Our Gay Travel New Zealand Adventure happens in the adventure capital of the world! The variety and depth of natural beauty of this isolated South Pacific island group will impress and inspire you. Enjoy hiking trails and glaciers, kayaking, biking, canyoning, rafting, and bungy jumping!
New Zealand — particularly Queenstown and the South Island — is frequently called the adventure travel capital of the world. On this trip, you’ll quickly see why. With our friendly gay and lesbian group, you’ll enjoy not only the activities New Zealand offers, but its varied landscape and scenery.
Take the sparkling lakes of Italy and the deep-cut fjords of Norway, the snow-capped Alps of Switzerland and the glistening glaciers of Alaska, the aquamarine waters of Greece and the Highland hiking trails of Scotland: now pack it all onto one small island — and you’ll be shocked by how much room is still left for sheep. That’s New Zealand.
As a Wild Kiwi, you’ll enjoy a new activity every day. Glacier hikes, sea kayaking, biking around vineyards and along rivers, canyoning through a natural waterpark of chutes, pools, waterfalls and slides, rainforest hikes, white andblackwater rafting, and even a bungy jump, are just a few of the activities that await you. After we play hard during the days, we enjoy fantastic meals and stay in wonderful lodges and inns each night.
March 18, 2019 to March 31, 2019 – US $5,698.00
Duration: : 14 Days
Optional Tour Choices: $1500 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
Optional Tour Choices: $900 Single Supplement some nights
Optional Tour Choices: $240 Canyoning
Optional Tour Choices: $320 Helicopter to Glacier Hike
Optional Tour Choices: $190 Whitewater Rafting
Price of glacier valley eco-hike, Abel Tasman hiking and kayaking, vineyards bike ride, cave-tubing or glow worm hike, and bungy jump are INCLUDED.
All group ground transportation, starting in Nelson and finishing in Queenstown; All hotels and accommodations in double occupancy; HE Travel tour director accompanying the group from Nelson to Queenstown; 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 6 dinners; Biking near Nelson and near Queenstown; Kayaking or hiking and boating for 3 days at Abel Tasman National Park; Coastal hikes; cave-tubing or cave hike to see glow worms; a valley eco-hike to Franz Josef glacier with guide and later to see Rob Roy Glacier; Sightseeing visits to waterfalls, primordial forests, and vistas along our route around the island; and, of course, the famed bungy jump. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Airfare from home to Nelson and from Queenstown to home; Airport transfers; Souvenirs, snacks, admissions, alcohol; Meals and beverages not listed here; Optional activities, such as whitewater rafting, upgrade from the valley eco-hike to Heli-hike on the glacier, and canyoning; Gratuities for tour director and local guides.
Linger over coffee at a sidewalk cafe. Browse in the galleries. Hikers will enjoy The Center of New Zealand Walk, which departs right from town with spectacular views of the bay. Or simply head for Nelson’s long stretch of sandy beach, Tahunanui. There’s nothing like a dose of sunlight to get over jet lag.
For our first evening, we’ve reserved tables at one of Nelson’s top restaurants. This is an opportunity get to know a few of your fellow travelers over dinner and enjoy some of New Zealand’s wonderful wine.
Who will be there? With our emphasis on active vacations and the outdoors, HE Travel trips draw people who are energetic and outgoing, who enjoy interacting with life and with each other. The majority of people on a typical trip are traveling alone but there are usually several couples as well. A majority of the group will most likely fall in the 30-to-55 age range but there will almost certainly be some who are older and quite possibly a few in their twenties.
While we have opportunities for you to enjoy multiple activities on this tour, there is no need for you to be experienced or advanced in any of them before arrival, nor is there an expectation that you participate in each and every one. While some members of our group will have experience, most won’t, but everyone will enjoy the various options available throughout the trip. There are occasionally less-adventurous options available or perhaps you would prefer to have a quieter day of rest and relaxation at one of our overnight lodges or explore an area on your own. Of course, being in fairly good health and able to hike at least a few hours at a leisurely pace will enable you to more fully enjoy all that New Zealand has to offer and to recuperate in time for the next day’s activities.
