A remarkable South Island experience visiting all the adventure and activity hotspots. Explore the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, hike through luscious green rainforest at Punakaiki and be stunned by New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Start: 9:00am Rutherford Hotel, 27 Nile Street, Nelson
Finish: Queenstown, 5:00pm (approx.)
Day 1: Nelson-Kahurangi National Park
8.5-18.5km/4-8 hours hiking
Your guide will meet you at the Rutherford Hotel (9am) before driving to Nelson airport to collect those walkers that are doing the full New Zealand Uncut and are on a flight from Wellington. Sit back and enjoy the picturesque drive to Flora Saddle in Kahurangi National Park. On a well-formed track, we meander our way up to the bush-line and the Mt Arthur hut. Those feeling keen can venture further with the guide along the rugged marble ridge-line towards the summit of Mt Arthur. Alternatively, perch on a rock and soak in the view before reuniting with the group for the descent (usually via a different track). Tonight, we celebrate our arrival in the South Island by dining together in one of Nelson’s fine restaurants. Accommodation: Rutherford Hotel, Nelson. Includes lunch and dinner.
Day 2: Nelson-Abel Tasman National Park
11.7km/3 hours hiking
After an early breakfast, we set off for Abel Tasman National Park. You will be amazed at how different the landscape is here to nearby Kahurangi National Park. Board a water taxi and cruise the coastline past golden sand beaches and rugged granite headlands into the heart of the National Park. Step ashore at Bark Bay and follow the famed Abel Tasman coastal track through native forests and along golden sand beaches. A well-formed trail leads us up and over a gentle ridge into Torrent Bay, where the lovely clear fresh waters of Cleopatra’s Pool may tempt you to take a dip or for those more daring – a slide down the naturally formed hydro-slide! At Anchorage, we will meet the water taxi for a return journey to Kaiteriteri, a seaside village and gateway to this National Park, before heading back to Nelson. There is free time to do some more exploring in this vibrant and arty little town. Accommodation: Rutherford Hotel, Nelson. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Day 3: Nelson- Punakaiki
6km/3 hours hiking
On the way to the West Coast we stop for a remarkable hike to marvel at natural flames which have been burning since the 1920’s. We access this phenomena with a local guide through a privately-owned working deer farm. Unlike the Eternal Flames of the Chimera in Turkey these flames are surrounded by lush tree ferns and beech forest. A cup of ‘billy tea’ and hot cakes prepared over the flames gives this experience a distinctly kiwi flavour. We continue our journey alongside the mighty Buller River as it cuts through the massive wilderness of the upper South Island, arriving on the coast at Westport. We take a short stroll at Cape Foulwind to view a colony of New Zealand fur seals playfully splashing around in the rock pools. We then head south to catch the sunset at Punakaiki and visit a local pub for dinner. Take an evening stroll around the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes – we try to time our visit with high tides so we may leave the rocks until tomorrow if tide times are more favourable. Accommodation: Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 4: Punakaiki – Methven
11km/3-4 hours hiking
Hike the Inland Pack Track from Punakaiki to Pororari. This historic route was once used by prospectors and miners to avoid the immense coastal cliffs while travelling the West Coast. Pass through deep limestone canyons, towering rainforests and groves of Nikau Palms. You may not be able to resist a speedy swim in one of the many deep clear pools you pass on the way! After the hike, we join a remarkable highway which takes us from the lush green rainforests of the West Coast and over the glaciated Southern Alps to the parched soft yellow savannahs of Canterbury. This is one of the most cleverly engineered roads in New Zealand. East of Arthurs Pass, stretch your legs and stroll around the enchanting limestone outcrops of Kura Tawhiti (Castle Hill). This area was an important meeting place and food gathering area for early Maori people. Interestingly it was also bestowed a “spiritual centre of the universe” by the Dalai Lama when he visited in 2002. Today it is a haven for rock climbers who climb and boulder on the multitude of rock forms. We then leave the highway and follow the back roads around Lake Lyndon and on to Methven, a ski town by winter and laid-back rural town the rest of the year. The Southern Alps form a spectacular backdrop. Wander in to the village for a meal at a local restaurant. Accommodation: Methven Resort, Methven. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Day 5: Methven – Aoraki/Mount Cook
5km/3 hours hiking
Drive south following the edge of the Canterbury plains to Lake Tekapo, famous for its stunning turquoise waters and the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd, perched daintily by the lake. Hike up through wilding conifers and tussock grasslands to the summit of Mt John. Revel in the 360-degree views of the Patagonia-like landscape. The sweeping Mackenzie basin is a sparsely populated region in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps; tawny-brown drylands, braided riverbeds and startling glacial lakes extend to the horizon. On arrival at Mount Cook village we hike up to Red Tarns for magnificent views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the surrounding alps. Relax here and enjoy the views before wandering back down arriving at the door of our accommodation, where we stay for the next two nights. Accommodation: lodge within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 6: Aoraki/Mount Cook
5-8km/4 hours hiking
Hike up to Sealy Tarns and enjoy the awesome views of Mt Sefton, Mueller Glacier and across the Hooker Valley to Aoraki/Mount Cook. If you’re feeling energetic, join the guide for a further climb from the tarns up to the crest of Mueller Ridge for even wider views of this magnificent alpine landscape. Those not wanting to climb to Sealy or Mueller can take the flatter option and walk up the Hooker Valley (unguided), enjoying close up views of the Mueller and Hooker Glaciers on the way. Accommodation: lodge within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 7: Aoraki/Mount Cook – Wanaka
2km/1 hour hiking
