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“Superb scenery, hot showers, soft beds, good food, cold beer/wine”

Ultimate Hikes Guided Walks
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Owner description: The only operators of multiday guided walks on the famous Milford & Routeburn Tracks: operating in New Zealand's stunning World Heritage Area, providing range of all-inclusive guided walks from 1-8 days. Trek through rainforests, past mountain peaks and over remote alpine passes on a unique experience without sacrificing comfort or convenience. Accommodation on overnight walks is in luxury lodges, with meals, hot showers and snug beds. All walks include transport, food, equipment and expert guides. Single day excursions must be booked 24 hours in advance.
Leicester, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
66 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
“Superb scenery, hot showers, soft beds, good food, cold beer/wine”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 March 2012

Recently completed the Milford and Routeburn Tracks with Ultimate Hikes. Personally I preferred the Routeburn Track but then I like hills and mountains. Either of these tracks could be done solo they are clearly marked and don't need map reading skills. However doing this with Ultimate Hikes you get hot showers, very good food, comfortable beds and cold beer/wine (the latter you pay for separately). In addition you get knowledgeable guides who for the most part will act with the lightest touch if you are an experienced hiker, or take a more hands on role if you want it.
We were fortunate with the weather and the people in the group got on well. For the hiker who wants to be alone on the tack, the guides allow you to walk at your own pace so you can easily walk most of the day without seeing many other people.
UH are not particularly cheap but then I don't think they were that expensive either. As a solo traveller I enjoyed meeting like minded people from around the world and would have no hesitation in recommending UH to others

Visited February 2012
6 Thank Simon C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Blenheim, New Zealand
Level Contributor
67 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Fantastic, had a ball!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 March 2012

We all thoroughly enjoyed our trip on the Grand traverse hike, the weather was kind to us and the guides were absolutely stunning, they are the best!! Without them it would be a whole different trip. We saw the most stunning scenery and would love to go back when all the flowers are out. Just brilliant.
You do need some fitness tho to make it enjoyable.
All our food, accommodation etc was included in the price, all you had to pay for was your wine or beer if you had some.

Visited March 2012
Thank turtle63
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
91 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Milford Track Hike - an excellent adventure.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 14 March 2012

Having recently completed the Milford Track hike with Ultimate Hikes, I can only say what a great company they were, everything handled very professionally. They made a hard hike very enjoyable, safe and certainly makes me want to do other hikes with this organisation. The guides were fantastic. They were enthusiastic, encouraging and very safety conscious. The group we hiked with were great, very nice people and all got along very well. the cabins were comfortable, hot showers every night and the food great. Overal one of the best and most rewarding things I have done.

Visited March 2012
Thank Robbyt19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
18 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Grand Traverse, Feb 2012”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 March 2012

The Grand Traverse is a combination of the Greenstone and Routeburn Tracks. This guided walk has a diversity of environment ranging from forests to valley flats to Alpine mountains. There is the benefit of having hot showers and cooked meals at the end of each day. In addition to the wonderful scenery, the guides and our fellow walkers made this an unforgetable experience.

Visited February 2012
Thank Sally4Melbourne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
King's Lynn, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
375 reviews
38 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 334 helpful votes
“A lifetime ambition fulfilled”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 March 2012

This was a fantastic trip and for me it was the highlight of a month in New Zealand. As a keen walker I had been aware of the Milford Trail for more than 30 years but until quite recently never dreamed I would get to walk it. It's not the hardest walk I've done, nor the longest, but it is one of the most interesting and beautiful. The terrain is extremely varied, taking in an Alpine pass, beech woods, tropical forest, lakes and rivers. The scenery is spectacular, especially the huge range of waterfalls you pass en route. At times the vegetation was not unlike the UK, at others it was altogether strange and exotic. There are ample opportunities to view native birds, including kea (sadly not as inquisitive as I'd hoped they would be), weka, New Zealand robins (one of whom attacked a guide's leg, drawing blood), black swans, blue ducks, pigeons, fan tails and bell birds.

