- 21 Days -
We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!
Auckland ◦ the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula ◦ Mount Maunganui ◦ Rotorua ◦ Lake Taupo ◦ Hawkes Bay wine region ◦ Wellington ◦ Queenstown ◦ Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound ◦ Routeburn Track ◦ Otago Pinot Noir wines ◦ Haast Pass ◦ West Coast South Island ◦ Franz Josef Glacier ◦ Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki ◦ Arthurs Pass ◦ Christchurch.
Price is based on two persons sharing a room, traveling in October. It includes 3-star accommodation and the use of a rental car. The price is subject to future changes in US$ and NZ$ currency exchange rates.
For travel other than October, or if you don't have the time to create a Wish List, click for a free personal quote based on your planned departure date.
Almost two-thirds of the population of New Zealand live in the Auckland region. The city lies on a massive harbor, called The Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, dotted with over 50 islands. There are great restaurants and shopping opportunities and a thriving cultural life.
Create your own Wish List by opening the activities boxes and adding the ones that appeal to you.
Also see our Great Barrier Island Blog
An early start will see you escape the busy Auckland traffic and set out for the spectacular Coromandel Peninsula.
Time to explore the forests, the beaches, the stunning walking tracks, the fishing, diving and kayaking of the beautiful northern Coromandel Peninsula.
Another day of great scenery as you take the spectacular road south to the region that English explorer Captain James Cook called The Bay of Plenty. You'll pass through rural landscapes and New Zealand's most productive kiwi-fruit and avocado growing region. We suggest en-route stops for a morning coffee at Whangamata followed by the terrific walking trail at the Karangaheke Gorge.
The perfect place for an overnight stay. Swim in the warm Pacific waters or a take a pleasant stroll to the summit of Mount Maunganui for tremendous views of the harbor and surrounding countryside.
We now drive inland via the scenic route to Rotorua. Lord of The Rings enthusiasts will take a one hour diversion to visit the filming sites at Hobbiton near the town of Matamata.
Rotorua is your opportunity to experience the fascinating culture and history of the Maori people. It's also known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot spring spas.
Also see our Whirinaki Forest Blog
A relaxing drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest with some interesting stop-off options to enjoy en-route. Why not stop on the shores of Lake Taupo for lunch!
This massive high country plateau, a World Heritage Park, is an incredibly diverse region of tussock grassland, wild rivers, forests and birdlife with the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominating the landscape. There are great walking and biking trails, white water rafting, some of the best trout fishing in the world and the highlight of any visit, the Tongariro Crossing. The ultimate destination for any adventurer.
Instead of taking the the main road south, follow the beautiful Whanganui River Road for 80 miles, passing rural landscapes and enjoying forest and river views until you reach the town of Wanganui. From Wanganui, rejoin the main road south for an easy drive, following the coastline and reaching the capital city of Wellington two hours later.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's most cosmopolitan city. Since the opening of the new National Museum "Te Papa" it has become an increasingly popular destination for international visitors and food lovers will appreciate the large number of excellent boutique cafes and ethnic restaurants that are a feature of the city.
Dunedin is the student city of the south. The coldest of winters and the warmest of people all year round. Also the launching point for experiencing the amazing wildlife of the Otago Peninsula. On June 18, 2018 CNN published an article titled Dunedin: New Zealand's Most Underrated City? that is well worth reading.
A highlight of today's drive through this important fruit and wine producing region will be the wonderful scenery as you head west, following New Zealand's second biggest river, the mighty Clutha.
Queenstown lies at the heart of one of the world's most diverse and beautiful places, a gateway to the world famous rainforests and fiords of the south-west. This is a place of world class resorts, adrenelin pumping adventures and excellent restaurants and cafes. Some will prefer to base themselves at Wanaka over these days, which we offer as an alternative in the option below. We'll talk this through with you when we discuss your Wish List. We have two blogs involving Queenstown, one is a collection of photos of the vineyards of Queenstown and the other is a story about an interesting local vineyard owner that might surprise you.
As Queenstown has grown in popularity and size over recent decades, Wanaka, an hours drive away, has become a favorite choice for those who prefer a quieter and more peaceful place to stay. It's location, on Lake Wanaka and close to some of the best hiking trails in the region, makes Wanaka an attractive option to the more frenetic pace of Queenstown.
Today you will cross the forest clad Haast Pass, southern gateway to the rain forested beauty of New Zealand's wild West Coast.
A long days driving from Queenstown will see you arriving at Franz Josef in the late afternoon. Early this evening will be your opportunity to experience something very special, an excursion to see one of the world's rarest birds in the wild, the native Kiwi.
Today's drive was described by Lonely Planet Travel Magazine as "one of the Top 10 coastal drives in the world" - and you're about to discover why.
An idyllic and peacful place with many optional activities, including hiking and spectacular beach walks. This is where you'll enjoy a visit to the famous Pancake Rocks. We'll arrange accommodation for you at one of our favorite New Zealand lodges, set in forest surroundings with spectacular sea views.
