Active Great Walks discovery

Of the more than 800 hiking tracks the Department of Conservation manages, they selected nine “Great Walks” that are exceptional and showcase the best of New Zealand’s backcountry. On the Manuka, you’ll have the privilege  the 5-day Active Great Walks Discovery, which features day hikes on three Great Walks, including the Milford Track, and finishes with an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound exploring Fiordland National Park, an unbelievably rugged landscape and renowned UNESCO World Heritage site.

Day 7 (Sunday) Gondola ride and hike Ben Lomond

After a relaxed breakfast, we’ll ride up the gondola to the top of a tree-covered rocky crag, known as Bob’s Peak, to start our alpine hike. We pass through open alpine tussock-land to the Ben Lomond saddle and will be rewarded with panoramic views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by the often snow-covered Southern Alps. For those keen to press on to the top, Ben Lomond’s summit reveals views of Mt. Earnslaw and Mt. Aspiring, two of New Zealand’s highest peaks, and even a glimpse of Aoraki/Mt. Cook on a clear day. Once back at lake level, we’ll give our legs a break and travel to Lake Te Anau, on the fringe of Fiordland National Park.

ACCOMMODATION: Matai Lodge, Te Anau (All meals)

Day 8 (Monday) Hike Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park

This morning, we set off for our largest and perhaps most spectacular national park, Fiordland. We’ll hike part of the Routeburn Track, the first of the Great Walks you’ll experience. We hike through beech forest, sub-alpine shrublands and picturesque alpine tarns, before reaching Key Summit. Here you’ll be standing at the head of three different valleys (the Hollyford, Eglinton and Greenstone), with stunning views over the great divide, which separates west and east flowing rivers. We’ll take a short drive through the Homer Tunnel and emerge at the top of a spectacular glacier-carved valley for a memorable descent to the shore of Milford Sound (actually it’s a fiord!). Rudyard Kipling rated Milford as the eighth natural wonder of the world and it is truly breathtaking, with steep granite walls plunging over a thousand metres to the Tasman Sea and waterfalls cascading into deep inky water. Tonight we’ll stay in some fairly basic accommodation in a wonderful remote location, enjoying the simple things in life.

ACCOMMODATION: Milford Lodge, Milford Sound (All meals)

Day 9 (Tuesday) Milford Sound, hike Milford Track and Humboldt Falls

It’s worth getting up early to take a photo of Mitre Peak – quite possibly the most photographed mountain in New Zealand – but your challenge is to find a unique angle! After breakfast, we’ll take a short boat ride across Milford Sound to hike from Sandfly Point to the Giant Gates waterfall, a spectacular section of the famed Milford Track. The forest here is lush and rich with mosses and ferns as we follow the Arthur River past Lake Ada. By hiking from the Milford Sound trailhead, we’ll enjoy the track to ourselves, which is a luxury others seldom get. After lunch, we’ll leave Milford Sound behind to hike some lesser-known tracks in eastern Fiordland, including a short hike through the rainforest to see Humboldt Falls.

ACCOMMODATION: Matai Lodge, Te Anau (All meals)

Day 10 (Wednesday) Hike Kepler Track and overnight cruise on Doubtful

Three Great Walks in three days... unheard of! Today, it’s the Kepler Track and we’ll begin by following the lakeshore through red and mountain beech. Interestingly, the Kepler Track differs from the Routeburn and Milford in that it didn’t actually evolve from a necessary Maori greenstone trail, but was custom-built for hiking. After lunch, we’ll travel over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove where we’ll board the Fiordland Navigator for our overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound. Far larger than it’s northern neighbour, Milford, Doubtful Sound is an even more remote wilderness area. You’ll have the opportunity to take a kayak out on the water or hop aboard the tendercraft for a guided exploration of the fiord and in the right season you may catch a glimpse of the rare Fiordland crested penguin. Tonight you’ll sleep in a quad share room aboard the Navigator, but there is the option to upgrade to a private ensuite room, if you’d prefer.

ACCOMMODATION: Fiordland Navigator ship, Doubtful Sound (All meals)

Day 11 (Thursday) Cruise Doubtful Sound and return to Queenstown

Waking up on a ship in misty, mysterious Doubtful Sound is something you have to experience to believe. This morning we’ll cruise back to Deep Cove and you may be lucky enough to spot bottlenose dolphins that inhabit this area, before making our way back to civilisation.

ACCOMMODATION: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Queenstown (All meals)

REFER TO THE MANUKA TOUR DAY 12

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