- 21 Days -

Self Drive - from Sea To Sea

We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!

Just an hour from Auckland lies the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. Great beaches set against a mountainous background makes the Coromandel something special. Next stop on this 21 day self drive itinerary will be the beachside resort of Mount Maunganui followed by Rotorua, Lake Taupo, the Hawkes Bay wine region and cosmopolitan Wellington. Then fly to Dunedin in the South Island to experience the wonderful wildlife of the Otago Peninsula. From here drive west to the adventure capital of Queenstown. Optional activities include an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound, a visit to Milford Sound, a one-day walk on the beautiful Routeburn Track or a visit to local wineries where Pinot Noir reigns supreme. Your self-drive adventure continues with a drive across the Haast Pass to the West Coast of the South Island to experience the glacier at Franz Josef. From here enjoy one of the world’s great drives, following the spectacular coastline to Punakaiki. Then through the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass for two days in Christchurch before flying home via Auckland

Days 1 to 3

The City of Auckland

Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand, in fact nearly two-thirds of the population live in the larger Auckland region. The city lies on a massive harbor, part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park, dotted with over 50 islands. Great restaurants, sailing, shopping, outstanding scenery and a thriving art and cultural life are the hallmarks of the city of Auckland. Start by selecting the activities that appeal to you in Auckland and adding them to your Wish List. And use the the maps to see your daily progress.

Also see our Great Barrier Island Blog

Day 3

Drive from Auckland to Whitianga

  • 120 Miles
  • 3 Hours

An early start will see you escape the busy Auckland traffic and set out for the spectacular Coromandel Peninsula. 

Days 3 to 5

Whitianga

Time to explore the forests, the beaches, the stunning walking tracks, the fishing, diving and kayaking of the beautiful northern Coromandel Peninsula. 

Day 5

Drive from Whitianga to Mt Maunganui

  • 108 Miles
  • 2 1/2 Hours

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.

Days 5 to 6

Mount Maunganui

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. 

Day 6

Drive from Mt Maunganui to Rotorua

  • 45 Miles
  • 1 Hour

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.

Days 6 to 8

The Geothermal Wonders of Rotorua

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

Day 8

Drive from Rotorua to Tongariro National Park

  • 105 Miles
  • 2 Hours

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!

Days 8 to 10

Tongariro National Park

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.

Day 10

Drive Tongariro National Park to Wellington

  • 195 Miles
  • 4 Hours

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.

Days 10 to 12

Trendy Wellington, Capital City

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.

Day 12

Fly from Wellington to Dunedin

  • Flight
  • 1 Hour 10 Minute Flight

Days 12 to 14

Dunedin, Wildlife Gateway

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.

Day 14

Drive From Dunedin to Queenstown

  • 175 Miles
  • 3 1/2 Hours

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.

Days 14 to 17

Queenstown

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.

Days 14 to 17

Wanaka (Option)

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. 

Day 17

Drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef Village

  • 218 Miles
  • 5 Hours

Today you will cross the forest clad Haast Pass, southern gateway to the rain forested beauty of New Zealand's wild West Coast.

Days 17 to 19

Franz Josef Village

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.

Day 19

Drive Franz Josef Village to Punakaiki

  • 135 Miles
  • 3 Hours

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. 

Days 19 to 20

Punakaiki

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.

Day 20

Drive or Train, Punakaiki to Christchurch

  • 179 Miles
  • 4-5 Hours

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.

Days 20 to 21

The New Christchurch

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.

Day 21

Homeward Bound

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.

Prices start at

We will respond with a personal quotation when we receive your Wish List.

per person

This will include your accommodation, car hire, ferries and any local tours we recommend you pre-book before you arrive in New Zealand.

Tiritiri Matangi

Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of New Zealand's most important bird conservation projects and one of the few places where you can see and walk amongst rare native birds in their natural habitat. Over the years more than 300,000 native trees have been planted by volunteers and a number of threatened bird species and small animals re-introduced. These include the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the fascinating and ancient lizard like tuatara. 

  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: $60 including Guided Tour and Ferry from Downtown Auckland (75 minutes each way)
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Rangitoto Island

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.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Ferry $21.00 Return
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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The Auckland Art Gallery

Closed in 2007 for 4 years of extensive renovations, this wonderful gallery has now re-opened as one of the country's most iconic buildings.  Experience world-class touring exhibitions, immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of traditional and contemporary international works of art and discover the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art right in the heart of Auckland City.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Free. Charges may apply to special exhibitions
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Auckland Coastal Trails

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

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: $209.00 per person includes transport, snacks, hot/cold drinks and a delicious picnic lunch, taxes and park fees.
  • Age: 18+
  • Best time: November - April
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Waiheke Island Vineyards

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. 