We have three equally attractive options for your travel today. Nominate the one that interests you most and add it to your Wish List. We'll discuss these options in more detail with you when we talk so you can be confident that you've made the right choice.
Without doubt the most fascinating and inspirational city in New Zealand, achieving second place in The New York Times '52 Places to Go in 2014' - a city in the process of rebuilding as it recovers from the devastating earthquake of February 2011. A wander around the downtown area to admire some of the innovative buildings that have been completed or to see the progress of new ones taking shape will particularly appeal to those with an interest in architecture. Read our informative Christchurch Blogs here and here for a story about nearby Akaroa.
Today you take an afternoon flight back to Auckland in time to connect with your homeward flight to the USA. Kia Ora New Zealand and please return one day soon.
Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of New Zealand's most important bird conservation projects and one of the few places in New Zealand where you can walk among rare native birds and animals in their natural habitat. Over the years more than 300,000 native trees have been planted on the predator free island by volunteers and a number of threatened bird species and small animals reintroduced. These include the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the fascinating and ancient lizard -like tuatara.
A guided walk on arrival explains the island's history and forest restoration.
Tuatara have grown in population since being introduced to the predator free island in 2003.
Rangitoto Island is a large extinct island volcano just a 25 minute ferry ride from the city. On arrival make your way to the summit, an easy walk of about one hour with spectacular views of nearby islands, the harbor and city. On the way pass through black volcanic lava fields covered by fern glens and the largest forest of native pōhutukawa trees in the world. An exciting new development was the announcement in 2011 that the island was now predator-free and this has seen native birds return to the island in large numbers.
Views of Auckland city from the volcanic rock island.
The walk to the summit through the magnificent forest of native trees and ferns.
In 2007 the original Auckland Art Gallery was completely closed for 4 years while it underwent extensive renovations. Since reopening it has established itself as one of the country's most iconic buildings. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of traditional and contemporary international works of art. The gallery is located right in the heart of the city and also boasts the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art. Their popular cafe is a great place to enjoy a coffee or lunch and the back entrance looks out on Albert Park and the adjoining University of Auckland. A nice place for a stroll to admire the historic fountain, bandstand and flower gardens.
The stunning entrance to the gallery.
This is a terrific opportunity to experience some of New Zealand’s best walking tracks along the trails of the wild West Coast, just 40 minutes from Auckland. Your guide for the day will also take you to waterfalls and rainforest scenery that will take your breath away! A basic level of fitness is required as are good walking shoes.
Gorgeous views of Auckland's wild West Coast make the scenic walk up to the top well worth it.
The must see Karekare falls with its beautiful surrounding rainforest.
Beautiful white sand beaches, vineyards and outstanding scenery are just some of the attractions of Waiheke Island. After a 45 ferry ride from downtown Auckland, you'll be greeted by your local guide, followed by a scenic tour of the island and tastings at three local boutique vineyards. A two-hour lunch stop at a village café or one of the vineyard restaurants completes an interesting and relaxing day.
The Saturday morning Matakana Farmers' Market is a showcase for local artisans, growers and farmers. Enjoy freshly brewed coffee, artisan baking, organic chocolates and fine wines. Nestled on the banks of the picturesque Matakana River, the village is a great place to visit on any day of the week, just a 40 minute drive from Auckland; be there in time for a delicious cafe breakfast and afterwards visit this nearby "secret spot", one of our favorite beaches in all of New Zealand
This picturesque beach is the perfect spot for a walk after breakfast.
Auckland, also known as 'The City of Sails' is the city that provided the core of the team that first won the America’s Cup in 1995 in San Diego. Here's your opportunity to feel the thrill of sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht. Take the helm to help steer, work hard on the grinders to hoist the mainsail or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Join the crew and help steer the impressive yacht around Auckland harbor, a must do for yachting enthusiasts.
We can help you arrange a free self-guided walk around the city or for a more in-depth experience, you can walk with an expert guide to discover some of the hidden treasures of Auckland City. From the must-see highlights and picturesque views, to the trendy backstreets and cultural offerings, there will be a range of experiences on offer and stories about how this young city emerged from a narrow volcanic isthmus to become a bustling, cosmopolitan city on the edge of the world.
Britomarkt is Auckland's waterfront precinct and with heritage buildings,new architecture, eateries, health and beauty and designer boutiques it's a must see on any walking city tour.
The Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre is a great opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s amazing birdlife including the endemic Wrybill bird with it's unique sideways facing beak. With the numbers of shorebirds often exceeding 10,000 the coastline is almost a mandatory stop for anyone who enjoys seeing birds in their natural habitat. The friendly staff at the Centre will advise the best places to view the birds. Read more about the Miranda Shorebird Centre at our blog - North Island Highlights - Miranda Shorebird Centre
Many years ago Auckland potter, conservationist, engineer, and artist Barry Brickell started a small pottery business in the forested hills of Coromandel and over the years this grew into a fully fledged artist's community. Visitors are transported by train through outstanding native forests to a lookout station high in the hills with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
The 309 Road is an alternative route between Coromandel and Whitianga on the opposite coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It's a 13 mile winding gravel road through dense forest and offering spectacular views. It should present no problems to a driver with a sense of adventure and confident about driving on gravel roads. The 309 Kauri Grove is group of massive Kauri trees found on this stretch of road. A 10 minute easy walking track takes you through lush forest to the spectacular stand of these magnificent trees. Highly recommended.
