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New Zealand: The South Island

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The ultimate New Zealand bike and walk tour showcases the staggering scenic splendor of a tiny nation with outsized natural wonders and a warm people rolling out the welcome mat.

  • Duration: 12 Days|
  • Daily Mileage: 7 - 23|
  • Biking: 1 - 4 hr|
  • Group Size: 20
4.6 out of 5 stars.
Activity Easy/Moderate
Easy / Moderate
E-Bikes Available
E-Bikes Available
Airplane
Air Package Available
People
Guided Group Tour

Starting From

VBT Vacation + Air Package

$6,095

VBT Vacation Only

$4,395

(per person, double occupancy)

New Zealand: The South Island

Scenic splendor of mythic proportions characterizes the dramatic landscape of New Zealand’s South Island—and you’ll experience it all up close, by bicycle and kayak and on foot. Prepare to gasp in awe at staggering snowcapped peaks and deep gorges, pristine lakes, and lagoons teeming with wildlife, and marble-like glacier-carved valleys. You’ll also delve into the country’s pioneering past at charming gold-rush and mining villages. And lifestyle events such as a ranch visit, wine tasting, and home-cooked meal make this journey unique among New Zealand bike and walk tours.

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. This tour also includes a kayaking excursion.

  • Duration: 12 Days|
  • Daily Mileage: 7 - 23|
  • Biking: 1 - 4 hr|
  • Group Size: 20
Activity Easy/Moderate Easy / Moderate
Cycling
Bar Graph Beginner - Experienced
Cyclists
Bus Vehicle
Support

Tour Highlights

  • View dramatic gorges, river valleys, and alpine peaks on one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys.
  • Delight in vistas of alpine peaks, lush forests, and bucolic farmlands as you ride.
  • Spin along a dramatic ridge overlooking the wild Tasman Sea.
  • Transport yourself to New Zealand’s pioneer days on a stroll through an old mining area.
  • Ply the surface of a pristine lagoon by kayak, keeping watch for rare birds.
  • Discover the renowned Franz Josef Glacier as you follow its retreating ice on a hike.
  • Join the host of your Lake Moeraki lodge on a stroll to a colony of glowworms.
  • Picnic on the shores of Lake Hawea, admiring stunning mountain and lake views.
  • Sip New Zealand wine during a tasting at a local vineyard.
  • Learn about the Kiwi gold-rush era on a visit to quaint Arrowtown.
  • Experience life on a working ranch—including a home-cooked meal.
  • Customize your journey with the support of two vans and three Trip Leaders.
  • Check your reflection—and astounding views—from the glassy surface of Lake Matheson.

Climate Information

Temperatures

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

What's Included

VBT Vacation + Air Package

VBT Vacation Only

Roundtrip international airfare Check
Transfers to and from international airport Check
One night in Christchurch in a conveniently located hotel with breakfasts included and two in-flight nights Check
8 nights in comfortable lodgings Check Check
17 meals: 8 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners Check Check

Tour Bikes

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Step-Through Cross Terrain Bicycle

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Cross Terrain Bicycle

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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 6 to Fri, Jan 17 - 2020

Show Itinerary:

Depart from home for Christchurch. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

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

Upon arrival at the Christchurch airport, gather your luggage at the international baggage collection area and proceed through the terminal exit Door #7. The Super Shuttle rank is located outside the International Arrivals Hall, next to the taxi rank. Look for the Super Shuttle vehicle. Give the driver your name and let them know that you are with VBT. Transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to your Christchurch hotel. If your flight is delayed, please notify Super Shuttle at 0800-748885. Once you arrive at the hotel, the rest of the day is yours to relax or explore. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Christchurch during your stay.

Your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 p.m. If you are early, you may store your luggage at the reception desk. We highly recommend a walk out of the hotel and through the adjacent Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. The Canterbury Museum, Memorial Bridge, and the re-energized Central Business District (CBD) are on the other side of the park and are well worth a visit.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you fly in earlier than the scheduled program dates, transportation from the airport will be at your own expense.

