Discover the South Island without the crowds on our 14-day New Zealand Winter Adventure ‘Winter Rimu’ hiking trip. To let you in on a secret, exploring the dramatic landscapes of the South Island during New Zealand’s winter months is largely underrated. Between May and September, ski fields come to life and mountains look spectacular covered in snow. However, trails once busy during the summer months are now exclusively yours and huts once packed full of keen hikers sit empty, waiting for a small group to enjoy their beauty. Our ‘Winter Rimu’ adventure has been crafted specifically for our mild winters. You’ll enjoy a sunrise cruise on Milford Sound, soak in hot pools under vibrant stars at Welcome Flats Hut on the Copland Track, hike the Kepler Track, Mt Aspiring National Park and under the towering mountains of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. If you’re ready to see New Zealand in all its beauty, our New Zealand Winter Adventure is calling your name.
Duration: 5-14 days
Activity Level: 4
Trip Start: Christchurch
Trip Ends: Christchurch
• Experienced Active Adventures guides
• Meals and snacks (except on days specified in the itinerary where there is freedom for you to enjoy sampling the local cafes, eateries and bars)
• All your activities (although there are optional extras available if you want more)
• Transport for the duration of your trip
Arrive, hike Mt John
Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday evening, arriving into Auckland early Monday 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 then head to Lake Tekapo for a hike along the lakeshore before emerging above the treeline on Mt John for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Then we’ll carry on to the remote and beautiful Lake Ohau Lodge. The lodge is tucked in beside an alpine lake, with stunning views stretching across to Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Alps – the ideal spot to soak in the hot tub and star gaze! Today is a relaxed introduction to New Zealand. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll probably find jetlag is no big deal. For instance, it’s a 12 to 13 hour direct overnight flight from the west coast of the USA to Auckland so you’ll appreciate the gentle start to your New Zealand adventure.
Hike Aoraki Mt Cook National Park or ski/snowboard Ohau Ski Area
After a late breakfast on the balcony overlooking Lake Ohau, we’ll take an impressive hike at the head of Lake Pukaki, up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake complete with icebergs! This is a great spot for lunch and on a clear day, the views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, are stunning. We’ll return to the lodge where we’ll enjoy a sumptuous dinner. An option today is to spend the day skiing at the small and friendly Ohau Ski Area, one of the South Island’s more remote backcountry ski fields (for approx. US$125 including gear rental).
Hike Mt Aspiring National Park and Wanaka options
This morning we’ll leave Ohau and head through the Lindis Pass to Wanaka – a small alpine village on the shores of Lake Wanaka. After lunch, we head off for our various activities.
Option A, Hike and overnight in Mt Aspiring National Park
Day 3 (afternoon) – Hike and overnight in Mt Aspiring National Park
After leaving Wanaka, we’ll venture up the Matukituki Valley and hike two to three hours into Mt Aspiring National Park to reach our home for the evening – a spacious mountain hut nestled in a valley in the middle of nowhere. The track meanders past majestic peaks, fresh mountain streams and natural beech forest. You’ll be carrying a sleeping bag, a few spare clothes and some food, so your pack won’t weigh much more than a regular day pack. The scenery is off the charts with Mt Aspiring rising 3033 metres (9951 feet) into the blue sky. It’s amazing how far you’ll feel from civilisation after this relatively short walk! Tonight your guide will whip up dinner in the backcountry kitchen while you relax by the fire.
Day 4 (morning) – Hike to trailhead
We have a leisurely start today, enjoying breakfast and a cuppa while admiring the view, before hiking back to the trailhead. Along the way, we might encounter the cheeky kea – they’re really inquisitive and like to get pretty close at times!
Option B, Explore Wanaka
Day 3 (afternoon) – Explore Wanaka
Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand and surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains. There are great walking trails and biking tracks in the area, as well as jet boating and kayaking. It’s well worth a visit to the famed Warbirds and Wheels Museum, which is home to an amazing collection of old fighter planes and classic cars. Whether you’re skipping stones on the lake’s edge or relaxing by the fire at the lodge, Wanaka is a great spot to rediscover simple pleasures.
Day 4 (morning) – Explore Wanaka
After a relaxed breakfast, you’ll have the morning to yourselves before meeting up with the rest of the group.
After regrouping in Wanaka, we’ll head out for a bike ride along the lakeshore, and then 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.
