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This tour was designed to ride far from the tourist routes and deep into the heart of New Zealand, via South Island's glacial rivers, lakes, and imposing mountain ranges. Like a rider in Lord of the Rings, begin your own quest! Fall in love with a beautiful horse, the accommodation that tells the stories of this incredible location, and food to warm your soul and welcome you home each evening! This tour is suitable for riders with good levels of fitness. Some cantering and trotting will be done, where the terrain allows it.
You will be travelling through busy, working, iconic South Island stations. The accommodations you stay at are utilized by the shearers and shepherds on these stations. On this trail, you will stay in shearers quarters (bunk houses) with wonderful cook shops, flushing toilets, and showers.
Some of the accommodations have basic deer stalking or Musterers huts, bunks, tents, long drop toilets, and open fires for cooking. All the above will give you an insight into the incredible world of the high country farmer in New Zealand.
At 12:30 p.m., you meet your horse at the cattle yards and enjoy a picnic lunch boiling a billy on the side of Lake Hawea.
You saddle up your horse and ride for three hours into the beautiful Dingleburn Station, along the bluff, as your adventure begins, enjoying the beautiful views of the Hunter Valley and Mount Aspiring. At this time of year, the lakes are still and reflections are awe-inspiring. This glacial lake never ceases to enchant the riders.
Dingleburn Station is set in the heart of the mountains. Generally this is a busy working station at this time of year. You will enjoy watching station life unfold as they are shearing, crutching, mustering their sheep, and weaning cattle. The horses enjoy a lovely paddock not far from the quarters.
Station accommodation enjoys plenty of bunks, flushing toilets, hot showers, and a wonderful cookhouse to enjoy a farm-cooked feast on your first evening. The station's electricity is hydro generated by waterfall and generator. Generally, the owners or shepherds join the group of riders for dinner, and you will learn first-hand about life in their amazing world.
After enjoying a hearty breakfast in the cook shop, you pack your saddle bags, saddle up on your horses, and head off to explore the Dingleburn Station. You ride for five hours on a historic pack track high above Lake Hawea, enjoying 360-degree views of this stunning location.
Don’t forget your camera as this are the things memories are made of. Today, riders will fully appreciate why Disney chose this stunning location to film A Wrinkle in Time.
You ride your horse back to Dingleburn Station for your second night at the quarters. You will enjoy relaxing afternoon nibbles on the expansive deck immersed in the beautiful environment. This station is known for its production of some of the finest merino wool in New Zealand. There is an opportunity to look around the wool shed and see how the station works.
Dinner consists of locally sourced produce, reflecting this special location. Charge up phones and cameras today as this is the last time you will have power in two days!
Breakfast over and lunches packed, you saddle up your horse and bid Dingleburn Station farewell. Your destination is the boundary hut nestled in the picturesque Hunter Valley, which you will reach after a six-hour ride. As you ride, Lake Hawea acts like a mirror reflecting the snow-capped mountains which never cease to amaze with their beauty. Today, you can split the trail to suit all riders.
Opportunities to trot and canter are available, if riders would like to do so. Those who want to enjoy a walking pace can still do so. You will be looking straight into the beautiful Hunter Valley with its criss-cross mountain vista. You will ride deep into the heart of this valley tomorrow. You will have lunch on the beach, on the side of Lake Hawea, whilst the horses merrily enjoy a snooze.
After lunch, you ride to the head of Lake Hawea and ride your horse across the beautiful glacial river crossing the boundary into Hunter Valley Station. There is a wonderful horse paddock with plenty of grass and fresh running water available there.
Boundary Hut is your accommodation for the next two nights. It offers two bunk rooms, with six bunks and four bunks, and a lounge area with extensive decking overlooking Hunter River and the mountains. There is a large open fire, running water with limited solar lighting, and a long drop toilet.
The close proximity of Hunter River means that it is perfect for an afternoon swim, taking a lovely walk, reading a book, or relaxing with a wine, enjoying the view. Whatever you choose, it is a place to kick back and enjoy a digital detox in the heart of this isolation wrapped in unending beauty of Mother Earth. Dinner will reflect the history of this location.
Today, riders have several choices:
For those who choose to ride, this is a stunningly beautiful trail. The ice blue glacial braided river threads its way through impressive mountain ranges that stand tall above you. Trout circle in the fast running water, waiting for their lunch. Watch out for wild deer or rare New Zealand falcons that thrive in this location.
The station's cattle are scattered along the route, and it is lovely to see cows and calves together in family groups grazing happily. This day makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to have exclusive access to these locations.
As horseback riders, you can access these incredible environments without disturbing any part of the eco-structure. You lunch at a basic bivi hut, with a long drop toilet available. After lunch, you can split the group for cantering and trotting or walking paces.
Tonight, when you return to the Boundary Hut, the smells of lamb roasting on the open fire tantalize your taste buds. Boundary Hut is utilized by the station to muster cattle and sheep, and your menu for tonight tells the tales of this special wee hut. You will enjoy ukulele, singing around the open fire together, or just relaxing, sharing tales and laughter of the trails.
Today, breakfast over and tucker boxes packed, you are saying goodbye to Boundary Hut. The horses know the way as you ride out of Hunter Valley and towards your accommodation for this evening, Hunter Valley Quarters. Looking out across Lake Hawea, you can see the trail you took two short days ago as you left Dingleburn Station.
