter, staring at the stars and trying to spot Morepork (native owl) in the campfire light. Includes lunch and dinner.



15km/7 hours hiking

Leaving the rock shelter early, we head across the tablelands once more and spend time exploring the geologic marvels of the area. This is a karst landscape –made up of limestone and marble - with large sinkholes and an intricate system of caves beneath the surface. Here your guide will describe the forces that have shaped it into its current state. Next we walk up Gordon’s Pyramid (1489m) and spend time soaking up some of the best views that the park has to offer. We usually stop for lunch in the sun, amongst the rocks on the slopes of Mt. Arthur, before walking back to the van. Enjoy the picturesque drive south - with ice cream in hand - through one of New Zealand’s most diverse agricultural areas, the Tapawera Valley. Accommodation tonight is at a private campsite and cottage, which is superbly located looking over the confluence of the Buller and Maruia Rivers. A scrumptious dinner with organic ingredients is prepared by our hosts. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Paparoa National Park

8km/4 hours hiking

The day begins with a relaxing drive toward the West Coast along the mighty Buller River. On the drive we get our first glimpse of New Zealand’'s impressive Podocarp forest. Arriving at the coast, your guide will drop you at the top of the relaxing coastal walk to Cape Foulwind (aptly named by Captain Cook – the seals are a bit smelly!). They then meet you at the seal colony near Tauranga Bay before driving along the scenic West Coast en-route to one of the country's best-kept secrets - Paparoa National Park. Walking up the Fox River, the group will learn the unique Kiwi art of river crossing. This will come in handy in order to reach the campsite under tonight’'s accommodation -– the Ballroom Overhang,– a massive fluvatile cave. Crank up the campfire and settle in for the night. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.



12km/6 hours hiking

Explore Photo Sphere

Heading out from the Ballroom, we wander along quaint rivers, channelled though 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 nearby caves, have a swim, and study the stalactites. 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 van awaits. A short drive gets us to the small tourist town of Punakaiki. Grab a coffee 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 stay near the coast and dine at a local pub for dinner. A saunter down to the beach to view the sunset is highly recommended. Includes breakfast and lunch.


Punakaiki to Okarito

5km/2 hours hiking

If you’'re not too busy sleeping in, take the opportunity this morning to explore the rugged coast around Punakaiki, rich in Maori history. The picturesque scenery continues as we drive south along the coast toward Greymouth, where we stock up on supplies. The drive continues in the afternoon through the quirky towns of the West Coast, each loaded with history and stories. Our home for the next two nights is the sleepy little village of Okarito. After pitching tents in the quaint campground, feel free to stretch your legs before dinner along Okarito’'s wild beach. Includes breakfast and dinner.



10km/4 hours kayaking

Start the day by exploring the areas main attraction –- the exceptional Okarito Lagoon. Here you can observe some of New Zealand’s famous native birds, including white herons and tui, all from the comfort of your sea kayak. Paddle up secluded river channels where 60m native Kahikatea trees tower above you, and admire the snow-capped Southern Alps in the distance. After lunch, feel free to walk one of the easy tracks nearby that wind through coastal rainforest and up to great viewpoints, walk along the beach, or simply relax around camp. Dinner tonight is cooked underground in a hangi, –a traditional Maori method of cooking. This process is enjoyed by the whole group, from preparation to consumption! Let the night take hold with a bonfire on the beach. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Fox Glacier

10km/4 hours hiking

Explore Photo Sphere

This morning we make the short drive to the tourist village of Fox Glacier. One of the only glaciers in the world that descends into rainforest. Join the guide for a hike up through the rainforest to a spectacular viewpoint of the glacier, then afterwards hike up to the terminal face of the glacier itself, a chance to see close up the effects rapidly advancing and retreating glaciers have had on this amazing landscape. If you want to get onto the ice, take the option of a guided heli hike with a local guiding company. Get kitted out with crampons for your boots before flying up onto the mid section of the glacier. Marvel at the ice carved landscape, towering seracs and deep crevasses. This is an incredibly unique alpine experience with incredible views (and photo opportunities) of some of New Zealand’'s highest mountain peaks. In the afternoon we hike around Lake Matheson, the mountains and rainforest are often mirrored in the waters of the lake, so have your camera ready. Tonight we stay in comfortable cabins near the start of the Copland Track. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Welcome Flat

