Rainbow - Nelson Lakes Tours

Experience this 4WD wilderness tour across the Southern Alps through St James Station & Molesworth – Tarndale Lake's country and then the private land of the rugged Rainbow Station to the magnificent and stunning L. Rotoiti & L. Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

The Route; From Hanmer Springs, the route follows the Clarence River along Molesworth's southern boundary with the St James Conservation Area to its origin at Lake Tennyson. After crossing the high alpine Island Saddle (NZ’s highest thru road. 1347m) it follows the Wairau River thru Molesworth/Tarndale & Rainbow Station past the Rainbow Ski field out to the alpine township of St Arnaud and Lake Rotoiti. After a delightful picnic lunch on the lake shore we travel on through the many gold fields and the West Coast native beech forests using old historic "Stock and Gold Trails" used by our enterprising pioneers over 160 years ago before arriving back at Hanmer Springs. 

 The route is remarkable for the landscape transition from the Clarence River Valley (1000m) featuring wide flowing tussock lands to where vast screes spill from ridge crest to valley floor in a lonely landscape split with fast flowing snow fed streams, ice cold sparkling lakes and Kettle bogs.

St. James Station was one of New Zealand’s largest private high country runs until purchased by the Crown recently. It is well known for its roving bands of station bred horses that attract wide interest amongst the equine community.

Lake Tennyson is the “jewel in the crown” amongst the lofty peaks of the Spenser's and a combination of water, forest, high mountains, tussock and scree creates a scenic highlight. The 239 hectare lake is dammed behind glacial moraines. The vegetation is a mosaic of moraine communities including open red tussock land and low shrub land with patches of tall tussock.

The history of glaciations' can be read in the landscape. Terminal and lateral moraines, glacial outwash plains, hanging valleys and waterfalls, cirque basins, tarns and arętes are all reminders of the regions past ice ages. Passing thru a natural divide in the Southern Alps called ‘Hells Gates’ you enter the Wairau & Rainbow Valleys with their craggy, beech tree covered mountains that sweep down to the boulder strewn fast flowing Wairau River dissecting the St Arnaud and Raglan Mountain Ranges.

Passes in the upper Wairau valley were part of overland routes used by the early Maori. Later, high country graziers moving large sheep flocks between Nelson / Marlborough and Canterbury built a chain of Cob Houses to accommodate weary travellers in this often hostile land. Some of these houses remain and are still in use today.

Alpine flowers, Tarns and the never ending views are summers main attractions in this area. There will be opportunities to explore this amazing alpine area with its PNA of varied flora & fauna (over 100 indigenous species of flowering plants) and its many birds, insects, and native skink lizards. The chance to take a stroll if desired over a short easy walking track just off the 4wd road to view the magnificent Sedgemere Tarn (small alpine lake) is well worth while . These Tarns are regularly frequented by waders and waterfowl: pied stilt, pied oystercatcher, black fronted tern, banded dotterel and greyduck along with Shelduck and Canada geese. The NZ Falcon also lives in this region. Land locked native fish species, including members of the bully and galaxlid families occur in these lakes and tarns. Rivers and streams are populated by native fish species plus salmon and trout.

Features; 5 Alpine lakes, 5 mountain passes, 20 rivers, geological faults, 100 year old homesteads, native flora and fauna plus the wildlife. A truly unbelievable day out.

Cost ; We have 2 options for this area;

Option 1; (380 km) Departs at 7.30 am, returns approx. 6.00 pm.  $395 per person and includes lunch & refreshments. Touring notes will also be made available. (Plenty of toilets)

Option 2;  (160 km) Departs at 8. 00 am, returns approx. 4.30 pm.  $ 235.00 per person and includes lunch & refreshments. Touring notes will also be made available. (Plenty of toilets)

Bookings are essential and can be made Direct or through your Travel Agent, Information Centre or host.

Tours are available all year round with our favourite time being the Spring and Autumn when these areas are at their best.

Courtesy pick-up and return service from Hanmer Springs. We have a secure vehicle and campervan parking area available in Hanmer Springs (no charge and self contained camper units are welcome to stay overnight).

Suggestions on what to bring on our tours; Windbreaker, sneakers, sunhat, sunglasses, water bottle and a smile. We supply detailed maps and pace notes.

Inquire about our generous "Group Specials" and we will even arrange suitable accommodation for you.  Pick-up Departure points and Transfers can be arranged from other centres i.e. Picton, Blenheim, Nelson, Kaikoura or Christchurch.


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Judges Creek      Rugged Day       Hells Gates        Upper Wairau       Warning!         Bush Stroll

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