Southern Lakes, Mountains and Rivers Write a review
Designed for Kiwis:
No doubt you have already been to Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown, so I have created something different for you. On this tour you will hike on spectacular high-country stations that are off limits to the public. You will meet the owners and learn their stories of life in these beautiful but harsh environments.
Wanaka and its environs are explored by foot, but also by boat, far from the crowds. We eschew Queenstown and its congestion to stay instead at a gorgeous spot overlooking the splendid Shotover River. Finally, I have designed this tour for Kiwis who want to experience the rugged beauty of New Zealand without having to rough it. Other operators offer some great itineraries too but most nights you have to share WC and shower, and queuing for the dunny every morning gets old fast. With us, every night you stay in comfortable 4 and 5-star accommodation with your own private WC/shower. And rest assured that superb food and wine is a core feature of all our tours. Take a break, relax, and truly enjoy.
Tekapo, Wanaka, and Arthur’s Point Walking Tour Includes:
Southern Lakes, Mountains and Rivers itinerary Request full itinerary
We leave Christchurch and head south to the Mackenzie Country and the historic Grampians Station. As you walk up to “One Man Rock” vast views open up across the entire Mackenzie basin to Mount Cook and the snow-capped peaks of its adjacent rivals. We enjoy the late evening sun (as you know, it’s always sunny in the Mackenzie country!) on the front stoop of one of the original cottages where we are joined for a cold drink by Eve Hope, granddaughter of early New Zealand artist Ester Hope. Eve’s family have owned the station since 1914 and she will share with you some insights into both the joys and challenges of running a 50,000-acre high country station on the dry side of the Mackenzie basin. We stay the night at nearby Tekapo settlement, famous for the ice blue waters of its magnificent glacier fed lake. Our accommodation for the night is a luxury holiday home. Each couple has their own facilities plus use of a large living area and kitchen. Dinner is family style at the dining room table and is catered by Pedro. After dinner it's time to look to the heavens because Tekapo is located in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This 4,300 sq. km (1,660 sq. mi.) area is the southern hemisphere’s sole dark sky reserve and one of only eight in the world.
Logistics: Independent arrival, Christchurch. You can fly in the day before and stay the night or arrive the morning of departure. We can either pick you up from a downtown hotel at 13:00, or from a restaurant near the airport at 13:30. Drive time: 3.5 hours to Grampians station. Additional 30 minutes to Tekapo. Overnight Tekapo house. Walking distance: 4 – 6 km in the afternoon. Overnight, and dinner included. Lunch not included.
After breakfast we head west towards the snowy peaks of the Main Divide. Your hike starts along a 4x4 track that enters Braemar Station. We have been granted access to this spectacular property that overlooks the milky blue waters of Lake Pukaki. An hour and a half into the walk we are joined by owner Julia Mackenzie, who shares with us the fascinating history of the farm as well as the demands of “high country life” on an isolated station. Our morning hike finishes at the Braemar homestead where Julia invites us into her kitchen for a delicious home-cooked lunch. The nearby snow-capped summit of Mount Cook is visible from the kitchen window. The afternoon walk takes you along the edge of the braided Tasman river with magnificent views of Mount Cook and the Mueller glacier. Return to Tekapo to relax and unwind at our comfortable village home. Dinner at the Dark Sky Diner that looks straight out over the blue melt waters of lake Tekapo.
Logistics: Drive time: 20 minutes to the trail head. One-hour return drive. Walking distance: 10 km (6 mi) in the morning and 6 km (4 mi) in the afternoon. Overnight, breakfast, lunch at Braemar station, and dinner included.
Depart Tekapo to head south along the celebrated scenic drive through the Lindis Pass to Wanaka. Along the way we will stop for a 45-minute easy walk along the edge of gorgeous Lake Pukaki, which allows you to really soak in and appreciate just how beautiful it is. How many times have you simply blasted past the lake on your way to Queenstown?
Once again, we have been granted access to walk over private land, which enables us to enjoy a marvellous hike along the isthmus that separates Lake Wanaka from Lake Hawea. From the west shore of Lake Hawea a broad grassy track eventually narrows to take us up to the summit of Isthmus peak for epic views over both lakes and onto the surrounding mountain peaks. We leave the DOC track and enter Burke’s Station, which enables us to continue to the east side of Lake Wanaka rather than doubling back the way we came. We stay up high, following the ridge line to our scenic picnic spot. Afterwards, we gradually descend to the shore of Lake Wanaka where we are picked up by a private boat transfer and returned to Wanaka. Not many get to do this spectacular traverse between the two lakes. To put the finishing touch on an exceptional day, we dine tonight at the superb “Bistro Gentil” to enjoy a little refined, French-inspired cuisine.
