kiwi classic fitness hiking nelson lakes

Kiwi Classic – Fitness Guide

How fit do you need to be to take on the Kiwi Classic trip?

This is New Zealand Trails' most physically challenging trip and although we rate the 'Kiwi Classic' as 'moderately active' overall, there are plenty of options to choose from to make it 'very active' every day. Likewise, we also offer more gentle options to suit your mood, so you have plenty of freedom to choose. If you want to enjoy the outdoors surrounded by dramatic scenery while happily marinating in exercise-induced endorphins, the Kiwi Classic is for you!

The activities on this trip are designed to challenge you, but leave you feeling energised and rewarded at the end of the day. Walk away with a grin, strong thighs and a real sense of accomplishment.

Day 1: Hike Ben Lomond

Time for sunshine and fresh mountain air! After introductions, we’ll head for our first hike of the trip, the heart pumping Ben Lomond track. This steady climb will reward you with 365 degree views across Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. We'll hike to either the saddle or the summit, whichever suits you.

Ben Lomond

Day 2: Hike Routeburn Track to Key Summit

Today after our morning boat cruise of Milford Sound we'll boot up for a good climb up to the Key Summit on the famous Routeburn Track. People hiking the entire 3-day route usually finish the Routeburn Track here so you may meet others coming down the hill, but we're going up through the forest, past beautiful waterfalls and into the alpine region for the amazing views from Key Summit. We'll stop for a bit at the top before heading back down to the Divide. We'll be out for about 3 hours in total on this hike.

Key Summit track

Day 3: Biking trails near Queenstown

Today we'll pick up bikes in the quaint gold mining town of Arrowtown and ride along a purpose-built cycle trail next to the Kawarau River towards the world’s first commercial bungy bridge, which is as busy as ever today as it has been since the 80s! We'll continue to ride past homesteads, meadows, mountains and vineyards and you can take it at your own pace racing along if you like, or just cruising - you decide. When we're done it's time for a spot of wine-tasting to reward your efforts before we make our way to Mount Cook.

Arrowtown to kawarau suspension bridge

Day 4: Choice of Hiking options in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

There's a flatter option or a serious climbing option on offer for you today. It's up to you but whichever hike you choose to tackle you'll be rewarded with incredible scenery in this UNESCO World Heritage area under the watchful gaze of Aoraki/Mt Cook – New Zealand's highest peak.

The flatter option is the 8km (5 mile) Hooker Valley Trail, which is one of the most popular walks in the park and you'll soon find out why. Follow the valley all the way to an alpine lake complete with icebergs and incredible views of the dramatic mountains surrounding you, including the awe-inspiring Mount Cook. For flower lovers, the Hooker Valley is one of the best places to see Mount Cook lilies when in season. It's a 3-4 hour return journey in this alpine region and will leave you with rosy cheeks and a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Hooker valley track

The more physically challenging option is to take on the steep but spectacular hike up to Sealy Tarns or for a further challenge push those legs on up further to Mueller Hut via the Mueller Ridge for absolutely spectacular alpine views. The Sealy Tarns are reached via a steady and steep climb on a well-built track (think: Stairmaster) and the views are worth every drop of sweat, even by South Island standards.

White Horse carpark to Sealy Tarns

If you continue up further to the Mueller Ridge you'll be well into alpine elevations and you'll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views usually reserved for technical mountaineers. Serious bragging rights if you go for this one! And probably burning thighs the next day. 

White horse carpark mueller ridge

Day 5: Travel from Mount Cook to Kaikoura (East Coast)

Today will be spent travelling from the middle of the South Island to the East Coast, stopping at stunning lakes, interesting towns and stopping for a few short walks to stretch our legs. On arrival in Kaikoura you are free to walk, run or explore the town at your leisure.

Sunset, Kaikoura, Canterbury New Zealand

From mountains to the coast, today you'll watch the sun set in Kaikoura, then dream of dolphins.

Day 6: Swim with Dolphins & head to Nelson

It's an early and adventurous start to the day as we head out to sea for an open-water swimming with dolphins experience. The Dusky Dolphins are well known for their acrobatics and interactive behaviour and the operators of the trips are marine experts and all interaction is carried out in a way that is respectful of the dolphins and sympathetic to their natural behaviours. You will have the incredible experience of swimming in the ocean surrounded by up to 400 dolphins speeding along around you - it's often described as the most exhilarating and exciting experience of people's lives!

Swimming with Dolphins, Kaikoura, Canterbury

Get up close and personal with wild dolphins!

Day 7: Free Day in Nelson

Optional activities include a sea kayaking trip in Abel Tasman, hiring bikes, walking on the Abel Tasman track or exploring the town. You will also need to prepare for your multi-day hike or sea kayaking trip that starts tomorrow.

Dining in Nelson

Unwind and enjoy this cruisy seaside town.

Day 8:
Hiking option: Nelson Lakes Angelus Circuit Backpacking Trip
Kayaking option: Sea Kayak Abel Tasman National Park

Note: There are two options for Days 8/9/10 of the Kiwi Classic - you choose your adventure!

Hiking option:

The Nelson Lakes National Park is at the northern end of the Southern Alps where ancient glaciers have shaped a dramatic landscape, leaving in their wake hanging U-shaped valleys and tarns surrounded by a series of mountains up to 2340m high. We'll load up our packs with our belongings for the next three days and begin our hike from St Arnaud to the Lakehead hut round the waters of Lake Rotoiti. It's a good warm up hike for what lies ahead, with undulating terrain making its way round the lake to the hut at the end. We'll hike for about 3 hours to get there.