  • Allow: Full Day 10:00 am to 4:45 pm
  • Cost: $80.00 + Ferry $24.00 + Lunch
  • Age: 18 +
  • Best time: November - April
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Matakana & Beaches

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


  • Allow: Half to a full day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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America's Cup Sailing

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.

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $120.00
  • Age: All (no children under 10 years permitted)
  • Best time: November to April
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City Walking Tours

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.

  • Allow: 90 minutes
  • Cost: Guided from $28.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Miranda Shorebird Centre

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

  • Allow: An extra 20 minutes driving time.
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: October to March
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Driving Creek Pottery

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. 

  • Allow: An hour
  • Cost: From $35
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Road 309

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.

  • Allow: Coromandel to Whitianga 1 Hour. Allow 15 minutes for the Kauri Grove.
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Wainuiototo Bay

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.

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Hot Water Beach

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Cathedral Cove

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. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours minimum
  • Cost: Varies
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Shakespeare Bay Walk

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.

  • Allow: 1-2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All. Good level of fitness required
  • Best time: November - April
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Horse Trekking

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.

  • Allow: From 1 hour
  • Cost: From $50
  • Age: All ages
  • Best time: All year
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Whangamata Beach

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. 

  • Allow: 1 - 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year. December & January sees the town's population swell from less than 5,000 to a peak of 25,000 around New Years day.
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Karangahake Gorge

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

  • Allow: 45 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Katikati, Mural Town

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.

  • Allow: 20 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Haiku Pathway at Katikati

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.

  • Allow: 25 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Hot Water Salt Pools

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.

  • Allow: An hour
  • Cost: US$8.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Learn to Surf

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.

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $90
  • Age: 3+ Years
  • Best time: October - March
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The Tauranga Aviation Museum

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.

  • Allow: An Hour
  • Cost: US$16.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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White Island Volcano

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.

  • Allow: 6 Hours for boat trip - 2.5 Hours for Helicopter ride or
  • Cost: From $199 Boat - $650 Helicopter
  • Age: 8+
  • Best time: All year
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Hobbiton

Visit the Hobbiton movie set where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmedIn 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 films can be viewed. For something really special ask us about the Wednesday evening Dinner Tour. 

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $55.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Kaiate Waterfalls

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. 

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Comvita Honey Experience

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.

  • Allow: 30-40 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Okere Falls & Scenic Reserve

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 falls, you'll see emerald-colored pools and dense native forest cascading down to the edges of the Okere River. 

  • Allow: Allow 45 Minutes
  • Cost: free
  • Age: All. Basic fitness level required.
  • Best time: November to April.
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The Polynesian Spa

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!

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: From $30.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Whakarewarewa

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.

  • Allow: Minimum 1 hour
  • Cost: From $35.00 for a fully guided one hour tour through the Village and a Maori Cultural Performance Show.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Rail Cruising Rotorua

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!

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $55.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Te Urewera Treks

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

  • Allow: One Day (The Two Day experience is also strongly recommended)
  • Cost: From $150.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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Waimangu Valley

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

  • Allow: A minimum of 1-2 hours
  • Cost: From $25.00 (With lake Cruise $30.00)
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Huka Falls

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.

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Kayak on Lake 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.

  • Allow: 4 Hours
  • Cost: $75.00 including full instruction, top quality kayaks and gourmet refreshments.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Craters of the Moon

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: From $8
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Year round
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The Tongariro Crossing

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.

  • Allow: Full day including an early start
  • Cost: Park Entry Free - Return transport to start point and from end point $45.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Tongariro River Rafting

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.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: From $125.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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The Taranaki Falls Walk

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.

  • Allow: Trail Time 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Lake Rotopounamu Trail

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. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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Pipiriki, Whanganui River

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.

  • Allow: One hour drive return. 45 minutes on the river
  • Cost: From $80.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
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The Bridge to Nowhere

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

  • Allow: Overnight
  • Cost: From $255.00 - includes; dinner, accommodation, breakfast, tour and jet boat transfer between the Lodge and Pipiriki.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - April
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Hemi Matenga Reserve

At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of Wanganui 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.