Hotel: Chateau on the Park

Enjoy an included New Zealand breakfast.

At 9:00 a.m., meet your Trip Leaders 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, riding primarily on trails in Hagley Park.

Back in Christchurch 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.

Hotel: Chateau on the Park
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 11 km (7 miles)

Morning
Hagley Park Warm-Up: 11 km (7 miles)

What to Expect: Enjoy a warm-up ride, primarily on the trails in Hagley Park, the third-largest city park in the world.

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 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 reel 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 the 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.

Hotel: Beachfront Hotel
Alternate Hotel: Stations Inn
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 29 km (17 miles)

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.

Today, you will enjoy a rewarding mix of biking and walking. Begin after breakfast with a visit to the Greenstone Jade Gallery, where you can admire beautiful pieces carved from this native stone. Later, return to your lodge and pedal out along the delightful West Coast Wilderness Trail, part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail that traces the dramatic shores 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. The tidal Totara lagoon marks the home stretch of your morning ride as you approach 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.

In Ross, you will leave your bike to join the Ross Historic Goldfields walk for a glimpse of the township’s past. Follow the Ross Water Races Walkway uphill to an old water race, or aqueduct, traversing a regenerating native forest. As you hike, you can stop to view old gold-mining sites such as tunnels and dams. The footpath ends at the original Ross Cemetery, where you can contemplate interesting headstones that portray the harshness of life in coastal New Zealand’s early mining days. After, enjoy a well-earned picnic lunch prepared by your Trip Leaders.

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

Hotel: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Alternate Hotel: Aspen Court
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 36 km (22 miles)

Morning
Hokitika to Ross: 36 km (22 miles)

What to Expect: 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. Approaching Ross, you may get a look at Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, and then 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 morning with an easy ride to the historic goldfields of Ross.

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 2 km (1 miles)

Afternoon
Ross Water Race Walkway: 2 km (1 mile)

What to Expect: Leaving from the Heritage Centre, the track climbs to an old water race and then follows this through regenerating native forest and passes through the original Ross Cemetery. The walkway exits at the top of St. James Street, with a short walk back to the starting point.

The day’s activities begin 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! Upon arrival, head to the shore of the Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland. Here, you will don kayak gear and push off with a guide into unspoiled waters teeming with wildlife. More than 70 species of birds make their home here, including the rare kotuku, the Eastern great egret. As you ply the still surface, savor the peace and tranquility of this special place. For closer views of this wildlife haven, disembark your kayak for a walk along a trail built above the shore, affording access to the lagoon’s unique flora and local birds.

For lunch, we’ll sit together in the town’s hall to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Then, embark on an afternoon walk affording spectacular views over the lagoon.

Alternatively, 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. Because it is not possible to guarantee that space will be available on the day of service, especially during high season (mid-December to mid-February), we recommend booking in advance of travel to guarantee your space. Know that your flight must be booked for your layover day in Franz Josef, at 3:00 p.m. or later, and that you will miss the afternoon walk on this day. Your leaders will make arrangements on-site for you to return from Okarito to Franz Josef to meet your heli-hike tour pick-up at the hotel. 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.

Later, return to Franz Josef where you can enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many local restaurants.

Hotel: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Alternate Hotel: Aspen Court
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 4 km (3 miles)

Afternoon
Okarito Trig Walk: 4 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: This super-scenic 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.

This is New Zealand’s Glacier Country, and if the weather allows, your morning and afternoon walks present an opportunity to witness their majesty up close and learn a bit about glaciology along the way. First, 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. Continue your walk in the Fox Glacier area, circumnavigating 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.

Continue on to the 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!

Hotel: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today’s Walk Choices:
Cumulative Distance Range: 4-9 km (3-6 miles)

Morning
Franz Josef Valley Walk: 5 km (3 miles)
Lake Matheson Walk: 4 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.

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.

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 complementary 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 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 and lunch on your own, rejoin the group for dinner at the lodge.