No one who visits this breathtaking park forgets the diverse scenery: native forests and streams, tree-fern-filled grottos, massive granite sea heads, and turquoise waters lapping at golden beaches. While kayaking or hiking through this wonderland, you’ll also delight in the melody of New Zealand’s native birds. We might spy little blue penguins coming ashore to nest or dolphins darting past the end of your paddle. Highlights always include the antics of New Zealand Fur seals and their pups if the prevailing winds allow us to see them in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.
We start the day by driving from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, where we’ll board a launch for a leisurely motorized cruise to our starting destination, Totaranui, located at the northern end of the park. The cruise will give us a nice overview of the bays, isles, inlets, and headlands that we’ll be kayaking and hiking along over the next three days.
After we’re dropped at Totaranui, we’ll have lunch and then have a leisurely two-hour+ hike across beaches and through temperate rainforests to our eco-friendly beachfront lodge on Awaroa Bay (or you can catch a boat ride if you’re not up to the hike). If tides allow, we’ll be able to hike across the sands of the Awaroa Estuary to our lodge. The Meadowbank Lodge where we stay tonight is the former homestead of one of the earliest settlers in the area and provides panoramic views of the estuary and bay. After dinner, feel free to explore more of the area or enjoy stories with our guides and hosts around the open fireplace.
Soon you’ll glide past wind-sculpted islands onto the golden beach of a sparkling lagoon. After a quick swim, catch a few minutes of sun on the sand with the lingering tang of salt on your tongue. Enjoy your lunch on the beach and then the kayaking continues. Don’t be surprised if you see seals playing in the surf this afternoon as your kayak ripples through the gentle waves.
Most of the group will be out on the water today, but the hiking trails of Abel Tasman also are spectacular, winding through the tea trees and native beech forests to rocky overlooks, picturesque waterfalls, and even across a few of New Zealand’s famous suspension bridges. If you’re an avid hiker, you may choose to hike instead of kayak. Or if you’d like to take it easy today, you can catch a boat to our next destination.
Late this afternoon we’ll arrive at tonight’s eco-lodge at Torrent Bay, another small, intimate seaside inn. You’ll have time to settle in and explore the area before dinner. After dinner we’ll take our gaze skyward to find the Southern Cross and hear more about this unique part of New Zealand.
Along our route today we have a chance to try a unique underground adventure: blackwater rafting in the Nile River Cave System. After we’re outfitted in designer wetsuits and gear, we’ll plop ourselves in an inner tube and float on the gentle current through an ancient underground wonderland sculpted in limestone. Lighting our way is a galaxy of glow worms overhead. For those not quite sure about underground tubing, you can opt for a more sure-footed eco-tour through the magnificent calcite portions of the cave and the prehistoric valley it occupies.
We stay tonight at a small, craftsman inn overlooking the wild Tasman Sea and will have dinner at a fantastic sea-side restaurant.
Our next stop is at Punakaiki, famous for its blowholes and layered, wind- and water-eroded sea cliffs, locally known as pancake rocks. Nature has eroded these headlands into an outdoor gallery of artistic shapes, color, and shadow, softened by lush Nikau Palms. If tides and winds are right, the waves from the Tasman Sea crash fiercely into the cliffs, creating massive hissing geysers as water spews through the blowholes.
We’ll stay in Punakaiki though late morning to give you an opportunity to explore the area on your own. We then follow the coast southward to the old mining and port town of Hokitika. Originally settled during the gold rush of the 1860s, Hokitika has undergone several transformations since those heady days. Today, one of the biggest local industries is carving jade (locally known as greenstone). You can watch the artisans at work in several shops. Another workshop produces handcrafted gold jewelry from the small nuggets that are still found locally.
If there was ever any doubt that the South Island is lightly inhabited, these roads prove it. Even on the major west-coast road wasn’t paved until 1995. Traffic is so light that most bridges can only handle cars in one direction at a time — and still there’s never a wait. (Even more interesting is one bridge — still on the main road — where a one-lane bridge handles not only car traffic from both directions, but also a train!).
