13
days

South Island World Heritage Walking Tour

This tour incorporates the great outdoors whilst enjoying the beauty of nature with fun friendly people just like you. You`ll experience New Zealand's best hikes and activities in the stunning Southwest World Heritage New Zealand area, comfortably staying in premium accommodation and enjoying excellent food and wine.

New Zealand's Best Walks - Hollyford, Routeburn, Milford, Mt Cook, Glacier Hiking. TranzAlpine, Glowworm Caves, Fiordland, Scenery and Helicopter Flight and Much More...

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Itinerary

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1
TranzAlpine Train and Arthur's Pass National Park

This morning you'll meet with your tour leader and group in Christchurch for introductions and a brief orientation before heading up into the Canterbury high-country on the world famous TranzAlpine railway.

Your journey takes you across the Canterbury Plains and through the Waimakariri Gorge and her stunning viaducts before breaking out into the wide expanses of Arthur's Pass and the majestic Southern Alps - the 'back bone' of the South Island. This afternoon we discover a handful of our favourite places which are hidden inside the National Park, these places include on our hike up  the stunning Bealey Valley  into ancient beech forest, along the crystal clear mountain streams and alpine wetlands towards the alpine zone of Mt Rolleston and her permanent glaciers. This is a great start to your New Zealand adventure!

Our hike today is not long but does go over some uneven ground. 4km (3 miles), 2 -3 hours including lunch and breaks.

Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation Punakaiki - 2 nights

2
Paparoa National Park, Nile River Glowworm Caves 2 to 2.5 hours

Welcome to Paparoa National Park
We spend this day discovering Paparoa National Park, one of the most untouched and undiscovered parts of our country. Explore the limestone landforms, deep river canyons, mountain ridges, sinkholes and caves inside a thick lush cover of Gondwanaland rainforest!

Underworld Glowworm Walk
Hiking through the forest trail towards the cave entrance generally takes 30-40 minutes with a short climb right at the end. Whilst inside the cave we'll walk at a slow pace on mostly flat ground as we take our time to take in the surroundings. The Nile River Cave is untouched by man and is completely in its natural state only discovered recently. You'll be able to view thousands of glowworms above you with the option of gearing up in wetsuits to float on a small inflatable raft inside the cave or to stay dry and walk further into the cave with your guide.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

3
The West Coast and Okarito Lagoon

Today we are touring and kayaking within the West Coast, enjoy our famous scenic roads looking out to the snowy peaks, glaciers and virgin West Coast rainforest. We arrive at Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand's largest unmodified coastal wetland, known for its outstanding avifauna where over 70 species of birds have been recorded! A quiet kayak is the best way to explore this lagoon as we spend up to 2 hours on the water in double kayaks, paddling at your own pace with plenty of time to rest if need be.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Accommodation Fox Glacier - 1 nights

4
The river of ice and Mount Aspiring National Park

Fox Glacier is 13 kilometers in length and is our largest and most accessible of the West Coast glaciers. Today we will be lead by an experienced local glacier guide through the alpine valley and onto the glacier, spending at least one hour walking on the ice. Explore the beautiful and delicate artistry formed by nature such as caves, crevasses and monolithic pillars, we'll need some special gear for this which has been organized, and it's easy! Our hike is a 30-45 minute trail to the start of the glacier along with a gentle climb in and downhill on the way back.

The Haast Pass, Mount Aspiring National Park and the Wanaka Lakes
We continue South on our trail and you'll start to notice the change in scenery as we head into the mountains and away from the coastline. This afternoon we follow the Haast River into Mount Aspiring National Park and the Wanaka Lakes district and stay the night in Wanaka.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation Wanaka - 1 night

5
Lake Wanaka and Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve

This morning we are up early with our first attraction being Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve, lying close to the centre of Lake Wanaka and only accessible by a 35 minute boat ride. We'll be walking with a long time local guide who will lead us on the well-formed track through the native bush to near the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. As we near closer to the top we will see Arethusa Pool, a beautiful small lake on the island with smaller islands in it - very intriguing!

From the top you'll have great photo opportunities of a 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka surrounding you, the mountains beyond and the valleys. On a hot day you might not be able to resist a swim in the cool crystal clear waters.

