Our Gay Travel New Zealand Adventure happens in the adventure capital of the world! The variety and depth of natural beauty of this isolated South Pacific island group will impress and inspire you. Enjoy hiking trails and glaciers, kayaking, biking, canyoning, rafting, and bungy jumping!
New Zealand — particularly Queenstown and the South Island — is frequently called the adventure travel capital of the world. On this trip, you'll quickly see why. With our friendly gay and lesbian group, you'll enjoy not only the activities New Zealand offers, but its varied landscape and scenery.
Take the sparkling lakes of Italy and the deep-cut fjords of Norway, the snow-capped Alps of Switzerland and the glistening glaciers of Alaska, the aquamarine waters of Greece and the Highland hiking trails of Scotland: now pack it all onto one small island — and you'll be shocked by how much room is still left for sheep. That's New Zealand.
As a Wild Kiwi, you'll enjoy a new activity every day. Glacier hikes, sea kayaking, biking around vineyards and along rivers, canyoning through a natural waterpark of chutes, pools, waterfalls and slides, rainforest hikes, white andblackwater rafting, and even a bungy jump, are just a few of the activities that await you. After we play hard during the days, we enjoy fantastic meals and stay in wonderful lodges and inns each night.
• Bike on a couple of occasions: enjoy a full-day bike tour at the top of the South Island, and later, enjoy a peaceful, riverside ride to the bungy bridge near Queenstown.
• Spelunk through an impressive cave system then jump in a tube and float down the river still carving unique passageways.
• Kayak, hike or catch a boat ride during our three days exploring the opalescent shores of Abel Tasman National Park.
• Hike into primordial rainforests, past waterfalls, and even onto the Fox and Glacier.
• Slide, splash, leap, and rappel down a spectacular deep chasm, in the distinctly down-under sport known as canyoning.
• Explore Queenstown beauty – by bike, raft, and bungy!
• Pick from many other adventures: white- & black-water rafting, alpine hiking, mountain biking, jet boating, paragliding, horseback riding, vineyard tours, & a spectacular Milford Sound day-trip by light aircraft, among others.
Day 1 -
We begin in cheerful Nelson, at the northern tip of the South Island. This pleasant fishing port and crafts community gets more sunlight than any other spot in New Zealand, and offers a warm introduction to local hospitality during our two-night stay.
Linger over coffee at a sidewalk cafe. Browse in the galleries. Hikers will enjoy The Center of New Zealand Walk, which departs right from town with spectacular views of the bay. Or simply head for Nelson's long stretch of sandy beach, Tahunanui. There's nothing like a dose of sunlight to get over jet lag.
For our first evening, we've reserved tables at one of Nelson's top restaurants. This is an opportunity get to know a few of your fellow travelers over dinner and enjoy some of New Zealand's wonderful wine.
Who will be there? With our emphasis on active vacations and the outdoors, HE Travel trips draw people who are energetic and outgoing, who enjoy interacting with life and with each other. The majority of people on a typical trip are traveling alone but there are usually several couples as well. A majority of the group will most likely fall in the 30-to-55 age range but there will almost certainly be some who are older and quite possibly a few in their twenties.
While we have opportunities for you to enjoy multiple activities on this tour, there is no need for you to be experienced or advanced in any of them before arrival, nor is there an expectation that you participate in each and every one. While some members of our group will have experience, most won't, but everyone will enjoy the various options available throughout the trip. There are occasionally less-adventurous options available or perhaps you would prefer to have a quieter day of rest and relaxation at one of our overnight lodges or explore an area on your own. Of course, being in fairly good health and able to hike at least a few hours at a leisurely pace will enable you to more fully enjoy all that New Zealand has to offer and to recuperate in time for the next day's activities.
Day 2 -
Our first adventure of the tour takes us biking through one of New Zealand's wine-producing regions outside of Nelson. You'll enjoy the pastoral setting with towering poplars, fruit trees, climbing hops, pastures of wildflowers, and verdant green forests – it's an amazing interplay of texture and light. Our local guides will lead us to some of their favorite vineyards, organic farms, and perhaps artisans, as we relax into our first full day in New Zealand. We'll be cycling about 20-25 miles, almost all of which is downhill, with an option for hills at the end. Then it's all rewarded over a glass of wine with an amazing view over Tasman Bay. On our return to Nelson, we'll receive a medium-sized duffel bag to pack gear into for our 3-day / 2-night adventure in Abel Tasman National Park that starts tomorrow. Our main luggage will be stored until we return to Nelson on the evening of Day 5.
