New Zealand's Wild West Coast

Blenheim, New Zealand

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With its glorious fjords, glaciers, mountains, lakes, and rivers, the rugged West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is an active traveler's dream. Hike at Franz Josef Glacier, take the famous Queen Charlotte Track, go white-water rafting in Buller Gorge, and picnic below the dramatic Rob Roy Glacier. Fly over the spectacularly remote New Zealand World Heritage Area (Te Wahipounamu) in a helicopter and return by jetboat. Along the way, enjoy exclusive lodges and out-of-the-way hamlets, taste world-class sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, and encounter rare Fiordland crested penguins.


Duration: 11 Days
Starts in: Blenheim, New Zealand
Ends in: Queenstown, New Zealand
Group Size: 4-15

Operated by:

MT Sobek

MT Sobek, the originators, innovators and leaders in adventure travel for more than five decades, crafts journeys to the world's most memorable places.


Arrive in Blenheim

Meet your MT Sobek representative outside of arrivals at the airport in Blenheim. This is the heart of Malborough's renowned wine country, famous for its excellent sauvignon blanc. Relax with lunch at one of the winery restaurants, then check into your hotel. Gather in the evening for a welcome dinner at another winery with the group.

Start the Queen Charlotte Track

Take a stroll around the town of Picton, then set sail across Queen Charlotte Sound towards Ship Cove. Begin your hike on the Queen Charlotte Track, which takes you through a lush coastal forest preserve of tree ferns, nikau palms, and other plants. Stop at the remote Furneaux Lodge, which overlooks the calm, clear water of the bay and is surrounded by virgin forest, unchanged since Captain Cook's first visit to the inlet in 1770. Part of the beauty of this historic destination is the isolation: no roads lead here.

Continue on the Queen Charlotte Track

After breakfast, walk to Punga Cove to take in great views of the Marlborough Sounds before taking a boat ride around Queen Charlotte Sound. The Punga Loop section of the track generally follows the coastline around Endeavour Inlet, much of which consists of regenerating native bush, with a predominance of manuka, kanuka and five finger. Once back in Picton, begin your journey to Nelson. Situated at the top north-west of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand, with long, golden beaches, untouched forests, and rugged mountains.

Sea Kayak to Tonga Island

Start early for an invigorating day of sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. Start at the northern beach of Onetahuti and paddle to Tonga Island, where you can watch a colony of sleek, black seals in their natural environment. Tides permitting, explore the spectacular Tonga Arches and enchanting Shag Harbour, or head south to Bark Bay followed by a lazy drift on Falls River. Stop at a dreamlike golden sand beach for a picnic lunch before returning to Nelson for the evening.

Raft on the Buller River

Don a wetsuit and put in for a raft trip on the Buller River. Experience exhilarating, Class III-IV whitewater rafting as the water surges through granite gorges topped with lush beech forest. Afterward, drive along the river towards the West Coast before heading south to Punakaiki, home to the dramatic limestone country of the Paparoa National Park.

Hike at Paparoa National Park

Spend the morning hiking near Punakaiki in Paparoa National Park. Continue on to the town of Hokitika and take a stroll through the spectacular Hokitika River gorge. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure to explore the wild beach adjacent to your hotel or check out the artisan stores in town, many of which include carvings of locally sourced jade (known here as greenstone).

Explore Okarito

Continue south to the seaside hamlet of Okarito and hike through lush rainforest on a trail above the ocean. At the top, take in 360-degree views of the area, including wild coastline and the glaciated Southern Alps towering dramatically above the rainforest. On a clear day, enjoy stunning views of New Zealand's highest peak, Mt. Cook (known in Maori as Mt. Aoraki). End the day with a hike in the valley below Franz Josef Glacier. Tonight, dinner is on your own.

Visit Franz Josef Glacier

Set out on a morning hike to explore the Franz Josef area on foot. If weather permits, book an optional helicopter ride for aerial views of glaciers and mountains, or book the highly-recommended "Heli-hike" package that takes you onto the glacier by helicopter. Strap on crampons and follow ice steps cut by the guides on a route that takes you through crevasses and ice ridges and leads you onto the middle of the glacier for spectacular views of the icefall and lower glacier.

Wilderness Adventure by Air & Boat

Head inland by private transport and follow the Haast River. Board a helicopter in Makarora and enjoy a spectacular flight into the heart of the 2.7-million-hectare South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, or "Te Wahipounamu." After exploring this incredibly remote and beautiful area, hike alongside the Wilkin River through lush rainforest before meeting your jet boat for an exhilarating ride back to Makarora. Transfer to the Southern Lakes District, where deep blue lakes are surrounded by large snow-capped mountains, and arrive at the idyllic town of Wanaka.

Hike to the Spectacular Rob Roy Glacier

Take an awe-inspiring drive to Mount Aspiring National Park and hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier. This spectacular area was the setting for The Lord of the Rings, and it's one of the best day hikes on the South Island. Hiking up a narrow glacial valley, take in views of tumbling rivers, towering snowfields, and lofty mountain peaks. Travel through forest to a dramatic alpine cirque with fabulous views of the Rob Roy Glacier towering overhead. After lunch, return to the trailhead for a drive back into Wanaka.

Depart from Queenstown

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast in Wanaka before taking one last scenic drive over the Crown Range to Queenstown where the trip ends. Spend a few extra days on your own exploring Queenstown, or fly back to Auckland and connect with your homeward-bound flight.


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