The Cadrona Valley and Queenstown
This afternoon we drive through Cadrona Valley and over the Crown Range into the Wakatipu basin. You may have seen pictures of this area and the Range is certainly by far one of the most stunning ways into Queenstown.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation Queenstown - 3 night

6
Queenstown at Leisure

So many people’s favourite place during their visit to New Zealand, Queenstown offers a world of possibilities.  Known for so long for adventure activities, in recent years a whole range of more leisurely pursuits have been added to the menu.

You’ll have the whole day available  to take in the scenery, enjoy local walks, shopping,  pamper yourself or try one of the many activities on offer.  Your guide knows Queenstown really well and will be available to help you find just the right thing to make your day special.

Recommended excursions in Queenstown:

Routeburn Track Guided Day Walk Explore Historic Arrowtown Highest Bungy Jump
Wine Tasting Tour Central Otago Biking Skippers Canyon Round at Millbrook Golf Resort
TSS Earnslaw Steamboat Cruise Dart River Jetboat Safari Gibbston Valley Wine Trail
 

Meals: Breakfast

7
Destination Paradise and The Routeburn Track

Today we head onto the Routeburn Track for our day hike; this stunning alpine trail is world renowned showcasing stunning vistas of sweeping valleys, amongst majestic peaks above you. On this trail your guides lead you into the Beech Forest (looks like Lord of the Rings was shot here), along crystal clear rivers and onto Routeburn Flats, a return walk of 16km (10 miles) over 6-7 hours. For more of a challenge we can carry on to Routeburn Falls, a return distance adds another 4km (2 miles) to your hike with a good climb too (300 vertical meters/1000 feet)!

You'll be able to choose how far you walk today, if you wish to push yourself or just enjoy a comfortable hike both of these options are available here. Either way, the scenery is magnificent and your guides are available to take care of you!

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

8
Gibbston Valley and Fiordland National Park

Southern Lakes BBQ lunch
This morning we’re off to begin three exciting days exploring the New Zealand’s most famous countryside - Fiordland National Park.  We start our day with a spectacular trip down Lake Wakatipu and on to Te Anau for a Barbecue lunch, with Lake Te Anau and the Fiorldland mountains providing the inspiring views. 

Fiordland National Park & Milford Sound

Let our Fiordland adventures begin, we’ll following the trails of the greenstone hunters and gold miners as we head into this World Heritage Wilderness.  We enjoy the road and plenty of stops in peace and quite, as we’re travelling into Milford Sound from early afternoon to avoid the rush.  We’ll make lots of stops on the way -  The Eglington Valley, Mirror Lakes, our first glimpes of the Hollyford and the Homer Tunnel are just some of the highlights on this journey you’ll never forget.

Arrive into Milford with plenty of time for a walk before dinner, your camera will be working overtime here! 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation Milford Sound - 1 night

9
FIORDLAND!

MILFORD TRACK HIKE
This morning we have a few options available whilst we are in Milford Sound. The area is so dramatic and simply stunning offering what is certainly the most spectacular fiord scenery in the southern hemisphere. Whether it's raining or the sun is shining it will inspire you. Rudyard Kipling once described Milford Sound as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", and we certainly agree with him.

You will be able to experience Milford Sound in numerous ways, either by a short cruise across the Sound or a half day walk on the world famous Milford Track, discover nature closer by taking a cruise into the entire length of the Sound and out to the Tasman Sea or for a more personal experience get into a Sea Kayak!

Milford Track Half Day Hike is flat all the way and is in excellent condition, the return journey is 10km (6 miles) and is usually 3-4 hours including breaks. The sea kayaking is slightly more challenging than Okarito due to the exposed nature of the Sound, but you will be fully supported by your pro kayak guide at all times. You'll be kayaking for 2.5 - 3 hours.
 

HELICOPTER FLIGHT TO MARTINS BAY, COASTAL WILDLIFE HERITAGE WALK

After your Milford Sound experience in the morning we get on a scenic flight to see Fiordland's rugged backcountry from another level. We'll fly out into Milford Sound to gain a bird's eye view of its pure majesty and massive vertical granite walls rising out of the sea and onwards over the mighty Darran Mountain Range towards Martins Bay.