This area of the west coast is known for blustery storms, loads of rain, and temperate rainforests growing up the sides of the tallest mountain range in this part of the Pacific, the Southern Alps. As the moisture-laden winds from the Tasman Sea blow up the Alps, the water vapor cools, resulting in huge amounts of rain and snow fall. The large catchment areas at the top of the mountains create a bowl where layers and layers of snow piles high, pressing itself into dense blue ice. As the ice overfills the catchment area, it flows as a glacier down a steep valley, where it peters-out in the middle of a temperate rainforest, about 650 feet above sea level. It’s an amazing sight to see these massive rivers of ice surrounded by tree ferns and green moss. There are two main glaciers here and we’ll be stopping at one of them for the next two nights.
Those looking for a shorter day on the ice can take the half-day tour, then turn back after a relatively easy 90-minute walk on the glacier. For others committed to a day of icy adventure, an all-day excursion takes us past towering pinnacles of cerulean blue ice and over shimmering crevasses. We may wander into crystal ice caves that were formed only last week and that will be gone tomorrow.
From a distance, the glaciers simply look like large, two-dimensional sheets of ice. Close up, they become an eerie icey world, full of tunnels disappearing into the glacier, serpentine rivers of chilled water, fantastic ice structures, and yawning crevasses. Occasional creaks and crunches remind us that as the glacier moves — some of the world’s fastest, at speeds of up to 2 or 3 feet a day — new crevasses and formations continually appear and disappear. Our experienced local guides swing their ice axes to cut steps in the ice, and guide us to routes where we can see the many faces of the glacier.
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are among the few spots in the world where a glacier advances into a temperate rainforest. After a day on the glacier, those who want to explore the green world below can choose from several short hikes, and perhaps a glow-worm hike in the forest.
We spend three nights in the quaint mountain village of Wanaka, enjoying a wealth of activities. Perched on Lake Wanaka, with Mount Aspiring National Park rising behind it, Wanaka offers sports on land, lakes and rivers, and in the air.
We’ll arrive in time for a quick hike above our hotel to view the layout of the town, then we’ll settle-in for a relaxing dinner. Afterwards, take a walk along the lakefront and through the quaint downtown, stopping at Kai Waka Pai or Cafe Paradiso for a nightcap.
If you would prefer a lighter activity today, you can sign up for one of many other activities offered. Biking, wine tours, or even a full day of paragliding lessons on Mt. Iron, overlooking the lake, at a site known for its steady winds. Or have a relaxing wander around town, perhaps a hike or bike ride on a nearby trail then read a book on the shores of glacially-carved Lake Wanaka.
If you are up for more Kiwi adventure, we suggest considering a flight across the peaks to the mighty fjord on the southwest coast, Milford Sound. Or if you have a strong attraction to adrenaline and one of the best activities offered in New Zealand, you can’t miss a day of canyoning.
The small craft flight to Milford Sound is a 45-minute panorama of ice-fields, jagged peaks, and 800-foot waterfalls to what Rudyard Kipling described as the eighth wonder of the natural world. On arrival in the fjord, you board a medium-sized tourist boat and cruise near fur seals basking in the sun and under Mitre Peak rising a full mile above the water. You’ll then fly back to Wanaka, usually arriving back by early afternoon. The flight is weather-dependent and if the weather doesn’t cooperate today, you can try for Milford again when we’re in Queenstown.
Alternatively, if you are reasonably fit and adventurous, then we strongly urge you to try a sport you may never have heard of: Canyoning (known in North America as canyoneering).
After a 40-minute hike up a fairly steep trail, you don a wetsuit, then step down to a crystal stream that over the millennia has carved its way deep into the bedrock. Now, you’ll simply follow this stream and carved canyon winding steeply down the mountainside in a series of slots, pools, and all types of waterfalls.
There are the three basic canyoning techniques: jump, slide, rappel. Soon you’ve got the hang of them — or so you think. But in the natural environment of the canyon, every situation offers its own peculiarities.
Nature has created a water wonderland that outshines the best man-made water parks. Along the way, you can rest behind the waterfalls and take in this otherworldly grotto of moss, ferns, and falling water that explodes sunrays into magical rainbows.
Once we’ve descended from the Crown Range Saddle, we arrive in another gold heritage town, Arrowtown. Here, we’ll collect our bikes and enjoy a bike ride on the trails following the Arrow River down to our next adrenaline-rush activity: the most anticipated and talked-about Wild Kiwi event and also the briefest. The bungy jump lasts perhaps 30 seconds from the heart-stopping moment you step into thin air, until you’ve stopped bobbing up and down sufficiently to be hauled into the pick-up raft below. But the adrenaline will keep pumping for hours.
