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Small group multi-day hiking operators around Queenstown NZ?

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Feb 27th, 2015, 07:12 AM
  #1
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Small group multi-day hiking operators around Queenstown NZ?

I'll be in Queenstown for a meeting in mid-February, 2016 and my wife is planning to join me for a week or so (either before or after). We enjoy hiking so I was looking at hiking options in the area. Maybe a few day hikes would be sufficient, but I like the idea of a multi-day hike with stays in the lodges. I was thinking of 2-3 days but would be open to longer if there was a great/unique option that required more time.

Ultimate Hikes is the main option I've uncovered and their Routeburn track seems to be the right amount of time. My concern is the group size of 50 people. Normally my preference would be for more like 12 people. I would also like something that incorporated a transfer by water or air. I saw that info&track offers a transfer package that includes a 2 hour cruise on Milford sound but it looks like the hiking is on your own:

http://www.infotrack.co.nz/transport...port-packages/

We're in our late 30s and haven't had any big adventures since starting a family. Our last big trip was Africa in 2007 where we trekked to the mountain gorillas in Uganda. It was wonderful but at this point we have a strong preference for a private room on the overnights. Our other favorite trip was to Alaska where had a short camping trip to visit Brown bears with Alaska Discovery (later bought by Mt Travel Sobek). We had a great time kayaking, traveling by float plane, and visiting a glacier by helicopter on that trip. It looks like Queenstown offers many of the same possibilities.

I would be most grateful for any advice on hiking options in particular and Queenstown in general.

Thanks,
Matt
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Mar 8th, 2015, 05:26 AM
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As I look more at lodging options on Routeburn it looks like either DOC huts or Ultimate Hikes lodges. My wife surprised me by saying she is up for rustic and/or communal sleeping arrangements for a short trip, but we aren't up for carrying all of our food and sleeping gear. Since we are still not keen on having 50 people in our party both of those options seem out.

I appreciate longhorn55's suggestion of the Hollyford track on Ironsooz's post. Same trip length as Routeburn but group size seems limited to 16. For comparable housing options pricing is almost the same as Ultimate Hikes but includes some travel by water and air. As best as I can tell it doesn't offer the same dramatic alpine views but seems very nice. Some websites also mention a glow worm colony near the Pyke lodge.

My wife asked me to keep looking for a more mountainous trek, and I found some options out of Wanaka by Hiking New Zealand:

https://www.hikingnewzealand.com/alpine-hikes.htm

We're considering either their Mt Aspiring Discovery or Gillespie Pass trips. Trip size is limited to 5 and most of the lodging is in a semi-permanent tent camp. Next I will look into the most efficient way to work this into our Queenstown stay (looks pretty tough to fly into Wanaka so I guess we'd be traveling back and forth by road).
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Mar 8th, 2015, 09:19 AM
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As 99mkw states, I have previously recommended the guided Hollyford Track hike and it sounds like the kind of hike you are looking for. It's a 3-day/2-night hike with a maximum of 16 people. It departs from Te Anau, which is easily reached from Queenstown.

This hike has been described as one "from the mountains to the sea" because that's exactly the route you take. We found the scenery to be gorgeous and enjoyed the activities previously mentioned--the jetboat ride across Lake McKerrow (eliminating the need to hike some of the less interesting parts of the Track) and the helicopter ride to Milford Sound (where we did a cruise before returning to Te Anau). You also get a chance to see a seal colony up close. During the day, we enjoyed our guides who were knowledgeable both in botany and history. During the evenings, we enjoyed delicious food and drink with our traveling companions (and that night hike to the glowworm cave.)

www.hollyfordtrack.com
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Mar 8th, 2015, 02:22 PM
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Wanaka is only about an hour's drive from QT, so easy enough to reach the airport there.
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Mar 8th, 2015, 10:18 PM
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Another option is Hump Ridge
http://www.humpridgetrack.co.nz/page.../#.VP0slZAQFDs
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Mar 10th, 2015, 06:56 AM
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Thanks for your helpful suggestions and advice. Good to know that longhorn55 actually visited the glowworms. I saw mention of that on some consolidator tour site (activeadventures?) but didn't see it mentioned on hollyfordtrack.com. It has been a bit difficult to figure out which websites are run by the actual operator and which are middlemen. For example, I think the hiking new zealand trips out of Wanaka are actually run by a group called Aspiring Guides:

http://www.wildwalks.co.nz/Wild-Walks/Walks/Summer.aspx

The source website has 2 or 3 more short trips than the hiking NZ website listed. The Hump Ridge option mentioned by mlgb is intriguing. Their fully guided option is very close in price to the Hollyford trip, but the option of upgrading the lodging even for "freedom" walkers is nice. $200 for the two of us combined seems well worth it to not haul sleeping bags 50 km.

Maybe we can find room in the budget for Hump ridge and another (Aspiring for diversity?), but as is too often the case time may be tighter than money. Because these tours start so early it seems like a requirement to leave Queenstown the evening before to be ready to depart first thing.
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