Free day in Queenstown
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) and all the comforts of civilisation are packed into this tiny resort town: restaurants galore, stylish lounge bars, day spas, and boutiques. You’ll also find incredible optional activities here, including horse trekking, a gondola, fishing, winery tours, an historic steamship, bungy jumping, jet boating and skydiving as well as some great hiking opportunities. Or you can just soak up the atmosphere by the fire at one of the local cafés or pubs. Your guides will happily share their favourite haunts and point you in the right direction for your free day today. Alternatively, you can go skiing or snowboarding for the day at one of four nearby ski areas (approximate cost US$150 for ski or snowboard hire, transport and lift pass – available as snow conditions suit, generally from June to September).
Hike Kepler Track and explore Te Anau glow worm caves
After breakfast, we’ll travel to Lake Te Anau to hike the Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’. Unlike most of the other ‘Great Walks’, which evolved from Maori greenstone trails or pioneer exploration routes, the Kepler Track was custom-made, built for pleasure rather than necessity. The track has been carefully crafted to show walkers all the very best features of Fiordland, from the prolific bird life and tussock high country, to the huge mountain ranges and vast glacier-carved valleys. This evening we’ll take a boat journey across Lake Te Anau to a glittering grotto of glow worms. These fascinating bugs light the way in a 200 metre system of caves, underground waterfalls, sculpted walls and swirling pools. From the darkness of the glow worm caves, we’ll head back into the light of Te Anau where we’ll stay the night.
Cruise on Milford Sound, explore Fiordland National Park
This morning we’ll head towards Milford Sound on one of the most dramatically scenic drives in the world. We’ll pass through the Eglinton Valley, and wind our way through the mountains of Fiordland. Our drive takes us through the Homer Tunnel, an astounding feat of human engineering which must be seen to be believed. Once we arrive you’ll have the opportunity to explore Milford Sound and hopefully spot some friendly fur seals and dolphins. We’ll jump on board a boat cruise, where you’ll gaze in wonder at the waterfalls tumbling down enormous vertical rock faces all around, and journey right out to the entrance of the fiord. This afternoon, we’ll explore the Fiordland wilderness on foot to check out some of its endemic flora and fauna, like the kea (Nestor notabilis), New Zealand’s notoriously cheeky and intelligent alpine parrot and the kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticate), the world’s largest fuchsia.
Scenic journey to the West Coast
Today, we’ll be making the scenic journey past beautiful rolling farmland and around the edge of Lake Wakatipu, leaving the dry-arid mountains behind us as we continue driving on the stunning road between Lake Wanaka and Hawea. There will be plenty of time for photo stops and we’ll have some lunch on the way before continuing over the Haast Pass, down into impressively dense rain forest as we near the West coast – a long stretch of gorgeous, rugged coastline with a population of only 40,000 people. We’ll mingle with the ‘coasters’ tonight in the tiny township of Haast, exchanging tales of our adventures at the local pub in front of a roaring fire.
Hike to Copland Valley hot pools, Westland National Park
Today we’ll hike into a stunningly beautiful mountain basin, set directly underneath the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, with an awesome highlight – natural hot pools! It’s a challenging six to seven hour hike 17 kilometres (10 miles) up the Copland Valley with a gradual elevation gain, but it’s absolutely worth it. Our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. All you’ll be carrying is a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food. Tonight, we stay in one of New Zealand’s most spacious backcountry huts, a comfortable two-level building. One of the best things about hiking this track in winter is that we may well have the hut all to ourselves! While you soak in the natural hot pools your guide will whip up a hearty dinner.
Hike up the Valley
Today we’ll hike further up the track for even more amazing scenery and views of multiple glaciers clinging to the top of the mountain valley. If you prefer, you can have a relaxing day at the hut – soak in the hot pools, enjoy the stunning scenery, or relax with a good book. Either way, the hot pools are without a doubt the star attraction here, closely followed by the dramatic scenery.
Hike Copland Valley
An early start sees us on the track, a great time to be hikng with the fresh morning air and stillness. You’ll be feeling sprightly today after a relaxing evening in the rejuvinating hot pools and with the slightly downhill gradient, you’ll be in ‘cruise mode’ on the outward hike. Once back at the trailhead, we’ll rest our bodies with a scenic journey up the coast to the township of Franz Josef where we’ll stay for the next couple of nights. Nestled in the rainforest-clad foothills of the Southern Alps, Franz Josef is the heart of New Zealand glacier country.
