Nelson Lakes Backcountry Adventure

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Dec 25, 2020

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Trip Information

On this short, authentic New Zealand adventure we'll explore Kaikoura before setting out in the heart of Nelson Lakes National Park. We'll hike along the shores of Lake Rotoiti meaning 'little water', and spend a night each at two backcountry huts. This is how Kiwis vacation, so come
and see for yourself on this 5-day backcountry adventure.

(Trip start - Christchurch, trip end - Christchurch).

What's Included

  • All guiding services: Two experienced New Zealand guides per trip. Having two guides allows for much greater flexibility, meaning you're able to go at your own pace.
  • All meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days, except where indicated on the itinerary. (Day 1 excludes breakfast, and day 5 excludes lunch and dinner).
  • All transport: When you're not travelling under your own steam, there will be comfortable air-conditioned vans to stretch your legs.
  • All accommodations: A broad selection of accommodations are included on this trip. Comfortable hotels to backcountry huts! It's all part of the epic experience.
  • All activities: We've refined the art of adventure on this trip. All hikes are included, as well as wine tasting at a winery in the Marlborough region. If you're choosing the easier hiking option, a water taxi ride is also included.


Arrive, hike Kaikoura coastline
We'll meet you in Christchurch, either at the joining hotel or the airport, and after we've introduced ourselves to one another we’ll head up the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura. We’ll make a stop at Gore Bay for a picnic lunch (weather permitting!), before continuing to Kaikoura where we’ll hike the scenic peninsula. This area was uplifted by around 6ft in the earthquake of 2016, and it's amazing to see how things have changed here. Thankfully, the marine life which loves this area is still thriving. As we hike along the weathered limestone cliffs, we’ll watch a colony of fur seals basking on the rocks and playing in the eddies. If you like, you can add on a whale watching trip in Kaikoura, for an extra cost. Today is a relaxed introduction, we'll eat dinner together, and spend the evening preparing for our mission into the backcountry together.

Kaikoura Lodgings, Kaikoura

(Lunch, dinner)


Wine tasting in Blenheim, hike to Lakehead Hut
From Kaikoura, we’ll travel along spectacular coastline for a couple of hours to Blenheim, a town in the Marlborough wine region. We’ll visit a local winery to sample some of their fantastic wines, this is sauvignon blanc country, and these wines are some of the best in the world. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch before head to the start of our backcountry hike. Our adventure truly begins in the charming village of Saint Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park, where we'll start our multi-day hike. This is serious wilderness country, with incredible views and special solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains. We’ll hike the relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut, a small mountain cabin at the head of the lake and our home for the night. Our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. All you’ll be carrying is a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food.

Lakehead Hut

(All meals)


Option A: Angelus Circuit via Hukere Cascade
Day 3 - Angelus Circuit via Hukere Cascade: Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut
Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets better with each step! If possible (weather and water level dependent), we’ll start the morning with a refreshing river crossing of the Travers River. If flow rate is too high we'll follow the river upstream through beech forest to the plan B crossing point - a swing bridge. Once across the river we'll follow it upstream through beech forest to our track junction. From our junction we'll be heading up the Hukere Stream towards the ridgeline. This is a challenging hike, with an elevation gain of 1000 metres (3280 feet), and it’s absolutely worth every single step! The Angelus Circuit has exceptional scenery, and provides great reward for the efforts you put in. There’s no rush today and we’ll be right there with you to encourage you – we'll also be stopping for a picnic lunch along the way. It’s a tremendous feeling at the top when you reach Angelus Hut, nestled beside a gorgeous alpine lake. Many people tell us this hidden gem was the highlight of their New Zealand adventure, and a lot of Kiwis prefer the Angelus Circuit to better-known tracks.

Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

(All meals)

Day 4 (morning) - Angelus Circuit via Hukere Cascade: Angelus Hut to Lake Rotoiti
Wake up on top of the world! After breakfast, we’ll hike out along the lunar landscape of Mt Robert's ridge with dramatic views of Tasman Bay and the mountainous Kahurangi National Park in the distance. Around lunchtime we'll be joined by the group who decided to hike back to St Arnaud via Whiskey Falls yesterday, and we'll descend the Pinchgut Track, through native beech forest, and complete our hike on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

Option B: Rotoiti Circuit via Coldwater Hut and Whiskey Falls (extra fee applies)
Day 3 - Rotoiti Circuit via Coldwater Hut and Whiskey Falls: Lakehead Hut to Whiskey Falls
If possible (weather and water level dependant), we’ll start the morning with a refreshing river crossing of the Travers River. If flow rate is too high we'll follow the river upstream through beech forest to the plan B crossing point - a swing bridge. Once we've crossed the river it's a short hike to Coldwater Hut, perched on the edge of Lake Rotoiti, in a straight line, little more than a stone's throw from where we laid our heads last night. When we're feeling hungry we'll stop trailside for a spot of lunch, then continue following our noses as the trail gently winds its way around Lake Rotoiti to Whiskey Creek, and the beautiful Whiskey Falls. Feel free to fill up your water bottles from Whiskey Creek, but it IS only water, honest! From Whiskey Falls we’ll board a water taxi to take us back to Kerr Bay. Tonight, we’ll be staying in St Arnaud where our hike began.

St Arnaud Lodgings

(All meals)

Day 4 (morning) - Rotoiti Circuit via Coldwater Hut and Whiskey Falls: St Arnaud to Mt Robert via Pinchgut
This morning we'll enjoy breakfast together in St Arnaud, and clamber back into our hiking boots to set out for this morning's walk. We'll explore the beautiful peninsula walk, stretching out into Lake Rotoiti, before making our way to the Pinchgut Track. This trail gives access to Mt Robert, and Robert's Ridge, where the rest of the group will be approaching from. We'll wind our way up the trail through the native beech trees and manuka scrub to meet the group.


Head to Maruia Springs
Once we're back together, sharing stories of our various escapades over the last couple of days, we’ll hit the road. Maruia Springs is our stop for tonight; it's a spectacular spot, boasting picturesque natural hot springs in the alpine Lewis Pass. Tonight we'll celebrate our adventures together and enjoy a final dinner together.

Maruia Springs

(All meals)

Head back to Christchurch, depart
After breakfast this morning we'll hit the road back to Christchurch where our adventure ends. You'll leave filled with great stories, and an album of new favourite photos, as well as new friends you've shared your adventure with. This is a true Kiwi backcountry experience, and it will stay with you long after you return to normality. If you're staying longer in Christchurch our guides will be able to give you lots of great recommendations.


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