- This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
Monday Arrive, bike Hanmer Forest
Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! You’ll immediately take the short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by mid-morning. We’ll meet you there and drive up the coast to the mountain village of Hanmer Springs. You’ll be fitted with a 21-speed front-suspension Specialized mountain bike, and we’ll get our endorphins pumping with a mountain bike ride in Hanmer Forest. Afterwards we head back down towards the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura. We’ll arrive by late afternoon, so you’ll have time to relax and enjoy the spectacular ocean views from our beachfront lodgings before dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Panorama Motel, Kaikoura (L,D)
Tuesday Swim with Dusky dolphins
We’ll rise early this morning to greet the day with a quick breakfast before swimming with some of Kaikoura’s more famous local personalities – playful Dusky dolphins! With mask, snorkel, and fins you’ll have the opportunity to enter their world and swim among them. If you prefer, you can stay on the boat and marvel at their acrobatic displays from the deck. After an early lunch we’ll head to Anakiwa on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. After a short water taxi ride, we’ll arrive at the secluded Lochmara Lodge – a run through the forest at dusk anyone?!
ACCOMMODATION: Lochmara Lodge, Queen Charlotte Sound (B,L,D)
Wednesday Mountain bike Queen Charlotte Track
We offer a range of fantastic single-track and road riding to suit your experience and interests. The Queen Charlotte Track is rated one the best mountain biking tracks in the South Island and is one of the few areas of New Zealand wilderness where mountain bikes are permitted. We’ll spend the morning biking back towards Anakiwa, and if mountain biking is your thing, we have challenging single-track riding available for the more experienced. Alternatively, road cycling along Queen Charlotte Drive allows you to cover a greater distance and take in more of the Marlborough Sounds – it’s your call! After we’ve finished biking we’ll continue up to the Abel Tasman National Park for dinner as the last rays of the sun steal across Tasman Bay.
ACCOMMODATION: Abel Tasman lodgings, Abel Tasman National Park (B,L,D)
Thursday Hike Mt. Owen Circuit
At 6,150 feet (or 1,875 metres), Mt. Owen is the highest point in Kahurangi National Park, a sculptured landscape of marble karst topography including New Zealand's longest cave system. While most people hike this track in three days, your guide will lead you on his two-day version, approaching from the north side, camping near Granity Pass, before summiting on day two and returning to the trailhead that day.
Today we’ll begin by climbing to Granity Pass, either via the Blue Creek Track or the ridge walk, depending on the conditions at the time. The climb is quite steep through open forest for about two hours until you reach a clearing overlooking the west. There's a fantastic echo and, of course, views to die for! The next section of the track travels through spectacular and unusual alpine vegetation, and we’ll be walking along a dry creek bed for most of the last leg of today’s hike. We’ll camp this evening alongside some tarns, where the lack of artificial light gives us the perfect opportunity to check out some of the Southern Hemisphere’s most well-known stellar features, including the Southern Cross, the Coal Sack, and views of the Milky Way like you’ve never seen before.
This is serious wilderness country – no roads, no shops, no TVs – just incredible views and marvellous solitude. Jim’s aim is to help you keep your pack weight as minimal as possible. You’ll be carrying a sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, some food, and we’ll share the tents between us.
CAMPING: Near Granity Pass, Kahurangi National Park (B,L,D)
Friday Summit Mt. Owen
Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets better and more bizarre with each step! The track changes to a route marked by stone cairns as we hike for two hours to the summit of Mt. Owen. As we ascend, we’ll guide you through a labyrinth of crevices and dramatically distorted rock formations, which give this landscape an aura of other worldliness.
Once you’ve reached the summit, you’ll be inspired by the surrounding views, and you’ll know that all the sweat has been worth it for this moment. You’ll see the ranges of Nelson Lakes National Park in the distance as well as stunning views to the ocean in the north, with the immense Kahurangi National Park in between. We’ll then head back down Mt. Owen, before returning to our base in Abel Tasman for a well-earned cold beer (or orange juice) as you reflect on your day’s adventure.
ACCOMMODATION: Abel Tasman lodgings (B,L,D)
Saturday Sea kayak Abel Tasman National Park
Today we’ll take a water taxi to Anchorage Bay, and then kayak back again! Upon arrival at the beautiful beach of Anchorage, you’ll have some time to appreciate the solitude of the area before jumping in your kayak for the journey back to the lodge. You may be up for a race today, but you’ll find it hard not to stop from time to time for a swim along the deserted golden beaches dotted along the Abel Tasman National Park coastline. We’ll paddle around Pitt Head before passing Te Puketea Bay, and the carved granite headlands of the ‘mad mile’. From here we’ll kayak south past tidal estuaries, sea caves and the calm waters of the ‘Astrolabe Roadstead’, before heading back to shore.
ACCOMMODATION: Abel Tasman lodgings, Abel Tasman National Park (B,L,D)
Sunday Hike at Cape Foulwind, seal colony and trail run along Pororari River
This morning we’ll travel to the West Coast for a coastal hike from Cape Foulwind to Tauranga Bay past awesome sweeping views of the Tasman Sea, long stretches of often deserted beach and rolling West Coast farmland. Along the way we’ll visit a local seal colony and watch them play among the craggy islets and sheltered rock pools that dot the coastline. Then, after a picnic lunch, we’ll head to Punakaiki where we’ll have the afternoon to go running in the limestone canyons and lush rainforest that characterise the area. We’ll take a trail run along the Pororari River in the Paparoa National Park. If you prefer, you can stroll along the beach or just enjoy the views and hunker down with a cuppa and a good book to celebrate reaching the halfway point of the ‘Xtreme’ Rimu trip – up to you!