Logistics: Drive time: 20 minutes to trailhead, return with 10-minute boat ride. Walking distances: Isthmus track 16 km. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner included.
Today we drive the incredible Crown Range Road, which tops out at 1,121 m (3,700 ft), to get to the spectacular Shotover Gorge. Enjoy a flat white before heading out on an awesome 5 to 6-hour hike. The trail gradually climbs along the flank of the Shotover Gorge and then up through open country to Ben Lomond saddle where you are rewarded with breath-taking views out over Lake Wakatipu. A gradual descent brings you to the Ben Lomond cable car station for a knee-saving ride down to Queenstown. Strong hikers can choose to summit Ben Lomond, which is an extra two-hour effort, but most of us will be happy to enjoy a cold beer on a sunny terrace before taking a short van shuttle to our luxury hotel at Nugget Point. We enjoy dinner in the hotel dining room overlooking the Shotover River.
Logistics: Drive time: 1 hour to trailhead. 10 minute return. Walking distances: 16 km. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner included.
After breakfast overlooking the Shotover river we have a picturesque 35-minute drive to Skippers Saddle to start another fabulous hike. Today’s A to B route takes us up Mount Dewar for a 360-degree view out over the magnificent scenery. We enjoy a gradual descent along a broad spur before an optional steep descent down into the dramatic Shotover Gorge. If you don’t feel like the extra 2 km, stop here and enjoy your picnic lunch while overlooking the impossibly blue waters of the river. Afterwards, drop down through golden tussocks to Devils Creek, whose babbling waters accompany us to the end of the hike. Throughout the day big views are to be had as we cruise through open sub-alpine grasslands. Relax back at the hotel before a short ride into Queenstown village for a sunset dinner at Eicharts Grill.
Logistics: Drive time: 35 minutes to trailhead. 40 minutes return. 7-minute shuttle into town for dinner and return. Walking distances: 12 or 14 km. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner included.
9:00 am transfer to Queenstown airport for your flight home, or perhaps you will pick up a rental car to continue your explorations. Some of you may want to extend your tour with the 2-night/3-day Routeburn Track "Great Walks" hike. If so, let us know and we can make all the arrangements for you, including pick up from the hotel as well as the main booking.
Logistics: Drive time: 25 minutes to airport. Breakfast and transfer to Queenstown airport included.
We rate all our tours on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of the physical difficulty of the hikes. Activity level 1 is easiest, and activity level 5 is the most difficult.
This tour is rated: Activity Level 3+ = Moderate Plus:
In general: This is a moderate tour for fit hikers who will find the walks a satisfying workout, while less-fit hikers will find them challenging but do-able and have a great sense of achievement at the end of the trip.
Terrain: Rolling to hilly terrain with frequent steep ascents and descents. The "+" indicates that they also involve more rugged, rocky, or steep terrain than the standard level 3-rated tours.
Actual walking time: Between 3 - 6 hours per day
Distances: Usually 8 - 16 km (5 - 9 mi) per day. Max distance 18 km (11 mi).
Surfaces: Trails are a mix of compact earth or dirt track, gravel roads, and rocky, uneven trails.
Footing: Good, but you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes/boots with thick soles and good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
This tour specifically. We start off with easy hikes for the first three days. The terrain is gentle and there are no sustained climbs. These hikes would be classified as activity level 2. The last three hikes are more demanding and correspond to Activity Level 3 + as described above.
Hiking Poles: Highly recommended but not required. If you usually hike using poles you will regret it if you don’t have them.
Perspective and our impression: Our most common comment about 3+ hikes is “More challenging than I expected but I am glad I did it.” This tour is appropriate for “sporty and fit” first-time “hikers” who enjoy walking and have good balance. People with hip and knee issues might find a 3+ tour challenging because of the terrain and the duration of the hikes.
Moderate Plus Tours: If you have hiked with us in Europe here are some other Moderate Plus Tours that we do as “Customwalks” that might give you some further insight: Amalfi is the easiest of this group, then Dolomites Lite, followed by the Cinque Terre, Sardinia, and Greece Meteora and Zagori
Getting There: Independent arrival, Christchurch. You can fly in the day before and stay the night or arrive the morning of departure. We can either pick you up from a downtown hotel at 13:00, or from a restaurant near the airport at 13:30.
Air: you can fly directly into Christchurch from a number of places in New Zealand and Australia. Singapore Airlines and Emirates have intercontinental flights direct to Christchurch whereas most international flights will connect through Auckland.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: 09:00 morning transfer to Queenstown airport for your flight home, or perhaps you will pick up a rental car to continue your explorations. Some of you may want to extend your tour with the two night/three-day Routeburn Track -"Great Walks" hike. If so, let us know and we can make all the arrangements for you, including pick up from the hotel as well as the main booking.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip, or e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
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