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New Zealand: The South Island

The dramatic beauty of New Zealand transcends the imagination—as you’ll see when you experience it up close as only an active vacation allows. Our carefully curated bike routes follow untamed seacoast, valleys framed by towering peaks, and woodland trails through the breathtaking South Island. On foot, you’ll explore a wildlife sanctuary, a moving glacier, the winding shores of a glittering lake, and historic gold-mining sites. You’ll also touch Kiwi history in pioneer towns and spend a day at a wilderness resort, with opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and more. A home-cooked meal in a local town hall and exclusive visits to a working ranch and wine estate add a personal touch to this quintessential New Zealand bike and walk tour.

Tour Highlights

  • Prepare to be dazzled by the staggering beauty of the South Island’s glittering lakes, lush forests, fertile farmlands, and alpine peaks.
  • Hike up a valley carved by the retreating ice of Franz Josef Glacier.
  • Spend a day at a wilderness resort, enjoying kayaking, canoeing, hiking—and perhaps strolling to a colony of glowworms.
  • Experience life on a working ranch and savor a home-cooked meal during a visit to a sheep and cattle station.
  • Sample local vintages during a wine tasting at a local estate.

What to Expect

The majority of rides and all walks on this tour are on purposefully-built trails (the Kiwis have it figured out!). Trails are packed gravel, regularly maintained, away from motorized vehicle traffic, and allow access to the beauty of the country. The roadways that we ride are secondary, quiet, and mostly paved. The VBT van support shuttle is available for a head start, catch-up or, shorter option.

  • Daily Mileage: 7 - 37|
  • Biking: 1 - 5 hr|
Activity Easy/Moderate Easy / Moderate
Cycling
Bar Graph Beginner - Experienced
Cyclists
Vehicle Support Vehicle
Support

Average High /
Low Temperature (°F):

Jan67º/53º

Feb68º/54º

Mar66º/50º

Apr62º/47º

Nov62º/48º

Dec64º/51º

Average
Precipitation:

Jan9.6 in

Feb7.8 in

Mar9.1 in

Apr9.2 in

Nov10.4 in

Dec10.0 in

Air Package

Tour Only

Airport car service for arrival and departure Check
One night in Christchurch in a conveniently located hotel with daily breakfast and two in-flight nights Check
9 nights in comfortable lodgings Check
19 meals: 9 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners Check
Custom VBT bike and helmet Check Check
Two local, bilingual trip leaders Check Check
Vehicle support Check Check
Luggage transportation Check Check
Ride with GPS and daily route notes Check Check
Welcome reception Check Check
Facilitated cultural experiences Check Check
Your choice of VBT branded gear for your adventure Check Check
8 nights in comfortable lodgings Check
18 meals: 8 breakfasts, 5 lunches Check

Step-Through Cross Terrain Bicycle

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Cross Terrain Bicycle

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Electric-Assisted Bicycle (E-bike)

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Biking Packages Include:

Custom VBT Bike and Helmet

Two Local, Bilingual Trip Leaders

Vehicle Support

Luggage Transfers

Ride with GPS and Daily Route Notes

Welcome Reception

Facilitated Cultural Experiences

Your Choice of VBT Branded Gear for Your Adventure

Itinerary

Mon, Jan 3 to Fri, Jan 14 - 2022

Show Itinerary:

All you have to do is get to the airport. On our Air Packages, we’ll take care of the rest, handling all the logistics, so you can travel with peace of mind. Spend your first night aloft and arrive refreshed for an unforgettable trip.

Flying to New Zealand requires crossing the International Date Line, so this day is “lost.”

Start off your first day in Christchurch right by having a VBT representative greet you at the airport. A complimentary car service will whisk you to your hotel.

Accommodation: Chateau on the Park, Christchurch

After an included New Zealand breakfast, meet your trip leaders at 9:00 a.m. at the hotel for a safety clinic and bike-fitting session. Trip leaders will be wearing VBT staff garments. This will be followed by a warm-up ride directly from the hotel, where you will enjoy the quiet trails in Hagley Park before following bike-friendly roads out to Sumner Beach on the outskirts of Christchurch. Watch for surfers and enjoy lunch in the small village before a van shuttle returns you to the hotel.

You have the afternoon free to explore “The Garden City.” Early this evening, you will join your fellow travelers for a welcome reception, then dine with the group and toast your upcoming journey in wonderful New Zealand.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Hagley Park Warm-up – 26 km (16 miles)

What to Expect: Enjoy a warm-up ride, beginning on the trails in Hagley Park, the third-largest city park in the world. Continue riding on bike-friendly roads out to the coastal seaside suburb of Sumner Beach. A van shuttle from there returns you to your hotel.

