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Guided Adventure Tours
13 Day Kea Family Tour - South Island
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Brief Outline
*Pricing for Children 15 years and under from $2699USD

Family trips are a little different than regular adventure trips, and over the years we've entertained a lot of families in New Zealand. The Kea Family Trip is specially designed to ensure parents and kids enjoy a range of activities as a family, but also to provide opportunities for parents to get away on their own while our specialist Kea guides look after the kids. Our itinerary is flexible, so we can make adjustments on the road to make sure everyone's having a good time. The accommodations are family-friendly and the meals are designed to suit all ages. We venture into several national parks, do an overnight hike to Mt. Aspiring Hut, check out one of New Zealand's most spectacular glaciers and do some unforgettable jet boating, rafting and hiking in various parts of the South Island. We maintain plenty of options for all ages and there'll be lots of activities to keep parents busy too!

Tour Runs All Year round

Start and End Locations:

Christchurch to Christchurch

Tour starts:

Tuesday and ends Sunday

Breakdown of Days

Tue: Arrive, wildlife reserve and Kiwi viewing
Wed: Jet boating the Rakaia Gorge and star-gazing
Thu: Hiking near Mt Cook
Fri: Rafting near Queenstown
Sat: Free day in Queenstown
Sun: Exploring around Queenstown
Mon: Overnight hike in Mt Aspiring National Park
Tue: Hiking out, and delve into "Puzzling World"
Wed: Exploring the West Coast forests, beaches, glowworms
Thu: Kayaking Lake Mapourika, Franz Josef Glacier
Fri: Coastal hiking, free time in Hokitika
Sat: Farm show and hiking in Castle Hill Basin
Sun: Depart for home

Tour Includes:

Wildlife Reserve and Kiwi Viewing, Jet Boating Rakaia Gorge, Hiking Mt. Cook & South Westland World Heritage Area, Rafting in Queenstown, Hiking at Mount Aspiring National Park & Franz Josef Glacier, Kayaking Lake Mapourika, Visiting Beaches and Rainforest of the West Coast. We use specialist guides on our family trips, who have lots of experience looking after kids and adults alike, such as Christiaan (or Lofty as he is more affectionately known), who has spent several years as an outdoor instructor, teaching kayaking, climbing and teambuilding skills with Kiwi kids. New Zealand is a safe destination, and the Kea Family Trip is an awesome adventure for the whole family. To enjoy all the activities, children should be nine years of age or more, but with notice we can often cater to younger children too. We have two guides to take good care of you. The accommodations vary along the way - for over half the trip we stay in regular accommodations (B&B's, lodges, etc) and for the rest of the trip we have chosen more rustic - but spectacular - accommodations in order to be in the most beautiful, isolated, and off-the-beaten-track places in New Zealand. The Kea trip is an awesome adventure for the whole family. To enjoy all the activities, children should be 9 years of age or more, but with notice we can often cater to younger children.

Trip Itinerary

Tuesday Arrive, wildlife reserve and kiwi viewing

If you have arrived in New Zealand via Auckland, you'll need to take a short flight to Christchurch in the South Island, where we'll meet your family either in central Christchurch, or at the airport. There are also direct flights into Christchurch on Air New Zealand, which leave on a Sunday evening from Los Angeles and arrive in New Zealand on Tuesday morning (you'll lose a day due to crossing the international dateline although it's only a 12-hour overnight flight). If you've traveled from Europe or elsewhere, you'll have the weekend to get here and unwind before the adventure kicks off! You'll need to be in Christchurch by 10am or so, then we'll meet you and head towards the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, a relaxed and fascinating start to our journey. At Willowbank we'll get a great introduction to the wildlife of a country that has been isolated from the rest of the world for over 80 million years! You'll experience many of New Zealand's unique creatures first-hand, such as the Tuatara lizard, Kune kune pigs, the endangered kiwi bird and of course the namesake of our trip - the Kea - our cheeky mountain parrot. After an afternoon's exploring, we'll head south and inland to Methven.

