- 28 Days -
We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!
Auckland is not only the biggest city in New Zealand, it's also the gateway to some amazing scenery and experiences. From its location on Auckland Harbor it's easy to reach some of the 50 islands contained in the adjacent Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. Auckland is the ideal starting point for any New Zealand trip, be it scenic, cultural, fine food and wines or adventure based. 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.
An early start will see you escape the busy Auckland traffic and set out for the spectacular Coromandel Peninsula.
Time to explore the forests, the beaches, the stunning walking tracks, the fishing, diving and kayaking of the beautiful northern Coromandel Peninsula.
Another day of great scenery as you take the spectacular road south to the region that English explorer Captain James Cook called The Bay of Plenty. You'll pass through rural landscapes and New Zealand's most productive kiwi-fruit and avocado growing region. We suggest en-route stops for a morning coffee at Whangamata followed by the terrific walking trail at the Karangaheke Gorge.
The perfect place for an overnight stay. Swim in the warm Pacific waters or a take a pleasant stroll to the summit of Mount Maunganui for tremendous views of the harbor and surrounding countryside.
We now drive inland via the scenic route to Rotorua. Lord of The Rings enthusiasts will take a one hour diversion to visit the filming sites at Hobbiton near the town of Matamata.
Rotorua is your opportunity to experience the fascinating culture and history of the Maori people. It's also known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot spring spas.
Also see our Whirinaki Forest Blog
A relaxing drive through large tracts of plantation pine forest with some interesting stop-off options to enjoy en-route. Why not stop on the shores of Lake Taupo for lunch!
This massive high country plateau, a World Heritage Park, is an incredibly diverse region of tussock grassland, wild rivers, forests and birdlife with the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominating the landscape. There are great walking and biking trails, white water rafting, some of the best trout fishing in the world and the highlight of any visit, the Tongariro Crossing. The ultimate destination for any adventurer.
Instead of taking the the main road south, follow the beautiful Whanganui River Road for 80 miles, passing rural landscapes and enjoying forest and river views until you reach the town of Wanganui. From Wanganui, rejoin the main road south for an easy drive, following the coastline and reaching the capital city of Wellington two hours later.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's most cosmopolitan city. Since the opening of the new National Museum "Te Papa" it has become an increasingly popular destination for international visitors and food lovers will appreciate the large number of excellent boutique cafes and ethnic restaurants that are a feature of the city.
Dunedin is the student city of the south. The coldest of winters and the warmest of people all year round. Also the launching point for experiencing the amazing wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.
Today we suggest you deviate from the main road south at Balclutha to visit the remote and beautiful Catlins where you can choose from the wonderful activities you see featured below.
Invercargill is one of the most southernmost cities in the world - head south from here and the next major land mass is the frozen white continent of Antarctica! For many, the option to visit the beautiful and remote Stewart Island island will be the highlight of their visit, while others will take this opportunity for some leisurely R&R at the nearby coastal town of Riverton.
This is one of New Zealand's finest drives, The Southern Scenic Route, following the eastern boundaries of the massive Fiordland National Park as you travel northwards. Enjoy great scenery and some interesting side roads, including the tiny beach town of Colac Bay with its legendary surf break.
The small town of Te Anau is located on the eastern shores of the biggest lake in the South Island, Lake Te Anau. It's the last inhabited town before traveling via the Otira Gorge to the world famous Milford Sound and also the setting off point for the overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound.
After a cross-country drive the road then follows the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. This is a part of New Zealand where farmers sometimes use the road to move their sheep flocks, and to be clear, the sheep have the right of way. Fortunately, few of them (the sheep) are camera shy! Make a stop at the sleepy town of Kingston.
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.
For the most part, this is an easy days drive, traveling through the Kawarau Gorge and the restored town of Cromwell before crossing the Lindis Pass. From here, as you follow the eastern flanks of the majestic Southern Alps, you can enjoy the most open roads in New Zealand, long, flat and easy.