Hotel: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today’s Walk Choices:
Non-Biking/Walking Day: choose from a range of optional and included excursions from the lodge today.

After breakfast, board a two-hour shuttle (the longest transfer 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.

Hotel: Edgewater
Alternate Hotel: Oakridge Resort
Meals: Breakfast

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 3 km (2 miles)

Morning
Cameron Flat + Blue Pools: 3 km (2 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.

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 28 km (17 miles)

Afternoon
Hawea to Wanaka: 28 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: 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.

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 for a walk on Mt. Iron, a glacier-carved knoll on the edge of town. From the summit, take time to admire a magnificent panorama. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea glisten like pearls amid the undulating Cardrona and Clutha valleys and the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps and Mt. Aspiring National Park.

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.

Hotel: Edgewater
Alternate Hotel: Oakridge Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 5 km (3 miles)

Morning
Mount Iron: 5 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: Mt. Iron rises nearly 250 meters (820 feet) above the surrounding countryside. From the summit, you’ll enjoy excellent 360-degree views of the Pisa range, the Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka, and the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana.

VBT Air Package guests: After 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.

VBT Post-trip Extension guests: After 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 to settle into your lakeside hotel. You are then free to head out to explore this lively and vibrant town in a sweeping mountain setting. Perhaps you will embark the historic S.S. Earnslaw and take a leisurely cruise on Lake Wakatipu to a sheep station, or rise above Queenstown on a scenic gondola ride. After a day of exploration, relax at the hotel this evening. Dinner is on your own tonight. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Queenstown during your stay.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Hotel: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside
Meals: Breakfast

Thu, Jan 9 to Fri, Jan 17 - 2020

Show Itinerary:

Please plan to arrive at your Christchurch hotel by 9:00 a.m. If you are unable to arrive before 9:00 a.m., please contact the hotel so the staff may advise your Trip Leaders.

At 9:00 a.m., meet your Trip Leaders 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, riding primarily on trails in Hagley Park.

Back in Christchurch 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.

Hotel: Chateau on the Park
Meals: Dinner

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 11 km (7 miles)

Morning
Hagley Park Warm-Up: 11 km (7 miles)

What to Expect: Enjoy a warm-up ride, primarily on the trails in Hagley Park, the third-largest city park in the world.

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 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 reel 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 the 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.

Hotel: Beachfront Hotel
Alternate Hotel: Stations Inn
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 29 km (17 miles)

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.

Today, you will enjoy a rewarding mix of biking and walking. Begin after breakfast with a visit to the Greenstone Jade Gallery, where you can admire beautiful pieces carved from this native stone. Later, return to your lodge and pedal out along the delightful West Coast Wilderness Trail, part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail that traces the dramatic shores 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. The tidal Totara lagoon marks the home stretch of your morning ride as you approach 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.

In Ross, you will leave your bike to join the Ross Historic Goldfields walk for a glimpse of the township’s past. Follow the Ross Water Races Walkway uphill to an old water race, or aqueduct, traversing a regenerating native forest. As you hike, you can stop to view old gold-mining sites such as tunnels and dams. The footpath ends at the original Ross Cemetery, where you can contemplate interesting headstones that portray the harshness of life in coastal New Zealand’s early mining days. After, enjoy a well-earned picnic lunch prepared by your Trip Leaders.

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

Hotel: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Alternate Hotel: Aspen Court
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 36 km (22 miles)

Morning
Hokitika to Ross: 36 km (22 miles)

What to Expect: 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. Approaching Ross, you may get a look at Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, and then 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 morning with an easy ride to the historic goldfields of Ross.

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 2 km (1 miles)

Afternoon
Ross Water Race Walkway: 2 km (1 mile)

What to Expect: Leaving from the Heritage Centre, the track climbs to an old water race and then follows this through regenerating native forest and passes through the original Ross Cemetery. The walkway exits at the top of St. James Street, with a short walk back to the starting point.

