The ultimate New Zealand luxury tour - Part 2
Now at the halfway point of our luxury New Zealand travel experience – The Grand Explorer – it’s time to venture into the lush tropical paradise of the Abel Tasman to explore its golden sand beaches, lush native forest and the perfect blue waters of the Tasman Sea. It’s a haven for birdlife and home to another of New Zealand’s ten Great Walks.
If you’re just joining us you can catch up on this epic South Island adventure so far here, in part one.
We continue our exploration of some of New Zealand’s most stunning ocean havens, on the golden shores of the Nelson/Abel Tasman region.
En route, we’ll make a special stop in the Marlborough Sounds - one of the sunniest places in New Zealand. Drink in some sunshine while you taste some of New Zealand’s finest wines - Marlborough is particularly well known for its zesty sauvignon blanc.
Arriving in the art deco inspired city of Nelson, you’ll have the afternoon and next morning to explore. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to spending your free time, from a plethora of cuisines and ocean-view dining to stunning walks along the local beach. Soak in Nelson’s creative scene which has everything from glassblowers to painters, sculptors, jewellers and writers! There are also options for adrenaline junkies, including skydiving, and incredibly scenic bike riding.
As we head into the National Park itself tonight we’ll be staying at the exclusive and luxurious Torrent Bay Lodge. Only accessible by boat or foot, the Lodge is located in the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, famous for its unrivalled beauty, golden sand beaches and dramatic granite cliffs. Relax on the Lodge’s sundeck and look out at the sunset as it dips below the horizon and enjoy a glass of local wine. Take a stroll down to the beach, pop your toes in the sand, and enjoy absolute bliss!
Just when you think your digs couldn’t get any more scenic, we set off along the coastal track between Torrent Bay and Awaroa. With your comfort in mind, we can arrange water taxis to meet you at certain parts of the walk, so you can walk as much or as little as you like and still have plenty of time to relax at the end of the day. You’ll stay at the historic site of Awaroa Meadowbank Homestead. This is beachfront living at its very best, perched on the edge of the Awaroa inlet. While the lodge was built in recent times, it’s filled with historical artifacts – diaries, photos and heirlooms - retelling the history of both the Maori and European people who travelled the shores of Awaroa… just like you!
After your Abel Tasman adventure, you’ll be transported to the lush rainforests and dramatic cliffs, mountains and beaches of the South Island’s west coast. The drive to Punakaiki - where you’ll spend the night – is like watching the reel of a film roll past the window. You’ll come across deep canyons, towering cliffs and travel the coastline as huge waves crash against the rocks below. The journey almost takes you back to prehistoric New Zealand, especially as only about 10% of New Zealand’s population lives on the huge stretch of land that is the West Coast. It’s a truly unique place.
There’s so much to see right on the doorstep of your accommodation! Punakaiki is home to the most fascinating rock formations, The Pancake Rocks, so named after a collection of minute marine creatures and plants solidified below the seabed surface and were forced above ground by seismic activity. The result - stacks and stacks of geological pancakes! An interesting phenomenon also takes place here as the surging sea forces into coastal chambers, then explodes upwards like an erupting geyser!
You’ll have the chance to walk the Punakaiki River Loop, right in the heart of the Paparoa National Park. This walk is unlike anything you’ve seen yet, it’s a stunning fusion of coastal features and ancient forest, culminating in a sub-tropical paradise. Jaw-dropping cliffs are lined with native forest, including the endemic Nikau Palm. The birdlife here is second to none but try not to mistake a cheeky Weka for a Kiwi as they are plentiful in this area.
Next on the list is Franz Josef, which again, feels like you’re entering another world. This time, it’s Glacier Country! A short walk on a well-formed path takes us to the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint. You’ll learn about the enchanting myth behind the glacier’s Maori name, Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere - The Tears of Hine Hukatere. It’s a mind-blowing sight as you walk past the point the glacier used to come out to and compare that to where it is now. An incredible example of the forces of nature!
The tail end of your trip takes you through yet another impressive national park - Mt Aspiring. It’s here you’ll embark on your true blue, Kiwi backcountry experience in Siberia Valley. You’ll start with awe-inspiring aerial views from your very own scenic helicopter ride, which will touch down deep in Siberia Valley. Immersed in some of the area’s best mountainscapes, you’ll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch before immersing yourself in the tranquil nature of the Siberia and Wilkin Valleys. You’ll feel like an absolute VIP when you reach the Wilkin River and your jetboat comes to collect you for a thrilling ride back to the small village of Makarora.
A short drive from Makarora is Wanaka, famous for the iconic ‘That Wanaka Tree’ and the Roy’s Peak Track, which are some of New Zealand’s most photographed spots! It’s also home to two major ski areas and of course, Lake Wanaka, which you’ll be enjoying by boat!
Cruising out to Lake Wanaka’s Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve, you’ll get a masterclass from an experienced ecologist in native flora and fauna, and take a short hike up to Tyrwhitt Peak, passing Arethusa Pool (which is a small lake on the island, with more islands inside it!). After marvelling at the panoramic views of Lake Wanaka from the top of your hike you can take a dip in its crystal clear waters or even soak up some time in the spa back at your accommodation at Edgewater Resort.
Before finishing your New Zealand adventure in Queenstown, we’ll take you on one last pilgrimage through ancient beech forest on the Routeburn track, one of New Zealand’s ten Great Walks.
We travel to Glenorchy, right at the head of Lake Whakatipu, and as always there are options to suit your comfort levels. We’ll take a walk to Forge Flats and graze on some snacks with a hot drink next to the uber-clear blue waters of the Routeburn River. From here, for those feeling more energetic, you can choose to continue on through a canopy of lush green forest before reaching Routeburn Flats. Here the landscape opens before your eyes into expansive golden meadows, bordered by breathtaking mountain scenery. An idyllic spot for lunch before you make your way back to Queenstown where you’ll farewell your amazing guides and new travel companions.
Your New Zealand Trails experience
The Grand Explorer is designed to be a genuine New Zealand luxury travel experience. The benefits of the small group travel - done the New Zealand Trails way - are endless. From carefully curated experiences, excellent relationships with hospitality and tourism operators and the best guides in the business, you can be guaranteed a top-tier New Zealand adventure from the moment you step off that plane.
Our guides can’t wait to share their knowledge with you, to make sure you’re comfortable on the trails, and share great food and conversation too! We’re super proud of the great feedback our previous guests have had on our amazing people and we can’t wait for you to experience them for yourselves! Soak up their knowledge, bask in their enthusiasm and ask them all the questions under the sun! They’re there to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime!