New Zealand South Island

South Island (New Zealand)

 Day 01: Travelers typically depart from the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland the following Monday morning due to the time lost crossing the dateline—a day that’s regained on the return journey. From Auckland, it’s a brief hop to Christchurch on the South Island, where our journey begins. We’ll head up the coast, enjoying a picnic at Gore Bay and taking in the fresh, rugged coastline. Our route then leads us to Kaikoura, passing striking limestone cliffs, to a viewpoint where we can observe fur seals in their natural habitat. This area, reshaped by the Kaikoura earthquake, showcases the dramatic creation of new land. This leisurely start to your New Zealand experience aims to ease you into your adventure, minimizing jet lag concerns, especially after the 12 to 13-hour flight from the West Coast of the USA.

 Day 02: Embark on the Angelus Circuit Adventure: From Saint Arnaud to Lakehead Hut

Set off from the quaint village of Saint Arnaud, nestled at the boundary of Nelson Lakes National Park, is a realm of untamed wilderness offering breathtaking vistas and tranquil isolation. This journey takes us through the heart of the upper Southern Alps, a magical landscape of ancient beech forests, expansive lakes, and towering peaks. Our trek follows a serene path by Lake Rotoiti, leading to our overnight haven, the cozy Lakehead Hut, positioned at the lake’s northern end. With our seasoned guides shouldering most of the gear, you’ll travel light, carrying just a backpack with essentials and a portion of our collective provisions. In our commitment to preserving the pristine beauty of this area, we maintain small group sizes and adapt our paths as needed.

Destination: Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park (Includes all meals)
Trekking Stats: 11 km (6.8 miles), 3-4 hours
Elevation Changes: Gain of 20m (65 feet), Loss of 20m (65 feet)

 Day 03: Embark on the Angelus Circuit Journey: From Lakehead to Angelus Hut. Today marks a day to remember as each step unveils more breathtaking landscapes. Our path takes us alongside the Travers River through dense beech woods, then ascends via Hukere Stream to the ridge. This trek may be strenuous, climbing 1000 meters (3280 feet), but the unparalleled scenic variety rewards your effort generously. We move at a leisurely pace, offering support throughout. Reaching Angelus Hut, perched by a stunning alpine lake, is a moment of triumph. This hidden treasure often becomes the pinnacle of New Zealand explorations for many, even preferred by locals over more famous trails.

Trekking Distance: 10 km (6.2 miles), 6-8 hours
Elevation Rise: 1,050 meters (3,445 feet)

Day 04: Following our reunion in Saint Arnaud, our journey takes us through the majestic Southern Alps towards the West Coast—a captivating shoreline spanning 600 kilometers (372 miles), inhabited by just 40,000 individuals. Tonight, we immerse ourselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Punakaiki, mingling with the locals and sharing stories of our escapades during dinner.

Day 05: In the morning, we’ll explore the Inland Pack Track, wandering through lush rainforests and limestone gorges, tracing the paths once trodden by historic gold miners. Our journey in Punakaiki will include marveling at the iconic Pancake Rocks and their accompanying blowholes, unique limestone creations shaped by the Tasman Sea’s force. As we journey along the picturesque coast, we’ll visit Hokitika, immersing ourselves in its vibrant art scene and jade-carving studios, before heading to Franz Josef. Here, in the shadow of the Southern Alps and surrounded by dense rainforest, we’ll spend a few nights in the heart of glacier country. Our stay includes a hike covering 6 km (4 miles) with an elevation change of 130 meters (425 feet), both up and down.

Day 06: This morning, we’re off to the quaint seaside hamlet of Okarito, an undiscovered gem along the coast. We’ll embark on a serene kayaking adventure across a beautiful lagoon framed by breathtaking mountains adorned with snow. Okarito is famed for being the sole habitat of New Zealand’s indigenous white heron and various other unique bird species. Afterward, we’ll return to Franz Josef, where you can choose between another scenic hike or unwinding in a hot tub, followed by a hearty Kiwi roast dinner. The hike covers 4.2 km (2.6 miles) in 1-2 hours, ascending and descending 120 meters (394 feet), with kayaking lasting between 2 to 4 hours.

Day 07: Nestled in the heart of glacier country, this region boasts about 140 glaciers descending from the Southern Alps, with the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers being standout marvels. These colossal ice rivers carve through the rainforest to an altitude of just 250 meters above sea level. Our adventure primarily revolves around Franz Josef Glacier, where we’ll trek through the forest to Alex Knob or along the Terminal Face trail for breathtaking ice vistas. However, inclement weather may redirect us to explore Lake Matheson and the Blue Pools near Haast Pass.

For those seeking an extraordinary experience, the optional heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier is a must-try. Equipped with crampons, you’ll helicopter to the glacier’s upper reaches, guided through its majestic ice landscapes by experts, no prior experience needed. This dynamic glacier offers a unique journey daily, with guides shaping the path on the ice. Due to its popularity, the heli-hike requires early booking, though last-minute arrangements might be possible.

