Top Tips for your Free Day

Cass at Key Summit

By Cass Marrett

6 minute read

Get hold of your free New Zealand Trails brochure here

Our guests love free day! If you’re on a 13-14 day trip, it’s a day midway through where you can either take it easy or add in an extra adventure.

Our Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, and Grand Explorer all have free days in the coastal city of Nelson and our World Heritage tour stops off in the adventurer’s mecca of Queenstown.


Nelson is the oldest city in the South Island and is well known for its vibrant arts and crafts culture and seaside bliss. Our guests get up to all sorts here, and we love hearing about their adventures when the group reunites after free day. Below are our guest’s top ways to spend the day!

1. Day hike on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track (one of New Zealand’s Great Walks) is definitely the most popular day activity. You start the day with a shuttle from Nelson to the golden sand beaches of Kaiteriteri, where you board a water taxi to whichever point on the track you choose to start your walk from. We recommend going to Tonga Beach and walking to Medlands Beach. You’ll get to explore beaches and waterfalls and might spot a seal or two, before boarding your return water taxi and making your way back to Nelson. Often our guests reunite with their travel buddies at dinner time to share a meal and stories about their day!

The glorious Abel Tasman National Park.

A perfect summers day in Abel Tasman National Park.

2. Bike ride in Nelson and surrounding areas

The bike riding is great in Nelson. There are several options for trails that leave from the heart of the city, and also others that you can shuttle to.

A couple of city-based options include the Maitai River Walkway and Wakefield Quay. The Maitai River Walkway passes by several impressive murals and sculptures as well as great picnic spots, swimming holes and riverside cafes.

Cycling along Wakefield Quay is another great option and is oceanside biking almost the entire way. Dip your toes in the sand at Tahunanui beach before riding back and stopping at one of the many lavish seaside dining spots along the way.

For an option slightly out of the city, The Great Taste Trail comes highly recommended! In total, the trail is 174km long, but can be ridden in smaller sections, with transport options too, to suit your agenda for the day! Nelson is the ‘hops capital of New Zealand’ as well as very well-known for its white wines. This trail takes you right up to cellar doors, breweries, even the famous Pics Peanut Butter factory if you’re more of a peanut butter connoisseur! Aside from all the culinary delights there’s also great sight-seeing along the trail - including orchards, beaches estuaries or possibly the Janie Seddon Shipwreck – depending which section you take.

3. Skydiving

If you’re ready to kick it up a notch into some high-octane fun, book a skydive! With options ranging from 10,000ft to 20,000ft, you’ll team up with a professional dive master for the thrill seeker’s adventure of a lifetime. You’ll get the best views of mountain, beach and ocean, it’s unlike anything else you’ll ever do!

Be sure to invest in a video of your dive so your travel buddies can relive the experience with you and maybe share a few giggles.

4. Botanical Gardens and Centre of New Zealand walk

The Centre of New Zealand walk is a pleasant 2km return journey, taking roughly about an hour. Starting from the Botanics Sports Field (where the first rugby game in New Zealand was played!)  you’ll walk through native bush to the summit for panoramic views of Nelson. You can extend your walk slightly by heading toward Branford Park and eventually along the Maitai River Walkway, back into the heart of the city.

Views over Nelson from the Centre of New Zealand walk.

Views over Nelson from the Centre of New Zealand walk.

Insider’s secret:

Often overlooked is the beautiful town of Motueka which is just a 40-minute drive or shuttle from nelson. It’s best kept secret is Ngarua caves, where you can see the bones of our 2-metre high (extinct) bird, the Moa!

Where to eat:

On the Masterpiece and Kiwi Classic trips, you’ll need to take care of your meals the evening you’re released onto your free day, and all three meals the next day. Some of our favourites dinner spots include:

Of course if you need any recommendations or help booking anything in Nelson, you can chat to your super-guide who has no doubt spent many a free day in Nelson. They’d be happy to help out!


Our World Heritage guests have the chance to explore Queenstown on their free day. Known as the adventure capital of the world, there’s no shortage of things to do in this epic resort town.