Just a 20 minute drive off the main road, followed by a 15 minute walk is found one of the finest golden sand beaches in the country, a place of isolation, tranquility and stunning beauty, Wainuiototo Bay, also known as New Chums Beach. This is a must-do for any visitor to New Zealand.
Be sure to include Hot Water Beach in your day of exploring the Coromandel. Within two hours either side of low tide visitors can find hot water bubbling through the golden sands. Dig your own private spa pool in the sand and enjoy the natural springs. A truly unique experience.
Cathedral Cove is one of the most well know beach destinations in New Zealand - and with good reason. We'll suggest a guided sea kayak experience to really get an appreciation of all that Cathedral Cove offers.
This is one of our favorite walks in this region. From the Whitianga Ferry Landing follow the track to Whiting Rock. Then continue through wetland and native bush with steep sections in parts until you reach the place from where you'll enjoy the wonderful Shakespeare Cliff views. Approximately a 2 mile walk of around 1+ hours and requiring good fitness.
This is a great opportunity to ride on horseback through some of New Zealand's most beautiful landscapes. The tracks are varied and include native forests, open pastures, hill country and secluded beaches.
The beach town of Whangamata is a popular holiday destination for New Zealanders, especially families. Surfers also flock to the famous break at the Whangamata Bar at the northern end of the beach and the adjacent estuaries are great for kayaking or SUP's (stand up paddle boards) A relaxing walk along the 4 mile beach and lunch at one of the many chic cafes are recommended.
This walkway follows a historic railway track built during the gold mining era through a stunning natural gorge setting. It includes crossing two steel truss bridges and walking through a well lit tunnel nearly a mile long. Complete the loop back to Karangahake, by walking downstream along the river. Well worth the 20 minute deviation from today's drive. Read about our visit to Karangahake Falls on our blog at - North Island Highlights - The Karangahake Gorge
30 minutes before you arrive at your next stop, Mt Maunganui, visit Katikati where their history is not in a gallery or a museum, but in large and colorful murals along the main street. Over 40 murals provide an interpretation of the town's history, its people and events. They draw inspiration from the past as they help the town look to the future.
The Haiku Pathway is a one mile riverside walkway decorated with boulders inscribed with haiku, a Japanese verse form, usually arranged in three lines of five, seven and five syllables. The haiku, some written by New Zealanders, others by poets from Australia and the US, were carefully selected to harmonise with their riverside location. At the main entranceway, this typical haiku verse will greet you: 'Strangers they stop and ask me the way if only I knew'. A nice place to stretch your legs before continuing your drive south to Mt Maunganui.
Mount Manganui Hot Water Salt Pools are a place to relax and soothe tired muscles or old injuries. The Pools are open 7 days and feature a spa pool, a sit and soak pool, leisure pool, toddlers pool with slide, renovated private pools, relaxing water jets and a massage centre.
If you've thought about learning to surf, but never found the time, a New Zealand vacation might be your perfect opportunity to take some first steps. Sign up for a lesson and arrive back home with set of new found skills.
Anyone with an interest in aviation history will enjoy a visit to this museum and the collection of aircraft and memorabilia on display in the large hanger. As well as an array of classic aircraft, including many that still take to the skies on a regular basis, there's a ½ scale flying replica of a Focke Wulf 190. Also a great opportunity to chat with the enthusiastic volunteers and to share their passion for the world of flying.
Just 30 miles off the coast from Whakanate is White Island. This is New Zealand's only active marine volcano, the most accessible volcano of its type in the world. For those who want a little more adventure, the opportunity to travel by helicopter to land on White Island will be a highlight of their vacation. Or drive south to Whakatane (one hour) where the full day cruise depots for the island.
Visit the Hobbiton movie set where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. In a fascinating two-hour guided tour you will be taken through the twelve acre site recounting fascinating details of how the movie set was created. The Hobbit Holes, Green Dragon™ Inn, Mill and other structures created for these
These beautiful waterfalls are found about 20 minutes after leaving Mt Maunganui on the road to Rotorua. It drops over bluffs in a series of waterfalls and rocky pools, culminating in a deep green lagoon flanked by moss- and fern-fringed cliffs. A 20- to 30-minute loop trail takes you down to the main lagoon and through lush greenery. The falls' summit (and the parking lot) affords excellent views over Tauranga and the coast.