Twizel is the adventure capital of the South Island, offering access to some of New Zealand's finest mountain climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, alpine walking trails, cycling, skiing, horse trekking and trout fishing. The area around Twizel and Tekapo played host to the filming of the epic battle at Pelennor Field, as well as the scenes in An Unexpected Journey where Bilbo and the dwarves escape orcs and warns. For those who noticed the June 2016 headline "The night sky is vanishing: 80 percent of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way" this is the region where you still see the stars in all of their stunning beauty, making a visit to the Mt John Observatory tonight, a special opportunity, never to be forgotten.
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.
We have three equally attractive options for you to consider for today. Drive via Arthur's Pass or The Lewis Pass or enjoy the world famous Tranz-Alpine Express train. 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.
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.
The stretch of coastline as you head north this morning is the prettiest on the whole West Coast. In fact it is widely accepted as one of the finest in the world, especially beautiful early in the mornings when mists cling to the sea facing hillsides. Then it's through the spectacular Buller Gorge and ever changing landscapes until you reach the small town of Motueka, start-off point to the Abel Tasman National Park.
The rural town of Motueka is ideally located as a setting off point for the many attractions of the Nelson and Golden Bay regions. The most well known attraction is the nearby Abel Tasman National Park, just a 15 minute drive away. See also - We've Just Purchased a Beach!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre is a great opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s amazing birdlife including the endemic Wrybill bird with it's unique sideways facing beak. With the numbers of shorebirds often exceeding 10,000 the coastline is almost a mandatory stop for anyone who enjoys seeing birds in their natural habitat. The friendly staff at the Centre will advise the best places to view the birds. Read more about the Miranda Shorebird Centre at our blog - North Island Highlights - Miranda Shorebird Centre
Many years ago Auckland potter, conservationist, engineer, and artist Barry Brickell started a small pottery business in the forested hills of Coromandel and over the years this grew into a fully fledged artist's community. Visitors are transported by train through outstanding native forests to a lookout station high in the hills with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
The 309 Road is an alternative route between Coromandel and Whitianga on the opposite coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It's a 13 mile winding gravel road through dense forest and offering spectacular views. It should present no problems to a driver with a sense of adventure and confident about driving on gravel roads. The 309 Kauri Grove is group of massive Kauri trees found on this stretch of road. A 10 minute easy walking track takes you through lush forest to the spectacular stand of these magnificent trees. Highly recommended.
Just a 20 minute drive off the main road, followed by a 15 minute walk is found one of the finest golden sand beaches in the country, a place of isolation, tranquility and stunning beauty, Wainuiototo Bay, also known as New Chums Beach. This is a must-do for any visitor to New Zealand.
Be sure to include Hot Water Beach in your day of exploring the Coromandel. Within two hours either side of low tide visitors can find hot water bubbling through the golden sands. Dig your own private spa pool in the sand and enjoy the natural springs. A truly unique experience.
Cathedral Cove is one of the most well know beach destinations in New Zealand - and with good reason. We'll suggest a guided sea kayak experience to really get an appreciation of all that Cathedral Cove offers.
This is one of our favorite walks in this region. From the Whitianga Ferry Landing follow the track to Whiting Rock. Then continue through wetland and native bush with steep sections in parts until you reach the place from where you'll enjoy the wonderful Shakespeare Cliff views. Approximately a 2 mile walk of around 1+ hours and requiring good fitness.
This is a great opportunity to ride on horseback through some of New Zealand's most beautiful landscapes. The tracks are varied and include native forests, open pastures, hill country and secluded beaches.
The beach town of Whangamata is a popular holiday destination for New Zealanders, especially families. Surfers also flock to the famous break at the Whangamata Bar at the northern end of the beach and the adjacent estuaries are great for kayaking or SUP's (stand up paddle boards) A relaxing walk along the 4 mile beach and lunch at one of the many chic cafes are recommended.
This walkway follows a historic railway track built during the gold mining era through a stunning natural gorge setting. It includes crossing two steel truss bridges and walking through a well lit tunnel nearly a mile long. Complete the loop back to Karangahake, by walking downstream along the river. Well worth the 20 minute deviation from today's drive. Read about our visit to Karangahake Falls on our blog at - North Island Highlights - The Karangahake Gorge
30 minutes before you arrive at your next stop, Mt Maunganui, visit Katikati where their history is not in a gallery or a museum, but in large and colorful murals along the main street. Over 40 murals provide an interpretation of the town's history, its people and events. They draw inspiration from the past as they help the town look to the future.