Travel up the Tasman Valley towards the longest glacier in New Zealand, the Tasman Glacier. Take a short walk through the glacial moraine and board a custom-built boat for a unique spin around the terminal lake. Like most glaciers in the world the Tasman Glacier is retreating and the terminal lake increases in size every year. This dynamic environment is dotted with icebergs of all shapes and sizes from the collapsing terminal wall of the glacier. Our drive to Wanaka follows the Mackenzie country south before climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district. Wanaka is a lovely holiday town on the lake-side. Accommodation: Edgewater Resort, Wanaka. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 8: Wanaka – Queenstown
10km/4 hours hiking
A beautiful drive alongside Lake Wanaka leads us to Aspiring National Park. We hike up the Matukituki Valley beneath some fine peaks before turning up the Rob Roy side stream and climbing abruptly to the bushline. This gorgeous trail through virgin beech forest emerges into a splendid alpine basin below the bulking mass of the Rob Roy Glacier. Watch water tumble off the glacier’s snout as you relax and enjoy lunch. Keep an eye out for cheeky kea (alpine parrot). You probably won’t need to look too hard as these curious birds normally call in when food is around (although it’s important to never offer them any titbits and upset their natural foraging behaviour)! After the hike grab a drink and unwind on the lawn of the famous old drover’s hotel at Cardrona, before we drive over the Crown Range and into the lively scene of Queenstown. Your tour finishes here in the late afternoon. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Grading & Fitness:
Up to 4-5 hours of physical activity per day
At times carrying a backpack of 4-5kgs (8-10 lbs)
Tracks generally in good condition
Altitude gains of up to 600m (2000ft) on harder days
No hiking experience necessary
What to Take: New Zealand’s weather is very changeable and cold weather can be experienced at any time of year, especially in the mountains. We recommend wearing lightweight and breathable fabrics while hiking. Merino or polypropylene underwear is great in cold weather and will still keep you warm when it gets wet, unlike cotton. Jeans are not suitable for hiking.
– hiking boots or shoes
– day pack
– waterproof raincoat (gore-tex or similar)
– warm fleece/wool jersey (not cotton)
– shorts or lightweight hiking trousers (preferably quick-dry)
– polypro/thermals – top & bottom
– long sleeve shirt (for sun protection)
– 4 pairs of socks
– warm hat
– sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses
– drink bottle (1 litre)
– spare shoes or sandals
– insect repellent
– short-sleeved short (quick-dry, polypropylene or wool)
– casual clothing for travel and evenings
– togs (swimming costume)
- What Will You Do- Experience the golden sands of the Abel Tasman National Park
- Visit the ‘Natural Flames’ phenomenon for a distinctly ‘kiwi’ experience
- Crystal clear rivers and limestone canyons of the West Coast
- Explore the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook
- Cruise a glacier terminal lake and touch 300-500 year old glacial crystals
- What To Expect- The Southern Slice has been created for those that appreciate a high standard of accommodation after a good day of hiking.
- An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. That is why we work hard to make sure we hire the best guides.
- There will be a range of roads - sealed and unsealed. The guides are easily convinced to stop the vehicle if there is a great photo opportunity, vineyard or notable ice cream shop!
- What Is Included- Accommodation: The Southern Slice trip uses a range of hotels and quality lodges chosen for their good standards and wonderful locations. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms. Some lodges have units with two bedrooms per unit. Rooms are twin share or doubles. If you are travelling on your own you will be given a twin share room with a fellow traveller of the same gender. Single supplements are available on this tour.
- Guides & Safety: Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. Our guides will ensure that your time with us is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid. First aid kit, drinking water, safety equipment and maps are included.
- Food: Almost all of the meals are included on this tour, but when staying in the cities we let you do your own thing and try some of the excellent local restaurants. Breakfast is usually (but not always) continental-style in the lodges and hotels. There are plenty of opportunities to graze the local cafes if you would prefer to explore in the morning. The lunches we prepare ourselves are often on the run in picnic areas or on trails. Our guides usually set out lunch food for you and you simply help yourself. We provide healthy and wholesome food and include a lot of fresh produce. It is part of our philosophy to get everyone involved so there is a pretty good chance you may find yourself wielding a sharp knife or pushing the tea trolley around at lunchtime. Our customised trailers have a fold down table and cooking area that is perfect for preparing picnics at all those secret places we will take you. Included dinners are frequently in lodge restaurants (either set menu or a la carte), or in a restaurant in the town but occasionally somewhere out of the ordinary!
- Transport: The average driving time per day varies; we have some days where we hardly drive at all. On a typical day we might be in the vehicle for 2-3 hours. But some days we will drive for longer. The driving time is a chance to rest and enjoy the fantastic scenery that is forever changing. We travel in a luxury minibus towing a custom-built trailer with food, equipment and your luggage. We carry a library box with some natural history reference books for you to peruse too.
- What Is Not Included- Equipment Hire: We can offer quality hiking equipment for use on your tour at no additional charge. We are able to supply fleece jacket, thermal top and bottom, raincoat, gaiters and walking poles. Requests for equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.
- Additional Costs: All activities outlined in the itinerary are included in the trip price.
- Meals out: Meals that are included in the trip price are detailed in the itinerary. Two evening meals are not included (Nelson and Methven). The typical cost for a restaurant main course in New Zealand is about $28.