  • Allow: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Kapiti Island Reserve

Kapiti Island is our favorite nature reserve, a place where you will encounter many of New Zealand's most beautiful and endangered species in the wild, including the elusive Kiwi. You can visit Kapiti Island for a day or to truly experience all the island has to offer, make an overnight stay at the lodge. Whichever of these options you choose, it will add a day to the duration of your vacation.

  • Allow: One or Two days
  • Cost: One Day from $100, Overnight $300
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Wellington - FREE OFFER

New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" To support us in our launch year Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington visiting the main points of interest, some "off the beaten path" places and maybe some places of your own choosing. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and the "What To Do in Wellington" team.

  • Allow: A half day, tailored to your needs
  • Cost: $90.00 but complimentary to New Zealand Vacations customers
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Te Papa National Museum

Te Papa is a state of the art museum bringing together under one roof 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) The best introduction to Te Papa is this 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: $10.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Zealandia Wildlife

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.

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: From $18.50
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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The Weta Workshops

Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the Weta Workshop has a creative portfolio that spans a large number of other blockbuster movies and gaming properties. These include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and DOTA2. Anyone with even the slightest interest in movies and gaming should visit this fantastic 65,000 square foot multi–disciplinary facility..

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: From $25
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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The Yellow Eyed Penguins

This half-day wildlife tour to the beautiful Otago Peninsula coincides with the afternoon arrival home from the sea of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins. To watch these delightful little animals returning to their beach at the end of the day and then slowly making their way to their overnight nests is an incredibly moving experience. You will see the effects of penguin conservation and know that your visit contributes to the ongoing conservation effort. You will also see other marine life including Hooker's Sea lions, Blue Penguins and a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. 

  • Allow: Half A Day
  • Cost: From $180.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Royal Albatross Colony

An 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, this is a sight never to be forgotten. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Donations Appreciated
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Larnach Castle & Gardens

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'

  • Allow: 1 - 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $30 Castle, Garden and Grounds access
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Tunnel Beach Walkway

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. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year but closed during the lambing season from August to October.
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Dunedin Railway Station

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Taiere Gorge Rail

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.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: From $91
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Chocolate World

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!

  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: From $17
  • Age: All ages
  • Best time: All year
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Dunedin Botanic Garden

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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The Otago Rail Trail

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 with overseas visitors. There are no steep hills to conquer, and for the complete experience allow 3-5 days to complete the trail. It  passes through  with small towns offering good food and accommodation, gentle hills, tussock grasslands, gorges and wonderful mountain scenery. 

  • Allow: 1, 3 or 5 Days
  • Cost: Varies with duration selected
  • Age: 12+
  • Best time: November - April
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Mt Difficulty Vineyard

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: Adult
  • Best time: All Year
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The Kawerau Gorge

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!

  • Allow: 1/2 to 1 hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Arrowtown

Arrowtown is a historic former gold mining town and rich in heritage. The spectacular scenery, distinct four seasons and tranquil atmosphere make Arrowtown a must do for visitors from all over the world.  This town has maintained its historic buildings and is now a vibrant town with world class food and beverage, shopping and attractions. 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

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Night Cruise Doubtful Sound

With its ancient rain forests and abundant wildlife Doubtful Sound is quite simply breathtaking. Practically untouched by humans the physical grandeur of towering peaks, outstanding waterfalls like The Browne Falls that cascade 2,000 feet into the fiord, and calm inland seas combine to create a powerful atmosphere of solitude and serenity. Crested penguins, bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand fur seals will among the wildlife that might be encountered. Our blog also explores the adjacent Dusky Sound tours, a very special experience.

  • Allow: If you choose the overnight cruise option it will add one day to your itinerary.
  • Cost: $333.00 including 3 course buffet dinner, cooked breakfast, kayaking. Private cabins with ensuite bathrooms. Picnic lunch.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Operates September to mid-May
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The Shotover Jet

Since 1970 over 2 million adrenalin-rushed passengers have enjoyed the thrills of the world's most exciting Jetboat ride, The Shotover Jet. It's a thrilling ride - skimming past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet 'Big Red', as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breath taking speeds. And  hold tight for the world famous Shotover Jet full 360 degree spins!

  • Allow: Half hour
  • Cost: From $135 Adult and $75 Child
  • Age: Minimum height 1 meter
  • Best time: All year
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Milford Sound

Either drive from Te Anau or from Queenstown to Milford Sound or take a coach tour from Te Anau or Queenstown or fly to Milford Sound and return to Queenstown by coach. Your opportunity to enjoy the world famous Milford Sound Cruise. For more about Milford Sound read out Milford Sound blog here.