The Haiku Pathway is a one mile riverside walkway decorated with boulders inscribed with haiku, a Japanese verse form, usually arranged in three lines of five, seven and five syllables. The haiku, some written by New Zealanders, others by poets from Australia and the US, were carefully selected to harmonise with their riverside location. At the main entranceway, this typical haiku verse will greet you: 'Strangers they stop and ask me the way if only I knew'. A nice place to stretch your legs before continuing your drive south to Mt Maunganui.
Mount Manganui Hot Water Salt Pools are a place to relax and soothe tired muscles or old injuries. The Pools are open 7 days and feature a spa pool, a sit and soak pool, leisure pool, toddlers pool with slide, renovated private pools, relaxing water jets and a massage centre.
If you've thought about learning to surf, but never found the time, a New Zealand vacation might be your perfect opportunity to take some first steps. Sign up for a lesson and arrive back home with set of new found skills.
Anyone with an interest in aviation history will enjoy a visit to this museum and the collection of aircraft and memorabilia on display in the large hanger. As well as an array of classic aircraft, including many that still take to the skies on a regular basis, there's a ½ scale flying replica of a Focke Wulf 190. Also a great opportunity to chat with the enthusiastic volunteers and to share their passion for the world of flying.
Just 30 miles off the coast from Whakanate is White Island. This is New Zealand's only active marine volcano, the most accessible volcano of its type in the world. For those who want a little more adventure, the opportunity to travel by helicopter to land on White Island will be a highlight of their vacation. Or drive south to Whakatane (one hour) where the full day cruise depots for the island.
Visit the Hobbiton movie set where scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. In a fascinating two-hour guided tour you will be taken through the twelve acre site recounting fascinating details of how the movie set was created. The Hobbit Holes, Green Dragon™ Inn, Mill and other structures created for these
These beautiful waterfalls are found about 20 minutes after leaving Mt Maunganui on the road to Rotorua. It drops over bluffs in a series of waterfalls and rocky pools, culminating in a deep green lagoon flanked by moss- and fern-fringed cliffs. A 20- to 30-minute loop trail takes you down to the main lagoon and through lush greenery. The falls' summit (and the parking lot) affords excellent views over Tauranga and the coast.
The future of the humble bee is of concern to scientists around the world and this guided tour will give you a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Explore the healing power of nature through New Zealand’s most famous native plant, the manuka. Your tour concludes in the wellness room, a place to reconnect and reflect on what we can learn from the bees to help us live healthier lives.
The Okere Falls Track is a 2 mile long hike, located 30 minutes from Rotorua and leading to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. As well as the falls, you'll see emerald-colored pools and dense native forest cascading down to the edges of the Okere River.
This is a historic natural hot mineral springs spa that for 3 years in a row was selected by the prestigious magazine Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world's top ten Medical & Thermal Spas. There are twenty-seven hot mineral pools in the Lake Spa offering a complete range of body & skin therapies. Visitor options range from family pools to private luxury seclusion. Lie back, relax, enjoy!
This site is a replica of a pre-European fortified Maori village, completely surrounded by a natural thermal area that includes silica terraces, mud pools and the famous geyser Pohutu shooting boiling water nearly 70 feet in the air. End your visit at the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute where you can watch Maori wood carvers at work.
Rail Cruising is a new activity that allows you to experience travel along railway lines in your own self-drive, 4-seat railway vehicle while admiring the scenery of the passing countryside. Cruising along at 12 mph, you can listen to the commentary and discover a unique piece of New Zealand railway history. Great fun!
This full day tour of the magnificent Whirinaki Forest Park brings this world to life as you walk the forest tracks, your Maori guides sharing stories about their tribal history and the amazing birdlife, flora and fauna of the region. A relaxing luncheon on the banks of the picturesque Whirinaki river provides an opportunity to experience the solitude, the beauty and tranquility of this wilderness areas. Rated 5 star by the New Zealand Vacations team.
Also read our Whirinaki Forest Blog
The strange geological formations, the forest and the lakes of Waimangu always create a sense of wonder for visitors. This is a place of constant geothermal activity and tremendous heat, creating steam, geysers and streams bubbling away at 125 degrees! We recommend a cruise on the incredible cobalt blue lake, where stories will be told of the violent eruptions of 1886 that formed Waimangu and the natural beauty that it created. Read more about Waimangu on our blog - North Island Highlights - Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake and it empties into the country's longest river, the Waikato River and at this point of its journey, the Huka Falls, between banks just 300ft part. The result is truly spectacular. Don't miss it, just off the main road before arriving at the town of Taupo.
This kayak lake tour includes a visit to a series of huge stone carvings on the lake, created by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. No experience is necessary - the double kayaks are safe and easy to use and all trips are guided and full instruction is given. . A truly a unique trip and one you will remember.
Although not as well known as nearby Rotorua, the Taupo region has some special geothermal activities of their own. The Craters of the Moon is a typical example, named for its other-worldly atmosphere. The 30 minute track walk passes bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. You can also see many interesting plants that have adapted to thrive in the hot, steamy conditions. Enjoy this fantastic geothermal area free of charge along well-formed pathways with elevated viewing platforms.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand and is ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world. This will be a long day and a challenging one, traversing a remarkable volcanic landscape. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as Mt Doom in his Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies.
The is one of New Zealand's best river rafting experiences. After an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with an experienced guide you begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids – an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 roller coaster rapids with your expert guide at the helm and treated to sights only accessed by raft.
Taranaki Falls is a 20-minutes drive away from National Park Village where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. An easy 2 hours loop, the Taranaki Falls Walk leads to the waterfalls lookout, and then to the waterfall's base. The track is awesome! The first part of the track goes through the alpine grassland with amazing views of the volcanoes. The second part of the loop goes through the beech forest with some river crossings (all bridged) and small waterfalls.
This beautiful lake is a 25 minute drive from the town of National Park where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. From the Rotopounamu car park it's just a 20 minute walk to the lake or 2 hours if you choose to walk around the 3 mile loop trail. Beautiful Rotopounamu (the greenstone lake) is nestled into the side of Mt Pihanga and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, walkers and swimmers.
Just 25 minutes south of Tongariro is a side road to Pipiriki, the access point one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in New Zealand, The Whanganui River. You'll travel by jet boat exploring magnificent forest scenery, deep ravines covered in mosses and an array of native ferns.
This option will require an extra day to be added to your vacation, but it's a choice you will never regret. Stay overnight at The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge deep in the Whanganui National Park wilderness, perched high above the river and accessible only by jet boat, canoe, by foot or helicopter. The canoe journey downstream, back to Pipiriki is simply breathtaking
At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Built in 1869, the lighthouse is a great place for enjoying the amazing views along the coastline and seeing local wildlife. Look carefully and you might see fur seals, sea lions, sooty shearwaters, shags, yellow-eyed penguins, spoonbills or a breeding colony of gannets that live in this area. Occasionally, elephant and leopard seals also visit.
Purakaunui Falls are probably the prettiest waterfalls in New Zealand. Located at the midway point of today's drive, in the heart of the Catlins Forest Park, it's an easy walk to the waterfall's lookout. Be aware that the last mile or so of the access road is not sealed.Read about our visit to Puraukanui Falls on our blog at - Day 5 - The Wild & Remote Catlins; Curio Bay, McLean Falls, Purakanui Falls
The Cathedral Caves are two huge natural caverns, 700 feet long and up to 100 feet high, carved out by the actions of the sea over thousands of years. A half mile walking track descends through lush coastal forest to the beach and care must be taken of local tidal conditions when visiting.