St arnaud lakehead hut

Kayaking option:

Abel Tasman is world famous for its golden beaches, towering granite cliffs and beautifully clear warm water – it’s sea kayaking paradise, justly famous for its paddling, which suits beginners as well as more experienced. Today you’ll explore the beautiful Shag Harbour and the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Keep your eyes out for playful New Zealand fur seals on your way to Bark Bay.

Awaroa Bay to Bark Bay kayak

Day 9:
Hiking option: Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut
Kayaking option: Sea Kayak Bark Bay to Apple Tree Bay

Hiking option:

It's a big day today and one of the highlights of our trip. Remember you will have prepared fully for this day with all your other hikes and you will feel well prepared for what is ahead. We'll take the whole day to make our way up to the Angelus hut, with snack and lunch stops, travelling 9.4km (5.8 miles) over around 6-8 hours with a decent climb. There is a river crossing at the beginning of the day, where your guide will choose a safe crossing point and give you a full briefing on how to safely make your way across - the water will be no deeper than mid-calf level allowing you to easily walk to the other side. You will then make your way upwards, climbing through ferns and greenery in the forest before you break through the tree line into the alpine region where you'll clearly see the route up the valley ahead. You'll eventually reach the hut where you'll stay for the night. If you still have the energy to burn there is a 1-hour return hike to the top of the ridge for more epic views.

Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut

Kayaking option:

Be mesmerised by the sculpted granite coastline, multiple lagoons, and seal colonies as we head south. We’ll explore the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, and then kayak down to Apple Tree Bay. Depending on the tides, we’ll also explore Frenchman’s and Torrent Bay lagoons before heading further south to set up camp for our second night.

Bark Bbay to Apple Tree Bay kayak

Day 10:
Hiking option: Angelus Hut to St Arnaud
Kayaking option: Apple Tree Bay to Marahau

Hiking option:

It's an exciting hike today as we make our way down Robert's Ridge, walking over boulder fields and on some rocky undulating terrain. You'll be hiking for about 6 hours today taking plenty of breaks and enjoying the incredible adventure you have undertaken. Keep an eye out for alpine flora like the pretty white Gentian flowers. The track becomes increasingly well-formed as you make your way down and soon develops into a number of switchbacks as Lake Rotoiti comes back into view. You'll soon arrive at the car park where your welcoming vehicle awaits. Well done!

Angelus hut to carpark Roberts Ridge

Kayaking option:

We’ll finish our Abel Tasman kayaking trip with a morning paddle from our campsite through the Astrolabe Roadstead and back to Marahau. After disembarking from your trusty kayak, your guides will drive you south through to St Arnaud where we will all regroup.

Apple Tree Bay to Marahau Kayak

Day 11: Hike Paparoa National Park

Following our adventures in Nelson Lakes (or Abel Tasman for the sea kayakers) National Park we take it a bit easier today, taking a walk to warm down our muscles on a track that introduces you to the wonders of the West Coast. The track combines the southern section of the Inland Pack Track with the Pororari River Track, crossing the Punakaiki River via a footbridge and then following a gentle climb through rain forest over the ridge dividing the two rivers. You'll be out for around 2 hours walking around 7km (4.3 miles). We will also take a short walk to visit the famous Pancake Rocks before travelling on to Hokitika and Okarito.

Punakaiki Pororari river track

Day 12: Kayak Okarito Lagoon and Hike to the Okarito Trig

You will receive a full briefing and a route suggestion for your kayaking trip on the calm inland waters of the Okarito Lagoon this morning. You will be out for around 2 hours so you can paddle as fast or slow as you like (just pick a partner who wants to go at the same pace, or be willing to do the hard work!) to explore the waterways and see the beautiful scenery and wildlife in the area. There are 76 species of native birds here including white heron and royal spoonbills! A support boat is on hand at all times if required.

Okarito lagoon track

Okarito Trig walk

In the afternoon you can either opt to explore the town, relax with a book or take on 1.5-hour return walk to the trig point for incredible West Coast views. You'll start with a walk along the deserted beach before heading across the wetlands and then taking on the gentle climb to the top. On a clear day, the views of snow-capped mountains, forests, lagoons and beaches are utterly breathtaking. 

Day 13: Hike to Franz Josef Glacier Lookout and Lake Matheson

We'll hike to the terminal face of Franz Josef Glacier for a view of this river of ice pushing through the rainforest. Franz Josef Glacier tumbles 12km from the Southern Alps ending in lush rainforest at just 300m above sea level on the West Coast. This is one of the most accessible glaciers there is so we’ll easily be able to get close enough for a great view of the terminal face and learn about the geology and surrounding area along the way. It's a short, brisk walk (1-1.5 hours) on a well-maintained trail.

Franz Josef glacier

The next hike we'll do today is a 2.6km (1.6 mile) walk around Lake Matheson, where the dark particles of organic matter in the water create a perfect surface to reflect the surrounding mountains.

Lake matheson walk

Day 14: Wanaka Hiking

It's the last day of your trip today but there is still the opportunity to get active at Diamond Lake on a 2.5km (1.6 mile) circuit with the option to continue on up to take in one of the last incredible New Zealand vistas you'll see on this trip, in which case you'll hike for around 3 hours in total. A fine finish to an incredible trip.

Diamond lake circuit

Rocky mountain

After your hike in Wanaka you'll make your way over the Crown Range back to Queenstown where your trip ends – please refer back to the full itinerary for details.