Cumulative Distance Range: 26 km (16 miles)
Accommodation: Chateau on the Park, Christchurch
Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, shuttle with your trip leaders to the Christchurch train station to board the 8:15 a.m. TranzAlpine for one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys. Your train takes you through the vast Canterbury Plains and traverses the scenic gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The snow-capped peaks of the magnificent Southern Alps soon appear as you climb 2,300 feet (701 meters) toward Arthur’s Pass, the South Island’s highest settlement, surrounded by steep-sloped mountains.

You depart the train at Arthur’s Pass, rejoining your shuttle for a short drive to Kumara for lunch in a historic pub. This afternoon’s ride is toward Greymouth and the coast. Off of the busy roadway, enjoy a scenic spin through lush forests and some of New Zealand’s famed dairy farms, the soaring peaks marking your progress. Be on the look-out for local bird life that includes bellbirds, tui, kereru (the native pigeon), and kotuku, the white heron. Following the West Coast Wilderness Trail, you will gradually descend to the Tasman Sea before arriving in the region’s largest town, Greymouth. At the end of your ride, hop the shuttle to the seaside town of Hokitika, a former gold-rush town once crowded with prospectors. At one time, the main street was lined with more than 80 hotels. Today there are only six.

This evening, you have free time to enjoy dinner on your own. Later, you might take a relaxing walk along the beach and look skyward for the Southern Cross, visible year-round from the Southern Hemisphere. The Southern Cross contains four stars that depict the extremities of a Latin cross. The stars are very bright and close together, making the constellation easy to spot.

Today’s Ride Choice

Afternoon:Kumara to Greymouth – 29 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: The ride is mainly downhill on unpaved trails. After reaching the coast, the trail continues north, paralleling the Tasman Sea. You will then shuttle 30 km (19 miles) to the hotel.

Cumulative Distance Range: 29 km (17 miles)
Accommodation: Hotel: Beachfront Hotel, Hokitika
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Begin your ride at beautiful Lake Kaniere and continue past wetlands, woods, and old mill sites as you cycle the dramatic shore of the Tasman Sea. Take respite over lunch among the ancient Rimu and Kamahi trees before continuing onto Ross where you can catch a glimpse of the township’s gold-mining history and culture.

Today, you will enjoy the best of the West Coast Wilderness Trail on an enchanting ride that leads you from the hills above Hokitika to the shores of the Tasman Sea. Begin after breakfast with a visit to the Greenstone Jade Gallery, where you can admire beautiful pieces carved from this native stone. Shuttle a short distance to Lake Kaniere and hop on the West Coast Wilderness Trail, part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. Enjoy a gentle descent through native bush back towards Hokitika. Continue south from there, tracing the dramatic coastline of the Tasman Sea. Your ride passes wetlands, native forest, and old mill sites, and stunning views of Lake Mahinapua can be seen with a short walk from the trail. On a clear day, you will see Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman rising inland. Stop for lunch at the West Coast Treetop Café and enjoy dining al fresco while you take in the views of the Lake Maninapua valley beneath the canopy of the ancient Rimu and Kamahi trees. An optional Tree Tops Walk allows you to explore a unique perspective of the West Coast forest.

You may decide to continue riding a short distance after lunch past the tidal Totara lagoon which leads you to the township of Ross. This seaside town is on the edge of Westland National Park, a stunning canvas of towering mountains, dramatic waterfalls, and icy, gray-blue rivers tumbling down to the Tasman Sea. The centerpiece of this stunning wilderness is the Franz Josef Glacier, one of the world’s few glaciers that still exhibit a cycle of advance and retreat.

This afternoon, shuttle to your accommodation in Franz Josef. Spend free time in this lively town before an included dinner.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Lake Kaniere to Tree Tops Café – 39 km (26 miles)
Afternoon: Tree Tops Café to Ross – 17 km (11 miles)

What to Expect: The morning ride features some moderately challenging terrain through wooded trails, yet the route’s gentle descent adds a welcome ease to the scenic turns. Continue past Hokitika and meander along Mahinapua Creek, past the Hokitika Golf Links, and then alongside the state highway. It’s then time to turn off onto the historic Mahinapua Tramline, a super-scenic (if sometimes narrow) section of today’s trail. Pass through wetlands, native forest, and old mill sites before again crossing state highway 6 to join the trail along the beach. Stop for lunch before continuing on to Ross, where you may get a look at Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. The historic Ross rail route will take you over the Totara Bridge (built in 1908) and provide some lovely views of the tidal Totara lagoon (birdwatchers take note!). Leaving the Totara River, you’ll wrap up the day’s route with an easy ride to the historic goldfields of Ross.