The petrified forest is found at beautiful Curio Bay, a place where tree fossils are found in the sea that are over 160 million years old. They looks very much like real wood yet feels just like stone, with the petrified stumps, fallen trees and fern imprints easily accessible at low tide, or viewed from the platform above. We have more about Curio Bay on our blog at - Day 5 - The Wild & Remote Catlins; Curio Bay, McLean Falls, Purakanui Falls
Your day starts with a scenic flight from Invercargill to Stewart Island, followed by a guided tour by small coach exploring local landmarks and the history behind Stewart Island. Lunch will be at the South Sea Hotel on the waterfront at Halfmoon Bay. Afterwards there is time to explore, buy a souvenir, or to just absorb the tranquillity of the island. At the end of the day your are returned to the airport for your flight back to Invercargill.
An island where the statistics speak for themselves - total area 650 square miles, population just 400, 80% of the island consisting of the forested and protected Rakiura National Park. In other words one of the most beautiful, pristine, remote, peaceful and natural places in the world. For those lucky enough to visit, this is an experience never to be forgotten. Read about our adventures when we visit Stewart Island - Day 4 - Nature at Its Best - Stewart Island & Ulva Island and also at Day 4 - Evening - Kiwi Spotting on Stewart Island
Ulva Island is a 600 acre forest covered island, a 15 minute boat ride from Stewart Island, a place where you can view rare birds and native plants at close quarters. Your guide will tell you about the inquisitive weka, the South Island Kaka (parrot), parakeets, woodpigeons, bellbirds, tomtits, fantails, and tui. Also found on this predator free oasis are the South Island Saddlebacks, Stewart Island Robins, yellowheads, fernbirds and rifleman. Read about our visit to UIva Island on our blog at - Day 4 - Nature at Its Best - Stewart Island & Ulva Island
A tribute to legendary motorcycle racer Bert Munro who in 1967 travelled from his home in Invercargill to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats where he set an under-1,000 cc world speed record, a record that still stands (average speed 183.586 mph)
This heroic sportsman who was 68 and riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record, was to later have his story form the basis of the motion picture 'The World's Fastest Indian' starring Anthony Hopkins. Burt's original 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle forms the centerpiece of a display of over one hundred classic, vintage and modern motorcycles and other memorabilia.
After a couple of weeks on the road and maybe as an alternative to visiting Stewart Island, here's an ideal opportunity at the halfway point in your vacation to take a break and refresh. Riverton has a scenic harbor and estuary with great swimming beaches and opportunities to enjoy locally produced cuisine, boating, surfing, fishing and some great coastal and forest walks. Read about our visit to Riverton on our blog at - Day 3 - Exploring The Southern Scenic Route, Humpridge Track, Riverton, Invercargill.
This hidden gem, close to Riverton, is a 1 hour loop walk that includes panoramic views of the coastline and Foveaux Strait, forest tracks and abundant native birdlife. It also has areas of Wahi Tapu (treasured places for Maori) and visitors are asked to respect these. An extension of this walk includes walks along secluded beaches and bays (total 2 Hours) You can read about hour visit to Riverton here.
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.
This one of the world's finest alpine drives. From Te Anau the road winds through the Eglinton and Hollyford Valleys then through the Homer Tunnel and to the awesome sight of Mitre Peak towering above the glassy waters of Milford Sound. The road can be quite challenging at times so a coach tour is available if preferred.
While not as extensive as the more famous caves at Waitomo in the North Island, this is still a very enjoyable experience. It begins with an evening cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau and on arrival the guides for the tour will share their knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful, a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. You’ll be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms producing a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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!
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 town of Cromwell is a favorite stopping off point for visitors before they cross the Lindis Pass. The construction of the Clyde Dam in the early 1990s saw the old town centre drowned and today there's a replica of the old town while the adjacent 'new' Cromwell has become a thriving centre for the local wine and fruit industries.
The scenic drive through Lindis Pass is approximately 45 miles in length and takes less than an hour to traverse. The road is hilly and winding, reaching a height of over 3,000 feet. The landscape is empty, just tussock grasslands as far as the eye can see and this gives it a unique and rugged beauty all of its own.
