World Heritage Walking Tour – Fitness Guide
How fit do you need to be for the World Heritage Walking Tour?
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 active in the outdoors you will enjoy yourself on this trip. The World Heritage Tour is designed for active people that enjoy a touch of luxury, but you don’t need to be an athlete! If you are comfortable and confident walking with a small pack for the day, with regular breaks, then you'll happily tackle the hikes and activities on this tour.
Below is a summary of the hikes included in our 13-day ‘World Heritage Walking Tour’, including walking times, distances and elevations. As well as the hikes there are a host of other activities, excellent accommodation and food to enjoy, which is described in further detail in the full itinerary.
Day 1: Devils Punchbowl Track, Arthur’s Pass National Park
This is a short introductory walk on a well-marked trail through mountain beech forest. The hike is 2km (1.2 miles) and will take us around 1-1.5 hours return with plenty of time for photo-taking. It's a great introduction to New Zealand!
Day 2: Underworld Rafting
The walk to the cave entrance is on a well-trodden forest trail and usually takes around 20 minutes with a short uphill section at the very end. Your guides will be with you the entire time and there's no rush, it’s all about taking in your exciting surroundings. The 'rafting' section of the trip involves floating on small but stable rafts through a huge cavern of glowworms on very calm water. It is this the most unique glowworm experience in the world and an experience our guests rave about. Total time in the cave and on the river is around 2 to 2.5 hours.
Paparoa National Park Hiking (Optional)
A beautiful, flat riverside trail with no real elevation gain but some small ups and downs throughout, with a total distance of 7 km (4.3 miles). We’re usually on the trail for 2 hours, which includes a very pleasant riverside afternoon tea break. This is how we do it at New Zealand Trails!
Day 3: Okarito Lagoon Kayak
You'll be out on the calm water of the lagoon for around 2 hours in double kayaks this morning and you're providing the power, so paddle at your own pace and take the time to rest if you need to. Our local guides will suggest a route suitable for the conditions.
Day 4: Franz Josef Glacier Hiking
It's a 30-45 minute walk on a well-marked purpose-built trail to the start of the glacier, then a gentle climb in and downhill on the way back. You'll hike for around 1.5 hours in total walking to and viewing the glacier at your own pace.
Day 5: Mou Waho Island Nature Walk
The hike to the viewpoint on Mou Waho is a short climb (200m/650 feet) in 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.
Day 6: Routeburn Track Hiking
You can choose how far you want to walk today on this most famous of tracks. Most people take the hike to Routeburn Flats, a return walk of 13km (8 miles) over the day taking around 6-7 hours. The trail is easy underfoot the whole way, with a 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. For an extra challenge the climb to Routeburn Falls will reward you with stunning views, the return distance adds another 3km (2 miles) to your hike and it’s quite a good climb too - 300 vertical meters (1000 feet)! Either way a fantastic hike and just before a rest day too.
Day 7: Rest day in Queenstown
Today is yours to spend as you wish. Take in some of the local sites and activities or take it easy with some downtime. Our guides will help you find the best options for your day. We’ve scheduled a rest day at this stage of the tour to offer you some breathing space and relaxation in a beautiful place with plenty of options before heading on for more adventures in Fiordland.
Day 8: Explore Milford Sound, helicopter to Martins Bay and hike in the podocarp forest
Today we'll journey south to Fiordland for what many of our guests find is the highlight of their World Heritage Walking Tour. This afternoon you'll board a helicopter that will fly you over the stunning forests of Fiordland into the secluded Martins Bay. You'll enjoy a beautiful and easy 1-2 hour nature walk in the podocarp forest which is guided by our local Fiordland guide. We’ll then hike to the Long Reef seal colony where we can view the New Zealand fur seals at close quarters before jetboating back to Martins Bay Lodge for the night.
Day 9: Jetboat Lake McKerrow then hike the Hollyford Track
Our hike today is approximately 18.5km (11.5 miles) on the Hollyford Track and it's a very well maintained track with a gentle incline throughout the day. It’s not a race to get to the end, we want to take the time to appreciate our surroundings. We will be out for the day (around 6-7 hours) with plenty of rest, drink and snack breaks.
Day 10: Explore Doubtful Sound on a full-day cruise
This morning we'll head to the heart of Fiordland, the magnificent Doubtful Sound. We'll take a relaxing nature cruise on the fiord - the very best way to see the entire area. You'll get up close to the rushing waterfalls and experience the sheer magnitude of the mountains from the water. Our onboard nature guide will help you spot the local native fur seals and, if we're lucky, a pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Day 11: Gibbston Valley, High Country Lakes, Aoraki/Mount Cook
Today is a relaxed, scenic day as we travel toward Aoraki / Mt Cook, with plenty of lovely stops along the way. The Queenstown region isn't complete without a delicious brunch and a spot of wine tasting before we venture onward.
Day 12: Aoraki/Mt Cook Hiking, Hooker Valley
In the morning you will have a short walk to the lake for a boat ride to the face of the Tasman Glacier. In the afternoon there are a few options. You can either walk up the Hooker Valley on a very accessible trail which offers easy walking for anyone that visits Mount Cook National Park. The 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. Alternatively, there is a heli-glacier hike option or you can just stay at the hotel and enjoy the village.
On day 13 you will make your way back to Christchurch, stopping at points of interest on the way in time to catch your onward flights. We hope this guide to the hikes and activities included in the World Heritage small group tour is helpful and you've got all the information you need. See the full itinerary for the New Zealand 'World Heritage Walking Tour' here and if you have questions or would like to book please contact us.