Get out and see a different side to the South Island, making the most of the wide-open spaces of the rugged and largely unexplored West Coast.. Go deeper into the history of the area with stories of gold miners, panning for gold, and hiking in the Denniston mining area.. Help support remote communities with visits (and of course tastings) at local bakeries, distilleries and breweries.. Reinvigorate the body with a heap of fresh coastal and mountain air, from hikes in the sweeping natural beauty of Karamea to soaking in scenic hot springs on the edge of the Maruia River.
Explore the narrow strip of South Island land sandwiched between the mountains and the Tasman Sea that’s home to some of the country’s most beautiful places. Millions of years of natural history are right in front of you in wild limestone rock formations, caves and arches, rushing rivers and surf pounded coast, while the much more recent stories of the gold and coal rush can be found in the heritage settlements and in the resolute spirit of the coasters. Take in highlights from Reefton to Greymouth, Pancake Rocks to craft beer, gold panning to spa soaking. This is a coastal road trip to rival any other.
Breakfast Included: 6 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Christchurch - Reefton
Welcome to your Intrepid exploration of the South Island. Start off by catching up with your group and leader in Christchurch at a centrally located hotel at 8 am. Your leader will give you an overview of the upcoming 7 days before you jump in your transport and head west towards Reefton. Head up the coast and along roads squeezed between peaks to your first stop – a hot springs resort where natural mineral water rises from beneath the earth below the Southern Alps. Experience the invigorating hot and cold baths and saunas, all in stunning surrounds. It’s the perfect way to get you ready for the coming adventure. Afterwards, continue on to tonight’s destination, with a stop at a local distillery when you arrive in Reefton. Learn the story behind their local botanical gins, fruit liqueurs, vodka and whisky on a tasting tour, before the rest of the evening is free to explore the restaurants and bars along the heritage Broadway main street.
Reefton - Karamea
Start your day with breakfast at the local bakery – part of the town’s history since 1874 – then hear more of the area’s story from the locals that know it best. Head to a rebuilt miner’s hut and get the tale of how prospectors made their way here after the discovery of a rich vein of gold in the 1860s. Hear what life was like for the miners with these natural storytellers while a blacksmith works the forge in the background. Maybe try your hand at panning your own gold, then farewell Reefton and continue up the coast, with a stop at the wild Cape Foulwind. The headland is home to a fur seal breeding colony so keep your eyes peeled, they can easily blend in with the rocks! Continue on up the coast to Karamea, the largest northern settlement on this side of the island.
The west coast boasts some of most iconic shoreline around, so today’s a day to appreciate its scenic beauty. Choose to take the day to explore the little settlement of Karamea and its sweeping, rugged beaches, or take the option to head north (approximately 45 minutes) to the Oparara Basin. Between the sea and densely forested mountains, the basin is home to river-carved limestone gorges and ravines, with the water dissolving the rock into huge arches. The main arch, covered in rainforest foliage, is the largest natural arch in the southern hemisphere. Carnivorous snails, glow worms and giant crickets make this feel like a lost world. One of the best ways to explore this wilderness is from the water, so today there’s also the opportunity to traverse shallow lagoons and river rapids on kayaks or river tubes.
Charming Creek - Denniston Plateau - Punakaiki
Get your boots on because today’s a walking day. Head down the coast and start with a walk to discover the mining relics along the Charming Creek Walkway. It’s a 3 hour river walk along an old logging tramway from the 19th century through lower Ngakawau Gorge, taking in a suspension bridge and tumbling Mangatini Falls. Then take in views and history with a short 30 minute walk along the Denniston Plateau, where mining history and viewpoints scatter what was once one of the richest coal seams in Aotearoa. Continue on down to Punakaiki, a town with less than 100 residents, but famed for its so-called Pancake Rocks. These layers of fossilised animals and plants, formed over 30 million years ago, were thrust above the surface by the moving earth and sculpted by wind and water. At high tide the sea is forced through blowholes in the limestone to burst metres into the air – it’s a memorable sight.
Today you’re free to move as slow as the limestone formations of the nearby Paparoa National Park or keep up the activity levels with some active options in nearby Charleston – raft or abseil into a rainforest world of underground caves filled with rushing rivers and glow-worm grottoes. If you choose to take it easy in Punakaiki there are a number of short walks through beautiful sub-tropical rainforest to coastal views, you can explore and relax along the beaches, or pop your head into the galleries in the town and grab a bite in the local cafes.
Set off early today for a spectacular drive south along the cliff coast to Greymouth, stopping along the way in Barrytown to visit a master knifemaker in his own studio. Whether kitchen knife or ornamental dagger, forging your own piece of steel is surprisingly satisfying. Get your bearings in Greymouth and its jade hunting and gold mining history, before hearing the stories of a place that helped shaped the West Coast – Brunner Mine. Explore the mining relics that tell the story of New Zealand’s most tragic workplace disaster, then lift the spirits with a visit to one of the country’s best breweries. Learn about the 19th century origins of Monteith’s, see, touch, taste and smell the homegrown ingredients, get an inside insight into how some of NZ’s best craft beers are made, and of course top it all off with a glass or two.
If you’re going to have a driving day, at least make it a day with views like this one. Today you’ll return to Christchurch, skirting the edge of Lake Brunner and taking in the dramatic views of Arthur’s Pass surrounded by alpine national park. There’ll be plenty of stops along the way to take in the scenery, stretch the legs, and watch the mischievous bright green kea go about their tricks. You’ll arrive back in Christchurch this evening, where your trip comes to an end.