Day 3 -
The next morning, we'll take a lighter load with us as we head for our three-day adventure along the aquamarine shores of nearby Abel Tasman National Park. Our days will be filled with sea-kayaking, hiking, and/or boating (let us know which you prefer) as we explore the coastal regions of the park. We'll enjoy two nights of lodging at comfortable sea-side inns overlooking the bay and meals of locally-sourced, organic ingredients. And don't forget the custom of a break for morning and afternoon tea! Our luggage will be forwarded each day while we carry only small items, snacks, and lunch on our backs (if hiking) or in our kayaks.
No one who visits this breathtaking park forgets the diverse scenery: native forests and streams, tree-fern-filled grottos, massive granite sea heads, and turquoise waters lapping at golden beaches. While kayaking or hiking through this wonderland, you'll also delight in the melody of New Zealand's native birds. We might spy little blue penguins coming ashore to nest or dolphins darting past the end of your paddle. Highlights always include the antics of New Zealand Fur seals and their pups if the prevailing winds allow us to see them in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.
We start the day by driving from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, where we'll board a launch for a leisurely motorized cruise to our starting destination, Totaranui, located at the northern end of the park. The cruise will give us a nice overview of the bays, isles, inlets, and headlands that we'll be kayaking and hiking along over the next three days.
After we're dropped at Totaranui, we'll have lunch and then have a leisurely two-hour+ hike across beaches and through temperate rainforests to our eco-friendly beachfront lodge on Awaroa Bay (or you can catch a boat ride if you're not up to the hike). If tides allow, we'll be able to hike across the sands of the Awaroa Estuary to our lodge. The Meadowbank Lodge where we stay tonight is the former homestead of one of the earliest settlers in the area and provides panoramic views of the estuary and bay. After dinner, feel free to explore more of the area or enjoy stories with our guides and hosts around the open fireplace.
Day 4 -
A full, hearty breakfast is served at the lodge, and then we hike southerly around the inlet and across the Tonga Saddle to Onetahuti Beach (about 1.3 hours) where we have our first sea-kayaking instruction and prepare for our day exploring isles, inlets, and secluded beaches. If you haven't kayaked before, don't worry, we use stable two-person sea kayaks. With a little instruction and practice, you'll soon be comfortable paddling the gentle waters of Tasman Bay.
Soon you'll glide past wind-sculpted islands onto the golden beach of a sparkling lagoon. After a quick swim, catch a few minutes of sun on the sand with the lingering tang of salt on your tongue. Enjoy your lunch on the beach and then the kayaking continues. Don't be surprised if you see seals playing in the surf this afternoon as your kayak ripples through the gentle waves.
Most of the group will be out on the water today, but the hiking trails of Abel Tasman also are spectacular, winding through the tea trees and native beech forests to rocky overlooks, picturesque waterfalls, and even across a few of New Zealand's famous suspension bridges. If you're an avid hiker, you may choose to hike instead of kayak. Or if you'd like to take it easy today, you can catch a boat to our next destination.
Late this afternoon we'll arrive at tonight's eco-lodge at Torrent Bay, another small, intimate seaside inn. You'll have time to settle in and explore the area before dinner. After dinner we'll take our gaze skyward to find the Southern Cross and hear more about this unique part of New Zealand.
Day 5 -
As we kayak today from Torrent Bay, around Anchorage Bay, and Watering Cove, we emerge into the Astrolabe Roadstead, a waterway that will take us back to our starting point at Kaiteriteri. Along the way, our guides will help us identify sea birds and will tell us of the Maori and early settler impact on the area. As we pass Fisherman Island the winds coming through this area tend to pick-up, perhaps allowing us to raise a spinnaker and sail as a kayak-flotilla back to our beginning point as we enjoy our last afternoon in the beautiful waters of Tasman Bay. Late this afternoon, we'll return to our hotel in Nelson.
Day 6 -
We depart Nelson this morning as we begin our journey to the Wild West Coast, which we'll explore over the next four days. We first follow the beautiful Buller River as it cuts a steep path through the mountains before bringing us to the Tasman Sea.
Along our route today we have a chance to try a unique underground adventure: blackwater rafting in the Nile River Cave System. After we're outfitted in designer wetsuits and gear, we'll plop ourselves in an inner tube and float on the gentle current through an ancient underground wonderland sculpted in limestone. Lighting our way is a galaxy of glow worms overhead. For those not quite sure about underground tubing, you can opt for a more sure-footed eco-tour through the magnificent calcite portions of the cave and the prehistoric valley it occupies.
