Once you clap eyes on something this beautiful, it’s hard to look away…
It takes the most hardened of travellers not to be hypnotised by the spectacular snowy spine of New Zealand’s South Island, the Southern Alps. And an Inspiring Journey can take you over the top – literally.
***This article was created in conjunction with our sponsors AAT Kings***
Jagged, breathtaking mountains; crazily clear-watered lakes; culture-filled cities; and world-famously friendly people. If the powers that be created a place especially wonderful to visit, it would be New Zealand’s South Island. Travellers come from all over the world to experience it, yet we’re so spoiled to have it as our neighbour. And if you’re going to do it, do it well, we say.
Lock yourself in for an inspiring journey
AAT Kings offer a perfect 12-day tour that delves into the very best that this magical place has to offer, and it is one of their extra-special Inspiring Journeys to boot. These boutique, small-group trips (with no kids under 12) focus on tailored touring – that is, they’ll base your particular experience around what you like to do best, whether it’s trying out the best of the foodie scene or getting off the beaten track.
With a group of no more than 20 travellers, you can reach more intimate and exclusive places than a more mainstream tour can handle, and that exclusivity also reaches to the superior level of treatment and accommodations on offer, and your luxury coach or 4WD transport. Experiences are immersive and authentic, keeping your travel hands-on and intriguing, all seamlessly organised by your ever-present expert Travel Director (and/or Driver/Guide) so you can just relax right into it all. The final quintessential part of an Inspiring Journey is one especially close to the heart of the delicately balanced natural beauty of New Zealand: a commitment to conservation and responsible tourism, partnering with the TreadRight Foundation.
These journeys concentrate on ‘four pillars’ – to discover, explore, immerse and relax – that guide the elements of the tour to best give you the full, inspiring experience of this very special destination.
The Southern Drift 12-day journey
Your adventure begins in Christchurch, the beautifully gardened city straddling the plains between the ocean and the mountains. In fact, the best way to see how the lush, fertile Canterbury Plains transition so dramatically into the magnificent Southern Alps is aboard the famed TransAlpine train – a train-lover’s bucket-lister, holding a firm place as one of the world’s most beautiful rail journeys. At Arthur’s Pass, you have the chance to travel by coach to Punakaiki to witness the incredible limestone Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, spending the night in a waterfront eco-resort here on the country’s less visited, wonderfully rugged west coast.
The mineral-rich, elemental region is best experienced next day as you take in a jewellery demonstration by an expert greenstone/jade carver in the town of Hokitika, before moving on to the historic gold-rush town of Ross. Then the massive World Heritage area of Franz Josef Glacier awaits, setting a serene and silent wilderness scene for an overnight in a forest retreat, warmed by geothermal pools.
Add a flight? Why not?
You may choose to take a scenic flight over the light-filled glacier by morning for an extra fee, or simply take in the world-famous forest, before going for a walk through the Haast Pass and the luminous mountain lakes of Wanaka and Hawea, including stops at gold-mining town Arrowtown and Makarora. Then it’s Queenstown, capital of fun and adrenalin, with three nights and adventure-filled days choosing from the town’s veritable smorgasbord of activities. Do you dare a super-fast boat ride in the Shotover jet boat, or would you prefer a day of wine-tasting or spa treatments?
Enter… the park
It’s then time for something truly spectacular: Fiordland National Park. The hand-cut Homer Tunnel gives way to postcard-worthy scenery at every turn, deep within the Park. Bring your camera (and your sense of wonder) as you explore the Chasm Walk and the Mirror Lake; a half-day aboard the Southern Discoveries boat will also take you beyond the Sound, into the Tasman Sea to scout for wildlife, and take to the kayaks in Harrison Cove, culminating in two nights in the famous Milford Sound Lodge.
Time for grub in the pub
From the wilderness of Fiordland to the rolling, arid countryside of Central Otago, you’re welcomed onto a high-country farm to give you a taste of the high plains around Wedderburn, and dinner with wine at the pub. The next day brings the chance to try your hand at the sport of curling in the historical gold-mining town of Naseby, before heading back amongst those fabulous Southern Alps, as well as Lake Pukaki and, finally, greeting the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Spending the night here is a special treat – after all, it’s one of the world’s best stargazing spots on the planet – before returning to Christchurch and enjoying a final tour of the city with your small-group friends.
The Southern Drift journey travels between October and March, and starts from $6595 per person. For more information or to book call 1300 228 546 or visit http://www.inspiringjourneys.com/internationaltraveller, or for full details visit inspiringjourneys.com/booking-conditions