The Ultimate South has one 3-day hike, three 2-day hikes, kayaking, cycling and glacier walking - definitely a tour for the active and intrepid. There is also time to relax at the end of the day as well; at remote huts, idyllic campsites and comfy lodges.
What to Expect
Day 1 Nelson – Bark Bay, Abel Tasman National Park 5 km/1.5 hours hiking
The pick-up from Nelson is at noon, giving you free time in the morning to wander around this vibrant and charming town. From Nelson it is a picturesque drive around Tasman Bay to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Here you can pack your gear for a 2 night stay in the park and then board the water taxi. A beautiful cruise around the coast takes you to Onetahuti. There is plenty of time to take a dip at this sheltered and idyllic beach before following the Abel Tasman Coastal track south to Bark Bay where the tents and guide have been previously dropped by boat. Pitch your tent and enjoy a delicious meal together. Fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore. L,D
Day 2 Bark Bay – Anchorage 8.5 -12 km/3-4 hours hiking
Hike in this magical National Park and wander along the sheltered coastline marveling at the crystal clear waters and stunning scenery of this marine reserve. The hike from Bark Bay takes you through glades of Manuka, over a low saddle and across a 47 meter suspension bridge at Falls River. The optional side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool is a must and a perfect place for a swim on a warm summer’s day. Tonight’s campsite is at Anchorage, a stunning bush-fringed bright blue inlet. Time to take another swim, read a book or have a snooze, before preparing and enjoying another delicious evening meal together. Abel Tasman Sea Kayaking can be arranged for this day (4-5 hours) if requested at the time of booking (at an additional fee). The kayaking starts and finishes in the same place so you will hike as well as kayak if you take this option at the time of booking. B, L & D
Day 3 Anchorage – Murchison 6 km/2.5 hours hiking
Have a sleep in or join the guide for a stroll out to Te Pukatea Bay and Pitt Head – the site of an old Maori Pa. From your campsite it’s a gentle ramble over a saddle and past several picturesque bays before meeting a water taxi at Apple Tree Bay for the short journey back to Kaiteriteri. Time to rest the legs on the drive to tonight’s campsite near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia Rivers. Enjoy some local hospitality with an organic home-cooked meal prepared by our hosts. B, L & D
Day 4. Murchison - Ballroom Overhang - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals. After lunch begin the group hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers and wilderness areas. Collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang. B,L,D
Day 5. Ballroom Overhang - Hokitika - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
Before hiking back splash up a beautiful side canyon. After the hike there is a stop in Punakaiki and a chance to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes before continuing down the coast to tonight's accommodation in Hokitika. It also a good place to buy pounamu (greenstone), which was highly valued by early Maori for tools, jewellery and weapons. Tonight's lodge accommodation has magnificent sunset views over the Tasman Sea. It is a night off cooking tonight; tuck in to fish and chips on the beach or eat out at one of the many cafés in this bustling little seaside town. B,L
Day 6. Hokitika - Fox Glacier - 33km/4 hours biking (optional)
Today you have the option of hiring a bike and exploring the West Coast Cycle Trail. This stunning Milltown to Kumara 33km cycle trail follows a series of old bush tram lines. The ride starts with a gentle climb before a downhill run through lush rainforest wilderness. In the afternoon relax on the pleasant drive down the coast to Fox Glacier where the group camps for the night. B,L,D
Day 7. Fox Glacier - Haast - 8-12km/3-5 hours hiking (optional)
Make the most of the calm in the morning to take a gentle walk around Lake Matheson. After the walk there are an array of options: a guided half, full day or heli hike on the impressive Fox Glacier or join your guide for a hike up the valley to a great view point of the glacier. There is also the option of ice climbing for the more intrepid. After your time at the glacier there is a drive down into South Westland stopping for the night at the Haast Beach campsite. B,L,D
Day 8. Haast - Aspiring Hut - 8km/3 hours hiking
Driving over the main divide the scenery changes dramatically from the lush rainforests of the West Coast to the spacious tussock high country of Central Otago. You drive along the shores of the glacially formed lakes Hawea and Wanaka, both are a great spot for a swim on a (hot) summer day! Passing through Wanaka you drive through the Matukituki Valley to the road end, where the hike into Aspiring Hut begins. Through the dips in the high peaks glimpse views of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m) in the distance. B,L,D
Day 9. Aspiring Hut - Mossburn- 14km/6 hours hiking
This morning make a side trip and climb steeply up to view the Rob Roy Glacier, cheeky kea (NZ alpine parrot) often join the group for lunch, so watch your gear is not 'borrowed' or eaten! Back in the Aspiring Valley amble back to the road end, popping in and out of beech forest enclaves and enjoying the views from the trail as it meanders down the river flats. Back to the vehicle and another scenic drive over the Crown Range. From the summit there are breathtaking views across the Wakatipu Valley and lakes, before driving on to Mossburn and the idyllic rural campsite set on 28 acres of park-like farmland. B,L,D
