Family Adventure in New Zealand
13 days / Year Round
Pricing is based on group size and seasonality, please check with us to secure the best pricing.
• Hike through New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery with treks through Mt. Cook National Park, the South Westland World Heritage Area, Mt. Aspiring National Park, and Franz Josef Glacier.
• Raft through Skippers Canyon, a stunning and safe family river trip.
• Learn to kayak on scenic Lake Mapourika.
• Race through Rakaia Gorge’s winding waterways on a jet boat.
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN AUCKLAND
Most people leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Sunday evening, arriving in Auckland early Tuesday morning. You’ll lose a day crossing the dateline – but you get it back on the way home! You’ll take a short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by around 10am, and we’ll meet your family either in central Christchurch or at the airport. Our first port of call is Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, where you’ll get a great introduction to the wildlife of a country that has been isolated from the rest of the world for over 80 million years! Willowbank offers the unique chance to actually enter the animals’ enclosures and even pat some of the more friendly critters! You can see tuatara lizards, the elusive kiwi, wallabies (small kangaroos), and the kea – our cheeky mountain parrot. After an afternoon exploring, we’ll head south and inland to Methven.
Day 2: RAKAIA GORGE
After a hearty breakfast and relaxed start to the morning, we will head out on a thrilling jet boat ride through the winding Rakaia Gorge. Jet boats are fast and maneuverable and were originally invented by New Zealander William Hamilton, to navigate New Zealand’s narrow shallow rivers. You’ll be jetting down rapids, braided river sections and through shallow water less than a foot deep in places. This fun, yet safe, activity is suitable for the whole family.
From Methven, we’ll travel a short distance south to Peel Forest to hike through ancient podocarp forest dense with many varieties of ferns. The fern is New Zealand’s national symbol. After lunch, we’ll travel inland to Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, and Lake Pukaki, an unworldly turquoise-blue coloured glacial lake.
At night, the wide open spaces, regular clear evenings and lack of artificial light will give us the perfect opportunity to gaze at the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations, including the Southern Cross and Orion’s Belt.
Day 3: AORAKI/MT. COOK NATIONAL PARK
In the morning, we’ll take a short drive to Mt. Cook village at the head of Lake Pukaki. We have a few hikes to choose from in this area and our favorite is the stunning and little-known day hike (weather permitting) to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It’s a tough slog, but it’s a real achievement for the whole family to share and you’ll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the surrounding peaks of the Main Divide forever! Of course, nothing’s mandatory and we always have plenty of options, so there will be easier hikes available, too. Because this is a true alpine climate, we are always very aware of the weather conditions, which sometimes shift quite suddenly. If we aren’t able to do the Mueller hike, we’ll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs!
Day 4: RAFTING NEAR QUEENSTOWN
In the morning, we’ll head through the mountains to Queenstown, with a stop along the way for the best ice cream in New Zealand! We’ll then continue on through fruit orchards and vineyards before arriving in Queenstown for a family rafting trip in Skippers Canyon. Set in a deep, beautiful, rose-lined schist gorge, it’s a spectacular trip – perfect for the whole family. We will spend several days in Queenstown, so you’ll have plenty of time to wander about and explore, and you’ll find all sorts of options to keep you and the kids busy.
Day 5: FREE DAY IN QUEENSTOWN
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand! You’ll find all the comforts of civilization here, and plenty of family entertainment: lakeside walks, a gondola, luge rides, restaurants and cinemas. There are plenty of things to keep you and your kids occupied! Queenstown is not a big place – the population is about 8000 – so if you want to take it easy it’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the atmosphere. There are also some more adventurous activities such as bungee jumping, horse trekking, skydiving and fishing – it’s all here!
Day 6: EXPLORE QUEENSTOWN
Today you can check out more of the amazing scenery and history of the area with your guide, or you can do your own thing with your family. This will also be a great chance for parents to have some time on their own while we look after the kids. We’ll take a short drive to the historic village of Arrowtown and explore an old Chinese gold mining area. You can try your hand at gold panning – in 2006 a man found a gold nugget worth $15,000 in this area! After lunch, we will choose between a hike up Queenstown Hill, cycling around the lake front, or even a game of Frisbee golf in the Queenstown Botanical Gardens.
Day 7 & 8: MT. ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK AND WANAKA OPTIONS
In the morning, we’ll leave Queenstown and head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. At the time of booking, you have the choice of one of two different overnight options: a backpacking trip in Mt. Aspiring National Park, or an overnight stay at Wanaka, a small alpine village on the shores of Lake Wanaka. After lunch, we will head off for our various activities.
