New Zealand Vacation
New Zealand Tui Adventure | Adult Only
A scenic flight, a wilderness hike, and an unforgettable jet boat ride await
8 Days / 7 Nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
If you want to escape the crowds, discover the real New Zealand and get a taste for kiwi culture and hospitality along the way, have we got the trip for you! The ‘Tui’ is an 8-day action-packed South Island adventure where you’ll hike, bike, kayak, cruise, fly, and jetboat in some of New Zealand’s most iconic and remote wilderness. You’ll check off iconic locations like Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Franz Josef Glacier, but also visit some off-the-grid settings like the remote Siberia Valley (accessible by a scenic flight into the backcountry!) In New Zealand, the best places can’t be seen from the window of a tour bus, but they’re accessed on foot, behind handlebars, or with a paddle in hand!
- Fly alongside captivating views of the snowy Southern Alps, sparkling glaciers, and lush rainforests on your way to the remote Siberia Valley
- Dine by the light of candles in a picturesque national park overlooking the cauldron-like glacial lake of Lake Crucible
- Jetboat the Wilkin River through the breathtaking scenery of pristine river valleys, native bush, and ice-capped mountains
- Bike along the crystal-blue rapids of the Hawea River trail as you wind and twist through kanuka groves, woodlands, and river terraces
- Glide in sea kayaks along Milford Sound’s indigo waters to get up-close and personal with friendly fur seals and dolphins.
- Journey to where the West Coast begins its wild ways in Makarora, accurately nicknamed New Zealand’s last frontier
A few more reasons why you've gotta go:
Mount Aspiring National Park: A true Kiwi experience surrounded by glacial blue lakes, crystal rivers and mountain skylines.
Fiordland National Park: Hike part of the Routeburn Track for unsurpassed views of the Hollyford Valley, Lake Marian and Mt. Christina.
Franz Josef Glacier: View the sparkling ice glaciers, toothy mountains and blue-tinged glacial crevasses.
Christchurch, NZ CHC
Queenstown, NZ ZQN
Christchurch / Arthur’s Pass / Franz Josef
Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Friday evening, arriving in Auckland early Sunday morning. You’ll lose a day crossing the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! It’s a short flight from Auckland to Christchurch on the South Island where we’ll meet you. We’ll then travel into the Southern Alps to hike Devil’s Punchbowl in Arthur’s Pass. The walk will take you through native beech forest to an awesome 131-meter (430 feet) waterfall, so make sure you have your camera handy! From there, we’ll head down the coast to Franz Josef where we’ll stay the night. Nestled in the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef is the heart of New Zealand glacier country.
Franz Josef / Makarora
With some 140 glaciers making their way down from the Southern Alps, this area is fittingly known as glacier country. Few sights equal the spectacle of two of these giant frozen rivers (Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers) imperceptibly grinding their way down through the temperate rainforest to just 250 meters (820 feet) above sea level. We’ll spend most of the day near Franz Josef Glacier hiking up through the forest to either Alex Knob or Roberts Point, both of which give incredible views of the ice. From Franz Josef, we’ll travel down the coast through lush forest, and over the divide to a small mountain village called Makarora, where we’ll enjoy some local fare.
* Optional Heli Hike: An outrageously scenic alternative to today’s hike is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself at an extra cost. Please inquire with your Adventure Consultant for more details.
Makarora / Mt Aspiring National Park
This morning, we’ll wake up on the eastern side of Mt Aspiring National Park. From our lodgings in Makarora, we’ll head off on your choice of activity. We’ll start with a stunning scenic flight alongside the snowy Southern Alps to the Siberia Valley airstrip, a short hike from our home for the night. After lightening your packs at the hut, you can hike up the trail to Lake Crucible, a cauldron-like glacial lake with fantastic views of the valley below. Tonight, you’ll be served a candle-lit dinner in a picturesque National Park. This is the only night on the ‘Tui’ where your accommodation is basic, though it’s a true Kiwi experience and a lot of fun. Your load will be a little more than a day pack – your guides will carry the lion’s share. You’ll be carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and some food – no need for anything more than that, although there are tents you can carry along if you’d prefer to camp out under the stars.
