• Three stunning National Parks – Richmond Forest Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park
• Five superb soft adventure activities – helibiking, sailing, sea kayaking, helihiking, hiking, and helirafting
• Three scenic helicopter flights, one fixed wing flight – Mt Richmond Forest park, Abel Tasman & Kahurangi National parks. One of the best multiactivity trips in the world, this unique and memorable, fully guided, continuous 7 day adventure Journey, is ideal as a “once in a lifetime” holiday vacation and shared experience for active families, small groups of friends, or small corporate groups.
The Journey travels across the wonderful and varied landscapes of Richmond Forest Park, Abel Tasman National Park and Kahurangi National Park, in the northwestern corner of the South Island of New Zealand, through a stunning scenery of sweeping golden beaches, turquoise seas, superb native bush, imposing mountain ranges, wilderness rivers and the remote and spectacular coastline of the Heaphy Track .
Two to three nights are spent in lodges, three nights in Department of Conservation mountain huts (shared living) and one aboard our 50 ft yacht “Simply Wild” or our 60ft yacht “ShKhinah”.
Day One – Dun Mountain helibike and sail to Anchorage
We brief you on the day and provide an opportunity for you to become familiar with your mountain bike near the resort. (Rather than on the trail at 1000 metres.)
From there it’s a short trip through town and into rugged Mt Richmond Forest park directly behind Nelson City, where we’ll meet our helicopter for the short lift up to Dun Mountain at 1000 metres. We fly a little beyond where we start the ride, getting spectacular views across the park toward Marlborough, and walking back on the rough trail for around 30 minutes to the bikes which will have been dropped by helicopter at Coppermine Saddle. We also get great views across Tasman Bay toward Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National parks, where the Journey will take us over the next 7 days.
The Dun Mountain Trail is now part of New Zealand’s Great Trail ride network, and follows the original path of New Zealand’s first railway built in 1860, a 21 kilometre horse drawn tramway running from Nelson City to a chromite mine at Coppermine Saddle at 900 metres behind Nelson. The mine was closed 6 years after it began in 1865, and the trail has been a walking trail for many years, recently upgraded as an excellent mountain bike trail. After coffee and carrot cake at the saddle, we follow the track 15 kilometres downhill through alpine tussock, then beech forest, then finally pine forest back to Nelson City, riding through the centre of the city to the marina, and our yachts. The trail is rocky in places at the beginning and about 1 metre wide, then widens to 2 – 3 metres. There is always a steep slope off to your left and a bank on your right. The walk and ride will take us about 3 hours.
At the marina we will leave the bikes and board SV “Simply Wild” a 50 ft Beneteau yacht, or SV “ShKhinah” a 60 ft steel ketch. Our chef will serve lunch as we leave the harbour to cross Tasman Bay to Anchorage in Abel Tasman National Park. Depending on the weather, it is around a 3 – 4 hours motor or sail trip.
After arriving at Anchorage you will have time to walk and explore on the beach before drinks and dinner prepared by our chef. “Simply Wild” has 5 cabins and sleeps 4 in double berths in separate cabins with ensuites. “ShKhinah” has a 4 bunk cabin forward, and 2 cabins at the rear, one with a double berth and one with twin berths. Shower and toilet facilities (there are 3) are shared.
Day Two – Sea kayaking along the Abel Tasman coastline
Following breakfast and a morning briefing, we’ll get away by 9.00am to catch the high tide and travel up to some the estuaries which are a feature of the coastline. Your bags will be transferred to Awaroa Lodge , where we will stay the night, by water taxi from the yachts.
You will be paddling in double sea kayaks. We provide you with paddle jackets (for over the top of your clothes), lifejackets, spray skirts, safety equipment and dry bags for your camera and other gear. Abel Tasman is one of the best sea kayak areas in the world, with the natural beauty of the coastline providing a playground for this delightful activity. You will paddle around rocky headlands of weathered, coarse granite rock, and along crescent shaped golden sand beaches, while exploring large tidal lagoons fringed with black beech forest.
After stopping for lunch at Bark or Mosquito Bay, we’ll continue along the coast and paddle around to Awaroa, or if the weather is rough we’ll head to Onetahuti beach and walk the last ¾ hour to Awaroa Lodge.
Awaroa Lodge is a delightful ecolodge, unusually for New Zealand, situated on private land within the Park. This is a chance to have great hot showers, before depriving yourself over the next 4 days. Drinks will be available in the bar before dinner together in the restaurant. The beach here is stunning; a long curving golden strip of white/golden sand devoid of people, absolutely worth a walk.