The future of the humble bee is of concern to scientists around the world and this guided tour will give you a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Explore the healing power of nature through New Zealand’s most famous native plant, the manuka. Your tour concludes in the wellness room, a place to reconnect and reflect on what we can learn from the bees to help us live healthier lives.
The Okere Falls Track is a 2 mile long hike, located 30 minutes from Rotorua and leading to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. As well as the waterfall, you'll see emerald-colored pools and dense native forest cascading down to the edges of the Okere River.
This is a historic natural hot mineral springs spa that for 3 years in a row was selected by the prestigious magazine Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world's top ten Medical & Thermal Spas. There are twenty-seven hot mineral pools in the Lake Spa offering a complete range of body & skin therapies. Visitor options range from family pools to private luxury seclusion. Lie back, relax, enjoy!
This site is a replica of a pre-European fortified Maori village, completely surrounded by a natural thermal area that includes silica terraces, mud pools and the famous geyser Pohutu shooting boiling water nearly 70 feet in the air. End your visit at the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute where you can watch Maori wood carvers at work.
Rail Cruising is a new activity that allows you to experience travel along railway lines in your own self-drive, 4-seat railway vehicle while admiring the scenery of the passing countryside. Cruising along at 12 mph, you can listen to the commentary and discover a unique piece of New Zealand railway history. Great fun!
This full day tour of the magnificent Whirinaki Forest Park brings this world to life as you walk the forest tracks, your Maori guides sharing stories about their tribal history and the amazing birdlife, flora and fauna of the region. A relaxing luncheon on the banks of the picturesque Whirinaki river provides an opportunity to experience the solitude, the beauty and tranquility of this wilderness areas. Rated 5 star by the New Zealand Vacations team.
Also read our Whirinaki Forest Blog
The strange geological formations, the forest and the lakes of Waimangu always create a sense of wonder for visitors. This is a place of constant geothermal activity and tremendous heat, creating steam, geysers and streams bubbling away at 125 degrees! We recommend a cruise on the incredible cobalt blue lake, where stories will be told of the violent eruptions of 1886 that formed Waimangu and the natural beauty that it created. Read more about Waimangu on our blog - North Island Highlights - Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake and it empties into the country's longest river, the Waikato River and at this point of its journey, the Huka Falls, between banks just 300ft part. The result is truly spectacular. Don't miss it, just off the main road before arriving at the town of Taupo.
This kayak lake tour includes a visit to a series of huge stone carvings on the lake, created by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. No experience is necessary - the double kayaks are safe and easy to use and all trips are guided and full instruction is given. . A truly a unique trip and one you will remember.
Although not as well known as nearby Rotorua, the Taupo region has some special geothermal activities of their own. The Craters of the Moon is a typical example, named for its other-worldly atmosphere. The 30 minute track walk passes bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. You can also see many interesting plants that have adapted to thrive in the hot, steamy conditions. Enjoy this fantastic geothermal area free of charge along well-formed pathways with elevated viewing platforms.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand and is ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world. This will be a long day and a challenging one, traversing a remarkable volcanic landscape. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as Mt Doom in his Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies.
The is one of New Zealand's best river rafting experiences. After an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with an experienced guide you begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids – an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 roller coaster rapids with your expert guide at the helm and treated to sights only accessed by raft.
Taranaki Falls is a 20-minutes drive away from National Park Village where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. An easy 2 hours loop, the Taranaki Falls Walk leads to the waterfalls lookout, and then to the waterfall's base. The track is awesome! The first part of the track goes through the alpine grassland with amazing views of the volcanoes. The second part of the loop goes through the beech forest with some river crossings (all bridged) and small waterfalls.
This beautiful lake is a 25 minute drive from the town of National Park where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. From the Rotopounamu car park it's just a 20 minute walk to the lake or 2 hours if you choose to walk around the 3 mile loop trail. Beautiful Rotopounamu (the greenstone lake) is nestled into the side of Mt Pihanga and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, walkers and swimmers.
Just 25 minutes south of Tongariro is a side road to Pipiriki, the access point one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in New Zealand, The Whanganui River. You'll travel by jet boat exploring magnificent forest scenery, deep ravines covered in mosses and an array of native ferns.
This option will require an extra day to be added to your vacation, but it's a choice you will never regret. Stay overnight at The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge deep in the Whanganui National Park wilderness, perched high above the river and accessible only by jet boat, canoe, by foot or helicopter. The canoe journey downstream, back to Pipiriki is simply breathtaking
At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of Whanganui is a pleasant forest walk, situated at the nearby Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve. The shortest forest trail takes just 30 minutes, but if you have time there's also an easy, well signposted walk to the summit at 1300 feet that will take you an extra hour. From here there are excellent views of the surrounding countryside and out to nearby Kapiti Island. To learn more, click here.