Day 10. Mossburn - Milford - Queenstown (2 hour cruise optional)
Sit back and enjoy the splendor on the drive to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. This amazing World Heritage Site is the largest National Park in the country and one of the largest in the world. The huge glacial lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri border the spectacular inland coastline that is Fiordland. The area is dominated by water, either in the form of lakes or as falling rain. Arriving at Milford by mid morning, there is the option of joining a cruise that takes you all the way out to Anita Bay and the entrance to Milford Sound. Enjoy the views of cascading waterfalls and Mitre Peak (1722 meters straight out of the sea). Fiordland Crested Penguins, Dolphins and New Zealand fur seals often play near the boat. In the afternoon you drive back through Te Anau to and on to Queenstown. B,L
Day 11. Queenstown
Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand; bungy jumping, canyon swings, skydiving, mountain biking and jet boating are just some of the activities available. There are also some great day hikes accessible from the town centre into the mountains that offer stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. Stay at a centrally located lodge that is easy walking distance from the town. Activities should be booked prior to arrival in Queenstown, talk to the tour supplier when booking or to your guide at the beginning of the tour. Rest day for guide. B
Day 12. Queenstown - Ahuriri Valley/Canyon Creek - 6km/3 hours hiking
Spend the morning driving up through the Central Otago High Country crossing Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie Country. This area is home to some of New Zealand's largest sheep stations which measure tens of thousands of acres. It is renowned for high quality fine fool production, thanks to the hardy merino sheep which graze these mountainous areas. Turning off the main road you head up the Ahuriri Valley, and Conservation Park. The road gets a little rugged towards the end. Everyone organises their overnight packs at the road end and follows a track up Canyon Stream. The canyon and waterfalls are impressive. Emerge out of the Beech forest into an exquisite alpine valley, with great views of Mt Barth at the head of the valley. You camp for the night in this special and remote location. B,L,D
Day 13. Ahuriri Valley/Canyon Creek - Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park - 8km/4 hours hiking
Explore further into this alpine valley and if weather permits climb higher for expansive views of the Southern Alps. Descend back to the main valley and vehicle for a late lunch before driving on up through the Mackenzie Country to Aoraki/Mt Cook. Tonight's campsite is at the foot of New Zealand's tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3754 metres) - the Maori name translates to 'Cloud Piercer'. B,L,D
Day 14. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park - 8km/5 hours hiking
Set off with day packs to hike up to Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut. There are impressive views across Hooker and Mueller glaciers to the Mount Sefton icefall and Aoraki/Mount Cook. On this walk you can see and learn about the forces of nature at work - huge moraine walls deposited over thousands of years by glaciers, avalanches and rocks tumble down distant mountain faces. On return there is time in the afternoon to relax at the campsite or visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. A great place to be inspired by the courageous stories of pioneering mountaineers and to learn about this Park's natural world. Tonight is the last night of the trip and what a place to spend it - in the heart of the Southern Alps surrounded by that special kind of silence that only big mountains can command. If you are lucky you will see the summit of Aoraki turn from white to pink as it catches the last of the sun's rays for the day. B,L,D
Day 15. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch - 8km/3-4 hours hiking
We make the most of being in this special place and take one final hike this morning, either up to the terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier with its bobbing icebergs, or make a short drive to the Tasman Valley and wander around amongst the glacial moraines and tarns. The final drive is through mid Canterbury and across the plains to Christchurch where the tour ends. B,L
Meals that are included in the trip price are detailed above as B (Breakfast), L (Lunch) and D (Dinner).
- All accommodation
- Fully guided
- All camping equipment such as, Therm-a-rest sleeping mats, tents, backpack liner (plastic bag), cooking equipment, plates/cutlery
- All safety equipment such as first aid kit, locator beacons and maps
- All transport
- Most meals
What's Not Included
- Four evening meals
- One lunch
- Optional activities
Nelson Information Centre at 12:00 or Picton Information Centre at 07:30
Know Before You Go
Average of 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days.
Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26lbs) on some days.
Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft) per day.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No hiking experience necessary.
Agility and fitness required.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.
You may hire high-quality hiking equipment for use on your safari. Please arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.