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Welcome to the Active Travel Adventures podcast where you'll find inspiration to lead a bigger life through adventure travel.

On each show we explore exciting multi-day active vacations from around the world where you have to MOVE!  You'll have to hike, bike, paddle, horseback ride (sometimes in combination) to propel yourself to the next destination.

If you're tired of typical vacations and are looking for a more authentic experience by exploring the landscapes and meeting the locals on your vacation, then this is your podcast!

All adventures will be doable for someone reasonably fit (I'm a 58 year old woman and I have to be able to do them).

Be sure to visit to see photos and get more details, plus you can download the FREE Travel Planners for each destination!  These handy summaries summarize the tips and provide all sorts of helpful links to help you plan your trip.  You get them automatically if you subscribe to the newsletter.

Jun 12, 2019

New Zealand Adventures

As we continue our exploration of the South Island of New Zealand, we bike to the popular adventure town of Wanaka, indulge in a free day of amazing adventures in Queenstown, kayak Milford Soundand hike the Routeburn Track, the Kepler Track, Mueller Ridge and check out Mount Cookfrom a sheep farm at Braemar Station.  If you missed New Zealand's South Island Part I,you can check it out here.


Links Mentioned on this Episode:

New Zealand South Island Part I

Adventure Travel Show Podcast


Bike Hawea to Wanaka

We start by mountain biking a modest trail with a couple of steep inclines from Hawaeato Wanaka, second in adventure only to Queenstown in New Zealand.  The trail is a bloom with lupines and foxglove gone rogue.  It's a stunning site of pastel color washing the fields next to the trail.  We eventually make it to Wanaka Lake in time for lunch by the sea. The bike ride is vehicle supported allowing for flexibility in how long you hike (or even whether you hike).  We were lucky to have much of the trail to ourselves to enjoy the view of the lake with a backdrop of snow capped mountains. In total, we biked 24 km (15 mi) with an elevation gain of 80m/260'.



THIS is the town for adrenaline junkies and adventures.  Queenstown has it ALL - they even invented bungee jumping.  If there is any kind of exciting activity, from jet boats, paragliding, luge runs, paddling, hiking, horseback riding and cycling, Queenstown has got it covered!


The charming harbor is loaded with restaurants and shops, so if you just want to people watch and eat, there's lots of places to chill.  This is a very walkable town, but you can grab a convenient bus that runs up and down the lake for a modest fee (or buy a pass).

The mountains jut up from Lake Wanaka, the impressive lightning bolt shaped lake  that also frames The Remarkables, a mountain range that runs due north to south (it and the Rockies are the only ranges that do so).  Looking at them, you would think their beauty makes them remarkable, not just their positioning!


I was a guest of my affiliate adventure tour company, Active Adventures (similar name to ATA but a different company)for part of my month long adventure.  I had so much fun with them that I signed up for another week on my nickel - HIGHLY recommend!


Active Adventures, based in New Zealand, offers several adventure tours of their country, so you can find the right tour for your time and degree of fitness.  They even let my roommate Rachael join our group mid-tour and then I tagged along on the back half of their Kauri North Island adventure along with three others in my group.  Super easy to work with and they do an outstanding job of showcasing their amazing country!


Routeburn Track

One of the most popular treks in New Zealand is the Routeburn track, which you can access near Queenstown en route to Milford Sound.   We hiked a 6km/3.7 mi section to Summit Keywith an elevation gain and loss of 450m/1475'.  I was glad I always carry my rain jacket and thermal jacket because I got to use both on this one hike and stayed comfortable.  It was misty in the forest before the climb to the alpine meadow on top of theseSouthern Alps, and once we were exposed, it became chilly.  What a beautiful view we had - the pictures don't do it justice of course (see the photo where guidesLianaand MJphoto bombed).


Milford Sound

On the way to Milford Sound, you go through the famous Homer Tunnel.  As we approached the tunnel, Liana explained that the walls are the original pick axed and dynamited granite, so you don't see any man-made structure sheething the glistening walls along the 3/4 mile tunnel.  It took them 19 years to build it! We stopped to take a peek before we entered the tunnel and were greeted by the friendly Kea birds, their cold tolerant native parrot. This tunnel is the only access to popular Milford Sound, which is actually a fjord, not a sound, as are the other dozen or so fjords.  Once the error was realized, rather than changing the name, the Kiwis simply renamed the area"Fjordland National Park".

Once our eyes adjusted to the light inside, Liana told us to close our eyes until she said to open them.  She was playing dramatic background music, and as it built to a crescendo, she said "NOW!" and when we opened our eyes, we were treated to MASSIVE granite peaks jutting from the valley, all awash with waterfalls from the recent rains.

There are only two lodges at Milford Sound, so most visitors have to catch a bus between 3-5am to make the 4 hour journey where they take a quick boat tour and the bus back to Queenstown.  We were lucky that Active got us in the lodgeso we weren't rushed and got to spend much more time there.  And instead of just taking a boat tour, we kayaked the Sound. The winds were too high for us to go out too far, so ended up in this cool cove called the Devil's Den(see eerie photo below).  At one point we banded together as a group on the water for stability. Our guide was sharp and suggested we return early. Another group had a boat bring them back in. I wish we had also taken the boat tour, as this would be my only change from my three weeks touring with Active.


Hike Mueller Ridge and/or Hooker Valley Glacial Lakes

On our way to Braemer Station, the historic sheep farm where we stayed (in the shearer's shed), we were lucky enough to see the full view of Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak at over 12,000'.  Little did I know that when I laid on my bed the next two nights, I would see Mount Cook just by gazing out the window! This sunset shot was taken with my iPhone one night and is not retouched! It was incredible!!!

In the morning, we went to Mt Cook National Parkand then most of us chose to hike up toward Mueller Ridgewith over 2000 steps - yes REAL steps up over 500 m!  Difficult, yes, but once on top, you get an unparalleled panoramic view of New Zealand's highest peaks, glaciers and glacial lakes.

The photo of the FREE Travel Planners of my roommate Racheal at the top.

If you don't want to hike up that steep mountain, then you have the option of hiking to the Hooker Valley Glacial Lakes.  This was very crowded, and I would encourage you to train to hike up the steps. The view was fantastic!


Active Adventures New Zealand Adventure Tour

I loved my "Rimu" two week South Island adventure tour with Active Adventures!  We did a ton of hiking, we kayaked and mountain biked and got a full tour of the island with fun guides Liana and MJ, who not only helped us to understand the history and stories of the island, but also kept us well fed and comfortable.  A less rigorous tour Active offers is the "Kiwi".

In order to see the South Island, you necessarily spend a fair amount of time on the van, but Active made sure to break up the drives with hikes or village visits.  And the thing about New Zealand is, they have NO UGLY scenery! It is as varied and beautiful as any country I've seen. You can be hiking in a temperate rain forest yet see glaciers up above.  I thought Active wouldn't be able to top the South Island, but next up, you'll find they do when I head with some of my group on the back end of the "Kauri" tour of the North Island.

Wherever you travel, please use my links.  Many are affiliate links --and  at no additional cost ot you-- are a way to help support the program and keep the show ad free.  Thanks!