Sunday - Arrive and hiking in Arthur's Pass
The Tui trip starts in Christchurch, which is the main city and airport in the South Island. You'll need to be in Christchurch by 9am or so, then we’ll meet you and head to the Southern Alps. We’ll get straight into it with a hike in Arthurs Pass to Devils Punchbowl. We then head down the coast to the beautiful seaside village of Okarito, one of the best kept secrets of the South Island’s West Coast, that’s all but untouched due to it being 10 miles down a one-way road from an obscure highway turnoff. There are no shops, no restaurants, no traffic and a population of only 31 people. Because of the action-packed nature of the Tui, we get much of the driving out of the way on the first day of the trip. As an option, you can miss out most of the first day’s driving by meeting us that afternoon in the West Coast town of Hokitika, a short 30-minute flight from Christchurch, and we’ll pick you up on the way through. This evening - after dinner - ask your guide to take you up to the Okarito Trig to listen for New Zealand’s most famous bird, the rare and elusive Kiwi. You’ll almost never see a Kiwi, as they are nocturnal and very shy, but they have a very distinctive call, so it’s great fun to go out and listen for them.
ACCOMMODATION: Okarito Beach House, Okarito; off-the-beaten-path, isolated and comfortable (L,D)
Monday - Hiking at Franz Josef Glacier
Just south of Okarito there are two formidable glaciers descending from the mountains to the sea. In terms of scenery, this place is just off the chart, and we’ll spend most of the day hiking at Franz Josef Glacier. We’ll hike up through the rainforest to either Alex Knob or Roberts Point, both of which give great views of the terminal face, lower reaches and lateral moraines of the Franz Josef Glacier. We only do these hikes in good weather, as the rocks get very slippery in the rain. If it’s raining, we’ll do a shorter walk to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier and hike around Lake Matheson.
|Heli-hike option (add US$240 + tax)
A less strenuous, but outrageously scenic option today is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you’ll board a modern turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 4,000 feet above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels - no previous experience required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice, and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains, and back to civilization.
The heli-hike is extremely popular with the general traveling public, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, you can reserve a space on the heli-hike, and we’ll make sure a spot is held for you. You can leave your decision until you’re actually on your trip, and we’ll get you a spot if it’s available.
Heli-hikers generally return a little earlier, so we all rendezvous at a local café, and head south. From Franz Josef we head down the coast to Haast, an isolated West Coast hamlet, where we’ll be having the quintessential kiwi dinner - fish and chips!
Heritage Park Motel, Haast
Tuesday - Start Mt. Aspiring National Park options
This morning we’ll drive to Makarora, on the eastern side of Mt. Aspiring National Park. At the time of booking, you have the choice of one of two different 2-day/1-night options - a backpacking trip in Mt. Aspiring National Park, or an overnight stay in the small farming village of Makarora. After lunch, we head off for our various activities:
|SIBERIA VALLEY WILDERNESS OPTION IN MT. ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK
Tuesday (continued) - Scenic flight, hike Lake Crucible
If you like the idea of staying in one of New Zealand’s most isolated mountain huts, then this option’s for you! We’ll start with a dramatic scenic flight alongside the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps to the remote Siberia Valley airstrip. You can hike up the trail to Lake Crucible for great views of this glacial valley while dinner is whipped up back at the hut. Tonight you’ll be served a candle-lit dinner in one of the most glorious places in the world. This is also one of the few backcountry huts where you have the opportunity to chat with a resident hut ranger from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. The rangers are often keen for a yarn around the camp fire, and can offer further insight into the flora and fauna of Mt. Aspiring National Park. This is the only night on the Tui where accommodations are a little more basic, but we’ll be back in civilization the next day. You don’t have to carry a very heavy pack - our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. You’ll be carrying a sleeping bag, a few spare clothes and some food - no need for any more than that, although we’ll provide tents and so on if you’d prefer to camp out under the stars. To minimize our impact on this beautiful but fragile environment, we limit availability on this option.
ACCOMMODATION: Remote wilderness area, Mt. Aspiring National Park - incredible! (B,L,D)
|MAKARORA ADVENTURE OPTION IN MT. ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK
Tuesday (continued) - Scenic flight
If you prefer more comfortable accommodation than a mountain hut, then we've got just the thing for you! We'll start with a dramatic scenic flight alongside the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps, such as Mt. Aspiring, one of New Zealand's highest summits. After landing down back in Makarora, you'll have the remainder of the afternoon to kick back, relax and soak up the mountain views beyond this sleepy village. Tonight we'll be dining at a classic kiwi pub, where you'll have a chance to meet some of the locals.