Forest covered Kapiti Island, 3 miles off the coast north of Wellington, is our favorite island nature reserve. It's one of the oldest and most secure publically accessible nature reserves in the world. Free of all introduced pests and predators, visitors can expect to see many endemic bird species, some of which are no longer found on the New Zealand mainland. You can visit Kapiti Island for just a day or to truly experience all the island has to offer, make an overnight stay. Some of the beautiful birds you will seee on Kapiti include -
Kaka, Weka, Little Spotted Kiwi (if you stay overnight), Tieke (Saddleback), Kokako, Hihi (Stitchbird), Ruru (Morepork), Tui, Korimako (Bellbird), Kakariki, Kereru, Toutouwai (North Island Robin), Popokatea (Whitehead), Piwakawaka (Fantail)
New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" and Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide all New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington, visiting the main points of interest and some "off the beaten path" places as well. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and your "What To Do in Wellington" team.
Te Papa is a state of the art modern museum, bringing together under one roof both the Maori & European history of New Zealand. It is New Zealand's national museum, the largest cultural project in New Zealand's history, completed in 1998 at a cost of $317 million. You will encounter Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, through authentic portrayals of their traditions and living culture, including an opportunity to visit a unique Marae (communal meeting place) Then there's the geology, the geography and other exhibitions that will give you the best insights to New Zealand in the country. The best introduction to Te Papa is a 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.
The Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary is an outstanding example of efforts to save New Zealand most endangered native birds and animals. Visit in late afternoon to hear the dusk chorus of the birds before the nocturnal animals come to life or consider a night tour for a special experience. This will be the best opportunity on your itinerary to see such a wide variety of beautiful native birds and other native wildlife.
Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the
This half-day wildlife tour on the rugged and beautiful Otago Peninsula includes the afternoon arrival from the sea of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins. To watch these delightful little animals returning to their beach and then slowly making their way to their overnight nests is an incredibly moving experience. You will hear about the impact of penguin conservation and know that your visit contributes to the ongoing conservation effort. Other marine wildlife encountered on this tour include Hooker's Sea lions, Blue Penguins and a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals.
This is your opportunity to visit the only mainland based albatross breeding colony in the world. The first locally reared albatross chick flew in 1938 and this nature reserve has now grown into a colony of around 150 birds. With their slim wings measuring up to 11 feet across and capable of swooping like a jet fighter at speeds of more than 70 mph, watching these magnificent birds something never to be forgotten. Update July 03, 2018. The New Zealand Herald reports on a recent new arrival at the colony that's been named after American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart
This is New Zealand's only castle, fully furnished and lovingly restored, with beautiful gardens and offering wonderful panoramic views of the peninsula. In 2007, the Barker family celebrated 40 years of living at the Castle, longer than the original Larnach family and they will continue to lavish the care and attention that this wonderful complex deserves. As Margaret Barker says 'The Castle has a fate of its own and we are mere caretakers in the meantime'
Just 5 miles from the city center, at Tunnel Beach you can explore sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caves; look for fossils as you descend through the pioneers' hand-carved tunnel to the beautiful and secluded beach below. The endless cliff top views are breathtaking. It's an easy one hour walk with a bit of a climb on the return track and the walk is best enjoyed at low tide.
There's an ongoing debate about the Dunedin Railway Station, based on the question "Is it really beautiful?" Opened in 1906, the overall effect is undeniably grandiose and the station is New Zealand’s most photographed building. The interior has been beautifully restored and you can join the debate by making a visit to see for yourself. A farmers market runs in Anzac Square just outside the station every Saturday morning.
The Taieri Gorge train is Dunedin's historic tourist train beginning at the magnificently restored 1906 Central Railway Station. It takes you on a journey through the rugged and spectacular Taieri River Gorge, across wrought iron viaducts and through tunnels carved by hand more than 100 years ago. Enjoy full commentary and photographic stops for the stunning views.
Stop Press: Sadly, Chocolate world recently closed. You can read the story behind its demise in local newspaper Stuff.
Discover the magic behind a New Zealand iconic chocolate brand - Cadbury Chocolate! Learn about the history of Cadbury and chocolate as you journey through time in the Visitor Centre. At the Cadbury World Sensory Lab discover and sample the different elements of the chocolate making process, from cocoa bean all the way through to the famous Cadbury Chocolate. You even get to make a little chocolate creation of your own!
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is the oldest and one of the finest in the country. It has both a formal garden display on flat land and a more naturalistic plant display on a sun facing slope. Native birds can be seen in the aviary and the New Zealand Native Plant Collection shows what makes New Zealand native fauna so unique. There is a cafe and a winter garden glasshouse provides a tropical retreat.
When the 93 mile Otago rail line was closed in 1990 and the steel tracks removed, it was decided to convert it into a path for walkers and cyclists. The resulting Rail Trail has proven to be hugely popular, especially with overseas visitors. There are no steep hills to conquer, and for the complete experience we can pre-book everything and arrange for you to to complete the whole trail in 3-5 days depending on the pace you feel comfortable with. You'll pass through small country towns where you can make an overnight stop to enjoy good food, local wines and accommodation of every standard. But the real treat is the joy of cycling through gentle valleys and tussock grasslands with a backdrop of wild gorges and stunning mountain scenery. For a hands-on report of this experience, be sure to read this article on the US website 'Washington Bikes'
A short distance from the Kawerau Gorge is Mt Difficulty Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards in this Central Otago wine growing region. This area is internationally recognised as one of the few places in the world outside Burgundy where the pernickety Pinot Noir variety has found a home. Their restaurant has great views over the surrounding countryside.