Day Three – Heliwalk and scenic flight through the higher parts of Kahurangi National Park
Today is the first of 5 days in the Park, at 1 million acres New Zealand’s second largest Park after Fiordland National Park. The Heaphy is renowned for its flora for several reasons. Kahurangi National Park has more plant species than any other park in New Zealand. During the last ice age the tussock grasslands (peneplains) of the park escaped glaciation and became refuges into which many of New Zealand’s alpine species colonized. As the park is situated in the centre of New Zealand, it is also the southern or northern limit to many species.
The helicopter will arrive at the Lodge around 10am and shut down. It will bring packs and other gear for the next few days, and you will have a chance to do a final pack of all the gear you will need for the hike. A change of clothes for when we arrive at the Lodge in Karamea four days later, will be put into labeled plastic bags or your small soft overnight bags for transfer by one of the helicopters after they have dropped us on the Heaphy Track later that day.
Flying out of Awaroa, we’ll have great views of Abel Tasman before we climb over the eastern edge of Kahurangi National Park, crossing the karst, (marble and limestone) Mt Arthur Range and Tablelands before we are dropped on a high alpine tussock ridge called Kakapo Spur, above the Cobb River valley and Lake, on the edge of what is known as the wilderness area. (There are no huts in the wilderness area and helicopters are prohibited from landing). We will hike around 3 – 4 kilometres along this ridge in our first walk of the day, with expansive views to the south of the park. Meeting the helicopter which has waited further down the ridge, we’ll head back past the rugged Douglas Range and the aptly named Dragons Teeth, a series of craggy and jagged peaks with sheer sides, stopping for lunch at remote Adelaide Tarn on our way to beautiful Boulder Lake, a glacial lake set high in the mountains beneath 1600 metre peaks. We’ll land just out of sight of the lake, before the 1 ½ hour second hike for the day over and down to the Lake.
Meeting the helicopters again at the remote hut by the lake, we’ll take a 5 minute flight across to Perry Saddle hut at 880 metres on the Heaphy Track where we’ll spend the night. The helicopter leaves us here, and will drop supplies at subsequent huts and clothes at the accommodation in Karamea. Like all huts on the track, Perry Saddle is a communal hut with shared bunk space, sleeping 26, but we now book to secure space at the hut. Proximity to others who are prone to snoring after a good day’s walk means it is an excellent idea to come with earplugs to ensure you can sleep undisturbed! We recommend the plasticky/waxy ones which mould to your ear.
Our chef will serve dinner.
Day Four – Hiking from Perry Saddle to Mackay Hut across the Gouland Downs
The Heaphy Track is best known for its beauty and landscape diversity. Starting in lowland forest, it climbs through a variety of habitat to a sub-alpine plateau, and eventually finishes in coastal forest with the world’s most southern palm trees fringing its beaches. There are many rare and endemic species along the track.
The track receives its name from Charles Heaphy – explorer, artist and soldier – who, along with Thomas Brunner and their Maori guides Kehu and Etau, was the first European to explore the Heaphy coast. Maori had probably used the route for 4 – 500 years before Europeans arrived, then from 1860 it was used as a pack trail for prospectors looking for gold. By 1900 it was overgrown and infrequently used. In the 1960’s, with tramping becoming a popular pastime with New Zealanders, the track was ‘rediscovered’. The Forest Service responded by building more huts and upgrading the track. Trampers, in turn, arrived in ever greater numbers to experience this amazing tour of varied scenery and natural history. Now the track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
This is the longest day, covering 27 kilometres of relatively easy, flat to undulating walking in two sections. Firstly through kamahi-beech-Quintinia forest, then across the high rolling tussock grass lands of the Gouland Downs – a peneplain, before passing the Gouland Downs Hut and continuing through “Lord of the Rings” style ‘Enchanted Forest’. This is a limestone remnant with beech forest. Across the Downs, you will walk through more magic forest with Dracophyllum traversii and D. townsonii track side. We stop at the Saxon Hut in tussock country for lunch after 13 kilometres and 3 ½ hours.
After lunch we gently wind our way up and over to the edge of the Mackay Downs, then onto the Mackay Hut, in a 14 kilometre section, eventually sighting the Tasman Sea and tomorrow’s destination at the Heaphy River mouth. On the way you will encounter a different flora habitat once again, with the banks along the track covered with mosses and a huge diversity of other plants. The geology changes to granite country with wonderful outcrops. Mackay Hut sleeps 26. Our chef will serve dinner.
Day Five – Hiking from Mackay Hut to the Heaphy Hut
Beyond Mackay Hut the downs landscape ends, and a gradual descent to the Heaphy River begins. In the first section of the day (13.5 kilometres), which will take around 3 -3 ½ hours, the track winds gradually down through ever-changing beech forest with new species being added constantly, until the first nikau palm appears and the forest begins to take on a jungle-like appearance.
