SATURDAY 16 APRIL Queenstown (D)
Arrival day in Queenstown. On arrival, you will be transferred to the Sofitel hotel where we will spend the next 3-nights. There is time to settle in, or perhaps take a relaxing walk down Marine Parade and enjoy a coffee on the waterfront. Tonight, we come together for our first dinner as a group.
SUNDAY 17 APRIL Queenstown (L)
There is time this morning to relax and enjoy Queenstown. At midday today, we set off on a cruise aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw across to Walter Peak High Country Farm (approx. 45-minutes) for lunch. Once at the lakeside Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant savour the delicious aromas as the chef has the best of local produce sizzling away on the grill. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown’s alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak High Country Farm is the perfect place to spend a few hours. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. An entertaining farm demonstration is also included, or you can explore the beautiful lakeside gardens. At the conclusion of the tour mid-afternoon, we transfer back to our accommodation. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
MONDAY 18 APRIL Queenstown – Arrowtown (B.D)
After breakfast, we depart the hotel this morning and visit the Chantecler Gardens, a 40-acre property that includes 12 acres of mature gardens and nestled in the heart of the Wakitipu Basin. We then continue on to Queenstown for a ride on the Queenstown Skyline Gondola, the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere! Rise 450 metres above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak and take in a spectacular 220-degree panorama with breath-taking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peak and, of course, Queenstown.
Before returning to our accommodation this afternoon, we make visit Arrowtown, a historic New Zealand treasure. Quaint and charming, the town gained a name for itself in the 1860s following the discovery of gold in the Arrow River. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a succession of more than 60 small-town heritage buildings and miners’ cottages stretching across the tree lined avenue. There is time to wander the town and take in the autumn colours.
Tonight, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
TUESDAY 19 April Arrowtown – Cardrona Valley – Wanaka (B.D)
This morning we check out of our hotel and travel by coach via the Crown Range Road to Wanaka, enjoying the spectacular scenery en route. Enjoy lunch (own expense) at the iconic Cardrona Hotel; Established in 1863 it is one of the oldest, most-photographed and legendary hotels in New Zealand. It is one of only two remaining buildings from the Cardrona Valley gold rush era. Its’ rustic charm, dramatic mountain setting and rich history make it a must-see while in Central Otago.
Travelling on, we stop at the nearby Cardrona Whisky Distillery located in the valley of picturesque snow-capped mountains. Every aspect of Cardrona’s products is of the highest quality, from the pure Cardrona Valley alpine water, the rich malted barley, the foraged ingredients to the handpicked oak casks from Spain and America. Discover the secrets to Cardrona’s artisan spirits, see where the malt is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and matured before tasting the wares with a tutored spirit tasting!
On arrival into Wanaka this afternoon, we are transferred to the Edgewater Resort for the next 2-nights, Wanaka’s only accommodation located directly on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Tonight, we come together to enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
WEDNESDAY 20 April Wanaka (B.L)
After breakfast, we are met by the Ridgeline Adventures team. From the hotel, we set off on a 4WD safari, travelling high into the Buchannan Mountains for jaw-dropping scenery of Wanaka. The private back roads of West Wanaka Station, a 30,000-acre deer farm are steeped in history and bordering the majestic snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mt Aspiring National Park. Enjoy morning tea on the top of Lookout Hill and take a leisurely walk in the alpine meadow, before descending to Calhounes Beach for a fascinating history lesson. Return to Wanaka approx. 1.00pm.
Enjoy lunch at the one of the many café’s lining the shores of Lake Wanaka. Enjoy local favourites such as Alchemy, Fed Deli, Relishes, Big Fig and more!
At 3.00pm we meet again on the lake front for an afternoon cruise on Lake Wanaka. Relax in comfort as we cruise up the arm to Stevensons Island where we will make a beach landing. Our guide will take us ashore for a short hike (optional) to the summit to view the Minaret Peaks with some excellent photo opportunities. We return to Wanaka approx. 5.00pm.
The evening is at leisure.