It’s also the start and/or end point for a lot of our tours including the Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, Pure South, Great Walk Adventure and Grand Explorer. We highly recommend booking some time either side of your trip to explore. You won’t regret it!

1. Jet-boating and the TSS Earnslaw

Jet-boating is a thrilling way to explore Queenstown’s waterways, with some boats reaching speeds of 95km/h. Your skilled and highly trained driver will take you on an adrenaline-filled ride through the Kawarau Gorge, Shotover River and canyons all while performing 360° spins and getting painstakingly close to canyon walls!

For a more relaxed boat ride, there’s always the option to take a cruise on Queenstown’s Lady of the Lake, the TSS Earnslaw. On board the historic steam ship, you can sail to Walter’s Peak for a BBQ lunch and go on an interactive farm tour of Walter’s Peak Station. There’s also the option to horse trek.

4. Guests and driver on Jet Boat Siberia Valley

Our guests jet-boating on the Wilkin River

2. Queenstown Hill walk

Queenstown Hill is a popular hike among locals and visitors alike. It takes about 2-3 hours return through pine forest, with spectacular views of Lake Whakatipu and the town below.

Another popular walk is the Queenstown Gardens Trail which takes you through the Botanic Gardens and along the shoreline of Lake Whakatipu. There are plenty of benches along the way – a nice easy walk with ample opportunity to stop and take in the beauty in front of you!

Top tip: A lot of the Queenstown trails, especially along the lake, are also suitable for bike riding, if you’re wanting to cover more ground then definitely look into bike hire for the day!

One of our guests bikes along an Arrowtown bike trail

Biking along the Arrow River Trail near Arrowtown

3. Day trip to Arrowtown

A day trip to the historic gold mining settlement of Arrowtown is always a good idea! It’s really easy to get to via the local bus network and full of great things to do! A short walk along the Arrow River, just across from the bus stop will take you to the historic Chinese Mining Settlement. You can explore the old facades of Arrowtown’s main street and try your hand a gold panning. Arrowtown’s a great place for coffee and locally made goods. There’s also a scenic loop track, Sawpit Gully, for those keen to get a bit of extra walking in.

You can also take the same Arrowtown bus to just outside Amisfield winery and the stunning Lake Hayes loop track not too far from there. It’s an 8km loop around the scenic Lake Hayes Walkway with little elevation and lots to see!

4. Bungy jumping, skydiving, paragliding

If you’re looking to jump off or out of something, Queenstown’s the place to do it. It’s home to the historic Kawarau bungy bridge, where the world’s first bungy took place. There are also options for skydiving including indoor skydiving, and you can even take a gondola ride or hike up to the top of the Skyline Queenstown and paraglide down!

5. Hidden Gem: Skippers Canyon

Built during the gold rush of the late 1800s, Skippers Canyon is a great day trip that not too many people (even locals) get around to doing – mostly because it requires a 4WD vehicle and an experienced driver. The dramatic landscapes, steep drop offs, roaring rivers and historical landmarks truly transport you to a different place and time. Only 40 minutes from Queenstown. There are plenty of local operators who will take you out there. This road isn’t for the faint-hearted, so best to leave it with the professionals for a truly memorable experience!

Where to eat:

  • Fergburger (Queenstown’s most famous burger joint)
  • Blue Kanu (Pacifica and Asian style)
  • The Cow (wood-fired pizza, Queenstown’s oldest continuously operating restaurant)
  • Chur Fish and Chips (authentic Kiwi fish and chips – make sure you phone ahead because they’re the best and busiest!)
  • Boardwalk (elevated seafood, steak, lamb and venison)
  • Aosta Arrowtown (elevated Italian food)

Top tip: You may have heard of Fergburger, and when you get to Queenstown, you’ll certainly see the line. What’s often overlooked are Ferg’s other eateries including Fergbaker, Mrs Ferg and Ferg Bar. These often have smaller lines and equally delicious foods! If your heart is set on a burger, sometimes, you can skip the queue by phoning ahead!

A lot of our guides are based in and around Queenstown and are happy to be your go-to for their best tips, tricks and must-sees!

Want to find out more about the trips we run here in New Zealand? Grab a copy of your FREE BROCHURE HERE or get in touch with the team



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