November 10 – 25, 2012
Hike, kayak, zip-line, swim with dolphins, Milford Sound nature cruise, vineyard tours, steamship cruise, Auckland Harbor cruise & Maori culture
On this action-packed adventure we visit the South Island to explore three national parks of the Southern Alps, a magnificent mountain range which extends north-south along the west coast for almost 300 miles, has 16 peaks in excess of 9,000 feet and is characterized by active glaciers, glaciated valleys, pristine lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, captivating rainforests, and fragrant alpine meadows. We visit the picturesque Milford Sound and the awesome Franz Josef glacier on the west coast, swim with dolphins on the tranquil east coast, and on the sunny north coast we visit the Marlborough wine country, kayak on the serene Marlborough Sounds, and then fly to the north island to visit Auckland, the vibrant capitol city to explore the Maori culture, cruise the harbor, and check out the gay venues.
Our tour begins with a zip-line adrenaline experience in Queenstown, the adventure center of New Zealand, located on beautiful Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by towering mountains. Next we head out for a three day hike on the famous Routeburn Track, take a nature cruise on Milford Sound, and then cross Lake Wakatipu on a historic steamship and end up back at Queenstown. By private van we travel north to Wanaka, a small picturesque village, and hike to a glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park. We then cross the Southern Alps on one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand to the west coast and hike to the spectacular Franz Josef glacier. We then travel north along the scenic west coast, visit a historic gold mine town, and cross the Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass National Park for more hiking. From this point we head to the Kaikoura Peninsula on the east coast for a very unique wildlife experience, swimming with dolphins. We then head north to the famous Marlborough Wine Country to sample some of New Zealand best wines and to kayak on the serene Marlborough Sounds. Finally, we fly to Auckland where we cruise the Auckland Harbour, visit a museum to see Maori culture and attend a cultural performance, and have the opportunity to visit the many gay venues.
Day 1. Saturday (Nov. 10) Depart USA
Day 3. Monday (Nov. 12) Arrive Auckland/Flight to Queenstown
Day 4. Tuesday (Nov 13) Zip-line Adventure
Later in the afternoon, we visit the offices of Ultimate Hikes for a briefing on our three day, two night guided hike on the Routeburn Track in the majestic Southern Alps.
Days 5, 6 & 7. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (Nov. 14, 15 & 16) Routeburn Track Hike
For two nights we stay in comfortable wilderness lodges designed to fit into the environment and built with everything, right down to the last nail, flown in by helicopter. Accommodations in the lodges include bunk style rooms for four with shared bathrooms. Facilities in the lodges include: comfortable beds with duvets and pillows, hot water showers, shampoo, conditioner and hair dryers, flushing toilets, generated electricity until 10pm each evening, hand washing facilities and washing powder, drying rooms, full kitchen and lodge staff, and a selection of New Zealand wines, beers and soft drinks for purchase.
The kitchen staff will make sure our time inside is as memorable as our time outside. When we arrive at the lodge after a long hike, they will provide us a snack and cold drink. A three course dinner follows: hearty homemade soup, a traditional New Zealand main course, fresh garden salad followed by dessert, tea and coffee. A selection of New Zealand wine, beer and soft drinks are available for purchase from the bar throughout the evening.
A hot cup of coffee will be ready and waiting for early risers and breakfast offers a selection of fruit and cereal or a full cooked breakfast with bacon and eggs. Our guides will lay everything out for us to make our own picnic lunch on the way out: a delicious sandwich and our choice of fruit and energy snacks to keep us going through the day. Lunch is on route, but a hot drink will be waiting for us when we stop.
Day 5. The Divide to Lake Mackenzie – 8 miles
We then descend to Lake Howden Hut for a hot drink and picnic lunch, before gradually climbing through lush silver beech forest to the base of Earland Falls. We can look across the Hollyford Valley to the ice capped Darran Mountains before descending to the comfortable Lake Mackenzie Lodge on Lake Mackenzie where refreshments, a hot shower, dinner and comfortable beds are waiting. The face of this splendid lodge is predominantly glass which affords phenomenal views of the Darren Mountains.
Day 6. Lake Mackenzie to Routeburn Falls – 9 miles
Day 7. Routeburn Falls to Routeburn Road – 6 miles
In the afternoon we join Real Journeys Nature Cruise for a relaxing two hour tour of Milford Sound. Specialist nature guides onboard inform us about the ecology of Milford Sound’s rainforest and the wildlife, share stories of the fiord’s history and answer our questions. The flexible itinerary of the cruise allows time to enjoy the scenery and to pause to view highlights. We cruise so close to waterfalls that water soaks the foredeck, and drift gently while watching out for dolphins, seals and penguins. We lodge in beautiful Milford Sound at the Milford Sound Lodge.