Cumulative Distance Range: 56 km (37 miles)
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This is New Zealand’s Glacier Country, and if the weather allows, your morning walk presents an opportunity to witness their majesty up close and learn a bit about glaciology along the way. After breakfast, walk up the valley carved by the retreating ice of the Franz Josef Glacier. At a viewing platform, marvel at the blue, marble-like sheen of the vast ice expanse. Perhaps you will see deep crevasses where ice floes have been ripped apart by the slow march of the glacier. The day’s activities resume with a quick shuttle to the “wee” town of Okarito, home to just a few dozen residents. Booker Prize-winning author Keri Hulme lived here and eventually moved away when she found the town to be too big for her! Revel in a tranquil ambiance and view an abundance of birds during walk above Okarito Lagoon before lunch. Upon arrival, set out on a trail built above the shore, affording access to the lagoon’s unique flora and local birds. The Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland, is teeming with wildlife. More than 70 species of birds make their home here, including the rare kotuku, the Eastern great egret. Savor the peace and tranquility of this special place.

For lunch, we’ll gather in the town’s hall to enjoy a well-deserved picnic prepared by your trip leaders.

Back in Franz Josef this afternoon you may choose to embark on a heli-hiking adventure of Franz Josef Glacier (at your own expense). You will board a helicopter and take wing over the massive ice field, landing on its white expanse for a guided walk. It’s a thrilling excursion in an unspoiled setting that few travelers experience. Should you prefer a scenic helicopter or plane ride over the glacier without the glacier walk, your trip leaders will help you make a reservation once you’re on tour.

Tonight, you can enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many local restaurants.

Today’s Ride Choices

Morning: Franz Josef Valley Walk – 4 km (2 miles)
Late Morning: Okarito Trig Walk – 5 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: The Franz Josef Valley Walk is an easy walk that leads to a riverbank via the glacier, river valley, and surrounding mountains, sometimes featuring spectacular waterfalls. The route continues past Trident Falls to a lookout point with a view of the terminal face of the glacier. This part of the route is over the shingle and rock of the riverbed, and it can be quite rough underfoot. This is a beautiful yet volatile place—do not let the serene scene fool you. The glacier is constantly moving.

This super-scenic Okarito Lagoon walk winds gently uphill on a well-graded track, before reaching the Okarito Trig viewpoint. On a clear day, the view is unbeatable, overlooking Westland National Park from the snow-capped Southern Alps across extensive native forest to the lagoons and beaches of the coast.

Cumulative Distance Range: 9 km (5 miles)
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Circumnavigate Lake Matheson today and perhaps see reflections of Mt. Cook as you walk along the lakeside trail. Ride out to scenic Gillespie’s Beach before joining your fellow travel companions for lunch. At your wilderness lodge, you might visit a colony of glowworms.

Begin the day with a short shuttle to the Fox Glacier area, where you may walk around Lake Matheson, the pristine body of water left behind during Fox’s retreat millennia ago and an important food-gathering place for the Maori. The lake’s excellent mirror-like reflecting properties are due to the dark brown color of the water, the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor. Walk among the ancient podocarp hardwood forest, also passing tall white pine and red pine trees. The temperate forest leads to the “View of Views” at the top end of the lake: On a clear day, the water’s glassy surface reflects Mt. Cook, also known as Aoraki, New Zealand’s tallest peak at 12,218 feet (3,724 meters). Then, test your mettle on a stimulating dirt road ride out to scenic Gillespie’s Beach where you may watch the lapping waves of the Tasman Sea before returning to Fox for lunch.

Continue on to Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Surrounded by a thriving 1,000-year-old rainforest and a pristine seacoast, the lodge is perfectly situated for outdoor exploration and activity—or just relaxing and taking in the wonders of nature. The owner of the lodge, Dr. Gerry McSweeney, is the former president of the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the country’s largest environmental organization. Accordingly, the lodge is committed to the protection of the environment.

Dinner this evening is in the lodge’s dining room, which overlooks the wilderness area. Later, you may wish to join your lodge host for a walk on the grounds to view a colony of glowworms!

Today’s Ride Choice

Afternoon: Lake Matheson to Gillespie’s Beach -18 km (11 miles)

What to Expect: Begin your ride from the Lake Matheson Café and soon follow a gravel road through rainforest where undulating terrain will lead to the secluded and scenic Gillespie’s Beach.

