Mackinnon Pass tea break
New Zealand, the youngest country in the world, is a small group of islands in the South Pacific, is home to a population under four million people. Aotearoa, or “land of the long white cloud”, as it is known in the Maori language, is a blend of European and Pacific Island cultures, cosmopolitan cities and natural beauty, and cultural refinement with adventurous spirit.
On New Zealand's North Island, home to the country’s largest city, Auckland, and the capital of Wellington, metropolitan life mingles with a unique landscape. Golden beaches, hot springs, and volcanoes are only a sample of what visitors will find beside populated centres. The Coromandel and Rotorua areas are great for hiking as is Tongariro national parks which boasts of Tongariro crossing as the best one day walk in New Zealand.
With the spectacular wilderness areas of the South Island, numerous tour and adventure companies provide outdoor escapes to suit all visitors. The South Island's Christchurch and Dunedin are world-class cities, embracing both colonial heritage and sophisticated urban life. Queenstown is a special delight. For hiking there is the famous Abel Tasman Coastal multi-day walk along the beautiful isolated beaches and forest. And of course there is the spectacular Milford track five day hike of 55 km with an invigorating climb to the top of the Mackinnon Pass.
Coromandel & Rotorua
A short drive from Auckland lies the Coromandel. Framed by native Pohutukawa trees on the western side, beautiful white sandy beaches on the east and divided by ranges cloaked in native rainforest, the Coromandel offers a hikers’ paradise and a chance to meet Kiwi Dundee.
Rotorua on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua is well-known for geothermal activity. There are a number of geysers, notably the Pohutu geyser at Whakarewarewa, and hot mud pools which owe their presence to the Rotorua caldera. This is the heartland of New Zealand, spiritual home to the Maori, nature’s spa of the South Pacific and host to some of the world’s most incredible earth forces.
Still on the North island, Tongariro National Park is noted for its volcanic terrain offering a fascinating look at a very alien environment, complete with twisted lava formations, volcanic steam vents and colorful crater lakes.
The scenery is so fantastic--so otherworldly--that Tongariro was used as one of the settings for Peter Jackson's film Lord of the Rings. One avenue that allows visitors to see all of this is the 12-mile Tongariro Crossing, often called "the best one-day hike in New Zealand" because of the magnificent scenery it reveals and the changing and challenging terrain it traverses.
Abel Tasman National Park
Looking for 100% pure New Zealand, this is it! Abel Tasman National Park (established in 1942) is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. It also has a mild climate and is a good place to visit at any time of the year.
The Abel Tasman three day walk along the coastal track is magnificent. At 22,530 hectares Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park and is located at the top of the South Island. You can walk from North to South (or the reverse) from Kaiteriteri Beach to Awaroa (Meadowbank Homestead) to Torrent bay (Torrent Bay Lodge) to Marahau.
Franz Joseph & On the Road
Franz Josef Glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 20 minute walk from the glacier car park will take you to its terminal face. Or you can hike to a choice of lookout points for a bigger view of this awesome river of ice.
From there we travelled through the Haast Pass and alongside Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to Queenstown passing Cape Foul Wind with its seal lookout point and many other incredible views.
Milford Track Day 2 Plus
Traversing the heart of New Zealand’s wild fjord country, the Milford track has been described as the “finest walk in the world”. It was first pioneered by Quintin Mackinnon in 1888. From Queenstown, it’s a drive to the Te Anau Downs boat harbour where a launch takes you to the spectacular northern end of Lake Te Anau.
From the wharf, it’s a short walk to the historic Glade House for guided walkers. If you are doing this on your own as an independent tramper, then its further walk to Clinton Hut and its more basic facilities. The whole walk is 55 km or 34.2 miles. Day 2 (16 km, 10 mi) follows the Clinton River to the Hirere Falls lunch shelter. The luxurious beech forest tehnreleases us to the Prairie and on up to Pompalona Lodge.
Milford Day 3: Mackinnon Pass
This is by far the most demanding day (15km, 9.3 mi) especially in inclement weather. Rain is to be expected on at least one or more days. We were fortunate to go the whole 5 days with no rain in a 10 day drought period.
The trail leads to Lake Mintaro at the head of the Clinton valley before climbing the 3-4 hour trek to Mackinnon Pass in a series of zig-zags. At the top the guides make hot tea while you enjoy the endless views on a clear day and enjoy lunch in Pass Hut. After a long rocky and steep descent into the Arthur Valley, you reach Quintin Lodge.
Milford Track Days 4 & 5
The final day on the track is a 21 km (13 mi) walk beginning on the trail down the Arthur valley to Boatshead and on past Mackay Falls and Bell Rock to a lunch spot at Giants’ Gate waterfall. The final stretch of the track follows tranquil Lake Ada to Sandfly Point, where according to Maori legend the goddess Te Hinenui released the sandfly to stop men from lingering too long in the beauty of the Fjordland.
From this point, it’s a short launch trip over to Miter Peak Lodge for the final dinner and presentation of diplomas for the completion of the five day adventure.