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: Varies
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Whitewater Rafting

Begin with an unforgettable coach trip into Skippers Canyon where you meet your river guide and set out on your white water rafting journey through the spectacular Shotover Canyon. Rafting over peaceful waters at first, you'll head towards the exhilarating rapids of the lower canyon before shooting Cascade Rapid to complete your white-knuckle adventure. Before returning to Queenstown, enjoy a sauna and hot shower at Cavell's Rafting Lodge.

  • Allow: 4.5 Hours
  • Cost: From $219
  • Age: Minimum age 13 years / 88Ib
  • Best time: November to April
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The Routeburn Track

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.

  • Allow: Full day - 7.30am pick-up from Queenstown
  • Cost: From $179
  • Age: 10+
  • Best time: November - April
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Scenery and Vineyards

This 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. You can see some great shots of vineyards in this region on our blog. Just click here.

  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: From $215.00. Maximum group size 7
  • Age: 18 Plus
  • Best time: All year excluding winter, May - September
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Arrowtown

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. 

  • Allow: Queenstown to Arrowtown takes 20 minutes.
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Mountain Biking

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. ,

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: From $60
  • Age: 5+
  • Best time: September - May
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The Rob Roy Glacier Hike

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.


  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: 10 +
  • Best time: All Year - avalanches and extreme cold are possible in winter, June to November.
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Kayak Lake Wanaka

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

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: Adults US$68.00. Child under 13 US$55.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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The Cadrona Distillery

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.

  • Allow: 1 - 2 hours
  • Cost: US$20.00 - Includes a journey through the working distillery and barrelhouse and a tasting of Cardrona Distillery's offerings.
  • Age: Adults
  • Best time: All Year
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Biking Wanaka

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!


  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: Varies according to bicycle type and length of bike hire.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Blue Pools

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!

  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Ship Creek Walk

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.

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Jackson Bay

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.

  • Allow: 1 - 2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Lake Matheson Photo Shoot

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.

  • Allow: 40 Minutes walk from car park
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: 8+
  • Best time: All year - weather dependant
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Okarito Kiwi Tour

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!

  • Allow: 3 - 5 hours from dusk
  • Cost: From $75
  • Age: Adults only
  • Best time: All year
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White Heron Bird Colony

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.

  • Allow: 3 Hours
  • Cost: From $120.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: September - March
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Franz Joseph Glacier

Want to actually get on the ice and explore?  A short heli-hop from the township takes you into the remarkable Pinnacles area of the Franz Josef glacier. Here your guide will navigate you through a maze of ice and explain the dramatic environmental changes over the last few years. 

  • Allow: Up to 4 hours
  • Cost: From $340
  • Age: 12+
  • Best time: All year - weather dependant
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Land on The Glacier

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.

  • Allow: Flight Time 20 Minutes
  • Cost: From $235.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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West Coast Treetop Walk

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. 

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: US$27.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Hokitika Gorge

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!

  • Allow: 45 minutes return from the main highway. Allow 30 minutes to view the gorge
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Bushman's Centre

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!


  • Allow: 20 Seconds to 20 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Shanty Town West Coast

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!

  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: $33.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Pancake Rocks Punakaiki

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Punakaiki–Pororari River Trail

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.

  • Allow: 3 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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The TranzAlpine Express

Your first option for today is to drive to Greymouth in time to return your car and then take the 1:45 pm departure to Christchurch on the TranzAlpine Express, one of the world's great train journeys. Highlights will include thrilling views of deep gorges as you traverse the Southern Alps, eventually following the spectacular ice-fed Waimakariri River and crossing the Canterbury Plains for a late afternoon arrival in Christchurch.

  • Allow: 4 1/2 Hours
  • Cost: From $99.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Drive via Arthur's Pass

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.

  • Allow: 4 - 5 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year (road closures due snow in winter)
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Arthur's Pass Village

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.


  • Allow: From 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year (subject to occasional closure during winter snow storms)
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Devils Punchbowl Falls

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. 

  • Allow: 1 Hour return
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Drive via The Lewis Pass

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. 

  • Allow: 5 - 6 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year (some road closures in winter due snow)
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Reefton Historic Walk

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!

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year but can get very cold in winter
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The Maruia Falls

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Hanmer Springs Spa

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.

  • Allow: Minimum 30 minutes
  • Cost: From $22.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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International Antarctic Centre

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! 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $85.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Avon River Punting

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. 

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: From $28.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Christchurch Historic Tram

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.

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: From $20.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Christchurch Art Gallery

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.

  • Allow: Minimum One Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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