From Franz Josef, our journey continues along the coast and into the inland towards Makarora, a quaint village on the edge of Mt Aspiring National Park, offering stunning alpine views.

Alex Knob Hike: 8 km (5 miles), 5-6 hours, 1,100 meters elevation change.
Robert’s Point Hike: 12 km (7.5 miles), 4-6 hours, 400 meters elevation change.

Day 08: This morning’s landscape swiftly transitions from lush beech woods to dry, mountainous regions. Our adventure takes us along the Rocky Mountain trail, weaving through ancient glacial landscapes, dense forests, and scrublands. Post-hike, we’ll savor lunch in Wanaka before embarking on a brief yet stunning drive across Cardrona Saddle towards Queenstown, nestled by Lake Wakatipu, where we’ll be staying for the next few nights. Expect a restful night’s sleep at a lakefront hotel in the heart of Queenstown – Crowne Plaza Hotel. Enjoy breakfast and lunch with us.

Hike Details:

  • Length: 7 km (4.5 miles), Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Ascent/Descent: 375 m (1,230 feet) each

Please note the 8-day journey concludes today in Queenstown.

Day 09: Welcome to Queenstown, the ultimate hub of adventure nestled in New Zealand’s scenic landscapes! Despite its small size, this resort town boasts a plethora of urban comforts, from diverse dining options to chic bars and boutiques. Dive into thrilling activities like horse trekking, kayaking, or even skydiving. If adrenaline isn’t your thing, relax and savor the ambiance or indulge in a leisurely read. Your guides are eager to reveal insider tips for your free day ahead.

Day 10: Today, we embark on a journey circling Lake Wakatipu, bidding farewell to the majestic Remarkables as we venture towards the quaint town of Te Anau, serving as the doorway to Milford Sound. Later, we’ll explore the renowned Kepler Track, a gem among New Zealand’s Great Walks, winding through lush mountain beech forests and tracing the banks of the Waiau River. Prepare for awe-inspiring vistas! Tonight, we rest by the shores of Lake Te Anau, savoring both the views and the delectable local cuisine at Te Anau Lodgings.

Hiking Distance: 9.5 kilometers (6 miles), 2-3 hours.
Elevation Gain/Loss: 50 meters (165 feet).

Day 11: Today, we rise early to embark on an adventure to Fiordland, our grandest national park. Journeying through the Homer Tunnel, we emerge into a majestic glacier-carved valley leading to Milford Sound. Renowned by Rudyard Kipling as the world’s eighth wonder, its towering granite cliffs and cascading waterfalls astound. A tranquil boat cruise awaits, granting us exclusive views of the dramatic landscape, with chances to spot playful dolphins and seals. Following a delightful lunch, we’ll explore more of Fiordland’s wilderness on foot, trekking part of the Routeburn Track for breathtaking vistas of the Hollyford Valley, Lake Marian, and Mt. Christina. Returning to Te Anau, we’ll rest for the night, filled with memories of nature’s splendor.

Day 12: Following an early morning meal, we’ll return via Queenstown and proceed North, traversing the tussock-covered terrain of Lindis Pass to reach Lake Pukaki. We’ll embark on a biking adventure along a segment of the Alps to Ocean Trail, tracing the well-maintained path around the alpine lake with vistas of the majestic Aoraki Mount Cook. En route, we’ll encounter a variety of indigenous flora, including the vibrant yellow blooms of Kowhai, beloved by native Tui birds, as well as flax and tussocks. Continuing through farmland in the Mackenzie Country basin, we’ll journey back to Twizel, biking straight to our lodgings for the final two nights. Nestled amidst breathtaking views of the Southern Alps, our accommodation lies within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, offering an unparalleled stargazing experience with minimal light pollution.

Distance: 24 kilometers (15 miles), estimated duration 2 hours.
Note: The 12-day trip concludes today in Queenstown.

Day 13: Aoraki, also known as Mt Cook, stands tall as New Zealand’s highest peak, dubbed the ‘cloud piercer’ by the Maori of the South Island. Across from this majestic mountain lies an exhilarating day hike along the main ridge overlooking Mueller Glacier. Though demanding, the hike offers unforgettable vistas of the glacier and surrounding peaks. Weather plays a crucial role here, with the area known for sudden alpine shifts. If Mueller Glacier proves inaccessible or you seek a more leisurely option, there’s a remarkable hike to a glacial lake adorned with icebergs at the foot of Hooker Glacier.

Day 14: Following breakfast, we’ll journey to Christchurch, ensuring arrival before afternoon flights. As your trip concludes, expect to depart feeling rejuvenated by the delightful cuisine, activities, relaxation, and memorable moments experienced throughout New Zealand!

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