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Kiwi Classic – Fitness Guide

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

The Kiwi Classic is designed for people who are looking for a hiking focussed trip of New Zealand. We always have easier or more challenging options available so that you can choose how much or little activity you enjoy each day. You will walk between 3 to 6 hours each day on well-formed trails. The average distance walked each day is 10km/6mi.

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 beautiful Ben Lomond track. After taking a gondola ride from Queenstown up to the "Skyline" we'll then hike to the saddle or the summit of Ben Lomond, whichever suits you.  This is a steady climb but we'll take our time and you'll be rewarded with 365 degree views across Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. 

Ben Lomond

Day 2: 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 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.

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

Hooker Valley track

White Horse carpark to Sealy Tarns

White Horse carpark Mueller Ridge

Day 3: Hike Mount John

Today we’ll make the steady climb up Mount John though forest and tussock to the observatory at the top. As we walk, we’ll look out over 360-degree views across the impressive Mackenzie Basin flats and surrounding mountains and lakes.

Mt John hike, Tekapo

Day 4: Swim with Dusky dolphins 

Today is a highlight for most of our guests 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!

Dusky dolphins in Kaikoura

Day 5: Overnight hike on the Nydia Track, Pelorus Sound

Our first overnight backpacking adventure takes us to Pelorus Sound. Today we will hike the Nydia Track to Nydia Hut. This 13km (8mi) track hugs the coastline and is mostly at a low elevation, we'll have one small saddle to climb over before we head down to Nydia Hut for the night. 

Overnight backpacking is our favourite way to truly experience New Zealand's backcountry. Today we will hike for 3-4 hours carrying just what we need for our night spent at Nydia Lodge (a sleeping bag, change of clothes and a small portion of the food for the evening). We'll arrive at our accommodation in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time to soak in the surroundings, enjoy the native birdlife or have a dip in the ocean while your guides prepare a delicious meal for you (no freeze-dried food here!). In the evening you can expect some of the best stargazing in the country.

The two overnight hikes on this trip have been designed for both novice and experienced hikers. If you've never done an overnight backpacking trip our guides will teach you everything to know and assist you along the way. We'll also provide you with all the gear you need including a larger hiking backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and hiking poles.

Duncan Bay to Nydia Hut Elevation Map

Day 6: Hike Nydia Hut to Kaiuma Bay

Today we'll complete our Nydia Track Hike with a 14km (9mi) hike to Kaiuma Bay. The track leads across open farmland beside the stream, eventually crossing it twice and beginning the climb to Kaiuma Saddle (387 metres) through beech forest and regenerating scrub. From the saddle are superb views, including one to Marlborough’s highest mountain.

Nydia Hut to Kaiuma Bay Elevation Map3

Day 7: Free day to explore Nelson

Optional activities include a sea kayaking trip in Abel Tasman, hiring bikes, walking on the Abel Tasman track or exploring the town. 

Kayak Abel Tasman

Day 8: Overnight hike in Nelson Lakes National Park Hike

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 pop on our packs with our belongings for the night and begin our hike from Roberts Ridge Carpark to Bushline Hut. We'll take the afternoon to make our way up to Bushline hut, travelling 4km (2.5 miles) over around 2 hours with an easy climb.

Overnight backpacking is our favourite way to truly experience New Zealand's backcountry. Today we will hike for 2 hours carrying just what we need for our night spent at Bushline Hut (a sleeping bag, change of clothes and a small portion of the food for the evening). We'll arrive at our accommodation in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time to either enjoy the panoramic views at the Hut or take a longer walk up the ridgeline while your guides prepare a delicious meal for you (no freeze-dried food here!). In the evening you can expect some of the best stargazing in the country.

The two overnight hikes on this trip have been designed for both novice and experienced hikers. If you've never done an overnight backpacking trip our guides will teach you everything to know and assist you along the way. We'll also provide you with all the gear you need including a larger hiking backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and hiking poles.

Mt Robert to Bushline hut elevation map

Day 9: Hike Bushline Hut to Roberts Ridge Carpark

Our backpacking trip to Bushline Hut is a loop circuit. This morning we'll hike from Bushline Hut to Roberts Ridge carpark via Paddy's Track, we'll start in open alpine terrain and take in the stunning views over Lake Rotoiti before we descend into the beech forest and back to Roberts Ridge Carpark. 

Bushline hut to Mt Robert elevation map2

Day 10: Pororari River Track and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony

We’ll start our day with a short stroll on the Cape Foulwind Walkway. There, you’ll experience the Tasman Sea in all its glory, pounding on the cliffs below as you make your way to the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony, well known for its seal pup rookery.

Our second hike of the day is truly unique. Set amongst dense temperate rainforest with a backdrop of towering limestone cliffs, we’ll follow the Pororari River on the Paparoa Track as it winds its way through the lush undergrowth. Your guides will tell you about the fascinating flora and fauna along the way and maybe even offer you some ‘bush tucker’ to taste if you’re game!

Tauranga Bay Seal Colony walk

Punakaiki Pororari river walk

Day 11: Hike to Franz Josef Glacier & kayak Lake Mapourika

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 walk (1-1.5 hours) on a well-maintained trail. 

Our afternoon kayak tour on Lake Mapourika will see you take to the water in tandem kayaks for roughly two hours. It’s a mellow paddle out on flat water; the perfect opportunity to relax and soak up the serenity.

On our way to Makarora we'll stop to explore the famous Blue Pools. The track leading to the Blue Pools is an easy 1.5km stroll that will take up to an hour. 

Franz Josef glacier

Kayak Lake Mapourika

blue pools track

Day 12: Your choice to cycle or walk the Arrow River Trail

We’ll travel to the historic Arrowtown where you’ll have the choice of either biking or walking the Arrow River Trail. We'll ride or walk along a trail next to the Kawarau River towards the world’s first commercial bungy bridge, which is still in operation today, so you can watch a few people jump! If you are biking today your ride will be 12.8km to the Kawarau Suspension Bridge (8mi), if you are walking it's a stunning 5km (3.1mi) walk to the Southern Discoveries bridge where your guide will meet you.

Arrowtown to Kawarau suspension bridge

Day 13: Cruise Milford Sound & Hike Routeburn Track to Key Summit

This morning we'll boot up to hike to 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

Day 14: Explore Te Anau & Finish in Queenstown

On the last morning of the trip, you’ll have a chance to explore the lakeside town of Te Anau or head out for one last stunning hike in the area on another of our Great Walks, the Kepler Track. After lunch we’ll make our way back to Queenstown, marvelling at the incredible views en route, before saying our fond farewells at the airport or your accommodation.

Kepler track