ACCOMMODATION: Punakaiki lodgings – comfortable and quiet (B,L,D)
Monday Pancake Rocks and blowholes, mountain biking Craigieburn
We’ll start with a gentle walk down to Punakaiki’s famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes before heading inland over the Southern Alps. From Punakaiki, we’ll travel over Arthurs Pass, one of only three alpine passes that traverse the Alps, to Craigieburn ski field. Today, we have an awesome downhill bike ride in store for you. There are various well-formed single track rides available, or gravel road riding if single track mountain biking isn’t your thing. Later this afternoon, we’ll retire to our lodgings at Flock Hill station, a working high-country sheep farm.
ACCOMMODATION: Flock Hill Lodge, Flock Hill (B,L,D)
Tuesday Hike Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park
This morning we’ll drive to Mt. Cook village, at the head of Lake Pukaki. Mt. Cook is known as Aoraki or ‘cloud piercer’ by the local Maori and is the highest mountain in New Zealand. We have a stunning and little-known day hike (weather permitting) to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier – directly opposite Mt. Cook.
It’s a tough slog up, but you’ll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Main Divide forever! There are also other hiking options if you’d like to take it a little easier. The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it’s 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: Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge, Aoraki/Mt .Cook National Park (B,L,D)
Wednesday Free day in Wanaka
After breakfast we’ll drive through to Wanaka, a lazy lakeside town, and one of our favourite chill-out spots. It’s a chance to rest your body before the hiking and biking of the final few days of the “Xtreme” Rimu. You’ll find all the comforts of civilisation here – massage therapists, restaurants, sidewalk cafés, and window-shopping! You’ll also find some incredible optional activities too, such as jet boating, skydiving, horse trekking, fishing and winery tours – it’s all here! There are incredible hikes and bike rides around Lake Wanaka as well. If you prefer, just soak up the atmosphere or lounge about with a book.
ACCOMMODATION: Lake Wanaka Lodge, Wanaka (B)
Thursday Hike to Mt. Aspiring Hut
You’ll have the morning free to explore Wanaka, before meeting up for an early lunch. We’ll drive through the Matukituki Valley to start our three-day hike over the Cascade Saddle, which links the majestic West Matukituki and Dart Valleys that lie in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. This is a World Heritage Area of glacier-clad mountains and natural beech forest, and a fantastic location to explore. We hike up through an alpine valley beside a crystal clear stream for a couple of hours to a clearing. All around us glaciers cling to cliff faces, broken by a myriad of waterfalls. Occasionally an ice avalanche will shatter the silence. From here we continue on to Mt. Aspiring Hut – a spacious and modern mountain hut, albeit in the middle of nowhere, and the scenery is off the charts with Mt. Aspiring looming 10,000 feet above you.
ACCOMMODATION: Mt. Aspiring Hut, Mt. Aspiring National Park (B,L,D)
Friday Hike over Cascade Saddle to Dart Hut
Today is the most challenging day on the whole trip as we hike up and over Cascade Saddle to Dart Hut. After a hearty breakfast we’ll begin the steep hike through native beech forest and onto snowgrass-covered slopes that lead up to the saddle. It is an alpine pass crossing at an elevation of 5,500 feet (1800 metres), and generally takes between eight to ten hours. The views from Cascade Saddle toward the glaciers and surrounding peaks of the Mt. Aspiring massif are spectacular. This is a truly majestic region of Mt. Aspiring National Park, offering a unique mix of geography, flora and views that you’ll remember forever. From the saddle we descend to the valley floor and lateral moraines of the Dart Glacier as we make our way to Dart Hut – our alpine home for the night.
ACCOMMODATION: Dart Hut, Mt. Aspiring National Park (B,L,D)
Saturday Hike out to Sandy Bluff, overnight at Kinloch Lodge
From Dart Hut we hike about 10 miles (16 km) down the Dart River valley, through open beech forest and grassy river flats to Sandy Flat. Along the way, you’ll take in views of the Curzon Glacier high in the mountains across the Dart River. The track breaks out at Quinns Flat, a beautiful stretch of golden grass surrounded by mountains, and then returns to the bush as we continue on towards Sandy Flat. From there we transfer to Kinloch Lodge, a remote wilderness lodge, on the northern shore of Lake Wakatipu. It’s a great place to unwind after the challenging hike of the last three days, enjoying good food, and soaking in the lodge’s outdoor hot tub. What a place for our final night together!
ACCOMMODATION: Kinloch Lodge – simply stunning! (B,L,D)
Sunday Bike to Glenorchy, depart for home
This is the last day of your two-week trip around the South Island. After a relaxed and sumptuous breakfast we’ll jump back on the bikes for one last ride through the New Zealand mountains along the road to Glenorchy, past Mt Alfred and the mouth of the Dart and Rees Valleys. This is a true wilderness cycling experience on a deserted back road. At Glenorchy we’ll reconvene for lunch before taking the scenic lakeside drive back to Queenstown. We can drop you off at Queenstown airport at 2pm for flights departing after 3pm. If you’ve got a few more days to see the North Island, take a look at our Kauri itinerary. Or if you’d prefer to spend an extra day or so in Queenstown, we can help you arrange accommodation and we’ll drop you off in town by mid-afternoon. Whatever your plans, you’ll be refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you’ll have had with us here in New Zealand! (B,L)
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