All this, of course, can be seen by any walker on the Milford Trail without the expense of the Ultimate Hikes trip but the main benefit for me was to be able to experience all this in reasonable comfort. You still carry a pack but not so heavy that your focus is on your load rather than your surroundings. The lodges are not luxurious (and the first one, Glade House, is in dire need of refurbishment to bring it up to the level of the others) but they are comfortable retreats in idyllic locations. Each evening you can have a hot shower and use a flush toilet rather than the 'long drops' elsewhere on the track. For those who don't want a bunk bed in a shared room, with communal shower and toilet blocks, en suite rooms are available at a higher cost. Breakfasts and (large) evening meals are cooked for you with a choice of a meat or fish main dish at dinner. (Vegetarians are also catered for and substitute dishes offered to those with allergies.) There is a better selection of good wine by the glass or bottle than you will find in most UK pubs and, given that everything must be helicoptered in, not excessively priced. Materials for lunch are set out each morning for you to gather as much or as little as you want. At various points on each day's walk, one of the guides will have hot and cold drinks waiting for you when you stop. Although I cannot personally testify to its efficacy, they even offer an evening foot clinic to deal with aches, sprains and blisters.

The guides themselves range from the competent but slightly detached through the enthusiastic but inexperienced to the superb - in our case the latter was Kelly, a Kiwi with a real passion for this part of his country and a readiness to share his experiences with members of the walking party. He would point out the best places for picnic lunches and photographs, sometimes a short distance away from the obvious; he had a fund of stories about previous walks on the trail, both humorous and narrow escapes from disaster; he had an excellent way with every kind of person, from the sports obsessive to the tedious woman upset by her room mate's snoring; on our last evening he took a group of us a short way up the road from Mitre Peak Lodge for impromptu glow worm viewing. People like Kelly can make or break holidays of this kind and on our walk he added hugely to our enjoyment.

There are some negatives to the walk but all of them are predictable. If they irritate you, it's your own fault since an excellent web site makes clear precisely what you can expect to experience. You will spend every evening and share meals with the same group of people and inevitably one or two of them will not be those you would have chosen had it been up to you. (Of course, this is more than offset by the number of really interesting people you will meet.) The balance of our group was affected by a sub-group on a UK Ramblers Holiday some of whom were distinctly OCD about where you finished each day, as if this were some kind of Olympic trial.

If you are the right side of 50 you need to be particularly sure that this is the kind of walk for you. (At 59, I judged that only 4 of the other 38 guided walkers were younger than me.) The way-marking makes it unnecessary to think about finding the route, even down to poles marking the route in the sections which regularly flood. Earlier in my life I feel sure I would have preferred the independent alternative. As the number on each section of the trail is strictly limited you will encounter some of them despite the determination of the walk organisers to keep you apart, even to the extent of having separate refuges on the mountain pass. Independent walkers tend to be very much younger and fitter - as you have to be in carrying bedding, food and cooking utensils and going 4 days without access to hot water - and you also need to enjoy a sense of irony if you are not to be taken in by stories of guided walkers enjoying jacuzzis, champagne and grilled crayfish each evening.

Because this is a guided trip, there has to be a greater focus on health and safety than is normal for experienced walkers. At times this was comical - a large arrow was set out in the morning to indicate the direction of travel since a few walkers have been known to retrace their steps from the previous day - but there were more serious issues too: the sight of a helicopter lifting out an independent walker with a broken ankle was a useful reminder that people do get into difficulties in isolated places. On the day we went over the Mackinnon Pass, the weather was poor and the guides held back the faster walkers in order to keep the whole group together. (Usually you set your own pace so that after a degree of bunching at the start of each day, you can choose to walk with others or find total isolation.)

Although this is a 5 day/4 night experience, the first day is spent travelling from Queenstown by bus (or taxi, in the case of one walker in our party who missed the early start), picking up others in Te Anau before taking a boat trip to access the trail. The actual walk, to Glade House, will take you no more than 15-20 minutes. Similarly, you are taken out by boat at the end of the fourth day and the final day is devoted to an excellent cruise round Milford Sound before you make the long bus journey back to Queenstown, arriving just after 3.00. The middle 3 days are when the real walk occurs, each of them more than 15 km, long enough to satisfy and experienced walker but none so daunting that it is not achievable by anybody in a reasonable state of fitness.

Visited March 2012
11 Thank LaDolceVita27
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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