We will explore Martins Bay area on foot, learning about the historical sites of Maori occupation of the area. Our afternoon hike will take us into a New Zealand Fur Seal colony, we will be in total seclusion for this natural wildlife experience, and if we're lucky we may be able to see a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin. Our walk takes 2 hours to get to the seal colony and once we are there, we'll take our time to take a look around the area. After a 30 minute walk back to the river our jetboat comes and picks us up for the return journey back to our accommodation.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation Martins Bay - 1 night

10
Hike the Hollyford

The Hollyford track is literally like stepping back in time and entering a lost world, this remote wilderness is untouched and has been for thousands of years. A major track in Fiordland which is consistently at a low altitude (it's flat) leading through native forests, beside breathtaking lakes and roaring waterfalls as we shadow the Hollyford River. This valley has got plenty of diversity in flora and fauna from 1000 year old giant rimu trees to ancient podocarp forests, hundreds of intricate ferns, and velvet lichens and emerald mosses covering most surfaces.

Our adventure today starts with a jetboat across Lake McKerrow before your guides lead you on your day hike. The hike is just around 17km (10.5 miles) on an excellent flat trail all the way, we're not going to race to get to the end as we want to take our time in this magical place. We will be walking for around 5-6 hours with plenty of breaks before ending our hike at our coach in the afternoon.

Some of our new friends may be departing the tour tomorrow, so tonight we'll enjoy our final celebration dinner together.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Accommodation Te Anau - 1 night

11
Mount Cook National Park and Stargazing

Queenstown Winery Lunch
After our adventures of the last few days you’ll love a relaxed morning, enjoy a sleep in or stroll along the lakefront before we head to the famous Gibbston Valley and our friends at Waitiri Creek wines.  The warm welcome and stunning countryside make this spot extra special, and wine lovers will also have the chance to try some of our best New Zealand wines with lunch.

Our ultimate  destination today is Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, right in the heart of Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, a spectacular region with glacial lakes, vast fields of golden tussock and the alpine world of the Southern Alps. This is a landscape photographers dream and you will probably have seen Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook in pictures before. We’re staying right in the national park itself tonight, with a population of around 100 people, offering a tranquility which is seldom found, it's uninterrupted natural views will certainly stop you in your tracks!

But it gets even better, recently earmarked  as one of only three Grade 1 “Dark Sky Reserves” in the world, the Aoraki Mt Cook will show you an unforgettable night sky exposing the Milky Way Galaxy, Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri and more.  You expert guides will get an insight into our universe and beyond, through both telescope and specialized binoculars.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Accommodation Mt Cook - 2 night

12
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Today we’re hiking in Mount Cook National Park, home of New Zealand’s highest peak and most famous of national parks.

You have a choice of hikes today which include the Hooker Valley track, a gentle hike up to the Hooker glaciers terminal lake with Mount Cook rising above and living up to the name Aoraki, meaning "the Cloud Piercer". This is a very accessible trail  and easy walking for all ages with a return journey of 8km (5 miles) taking around 4 hours. For a slightly more challenging hike you can follow your guide up the Sealy Tarns track, a top of the world view of the village and surrounds, with an impressive view of the Mueller Glacier. This track has a steep climb around 550 vertical metres (1800 feet) up for our reward of a stunning panorama of New Zealand's highest peaks. This usually takes 4-5 hours return.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

13
The Last Day - Lake Tekapo,Mackenzie Country and Canterbury Plains

Our last day today, we’ll take our time to enjoy Lake Tekapo, the Mackenzie country and the Canterbury Plains before heading into Christchurch for afternoon drop offs at the airport or your city accommodation. Christchurch has been hit in the last few years with devastating earthquakes and was one of our bases for many years, any support you can offer to our city will be much appreciated.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch.

WORLD HERITAGE NEW ZEALAND HIKING TRAIL – AM I UP FOR THE CHALLENGE? First Light Travel Blog_0.png

Brent dusts off his hiking boots and joins the March 2013 World Heritage Hiking Trail. Find out how he got on. Read the review.