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Hiking New Zealand: Ultimate New Zealand

This safari encompasses the very best that New Zealand has to offer from the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk to the volcanic wonderland of Tongariro National Park, the crystal clear waters of Abel Tasman National Park, the peaks of Milford Sound and the awe-inspiring Aoraki/Mt ...

Highlights: The Ultimate New Zealand experience! This safari encompasses the very best that New Zealand has to offer - hike the best sections of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk and explore the volcanic wonderland of Tongariro National Park. 

In the South Island kayak and swim in the crystal clear waters of Abel Tasman National Park, stomp across the ice on Fox Glacier before being exhilarated by the adrenalin-packed activities of Queenstown. Be dwarfed by the peaks of Milford Sound and the awe-inspiring Aoraki/Mt Cook. 

The six multi-day hikes throughout the country flaunt the diversity of the New Zealand landscape.

You will generally camp if the weather is fine - revel in the outdoor atmosphere while sitting around a campfire.
Please note for January 7 2014 departure on day 2-3 this trip does an alternative overnight in Waikaremoana/Te Urewera area. However the same route will be walked but just as a day hike.

Alternative Options: This Ultimate New Zealand safari can be split in two. The North Island section is called the Ultimate North and the South Island section is called the Ultimate South.

Day 1.

Auckland - Rotorua Lakes - 12km/6 hours hiking
Your guide gives a briefing before heading south to Rotorua (with a café halt at 9am for those who missed breakfast). There is more to Rotorua than just thermal areas. Stunning wilderness lakes and rivers, lush tree fern forests and backdrop of distant volcanoes make Rotorua quite unique. The area is also rich in Maori and early European history including the tragedy of the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption that buried a Maori village. This afternoon explore one of the extraordinary DoC thermal parks (price included), and hike one of the lake or river trails in the area. In summer there are plenty of opportunities to swim. A short drive completes the loop back to Rotorua and the lodge. Do some packing for the overnight hike the following day before heading into town to one of the many cafés and restaurants. Order a meal, grab a drink, and get to know your fellow travellers. L

Day 2.

Lake Waikaremoana - 12km/4 hours hiking
This morning the group drives east, eventually descending off the volcanic plateau into the rugged sedimentary ranges of the Urewera National Park. After two hours there is a stop for a cuppa (cup of tea) at a remote Tuhoe settlement and one of the few places where Maori is spoken as the first language. Another hour of driving brings you to the western arm of the beautiful Lake Waikaremoana, a perfect picnic lunch spot and a chance to finish organising backpacks for the first part of the Waikaremoana hike. Hoist your pack onto your back and follow the track as it festoons in and out of the many little stream valleys and bays. After passing a couple of camp sites and the old lake-head hut there is a small climb over a peninsula to see, for the first time, the main part of this grand lake. The track along the shore leads the group to a new lake-side hut and a lovely campsite perched above a small beach. Set up camp here but hang out in the hut's spacious dining-cook house in the evening. As a group cook a meal and soak up the surrounds; the reflections of wilderness in the lake, forest and mountains, bird song and tranquillity. On a still evening you can sometimes hear Kiwi calls echo across the lake. B,L,D

Day 3.

Lake Waikaremoana - up to 15km/up to 7 hours hiking
This morning there is a hike for two hours through the lake-edge beech forest to the next hut and water-taxi pick up. However, packs (and anyone wanting a rest) can stay at the camp to be collected by the water taxi that meets the rest of the group at the next hut. Enjoy the invigorating boat ride (price included) under the dramatic Panekiri Bluffs. You check into the cabins/camp beside the wharf, have a quick lunch, and then set off for an afternoon hike up to Panekiri Bluffs. This track is one of the most stunning in the country. Climbing steeply up through a stunning 'cloud forest' of mosses and lichens you soon break out above the first bluff. More and more views unfold. As you climb you can see beyond Lake Waikaremoana to the contiguous wilderness stretching for hundreds of kilometres to the north, south and west. Those who are keen can continue all the way to Bald Knob (5 hours return) with the guide, however, at various points there are knobs and summits that make great early turn-a-rounds. Head back to the cabins and as a group cook a meal at the camp. B,L,D

Day 4.