It’s all deceptively easy. Walk onto the Kawarau suspension bridge, present your ticket, and sit down on the platform. The always hunky and friendly jumpmaster wraps a towel around both your ankles, ties a sturdy sling to it, and clips you to the bottom of a bungy cord (essentially a very long – and thick – rubber band, but if they called it that, nobody would sign up). Stand up, walk to the edge — and now it’s up to you.
What’s your style? A graceful swan dive is the classic exit. A camera captures the critical moment, and just within our group, we see quite a range. One steps off upright, his hands pressed in front of him as if in prayer; another scrunches up in sheer terror. Our 64-year-old steps off as nonchalantly as if going out to buy a loaf of bread. Two guys admit to having been firmly instructed by their mothers not to jump: one does it anyway; the other obeys Mom. (Our advice for future travelers: Don’t tell Mom your plans until after the trip. That way, you can have fun without worrying her.)
Bungy jumping got its start right here at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, outside Queenstown. A.J. Hackett no longer offers a free jump to anyone who will take the plunge nude; too many people accepted that promotional offer. But the 140-foot bungy jump is free for participants in our tour, clothed or naked.
However — to answer the most frequently-asked question about Wild Kiwi — no, you don’t have to make the jump. It’s free — but it’s optional.
Our day is not yet over! We bike back to Arrowtown, enjoying some of the new bike trails criss-crossing the Wakatipu basin. After our bike ride, we pass into the acclaimed adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, Queenstown, our home for the next two nights.
This evening, a few of us will go out on the town and see what Queenstown has to offer. With its adventure activities during the summer and world-class skiing in the winter, there’s a lot to look at and plenty of night clubs to visit. What an end to an exciting day!
Bungy jumping started in Queenstown, and every year some nut in Queenstown comes up with a new adrenaline sport. A few of these are activities that we’re happy to skip. (If you want to roll down the mountain inside a giant inflatable ball called a Zorb, please reserve it yourself.)
Those who want excitement without sweating today can zoom within inches of jagged overhanging rocks on one of the famed Shotover Jet boats. These remarkable boats, powered by jet rather than propeller, can go through water a mere four inches deep, and the pilots take great delight in blasting full speed toward a looming boulder, then turning a full 180-degrees within a single boat length. Or take a calmer boat ride: the restored steamship TSS Earnslaw makes several trips across the lake each day
If you’re a whitewater fan, this afternoon is a good time for whitewater rafting on Class-III and IV rapids. Based on river conditions and water levels, we’ll head for one of two nearby rivers. The wild and untamed Shotover River takes us through six rapids, then we raft through 800 feet of darkness as we pass through the Oxenbridge Tunnel, an historic diversion tunnel built by goldminers. Or we’ll raft the Kawarau, the largest commercially rafted river in New Zealand. Here we pass under the Chard vineyards, and through four sets of rapids. We’ll paddle under the bungy jumpers on the Kawarau Bridge, culminating in the unforgettable Dog Leg Rapids. On the Kawarau, there are sometimes opportunities for cliff jumping, and to swim through smaller rapids.
This evening, we’ll come together and celebrate one last time as we end our two-week vacation together at our closing dinner at one of Queenstown’s finest restaurants.
Please note that our tour starts on a Monday, which allows you to depart the US on Saturday evening and, after crossing the International Date Line, arrive into New Zealand early Monday morning. This Monday start also allows you to participate in Sydney, Australia’s Gay Mardi Gras celebration. The festivities happen for several weeks leading up to the big Gay pride parade and main parties on Saturday evening. You can then catch a flight Sunday or Monday to cross the Tasman Sea to join our tour, which starts on Monday evening. Our tour ends on a Sunday and if you depart that day, thanks to the International Date Line again, you’ll arrive back into the US on that same day.
When you travel “Back-to-Back” on two or more of our tours, you are eligible for a discount! Contact Us for pricing if you are interested in reserving Australia with Mardi Gras plus Wild Kiwi.
47 Elizabeth Bay Road
Elizabeth Bay NSW
02 8667 3336