Arrive in Wellington, New Zealand and transfer to our accommodation. You will have the day free to explore the city, including the immaculate botanical gardens before joining together for our welcome dinner and briefing about the weeks’ activities.
Day 2 - Coastal Exploration
In the early morning we will board the Inter Island ferry and sail across Cook Strait and through the scenic Marlborough Sounds to Picton. We then have the opportunity to sea kayak on the sheltered waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, stopping for lunch at a picturesque bush-rimmed bay. The double kayaks are very stable, easy to paddle, and a delightful way to travel. Towards the end of our two-hour kayak journey we will paddle near a small colony of shags perched high in the overhanging trees. In the late afternoon we will drive through forested hills and the sunshine city of Nelson, close to the world-renowned Abel Tasman National Park. Following the coastline, we will arrive at the beautiful town of Motueka where we will stay for the next two nights.
In the morning we are whisked through to the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park where we will begin our hike to Torrent Bay. The hike takes around 4 hours which allows us time to explore around the Anchorage / Torrent bay area. The captain will meet us at a remote beach, where we will board our sail boat for a journey out of the heads and then along the Mad Mile with the gentle winds in our sail. The boat will then take us back to Kaiteriteri where we meet our vehicle for a short drive back to Motueka where we will be relaxing again.
Today we do some cave rafting! We travel along the Buller River, which we follow inland via its bush-clad gorges. We stop in Charleston, a once busy gold mining town in the late 1800’s. Here we join our cave rafting guide who will take us up the Nile River in a small train. We then change into wetsuits, grab our inner tubes, and head underground. We float along waterways through the caves on our inner tubes – a novel and exciting way to enjoy this amazing underworld experience. Late afternoon we watch the sun set into the Tasman Sea as we follow the spectacular coastline to Punakaiki, where we will be staying at a beachside resort for the evening. Before dinner we have the option to take a walk around the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes.
Day 5 - Helicopter Glacier Exploration
Today is the day you’ll brag about for years to come! After breakfast, we continue southwards. The road is bound on one side by the rugged coast, where land meets the wild Tasman Sea and on the other by dense, temperate rainforest which covers the distant wall of mountains – the Southern Alps. We continue to Hokitika and then to glacier country. Following a briefing from our experienced glacier guide, we board a helicopter for an exhilarating flight to a remote and stunningly beautiful part of the Fox Glacier. Under the guide’s watchful eye, we attach instep crampons to our boots and head onto the white ice to explore the ever-changing formations. This is an area of the glacier where its forces work hardest, often creating spectacular ice caves and arches. Weather permitting, time on the ice is about 3 hours before we return to base in the late afternoon by helicopter once again. We will be staying near Fox Glacier for the evening.
Day 6 - Lake Matheson, Lake Hawea & Lake Wanaka
This morning we take a 90 minute walk around the jewel-like Lake Matheson, a photographer’s paradise. If the weather cooperates, there is potential to capture photos of brilliant mountainous reflections over the lake, before following the scenic highway south. The road is bordered by rainforest and mountains on one side and the wild ocean on the other. Spectacular scenery continues as we cross the Haast Pass, with Mt Aspiring National Park as the backdrop, then skirt Lake Hawea on the way to beautiful Lake Wanaka. We visit a winery and sample some local vintages before continuing to our accommodation in Wanaka for overnight.
Wanaka is an undiscovered gem with a nearby short walk at Diamond Lake yielding some spectacular mountain views from the lake lookout and providing a good warm up for our hike to the summit of Mt Roy (1578m). The start point for this hike is a short drive out of Wanaka and the track initially zigzags upwards through open farmland. A steep climb to the ridgeline follows before the final ascent to the summit. Views from the top take in a magnificent panorama including Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring and the Matukituki Valley. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on this hike which takes about 6 hours to complete. We drive through Queenstown afterwards, passing through the Gibbston Valley wine region and the rugged Kawauru Gorge (fancy a bungee jump?) before arriving at our hotel overlooking the mighty Lake Wakatipu. This will be home for the next 3 nights.
There is so much to do here in Queenstown, the choices can be overwhelming. For the wine buff, a chance to explore the great Pinot Noirs of the area. For the culture seekers, nearby artsy Arrowtown is waiting to be explored. For the Adventure Seeker – hiking, biking, frisbee golf, and more! However at 2pm we want to regather at the TSS Earnslaw wharf for an afternoon cruise up the lake to Walter Peak as part of a final Historical Excursion. The on board historian will guide us through the only working Steamship in the southern hemisphere as well as a tour through the beautiful colonial homestead at Walter Peak. The wine tasting and antipasto appetizer sets you up for the return trip and dinner at one of the local restaurants.
Day 9 - River Canyons Jetboad Ride
We will spend our last morning zipping around on a jetboat in the Shotover river canyons – a wild, adrenaline-pumping ride not for the faint of heart! After lunch, you will have the afternoon off to explore Queenstown, the center for adventure tourism in New Zealand with option activities available including a gondola ride, luge or zip-lining, bungy-jumping and more!! We’ll reminisce over our last dinner as a group before retiring and heading back to our hotel. Overnight in Queenstown.
Depart Queenstown for U.S.