The day’s activities begin 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! Upon arrival, head to the shore of the Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland. Here, you will don kayak gear and push off with a guide into unspoiled waters teeming with wildlife. More than 70 species of birds make their home here, including the rare kotuku, the Eastern great egret. As you ply the still surface, savor the peace and tranquility of this special place. For closer views of this wildlife haven, disembark your kayak for a walk along a trail built above the shore, affording access to the lagoon’s unique flora and local birds.

For lunch, we’ll sit together in the town’s hall to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Then, embark on an afternoon walk affording spectacular views over the lagoon.

Alternatively, 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. Because it is not possible to guarantee that space will be available on the day of service, especially during high season (mid-December to mid-February), we recommend booking in advance of travel to guarantee your space. Know that your flight must be booked for your layover day in Franz Josef, at 3:00 p.m. or later, and that you will miss the afternoon walk on this day. Your leaders will make arrangements on-site for you to return from Okarito to Franz Josef to meet your heli-hike tour pick-up at the hotel. 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.

Later, return to Franz Josef where you can enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many local restaurants.

Hotel: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Alternate Hotel: Aspen Court
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 4 km (3 miles)

Afternoon
Okarito Trig Walk: 4 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: This super-scenic 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.

This is New Zealand’s Glacier Country, and if the weather allows, your morning and afternoon walks present an opportunity to witness their majesty up close and learn a bit about glaciology along the way. First, 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. Continue your walk in the Fox Glacier area, circumnavigating 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.

Continue on to the 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!

Hotel: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today’s Walk Choices:
Cumulative Distance Range: 4-9 km (3-6 miles)

Morning
Franz Josef Valley Walk: 5 km (3 miles)
Lake Matheson Walk: 4 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.

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.

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 complementary 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 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 and lunch on your own, rejoin the group for dinner at the lodge.

Hotel: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today’s Walk Choices:
Non-Biking/Walking Day: choose from a range of optional and included excursions from the lodge today.

After breakfast, board a two-hour shuttle (the longest transfer 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.

Hotel: Edgewater
Alternate Hotel: Oakridge Resort
Meals: Breakfast

Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 3 km (2 miles)

Morning
Cameron Flat + Blue Pools: 3 km (2 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.

Today’s Ride Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 28 km (17 miles)

Afternoon
Hawea to Wanaka: 28 km (17 miles)

What to Expect: 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.

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 for a walk on Mt. Iron, a glacier-carved knoll on the edge of town. From the summit, take time to admire a magnificent panorama. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea glisten like pearls amid the undulating Cardrona and Clutha valleys and the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps and Mt. Aspiring National Park.

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.

Hotel: Edgewater
Alternate Hotel: Oakridge Resort
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today’s Walk Choice:
Cumulative Distance Range: 5 km (3 miles)

Morning
Mount Iron: 5 km (3 miles)

What to Expect: Mt. Iron rises nearly 250 meters (820 feet) above the surrounding countryside. From the summit, you’ll enjoy excellent 360-degree views of the Pisa range, the Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka, and the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana.

After 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.

Meals: Breakfast

Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With Low-Cost Trip Extensions

Airplane

Air Package Only

Pre-Trip Extension - Auckland

3 Nights From $695 per person, double occupancy

  • 3 nights at the Hilton Auckland
  • Daily full breakfast
  • City Information
  • Airport transfers

Depart from home for Auckland, New Zealand. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your final air itinerary.

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

Upon arrival at the Auckland International Airport, collect your luggage and make your way to Door 8 and the Super Shuttle rank. Give the driver your name and let them know that you are with VBT. Transfer via Super Shuttle to your hotel (approximately 45 minutes). If your flight is delayed, please notify Super Shuttle at 0800-748885. Once you arrive at the hotel, the rest of the day is yours to relax or explore.

Your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 p.m. If you are early, you may store your luggage at the reception desk. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Auckland during your stay.
Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests.