ACCOMMODATION: Methven Lodge, Methven (L,D)

Wednesday Jet boating the Rakaia Gorge and star-gazing

After breakfast, this morning's activity will knock your socks off! We'll experience a thrilling jet boat ride through the winding Rakaia Gorge. Jet boats are fast and maneuverable and were originally invented by a New Zealander to navigate our narrow shallow rivers. You'll be jetting down rapids, braided river sections and through shallow water less than a foot deep in places. This adrenaline-pumping, yet safe activity is fun for the whole family. From Methven, we'll travel a short distance south to Peel Forest to hike through ancient podocarp forest, dense with many different types of ferns. The fern is a national symbol of New Zealand, worn by our famous rugby team - the All Blacks. After lunch in the area, we'll travel inland towards Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. We stay near the shore of Lake Pukaki - a glacial lake with an unworldly turquoise-blue color. It's the middle of nowhere out here. The wide open spaces, regular clear evenings and lack of artificial light gives us the perfect opportunity to check out some of the Southern Hemisphere's constellations, including the Southern Cross and Orion's Belt. Lofty particularly enjoys teaching the kids a bit of basic southern astronomy, and he'll really bring the sky alive.

ACCOMMODATION: Glentanner Lodgings, Mt. Cook (B,L,D)

Thursday Hiking near Mt. Cook

This morning it's a short drive to Mt. Cook village, at the head of Lake Pukaki. We have a few hikes available to us in the area, and our favorite is the stunning and little-known day hike (weather permitting) to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It's a tough slog up, but it's a real achievement for the whole family to share and you'll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Main Divide forever! There are other hiking options if you'd like to take it a little easier. The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it is a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the Mueller hike, we'll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs!

ACCOMMODATION: Glentanner lodgings (B,L,D)

Friday Rafting near Queenstown

This morning we'll head through the mountainous countryside towards Queenstown. We'll stop along the way for the best ice creams in the whole of New Zealand - you'll soon find out why! We'll then continue on through fruit orchards and vineyards, before arriving in Queenstown for a family rafting trip in Skippers Canyon. Set in a deep, beautiful, rose-lined schist gorge, it's a spectacular trip - perfect for the whole family. Queenstown is a great place to spend a couple of days. You'll have plenty of time to wander about and explore while you're here, and you'll find all sorts of options to keep you and the kids busy.

The Kea trip operates year around, with minor changes for the New Zealand winter. From June 'til September, rather than rafting, we continue on to Queenstown and jump aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship for a cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. Once we arrive on the other side of the lake, you'll have a chance to learn about farming on this remote sheep station. The views back across Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown are amazing too.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments, Queenstown (B,L)

Saturday Free day in Queenstown

ACTIVE NEW ZEALAND is based in Queenstown for a good reason - it's the adventure capital of New Zealand! You'll find all the comforts of civilization here, and plenty of family entertainment: lakeside walks, gondola and luge rides, restaurants and cinemas. There's also some more adventurous activities such as bungy jumping, horse trekking, skydiving and fishing too - it's all here! Queenstown is not a big place - the population is about 8000 - so if you decide to take a break it's the perfect place to relax and just soak up the atmosphere too. Your time in Queenstown also offers the perfect opportunity to take a day trip or overnight excursion to the world famous Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park. Just let us know if you would like to do either of these options and we'd be happy to arrange this for you.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B)

A great winter option (June to September) for the family is to spend a couple of days skiing or snowboarding at one of three local world class ski areas: Coronet Peak, The Remarkables & Cardrona. If you would like to go skiing while you are here, let us know and we will be happy to organise this for you! (Skiing option includes transport, lift pass and equipment rental and is approximately US$100 per adult, slightly less for children).

Sunday Exploring around Queenstown

Today you can join your guide to check out more of the amazing scenery and history of the Queenstown area, or do your own thing with the family. It's also a great chance for parents to get away and have some time on their own, while we look after the kids - whatever you prefer. In the morning we'll take a short drive to the picturesque historic village of Arrowtown and explore an old Chinese gold mining area. There's also a chance to try your hand at gold panning in the Arrow River. In the afternoon we have several options including a hike up Queenstown Hill, cycling around the lake front or even a game of frisbee golf in the local Queenstown Botanical Gardens.

ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B)

Monday Overnight hike in Mount Aspiring National Park

Today we'll leave Queenstown and head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. We'll then venture up the Matukituki Valley and hike for 2-3 hours into Mt. Aspiring National Park, to reach our home for the evening - a mountain hut nestled in the valley. This track is set amongst a World Heritage Area with majestic peaks, fresh mountain streams and natural beech forest all around us. Everyone will carry a pack and sleeping bag, but it won't weigh much more than a regular day pack. Mt. Aspiring Hut is a spacious and modern mountain hut, albeit in the midst of nowhere, and the scenery is off the charts with Mt. Aspiring looming 10,000 feet above you. For such a short walk, it's amazing how far you'll feel from civilization! Our guides will whip up dinner in the backcountry kitchen, while you and the kids relax in front of the fireplace and play some cards or tell tall stories!

ACCOMMODATION: Mt Aspiring Hut - awesome! (B,L,D)

Tuesday Hiking out, and delve into "Puzzling World"

We have a leisurely start today, enjoying breakfast and a cuppa while admiring the view, before hiking back out to the trailhead. On the way out today we have a great side hike. We'll spend an hour walking up a track to the stunning Rob Roy Glacier, to where we can safely watch snow and ice calving off the glacier. Here we may encounter the cheeky Kea again - this time in its natural habitat - and though we don't feed them, you'll find they come really close to us in the hope that we'll throw some chocolate their way! This afternoon we'll head to Puzzling World and run around one of the world's largest modern mazes with over a mile of passageways! Kids of all ages really enjoy trying to beat our wily guides through this labyrinth! Tonight we spend the evening in a lovely family-style homestead in Makarora.

ACCOMMODATION: The Makarora Homestead (B,L,D)

Wednesday Exploring the West Coast forests, beaches, glowworms

This morning we'll travel down through the Haast Pass to the wild West Coast. We'll stop for a play on a deserted West Coast beach - keep an eye out for cheeky dolphins which often pass by this area! A little further north takes us to Lake Matheson for a short walk where you will be rewarded with an awesome vista; the Southern Alps stretching away to Mt. Cook in the distance. This afternoon we'll get settled into our accommodations in Franz Josef, where we'll be staying for the next two nights. After dark we can head out with flashlights for a short night walk to look for the native glowworm - and to listen for some of New Zealand's nocturnal birdlife, such as the morepork, or even the elusive kiwi.

ACCOMMODATION: Franz Josef Lodgings, Franz Josef (B,L,D)

Thursday Kayak Lake Mapourika, explore Franz Josef Glacier

It's an early start this morning for our kayaking trip on Lake Mapourika. This ancient lake was formed during the last ice age and its tranquility provides a great introduction to kayaking. This is an awesome trip, run by specialist kayak outfitters, and it's equally suitable for beginners or experts alike. After lunch back in Franz Josef, we'll take a hike up to the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier for some breathtaking views. Franz Josef Glacier is one of the steepest and fastest moving glaciers in the world, and is unique in that it descends from its név?Eat Mt. Cook deep into lush rainforest near sea level.

Heli-hike option (add US$220 + 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 our accommodations for the night.

ACCOMMODATION: Franz Josef Lodgings, Franz Josef (B,L,D)

Friday Bushman's Center and free time in Hokitika

Today we’ll head further up the coast to the Bushman’s Center - a “living museum” that combines an inter-active history of the West Coast’s early settlers with the chance to introduce the kids to brush-tail possums. We’ll then continue on to Hokitika, where you can spend a little time checking out the local art galleries and pounamu carving workshops (“pounamu” is Maori for jade). The beach here is also a great place for playing games or making sculptures out of the driftwood and rocks washed up on the beach. This afternoon, we head over the Southern Alps to Flock Hill Station - a stunning location for our final two nights together.

ACCOMMODATION: Flock Hill Lodge, Flock Hill (B,L,D)

Saturday Farm show and hiking in Castle Hill Basin

This morning after a hearty breakfast, we'll head to the start of our last big hike together. We follow Cave Stream for a short distance before heading up to the Landon saddle, and onwards to the top of Landon Hill. This is a superb viewpoint for the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges and the limestone landscape of Castle Hill Basin, where much of the recent film "Narnia - the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was made. After lunch, we'll head to the small farming community of Springfield, at the foothills of the mountains, where we'll check out a working New Zealand high-country sheep farm. We'll watch highly trained huntaway dogs rounding up stock and see a live sheep shearing demonstration. All the kids will have the chance to join in and give sheep shearing a go themselves!

