routeburn track river hiking

The Grand Explorer - Fitness

How fit do you need to be for The Grand Explorer?

Most of the people that join our small group guided tours have questions about how fit they need to be and the answer is that as long as you enjoy being out and about in nature you will enjoy yourself on this trip. The Grand Explorer is designed for people who are at a time in their lives when they are looking for comfort and style in their travel yet still want to be out enjoying the great outdoors rather than watching the views pass by their window!

With our small groups of no more than 14 people, we offer you plenty of options and flexibility every day. To make sure everybody gets what they want, we always have "relaxed" and "active" options so that you can choose how much or little activity you enjoy each day. This really is our most flexible, luxury trip.

Day 1: Hike the Kepler Track

After meeting your guides and fellow travellers in Queenstown, you’ll embark on your long-awaited New Zealand adventure. This morning we'll head to Fiordland National Park and if you're feeling up for being active today you'll pop your hiking boots on for your first Great Walk, The Kepler Track. The Kepler Track is renowned for its vivid green moss, native beech forest, and stunning mountain ranges. We’ll walk the section from Rainbow Reach up to Moturau Hut. Following the Waiau River through beech forest and wetlands until we emerge out onto the spectacular viewpoint at the lakeside Moturau Hut.  Our relaxed option today gives you the chance to explore the peaceful town and lakeside walks of Te Anau. Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park. You can take a stroll along the lakefront, explore the local shops or treat yourself to a Kiwi mince pie from the famous Miles Better Pies. 

Kepler Track to Motarau Hut6

Day 2: Milford Sound short walks and cruise Milford Sound

After waking up in Te Anau, it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, seeing Milford Sound! You’ll have time to appreciate Milford’s undeniable grandeur as we cruise to the mouth of the fiord leading out into the wild Tasman Sea. Whether the sun’s shining brightly or the sky’s clouded over, the beauty of Milford Sound never disappoints. In a perfect world, it would be raining heavily as that’s when the fiord’s hundreds of waterfalls are at their most powerful. Get close enough to feel the spray on your face as the thundering torrents cascade down the vertical rock faces – it’s an exhilarating experience.

This afternoon we’ll explore some of the shorter walks in Fiordland National Park including the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk, Mirror Lakes, and a stop at the Homer Tunnel to meet the cheeky Kea birds! These walks are all between 15 and 30 minutes long. 

Day 3: Arrowtown, High Country Lakes, Aoraki/Mount Cook

After a relaxed start this morning, we'll make our way to the gorgeous mountain setting of Arrowtown. Arrowtown is a quaint gold mining town bursting with history. We'll enjoy an optional walk along the Arrow River Trail and have the chance to explore the Chinese Goldmining Settlement. This afternoon we’ll journey to the heart of the Southern Alps, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, an area of vast snow-covered mountains and glacier-fed lakes. 

Arrow River Loop Walk

Day 4: Aoraki/Mt Cook Hiking, Hooker Valley

In the morning there are a few options. Our relaxed option gives you free time to explore the short trails around the village and visit the Edmund Hillary Centre to learn more about the history of the area. Our active option is a walk up the Hooker Valley on a very accessible trail that offers easy walking for anyone that visits Mount Cook National Park. This 8km (5 mile) return journey usually takes the full afternoon (around 4 hours) including breaks for snacks and photos. This is a mostly flat walk on an excellent track surrounded by incredible mountain scenery.

Hooker Valley3

This afternoon we have a short walk (around 10-15 minutes) to the Tasman lake for a boat ride to the face of the Tasman Glacier.

Day 5: Explore Tekapo & Christchurch

The unreal colour of Lake Tekapo contrasts brilliantly against our highest peaks in the distance, creating the perfect backdrop for photos you’ll treasure in years to come. We'll take a walk along the lakefront on the Tekapo Peninsula Walkway before heading through to Christchurch in the afternoon. 

Lake Tekapo Peninsula Map

Day 6: Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Today we head to Kaikoura for a boat trip out to the Kaikoura Peninsula where we'll be keeping watch for giant sperm whales breaching just off the coast. We may even spot playful Dusky dolphins and majestic Albatross birds!

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Day 7: Marlborough Sounds Wine Tasting and Abel Tasman National Park

Today is a relaxed, scenic day as we travel toward Abel Tasman Park, with plenty of lovely stops along the way. The Marlborough Sounds region isn't complete without a delicious lunch and a spot of wine tasting before we venture onward.