The last part of today's journey, before reaching Queenstown, takes you through the Kawerau Gorge and the Roaring Meg Recreation Reserve where lookout locations allow you to view and sense the power of the spectacular Kawarau River. Did someone mention Bungee Jumping? Yes this is the place where Bungee was born and still operates - strictly optional!
Arrowtown is a former gold mining town with a rich historical heritage. The spectacular scenery and tranquil atmosphere make Arrowtown a popular attraction for visitors from all over the world. The town has maintained its historic buildings and is now a great place to relax, eat and enjoy views of the surrounding forest covered hills. Arrowtown also provided some famous locations in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The Ford of Bruinen was located just upstream of the town and it was here that Arwen Evenstar, daughter of Elrond, carried the injured and dying Frodo across the river on horseback with the Black Riders close behind.
With its ancient rainforests and abundant wildlife the overnight cruise in the fiords of the utterly remote Doubtful Sound is quite simply breathtaking and a highlight of any New Zealand vacation. Practically untouched by humans the physical grandeur of towering peaks and waterfalls like The Browne Falls that cascades 2,000 feet into this inland sea, create a powerful atmosphere of solitude and serenity. Crested penguins, bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand fur seals are among the wildlife that make their homes here. You can also read our blog about the adjacent Dusky Sound tour, an extremely rare opportunity to visit one of the most remote fiords on the planet.
Dusk is an amazing time to view the spectacular cliffs surrounding the fiord.
Keep an eye out for crested penguins, one of the native animals that live in the fiord.
Take a kayak to get up close to one of the many magical waterfalls to be seen during the cruise.
Since 1970 over 2 million adrenaline-rushed passengers have enjoyed the thrills of the world's most exciting jetboat ride, The Shotover Jet. It's unique jet propulsion that requires no propeller, allows the jetboat to skim past rocky outcrops at close range. Your 'Big Red' jetboat can twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breathtaking speeds and then hold tight for the world famous Shotover Jet full 360 degree spin!
Skimming over the shallow water near the stony shore.
The narrow canyons and icy blue water make for a thrilling ride.
For the less adventurous the scenery is worth the trip while waiting for the others to finish their ride.
The Milford Sound cruise is the most well known icon of New Zealand tourism. You can either drive yourself to the fjord before joining the cruise from Te Anau or Queenstown, or for a more relaxing experience take a coach tour from either Te Anau or Queenstown. The road through the Fiordland National Park to reach the fiord is one of the world's great drives, so allow plenty of time to stop and soak up the amazing vistas. For a special treat fly to Milford Sound and return to Queenstown by coach. For more about Milford Sound read our Milford Sound blog here.
The world famous scenery of Milford Sounds is simply breathtaking.
Capture the magnificent scale of the mountains and waterfalls by cruising the fiords.
Milford's awe-inspiring scenery has made it a must see when visiting the South Island.
The day begins with an unforgettable coach trip into your setting off point at Skippers Canyon. This is where you'll meet your expert guides for some basic training and safety instructions before setting out on your journey through the spectacular Shotover Canyon. At first the river is calm and peaceful allowing you lots of time to enjoy the passing scenery as you drift downstream. But as the song suggests "all good things need to come to an end" and when you reach the exhilarating rapids of the lower canyon the adrenalin starts to flow. Shooting the Cascade Rapids completes your unforgettable white-knuckle adventure. Before returning to Queenstown, enjoy a relaxing sauna and hot shower at Cavell's Rafting Lodge.
Water resistant jackets are provided and are most definitely needed for this adrenaline rush of a ride.
An experienced guide will help thrill seekers navigate the raft through the wild river.
This is an ideal way for visitors to enjoy one of New Zealand's famous walking trails, the Routeburn, in just one day. You'll be driven around the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the start of the trail in the Mount Aspiring National Park. As you make your way along the trail your guide will point out native plants and birdlife while providing a real insight into the history and geology of this fascinating region. After a picnic lunch you are returned to Queenstown.
This small group guided tour is a great way to enjoy the best scenery in the wider Queenstown region combined with a wine tour that is tailored to suit the tastes of everyone on board. There will be many scenic stops to capture the exceptional scenery and 3 wineries will be visited with a platter lunch of local and seasonal delights included. A highlight will be a stunning drive over the Crown Range Alpine Pass, New Zealand's highest road.
The beautiful Autumn hues of the grapevines at Mt Rosa vineyard, Gibbston Valley.
Views of some Gibbston Valley vineyards taken on the weekend of a local music festival.
Grapevines at Gibbston Valley, a popular destination for cycling tours.