At the junction town of Omarama, take a 10 minute diversions to see The Clay Cliffs at Paritea, a dramatic natural rock formation with huge pinnacles and ridges with deep, narrow ravines separating them. They are made of layers of gravel and silt, deposited by rivers flowing from glaciers 1-2 million years ago. We have more to say about the cliffs on our blog at - Day 2 - The Thrills of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park - The Hooker Valley, Abel Tasman Glacier & Lake, Clay Cliffs
An early start today as you drive along the edge of beautiful Lake Pukaki to reach the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook (12,319 ft). Heli-skiing, heli-hiking and aerial sightseeing provide visitors with amazing memories. A variety of walking trails begin in or near Mount Cook Village—most take only a couple of hours. To read about the Hooker Valley Walk at Aoraki Mt Cook, read our blog at - Day 2 - The Thrills of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park - The Hooker Valley, Abel Tasman Glacier & Lake, Clay Cliffs
Visit New Zealand's Tasman Glacier terminal lake for a fascinating glacial encounter. Cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size periodically tear away from the glacier allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500 year old glacial crystals.
There are many interesting walks available from the village at Mt Cook but the Hooker Valley is the favorite of them all. This track leads up the Hooker valley towards Aoraki/Mount Cook. It passes close to the Alpine Memorial (a great viewpoint) and Freda’s Rock before coming to the viewing point of the Mueller Glacier and the first swing bridge. The mountain views encountered are incredible. Read about our adventures when we walked the Hooker Valley - Day 2 - The Thrills of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park - The Hooker Valley, Abel Tasman Glacier & Lake, Clay Cliffs
After a day in the mountains, tonights drive to the Mount John Observatory, New Zealand's premier astronomical observatory, will take about 40 minutes each way, but the effort will be well worthwhile. Mt John is regarded internationally as one of the most beautiful and easily accessible observatories in the world. For those interested in discovering the wonders of the stunning southern night skies this will be an evening of discovery and wonder. Read more about Mt John on our blog at - Day 1 - We Discover The Rakaia Gorge, Mt John Observatory Lake Pukaki, Hobbit Sites, Aoraki/Mt Cook
The Church of The Good Shepherd is located on the shores of Lake Tekapo, a favorite stop-off point for those driving to Christchurch. The golden brown hills and waving tussock grasses of the remote Mackenzie Country provide a superb backdrop to the miles of easy driving roads.
Geraldine is an attractive country town with an artistic streak, a great place for a lunch break or to shop for arts and crafts. The town also has a highly regarded vintage car and machinery museum. Just beyond the town, you can visit gardens and artists’ studios
A short diversion, 15 minutes after leaving Geraldine, takes you to Peel Forest, over 1200 acres of pristine forest and over 20 walking trails.The suitably named Big Tree Walk of 30 minutes, begins at the Te Wanahu picnic shelter and leads into Mills Bush where fine specimens of huge 1000 years old native totara trees, one almost three metres across, are found.
This is an optional diversion that will add an hour to your day's∂riving, but a choice you'll be glad you made. The road gets a little winding and hilly in parts however you will be richly rewarded for making the effort by magnificent views and a drive through some of New Zealand's finest rural scenery. Read more about Rakai on our blog - Day 1 - We Discover The Rakaia Gorge, Mt John Observatory Lake Pukaki, Hobbit Sites, Aoraki/Mt Cook
Christchurch Airport is the base for Operation Deep Freeze with the US Military responsible for re-supplying those working on the frozen Antarctic bases at the bottom of the world. At the Airport is also the International Antarctic Centre bringing to life the story of Antarctic discovery and science. Visit the snow and ice experience, survive an Antarctic Storm, learn about life in modern day Antarctica and Scott Base, and hang out with Little Blue Penguins!
An iconic Christchurch activity not to be missed. Admire the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens or the changing face of the city centre as you are expertly guided gently along the Avon River on an authentic Edwardian designed punt.
Enjoy a journey through the changing face of Christchurch’s city centre on board a beautifully restored heritage tram. Friendly and knowledgeable drivers will inform you about the city, its landmarks and local sights. Your day-long ticket allows you to get on and off the Tram as often as you please! A great introduction to Christchurch.