Today’s Walk Choice

Morning: Lake Matheson Walk – 4 km (2.5 miles)

What to Expect:The first section of the Lake Matheson Walk is to the Jetty Viewpoint. Continuing further around the lake, find another magnificent mountain reflection shrouded in native foliage at the “View of Views” at the top of the lake and again at Reflection Island.

Cumulative Distance Range: 18 – 24 km (11 – 13.5 miles)
Accommodation: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Lake Moeraki
Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Set your own pace today as you take advantage of the lodge’s many outdoor activities. After breakfast, you can plan your day around your choice of several complimentary 60- to 90-minute excursions. Perhaps you will join a rainforest walk, learn about the inhabitants of the Moeraki River with a naturalist guide, or enjoy canoe or kayak instruction on the waters of Lake Moeraki. Additional activities such as a wilderness seacoast walk to see the world’s smallest marine dolphin, or a Moeraki Rainforest walk, kayak, and beach discovery may incur extra costs. After a rewarding day of exploration rejoin, the group for dinner at the lodge.

Today’s Ride/Walk Choices

Non-Biking/Walking Day: Choose from a range of optional and included excursions from the lodge today.

Accommodation: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Lake Moeraki
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, board a two-hour shuttle (the longest drive of the trip) to Hawea on the southern shore of Lake Hawea. En route, you’ll stop for a short but memorable walk to witness the amazing water of the Blue Pools and stop again at a classic roadside café for lunch on your own. On reaching the very blue Lake Hawea, get on your bicycle to join the Hawea River Track, part of a purpose-built cycling and walking trail linking Hawea to Wanaka via Albert Town. As you ride, take in spectacular views along the Hawea River and of the high peaks behind Wanaka. Pedal through kanuka groves and shady woodland and along river terraces. Continue on a dedicated trail into Wanaka—gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park—riding along the namesake lake, through the township and directly to your lakefront accommodations.

Spend two nights in charming Wanaka. Your comfortable lodging overlooks the magnificent Southern Alps.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Cameron Flat + Blue Pools – 3 km (2 miles)
Afternoon: Hawea to Wanaka – 28 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: Walk through beech/tawhero forest to a swing bridge over Makarora River. After crossing the river, follow a boardwalk to a viewing platform over the Blue Pools. Soon after, cross the Blue Pools Bridge for great views up the river gorge. Large brown and rainbow trout can often be seen feeding in the pools.

The first half of this delightful ride is on the Hawea River Track, a well-maintained trail with a few uneven patches as it travels through kanuka groves and woodland and along river terraces. Bikes need to be carried down the steps at the southern end of the swing bridge. From Albert Town, the second half of today’s ride is on the Outlet Track, following the Clutha River and Lake Wanaka into the town of Wanaka, and ending up at our resort. Note that this track can be very busy and has some rougher sections near its beginning. Don’t hesitate to walk your bike where it makes sense to do so.

Cumulative Distance Range: 3 km (2 miles)
Accommodation: Edgewater Hotel, Wanaka
Included Meals: Breakfast

Sweeping wilderness views surround your morning hike. Later, visit locals at their charming ranch and enjoy a wine tasting at a local vineyard.

Experience the very best of Wanaka and New Zealand’s famed Otago region today, marveling at sweeping wilderness views and visiting with locals at their charming ranch. After breakfast, lace up your hiking boots and walk directly from the resort following the winding shoreline of Lake Wanaka. A bird’s eye perspective affords breathtaking views of the glacial-fed lake water below, while the looming snow-capped peaks extend far beyond the lake. Look for Mt. Aspiring in the distance on a clear day!

Midday, you are welcomed into the sheep and cattle station home of VBT friends Allannah and Duncan. At their sprawling ranch, they breed and raise livestock and tend to a lush garden of local vegetables and fruit. Enjoy a tour around the property, see the shepherding dogs at work, and enjoy a home-cooked meal, hearing about life on a Kiwi ranch. Later, sample more of Otago’s and Wanaka’s products at a local vineyard, with time to stroll on the grounds and admire vistas of the lake and mountains. Back in town, enjoy free time before gathering for your final farewell dinner this evening.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Glendhu Bay – 11 km (7 miles)

What to Expect: Pick up the Glendhu Bay track directly outside the door of the Edgewater Resort. The well-established trail hugs the shoreline of glistening Lake Wanaka, from which you’ll enjoy excellent views of the Pisa range, the Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka, and the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana.