Day 8. Saturday (Nov. 17) Milford Sound – Queenstown – Wanaka
In Queenstown we pick up our rental van and drive north for about 90 minutes to Wanaka, a resort town and the entry to Mount Aspiring National Park. Along the way we stop at the historic Cardrona Hotel which was built in 1863, and is one of New Zealand oldest hotels. We continue to Wanaka, a tourist town of about 5,000 people located east of the Southern Alps on the south shore of beautiful Lake Wanaka. Wanaka offers many of the adrenalin sports provided in Queenstown. We lodge at the Clearbrook in apartments with balconies and have views to the Lake and mountains.
Day 9. Sunday. (Nov. 18) Rob Roy Glacier Track
Day 10. Monday (Nov. 19) Wanaka to Franz Josef
When we get to the small village of Franz Josef, we check in to the Rainforest Retreat, centrally located in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier Village on the West Coast. Nestled in six acres of idyllic native bush at the foot of precipitous mountains, the Rainforest Retreat offers premium accommodation comprising of Tree Houses, Tree Lodges, Tree Huts and Park Motels; each unit was built exclusively to embrace the beautiful, natural environment of the park, and provide guests with forest floor or mid canopy bush views. After settling into our lodge we hike to Sentinel Rock for impressive views of the 7.5 mile long and 7,000 year old Franz Josef Glacier, the glacier valley and the Waiho River, and see dramatic examples of where plants have colonized glaciated areas. We return to our lodge after our two hour long hike and enjoy the sounds of the rainforest.
Day 11. Tuesday (Nov. 20) Franz Josef – Arthurs Pass – Afternoon Hike
We check into the Bealey Hotel, located on a ridge with awesome views of the surrounding mountains and the broad river valley, have lunch, and head out for an afternoon hike on the 7.5 mile (round-trip) Bealey Spur Track. We hike through the beech forest which has some short steep sections and after about an hour the track comes to a point at 2,952 feet which affords great views. The track continues through the forest and then onto the undulating ridge. Once on the ridge we will be rewarded with a fantastic view of Arthurs Pass and the Waimakariri River. We stop at the Bealey Spur Hut for refreshments before returning to our comfortable lodge.
Day 12. Wednesday (Nov. 21) Arthurs Pass Village – Dolphin Swim – Blenheim
Next we drive north along the remote and beautiful east coast for about two hours to Blenheim, a small town of 30,000 people located in the heart of the sunny Marlborough wine country. We lodge at the Dry Olive, a bed and breakfast located in the wine country.
Day 13. Thursday (Nov. 22) Sea Kayak – Vineyard Tour
After lunch, we head to the Marlborough Wine Country to spend the our Thanksgiving afternoon in a picturesque wine region. Marlborough, with over 22,000 acres of vineyards, is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand. Predominant varieties grown are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, pinot gris, and Gewurztraminer. However, the jewel in the Marlborough crown is undoubtedly its sauvignon blanc wines, critically acclaimed as among the best in the world. Those same climatic and soil qualities that ensure the success of the region’s wines also help to produce fine fruits and vegetables, seafoods, meats, and dairy products which have collectively earned Marlborough the title “Gourmet Province of New Zealand.” We visit three of the regions finest wineries and lodge at the Dry Olive bed and breakfast. Tonight we celebrate Thanksgiving with a feast at a local restaurant in the wine country.
Day 14. Friday (Nov. 23) Blenheim – Auckland – Afternoon Free
Day 15. Saturday (Nov. 24) Maori Culture – Harbor Cruise
Day 16. Sunday (Nov. 25) Auckland – USA
(B) – Breakfast; (L) – Lunch; (D) – Dinner
LAND COST: Due to the fluctuation in international currencies, the cost of this trip is priced in New Zealand dollars and converted to US dollars based upon the current exchange rate. Therefore, the actual trip cost is based on the exchange rate when purchased and the number of participants. Costs below are based on double room occupancy. The trip cost as of March 1, 2010 for:
COST INCLUDES: All lodging, land transportation, airport transfers, meals where noted, park entrance fees, American tour director, museum performance and entrance fee, Routeburn Track hike, guided kayak adventure, dolphin swim adventure, Milford Sound nature cruise, steamship crossing of Lake Wakatipu, Auckland Harbor cruise, and zip-line adventure.
COST DOES NOT INCLUDE: Personal expenses, drinks and alcoholic beverages, travel insurance, international air fares to New Zealand, domestic flights in New Zealand (Auckland-Queenstown & Blenheim-Auckland estimated at $238 US), tips for guides, lunches on Days 14, 15 & 16, dinner on Day 14.
This trip is rated moderate to difficult because we hike in mountainous terrain on well-maintained trails with elevation gains less than 3,000 feet and at altitudes of less than 6,000 feet.
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