18km/7 hours hiking

This morning we begin our three-day sojourn up the Copland Valley. The track meanders along the glacially fed Copland River, over side streams and through ancient podocarp forest. Enjoy a picnic lunch beside the river and try to spot endangered blue duck swimming in the rapids. The walk finishes at the salubrious Welcome Flat Hut. Explorers named this area Welcome Flat thanks to the natural hot pools nearby. After dinner slip into one of the pools and soak away the day's efforts while admiring the jagged peaks of the Sierra Range. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Welcome Flat

8km/4 hours hiking

Today you can choose to relax around the hut, take a short walk on your own up the valley or join the guide for an exploration up one of the stunning side streams above the hut. Boulder hopping up the stream, you will eventually reach a brilliant alpine waterfall where the bold can have a shower, or swim in the pool below. Have a picnic lunch as you dry out on the rocks and enjoy the views of the valley below. On a clear day the top of New Zealand’'s highest mountain –- Aoraki/Mt Cook is clearly visible to the east. Descend back down the stream to the hut, and ease back into the hot pools whenever you fancy. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Copland Valley

18km/6 hours hiking

Today we wander out of the Copland Valley and drive south once more, stopping at a local salmon farm to grab a coffee at their café and pick up our dinner! We also pull into Knights Point for the great cliff top views and Ships Creek, where the native Hectors Dolphin can sometimes be seen from the beach. The last night is spent camping in the remote town of Haast. Here we enjoy a fresh salmon dinner, cooked on the fire, before heading down to the local pub. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.



3-8km/2-5 hours hiking

Explore Photo Sphere

Finally it's time to leave the rugged West Coast and turn inland, driving over the dramatic Haast Pass, one of the last mountain routes to be opened in New Zealand. This road also borders the edge of Mt. Aspiring National Park and takes us between the edges of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. We stop along the way to hike up past Diamond Lake to Rocky Mountain –- a huge rock massif shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. The summit offers stunning views of Lake Wanaka, it’s islands and the surrounding peaks. After our hike, we pull into a secluded bay on the shores of Lake Wanaka for lunch and one last swim. The road conveniently passes the historical Cardrona Pub where we enjoy a drink in the garden bar before we drive over the steep and stunning Crown Range and into the electric atmosphere of Queenstown. Get glammed up and hit the town for a group dinner somewhere special. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Grading & Fitness

Grade: D
Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days.
Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26lbs)on some days.
Altitude gains of up to 800m, (2600ft).
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
Agility and fitness required.

You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic.
Some tracks may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.

What to Take

  Hire gear

8-11 day trip (NZ$)

  Backpack (60 litres)


  Sleeping bag


  Fleece jacket


  Thermal top and bottom




  Full set (all of above)




  Walking pole (each)





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.


"Wild nights" vs nights in civilisation...The West Coast Wilderness is a combination of “wild nights”, which is 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 cabins or camp by the vehicle at Department of Conservation campsites. Some of these locations may still be relatively remote and in the wilderness but they can be reached by the vehicle.

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.

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)! On the non -"wild nights" you will camp near the vehicle in Department of Conservation campsites. 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.

Cabins/Cribs - Some nights may be spent in private cribs (summer house) or cabins at a campground. Staying in the cribs is a real authentic New Zealand experience and you may even start to feel like a kiwi on holiday! Often you can put a tent up if you want a 'room' to yourself on these nights.

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! The safaris are 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!

Additional Costs

Optional activities: Okarito kayaking ($60*), Heli Hike (NZ$399*)

Optional activities are paid for during the trip.
* Prices for optional activities correct at time of publishing.

Guides & Safety

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! 

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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! 

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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 safari, 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 safaris are travelling alone. The safaris 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 on safari if they need it.

Can I do more than one safari?
Yes. More and more people are doing connecting safaris covering the whole of New Zealand. This really is the hassle-free way to experience New Zealand’s best adventures. Safaris are timed to leave you a couple of days in between trips to get your laundry done and experience some ‘city activities’.

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 safari?
About two or three times per safari 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 safari?
Yes, at least once, usually half way through the safari. 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.

Booking Conditions

Hiking New Zealand reserves the right to alter or amend any tour should the weather or any other situation require this. Hiking New Zealand finalises all tour logistics upon the express condition that they will not be liable for any injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be brought about either by reason of weather, or defect in vehicle, vessel or aircraft or though the acts or lack of action of any company or persons engaged in transporting or guiding passengers, or arranging the tour.


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. 

Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend that you have comprehensive travel insurance. We ask you 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.

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