Waikaremoana - Taupo - 3km/2 hours rowing, 8km/2 hours hiking
This morning hike on an easy 1 hr track up to the usually calm waters of Lake Waikareiti. If conditions allow (light wind) tumble into row-boats (included) and row out across this most splendid of lakes to a wee island in the middle. This tranquil paradise of bird life, ancient forest and pure waters really feels like a forgotten world. If weather ousts rowing, then the group simply walks a little further along the lake and follows a loop track back to the Park Information Centre. In the afternoon the drive west then south takes you to Lake Taupo. This is the largest lake in New Zealand - a 600 sq km volcanic caldera crater created when the largest volcanic explosion known to human-kind erupted in 186 AD. On the drive towards Taupo there's time to have a dip in a natural hot river, one of those secret spots only the locals know about. There is also time for a stop at the powerful Huka Falls where you can feel the spray of these powerful falls, before relaxing in the lodge near Tongariro National Park. B,L,D

Day 5.

Tongariro - 13km/5 hours hiking
Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a far-sighted Maori chief who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect, sacredness, preciousness) of this land - in particular the summits of the active volcanoes. After being dropped off at the trail start, hike through waving tussock-grasslands between the volcanoes to a hut set in an enclave of native beech forest. After lunch traverse across stony deserts to an alpine hut at 1400m, perched on the edge of an old lava flow. From this hut there are fantastic views of the three main peaks in the park; Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. It's an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys, dynamic and changing even in recent years (2013!). Enjoy the experience of sharing an alpine hut with like-minded travellers passionate about the outdoors. B,L,D

Day 6.

Tongariro - 15km/6-8 hours hiking
Hike up through a moon-like valley of contorted lava flows and ash fields before climbing up a steep section to the Emerald Lakes, the usual lunch stop. Cross the volcanic plateau, which boasts lava valleys and steaming explosion craters, flanked by the brooding volcanoes, before descending on the western side. In good conditions, there is an option to climb one of the volcanic peaks. Tongariro National Park is full of landscapes the likes of which are found nowhere else in New Zealand. An evening drive to a lodge right inside the National Park is the perfect place to relax with a beer and enjoy the million dollar views across to the volcanoes. Enjoy a meal out in the alpine village. B,L

Day 7.

Tongariro – Wellington - 1km/1-2 hours hiking
A relaxing start, check out the Park Visitor Centre, hang with an espresso at the alpine café, or alternatively do a loop walk from the lodge to Taranaki Falls (2-3 hours) with your guide. Those taking the bus back to Auckland are dropped at National Park Village before noon, the train passes through National Park the following day. Drive south to Wellington, New Zealand's wonderful harbour capital, arriving in the late afternoon. This giant fault-created harbour is almost encircled by steep suburbs giving it a giant 'coliseum' feel. Nowhere is very far in this stylish little city. Enjoy. You might like to visit the museum of New Zealand, called Te Papa, or the beehive (Parliament House) to see some ranting politicians - or you might not. Wellington is well known for its vibrant café scene and its accessible downtown area. People come into the city to enjoy the lively atmosphere. B,L

Day 8.

Wellington - Tonga Quarry, Abel Tasman National Park - 5km/1.5 hours hiking
Today you leave the North Island and fly across the Cook Strait to the South Island. There will be great views of the Marlborough Sounds, a beautiful maze of sea-flooded valleys on the northern coast of the South Island. Meet your South Island-based guide, it is then a two hour drive to Nelson where you meet anyone joining the group for the South Island leg of this safari (Ultimate South). 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 beautiful cruise around the coast takes you to Awaroa. You may want to have a swim before following the Abel Tasman Coastal track south over Tonga Saddle to Onetahuti Beach. Another 20 min hiking to the campsite at Tonga Quarry where the packs and tents have been previously dropped by boat. After setting up camp the group prepares a delicious meal together and gets to know the new members of the group. B,L,D

Day 9.

Tonga Quarry - Bark Bay - 7-10km/up to 5 hours hiking
Enjoy a leisurely start to the day, time to swim and relax at this beautiful and secluded beach, before packing up and hiking towards Bark Bay and the campsite for the night. Today offers the opportunity to sea kayak in this magical National Park and paddle along the sheltered coastline marvelling at the crystal clear waters and stunning scenery of this marine reserve. Those hiking have a rewarding steady climb through stands of Manuka forest to a saddle where you again catch views of the ocean. A pleasant side trip of about an hour leads to the Bark Bay Falls. Later the group sets up camp, prepares dinner and relaxes at this beach side camp. B,L,D
Please enquire at the time of booking for the sea kayaking option.

Day 10.