The Christchurch Art Gallery, with the formal name of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, is the public art gallery of the city of Christchurch and houses one of the largest art collections in New Zealand. The magnificent new glass encased museum houses a regularly-changing program of national and international touring exhibitions.
Depart Christchurch early on the TranzApline Express, one of the world's great train journeys. Highlights include crossing the Canterbury Plains, following the spectacular ice-fed Waimakariri River with thrilling views of deep gorges before you traverse the Southern Alps. Check out the contrast in the scenery as you arrive in Greymouth. From here you can pick up a car and make the 30 minute journey to Punakaiki.
Another option for today is to drive to Christchurch, following a similar route to the TranzAlpine Express via Arthurs Pass but with opportunities to make stops en-route at places that interest you. The road through the Otira Pass gets a little challenging at times, winding and steep, but for a confident driver, this is an experience that will live long in the memory.
A great stop-off point on the Arthurs Pass drive is the small alpine village of Arthurs Pass, located high in the Southern Alps. From here you can access some of the best mountain walking trails, ranging from 30 minutes to 6 hours in duration. Between Arthurs Pass and Christchurch, alongside the main road, is Castle Hill. Take a break and walk up the track to see the interesting rock formations - yet another area that was used during the filming of the Lord of the Rings, and more recently the Chronicles of Narnia. Also a favorite hang-out place for rock climbers.
One of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand, Devils Punchbowl Falls is located in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. Although the waterfall can be seen from the highway, it's still better to walk up to the waterfall's base by way of a forest covered walkway. Moderate fitness level is required.
This is a longer, gentler and less demanding drive than the Arthurs Pass option. It has as special beauty of its own, providing spectacular views of densely forested mountain slopes and following stunning winding rivers. This also option offers the opportunity to make a stop at the spa pools at Hanmer Springs.
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.
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.
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!
Your last thrill of today will be your visit to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki. They were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants about a mile below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers and then gradual seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed.
Within walking distance of the Punakaiki Visitor Centre, this loop trail follows a spectacular limestone gorge with dense native forest and a variety of native birds and wildlife; suitable for all ages and rated as one of the best trails in New Zealand. It starts with a crossing of the Punakaiki River via a footbridge, and then follows an easily graded climb to the ridge dividing the Punakaiki and Pororari rivers. When the Pororari River Track junction is reached, it's worth carrying on along the Inland Pack Track for a short distance to the Pororari River, a perfect place for a rest and something to eat. Return to the junction and then follow the Pororari River Track down river to the car park. From there it's less than a mile back to the Visitor Centre.
For an exhilarating experience, make a stop at Charleston and go underground tubing in the spectacular Nile River Cave System. You'll float along small rapids and through natural underground chambers that are home to millions of glow worms. The beauty of the surrounding bushland is a another feature of this unforgettable experience.
This is not only the smallest national park in New Zealand, it is also the most popular. Golden sand beaches, crystal clear waters, superb forests, abundant bird and sea life draw visitors from all around the world. A favorite experience is to be dropped by water-taxi at a golden sand beach and to then walk along the beautiful coastline track to be picked up again at a pre-arranged pick-up point.
Cape Farewell is the northernmost point of the South Island, located on the coast at the start of Farewell Spit. It provides homes for sea mammals and over 90 species of birds including up to 20,000 godwits, 30,000 knots plus curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. To make the most of this experience, New Zealand Vacations can arrange a one day 4WD guided tour from Motueka, the best way to learn about the history, the wildlife and ecology of the region from a qualified guide. Bring cameras and binoculars to make the most of a visit to this nature-lover's paradise.
If you love horse riding, getting off the beaten trail and experiencing one of New Zealand's finest treks, this is the one for you - it has it all. The departure point is a one hour drive from Motueka, some of it winding and the last mile before reaching the trek departure point at Puponga, a gravel road. You start the trek with a meander over private forest and farmland making your way across beautiful Puponga Beach. It then takes you through the Puponga Farm Park and climbs along the Old Man's Range where you have breathtaking views of your surroundings. This trek has some steeper terrain and is suited more for teenagers and adults.