Day 1 – Welcome to Auckland, New Zealand
On arrival into Auckland, you will be met and transferred to your accommodation, or if you choose the rental car option, you will pick up your vehicle and self-drive to your hotel.
Spend the day at your leisure in Auckland. Encircled by three harbors totaling 18,000 miles of coastline, hundreds of Auckland’s beaches are within easy reach. And they’re all so different, from idyllic white-sand beaches to wild black-sand surf spots. Get into some of the countless activities on and off the water or just unwind and soak up the views. Or opt to see modern and traditional works from around the world at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Visit smaller local galleries to pick up a special painting, sculpture or carving to take home, stroll through modern sculpture parks, or join an intimate art appreciation tour.Starting Accommodation:
Day 2 – Auckland to Rotorua via Waitomo Caves and Marae Hangi & Concert
Depart Auckland early this morning on board the Great Sights motor coach for your ride south to Hamilton. Travel through the rich Waikato area, famous for its dairy farms, kiwi fruit orchards, thoroughbred horses and the Waitomo Caves! You will enter subterranean limestone caverns to view the Glow Worm Grotto. Surely one of the wonders of the world. Then, you'll continue over the bush-clad Mamaku Ranges to Rotorua. A picnic lunch served on board the coach is included, with arrival to Rotorua 1.30-2pm in the afternoon. Please note that hotel pick ups and drop offs may be provided by a third-party operator.
Tonight experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling and hangi feasting. This Twilight Cultural Tour offers transport to and from a Marae by coach. En route to the Marae, the guide explains the protocol to take place. The group on board is prepared for the wero (challenge) and powhiri (ancient ceremony of welcome) before you will be invited into the Pre-European Maori village nestled within the native Tawa forest. Enter the living village, as it comes alive with the sights, sounds and activity of days gone by, including facial tattooing, weaving, carving and demonstrations on how food was cooked and preserved many years ago. At the heart of the Village, enter the ancestral Meeting House and relax as the families entertain you with a powerful Cultural performance, including action songs, poi, stick games and the famous 'haka' - Maori War Dance. The sharing of food is an important part of Maori custom - join in the traditional hangi buffet feast, followed by New Zealand dessert. The evening draws to an end with the Poroporoaki - the official closing ceremony, before you are safely transferred back to your Rotorua accommodation by motor-coach.Starting Accommodation:
Novotel Rotorua Lakeside (L, D)
Day 3 – Half Day Eco Thermal Park Tour and Rotorua at Leisure
Depart from your Rotorua city accommodations for this small-group half-day tour of Rotorua's most natural and popular geothermal parks. Today's tour will visit Wai O Tapu and Waimangu Volcanic Valley. The two parks offer a variety of thermal activity: at Wai-o-tapu, the colorful hot springs are the key features along with the famous Lady Knox geyser. At Waimangu Volcanic valley, the guide will explain the Mt Tarawera eruption that blew open this now spectacular, bush covered geothermal park. The local naturalist guide will explain the volcanic processes of Rotorua and New Zealand while you have the opportunity to view the volcanoes, geysers, New Zealand's largest boiling mud pool, and hot springs.
Spend the afternoon exploring Rotorua.Rotorua provides an abundance of things to do and places to go for travelers of all ages. Rotorua will certainly ensure a wonderful holiday, from peaceful tours through to adrenalin-pumping action, in the air or on the lake, river or land. In fact, there is such a mind-boggling array of wonderful attractions and distractions that you may not even know where to start upon arrival. You could soar high up in the sky and receive a bird's eye view of Rotorua or experience the geothermal Rotorua through its distinctive sights and smells. There of course are more relaxing activities for those searching for a calmer experience and a basket full of free and low-cost activities and attractions for those traveling on a budget. Offering culture and history as well as adventure and thrills, Rotorua is a perfect destination!Starting Accommodation:
Novotel Rotorua Lakeside
Day 4 – Drive Rotorua to Napier
Depart Rotorua and travel south to Napier.Starting Accommodation:
Day 5 – A Wine and Gourmet Odyssey
Where does art meet science? In the rolling hills of Hawke's Bay, of course! Amongst rows of lush vineyards and round peaks, you will embark on an odyssey that has you savoring some of Hawke's Bay's internationally acclaimed wine and food on this fabulous private tour. Four wineries, four tastings, and a lesson in matching wine and food while sampling a platter with the finest local produce of meats, cheese, marinated vegetables, breads, dips and more. Learn the evolution of wine, from the vine to the glass.Starting Accommodation:
Day 6 – Drive Napier to Wellington
You will be at your leisure for this 210-mile drive south to New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Allow 4.5 hours' drive time for travel via State Highway 2, with extra time for comfort stops or to visit the sights along the way. Pukaha Mount Bruce is located between Eketahuna and Masterton on State Highway 2, with an aviary walk to see several species of native birds and the opportunity to see a tuatara or the longfin eels. Also, if you have an interest in wines, the Martinborough area (Masterton) is fast becoming New Zealand's premier boutique wine district.Starting Accommodation:
QT Museum Hotel
Day 7 – City Highlights Inspiration Tour and Wellington at Leisure
From its dramatic south coast to its bizarre central Beehive, the contrasts and quirkiness of Wellington's wonders are unequaled anywhere on earth. Designed for visitors with limited time in beautiful Wellington, enjoy a small group half-day tour around the City's main highlights and sights. Travel around the earthquake-scarred south coast to see the ruins of the Wahine ferry disaster and the distant ranges of the South Island, overlooked by the coasters' houses perched on the steep, rocky hills. Enjoy the views of the harbor and Matiu Somes Island, a deceptively pretty place where prisoners of war were quarantined during World War II. Enjoy panoramic views of Wellington city and harbor from the top of Mt Victoria. Take a trip on the cable car, a charming and picturesque transport that is one of the few surviving in the world. In Thorndon, New Zealand's oldest suburb, visit the magnificent Parliament buildings and gorgeous Old St Paul's cathedral. See the famous Beehive, New Zealand's seat of government. It really is shaped like one!
