Alpine Nature Walk at Lewis Pass, South Island

The Lewis Pass is the northernmost road crossing of the Southern Alps. Whether you’re driving north from Christchurch, or south from the Nelson region, you’ll drive over this beautiful area of forested alpine landscape around halfway through your trip.

Part of the greater Lewis Pass National Reserve, the area is home to tumbling rocky rivers, dense temperate beech and podocarp forest, and far-reaching alpine views. There are many walking/hiking trails through the area, but many require some experience of high country hiking.

The summit of the Lewis Pass road allows access to a short Alpine Nature Walk around a tarn (a small lake) and is very accessible for families with children or those unused to alpine walking. It can be cold up there any time of year so take a jacket with you, and wear some robust footwear. The boardwalks can be a bit slippery in ice or snow, but most of the year they are fine.

Take your time on this short 20 minute walk to look for a distant waterfall dropping from the mountains, far-off alpine valleys opening from above the treeline, and wild clouds rushing up through the pass. It is an invigorating place to stop.

Abel Tasman's Coastline

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It is unclear to me why the Abel Tasman coastline, on the northern edge of New Zealand’s South Island, is called that when the 18th century Dutch explorer didn’t actually see it. But whatever its name, the clear green water and shining golden sand of this beautiful coastline is well worth a visit.

Most visitors walk the Abel Tasman National Park coastline, and a few choose to paddle it in a sea kayak – quite a few in fact. But to me the best option to see the area is to sail along this historic coastline. This is a perfect day tripper experience without a backpack, a hiking boot or a blister in sight.

On a still morning in early summer the light at Marahau is crisp and blue. The sea is like glass as it creeps in over golden yellow sand flats. The bush-covered hills of the national park rise up behind this little seaside village, sheltering it from the cool sou-westerly wind drifting off the snowy mountains in the nearby Kahurangi National Park. It’s a great day to go sailing. 

As soon as the tide is high enough to carry us out of the bay we cruise off slowly under motor, our boat clearing the maze of channels and sand banks in a matter of minutes. The skipper has obviously spent time on these waters, as he steers with one hand while watching the depth of the water, delivering a safety briefing in record time and launching into a five minute run-down of the historic area we are sailing into. 

This area was always popular with local Maori, long before the Europeans came through in their little white sailing ships. Evidence of middens and fertile, ancient kumara gardens sit well between stories of local chiefs and visiting waka (canoes). During their exploratory voyages both Abel Janzoon Tasman and James Cook managed to miss this stretch of coastline completely, but French lieutenant Dumont D’Urville more than made up for this with his extensive visit in 1827, leaving the coastline renamed with a distinct French flavour – Adele Island, Coquille Bay, Astrolabe Roadstead, Isle de Pecheur (now Fisherman’s Island) and Anse du Torrents (now Torrent Bay). Other names such as Watering Cove and Observation Beach also tell of his activities while in the area.

The sea along the Abel Tasman coast is a particularly nice shade of translucent green. If there’s been no rain for a while the visibility of the water is intensely clear. We look over the side to see huge chunks of granite metres below the surface, which have fallen from the land over preceding millennia. Tiny blue penguins paddle beside us and rocket-powered gannets dive from the sky to disappear into the water without a splash. Their breakfast obviously moves fast. Further up the coast there are fur seals around Tonga Island and some days whales or dolphins cruise through these coastal waters.

But today we are headed for Te Pukatea Bay, just beneath Pitt Head, where the boat drifts ashore to drop us, almost dry-footed, on the sand for lunch. Pukatea is a horseshoe-shaped bay, ringed by green bush and steep hills, which looks out to the eastern side of Tasman Bay far in the distance. 

Lunch is a casual affair – bare feet, toes digging into the sand as we sit above the high tide mark. Everything is provided, including bubbles and some nice local wines, as we kick back and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Just a short walk over the hill behind us is the Anchorage – a favourite weekend spot for local yachties – and further around, Torrent Bay. Although this area is national park there are still pockets of private land in many of the bays and Torrent Bay is one that has a number of cottages and holiday homes. It’s a busy place in summer considering there isn’t a road for miles. Everyone comes in by boat.

