WHOEVER SAID NO PAIN, NO GAIN?

New Zealand Unveils a New Hiking Trail

A recently unveiled cross-country route connects Lord of the Rings landscapes with surprisingly cushy hike-in accommodations. We detail three doable itineraries that end in a sweet stay.

By Beth Collins, Monday, Jan 31, 2011, 4:00 PM

The Queen Charlotte Track

(sheriryden/myBudgetTravel)

You would have to walk 150 days or more to cover all 1,864 miles of New Zealand's cross-country Te Araroa Trail, which opens this month after 35 years in the making. Or you could take an easier route. The Te Araroa's Queen Charlotte section strings achingly gorgeous views and plush new lodges together into a handful of easy-to-do day hikes, all just a short ferry ride from the town of Picton.

HIKE 1: STROLL THE BEACH
The Route
The Te Araroa picks up on the South Island near the Ship Cove ferry station and starts hikers off on a scalloped, white-sand beach, shaded by 30-foot-high Nikau palm trees. From there, it climbs a rocky ridge overlooking cerulean-blue Resolution Bay and then dips down to Endeavour Inlet.

Difficulty Level Easy to moderate, 9 miles

Where to Stay Just a quarter-mile walk from Endeavour Inlet, the Furneaux Lodge
is bordered by a 2,000-acre swath of virgin forest. Choose a dormitory (from $26 per person) or one of 14 new suites (furneaux.co.nz, from $127).

HIKE 2: SUMMIT A MOUNTAIN
The Route
From the Torea Bay ferry station, the Te Araroa leads to a 1,300-foot-high saddle between two forested peaks, high above Queen Charlotte Sound. From there, it cuts through an archaeological reserve scattered with 15th-century Maori artifacts, before reaching Mistletoe Bay.

Difficulty Level Moderate, 7 miles

Where to Stay When the trail nears the shoreline, you'll see signs for the two-mile James Vogel Track, which will take you to Mistletoe Bay Eco Village. The eight heated cabins have water views, and each sleeps up to six (mistletoebay.co.nz, cabins $105).

HIKE 3: WALK AMONG WILDLIFE
The Route
Native New Zealand birds like tiny black-and-white tomtits and gray fantails make their home along the route west of the Mistletoe Bay ferry stop. The trail follows a former bridle path past sheep stations, farms, and old-growth beech trees.

Difficulty Level Easy, 8 miles

Where to Stay Sitting right on the beach at the western edge of Queen Charlotte Sound, the five-room, two-story Tirimoana House has a private deck, uninterrupted water views, and antique chandeliers (tirimoanahouse.com, from $150).

Multiple ferries run daily from Picton (boatrides.co.nz, from $50 one way).