* When you book, you have the choice of two multi-day options (two days/one night each): Siberia Valley wilderness option or Makarora adventure, both in Mt Aspiring National Park. The Makarora adventure includes accommodation with modern amenities instead of a mountain hut for the night.
Mount Aspiring National Park / Hawea River / Queenstown
After an early start, we spend the morning hiking to Kerin Forks, at the head of the Wilkin River, where we’ll be met by a jet boat for an exhilarating ride back to Makarora to meet up with the rest of the group for lunch. After regrouping in Makarora, we’ll have a picnic lunch before taking a beautiful drive through spectacular glacier-carved valleys. The landscape changes rapidly from dense beech forests to semi-arid mountainous terrain. When we arrive at Lake Hawea, you’ll be fitted with a mountain bike for a scenic ride along the Hawea River Trail. This gently undulating track follows the Hawea and Clutha Rivers through the rugged Central Otago landscape to the charming lakeside town of Wanaka. From Wanaka, it’s a short but dramatic journey over the Cardrona Saddle to Queenstown, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, our base for the next couple of days. You’ll sleep sweetly tonight at a lakefront hotel located in the heart of Queenstown.
Today you have two options – a full day hike or a free day to yourself. For those keen on an alpine hike, you’ll meet your guide at a reception at 9 am, ready to head up the Ben Lomond Track. To save our legs a little, we’ll take a short gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, which is 450 meters (1476 feet) above Queenstown. From there, we’ll head out along the trail through alpine tussock-land towards the summit of Ben Lomond. From this vantage point, you’ll find yourself immersed in amazing views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, which are themselves dwarfed by the surrounding mountains including Mt Aspiring. As an alternative, you can have a free day to explore on your own. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) and all the comforts of civilization are packed into this tiny resort town: restaurants galore, sidewalk cafés, stylish lounge bars, day spas, and boutiques. You’ll also find incredible optional activities here including horse trekking, kayaking, fishing, winery tours, hang gliding, mountain biking, bungy jumping, jet boating, and skydiving. Or you can just soak up the atmosphere or lounge about reading a book. Your guides will happily share their favorite haunts and point you in the right direction for your free day today.
Fiordland National Park / Milford Sound
This morning, we set off for our largest and perhaps most spectacular national park, Fiordland. Once within the park, we’ll stop to stretch our legs at regular intervals, to explore some of the highlights of this World Heritage Area, including the Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Marian Gantry, and The Chasm. The waterfalls viewed from the gantry will take your breath away! Once through the Homer Tunnel, we’ll emerge at the top of a spectacular glacier-carved valley for a memorable descent to the shore of Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling rated this fiord as the eighth natural wonder of the world and it is truly breathtaking, with steep granite walls plunging over a thousand meters on a smaller vessel to Sandfly Point and join a naturalist guide for approximately 1.5 hours, before rejoining the Wanderer in time for a sumptuous dinner!
Milford Sound / Manapouri
Having seen Milford Sound from the deck of a ship there’s one more unique activity we’ve got lined up for you, to experience the eighth natural wonder gliding along in sea kayaks. You’ll cause very little disturbance to the water, being in kayaks, providing an excellent chance of meeting friendly fur seals and dolphins that are sometimes in the area. This trip is run by specialist kayak guides, and the paddling here is equally suitable for beginners and experts. After lunch, we’ll explore the Fiordland wilderness on foot again, with a hike to Key Summit on the famous Routeburn Track. The panoramic views are incredible from this vantage point and you’ll probably get to meet New Zealand’s notoriously cheeky and intelligent alpine parrot, the kea (Nestor notabilis). Tonight, we’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner for the last night of Tui.
Arrival & Departure
Arrival: On Day 1 of the trip, your guides can either pick you up from the Heartland Hotel Cotswold in Christchurch at 9:30 AM, or at Christchurch Airport in front of the Travel and Information Center at 10:00 AM. We recommend you fly into Christchurch no later than 9:00 AM on the day of arrival.