ACCOMMODATION: Makarora Wilderness Resort, Makarora (B,L,D)
|Wednesday - Hike Siberia Valley, jet boat
After an early start, we spend the morning hiking to The Forks, at the head of the Wilkin River, where we will be met by a jet boat for an exhilarating ride back to Makarora, where we’ll hook up with the rest of the group before carrying on to Queenstown.
|Wednesday - Jet boat Wilkin River
After a relaxed start, we’ll take a thrilling jet boat ride up the Wilkin River, into the heart of Mt. Aspiring National Park, before hooking up with the rest of the group in Makarora and carrying on to Queenstown.
Wednesday (continued)- Finish Mt. Aspiring National Park Options
After regrouping in Makarora we’ll have a picnic lunch, before a beautiful drive down past Lake Hawea to the shores of Lake Wanaka. We cross the mountains at Cardrona Saddle where you will enjoy spectacular views of the Wakatipu basin, and then head through to Queenstown by mid-afternoon.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown (B,L)
Thursday - Hike Ben Lomond or free day in Queenstown
Today you have two options - a full day hike or a free day to yourself - it’s up to you!
For those keen for a challenging alpine hike, after breakfast we’ll hike up Ben Lomond Track. Ben Lomond, one of Queenstown’s prominent peaks, was named by the early Scottish settlers in the area who were reminded of the highlands of their home country. We hike up through forested slopes which then give way to alpine tussock-land leading us to the summit of Ben Lomond. From this vantage point you’ll find yourself immersed in amazing views over Queenstown Bay and Lake Wakatipu which are themselves dwarfed by the surrounding mountains such as Mt. Aspiring. This is a steep hike, with an elevation gain of 4500 feet (1500m), but it’s absolutely worth it.
As an alternative, you can have a free day with no activities scheduled, although we’ll certainly help with suggestions if you like. Queenstown is a great place to spend a couple of days. You’ll find all the comforts of civilization: massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafés, window-shopping and adrenaline pumping activities! You’ll also find some incredible optional activities here such as biking, hang gliding, hiking, white-water rafting, jet boating, skydiving, horse trekking, fishing and wine tours - it’s all here! Your guides can help you during the trip to book any of these optional activities. Queenstown is not a big place - the population is about 8000 - but there’s plenty to do! Or, you can do nothing if you prefer, and just soak up the atmosphere.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments. (B)
Friday - Hiking Routeburn Track, Cycle Hollyford Valley
This morning we head down to Te Anau for lunch, before continuing on to The Divide, where we’ll hike part of the famous Routeburn Track. The Routeburn is one of the best-known hiking tracks in New Zealand and we do the best part of the track, which overlooks the Hollyford Valley, Lake Marian and Mt. Christina. After hiking back to the trailhead, you’ll be fitted with a 21-speed front-suspension Specialized mountain bike for a spectacular ride through the Hollyford Valley. This remote and gently-rolling backcountry road is lined with unspoilt beech forest and surrounded by towering peaks - take your time or go as hard as you want - either way, this is a ride you’ll never forget! If cycling isn’t your thing, you can skip it and just enjoy the scenery - like all our activities, the cycling is completely optional. We’ll all end up at Hollyford Camp, an isolated and rustic establishment, originally set up in the 1930s for the workers who built the nearby Homer Tunnel and Milford Road. This is a beautiful, tranquil place, with a dozen cabins scattered around a museum and historic general store, still operating to this day. Hollyford Camp is right next to the Hollyford River and is surrounded by the mountains of Fiordland National Park. It’s definitely not a 5-star hotel, but it’s a great little place, and a wonderful location to hang out at the end of such an adventurous day!
Please Note: Hollyford Camp is a famous kiwi icon - a slice of old-time New Zealand, if you will - but the facilities are pretty basic compared to all the other places we stay on the Tui. Bill and Helen, who run the place, have put a lot of love into the camp while aiming to maintain the old-world charm of a workers camp from the 1930s. It really is a chance to experience our history.
ACCOMMODATION: Hollyford Camp, Hollyford Valley - rustic but idyllic (B,L,D)
Saturday - Free day in Queenstown or local hikes
It’s an early start today. First we’ll have a short drive through the Homer Tunnel, which comes out at the top of a spectacular alpine road that winds its way downhill to Milford Sound. The lush rainforest carpeting the lower slopes of the mountains gives way to the massively steep glacier-carved slopes and waterfalls of the Darren Range. Milford Sound, rated the 8th Natural Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling, is breathtaking. Sheer rock walls plunge thousands of feet to the sea, surrounded by snow-capped mountains! Most people see Milford Sound from the deck of a cruise ship, but we’ve got a better way - gliding along in a sea kayak, causing minimum disruption to the seals and dolphins, which are very friendly and often eager to visit. This is an awesome trip, run by specialist kayak outfitters, and it’s equally suitable for beginners or experts. When you get back from your morning’s paddle, we’ll head back to Hollyford Camp for lunch before continuing on to Lake Te Anau. You’ll then have a chance to cycle along the peaceful country road that meanders its way through southern farmlands to the Lake Manapouri Inn, beautifully located on the lake’s edge. Again, if you prefer, you can skip the cycling and just enjoy the great views out over the lake and the surrounding mountains of Fiordland National Park.