We stay tonight at a small, craftsman inn overlooking the wild Tasman Sea and will have dinner at a fantastic sea-side restaurant.
Day 7 -
If time and weather allow, we'll stop for a short walk along the headlands overlooking the sea not too far from our accommodation and hopefully have another chance to see fur seals and pups.
Our next stop is at Punakaiki, famous for its blowholes and layered, wind- and water-eroded sea cliffs, locally known as pancake rocks. Nature has eroded these headlands into an outdoor gallery of artistic shapes, color, and shadow, softened by lush Nikau Palms. If tides and winds are right, the waves from the Tasman Sea crash fiercely into the cliffs, creating massive hissing geysers as water spews through the blowholes.
We'll stay in Punakaiki though late morning to give you an opportunity to explore the area on your own. We then follow the coast southward to the old mining and port town of Hokitika. Originally settled during the gold rush of the 1860s, Hokitika has undergone several transformations since those heady days. Today, one of the biggest local industries is carving jade (locally known as greenstone). You can watch the artisans at work in several shops. Another workshop produces handcrafted gold jewelry from the small nuggets that are still found locally.
If there was ever any doubt that the South Island is lightly inhabited, these roads prove it. Even on the major west-coast road wasn't paved until 1995. Traffic is so light that most bridges can only handle cars in one direction at a time — and still there's never a wait. (Even more interesting is one bridge — still on the main road — where a one-lane bridge handles not only car traffic from both directions, but also a train!).
This area of the west coast is known for blustery storms, loads of rain, and temperate rainforests growing up the sides of the tallest mountain range in this part of the Pacific, the Southern Alps. As the moisture-laden winds from the Tasman Sea blow up the Alps, the water vapor cools, resulting in huge amounts of rain and snow fall. The large catchment areas at the top of the mountains create a bowl where layers and layers of snow piles high, pressing itself into dense blue ice. As the ice overfills the catchment area, it flows as a glacier down a steep valley, where it peters-out in the middle of a temperate rainforest, about 650 feet above sea level. It's an amazing sight to see these massive rivers of ice surrounded by tree ferns and green moss. There are two main glaciers here and we'll be stopping at one of them for the next two nights.
Day 8 -
A picturesque 45-minute hike with a glistening mountain backdrop of verdant forests, cliffs, and waterfalls, brings us to the edge of the ice. At the glacial terminus, a steady torrent of water gushes from a sub-surface river. We fit on crampons, pick-up a pointed walking stick, and begin exploring an icy world on our glacier hike.
Those looking for a shorter day on the ice can take the half-day tour, then turn back after a relatively easy 90-minute walk on the glacier. For others committed to a day of icy adventure, an all-day excursion takes us past towering pinnacles of cerulean blue ice and over shimmering crevasses. We may wander into crystal ice caves that were formed only last week and that will be gone tomorrow.
From a distance, the glaciers simply look like large, two-dimensional sheets of ice. Close up, they become an eerie icey world, full of tunnels disappearing into the glacier, serpentine rivers of chilled water, fantastic ice structures, and yawning crevasses. Occasional creaks and crunches remind us that as the glacier moves — some of the world's fastest, at speeds of up to 2 or 3 feet a day — new crevasses and formations continually appear and disappear. Our experienced local guides swing their ice axes to cut steps in the ice, and guide us to routes where we can see the many faces of the glacier.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are among the few spots in the world where a glacier advances into a temperate rainforest. After a day on the glacier, those who want to explore the green world below can choose from several short hikes, and perhaps a glow-worm hike in the forest.
Day 9 -
After a lovely breakfast at Lake Matheson, we leave the glaciers and drive farther down the west coast, cross Haast Pass to the east side of the Southern Alps and on into Wanaka, with stops enroute to see primordial swamps and forests, waterfalls, and vistas of huge, glacially-formed lakes, including Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
We spend three nights in the quaint mountain village of Wanaka, enjoying a wealth of activities. Perched on Lake Wanaka, with Mount Aspiring National Park rising behind it, Wanaka offers sports on land, lakes and rivers, and in the air.
