Horseback vacation Lake Hawea
Horseback vacation New Zealand
Horse riding holiday Hunter Valley
Horseback vacation Hunter Valley
Wilderness horse riding New Zealand
Cabin horseback vacation New Zealand
Horse riding holiday Lake Hawea
Horse riding holiday Mount Aspiring
Horse riding holiday New Zealand
Horseback vacation Mount Aspiring
Horse riding holiday New Zealand
Horseback vacation New Zealand

A great horse riding holiday to fit in to an extended tour of New Zealand, this trail ride takes you in to the stunning and exclusive landscape around Lake Hawea and the Hunter Valley. Riding exclusively on private land, this trip offers breath-taking scenery between the isolated high country stations that provide the accommodation on the trail. The sure-footed horses make easy work of rocky bluffs, lush green paddocks, beech forests and glacial valleys. The dramatic scenery of Lake Hawea, Mount Aspiring, Lake Wanaka and Hunter Valley in the fresh crisp air, viewed from horseback and with no vehicles in sight, provide the perfect antidote to modern life. You can even choose to sleep out under the stars on some nights like the musters of old. Be awed, inspired and rejuvenated by the unspoiled purity of the New Zealand wilderness on this horse riding holiday with opportunities to enjoy all the paces.

Renovated shearer’s quarters make up most of the accommodation on the trail, providing a few home comforts without interrupting the serenity of the isolated stations. Food is also locally sourced as much as possible, adding to the authentic feeling of stepping back in time and living as the local farmhands have done for decades. Lakes and Valleys of South Island offers an extended version of this itinerary.

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Day 1
You will be met at Queenstown airport and transferred to Hunter Valley Shearer’s Quarters. Here you will meet your horse and set out for an afternoon ride alongside the scenic Lake Hawea. This short trek allows riders and horses to get used to each other and make sure everyone is well matched. You will return to the shearer’s quarters for dinner and overnight. There are some nice walks around the lake if you want to stretch your legs after dinner, or you could just relax on the deck with a glass of wine and enjoy the view! Riding time approx. 2.5 hours.

Day 2
After a home cooked breakfast it is time to pack your saddle bags and set out on the trail. Today you will ride through native beech forests and pass by waterfalls on your way to Hunter Valley Boundary Hut. Hereford cattle and Merino sheep roam freely in the open valley and there are plenty of opportunities to trot and canter. There are many great spots to take photos along the way, so keep your camera handy! At the boundary hut, the horses are turned out into the paddock while you take in the spectacular views of Hunter Valley and enjoy the isolation. Dinner is served on the decking with an impressive mountain backdrop. Tonight, if you want to, you can sleep under the stars. Riding time 2-5 hours.

Day 3
Today you can choose between a rest day at the boundary hut, perhaps taking a walk or going fly fishing, or taking a ride out into Hunter Valley. After a hearty breakfast you saddle up and ride deeper into the valley. This trail meanders through an ice-blue glacial river with the impressive mountain ranges rising up on either side. You might see trout feeding in the river or rare New Zealand falcons flying overhead. This is a ride you will not forget for a long time as the incredible isolation and beauty is overwhelming. There are plenty of opportunities for trotting and cantering if people so desire. Returning to the Boundary hut for the evening we enjoy wine and nibbles before dinner on the deck. There is an opportunity to sleep out under the stars here if you so desire. There is no electricity in this hut but we do enjoy solar panel lighting. Riding time approx. 6 hours.

Day 4
Pack your bags after breakfast and head out across the Hunter River towards Dingleburn station. It will feel as though you are riding through a postcard today with spectacular views reflected in the sparkling lake. Looking across Lake Hawea, you can see the way back to Hunter Valley Station. With several chances to trot and canter today, you will arrive at Dingleburn Shearer’s Quarters. Here we have hot showers flushing toilets, electricity from the station generator and a wonderful cookhouse where we will enjoy a farm cooked meal and relaxing evening. Riding time approx. 6 hours.

Day 5
It’s a more relaxed start to the day today with brunch served at 10am in the cookhouse. Once mounted, you ride along the Dingleburn track, a feat of Kiwi ingenuity providing access to the remote station. You will ride past the waterfall that provides hydroelectric power to the station on a more gentle day’s riding towards Hawea Hotel. There are still plenty of stunning scenes to admire and capture along the way. You say goodbye to the horses at Dingleburn Cattle Yard and carry on by car to Hawea Hotel on the banks of the lake for a luxurious end to the holiday. Dinner is a set menu looking out over the water (alcohol not included). Riding time approx. 4 hours.