The Lewis Hut is situated on the confluence of the Heaphy and Lewis Rivers. After lunch at the hut, and crossing the long Heaphy River swingbridge, the track ambles 8 kilometres through mixed lowland rain forest flora and the limestone outcrops along the Heaphy River, in a 2 hour section to the Heaphy Hut, at the mouth of the Heaphy River where we spend the night. There is little of this forest type left in New Zealand, with its unique mix of giant rata trees and abundant nikau palms. The Heaphy Hut is located on the riverbank about 5 minutes walk from the expansive beach and the Tasman Sea. Our chef serves dinner.
Day Six – Hiking from the Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai Bluff
The final day on the Heaphy, 16.5 kilometres and 5 hours walking. For the entire day the track hugs the coast and goes in and out of nikau and karaka groves beside pounding surf beaches. We’ll stop at one of the many stunning beaches for lunch, about 2 ½ hours from our finish at Kohaihai Bluff. There is magnificent scenery all the way. At the end of the track we have a drive of about 20 minutes to the remote village of Karamea, where the next two nights stay is at one of two small lodges. Dinner at the Lodge.
Day Seven – Rafting the Karamea River
The Karamea River on the northern end of the West Coast in Kahurangi National Park is acknowledged as one of the 10 best multi day wilderness raft trips in the world. On this trip, we will run the last part of the four day trip (4-5 hours of rafting) through the Karamea Gorge. This is in wilderness country accessible only by helicopter and we call it “cerebral” rafting because the rapids are long boulder gardens which require good teamwork between guides and clients. The Karamea is run very infrequently due to the area’s isolation, and our guide Josh and his crew have to drive 3 hours from their base at Ross near Hokitika, south along the West Coast.
We have a short (10 minute) ride from the Lodge to the take out point on the riverbank at the lower end of the gorge. The local helicopter operator will transfer us up to the start of the rafting on the edge of the Wilderness area at the top of the gorge, about a 7 minute trip. We’ll start the raft about 10am and finish around 3.00pm.
After changing, we’ll drive to the Karamea airfield for the flight by fixed wing plane back to Nelson.
All accommodation, yacht and meals.
Guides, helicopters, planes, bikes, national park fees, sea kayaking, rafting, transfers
Not included – Alcohol, which may purchased on the Journey
How physical is the trip?
The trip can be adjusted to suit your fitness and inclination. Sections can be shortened, or for instance you can substitute the helibike for easy cycling on the Great Taste Trail. Because this is a private trip, the pace is up to you and your group.
The trip is well within the reach of anybody with moderate fitness. We have also run a more extreme version, with every section lengthened to make it more like adventure racing.
How long does each section take?
The helibike takes around 2-3 hours from the time we collect you to the time you reach the yacht marina.
Sailing across Tasman Bay takes around 3 – 4 hours. The sea kayaking takes about 4 hours, and the helicopter trip is around 1 1/2 hours before you begin walking on the Heaphy Track. The walking section is 16 kilometres and takes around 5 – 6 hours.
What happens if we have a family or group member who doesn’t wish to do each section (particularly the active sections) but wants to be part of the trip?
During the helibike that member can enjoy the helicopter ride, and walk if they wish to the start of the ride, before flying back in the helicopter. During the sea kayaking, that person can remain on the yacht, which will accompany the sea kayaking. On the Heaphy walking section that family member can enjoy the scenic helicopter trip, then be dropped at the Karamea accommodation by the helicopter along with the baggage.
How long and how hard is the helihike and hiking.
The alpine helihikes on the third day are relatively short (1 hour and 1.5 hours). Distances on the Heaphy Track are Perry Saddle Hut to James Mackay hut, 24 kilometres (6.5hrs), Mackay Hut to Heaphy Hut 20.5 kilometres (5 – 6 hrs), Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai end of track 16.2 kilometres (5 hrs). The Heaphy is an well maintained track with an even surface.
What grade is the rafting?
It is mainly graded around 4 but depends very much on river flow. Two rapids are often 4. 5 to 5 and are portaged.
What happens in the event of bad weather?
We will sometimes change the sequence of the Journey to work around the weather, but we will consult you on both our judgement around safety and your comfort before we make final decisions around proceeding with any section of the trip. If a section is cancelled due to bad weather we will refund that portion of the trip.
We have a family/group member with specific diet requirements. Can you accommodate this?
We have our own chefs and prepare our all our own food. We can accommodate most needs with advance warning.