We'll arrive in time for a quick hike above our hotel to view the layout of the town, then we'll settle-in for a relaxing dinner. Afterwards, take a walk along the lakefront and through the quaint downtown, stopping at Kai Waka Pai or Cafe Paradiso for a nightcap.
Day 10 -
What will be your favorite activity on Wild Kiwi? Many travelers give that title to a sport you may never have heard of: Canyoning (sometimes known in North America as canyoneering).
Don a wetsuit, then hike down to a crystal stream that over the millennia has carved its way deep into the bedrock. Now, you'll simply follow this stream and canyon as they wind through the rocks and trees.
First obstacle: The stream drops fifteen feet, through a narrow trough, into a pool of water below. There's no obvious way to get down until your instructor demonstrates. It's quite simple: sit at the top, and just slide down.
The next drop-off has no such slide, so you try another technique: Rappelling (known Down Under as "abseiling"), in which you slide down a rope, using a belay plate to control your speed. Then another pool, and a more basic technique: This time you simply jump into the pool of water ten feet below. Bend your knees as you hit, the guide explains, and it goes without a hitch.
Those are the three basic canyoning techniques: slide, rappel, jump. Soon you've got the hang of them — or so you think. But in the natural environment of the canyon, every situation offers its own peculiarities.
The next water slide looks to be about 25 feet, and just about straight down. No problem, it's a deep pool of water, explains your guide, and you soon discover he's right.
Nature has created a water wonderland that, in our opinion, outshines the best man-made water parks. After sliding on your bum down a short slide, you'll pop onto your belly as the water snakes you through a sinewy trough and empties you into another deep pool of crystal clear water. Tuck your head and you dive right in. As the others catch up, you can rest behind the waterfall and take in this other worldly grotto of moss, ferns, and falling water splitting sunrays into magical rainbows.
Ready for the next step? You've got to descend those 40 feet. There happens to be a small waterfall in your path, but the guide hasn't noticed it, and you're too polite to say anything. So, before you can say "call me a cab," you're clipped into the rappel rope and splashing down through that waterfall. As with other rappels, the guide has a second safety line attached to you. You can control your descent with the belay plate; but if you mess up, the guide will still have you.
If you're not participating in canyoning, you can sign up for one of many other activities offered. Biking, wine tours, or even a full day of paragliding lessons on Mt. Iron, overlooking the lake, at a site known for its steady winds. New designs have made it easier to learn this once-dangerous sport.
Your first glides will be short distances, from the bottom of the hill to a grassy paddock. Soon, as your instructor communicates through a radio in your helmet, you'll increase the distances. By the end of the day, you could easily find yourself flying solo, right from the summit.
Day 11 -
Today is a free day to allow you to choose your activity and enjoy more of this beautiful part of New Zealand. While biking, hiking, lake kayaking, and even rock climbing are all on offer, many clients choose to have some down time today to enjoy our wonderful lodge, get a massage, and remind themselves that this is, after all, a vacation. A few might catch the early shuttle up the Matukituki River valley to enjoy a hike to the stunning Rob Roy Glacier.
Or, weather conditions permitting, take a 45-minute flight across ice-fields, jagged peaks, and 600 foot waterfalls to spectacular Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling described this deep fjord as "the eighth wonder of the world." On arrival in the fjord, you board a boat to ride past cascading waterfalls and Mitre Peak rising a full mile above the water. The boat draws so close to a thundering waterfall that you could fill a wineglass with the spray. In fact, one waterlogged guest has done exactly that. Southern fur seals eye us carefully as they sunbathe on a rock. You'll then fly back to Wanaka, usually passing over the Shotover River, which we'll be rafting tomorrow. If weather doesn't cooperate today, you can try again perhaps when we're in Queenstown.
Another option for today is a unique eco-rafting experience, one that is less challenging than our rafting option in a few days in Queenstown. Spend four hours in a rubber raft with local legend Lewis, experiencing a bit of everything: birdwatching, brewing herbal tea from leaves we've just picked, listening to the history of New Zealand, then shooting a few Class-II and (briefly) Class-III rapids.
Day 12 -
Early risers watch a sunrise illuminating the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park before enjoying our last breakfast in Wanaka. Today's drive across historic Cadrona Pass brings us to a stunning perch on the Crown Range Saddle high above the Kawarau River valley overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
Once we've descended from the Crown Range Saddle, we arrive in another gold heritage town, Arrowtown. Here, we'll collect our bikes and enjoy a bike ride on the trails following the Arrow River down to our next adrenaline-rush activity: the most anticipated and talked-about Wild Kiwi event and also the briefest. The bungy jump lasts perhaps 30 seconds from the heart-stopping moment you step into thin air, until you've stopped bobbing up and down sufficiently to be hauled into the pick-up raft below. But the adrenaline will keep pumping for hours.