Day 6
After breakfast, say farewell and transfer to the airport or Queenstown. 

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are typical hardy New Zealand hacks bred by the hosts, all of a solid build ranging from 15.1hh to 17hh.  They are forward moving, calm, sensible, gentle and yet able to dig in and get the job done on terrain that climbs to 6,000 feet above sea.There are a number of Clydesdale crosses which can accommodate heavier riders, please check for availability of these if you exceed the weight limit but are interested in this ride. Saddles are comfy stock and western saddles and all the tack is well kept and suited to the horses.

The terrain is varied and can be steep in places, and the trails may cross rivers, but the horses are all honest, calm and sure-footed. They are comfortable going high into the mountains and through glacial fed rivers and streams. This ride involves trotting and cantering at times and riders should be comfortable doing this through both open areas and vegetation.

Rider requirements

Riders should have experience at walk, trot and canter in open spaces and a good general level of fitness. Horses are selected for each rider based on experience level as well as height/weight. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years, children must be good riders and accompanied by an adult.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

On this trail you will spend 2 nights in renovated shearer’s quarters, 2 nights in basic cabins or camping and 1 night in a hotel. On occasion one of the nights in shearer’s quarters (at Hunter Valley) may be substituted for a second night in the hotel if the owner is in residence.

Shearer’s Quarters: These cabins, traditionally used by farm hands watching and tending sheep in the valleys, have all been renovated to provide comfortable accommodation with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. They come equipped with hot showers, flushing toilets and electricity (often from a generator). Beds are dormitory style, with two or three rooms at each cabin. There is usually a dinning/social area at each cabin where you can relax in the evening.

Basic cabins: These huts have long-drop toilets and water will be provided for washing. There is solar power lighting and a limited water supply to have hot camp showers at the Boundary Hut. Beds are dormitory style in one room, or there is the option to have a 1/2 person tent.

Hotel: The final night of the tour (and night 4 if Hunter Valley is unavailable) is spent at Hawea Hotel on the shores of Lake Hawea. Rooms will be twin or family with all modern amenities including hot showers, flushing toilets, electricity, Wi-Fi and TVs. There are common areas available to relax in including a bar with pool table.

Food on the trail will be locally sourced as much as possible, adding to the authentic feel of the trek. Meals will generally be rustic and hearty farm fare. On the last night dinner will be in a local restaurant (alcohol not included). At breakfast there are cereals, toast and preserves as well as a cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausages), tea and coffee. Lunches are pack-ups of sandwiches/wraps, fresh fruit, home baked slices, sweets and nuts. Dinners are designed to enhance the visit through each high country station with Angus beef, roast merino lamb, high country salmon, Mount Harris venison. Puddings also include the fruits from central Otago. There is a complimentary glass of wine with dinner, additional drinks can be purchased before the trail and will be carried to each overnight location for you.

Please enquire if you have any dietary requirements: every effort will be made to accommodate dietary needs but please note that all the food is carried in pack boxes and the isolated location of the trails can make it difficult to source certain items.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information:

Visa requirements are not currently necessary for the U.K., other Europeanor USA nationals. But do check before travelling. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at

The British Consulate in Auckland can be contacted on .Tel +64 9 3032 973 email:

The New Zealand High Commission in the U.K can be found at New Zealand House, 80 The Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4TQ. Tel (020) 7930 8422. Email

Climate Summary

The seasons are sharply defined: summers are hot and low in humidity; winter mornings are often misty, the days cloudless and windless and the nights freezing. Spring warms the soil and fruit tree blossom dominates the district’s orchard areas. Temperatures range from minus 3 to 20 deg C, with 10 frosts a month. Average rainfall is 28mm a month and sunshine 206 hours.
In summer, daylight lasts as long as 10pm. Temperatures range from 10 to plus 30 deg C on several days. Rainfall averages 38mm a month and sunshine is 227 hours. Autumn is brilliant as the extensive orchards and poplar shelterbelts turn red, yellow and gold. Temperatures range from minus 3 to 24 deg C. Rainfall averages 30mm a month with 11 frosts monthly and 150 hours of sunshine.