Kayak Okarito Lagoon, hike near Franz Josef Glacier
This morning we’ll make a short journey over to Okarito, a little-known beach community on the coast. We’ll take to the water in sea kayaks and glide along the picturesque lagoon, set against a stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Okarito is home to the only native white heron colony in New Zealand, as well as a host of other interesting birds. Once back in Franz Josef, you’ll have the option to take another hike to the terminal face for exceptional glacier views or relax in the hot tub, before enjoying a traditional Kiwi roast dinner.
Hike Punakaiki rainforest and beaches
This morning, we’ll travel along the coast to check out local art galleries and a pounamu carving workshop (pounamu is Maori for jade) in Hokitika. After lunch, we carry on to Punakaiki, where we’ll hike the Inland Pack Track through temperate rainforest and limestone canyons in the footsteps of the gold miners who established this trail over a century ago. While we’re in Punakaiki, we’ll also check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes – aptly named limestone formations that have been sculpted through relentless pounding by the Tasman Sea. Tonight we’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner for the last night of your trip.
Depart for home
We’ll leave after breakfast for the beautiful journey over Arthurs Pass to Christchurch. This is the last day of your ‘Winter Rimu’ trip, and we’ll leave you refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you’ll have had with us in New Zealand’s winter landscape.
The accommodation varies from trip to trip and day-to-day – you’ll stay in a variety of places from jungle lodges to mountain huts, local motels and friendly lodges. Active Adventures focuses on getting you out into amazing places in the most stunning parts of the world, so this isn’t a tour of the world’s fanciest hotels! Another focus of Active Adventures is having a good place to rest and rejuvenate at the end of a busy day, and to make sure you are fully charged for the next day’s activities, so you’ll always find yourself in a clean, comfortable room, quite often with a spectacular view.
Below is a sample of some of the amazing places you’ll stay in:
This historic stone hut in the spectacular Matukituki Valley is a great overnight tramp for families with children or those new to tramping.
The main hut has 4 bunk rooms on the upper level of the building.
You must be fully equipped, including with gas cooker and cooking equipment – you aren’t able to use the facilities in the Sierra Room.
All prices are per person twin share and unless otherwise stated, are in Australian dollars, are correct at the time of publication and subject to change without notice.
This tour operates May through to September. Please contact us for available dates.
In the event you need to cancel your trip, the following cancellation charges will apply:
• Cancellation 91 days before trip departure: Full trip payment refunded, less deposit
• Cancellation 90-61 days before trip departure: 50% of trip payment refunded. 50% forfeit.
• Cancellation 60-0 days before trip departure: 100% forfeit.
Any deposits not transferred to future trips are non-refundable and will be forfeited. All refunds are less any non-refundable expenses incurred by Active Adventures.
Requested changes to your trip and/or date must be made prior to 90 days before your departure. In the event you need to change your trip and/or date, the following will apply:
• One change (trip and/or date): free of charge
• Second and subsequent changes: A fee of 300 per person per change consistent with the currency in which your booking was made (USD $300, CAD $300, NZD $300, GBP £300, EUR €300, AUD $300)
• New trip pricing (where applicable) will apply for all changes
A cancellation or postponement will take effect from the date which Active Adventures receives written notification of the cancellation or postponement. This cancellation policy includes voluntary or involuntary early departure from a trip. No refunds will be given for missed or unused services such as accommodation, activities or meals. We strongly recommend travel insurance which covers cancellation fees at the time of booking.
*Cancellation and postponement terms and conditions may differ for certain group trips, as well as Cruises, Private Journeys, and Extensions. These exceptions are clearly indicated in the detailed itineraries for each of these trips.
We occasionally may have to cancel any trip at any time before departure for commercial reasons beyond our control, including if the minimum numbers required to operate the trip are not reached. If we do have to cancel your trip, you can transfer the fare to an alternate departure date for no additional fee or alternatively opt for a refund, including your deposit.
In circumstances where the cancellation is due to any conditions or event outside our control, including but not limited to natural disasters, pandemics, border restrictions, terrorism or political instability, Active Adventures will re-book you on an alternative trip or will offer you a future trip credit valid for 24 months.
If you’re re-booked to a new departure, as a result of your booking being cancelled by us or force majeure, the cancellation terms in effect on the date when your booking was changed will apply for your new booking.
All credits and refunds resulting from cancellations for any reason will be less any non-refundable expenses incurred by Active Adventures. Active Adventures is not responsible for any additional expenses you may have incurred as a result of your booking, including but not limited to visas, vaccinations, medical expenses, clothing, equipment, testing, quarantine, travel insurance excess or non-refundable flights.