D’Urville Island to Lake Hawea Itinerary 2023
23 – 30 April
Day 1 D’Urville Island Barge and Arrival
The barge leaves from the town of French Pass, which is about 2.5 hours drive from either Blenheim or Nelson. Sailings will start at 1.00pm with half hour turnarounds and two vehicles per trip.
Our meeting place and accommodation for the night is the Community Centre, approximately 40mins from the barge landing on D’Urville Island, up a well formed metal road. D’Urville Island is the “Mussel Capital” of New Zealand, which sits at the entrance to the Marlborough Sounds.
We now have a chance to meet the team, relax and discuss highlights of the trip ahead. The evening meal and accommodation for this night are included in your package, as it is for the next 7 nights.
We will have a trip briefing at the Community Centre before heading out to dinner at the Wilderness Lodge. This which will include details of the Safety Procedures required by the Adventure Activity Legislation in New Zealand and a run down on the upcoming trip.
Day 2 D’Urville Island to Nelson
D’Urville Island is a unique location and warrants some detailed description of some of the highlights we can expect to see.
The island is farmed extensively but even amongst these paddocks there are steep gullies that provide a haven for native flora. We plan to visit Owhi Station in the South , Patuki Station at the Northern end of the island and time allowing the Greville Harbour reserve area on the way to Patuki Station. Low bush with a wide variety of native Hebes develops into large forests as we traverse the island.
Vast Podocarps stand tall and proud – keeping a watchful eye over the lower secondary canopy of more usual species of punga, mamuku, cabbage tree, manuka and kowhai.
The geology of the northern tip of the island is fascinating and our hosts at Patuki, Gus and Rebecca Forgan, have some immense cliffs and bluffs for us to see as we take in the uninhibited sea views. Geographically, its very proximal to the Wairau Valley but it is logistically remote and because of this the variety of flora is similar but feels much more natural and less affected by the influences of man.
The island has the feel of a place that has stood still in time, where it is the simple things that are important and where life can be the best of old and new.
After barging the vehicles in stages across French Pass, we head for Nelson to our Motel and a well earned hearty meal after what will have been a very full day’s four wheel driving.
Day 3 Nelson to St Arnaud
Assemble in the Motel carpark at 7.15am for the days briefing. We then head for Takaka where we will explore the wide variety of natural features that this region has to offer. This includes a visit to Rocklands farm on the coast at Pohara. Here we meet Robby Robilliard and her husband Garry where we will head up to the back of the farm for some great views as far North as Mt Taranaki on a good day. After morning tea with Robby, we head for the Whanganui inlet. Our route takes us along the shores of this remote inlet, over the Paturau River, out to the West coast and down to our destination at Anatori. There are a couple of good cafés on the way where we’ll make our lunch stop . The return trip will take us back out through Takaka , Motupiko and Kikiwa with our final destination this evening the pretty alpine village of St Arnaud where we stay at one of our favourites, Nelson Lakes Motels, with their lovely log cabins and dine with hosts Leighton and Alexander at the Alpine Hotel in the centre of St Arnaud.
Day 4 St Arnaud to Westport
The Iron Bridge to Waimangaroa is one of the most iconic 4WD tracks on the West Coast. We follow the Buller River from it’s source at Lake Rotoiti in St Arnaud all the way down through Murchison and the Buller Gorge to Lyall. The track starts at Lyall winding it’s way through beech forest before descending to the Mackley River where, weather permitting, we will cross to make our way to the Denniston Mine. The track passes seams of coal smouldering away under the surface through the rugged terrain of this area. Views to the Buller escarpments can been seen before reaching the Denniston Coal mine. This mine was made famous by the incredibly steep Denniston Incline, which for many years was the mine’s only access. Magnificent views of the West Coast stretch North and South as we read the history and study the huge array of relics from the mine’s colourful past.
Tonight’s accommodation and meal is at the coastal town of Westport, famous for it’s cement production, fishing and treacherous river bar that has claimed so many victims. Our motel is in a quiet street a couple of blocks from the main street where we will dine this evening.
Day 5 Westport to Methven
Our route today takes us down the West Coast through Reefton, a visit to the old mining town of Nelson’s Creek, then around Lake Brunner to Inchbonnie. Here we join the main highway to cross the Southern Alps through Arthur’s Pass with a mandatory stop at the lookout to observe one of New Zealand’s most ambitious Civil Engineering projects. Lakes Lyndon and Coleridge mark our journey through to the Rakaia Gorge and ultimate destination of Methven.
This evening accommodation is at the Methven Motels, a short walk to the centre of Methven and our meal tonight at the Blue Pub with great atmosphere and menu.
Day 6 Methven to Fairlie
Assemble outside Motel for briefing at 8.15am. This morning we head South through Mt. Peel and follow the Orari River to Orari Gorge Station and the start of the track. The scenery is very different from that experienced on the trip so far with the Orari River thundering it’s way down through the gorge before entering the remote Blue Mountain Station. We explore alpine country very few people in New Zealand and particularly overseas visitors have ever experienced, getting up close to Mt Peel, and Tripps Peak with great views of the High Claytons and Thumbs Ranges to the West in the Southern Alps. We follow the private Station track along the river’s edge towards Lochaber and Mesopotamia Stations, stopping for lunch at a classic musterer’s hut, all the while taking in the magnificent views of the Main Divide. We exit at Blue Mountain homestead where we join the Lochaber Road to Lake Opuha and on out to Fairlie.
The Aorangi Motel on the Main road to Tekapo is home for the night with a great meal 10 minutes down the road towards Tekapo in the pretty village of Kimball at the Silverstream Hotel with hosts, Dave and Mandy.
Day 7 Fairlie to Omarama
If the weather is kind today, we will head for the Northern tip of Lake Tekapo and the Macauley River crossing which takes us into Lillybank Station in the Godley River Valley. This will ultimately lead us to magnificent views of Mt Hutton to the West, the impressive Sibbald Range to the East and the amazing Mt D’Archaic with it’s beautiful hanging glaciers, right in the middle of the Southern Alps.
We will follow the Godley Branch of the river as we make our way up the valley and as the track becomes less defined we may break into groups to find the best way across the shingle fans that abound in this area .
Our return trip down the valley invariably becomes easier as we follow our tracks from the trek in and a very pleasant evening drive out across the McKenzie Basin brings us to our final destination of Omarama.
Our Motel this evening is the Ahuriri Motels at the eastern end of town with a meal in town an easy 15 minute walk, often welcome after a big day in the saddle.
Day 8 Omarama to Cardrona
Heading down the Lindis Pass we make our way to Dingle Burn Station owned by Guy and Davida Mead, stalwarts of the High Country Station community that is so much part of New Zealand’s heritage.
The famous access to Dingle Burn High Country Station was first carved into the side of the cliff overlooking the Lake in the early 60’s by then owner Ian Sarginson. The track winds along the Lake edge with some great photo opportunities before dropping down to the entrance to the Dingle Burn Homstead.
Here we can take a breath and browse through the facilities that Guy and Davida’s daughter has developed and recently made available for the ultimate High Country Station experience.
Accomodation and meal this evening is at one of New Zealand’s oldest Pub’s and most desirable places to stay, the incomparable Cardrona Hotel. Set in the Cardrona Valley, the area produced some of gold mining’s richest finds in the 1870’s. A great place to relax and enjoy the company of fellow adventurers and our prizegiving which is always an enjoyable way to mark the end of this epic trip.
Please note all tracks are weather dependant and NZ 4×4 Treks reserves the right to change the itinerary at any time to accommodate adverse conditions which could affect access and compromise Station Owners, safety of vehicles and safety of clients.