Cumulative Distance Range: 11 km (7 miles)
Accommodation: Edgewater Hotel, Wanaka
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After an included breakfast, shuttle to nearby Arrowtown, a quaint “wild west”-style village with a rich gold-mining past. There’ll be time here to walk along the banks of the Arrow River, getting a picture of life in the days of the pioneers who settled here during the height of the Otago gold rush. Relax with a mid-morning coffee in a charming café, or look for a keepsake by which to remember your journey. Then, continue to Queenstown’s airport, arriving at around 12:00 noon.

Accommodation: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside, Queenstown
Included Meals: Breakfast

New Zealand: The South Island 3

Download PDF Itinerary:

Air Package (PDF) Tour Only (PDF)

Thu, Jan 6 to Fri, Jan 14 - 2022

Show Itinerary:

After you meet your trip leaders, there will be a warm-up ride directly from the hotel, where you will enjoy the quiet trails in Hagley Park before following bike-friendly roads out to Sumner Beach on the outskirts of Christchurch. Watch for surfers and enjoy lunch in the small village before a van shuttle returns you to the hotel.

You have the afternoon free to explore “The Garden City.” Early this evening, you will join your fellow travelers for a welcome reception, then dine with the group and toast your upcoming journey in wonderful New Zealand.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Hagley Park Warm-up – 26 km (16 miles)

What to Expect: Enjoy a warm-up ride, beginning on the trails in Hagley Park, the third-largest city park in the world. Continue riding on bike-friendly roads out to the coastal seaside suburb of Sumner Beach. A van shuttle from there returns you to your hotel.

Cumulative Distance Range: 26 km (16 miles)
Accommodation: Chateau on the Park, Christchurch
Included Meals: Dinner

After breakfast, shuttle with your trip leaders to the Christchurch train station to board the 8:15 a.m. TranzAlpine for one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys. Your train takes you through the vast Canterbury Plains and traverses the scenic gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. The snow-capped peaks of the magnificent Southern Alps soon appear as you climb 2,300 feet (701 meters) toward Arthur’s Pass, the South Island’s highest settlement, surrounded by steep-sloped mountains.

You depart the train at Arthur’s Pass, rejoining your shuttle for a short drive to Kumara for lunch in a historic pub. This afternoon’s ride is toward Greymouth and the coast. Off of the busy roadway, enjoy a scenic spin through lush forests and some of New Zealand’s famed dairy farms, the soaring peaks marking your progress. Be on the look-out for local bird life that includes bellbirds, tui, kereru (the native pigeon), and kotuku, the white heron. Following the West Coast Wilderness Trail, you will gradually descend to the Tasman Sea before arriving in the region’s largest town, Greymouth. At the end of your ride, hop the shuttle to the seaside town of Hokitika, a former gold-rush town once crowded with prospectors. At one time, the main street was lined with more than 80 hotels. Today there are only six.

This evening, you have free time to enjoy dinner on your own. Later, you might take a relaxing walk along the beach and look skyward for the Southern Cross, visible year-round from the Southern Hemisphere. The Southern Cross contains four stars that depict the extremities of a Latin cross. The stars are very bright and close together, making the constellation easy to spot.

Today’s Ride Choice

Afternoon:Kumara to Greymouth – 29 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: The ride is mainly downhill on unpaved trails. After reaching the coast, the trail continues north, paralleling the Tasman Sea. You will then shuttle 30 km (19 miles) to the hotel.

Cumulative Distance Range: 29 km (17 miles)
Accommodation: Hotel: Beachfront Hotel, Hokitika
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Begin your ride at beautiful Lake Kaniere and continue past wetlands, woods, and old mill sites as you cycle the dramatic shore of the Tasman Sea. Take respite over lunch among the ancient Rimu and Kamahi trees before continuing onto Ross where you can catch a glimpse of the township’s gold-mining history and culture.

Today, you will enjoy the best of the West Coast Wilderness Trail on an enchanting ride that leads you from the hills above Hokitika to the shores of the Tasman Sea. Begin after breakfast with a visit to the Greenstone Jade Gallery, where you can admire beautiful pieces carved from this native stone. Shuttle a short distance to Lake Kaniere and hop on the West Coast Wilderness Trail, part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. Enjoy a gentle descent through native bush back towards Hokitika. Continue south from there, tracing the dramatic coastline of the Tasman Sea. Your ride passes wetlands, native forest, and old mill sites, and stunning views of Lake Mahinapua can be seen with a short walk from the trail. On a clear day, you will see Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman rising inland. Stop for lunch at the West Coast Treetop Café and enjoy dining al fresco while you take in the views of the Lake Maninapua valley beneath the canopy of the ancient Rimu and Kamahi trees. An optional Tree Tops Walk allows you to explore a unique perspective of the West Coast forest.

