Discover both North and South Island on an intrepid adventure in New Zealand.
Auckland and Rotorua
Welcome to New Zealand! After your long journey, we will arrange a car to whisk you to your hotel on Waiheke, just 20 minutes by fast ferry from Auckland. With its gorgeous sandy beaches, acclaimed wineries and art galleries, you’ll be in holiday mode in no time, and you’ll spend the next few days soaking up the laidback atmosphere. From here you will travel to the world-famous Hobbiton, the bucolic setting for The Shire that featured in the Peter Jackson directed films, The Lord of the Rings. With a guided tour through the rolling 12 acres, you will learn all about how the films were created.
Onwards to Rotorua, known for its steaming hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers. The scenic and natural landscapes resonate with Māori culture, and we suggest getting involved with a nutrient-rich mud bath experience. There are also peaceful walks too through redwood forests and activity seekers might like to try rafting the Kaituna River or flying through the forest canopy on a zip line. In the evening you’ll spend time with a Māori family, learning about their culture through stories, dance, cooking, customs and medicine.
Napier and Hastings
Day 6 – 10
Before you set off on your self-drive road trip to Napier, you will have a privilege opportunity to see a kiwi at a kiwi hatchery conservation program and see New Zealand’s emblematic bird forage and roam in their nocturnal house. After this special encounter, head south to Napier and Hawkes Bay. On your way, marvel at Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-o-tapu geothermal park, and Wairakei Park near Taupo which features Craters of the Moon, Wairakei Terraces then Huka Falls.
Reaching the Pacific Coast, get to know art deco town Napier, known for its arty ambience, and further along is Cape Kidnappers and the wine-growing region centered on Havelock North and Hastings. You will also explore the scenic coast from Napier to Te Awanga to visit the world’s largest, accessible gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers, plus traverse riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, native bush, steep gullies and breath-taking incline with views of Hawke’s Bay.
Nelson’s Bay and Blenheim
The next part of your trips sees you fly to Wellington then onto Nelson, at the top northwest corner of the South Island. Offering an irresistible blend of year-round sunshine, golden beaches, national parks, boutique wineries, microbreweries and a large creative community, you’ll find Nelson to be a great place to enjoy its historical streets and waterfront restaurants. A highlight of your stay will be an Abel Tasman day cruise, exploring its stunning coastline famed for its sandy beaches and craggy cliffs. You’ll visit a seal colony, spot shags on the rocks or even see frolicking dolphins plus you will have a chance to snorkel, kayak or head ashore for a bush walk.
Onward to one of New Zealand’s most famous wine region: Marlborough, renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc and home to well-known wineries such as Cloudy Bay and Wither Hills. You will enjoy an unsurpassed day out in an air-conditioned BMW, visiting and tasting wines of the region plus enjoying foodie delicacies too.
Christchurch and Mount Cook
Today you will journey south, hugging the rugged Kaikoura Coast with the option to take to the seas for a whale-watching trip. Excitement continues as you board the TranzAlpine train at Christchurch which crosses the fertile farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, through the stunning Waimakariri Gorge, passing over dramatic viaducts and crossing New Zealand’s greatest mountain range, the Southern Alps. The train will stop at incredibly scenic Arthurs Pass, where you’re surrounded by towering mountains which you can explore by foot or ‘tramping’ as the locals call it.
You will also have the unrivalled experience of a helicopter flight over Mount Cook National Park and its vast glaciers and snowfields. See the ancient waters of the Tasman Glacier Lake before flying the length of the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. Experience what it feels like to stand in snow amongst the mountains as you take in a spectacular view of New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook.
Queenstown and Te Anana
From Mount Cook you will drive down to Queenstown, the South Island’s adrenaline capital. With a cinematic background of mountains and lakes, this region is famous for adventure activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving, white water rafting, biking and kayaking. You might like to fly over the revered Milford Sound, forests, glaciers and frozen lakes into the heart of Fiordland or visit the quaint and historic Arrowtown, which has its origins in the days the Otago Gold Rush in the 1860s. Don’t forget to ride the Skyline Gondola for stunning views of Queenstown and the lake before enjoying an evening in the bars and restaurants of cosmopolitan Queenstown.
From Queenstown, head south to Manapouri to check in for your overnight cruise. Journey into the wilderness of Doubtful Sound and experience this spectacular fjord. Marvel at steep mountain cliffs surrounding the deep waters and view incredible scenery, wildlife and waterfalls from the comfort of your vessel.
Leaving Fiordland behind cross from the west to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula on the east coast. The wildlife is abundant featuring fur seals, Hooker’s sea lions, southern elephant seals, yellow eyed penguins and Hector’s dolphins, especially prevalent in the scenic Catlins dotted with native forests. Near Porpoise Bay, home to pods of Hector’s Dolphins, is Curio Bay with its intriguing, fossilised forest.
You will also join a small group tour of the Otago Peninsula providing unrivalled wildlife viewing of estuarine and marine wildlife. The private conservation area ensures exclusivity with brilliant opportunities to photograph Hooker’s Sea lions, Yelloweyed Penguins, Blue Penguins, a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and other sea bird colonies.
Your time on the South Island has come to an end as you fly back up to Auckland for one last adventure. Explore the Bay of Islands, an area of abundant marine wildlife, world-class dive sites and outstanding fishing charters. You can also explore the bay by kayak or go surfing or see the bays by boat trip. And of course, there are pristine golden beaches and mysterious forests, with 144 islands each surrounded by pristine waters.
Back on land, there are numerous guided touring options including a half-day tour taking in the Kawiti glow worms or biking and hiking coastal trails. Treat yourself to great quality seafood and local delicacies at one of the Bay of Islands’ restaurants before you complete your epic trip of New Zealand and you start your return home, armed with unforgettable memories of this diverse country.