ACCOMMODATION: Flock Hill Lodge, Flock Hill (B,L,D)

Sunday Depart for home

In the morning we'll travel back to Christchurch, where we first started our adventure 13 days ago. We'll arrive by lunchtime, so any international flight after 2pm is ideal, and we can make 1pm domestic flights with a little notice. Flights between Auckland or Christchurch and North America usually leave in the evening, so you'll arrive home some time on Sunday, even though you left New Zealand on Sunday evening! Flights back to Europe, of course, take a little longer. Your family will be refreshed and invigorated from the exercise, great food, rest and fun times you'll have had with us in New Zealand! (B,L)

" "Keep up the good work! It was all very well organised and I know we saw many places that we would never have seen without your expert care. Your country is awesome! The people are wonderful, the food was terrific, and the countryside - from the sheep station to the huts -everything was unbelievable! I would recommend the trip to anyone and would love to go again sometime. I have told everyone I know about it. The group we went with must have been exceptional, because we all got along so well that they now feel like family to me! Thank you for a perfectly fabulous holiday! ""
-- Connie & Jessica McMillan (Wilson, WY) Dec 2002 Rimu


ACCOMMODATIONS: The Kea Family Trip is an activity-oriented trip around the South Island. We've chosen interesting, comfortable and family-friendly accommodations throughout. In some places it's quite luxurious but many of the other places we stay are off-the-beaten-track - and don't have many accommodation options - but are really, really spectacular. We think you'll love the places we stay!

If you are staying a few extra days in Christchurch before or after your trip, click here to take a look at our Christchurch information page which has a list of a few selected hotels and B&B's in and around Christchurch.

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 9 - 10am on Tuesday, and departing from Christchurch after 1 - 2pm on Sunday. Other flight times may also be possible - if you are considering alternative 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 10.30am, or at the Christchurch domestic airport in front of the information desk at 11am.

DROP OFF INFORMATION: On the last day of the trip we can drop you off at the Christchurch airport in time for the flights above, or anywhere in central Christchurch in mid-afternoon.

FITNESS: You and your kids need to have a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy yourself on the Kea , but no more than the average family. This trip is all about family fun so the activities are suitable even for people with short legs! If you're concerned about your fitness level, or whether your kids are up to it, have a chat with us so we can help you choose between the Kea and our other trips.

EXPERIENCE: You don't need any outdoor experience at all to enjoy our trips. All our trips allow you to make the most of New Zealand's incredible environment. Our experienced guides are highly trained and will look after you and your kids. You don't need to have ever been in a kayak to enjoy kayaking Lake Mapourika or in a raft or jet boat to enjoy those activities either. All we ask is that you be in reasonable shape, and that everyone's keen to have fun in New Zealand's amazing outdoor playground. We guarantee you'll have an incredible time. We manage the level of commitment to suit your experience, and we have an impeccable safety record. We hold all relevant government licenses and our staff are highly trained and experienced.

KEA START & END POINT, AND DIRECTION OF TRAVEL: To keep our group sizes down, we run the Kea in two different directions around the South Island - southbound (refers to initial direction of travel from Christchurch) and northbound. This itinerary happens to be written up in the Southbound format. Whichever trip you take, you'll do all the activities we've mentioned, just in a different order. The Kea is a product of many years of evolution and fine-tuning - it works well whichever direction you go.

FLEXIBILITY: Because of the off-the-beaten-path and non-commercial nature of some of our accommodation on this trip, we sometimes need to change a night stop. We try to make as few changes as possible but we might have to make slight changes to make sure your trip is as good as it can be.

INCLUDED: The trip fare is US$2499 + 12.5% NZ government taxes for adults, and US$1999 + tax for kids 15 and under. We quote all prices in US dollars, so our families from all over the world can more easily relate prices to their own currencies. You can also join for shorter periods of time, at a pro-rated fare. The trip fare includes just about everything, specifically:

. All guiding services. We generally 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 your family has 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.

. All your meals, except in Queenstown where we've found people prefer to check out the wide range of restaurants. Drinks are generally not included, although we do spring for a few drinks (including soft drinks for the kids) here and there!

. All hiking, kayaking, jet boating, and rafting described in the itinerary, except optional extra activities, such as the overnight trip to Milford Sound. 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 bungy jumping, skydiving, and so on, others prefer to focus more on the hiking, paddling and fun family activities, which is of course the reason you're coming to New Zealand in the first place!

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 trip!

We’ll see you soon!

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