You may decide to continue riding a short distance after lunch past the tidal Totara lagoon which leads you to the township of Ross. This seaside town is on the edge of Westland National Park, a stunning canvas of towering mountains, dramatic waterfalls, and icy, gray-blue rivers tumbling down to the Tasman Sea. The centerpiece of this stunning wilderness is the Franz Josef Glacier, one of the world’s few glaciers that still exhibit a cycle of advance and retreat.

This afternoon, shuttle to your accommodation in Franz Josef. Spend free time in this lively town before an included dinner.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Lake Kaniere to Tree Tops Café – 39 km (26 miles)
Afternoon: Tree Tops Café to Ross – 17 km (11 miles)

What to Expect: The morning ride features some moderately challenging terrain through wooded trails, yet the route’s gentle descent adds a welcome ease to the scenic turns. Continue past Hokitika and meander along Mahinapua Creek, past the Hokitika Golf Links, and then alongside the state highway. It’s then time to turn off onto the historic Mahinapua Tramline, a super-scenic (if sometimes narrow) section of today’s trail. Pass through wetlands, native forest, and old mill sites before again crossing state highway 6 to join the trail along the beach. Stop for lunch before continuing on to Ross, where you may get a look at Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. The historic Ross rail route will take you over the Totara Bridge (built in 1908) and provide some lovely views of the tidal Totara lagoon (birdwatchers take note!). Leaving the Totara River, you’ll wrap up the day’s route with an easy ride to the historic goldfields of Ross.

Cumulative Distance Range: 56 km (37 miles)
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This is New Zealand’s Glacier Country, and if the weather allows, your morning walk presents an opportunity to witness their majesty up close and learn a bit about glaciology along the way. After breakfast, walk up the valley carved by the retreating ice of the Franz Josef Glacier. At a viewing platform, marvel at the blue, marble-like sheen of the vast ice expanse. Perhaps you will see deep crevasses where ice floes have been ripped apart by the slow march of the glacier. The day’s activities resume with a quick shuttle to the “wee” town of Okarito, home to just a few dozen residents. Booker Prize-winning author Keri Hulme lived here and eventually moved away when she found the town to be too big for her! Revel in a tranquil ambiance and view an abundance of birds during walk above Okarito Lagoon before lunch. Upon arrival, set out on a trail built above the shore, affording access to the lagoon’s unique flora and local birds. The Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland, is teeming with wildlife. More than 70 species of birds make their home here, including the rare kotuku, the Eastern great egret. Savor the peace and tranquility of this special place.

For lunch, we’ll gather in the town’s hall to enjoy a well-deserved picnic prepared by your trip leaders.

Back in Franz Josef this afternoon you may choose to embark on a heli-hiking adventure of Franz Josef Glacier (at your own expense). You will board a helicopter and take wing over the massive ice field, landing on its white expanse for a guided walk. It’s a thrilling excursion in an unspoiled setting that few travelers experience. Should you prefer a scenic helicopter or plane ride over the glacier without the glacier walk, your trip leaders will help you make a reservation once you’re on tour.

Tonight, you can enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many local restaurants.

Today’s Ride Choices

Morning: Franz Josef Valley Walk – 4 km (2 miles)
Late Morning: Okarito Trig Walk – 5 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: The Franz Josef Valley Walk is an easy walk that leads to a riverbank via the glacier, river valley, and surrounding mountains, sometimes featuring spectacular waterfalls. The route continues past Trident Falls to a lookout point with a view of the terminal face of the glacier. This part of the route is over the shingle and rock of the riverbed, and it can be quite rough underfoot. This is a beautiful yet volatile place—do not let the serene scene fool you. The glacier is constantly moving.

This super-scenic Okarito Lagoon walk winds gently uphill on a well-graded track, before reaching the Okarito Trig viewpoint. On a clear day, the view is unbeatable, overlooking Westland National Park from the snow-capped Southern Alps across extensive native forest to the lagoons and beaches of the coast.

Cumulative Distance Range: 9 km (5 miles)
Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Circumnavigate Lake Matheson today and perhaps see reflections of Mt. Cook as you walk along the lakeside trail. Ride out to scenic Gillespie’s Beach before joining your fellow travel companions for lunch. At your wilderness lodge, you might visit a colony of glowworms.