The Ribbon Vineyards situated by the majestic Lake Wanaka.
If you would like to enjoy a fun quiz, take a look at our blog about a well known local vineyard owner.
Arrowtown is a historic former gold mining town and one of New Zealand’s iconic visitor destinations. The spectacular setting, the distinct four seasons and tranquil atmosphere, make Arrowtown a must do for visitors. The town has maintained its historic buildings and is now a vibrant meeting place with world class food and beverage, shopping and attractions.
Attach your rental mountain bike to your Gondola and enjoy the leisurely uphill Gondola ride. At the summit (1500 ft) detach your bike and take on the challenges of the Queenstown Bike Park. We like the idea that most of your ride will be downhill, just choose from more than 27 world class mountain biking trails of varying terrain suitable for all abilities and don't forget to enjoy the spectacular views.
This is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in New Zealand and includes the alpine scenery, snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs, forests, wildflowers and waterfalls of the Mt Aspiring National Park. It starts in the Matukituki Valley, about an hour’s drive from Wanaka. The trail is well formed and requires a moderate level of fitness but the glorious views of the Rob Roy Glacier from the viewing platform at the turnaround point makes the effort of getting there totally worthwhile.
This is a fantastic introduction to kayaking, with an easy guided paddle that explores the beautiful Lake Wanaka coastline. The scenery you'll encounter as you paddle is outstanding. Light snacks and refreshments provided and no prior experience of kayaking is required
The Cardrona Distillery is a family-owned artisan single malt distillery nestled high in the Cardrona Valley between Wanaka and Queenstown. It uses time-honoured traditional methods, hand-crafting spirits from scratch, starting with just malted barley, water, and yeast. Luxuriously rich vodka, hand crafted New Zealand rose hip gin, and delectably zesty New Zealand orange liqueur are all on offer. All from the world’s most southerly distillery.
The tracks around Lake Wanaka and in the surrounding hills are some of the most enjoyable and scenic in New Zealand. There are tracks suitable for every age group and level of fitness, ranging from high-speed mountain bike trails to the more gentle paced for those who prefer to travel at a more leisurely speed. You can venture out alone or we can organize a group excursion with fellow travelers. If you are going to cycle when in New Zealand, Wanaka is the place to do it!
An hour into today's drive you will reach the Blue Pools Walk, world-renowned as a must-see highlight in this wilderness region. A carefully maintained trail winds through native silver beech forest to a swing bridge strung high above the Makarora River from where the views back to the mountains of the Main Divide are absolutely breath-taking. Next are a series of deep crystal clear glacier-fed pools the color of deep azure blue, so clear that you can see right to the bottom. In summer take a swim!
After leaving The Haast and making your way north, take a short break to enjoy a 30 minute walk into the wild and stunningly beautiful Ship Creek. The water color, the driftwood littered beach, the wild ocean and the unique tree cover create a wonderful experience for any visitor.
Jackson Bay is one of the most isolated and picturesque places on the planet. In places the approach road has fern grottos growing right down to the edges of the road with trees almost forming tunnels across the roadway. This is a one hour side trip so an especially early start will be needed if you want to include this wonderful experience in your day. Keep an eye out for the local pod of dolphins that make the bay their home.
At Lake Matheson, near Fox Glacier, nature has combined exactly the right ingredients to create truly stunning reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks - Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Tasman.
The opportunity to see the notoriously shy nocturnal Kiwi in its own natural habitat is something extremely rare. Tonight you join a small group who under the care of an expert and experienced local guide will set off to tray and do just that!
This is an organized boat trip from Franz Josef into the remote bird life sanctuary of the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve. From mid-September to March, the majestic migratory Kotuku (White Heron) can be seen in all it's pluming glory nesting in the trees on the banks of the river. There's a huge range of other birds to be seen, or heard, and along the way you will also enjoy beautiful New Zealand scenery.
Franz Josef Glacier provides some of the most stunning ‘ice architecture’ of any Glacier in the world, making it one of the must-do's for visitors to New Zealand. The Glacier was in a state of advance until 2008 when it started retreating and following a spectacular collapse of the terminal face in 2012, it is now only accessible by helicopter. Flights operate daily from 8am, depending on weather and seasonal conditions.
Located just south of the town of Hokitika, this is an exhilarating treetop adventure among temperate rainforest giants. Experience life with the birds high in the ancient Rimu and Kamahi tree canopy. Easy access for all to enjoy along a steel platform 65 feet high and nearly 1500 feet long.
We should state from the outset that the access road to the gorge, 20 miles in each direction is quite winding. But those who make the effort will be well rewarded. A viewing platform overlooks a magnificent granite gorge with milky blue-green pools, backed by cliffs and fine rimu forests. This is a hidden gem, off the beaten path that most visitors to New Zealand never get to see. Take your camera!
