New Zealand Outdoor Adventures

November 10 – 25, 2012

Trip Highlights
Hike, kayak, zip-line, swim with dolphins, Milford Sound nature cruise, vineyard tours, steamship cruise, Auckland Harbor cruise & Maori culture

Trip Details

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
We arrive in Auckland early in the morning and make our way through customs to catch a late morning flight (90 minutes) to Queenstown on the South Island. Upon arrival we are transferred to the Chalet Queenstown, a gay owned and operated boutique bed and breakfast. Our comfortable B & B, conveniently located near the center of town, has balconies overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the mountains, wireless internet access, a guest lounge, and a patio/courtyard. After lunch, we have the afternoon free to relax or explore Queenstown, a town of 24,000 people and the adventure capitol of New Zealand. (L,D)

Day 4. Tuesday (Nov 13) Zip-line Adventure
Following a hearty breakfast, we ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak at 1,476 feet and have scenic views of Queenstown and the Lake on the way up. We meet our guides at Zip-Trek Company and are briefed for our adrenaline packed, zip-line adventure. For the next three hours, we sail through the air on six different high-speed zip-lines which extend for over one half mile. After a picnic lunch on the mountain, we hike the One-Mile Track through a magnificent beech forest down the mountain to Queenstown.

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
The Routeburn Track passes through two national parks, Fiordland and Mount Aspiring, and is part of the Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. Our track takes us through majestic mountainous, pristine valleys, luxuriant forests, alpine meadows, around lakes, along streams and cascading waterfalls, and turquoise rivers.

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
Our adventure begins with a coach ride from Queenstown to the Divide on the scenic Milford Road, stopping at Te Anau for morning tea. We climb the wide and well formed track from the Divide to the optional ascent to Key Summit. From this point we can sit among the alpine plants and gaze down three valleys from which water flows to three different coasts.

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
Today we leave the moss and lichen draped ancient forest and enter the alpine world of daisies, buttercups, gentians, and edelweiss. We have a fantastic view of the Darran Mountains across the Hollyford Valley, which extends through Fiordland to the distant Tasman Sea. After lunch at the Harris Saddle, we ascend Conical Hill for a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. After walking around Lake Harris, we descend into the upper basins of the Routeburn Valley, with the towering mountains above. We spend a final night of luxury at the beautifully located Routeburn Falls Lodge and enjoy a special dinner. The Routeburn Falls Lodge is a magnificent new facility with stunning views to the lower valley.

Day 7. Routeburn Falls to Routeburn Road – 6 miles
We enjoy the dramatic landscape around the Falls, before descending to the alpine pastures of the Routeburn Flats. We will take a scenic route through the meadow and have a picnic lunch by a deep green pool. The track follows the river as it roars through a magnificent gorge before plunging beneath the unyielding rocks at the Sump. From here it is a gentle walk through the beech forest to the Road End where a private vehicle will transfer us to Milford Sound.

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 the morning we travel by private vehicle transfer from Milford Sound to Walter Peak High Country Farm where we board the TSS Earnslaw, a historic steamship, for a 90 minute cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. We have lunch onboard the boat and enjoy vistas of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

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
In the morning a private vehicle drives us to Mount Aspiring National Park in the Southern Alps for the beginning of the Rob Roy Track. We hike (7.5 miles round trip) up the West Matukituki Valley, considered to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand, and climb through a beautiful gorge with lush vegetation to emerge in an alpine meadow which affords close-up views of glaciers and the numerous waterfalls plummeting down the sheer ice cliff faces. We return to our lodge and have the evening to relax.

Day 10. Monday (Nov. 19) Wanaka to Franz Josef
The road from Wanaka to Franz Josef on the West Coast, one of the most spectacular drives in the country, crosses the 1,847 foot high Hasst Pass, the southernmost crossing of the Southern Alps. On this half-day drive through the wilderness of Mount Aspiring National Park, we stop along the way for short hikes. We hike for 15 minutes and cross a swinging bridge over a river and proceed through beech forest to the scenic Blue Pools. Later on the pass we hike a trail which proceeds above timberline to a point with great views. On the downhill side of the pass we stop to see Thunder Creeks Falls, an easy 5 minute hike, and at the next stop we hike to the Roaring Billy Waterfall through a lush forest with tree ferns.