Today, you will ride through native beech forests and endless manuka and kanuka stands. The bird life here is wonderful. A beautiful waterfall crashes down the mountainside and flows gently into the river. Scattered along the trail, are old fishing cribs constructed in the 1950’s by keen fishermen, attesting to the wonderful fishing in this location. You enjoy lunch beside Lake Hawea, with a beautiful vantage point for photographs.
Heading to Hunter Valley Station, you enjoy peeking into this working station. The quarters enjoy a bird’s eye view of the lake from the decking. Horses are turned out into the paddock beside your accommodation so that you can still share time and photographs with them, if you want to do so.
At the quarters, you will have soft beds, hot showers, a washing machine, a large kitchen / dining area, and a welcoming log burner to warm you up on a chilly day. You often have a chance to meet the managers of Hunter Valley and chat to them about station life. High country people are always so welcoming and kind. This is a great chance to charge up phones and cameras, catch up on washing, and enjoy a lovely hot shower.
At dinner, you can look out over Lake Hawea for the final evening as tomorrow you ride through the neck between the lakes and on to Lake Wanaka.
This could be an early start, depending on the time you will have to meet the barge. Breakfast over, washing complete, and lunches packed, you saddle up your horse and ride out of Hunter Valley Station. You are heading to meet the barge that will sail you across Lake Wanaka and into the iconic Minaret Station. Access to Minaret is via boat, helicopter, or on horseback. Riding through native beech forests, you drop down to meet the barge.
Make sure you have your camera at the ready, you really don’t want to miss a moment of this unique experience. You are sailing far away from the busy tourist routes and deep into pure New Zealand wilderness.
Once off the barge, you ride to Minaret Station for your accommodation this evening. Minaret Station is famed in New Zealand’s history. Sir Tim Wallis was the pioneer of live deer captures by helicopter, which led to a significant industry here. You enjoy meeting the owners and people who work in this isolated environment and hear the stories of this amazing place. The station cooks your dinner and the hospitality is always humbling.
The station's electricity is provided via generator. Hot showers and soft beds are available. Don’t forget to charge you appliances! There will be no electricity tomorrow.
Today, you travel with your trusty pack horses carrying your gear and food. Your destination for the evening is a basic Musterers’ hut nestled on the side of Lake Wanaka. You will be riding through magnificent native bush, along beaches of silver sand that sparkles in your horses’ tail and mane.
The water in Lake Wanaka is translucent, and your trail is carved out of the sides of mountains. This is when your purpose-bred horses come into their own, surefooted, gentle, and kind.
You enjoy lunch at the mouth of the Minaret River, overlooking Lake Wanaka. After lunch, you climb high above Lake Wanaka, through stunning native bush and ferns, on a historic pack trail.
This pack trail would have been the original land-based access between West Wanaka and Minaret Station in the pioneering days. Reaching Minaret Hut, you set up camp for the evening. This is a basic eight-bunk hut with an open fire. Tents will be erected for those who would like more privacy.
The views from this rustic hut are stunning. You can see Wanaka township far in the distance, packed with tourists, and here you enjoy the sounds of nature surrounded by native bush. If you are lucky, you will be visited by rare kea, naughty alpine parrots. Make sure you hide your shoes as they love to steal them or eat the rubber.
Those of you who choose to ride horses know the loyalty and respect between rider and horse. On this last day of riding, you will feel that special bond and appreciate the purpose-bred, hardworking horses. As you leave Minaret Hut, you travel down beside Lake Wanaka, with its ice blue glacial streams that feed the lake form pretty waterfalls as they rush over large boulders and stony creek beds.
You are heading towards West Wanaka Station's Quarters, your accommodation for the evening. It is beautiful to be on horseback, and the views are outstanding, marked with native flora and fauna. This trail has been voted New Zealand’s most beautiful scenic track.
The shearers quarters have hot showers, flushing toilets, a lounge with log burner, and a wonderful cook shop. Here, you enjoy your final evening together, with a lovely dinner regaling the stories and joy of your time riding the trail. The horses enjoy a welcome break out in the paddocks beside Lake Wanaka.
After breakfast, your taxi will arrive at 10:00 a.m. to take you through to Queenstown.
Angie is the General manager of AHT NZ Ltd. organizing the trails, bookings, food, accommodation, and of course, your happiness which is of paramount importance to us all. This trail is one of her favorites, as it takes place in such an amazing location, and the fact that you return to the homestead each evening means that there are no baggage restrictions for the riders.
During the tour, you will be provided with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. Station life is busy. People live close to the land and the menus have been designed to enhance and embrace your experience. Food consists of locally sourced farm fresh produce, like Angus beef, Merino sheep, Mount Harris venison, High Country salmon, and Central Otago fruits as they are in season.
You will enjoy kiwi barbecues and roast dinners cooked on an open fire with menus encompassing each of the locations that you are riding through. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten, and dairy free ingredients are included in the menus, as required. The cooking is good wholesome kia (food) from this incredible land of Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
Please notify Adventure Horse Trekking of any special dietary requirements / food allergies you have.
Please book your flight to arrive at Queenstown Airport (ZQN). Transfers from and to this airport are included. Adventure Horse Trekking will pick you up from the airport.
The pick-up times are 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at Queenstown Airport's domestic terminal, beside the visitor information desk. The drop-off times are 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
New Zealand's South Island is small. If you are driving to meet the trail, please leave plenty of time. Distances on the roads may seem short compared to your country, but they are slow going, with lots of bends, tricky road cambers, and mountain passes that make driving safely a slow affair.
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