MT. ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK OPTION
Day 7 (con’t): After leaving Wanaka we’ll venture up the Matukituki Valley and hike into Mt. Aspiring National Park, to reach our camp for the evening – a mountain hut nestled in the valley. The track meanders through a World Heritage Area with majestic peaks, fresh mountain streams, and a natural beech forest. Everyone will carry a pack, but it won’t weigh much more than a regular day pack. You’ll be carrying a sleeping bag, a few spare clothes and some food – no need for any more than that, and we can provide tents and camping gear if you want to camp under the stars. Mt. Aspiring Hut is a spacious mountain hut, with Mt. Aspiring looming 10,000 feet above you. Your guide will whip up dinner in the backcountry kitchen, while you and the kids relax in front of the fireplace and play cards or tell stories! To minimise our impact on this beautiful but fragile environment, we limit availability on this option.
Day 8: We will begin with a leisurely breakfast and a cuppa while admiring the view, before hiking back to the trailhead. Along the way we might encounter the cheeky kea again – this time in its natural habitat. Even though we don’t feed them, you’ll find they come really close in the hope you’ll throw some chocolate their way!
Day 7 (con’t): Wanaka is a charming country town set on the edge of our fourth largest lake and surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains. You can indulge in the hikes on great walking trails, biking on the local tracks, jet boating, or a visit to the famed Fighter Pilots Museum, home to an amazing collection of old fighter planes. Your time in Wanaka is also a great chance to just soak up the atmosphere, whether you’re skipping stones on the lake’s edge or relaxing by the fire at the lodge.
Day 8: After a relaxed breakfast you’ll have the morning to do your own thing before meeting up with the rest of the group.
After regrouping at Wanaka, we’ll head to Puzzling World for a run through one of the world’s largest modern mazes, boasting more than a mile of passageways. Kids of all ages really enjoy trying to beat our wily guides through the labyrinth! We will spend the evening in a lovely family-style homestead in Makarora, and share stories about our experiences over the last couple of days.
Day 9: WEST COAST
In the morning, we’ll travel over Haast Pass to the wild West Coast, stopping on a deserted West Coast beach to stretch our legs and look out for friendly dolphins that often pass by this area. A little further north takes us to Lake Matheson for a short walk where you will be rewarded with awesome vistas of the Southern Alps stretching to Mt. Cook in the distance. In the afternoon, we’ll get settled into our accommodations in Franz Josef, where we’ll be staying for the next two nights. After dark we can head out with flashlights for a short night walk to look for the native glow worm and to listen for some of New Zealand’s nocturnal birdlife, such as the Morepork.
Day 10: LAKE MAPOURIKA AND FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER
We’ll wake up early for our kayaking trip on Lake Mapourika. This ancient lake was formed during the last ice age and its tranquility provides a great introduction to kayaking. Run by specialist kayak outfitters, this astounding trip is equally suitable for beginners and experts. After lunch, we’ll take a hike up to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier for breathtaking views. Franz Josef Glacier – one of the steepest and fastest-moving glaciers in the world – descends right down through the lush rainforest, almost to sea level, from its névé high in the Southern Alps.
Heli-Hike Option: After kayaking, you can choose to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes, and so on, you’ll board a modern turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 4,000 feet above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you’ll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs, and tunnels – no previous experience required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice, and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice you’ll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains and back to civilization. The heli-hike is extremely popular, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, you can reserve a space on the heli-hike, and we’ll make sure a spot is held for you. Or you can leave your decision until you’re actually on your trip, and we’ll get you a spot if it’s available
Day 11: BUSHMAN’S CENTRE AND HOKITIKA
In the morning, we’ll head further up the coast to the Bushman’s Centre – a living museum that combines an interactive history of the West Coast’s early settlers with the chance to introduce the kids to brush-tail possums. We’ll then continue to Hokitika, where you can spend a little time checking out the local art galleries and pounamu-carving workshops (“pounamu” is Maori for jade). The beach here is also a great place for playing games or making sculptures out of the driftwood and rocks washed up on the sand.
Day 12: CASTLE HILL BASIN
After breakfast, we’ll head back through the Southern Alps, across the Otira viaduct, before arriving at the start of our last hike together. We’ll head up to the top of Flock Hill near Cave Stream in the Southern Alps, a superb viewpoint for the nearby Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges. It’s a bit of a climb, but it’s worth every step as we arrive at an eerie limestone landscape where much of the movie “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was filmed. In the afternoon, we will head to Flock Hill Station – a stunning location for our final night together.
Day 13: SPRINGFIELD AND DEPARTURE
In the morning we’ll head to the small farming community of Springfield at the foothills of the mountains, where we’ll check out a working New Zealand high-country sheep farm. We’ll watch highly trained huntaway dogs rounding up stock and see a live sheep shearing demonstration. Everyone will have the chance to join in and give sheep shearing a go. Then it’s onto Christchurch, where we started our adventure. We’ll arrive by lunchtime and help you get to the airport on time to catch your return flight.
As part of our continued efforts at sustainability, we are sponsoring a native seedling and re-planting program on the West Coast of the South Island. This means that eventually for every client who participates in one of our adventures, we will plant a tree for them. Just by coming, you’re helping to reforest this unique ecosystem!