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
In the morning we drive north along the remote and majestic West Coast through a landscape characterized by wild beaches, lakes, and dense forests to the small village of Hokitika, a historic gold rush town established in 1864, and at Kumara Junction we head east and follow the Taramakau River into the mountains. We cross the 3,018 foot high Arthurs Pass and have spectacular views of glittering peaks on all sides as we enter Arthurs Pass National Park. The park, which straddles the Southern Alps, has 16 peaks over 6,500 feet in height and great hiking trails. The flora of the park ranges from rainforest on the west slope nurtured by an annual rainfall of 177 inches, to beech forest on the east slope. Our destination is Arthurs Pass Village, a tiny hamlet with a population of 300 people, located at an elevation of 2,418 feet and near numerous ski resorts.

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
In the morning we leave the mountains and drive to Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast. After lunch, we have a totally unique experience as we swim with dolphins in the shallow waters of the beautiful Kaikoura Peninsula. The dusky dolphins inhabit the coastal waters off Kaikoura all year round, and Kaikoura is a unique place in the world where wild dolphins can be encountered every day. Our guides at Dolphin Encounters have been operating swim with dolphin tours since 1989 and have developed a wealth of experience in introducing visitors to a wonderful marine environment and the excitement of swimming with dolphins. We may even spot whale, as they are also common in this area.

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
In the morning we join Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company for a half-day sea kayak experience. With our guide we will explore the Marlborough Sounds, a maze of inlets, beaches and water reaches, formed when the sea flooded into deep valleys after the last Ice Age.

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
In the morning we drive to the Airport in nearby Blenheim and catch a flight to Auckland and are escorted to our hotel, the Scenic Hotel Auckland, located on central Queen Street in the heart of Auckland. This beautiful four-star hotel is a landmark art deco building with spacious apartment style hotel accommodations. Auckland’s top entertainment, shopping and eating places are virtually on the doorstep. Hotel amenities include a café, bar, wireless internet access, and a fitness room. We have the afternoon free to relax or explore the city.

Day 15. Saturday (Nov. 24) Maori Culture – Harbor Cruise
At 10:00 AM we begin our Discovery Cruise around Auckland’s Harbor located on the Hauraki Gulf, which has more than 50 beautiful islands with clear blue waters and a unique flora and fauna. Our hop-on hop-off pass allows us to stop and explore at each stop and then catch the next boat. Our cruise begins at Downtown Auckland, and from there we set sail towards Auckland’s buzzing Viaduct Village; highlights here include Westhaven Marina and a fish eye view of the Auckland Harbor Bridge. Sailing further along to Devonport, our next cruise stop is Torpedo Bay; depart here for North Head, the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum and Devonport seaside village. Next stop, the volcanic island of Rangitoto; its unique lava terrain and magnificent flora and fauna will leave you amazed. Our cruise then continues on to Motuihe Island; explore the island’s stunning white sandy beaches, or enjoy a scenic bush walk instead. The last stop on the cruise is Orakei Wharf; depart here for Kelly Tarltons Antarctic Encounter and Underwater world, and the sunny seaside suburb of Mission Bay.

Day 16. Sunday (Nov. 25) Auckland – USA
Our flight back to the USA does not depart until evening. Therefore, we have the morning and part of the afternoon to visit the Auckland Museum to see the largest collection of Maori treasure in the world, and attend a live Maori cultural performance including the high energy spine-tingling version of the world famous haka. We will also have the opportunity to meet, talk and take photos of the performers. Our guides will escort us on a tour of the gallery for a deeper understanding of the Maori culture. Following the tour, we catch a quick lunch and the head for the airport. Please note, we arrive back in the United States on the same day.

(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:
• 4-5 Participants – NZ $6,580 per person = US $5,435*
• 6-8 Participants – NZ $6,180 per person = US $5,105*
Single supplement: NZ $600 = US $492*.
*Based on the February 15, 2012 exchange rate

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.



If you would like additional information, e-mail us at, or call us locally at 303-449-0990 or toll free at 1-877-440-0990. Our office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) Monday through Friday.

You may also download our trip registration form, and mail it in to us.



Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka

Mt Aspiring National Park

Mt Aspiring National Park

Mt Aspiring National Park

Mt Aspiring National Park

Franz Josef Glacier

Arthurs Pass National Park

Arthurs Pass National Park

Kaikoura Dolphins

Kaikoura Peninsula

Kaikoura Whale Tail

Kaikoura Coastline Drive

Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Vineyard