It's all deceptively easy. Walk onto the Kawarau suspension bridge, present your ticket, and sit down on the platform. The always hunky and friendly jumpmaster wraps a towel around both your ankles, ties a sturdy sling to it, and clips you to the bottom of a bungy cord (essentially a very long – and thick – rubber band, but if they called it that, nobody would sign up). Stand up, walk to the edge — and now it's up to you.
What's your style? A graceful swan dive is the classic exit. A camera captures the critical moment, and just within our group, we see quite a range. One steps off upright, his hands pressed in front of him as if in prayer; another scrunches up in sheer terror. Our 64-year-old steps off as nonchalantly as if going out to buy a loaf of bread. Two guys admit to having been firmly instructed by their mothers not to jump: one does it anyway; the other obeys Mom. (Our advice for future travelers: Don't tell Mom your plans until after the trip. That way, you can have fun without worrying her.)
Bungy jumping got its start right here at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, outside Queenstown. A.J. Hackett no longer offers a free jump to anyone who will take the plunge nude; too many people accepted that promotional offer. But the 140-foot bungy jump is free for participants in our tour, clothed or naked.
However — to answer the most frequently-asked question about Wild Kiwi — no, you don't have to make the jump. It's free — but it's optional.
Our day is not yet over! We bike back to Arrowtown, enjoying some of the new bike trails criss-crossing the Wakatipu basin. After our bike ride, we pass into the acclaimed adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, Queenstown, our home for the next two nights.
This evening, a few of us will go out on the town and see what Queenstown has to offer. With its adventure activities during the summer and world-class skiing in the winter, there's a lot to look at and plenty of night clubs to visit. What an end to an exciting day!
Day 13 -
This morning is on your own to explore Queenstown. A good introduction to the area is the gondola ride to the top of Bob's Peak, 1400 feet above town. Sip a drink at the restaurant as you watch bungy jumpers hurl themselves from The Ledge, a precarious platform jutting into space, or paragliders sail above the lake.
Bungy jumping started in Queenstown, and every year some nut in Queenstown comes up with a new adrenaline sport. A few of these are activities that we're happy to skip. (If you want to roll down the mountain inside a giant inflatable ball called a Zorb, please reserve it yourself.)
Those who want excitement without sweating today can zoom within inches of jagged overhanging rocks on one of the famed Shotover Jet boats. These remarkable boats, powered by jet rather than propeller, can go through water a mere four inches deep, and the pilots take great delight in blasting full speed toward a looming boulder, then turning a full 180-degrees within a single boat length. Or take a calmer boat ride: the restored steamship TSS Earnslaw makes several trips across the lake each day
If you're a whitewater fan, this afternoon is a good time for whitewater rafting on Class-III and IV rapids. Based on river conditions and water levels, we'll head for one of two nearby rivers. The wild and untamed Shotover River takes us through six rapids, then we raft through 800 feet of darkness as we pass through the Oxenbridge Tunnel, an historic diversion tunnel built by goldminers. Or we'll raft the Kawarau, the largest commercially rafted river in New Zealand. Here we pass under the Chard vineyards, and through four sets of rapids. We'll paddle under the bungy jumpers on the Kawarau Bridge, culminating in the unforgettable Dog Leg Rapids. On the Kawarau, there are sometimes opportunities for cliff jumping, and to swim through smaller rapids.
This evening, we'll come together and celebrate one last time as we end our two-week vacation together at our closing dinner at one of Queenstown's finest restaurants.
Day 14 -
The hardest thing about our trips is saying goodbye to a wonderful group of new friends. As we make our way home from Queenstown, however, there's one thing you can be sure of: active vacations like this one draw a special type of person. We depart knowing that many of us will see one another yet again.
Please note that our tour starts on a Monday, which allows you to depart the US on Saturday evening and, after crossing the International Date Line, arrive into New Zealand early Monday morning. This Monday start also allows you to participate in Sydney, Australia's Gay Mardi Gras celebration. The festivities happen for several weeks leading up to the big Gay pride parade and main parties on Saturday evening. You can then catch a flight Sunday or Monday to cross the Tasman Sea to join our tour, which starts on Monday evening. Our tour ends on a Sunday and if you depart that day, thanks to the International Date Line again, you'll arrive back into the US on that same day.