Medlands Beach - Murchison - 20-24km/7-8 hours hiking
Winding inland through lush forest you cross the Falls River on an airy 47m suspension bridge. Descending back to Torrent Bay your guide tries to time the crossing of the estuary with the tides (at high tide you must detour inland). At the southern end of Torrent Bay you cross a low ridge in to Anchorage, another stunning bush-fringed bright blue inlet. The track rounds Apple Tree Bay and Guilbert Point passing beneath shady beech forest and large Manuka trees making this a very pleasant section of the track. The countryside opens out by Tinline Bay before arriving back at the Marahau causeway and the vehicle. Time to rest the legs on the drive to tonight's campsite near Murchison, overlooking the beautiful Buller Gorge. Enjoy a meal at the local Murchison pub. B,L

Day 11.

Murchison - Ballroom Overhang - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
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 begin the group 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. B,L,D

Day 12.

Ballroom Overhang - Hokitika - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
Before hiking back splash up a beautiful side canyon, following the stream until it disappears into a cave. Depending on weather and river conditions your guide may alter the route out to include more time in the canyon away from the track. This can be a good chance to use the river crossing skills learnt yesterday! After the hike there is a stop in Punakaiki and a chance to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes before continuing down the coast to tonight's accommodation in Hokitika. A thriving gold rush town in the 1870's, Hokitika was described as 'the most rising place on earth'. Hokitika is better known now for the 'Wild Food Festival' held every year in March. It also a good place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Maori for tools, jewellery and weapons. Tonight's lodge accommodation has magnificent sunset views over the Tasman Sea. It is a night off cooking tonight; tuck in to fish and chips on the beach or eat out at one of the many cafés in this bustling little seaside town. B,L

Day 13.

Hokitika - Fox Glacier - 33km/4 hours biking (optional)
Today you have the option of hiring a bike and exploring the West Coast Cycle Trail. This stunning Milltown to Kumara 33km cycle trail follows a series of old bush tram lines built in the 1860's to cart coal. The ride starts with a gentle climb before a (mostly!) downhill run through lush rainforest wilderness. In the afternoon relax on the pleasant drive down the coast to Fox Glacier where the group camps for the night. B,L,D

Day 14.

Fox Glacier - Haast - 8-12km/3-5 hours hiking (optional)
Make the most of the calm in the morning to take a gentle walk around Lake Matheson. This lake is one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand as the dark brown water, created by natural leaching of organic matter from the surrounding native forest, provides the perfect canvas to reflect New Zealand's highest peaks - Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman. The reflections are truly stunning and can be captured on camera. After the walk there are an array of options: a guided half, full day or heli hike on the impressive Fox Glacier or join your guide for a hike up the valley to a great view point of the glacier. There is also the option of ice climbing for the more intrepid. No matter which option you choose you will be awed by this largest commercially guided glacier that extends right down into the rainforest. After your time at the glacier there is a drive down into South Westland stopping for the night at the Haast Beach campsite. B,L,D

Day 15.

Haast - Aspiring Hut - 8km/3 hours hiking
Driving over the main divide the scenery changes dramatically from the lush rainforests of the West Coast to the spacious tussock high country of Central Otago. You drive along the shores of the glacially formed lakes Hawea and Wanaka, both are a great spot for a swim on a (hot) summer day! Passing through Wanaka you drive through the Matukituki Valley to the road end, where the hike into Aspiring Hut begins. Majestic mountain scenery unfolds, rewarding your efforts as you hike gently up the valley. Through the dips in the high peaks glimpse views of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m) in the distance. B,L,D

Day 16.

Aspiring Hut - Mossburn - 14km/6 hours hiking
This morning make a side trip and climb steeply up to view the Rob Roy Glacier, cheeky kea (NZ alpine parrot) often join the group for lunch, so watch your gear is not 'borrowed' or eaten! Back in the Aspiring Valley amble back to the road end, popping in and out of beech forest enclaves and enjoying the views from the trail as it meanders down the river flats. Back to the vehicle and another scenic drive over the Crown Range. From the summit there are breathtaking views across the Wakatipu Valley and lakes, before driving on to Mossburn and the idyllic rural campsite set on 28 acres of park-like farmland. B,L,D

Day 17.

Mossburn - Milford – Queenstown - 2 hour cruise (optional) 
Sit back and enjoy the splendour on the drive to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is the largest National Park in the country and one of the largest in the world. The huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri border the spectacular inland coastline that is Fiordland. The area is dominated by water, either in the form of lakes or as falling rain. Arriving at Milford by mid morning, there is the option of joining a cruise that takes you all the way out to Anita Bay and the entrance to Milford Sound. Enjoy the views of cascading waterfalls and Mitre Peak (1722 metres straight out of the sea). Fiordland Crested Penguins, Dolphins and New Zealand fur seals often play near the boat. In the afternoon you drive back through Te Anau to and on to Queenstown. B,L

Day 18.