THURSDAY 21 April Wanaka – Mount Cook (B.D)
After breakfast and checking out of our accommodation, we meet with Go Jets Wanaka for a thrilling jet boat ride down the mighty Clutha River. Enjoy spectacular scenery and fast flowing waters, cruising past old gold mining sites, and pass under the historic “Red Bridge” until we reach the “Devil’s Nook”. There will be numerous photo stops and storytelling along the way – you are in for one unforgettable journey. Return to Wanaka at the conclusion of the tour where we rejoin our coach.
Departing Wanaka, we travel through the beautiful Lindis Valley and Mackenzie Country until we reach Twizel, a handy base for explorations of Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin. Twizel is the ultimate autumn paradise. Lake Ruataniwha, Lake Ohau and Twizel River are the perfect photo locations with autumn-coloured trees mirroring, deep blue lakes and rivers and a dusting of snow on top of the mountains.
We stop at the High-Country Salmon farm, floating on the glacial waters of Wairepo Arm. Established in 2000 by Margaret and Richard Logan, it is the smallest of the two farms raising salmon on the hydro canals surrounding Twizel. Enjoy the “Glacier to Plate” experience – premium chinook salmon straight to your plate from the glacial waters of the southern alps, using a variety of cooking techniques to best highlight the clean flavour profile of their salmon.
As well as salmon, the Wairepo Arm is home to an abundance of birdlife, including the Australasian Crested Grebe and native scaups. As this bird species does not spend any time on land, High Country have installed platforms around the farm which have been home to three generations of grebe chicks! We enjoy lunch in Twizel (own expense).
Continuing on, we arrive at our accommodation mid/late-afternoon. Nestled in the beautiful Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, The Hermitage Hotel is the perfect base. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and of course our tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres.
We enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening.
FRIDAY 22 April Mount Cook (B.D)
There is time to wander around the Hermitage grounds this morning, before we move on to New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier terminal lake for a fascinating glacial encounter. From here we cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size periodically tear away from the glacier allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500 year old glacial crystals.
The afternoon is at leisure, until such time as we meet again for dinner.
This evening, you can opt to join the Big Sky Stargazing tour. Experienced guides will introduce you to the beautiful southern night sky using the naked eye, astro-binoculars and state of the art 14’ and 11’ astronomy telescopes. Unleash your imagination as you discover our neighbourhood in the universe including the southern cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, stunning star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and even our very own galaxy, the spectacular Milky Way.
SATURDAY 23 APRIL Lake Pukaki – Lake Tekapo – Christchurch (B.D)
After breakfast, we depart the Hermitage and continue to Christchurch, via Lake Tekapo. This highland lake and settlement at 710 metres (2300 feet) is in the heart of the Mackenzie District and surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass. The name Tekapo derives from Maori words Taka (sleeping mat) and Po (night). When sunlight hits the surface of the lake it appears to transform to a magical bright blue. This is due to fine particles of rock flour deposited from the surrounding glaciers which refract the sunlight, transforming the water into a turquoise hue.
Lunch today will be at the famous Fairlie Bakehouse! (own account)
We arrive in Christchurch late afternoon and the remainder of the day is at leisure before meeting for dinner this evening.
SUNDAY 24 April Christchurch (B.D)
This morning we have a visit to Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English oak tree, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens are extensive and contain an impressive array of plant collections that delight at any time of year. We then visit Hagley Park, where you can find some of the best examples of European deciduous trees anywhere in New Zealand. The rich reds and russets of the autumn foliage frame glimpses of the Avon River as it curls through the park.
From Hagley Park, we see the Earthquake Memorial and the Bridge of Remembrance before concluding the tour in downtown Christchurch, where despite the devastation driven by the earthquakes, remains a fabulous place to wander around in. The afternoon is at leisure.
Maybe take a walk in Cathedral Square, visit the Canterbury Museum or indulge in a bit of shopping at New Regent Street, the first pedestrian mall in New Zealand.
An exciting new development is ‘Riverside’, a unique inner-city shopping experience for the local community and visitors to enjoy, consisting of a 7-day-trading, indoor market, linked to a vibrant network of boutique retail, restaurants, cafes & bars.
Tonight, we get together for our final dinner together.
MONDAY 25 April Christchurch – Home (B)
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Farewell your newfound friends as you travel to Christchurch Airport to begin the journey home.