We’ll meet you at the Museum Art Hotel in New Zealand’s hip capital city of Wellington. We hope you will have had the chance to “coffee up” this morning, as Kiwis will be proud to tell you that their coffee is the very best in the world. After an initial round of hellos, we will depart for a short tour of the city on foot, sampling some of its specialty food items – chocolates, for one! – and learning about the history, culture and landscape. From there, you can choose to take a short hike to get your blood moving or relax in our luxurious hotel. Tonight, we’ll have an introduction to wines from New Zealand’s major wine areas with our dinner.
After an early breakfast, we head immediately to the Interisland ferry terminal and enjoy the three-hour ride from the bottom tip of the North Island to the top of the South Island, landing in the quaint seaport of Picton in time for lunch. We’ll hike out to the “Snout,” a rocky promontory overlooking Queen Charlotte Bay to shake off the travel dust and warm up for the three days of hiking ahead of us. Afterward, you can check in to the hotel, explore the waterfront and town, or you might wish to rent a kayak or standup paddle board and explore the bay. We’ll have a late afternoon debriefing from our hiking guide on what to expect on the Queen Charlotte Track and what to pack, then walk to dinner just a few blocks from our hotel.
After checking out of our hotel and packing only what we need for our three days of tramping (what kiwis call hiking), the remainder of our luggage will be safely stored until we return and we’ll depart Picton by water taxi, winding through the sound to Ship Cove, Captain Cook’s favorite resting spot in the world. From here, we’ll begin our journey on the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds. This 71-kilometer trail is one of New Zealand’s most famous and it provides beautiful sea vistas and lodge-to-lodge hiking – we will hike on what we think are the best portions of the trail, almost 50 kilometers of it! A local water taxi transfers our luggage ahead while we carry only our daypacks and start on our 14-kilometer, five-hour walk to Furneaux Lodge. We are rewarded with a beautiful hotel on the shore of Endeavor Inlet and a delicious evening BBQ before snuggling in for the night.
We can sleep in a bit and enjoy our beautiful private suites next to the shore, as today is a shorter and much flatter hike: it is only 12.5 kilometers from Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove, and about four hours of hiking. We will stop along the way to refuel with lunch and capture photos – and still have plenty of time at Punga Cove to enjoy walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, reading a good book, having a beer at the waterside bar, or perhaps renting a sea kayak for a spin in the bay. You may also choose to continue walking up a steep hill on the QCT for a spectacular view from the ridgetop out to the ocean and beyond before our water taxi collects us at 3 PM and brings us to our next destination: the colorful Lochmara Lodge. You’ll have some time to explore the on-site wildlife sanctuary and a myriad of trails with art installations before joining the group for one of our favorite dinners of the trip. Be sure to visit the glow worms before you go to bed!
After fueling up with breakfast, we complete the Queen Charlotte Track by hiking the final, beautiful, 20 kilometers (seven hours) to the end of the trail in Anakiwa, where we take the ferry back to Picton. There, we jump in our private shuttle and drive to Marlborough’s wine country. We celebrate our three-day feat at a multicourse dinner in the luxurious Marlborough Vintners Hotel (our home for the next 3 nights) and meet Hamish, our charming and congenial wine guide who will be with us the next two days.
We rest our feet today by jumping on bicycles to visit wine country. You will gain an intense appreciation for the style of wine being made here, the geographical and environmental conditions associated with this wine region and the passion of the people that are responsible for making this world class wine. The cycling is excellent, with nice country roads and little traffic. We’ll first cycle to Te Whare Ra, where the delightful owner Anna will ensure this is one of the highlights of your trip, and then offer a brief stop and tasting at biodynamic winemaker Seresin before heading to a late lunch at Wairau River Wines. In the afternoon, you’ll have the option to simply relax at our wonderful hotel (there are great souvenir shops across the street), or continue cycling with optional stops at funky Moa Brewery, beautiful Cloudy Bay Winery, Allan Scott or Jackson Estate. Tonight we have a tasting and dinner at one of New Zealand’s top restaurants: Hanz Herzog.
After a morning hike at Wither Hills Farm Park, we head to Forrest Winery, where the good doctors will tell us what makes their wines so special, then let us taste this for ourselves. Afterward, we have a picnic in their lovely grounds, and stop at a local honey farm before we are off to Hamish & Angie’s wonderful “Dartington Barn” for an intimate cooking class. Yes, wine will be served throughout! To top off the evening, we’ll have an optional stop at a fun local pub on the way home, just in case anybody’s still hungry or thirsty.
We check out of our hotel, and as anybody who has been here can tell you, we simply have to stop at Makana Chocolates before heading south to Kaikoura. We also stop along the way for coffee and snacks at “The Store” (known as the best café in Marlborough), then at the Ohau Stream Walk to look at the Fur Seals before arriving in Kaikoura, where you will have the opportunity to hike 10 kilometers on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Here we are bound to see birds and an assortment of sea mammals (dolphin, whale, and seals) along the rugged and beautiful coastline. We will stay in the well-appointed Kaikoura Apartments and enjoy our last night together at one of our favorite restaurants – the Green Dolphin.
After enjoying the morning and having a relaxing breakfast, we will shuttle to Christchurch, arriving in time for afternoon departures.