Climate Chart


There are no specific health requirements in place for visitors to New Zealand. Ask your GP for advice before travelling.

For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at You can also check the Department of Healths website at

Health (ride specific)

There are no specific health warnings for this ride. Insect repellent is a good idea though!


Voltage is 240V, 50 Hz as in EUrope and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.

Film and Camera Equipment

There are opportunities to charge phones and cameras at some, but not all, accommodations along the trail. Spare batteries and/or a powerbank are a good idea. There is only Wi-Fi in the hotel on the last night.

Packing List

We recommend you bring the following equipment (in a soft travel bag, please avoid hard suitcases):

Jodhpurs/riding breeches
Paddock boots or hiking boots with half-chaps or full-chaps
Riding hat or helmet STRONGLY ADVISED
Riding gloves
Shirts or t-shirts
Pullover, fleece sweaters or fleece jacket
Warm coat and windbreaker
Rain trousers
Comfortable trousers for evenings
Warm pyjamas
Quick-drying socks
Warm woollen/ merino clothing/ Thermal underwear (including long Johns)
Comfortable light-weight shoes for evenings
Hat or cap
Warm Hat/gloves/warm socks/ scarf
Personal toilet bag
High protection sun screen and lipstick
Tissue/toilet paper and wipes
Personal medication
Insect repellent
Soap and shampoo (biodegradable if possible)
Antibacterial product for hands
Sleeping bag suited to mountain conditions
Sleeping bag liner
Hot water bottle if you feel the cold at night
Good sunglasses
Water bottle/flask
Camera + batteries + powerbank
Ear plugs
Electric adaptor if needed
Paracetamol/ibruprofen (if you think you will require this)
Chocolate (or other sweeties you can’t resist)


This is a 6 day/5 night programme with 5 days riding available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2020: 10 Apr.
2021: 19 Jan; 3 Apr

No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.

Single rooms are not available every night so guests need to be willing to share. Single tents are available at no additional cost. Single rooms in hotels may be arranged subject to availability, please enquire.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
2019/20206d/5n5double pp1,769
2020/20216d/5n5double pp1,769
No of   
Riding days Product item description
2019/20206d/5n5double pp1,919
2020/20216d/5n5double pp1,919
No of   
Riding days Product item description $
2019/20206d/5n5double pp2,355
2020/20216d/5n5double pp2,355
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
2019/20206d/5n5double pp19,865
2020/20216d/5n5double pp19,865
Recommended Reading

Kiwi Tracks: New Zealand Journey by Andrew Stevenson


Red, Fallow and Wapiti deer, Merino sheep, Chamois (an agile goat/ antelope with short hooked horns) and Himalayan Tahr (is associated with wild goats from the Himalayas in southern Tibet)

Other Country Information

New Zealand is a fertile and mountainous group of islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It is made up of two main islands (the North Island and South Island) and a number of smaller islands.

New Zealand's first settlers were the Maori, whose Polynesian ancestors probably landed on what they called Aotearoa ('Land of the Long White cloud') during the 10th century AD, making New Zealand the last major habitable land mass to be settled by mankind. European settlers first came across New Zealand in 1642 when the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, spotted it in the course of his search for Antarctica. He named the South Island 'Nieuw Zeeland' after the Dutch province. James Cook sighted the North Island in 1769 and returned with various charting and scientific expeditions a number of times over the next few years. His enthusiastic reports encouraged a wave of European settlers who came across from Australia, and whalers who came from the UK, the USA and France. They gradually displaced Maori from their lands.

New Zealand is a country of rare seismic beauty: glacial mountains, fast-flowing rivers, deep, clear lakes, hissing geysers and boiling mud. There are also abundant native forests and long, deserted beaches. Because of its isolated geographical location, New Zealand is home to many unique species of flora and fauna, including the kiwi, kakapo and weka (all flightless birds).

New Zealand is twelve hours ahead GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.

The international dialling code is +64.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Queenstown Airport or local hotel.
2020: Return transfers included from Queenstown Airport or local hotel. Transfers will depart and return to Queenstown at approximately 12 noon.
Flight Guide:
London - Queenstown from £924
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