This really is something quite different. You might meet Pete Pete – aka The Mayor, law enforcement officer, cook and cleaner, gardener and rubbish man! He's the owner of the Puke Pub and the bizarre Bushman Centre at Pukekura (population 2) A visitor in 2011 wrote "Possibly the worst cafe in New Zealand" So bring your sense of humor, watch out for the giant sandfly at the entrance, take a look at the "museum" and do not ask about the possum pie!
Situated close to Greymouth this is a 30 building recreation of a 19th-century gold-mining town, celebrating a time of gold rush in New Zealand history. There's a Steam Train line through the rainforest, the sights and sounds of a working sawmill, a ChinaTown and a sluice gun blasting gold bearing rock. Pan for your own gold - you might have a strike!
Your last thrill of today will be your visit to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki. They were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants about a mile below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers and then gradual seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed.
Within walking distance of the Punakaiki Visitor Centre, this loop trail follows a spectacular limestone gorge with dense native forest and a variety of native birds and wildlife; suitable for all ages and rated as one of the best trails in New Zealand. It starts with a crossing of the Punakaiki River via a footbridge, and then follows an easily graded climb to the ridge dividing the Punakaiki and Pororari rivers. When the Pororari River Track junction is reached, it's worth carrying on along the Inland Pack Track for a short distance to the Pororari River, a perfect place for a rest and something to eat. Return to the junction and then follow the Pororari River Track down river to the car park. From there it's less than a mile back to the Visitor Centre.
An exciting option for travelling between Greymouth on the west coast of the South Island and Christchurch on the east coast is the scenic TranzAlpine Train. Departure time is 1:45 pm and the hours will go quickly by as you experience one of the world's great train journeys. Highlights will include thrilling views of deep gorges and the forest covered mountains of the Southern Alps. Eventually your train follows the spectacular ice-fed Waimakariri River as you cross the Canterbury Plains for a late afternoon arrival in Christchurch.
Another option for today is to drive to Christchurch, following a similar route to the TranzAlpine Express via Arthurs Pass but with opportunities to make stops en-route at places that interest you. The road through the Otira Pass gets a little challenging at times, winding and steep, but for a confident driver, this is an experience that will live long in the memory.
A great stop-off point on the Arthurs Pass drive is the small alpine village of Arthurs Pass, located high in the Southern Alps. From here you can access some of the best mountain walking trails, ranging from 30 minutes to 6 hours in duration. Between Arthurs Pass and Christchurch, alongside the main road, is Castle Hill. Take a break and walk up the track to see the interesting rock formations - yet another area that was used during the filming of the Lord of the Rings, and more recently the Chronicles of Narnia. Also a favorite hang-out place for rock climbers.
One of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand, Devils Punchbowl Falls is located in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. Although the waterfall can be seen from the highway, it's still better to walk up to the waterfall's base by way of a forest covered walkway. Moderate fitness level is required.
This is a longer, gentler and less demanding drive than the Arthurs Pass option. It has as special beauty of its own, providing spectacular views of densely forested mountain slopes and following stunning winding rivers. This also option offers the opportunity to make a stop at the spa pools at Hanmer Springs.
If you choose the Lewis Pass option, the small town of Reefton is an ideal place to take a break and stretch your legs. Starting from the Reefton Visitor Centre, this walk passes twenty four historic buildings, many dating from the 19th century. These include shops, churches, lodges, the courthouse and the Reefton School of Mines. There is a helpful brochure for this walk available at the Visitor Centre. Afterwards indulge in some cookies at the local bakery - legendary!
If you choose the Lewis Pass option between the West Coast and Christchurch, you can visit the Maruia Falls. This wide river waterfall is nestled amongst brilliant scenic landscapes and are easily accessible, just 5 minutes walk from the main roadway.
For those who choose the Lewis Pass option, there's the opportunity to enjoy the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. This is an extensive thermal complex in an alpine environment surrounded by beautiful native gardens. The complex offers thermal mineral, sulphur and freshwater pools, with private thermal pools, sauna and steam rooms available.
Christchurch Airport is the base for Operation Deep Freeze with the US Military responsible for re-supplying those working on the frozen Antarctic bases at the bottom of the world. At the Airport is also the International Antarctic Centre bringing to life the story of Antarctic discovery and science. Visit the snow and ice experience, survive an Antarctic Storm, learn about life in modern day Antarctica and Scott Base, and hang out with Little Blue Penguins!
An iconic Christchurch activity not to be missed. Admire the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens or the changing face of the city centre as you are expertly guided gently along the Avon River on an authentic Edwardian designed punt.
Enjoy a journey through the changing face of Christchurch’s city centre on board a beautifully restored heritage tram. Friendly and knowledgeable drivers will inform you about the city, its landmarks and local sights. Your day-long ticket allows you to get on and off the Tram as often as you please! A great introduction to Christchurch.
The Christchurch Art Gallery, with the formal name of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, is the public art gallery of the city of Christchurch and houses one of the largest art collections in New Zealand. The magnificent new glass encased museum houses a regularly-changing program of national and international touring exhibitions.