This afternoon explore Wellington at your leisure. With a backdrop of rolling green hills and a magnificent waterfront as its stage, Wellington was destined to be New Zealand's entertainment capital. It is the home to New Zealand's national museum and has more restaurants, bars and cafes per head than New York. Amazingly, this flurry of activity exists in a city that is little over a mile long and can be traversed in 20 minutes. Shop funky boutiques or people watch while nursing a cappuccino at the foreshore.Starting Accommodation:
QT Museum Hotel
Day 8 – Drive Picton to Nelson
Depart Picton towards Blenheim, where you join State Highway 6 via Havelock to Nelson. The drive today is 90 miles, and you should allow 2 to 2.5 hours. If you have more time, you may wish to travel via the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, skirting the edges of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds, with highlights including lookout points over the beautiful Marlborough Sounds.Starting Accommodation:
Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco
Day 10 – Drive Nelson to Franz Josef
At your leisure for this exciting 8 hour drive that takes you through Murchison and the beautiful Lake Rotoroa (off the main road). Continue on to the equally spectacular Paparoa National Park (take the road via Westport), which features the famous Punakaiki Rocks, and onto Greymouth, which is just past the half waypoint. From here just continue down the coast via Hokitika and Ross to the Franz; Fox glacier area. The drive today is 300 miles.Starting Accommodation:
Day 11 – Day at Leisure in Nelson
Welcome to Nelson--an eclectic region of stunning natural beauty and locally inspire creativity. Among its accolades, Nelson also acts as the perfect base from which to explore Abel Tasman National Park. Renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and its world-famous coastal track, this area is a scenery buff's haven. Go sea kayaking and explore the myriad of crescent-shaped bays or for those with the time (and perseverance!), hike the coast or inland tracks, each take around 3 to 5 days to complete but are extremely rewarding to the eye as well as the spirit. This area is wilderness at is picturesque best.
Creativity is king in Nelson. More than 350 artists and craftspeople call Nelson home, and their work is continually being shaped by the area's ethereal beauty. Inspired travelers can try their hand at glassblowing, pottery, bone carving, and even Maori flax weaving, while less artistic visitors can stroll through sun kissed orchards, windsurf at Tahuna Beach, or dine on locally smoked seafood.Starting Accommodation:
Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco
Day 12 – Drive Franz Josef to Queenstown
The drive from Franz Josef to Queenstown is 220 miles - you should allow at least 5 hours. This drive is one of the most scenic in New Zealand. Head south out of the town toward Fox Glacier (about half an hour), continuing to Lake Moeraki, which is a further 1-hour drive. Head through the Haast Pass and see the lands open up into golden plains. Please note that Highway 6 may close at Haast Pass at night, so you will need to be past Haast township by 5pm. You then drive past Lake Wanaka (which is absolutely stunning) and alongside Lake Hawea and onto Wanaka (good stop for a light meal) and Cromwell and then down the range (incredible views) to Queenstown. We suggest you fill the car up with gas (petrol) before you leave Franz Josef.Starting Accommodation:
Day 13 – Dart River Wilderness Safari
Transfer from Queenstown by coach to Glenorchy and the mouth of the Dart River to board the 18-foot specially prepared jet boat. The Wilderness Safari takes you on a spectacular 90-minute jet-boat journey through the Dart's ever-changing braided river system where you'll be surrounded by snow-covered peaks, hidden valleys and waterfalls.
The tour includes an easy guided 30- to 40-minute walk through the 'Heritage Trail' at Paradise where your knowledgeable guide will enliven your walk with an informative and entertaining commentary about the ancient native beech forest, the unique flora and fauna, as well as the fascinating Maori and colonial history of the area. You'll also journey by coach via a scenic back-road route, while hearing stories about the surrounding countryside and stopping to view scenery that has formed the epic backdrop for many international films, including 'The Lord of the Rings'.Starting Accommodation:
Day 13 – Glacier Valley Walk and Franz Josef at Leisure
Franz Josef Glacier at its most dynamic! The Glacier Valley Walk takes participants alongside the mighty Waiho River bed, following the glacier's path of retreat in this remarkable landscape. Here, learn about the glacier's history, see what is left behind by this majestic giant, and learn the legend of Ka_ Roimata o Hinehukatere. Near the terminal face, cross over the public barriers, and after a brief climb, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the rapidly changing terminal face of the glacier. There has never been a more extraordinary time to visit Franz Josef Glacier. Note that this trip does not take you onto the ice. Please note, this excursion operates only with a minimum of 4 people. If they do not reach minimum numbers, the tour will not operate. Reporting time is 15 minutes prior to departure at the 63 Cron Street. A low level of fitness is all that is required for this excursion.