Begin the day with a short shuttle to the Fox Glacier area, where you may walk around Lake Matheson, the pristine body of water left behind during Fox’s retreat millennia ago and an important food-gathering place for the Maori. The lake’s excellent mirror-like reflecting properties are due to the dark brown color of the water, the result of organic matter leached from the humus of the forest floor. Walk among the ancient podocarp hardwood forest, also passing tall white pine and red pine trees. The temperate forest leads to the “View of Views” at the top end of the lake: On a clear day, the water’s glassy surface reflects Mt. Cook, also known as Aoraki, New Zealand’s tallest peak at 12,218 feet (3,724 meters). Then, test your mettle on a stimulating dirt road ride out to scenic Gillespie’s Beach where you may watch the lapping waves of the Tasman Sea before returning to Fox for lunch.

Continue on to Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Surrounded by a thriving 1,000-year-old rainforest and a pristine seacoast, the lodge is perfectly situated for outdoor exploration and activity—or just relaxing and taking in the wonders of nature. The owner of the lodge, Dr. Gerry McSweeney, is the former president of the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the country’s largest environmental organization. Accordingly, the lodge is committed to the protection of the environment.

Dinner this evening is in the lodge’s dining room, which overlooks the wilderness area. Later, you may wish to join your lodge host for a walk on the grounds to view a colony of glowworms!

Today’s Ride Choice

Afternoon: Lake Matheson to Gillespie’s Beach -18 km (11 miles)

What to Expect: Begin your ride from the Lake Matheson Café and soon follow a gravel road through rainforest where undulating terrain will lead to the secluded and scenic Gillespie’s Beach.

Today’s Walk Choice

Morning: Lake Matheson Walk – 4 km (2.5 miles)

What to Expect:The first section of the Lake Matheson Walk is to the Jetty Viewpoint. Continuing further around the lake, find another magnificent mountain reflection shrouded in native foliage at the “View of Views” at the top of the lake and again at Reflection Island.

Cumulative Distance Range: 18 – 24 km (11 – 13.5 miles)
Accommodation: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Lake Moeraki
Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Set your own pace today as you take advantage of the lodge’s many outdoor activities. After breakfast, you can plan your day around your choice of several complimentary 60- to 90-minute excursions. Perhaps you will join a rainforest walk, learn about the inhabitants of the Moeraki River with a naturalist guide, or enjoy canoe or kayak instruction on the waters of Lake Moeraki. Additional activities such as a wilderness seacoast walk to see the world’s smallest marine dolphin, or a Moeraki Rainforest walk, kayak, and beach discovery may incur extra costs. After a rewarding day of exploration rejoin, the group for dinner at the lodge.

Today’s Ride/Walk Choices

Non-Biking/Walking Day: Choose from a range of optional and included excursions from the lodge today.

Accommodation: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Lake Moeraki
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, board a two-hour shuttle (the longest drive of the trip) to Hawea on the southern shore of Lake Hawea. En route, you’ll stop for a short but memorable walk to witness the amazing water of the Blue Pools and stop again at a classic roadside café for lunch on your own. On reaching the very blue Lake Hawea, get on your bicycle to join the Hawea River Track, part of a purpose-built cycling and walking trail linking Hawea to Wanaka via Albert Town. As you ride, take in spectacular views along the Hawea River and of the high peaks behind Wanaka. Pedal through kanuka groves and shady woodland and along river terraces. Continue on a dedicated trail into Wanaka—gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park—riding along the namesake lake, through the township and directly to your lakefront accommodations.

Spend two nights in charming Wanaka. Your comfortable lodging overlooks the magnificent Southern Alps.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Cameron Flat + Blue Pools – 3 km (2 miles)
Afternoon: Hawea to Wanaka – 28 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: Walk through beech/tawhero forest to a swing bridge over Makarora River. After crossing the river, follow a boardwalk to a viewing platform over the Blue Pools. Soon after, cross the Blue Pools Bridge for great views up the river gorge. Large brown and rainbow trout can often be seen feeding in the pools.

The first half of this delightful ride is on the Hawea River Track, a well-maintained trail with a few uneven patches as it travels through kanuka groves and woodland and along river terraces. Bikes need to be carried down the steps at the southern end of the swing bridge. From Albert Town, the second half of today’s ride is on the Outlet Track, following the Clutha River and Lake Wanaka into the town of Wanaka, and ending up at our resort. Note that this track can be very busy and has some rougher sections near its beginning. Don’t hesitate to walk your bike where it makes sense to do so.

Cumulative Distance Range: 3 km (2 miles)
Accommodation: Edgewater Hotel, Wanaka
Included Meals: Breakfast

Sweeping wilderness views surround your morning hike. Later, visit locals at their charming ranch and enjoy a wine tasting at a local vineyard.