• All group ground transportation, starting in Nelson and finishing in Queenstown;
• All hotels and accommodations in double occupancy;
• HE Travel tour director accompanying the group from Nelson to Queenstown;
• 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 6 dinners;
• Biking near Queenstown and also near Nelson;
• Kayaking or hiking and boating for 3 days at Abel Tasman National Park;
• Coastal hikes;
• Your choice of a half-day or full-day glacier hike with mountain guide;
• Sightseeing visits to waterfalls, primordial forests, seal colonies, and vistas along our route around the island; and, of course, the famed bungy jump.
• HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
• Airfare from home to Nelson and from Queenstown to home;
• Airport transfers;
• Souvenirs, snacks, admissions, alcohol;
• Meals and beverages not listed here;
• Optional activities, such as whitewater rafting, cave tubing, and canyoning;
• Gratuities for tour director and local guides.
This tour starts in Nelson (NSN) on the first day shown on our website and ends in Queenstown (ZQN) – both on the South Island of New Zealand.
Remember that all flights across the Pacific will cross the International Date Line. You will lose a day when flying southwest across the ocean, and regain that day on the way home. North American travelers who want to arrive in Nelson on Monday will need to depart home on Saturday. Your departure from New Zealand to North America on a Sunday afternoon will usually have you arriving on the US or Canadian West Coast earlier that same Sunday, a few hours before you left Auckland.
European travelers have a variety of options on Air New Zealand, Qantas, Etihad Airways, Emirates and other airlines.
New Zealand is home to some of the most exciting adventure sports on the planet. Our Wild Kiwi adventure offers travelers the chance to experience unique settings while trying new adventures. Hiking, canyoning, water sports, and more are available on this trip. If you are in good physical shape and like a challenge, this trip is for you.
But don't be put off simply because some of the activities don't appeal to you. Nearly everyone is likely to join us for shorter hikes, biking, and kayaking (although you have the option to hike instead of kayak). On other days, we may break into two groups, depending on individual preferences, or you may chose to have a quieter day at the lodge getting a massage.
If you'd rather lay on the beach all week, and your boyfriend is trying to convince you to come on Wild Kiwi because he'd like to go, then maybe it's best if you just go your separate ways for this vacation and both have a great time.
And as for the bungy jump: Whether you do it or not, predicting who will take the plunge makes for some fun dinner conversations. And in the past, we've all guessed wrong about one or two members of the group. You'll enjoy watching others take the leap.
So are most of the people who travel with us. You do not need to pay extra to travel by yourself. Prices are per-person, and the single supplement applies only if you'd like a room by yourself.
February and March are late summer and early fall in New Zealand, where the seasons are reversed from the northern hemisphere. Most days in February and March will continue to be in the 60s and low 70s, and you'll often be comfortable in shorts and t-shirt, but you'll also need a light jacket occasionally. There are likely to be times when you are glad for a sweatshirt and jeans in the mountains, especially if it rains. In Queenstown and Wanaka, days are likely to be pleasantly warm and clear, but temperatures may drop in the evening. You'll want a sweater when you go out for dinner.
On the west coast, we may have beautiful blue skies or we may encounter the rains that create those amazing glaciers and rain forests, but it just depends on the fronts that year. Toward the end of the trip, as we head north, we're likely to get more clear, sunny weather. (Nelson gets more sun than any other spot in New Zealand.)
Because it's an island with irregular terrain, New Zealand has what's known as a maritime climate, where the weather can change rapidly. Be prepared for sun to turn to rain — and vice versa — during the course of a day.
Canyoning is a popular outdoor sport in Australia, New Zealand, France, and a few other countries, and only more recently in the southwestern United States. (Those who do practice it in North America generally use the term canyoneering.) Those who try this activity generally say it's the most exciting day of the trip. Canyoning is also offered on these other HE Travel Adventure Tours.
In New Zealand, as on our other trips, we've sought out a variety of accommodations that are nice and comfortable, and give us a sense of the place we're visiting, often small, intimate, yet nice inns and lodges if available and friendly. On some tours, we may have a few nights in 2- and 3-bedroom luxury apartments or condos, since we find this arrangement offers more space and better opportunities to socialize. If we're in apartments, each unit has a living room. If you requesnt a single room, you'll have your own bedroom in a shared condo at these lodgings. Please note that if we are in luxury condos, in some cases two rooms may share a bathroom.