ACCOMMODATION: Lake Manapouri Inn, Manapouri (B,L,D)
Sunday - Depart for home
Well, it’s almost time to go home. We’ll leave after breakfast for the two-hour drive to Queenstown, and arrive by late morning in time for the flights back to Christchurch or Auckland. This will have been a very exhilarating week, and you’ll be buzzing with excitement but feeling relaxed and refreshed as well! See the itinerary for the Kauri trip if you want to take a few more days to see the North Island as well. Or talk to one of our consultants if you would like some options prior to or after your trip". (B)
"This was an amazing way to see a good part of the South Island in 8 days. It was like living in a postcard for a week. The activities were invigorating, the fellow travelers were phenomenal and the memories were unforgettable. We were sad to leave. "
-- Tim and Katie Schuster Feb 27 2005 Tui
The Tui is an activity-oriented trip around the South Island. We’ve chosen interesting and comfortable accommodations throughout. Some places are quite luxurious, but many of the other places we stay are off-the-beaten-track - and don’t have many accommodation options - but they are really, really spectacular. Our clients often say a real highlight of the trip is meeting their New Zealand hosts. We think you’ll love the places we stay! We prefer to stay in comfortable bed and breakfasts, lodges and apartments. Rooming is based on twin-share, although single rooms are available upon request. As there's such a variety of accommodations on this trip, some places will have ensuite bathrooms and some will have shared bathrooms - so we may ask you to share a bathroom with other group members on occasion.
RECOMMENDED FLIGHTS: If you're flying in on the first day of the trip, or out on the last day, we recommend arriving in Christchurch by approximately 8 - 9am on the first Sunday, and departing from Queenstown after 11am on the last Sunday. Other flight times may also be possible including flying straight to Hokitika on the first day - if you are considering other flight times please let us know.
PICK-UP INFORMATION: On the first day of the trip we can either pick you up from the Holiday Inn City Centre in Christchurch at 9.30am, or at the Christchurch airport in front of the information desk at 10am. Another option is to meet us at the Hokitika Airport that afternoon.
DROP OFF INFORMATION: On the last day of the trip we can drop you off anywhere in central Queenstown in the morning, or at the Queenstown airport in time for the flights above.
FITNESS: We incorporate plenty of adventure activities and our focus is on getting you out of the vehicle, out of stress-mode, and into the scenery! Like all our trips, you don't need to be young or really fit - but this trip is all about action and pace, and it's definitely not designed for couch potatoes. Every one of the days on the trip will be unforgettable. We manage the level of commitment to suit your experience and we have an impeccable safety record. We hold all relevant government transport and outdoor guiding licenses and our staff are highly trained and experienced.
EXPERIENCE: You don't have to have any outdoor experience at all to enjoy the Tui . We offer trips that allow you to make the most of New Zealand's incredible outdoor environment. Our highly trained experienced guides will look after you! You won't be carrying a heavy pack and you don't need to have ever been in a sea kayak to enjoy kayaking Milford Sound. You don't need to be a serious cyclist to enjoy some of the rides we have available either. In fact, we have so many options available that you don't need to ride at all if you'd rather hike, fish, or just laze around! All we ask is that you be energetic and in reasonable shape - and we guarantee you'll have an incredible time on the Tui.
INCLUDED: Your trip fare includes just about everything, specifically:
NOT INCLUDED: This is your holiday, and we are serious about not nickel-and-diming you! You’ll have a few meals and drinks to cover, extra activities if you choose them, and you’ll probably feel like tipping your guides at the end of a fabulous time, but you won’t be pulling out your wallet every few minutes on your ACTIVE NEW ZEALAND trip!
- All guiding services. We have two guides per trip, a lead guide/driver and a co-guide who is responsible for meals and accommodations. This means we can really make sure you have a great time! We operate with small groups and we don’t hesitate to offer a second departure when our trips start getting full..
- Comfortable accommodation for the entire period you are with us. We can also organize accommodation for you if you want to arrive earlier or leave later.
- Transport as required, in comfortable vehicles, aircraft, jet boats, and whatever else is required.
- All your meals, except in Queenstown where we've found people prefer to check out the wide range of restaurants. Alcohol is not generally included, although we do spring for a few drinks here and there!
- All hiking, cycling, and kayaking described in the itinerary, except optional extra activities, such as the heli-hike at Franz Josef. We have estimated the rates for optional extra activities operated by local activity operators in US dollars, including all required equipment, but these rates may vary according to the USD/NZD exchange rate of the day. There are many optional activities available at extra cost, particularly in Queenstown. None of these activities are compulsory, and nor will your trip seem less awesome if you do the cheap or free options. Although some people enjoy sampling hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, and so on, others prefer to focus more on the hiking, paddling and cycling, which is of course the reason you're coming to New Zealand in the first place!
We'll see you soon!