This afternoon explore Franz Josef. Located in Westland National Park, the Franz Josef glacier region is one of only two places in the world where you can witness fingers of ice touching temperate rain forest. Hike past icy rivers as they meander down rugged mountains and lush valleys towards the sea. Explore this arctic playground from the skies and watch the sun dance along glacial lakes. Only in Franz Josef can you enjoy such a stunning array of natural highlights in such close proximity. From the dramatic alpine environment of the Southern Alps, including New Zealand's highest peaks and glaciers, to Westland's tranquil wetlands and rugged coastline, be sure to include a visit to this wondrous region in your travel plans. You can take a glacier walk of 4 or 8 hours as well as heli hike to the higher levels of the glacier, which takes about 2 hours. The town is quite small and can easily be walked. The Blue Ice cafe is great for light foods and for a superb 5-course dinner; or stop by the Canopy Restaurant at The Te Waonui Forest Retreat.Starting Accommodation:
Day 14 – Queenstown at Leisure
Enjoy time at leisure to explore the adventure capital of New Zealand. Set between the towering Remarkable Ranges and the bottomless Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has it all. Originally settled by the gold miners and station owners, it is now home to adrenaline-filled adventures such as bungee jumping, the Canyon Swing, jetboating, rafting and amazing scenic helicopter flights. Take a more sedate gondola ride to Bob's Peak for great views or the 110-year-old steamer, The Earnslaw, as she cruises around Lake Wakitpu. You may wish to visit Milford or Doubtful Sound or the old gold mining town of Arrowtown. There are some interesting wineries, including Amisfield (great for lunch or early dinners), which is just outside the town. You will find all the souvenirs you need here for your New Zealand visit, including a 'Lord of the Rings' gift store. Queenstown is home to some superb restaurants that cater to all the desires of your appetite: The Cow (great pizzas), The Botswana Butchery (the name says it all), Bella Cuccini (for Italian), Blue Kanu (for Polynesian) and Fergburger (for the ultimate burger).Starting Accommodation:
Day 15 – Drive Queenstown to Dunedin
At your leisure (4-5 hours), but allow most of the day as you take in the sights via the Otago farmlands.Starting Accommodation:
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
Day 17 – Dunedin to Christchurch
The drive today is just over 200 miles, so you will need to allow 4-5 hours - perhaps longer to take in some sights en route. You have the option of driving up the east coast via the Moeraki Boulders or alternatively travel to Oamaru and then head west via Twizel and Lake Tekapo to Fairlie, a little longer but probably a much more scenic route. Stop off at Moeraki to see the famous Moeraki Boulders.Starting Accommodation:
Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch
Day 18 – Christchurch at Leisure
Christchurch, the city of parks and gardens, trees and beauty, is said to be the most English city outside England. Following an earthquake in 2011, parts of the Christchurch central business district, including Cathedral Square, continue to be rebuilt. Until remedial work is completed, there are still plenty of retail and tour opportunities. Visit the 're-start' retail and cafe precinct featuring 29 retail shops built in fashionably presented shipping containers. And, the city can still cater to your taste-buds whether you are after a five-star dining experience or simply want to go somewhere for great coffee. Vintage car, horse and carriage, hot air ballooning and guided walking tours: these are just a few ways to explore the Garden City.Starting Accommodation:
Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch
Day 18 – Otago Peninsula Royal Tour
Travel by road along the scenic Otago Peninsula seeing various species of wading birds in their natural habitats. Take a guided tour at the Royal Albatross Centre, viewing the majestic Royal Albatrosses from an observatory in their natural environment (limited viewing Sep-Nov). You will also have time to purchase lunch at the Royal Albatross Cafe (own cost). From here, take a guided walking tour at Penguin Place to see and learn about the Yellow Eyed Penguin, the most endangered penguin in the world, found only on the southeast coast of New Zealand. A short bus trip over the farm takes you to the reserve where your guide will lead you through a unique system of covered trenches into hiding spots for viewing; allowing access to the living areas and breeding grounds of this shy penguin. You will have the opportunity to witness and photograph undisturbed activity at close range. Continue the tour to the tip of the Otago Peninsula for the one-hour Wildlife Cruise aboard the M.V.Monarch. Enjoy unrivaled wildlife viewing. See what cannot be seen from the land: Albatrosses, New Zealand Fur Seals and up to 20 species of bird and marine life in their undisturbed and otherwise inaccessible environment. Learn the fascinating history and geology of the area before returning to Dunedin.Starting Accommodation:
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
Day 19 – Departure Christchurch
Please wait for your driver in your hotel lobby for your transfer to Christchurch airport by private vehicle.