The official starting time is 6:00 pm on our official "start date". At that time we'll have our orientation, followed by dinner. It ends after breakfast on the last day. You can arrive earlier or depart later, but please note that (as of this writing) check-in time is 4:00 pm, and check-out time is 10:00 am, which is standard in New Zealand.
For North American travelers, the most direct route is to fly from home to Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, then connect to a flight to Queenstown on the South Island. When researching flights, we suggest first checking out flights between your home country gateway (such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Vancouver for North American travelers) and Auckland, then adding the Queenstown and Nelson segments to see whether it is less expensive to purchase the domestic segments as part of the international ticket or separately.
As of this writing, Air New Zealand (NZ) and Qantas-owned Jetstar (JQ) fly from Auckland to Queenstown. If flying from Australia, there are also direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Queenstown on Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar.
When we end our tour in Nelson, you can take one of several daily Air New Zealand flights from Nelson to Auckland, or to Australia via Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.
Many travelers find that booking through our in-house flight specialist is very convenient. We may have special rates with Air New Zealand that can save quite a bit on international airfare, especially for travelers who want to experience the exquisite Business Class service for which Air New Zealand is famous! (For couples, Air New Zealand also has an innovative section where a couple can reserve three seats together and fold them down to make a bed!) Please let us know if you would like us to assist your flight arrangements.
No! From the time you arrive at the hotel where we start, until you leave on the last day, group transportation is included. It's very unlikely you'd want to rent a car at any point unless you are spending time on your own in the region before or after the tour.
If you have the time, NZ is a beautiful country to see from a train, bus or ferry. Nelson is not on a train line, with the nearest stops being Blenheim and Picton, about 100 miles away. And Queenstown is accessible only by coach, air, or car. However, there is good bus service both locally and long distance. The following websites give details about various ground travel options in New Zealand, including a TravelPass good for any number of days of ground travel (and sometimes with an added flight for the return trip).
The vast majority of your expenses are covered, including all transportation during the trip, accommodation, and many activities. All breakfasts and several lunches and dinners are also included. So apart from gifts and souvenirs, which vary greatly from one individual to another, your only expenses are likely to be as follows:
• Activities of your choice. Our philosophy is that if most people will enjoy a particular activity, we include it in the price. So on many days, you're covered. The overview of this trip, here on the web, tells what's included.
But if an activity is unlikely to appeal to everyone, we prefer to offer it as an option, so that you're not indirectly paying for something you don't do. Whether or not you take the options we offer, or expect to head off on your own some days, we'd suggest a budget of $200 to $400 for such activities. The spectacular but optional half-day flight to/from Milford on Day 5 will be about $400 if you choose to go (and weather allows).
As for that bungy jump: It's free, too. You don't have to do it — but we don't want you claiming you're going to skip it just to save money!
• Meals. Many meals are included. When they're not, you can have a good dinner for as little as $15-$20, or pay up to $40 for a gourmet dinner with wine. You can eat quite well and keep total meal costs to $150 to $250 with a little effort, or budget a bit more and indulge yourself.
• Activity guide gratuities. We use local guides for some activities. Some companies add a compulsory surcharge to their list price for "gratuities", which we think defeats the purpose. We've consistently had great guides on Wild Kiwi, and we've been happy to tip them for making our vacation special. Tips are at your discretion, but we expect you'll feel the same way, and should budget around $100 for tips for activity guides.
• HE Travel tour director. As on all of our tours, a professional tour director will be with you throughout the trip to make sure everything goes smoothly, and a gratuity will be appreciated.
We've limited this trip to 14 days, because many people just can't get off from work for longer than that. But if you can stay longer, by all means, do so! We recommend spending your extra days in New Zealand.
Unless you've got at least 10 additional days, we recommend skipping Australia. It's not as close to New Zealand as you might think, with flights across the Tasman Sea taking three hours, and sometimes requiring a connection enroute. And Australia is huge, so it is better to save it for another visit.
That said, we've changed this itinerary to start in Queenstown so that you can also consider a weekend stop in Sydney for Gay Mardi Gras, which happens in the weeks leading up the Saturday before this tour. The parade and big party are on that Saturday and evening before our trip starts. so you might consider arriving in Sydney on Friday to enjoy the weekend Pride festivities and then catch a direct flight to Queenstown on Monday to arrive in time for our opening dinner that night.