- 12 Days -
We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!
Auckland ◦ Waitomo Caves ◦ Tongariro Crossing ◦ Wellington ◦ National Museum Te Papa ◦ Zealandia Birdlife Sanctuary ◦ Weta Workshops ◦ Albatross and Yellow Eyed Penguin colonies ◦ Queenstown ◦ Fiordland Rainforests ◦ Milford or Doubtful Sounds Cruise ◦ Vineyards Central Otago
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
This will be a long day of driving, but with many interesting activities to enjoy along the way. The highlight for most will be the world famous Waitomo Caves. A great start to your self drive North Island tour.
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 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.
This is one New Zealand's iconic visitor attractions. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa is unique to New Zealand and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as your expert guides explains the Caves' historical and geological significance. A highlight of a visit to Waitomo Caves is the river boat ride under the thousands of magical glowworms.
If you depart from Auckland nice and early you'll have time to include a drive of one hour round-trip to the colorful seaside town of Raglan, the place made famous by film-maker Bruce Brown in his legendary surfing documentary 'The Endless Summer' A must-do for anyone with even the vaguest connection with surfing. We have a blog about our visit to Raglan here.
In 2011, local resident Barry Cox decided to construct a unique church on his remote rural farm, made of living trees. He never imagined it ever becoming a tourist attraction but there's been so much interest in his project that his Tree Church Gardens is now available for public viewing. Enjoy first-hand the living Church, the labyrinth walk and the extensive gardens. Read about our visits to the Tree Church in our blog - North Island Highlights - The Tree Church & The Warden
Towards the end of todays drive, take this excursion, away from the main route south, into one of the most remote parts of the North Island, the tiny settlement of Kakahi. Here you are able to visit their Glow Worm Caves, much less known than their famous cousins at Waitomo but offering the advantage of a free visit. Also, keep an eye out for local delicacy, freshwater mussels.
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!