Experience the very best of Wanaka and New Zealand’s famed Otago region today, marveling at sweeping wilderness views and visiting with locals at their charming ranch. After breakfast, lace up your hiking boots and walk directly from the resort following the winding shoreline of Lake Wanaka. A bird’s eye perspective affords breathtaking views of the glacial-fed lake water below, while the looming snow-capped peaks extend far beyond the lake. Look for Mt. Aspiring in the distance on a clear day!

Midday, you are welcomed into the sheep and cattle station home of VBT friends Allannah and Duncan. At their sprawling ranch, they breed and raise livestock and tend to a lush garden of local vegetables and fruit. Enjoy a tour around the property, see the shepherding dogs at work, and enjoy a home-cooked meal, hearing about life on a Kiwi ranch. Later, sample more of Otago’s and Wanaka’s products at a local vineyard, with time to stroll on the grounds and admire vistas of the lake and mountains. Back in town, enjoy free time before gathering for your final farewell dinner this evening.

Today’s Ride Choice

Morning: Glendhu Bay – 11 km (7 miles)

What to Expect: Pick up the Glendhu Bay track directly outside the door of the Edgewater Resort. The well-established trail hugs the shoreline of glistening Lake Wanaka, from which you’ll enjoy excellent views of the Pisa range, the Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka, and the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana.

Cumulative Distance Range: 11 km (7 miles)
Accommodation: Edgewater Hotel, Wanaka
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After an included breakfast, shuttle to nearby Arrowtown, a quaint “wild west”-style village with a rich gold-mining past. There’ll be time here to walk along the banks of the Arrow River, getting a picture of life in the days of the pioneers who settled here during the height of the Otago gold rush. Relax with a mid-morning coffee in a charming café, or look for a keepsake by which to remember your journey. Then, continue to Queenstown’s airport, arriving at around 12:00 noon.

Accommodation: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside, Queenstown
Included Meals: Breakfast

New Zealand: The South Island 3

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Accommodations

Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With Low-Cost Trip Extensions

Airplane

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2022

2022 Pre-Trip Extension - Auckland

3 Nights From $495 per person, double occupancy
Single Supplement: From $345

  • 3 nights at the Grand Mercure Auckland
  • Airport car service for arrival
  • Daily breakfast
  • City information

All you have to do is get to the airport. On our Air packages, we’ll take care of the rest, handling all the logistics, so you can travel with peace of mind. Spend your first night aloft and arrive refreshed for an unforgettable trip.

Flying to Auckland requires crossing the International Date Line, so this day is “lost.”

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Auckland, Auckland

After a delicious included breakfast at your hotel, you are free to explore on your own, using our included city information packet to guide your discoveries.

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Auckland, Auckland

Included Meals: Breakfast

After a delicious included breakfast at your hotel, you are free to explore on your own, using our included city information packet to guide your discoveries.

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Auckland, Auckland

Included Meals: Breakfast

After an included breakfast, complimentary transportation is provided by Super Shuttle from your Auckland Hotel to the airport for your flight to Christchurch.

In Christchurch gather your luggage and proceed through the terminal exit. Look for the next Super Shuttle vehicle and travel (approximately 30 minutes) to your hotel in Christchurch.

Once you settle in you’ll have time to explore and enjoy lunch and dinner on your own using VBT’s city information as your guide.

Accommodation: Chateau on the Park, Christchurch

Included Meals: Breakfast

Airplane

Air Package Only

2022

2022 Post-Trip Extension - Queenstown Post-Tour

2 Nights From $295 per person, double occupancy
Single Supplement: From $245

  • 2 nights at the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside
  • Full breakfast
  • City Information
  • Airport transfers

After breakfast, shuttle to a quaint “wild west”-style village with a rich gold-mining past before continuing to Queenstown to settle into your lakeside hotel. Once you settle in, you’ll have time to explore using the included city information to guide your discovers.

Included Meals: Breakfast

After a delicious included breakfast at your hotel, you are free to explore on your own, using our included city information packet to guide your discoveries.

Accommodation: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside, Queenstown
Included Meals: Breakfast

After an included breakfast this morning, you’ll travel by Super Shuttle from the hotel to the Queenstown Airport (an approximately 10 minute shuttle) for your departing flight.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Reviews

Guest Reviews 33 out of 37 (89%) of reviewers recommend this tour

4.7 out of 5 stars.

Dates & Prices

Air Package

12 days, includes round-trip international airfare , airport shuttle, and additional hotel nights with included breakfast.

Single Supplement: From $995

Departing From Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

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9 Days. Includes VBT vacation only.

Single Supplement: From $895

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