Departure: On the last day of the trip, your guides can drop you off at the Queenstown Airport in time for flights departing after 12:00 PM. If you choose to extend your stay, your guides can drop you off anywhere in Queenstown around lunchtime.
Hiking: Much of this adventure involves walking or hiking on trails with a moderate rating (and at times strenuous). Hikes range in length from 2 miles to 7.5 miles long and can be adjusted to fit your needs. The terrain includes dirt, rocks, sandy beach, tree roots, and rocks. Trails in New Zealand are typically not as well manicured as those in the USA, so expect to be hiking in mud, getting your boots wet, and to be navigating around rocks and tree roots. Often instead of switchbacks, a trail will go straight up a hill! So, while the mileage may seem small, pay more attention to the elevation gains and the estimated time that the hike will take. The Tui suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. If you keep reasonably active and like to give things a go, you’re more likely to enjoy the trip much more. Typically hikes range between two and six hours to complete, but there are shorter alternatives to the longer hikes, and if you’re used to pushing yourself further, we’ll keep you challenged as well.
Bicycling: On Day 4, a bicycle ride along the Hawea Trail is up to 24 kilometers (15 miles) long and is mostly flat (260 feet elevation loss). You’ll be biking along a wide, dirt track and the ride is vehicle supported.
Kayaking: Equipment and instruction provided. No experience necessary. Excursions last approximately 2 to 3 hours.
Austin Adventures guides are experienced facilitators and regional experts. They will take the time to explain the details of each activity, answer any questions and demonstrate the use of all equipment. Each activity has been carefully planned to include options for all levels. Most importantly, Austin Adventures guides will help you select the distance that’s right for you.
New Zealand offers incredible opportunities for adventure, whether it be on backcountry hikes, atop looming glaciers, or in small resort towns. While in Christchurch, take time to explore the city by double-decker bus, vintage bicycle, gondola, tram, or classic Edwardian punt – or grab your walking shoes and discover bars, eateries, and an eclectic mix of boutique shops by foot. Embark on an adventure or two in Queenstown, the ‘adventure capital of the world’ and birthplace to bungy jumping. Keep an eye out for the endearing and flightless national bird: the kiwi (also what New Zealanders call themselves!) Witness a glacier cutting through a rainforest as you trek to the base of Franz Josef Glacier. Discover Mount Aspiring National Park, a walker’s paradise consisting of a wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains, and beautiful river valleys. Did you know that Milford Sound’s water appears black? The fiord is hundreds of meters deep, but the rainfall creates a layer of freshwater up to 6 meters deep, which sits on top of the ocean. All this rainfall washes a tannin from the forest, which stains the freshwater, resulting in its unique black appearance. Come discover this adventurous destination with the leaders in adventure travel!
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. Meals are included as indicated in the daily itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). Alcoholic beverages and related gratuities are not included in the trip price.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire, and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in the Trip Price
- Comfortable accommodation featuring the lodging listed in this itinerary.
- Meals as listed in daily detailed itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).
- All guiding services: 2 guides per trip – a lead guide/driver & a co-guide/chef.
- Any necessary equipment – all safe and well-maintained.
- Vehicle support and land transportation during the trip.
- Austin Adventures T-shirt and luggage tags.
- All activities described in the itinerary including hiking, kayaking, and biking.
Not Included in the Trip Price
- Gratuities to your guides.
- 15% NZ government tax.
- Several meals in places like Queenstown and Christchurch.
- Optional add-on activities.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and associated expenses.
- Air and land transportation to/from the host city.
- All types of personal insurance.
- Personal expenses.
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Kasey was born in Alaska and raised in Billings, Montana. She graduated in 2011 as a Presidential Leadership Scholar at the University of Montana in Missoula with a degree in Education. Growing up in the world of adventure travel, it was only natural for Kasey to jump into the family business upon entering “the real […]