Hotel: Hilton Auckland

Auckland provides an abundance of activities to suit innumerable interests, from museum-going to hiking, from shopping to boating. The Auckland Museum, standing regally in the Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park, chronicles the nation’s long history. The Auckland Art Gallery boasts fine works from national and international artists. You’ll find many opportunities to stroll the waterfront among the busy marinas. Or hop a ferry across the Waitemata Harbor to the charming seaside village of Devonport, where you may browse galleries and shops and stop in a restaurant on Queen Street. Your hotel’s location on the waterfront provides an ideal base for exploring New Zealand’s largest city.

Hotel: Hilton Auckland
Meals: Breakfast

Auckland enjoys a supreme setting on a narrow isthmus between two harbors, Waitemata and Manukau. In the “City of Sails,” so called for its many boating enthusiasts, more than 135,000 yachts and launches are registered. No doubt you’ll see many of them, their masts pointing skyward from their marinas, as you continue to explore today. Perhaps you’ll meander among the blooms at the Auckland Botanic Gardens or ascend the Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere, for sweeping city views.

Hotel: Hilton Auckland
Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast, your Super Shuttle transports you from your Auckland Hotel to the airport for your flight to Christchurch. Please verify with the front desk the pick-up time for your transfer to the airport.

Upon arrival at the Christchurch airport, gather your luggage at the domestic baggage collection area and proceed through the terminal exit Door #7. The Super Shuttle rank is located outside the International Arrivals Hall, next to the taxi rank. Look for your next Super Shuttle vehicle. Give the driver your name and let them know that you are with VBT. Transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to your hotel in Christchurch. If your flight is delayed, please notify Super Shuttle at 0800-748885. Once you arrive at the hotel, the rest of the day is yours to relax or explore.

Your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 p.m. If you are early, you may store your luggage at the reception desk. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Christchurch during your stay. We highly recommend a walk out of the hotel and through the adjacent Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. The Canterbury Museum, Memorial Bridge, and the re-energized Central Business District (CBD) are on the other side of the park and are well worth a visit.

VBT Air Package guests arrive throughout the day.

Hotel: Chateau on the Park
Meals: Breakfast

Airplane

Air Package Only

Post-Trip Extension - Queenstown

2 Nights From $295 per person, double occupancy

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

After 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 to settle into your lakeside hotel. You are then free to head out to explore this lively and vibrant town in a sweeping mountain setting. Perhaps you will embark the historic S.S. Earnslaw and take a leisurely cruise on Lake Wakatipu to a sheep station, or rise above Queenstown on a scenic gondola ride. After a day of exploration, relax at the hotel this evening. Dinner is on your own tonight. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Queenstown during your stay.

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Hotel: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside
Meals: Breakfast

Continue your independent discovery. Renowned for its spirit of adventure, Queenstown offers many ways for you to immerse yourself fully in the great outdoors. Perhaps you will be bold enough to try bungee-jumping or take a thrilling jet-boat ride through the Shotover River Canyons. If you prefer a more relaxing option, join an excursion to breathtaking Milford Sound. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.

Hotel: Novotel Queenstown Lakeside
Meals: Breakfast

Your New Zealand vacation ends today. You’ll transfer by Super Shuttle from the hotel to the Queenstown Airport two hours prior to your scheduled flight departure time. (This transfer is included in your package.)

Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Meals: Breakfast

Reviews

Guest Reviews 25 out of 28 (89%) of reviewers recommend this tour

4.6 out of 5 stars.

Dates & Prices

VBT Vacation + Air Package

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

Single Supplement: $995

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9 Days. Includes VBT vacation only.

Single Supplement: $895

Mon, Oct 28 - Fri, Nov 8

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$6,195

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VBT Vacation + Air Package

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

Single Supplement: $1,045

Departing From Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

VBT Vacation Only

9 Days. Includes VBT vacation only.

Single Supplement: $895

Limited Availability

Mon, Jan 6 - Fri, Jan 17

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For more information, call: 800-245-3868

Please note: Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.

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