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand; bungy jumping, canyon swings, skydiving, mountain biking and jet boating are just some of the activities available. There are also some great day hikes accessible from the town centre into the mountains that offer stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. Stay at a centrally located lodge that is easy walking distance from the town. Activities should be booked prior to arrival in Queenstown, talk to our team on booking or to your guide at the beginning of the tour. Rest day for guide. B

Day 19.

Queenstown - Ahuriri Valley/Canyon Creek - 6km/3 hours hiking
Spend the morning driving up through the Central Otago High Country crossing Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country. This area is home to some of New Zealand's largest sheep stations which measure tens of thousands of acres. It is renowned for high quality fine fool production, thanks to the hardy merino sheep which graze these mountainous areas. Turning off the main road you head up the Ahuriri Valley, and Conservation Park. The road gets a little rugged towards the end. Everyone organises their overnight packs at the road end and follows a track up Canyon Stream. The canyon and waterfalls are impressive. Emerge out of the Beech forest into an exquisite alpine valley, with great views of Mt Barth at the head of the valley. You camp for the night in this special and remote location. B,L,D

Day 20.

Ahuriri Valley/Canyon Creek - Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park - 8km/4 hours hiking
Explore further into this alpine valley and if weather permits climb higher for expansive views of the Southern Alps. Descend back to the main valley and vehicle for a late lunch before driving on up through the Mackenzie Country to Aoraki/Mt Cook. Tonight's campsite is at the foot of New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3754 metres) - the Maori name translates to 'Cloud Piercer'. B,L,D

Day 21.

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park - 8km/5 hours hiking
We set off with day packs to hike up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut. There are impressive views across Hooker and Mueller glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefall and Aoraki/Mount Cook. On this walk you can see and learn about the forces of nature at work - huge moraine walls deposited over thousands of years by glaciers, avalanches and rocks tumble down distant mountain faces. On return there is time in the afternoon to relax at the campsite or visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. A great place to be inspired by the courageous stories of pioneering mountaineers and to learn about this Park's natural world. Tonight is the last night of the trip and what a place to spend it - in the heart of the Southern Alps surrounded by that special kind of silence that only big mountains can command. If you are lucky you will see the summit of Aoraki turn from white to pink as it catches the last of the sun's rays for the day. B,L,D

Day 22.

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
We make the most of being in this special place and take one final hike this morning, either up to the terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier with its bobbing icebergs, or make a short drive to the Tasman Valley and wander around amongst the glacial moraines and tarns. The final drive is through mid Canterbury and across the plains to Christchurch where the tour ends. B,L

Meals that are included in the trip price are detailed above as B (Breakfast), L (Lunch) and D (Dinner).

Jul 2015: 7
Aug 2015: 4
Oct 2015: 13, 27
Nov 2015: 10
Dec 2015: 1, 22

Jan 2016: 19
Feb 2016: 16
Mar 2016: 1, 15, 29


Start: 7.00 am, Sky tower I-site, corner Federal and Victoria Streets, Auckland

Finish: Christchurch, approx. 5-7pm


Grading & Fitness

Grade D
Average of 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) per day.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No hiking experience necessary.
Agility and fitness required.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.

What to take

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 Hiking Safari packing list.

Essential Items

• hiking boots (not shoes)
• backpack (at least 60 litres capacity)
• 3-season sleeping bag
• waterproof raincoat (gore-tex or similar)
• warm fleece/wool jersey (not cotton)
• shorts for hiking
• polypro/thermals – top & bottom
• 3 pairs of socks (they get wet)
• warm hat or balaclava
• sunscreen and sunglasses
• drink bottle (1 litre)
• spare shoes or sandals
• flashlight/head lamp
• insect repellent (sandflies like foreign blood)
• spare set of clothes.
• gloves/mittens

Optional items:

(but highly recommended):
Gaiters, binoculars, earplugs, walking poles and camera.

We supply:

Therm-a-rest sleeping mats, tents, backpack liner (plastic bag), cooking equipment, plates/cutlery, first aid kit, safety equipment and maps.

Additional Costs

Meals: Meals that are included in the trip price are detailed above as B (Breakfast), L (Lunch) and D (Dinner). Seven evening meals and one lunch are not included in this trip.