But lunch and a quiet siesta later we’re ready to man the decks and haul on the sheets for a fast downwind ride back along the coast. There really is no better thing to do on a yacht plying this sunny coastline than to sit on deck, spinnaker sheet in hand, tweaking it from time to time as we fly downwind, following the huge red sail back down to Marahau.  

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24 Hours in Fiordland

24 Hours in Fiordland

Fiordland has become one of the iconic travel destinations in New Zealand. It is, at times, startlingly beautiful, dark and mysterious, remote and wild, huge, wet and empty - except Milford Sound, which can be all of the above, and busy. But there's a good reason for this as Milford is the only place in Fiordland where you can actually drive through to the fiords, get on a boat, and explore. Read more ….

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Otahuna - Canterbury Country Elegance

Otahuna - Canterbury Country Elegance

Arriving at the winding driveway to Otahuna Lodge we catch glimpses of its majestic gabled form outlined through gaps in the tall trees. A green swathe of lawn opens in front of long shady verandahs and rolls off down towards a still garden lake. Behind, the sun-drenched hills of this dry Canterbury landscape appear rocky and tall, in contrast to the green softness of the lodge gardens ...

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Mountain Biking in New Zealand

Cycling and mountain biking opportunities in New Zealand abound. The country is literally laced with exciting, and often, challenging mountain bike tracks, cycle trails and dedicated downhill blasts.

We've put a new page up explaining the cycling and mountain biking options for luxury travellers to New Zealand. But there are also plenty of options if you're more of a grassroots or family traveller.

Luxury travellers have the big advantage of having many fabulous cycling and mountain biking opportunities available from the front door of their lodge. These range from easy trails along farm and winery tracks to purpose-built downhill mountain runs through native forest park and tussock lands.

But for any traveller there are lots of options. One of the most popular rides is the 3 - 4 day, 152 km long Otago Rail Trail. Built along the remains of the old Central Otago Railway this fantastic trip is very popular with New Zealanders and visitors alike, so you need to book ahead. It traverses some amazingly beautiful open country that has seen pastoral farmers, gold diggers and railway workers walk its many miles. There are plenty of options to hire bikes, book accommodation or join a group - email us for details.  We handle enquiries for any travellers, not just luxury options.

Another excellent ride in the lower South Island is the Alps 2 Ocean Ride from the Mackenzie Country down to the sea at Oamaru. This is best done over 5 - 6 days as it's 300 kms long, dropping through stunning scenery and magnificent mountain country. Starting at the base of Aoraki-Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, the Alps 2 Ocean Ride skirts the edge of the turquoise-blue Lake Pukaki, across to Lake Ohau, across the plateau of the Mackenzie Basin and down the Waitaki River Valley to the sea. Once again there are plenty of options for cycle hire, tours and accommodation - email us for info.

Places like Nelson, Rotorua and Queenstown all have a number of exciting trail options with literally hundreds of kilometres of riding between them. These rides are usually easily done in a day but are just as exciting as the longer trails. Options include rides through national parks, hardcore downhill trails, winery paths, river banks, forestry trails and coastal rides. Some can be combined for a multi-day tour.

And if you are a luxury traveller here's a few tips. First stop could be the beautiful Farm at Cape Kidnappers lodge in Hawkes Bay. The lodge is part of a 6,000 acre working farm which you can explore by bike at any time of year. The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in the Bay of Islands is not only a fantastic golf destination but also has some great bike riding throughout the stunning coastal property. Other luxury destinations include The Resurgence near Nelson, The George hotel in Christchurch (which is in easy reach of Canterbury’s excellent trails), Poronui in the remote central North Island and Wildwood Lodge near Rotorua. All these places have or are close to great cycling and/or mountain biking.

We can provide details and bookings on all these options, and more.

Email us for more info or to make a booking