Lunch at Kinross Vineyard, Gibbston, Otago

Day 8: Explore Kaiteriteri and water taxi to Torrent Bay

You'll have the morning to explore Abel Tasman National Park today. Your guides will help you book any activities you'd like to do from kayaking to boat trips, or just spend the day enjoying the beach town of Kaiteriteri. This afternoon we'll take a water taxi to our beachside accommodation in Torrent Bay in the heat of Abel Tasman National Park. 

Torrent Bay Lodge

Day 9: Hike the Abel Tasman Track towards Awaroa

Your walk today follows the coastal track through cool native forest and reaches golden sand beaches, perfect for swimming. We have both a relaxed and active option today, so you can choose how much (or little) you'd like to walk! If you'd prefer to spend your time relaxing at the lodge or on the golden shores of Awaroa today rather than walking we can arrange a water taxi to transport you the whole way instead. 

Relaxed Option - 2 hrs of walking (4.1km/2.5 miles)

The relaxed option is a 2 hr walk from Torrent Bay to Medlands Beach (4.1km/2.5 miles). You'll cross the photogenic swing bridge beside stunning Bark Bay Falls before taking some extra time to relax on the golden sands of Bark Bay. You'll then continue on to picturesque Medlands Beach where a water taxi will meet you to take you to Awaroa Homestead. You'll have plenty of time this afternoon to enjoy the beachfront lodge.

Torrent Bay to Bark Bay2

Active Option - 4 hrs of walking (11km/6.9mi)

The active option today starts at Torrent Bay alongside the Relaxed option. You'll cross the photogenic swing bridge beside stunning Bark Bay Falls before stopping for lunch at the golden sand beach of Bark Bay. From Bark Bay you'll continue along the coastal track to Tonga Quarry where your water taxi will meet you to whisk you to Awaroa Homestead Lodge. You'll arrive at the lodge in the mid-afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy Awaroa beach. 

Torrent Bay to Tonga Quarry

Day 10: Hike the Abel Tasman Track from Awaroa to Totaranui and water taxi to Kaiteriteri

This morning we'll walk from the Meadowbank Homestead on the Awaroa Inlet to Tōtaranui. You'll walk through mature native forests and along secluded beaches to the breathtaking white sand beach of Tōtaranui. This is an easy coastal walk with beautiful views. You'll then board a comfortable cruise boat to travel the length of the golden Abel Tasman coast from Tōtaranui to Kaiteriteri, you can relax on the viewing decks and enjoy refreshments from the onboard cafe. If you'd prefer to spend your time relaxing at Kaiteriteri rather than walking we can arrange a water taxi to transport you from Awaroa to Kaiteriteri. 

Awaroa to Totaranui2

Day 11: Hike in Paparoa National Park and Franz Josef Glacier Track

Towering limestone cliffs, lush rainforest, the crashing ocean... you've entered what feels like Jurassic Park! We have a stunning hike today in the Paparoa National Park - an easy underfoot track that takes around 2 hours and then a short hike to see the famous Franz Josef Glacier.

Punakaiki Pororari river walk2

Franz Josef Glacier 2022

Day 12: Scenic helicopter into Mount Aspiring National Park, hike and wilderness jet boat

Today we are heading out on an adventure you will remember forever into a remote backcountry spot with out-of-this-world scenery. The day begins with a scenic helicopter ride into the Siberia Valley to a stunning lunch spot before we start our wild country hike. We'll be walking on a clearly marked trail through open tussock land and ancient rainforest over undulating terrain. The walk is around 7kms long (4.3 miles) and will take up to 3 hours - we'll take our time to enjoy the scenery arriving at the rendezvous point in time to be picked up by our trusty jet boat driver for an exhilarating end to a wonderful day.

Siberia Valley elevation map

Day 13: Mou Waho Island

The hike to the viewpoint on Mou Waho is a short climb in (200m/650 feet) and then downhill on the way back. There’s a lot to see and learn so we take our time. The return distance is around 5km (3 miles). We are on the island for around 2.5 hours in total.

Mou Waho Island2

Day 14: Routeburn Track Hiking

You can choose how far you want to walk today on this most famous of tracks. 

Relaxed Option - 2 hrs of walking (8.2km/5.1 miles)

The relaxed option today is a 2-3 hour return walk to Forge Flats. The trail is easy underfoot the whole way, with a very gradual climb on the way in and downhill on the way back. We have all day to enjoy ourselves so there’s no hurry and you'll really enjoy the changing scenery as you make your way in. 

Routeburn Track to Forge Flats

Active Option - 5-6 hrs of walking (13km/8 miles)

The active option continues on from Forge Flats to Routeburn Flats Hut. The trail continues through beech forest and alongside the crystal clear Routeburn river to the wide open expanse of Routeburn Flats.

Routeburn to flats hut2