- 14 Days -

New Zealand Scenic Wonders

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

Highlights

Auckland ◦ Hobbiton ◦ Rotorua ◦ Lake Taupo ◦ Tongariro National Park & Crossing ◦ "The Forgotten World Highway" ◦ New Plymouth ◦ Wellington ◦ Weta Workshops ◦ The National Museum "Te Papa" ◦ Queenstown ◦ Milford Sound Cruise ◦ Otago vineyards ◦ Spectacular mountain walks.


Price

From

$1878.00

per person.

Includes

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.

Days 1 to 3

Auckland

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 visit most of the 50 islands 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.

Create your own Wish List by opening the activities boxes and adding the ones that appeal to you. 

Day 3

Drive from Auckland to Rotorua

  • 140 miles
  • 3 Hours

After leaving Auckland you will soon be enjoying the rural landscapes that lie at the heart of New Zealand’s economy, the farming region called The Waikato. It's an easy drive, passing small towns and dairy farms along the way. There are some interesting activities that you can choose to enjoy as you make your way to Rotorua of which Hobbiton and The Waitomo Caves are the most famous.

Days 3 to 5

The Geothermal Wonders of Rotorua

Rotorua is one of the most important cultural centers for the Māori people of New Zealand. It's also internationally known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot spring spas.

Also see our Whirinaki Forest Blog

Day 5

Drive from Rotorua to Tongariro National Park

  • 100 Miles
  • 2 hours driving

A 2 hour drive with a stop at Lake Taupo before entering the Tongariro National Park. Spectacular scenery and some great stopping off options will make this one of the most enjoyable days of your visit

Days 5 to 7

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 7

Drive from Tongariro National Park to New Plymouth

  • 150 miles
  • 3-4 hours

There's some great options for driving from Tongariro National Park to New Plymouth, but whatever your choice you'll enjoy the tranquility of this region and the beauty of the passing forests, farms and rivers. The wild Tasman Sea is waiting to greet you on your arrival.

Days 7 to 9

New Plymouth

The Len Lye Centre, Pukekura Park, The Wind Wand, The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the recently opened Coastal Walkway and some outstanding restaurants are some of the options available in this friendly coastal city.

Day 9

Drive from New Plymouth to Wellington

  • 220 Miles
  • 4 to 5 hours

An easy drive, passing small villages and delightful rural landscapes before joining the main highway south, leading to the capital city of Wellington.

Days 9 to 11

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 11

Fly from Wellington to Queenstown

  • Flight
  • 1 Hour 20 minute Flight

This morning we leave Wellington and fly to beautiful Queenstown in the heart of New Zealand's alpine region.

Days 11 to 14

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.

Day 14

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.

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Rangitoto Island Hike

Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto is a large uninhabited 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 from where you will enjoy 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. 

Because it flowers between December and January, the pōhutukawa is now widely regarded as New Zealand's Christmas tree and the brilliant crimson flowers that envelop the tree over these months make for a beautiful sight. 

In 2011, after years of intensive eradication programs, the island was declared predator-free. This has seen New Zealand native birds return to the island in large numbers, including Kākāriki and Bellbird as well as the cheeky Kākā. Tui numbers have also soared as have Fantail, Grey Warbler, Silvereye, Saddleback, Whitehead and Morepork (New Zealand’s only surviving native owl).

A tip for visitors. Birds are very shy, so you'll not see many as you walk the main trail to the summit. Take a side track on the trail, find a quiet spot and wait for 5-minutes. You'll be amazed at what you'll see if you remain patient. On no account should you try and feed the birds. 

We often suggest that our customers enjoy this hike on the morning of their arrival in Auckland. After a long flight from the US, it's a great start to shaking off any feelings of jetlag. 

Views of Auckland city from the volcanic rock island.

The walk to the summit through the magnificent forest of native trees and ferns.

A pair of beautiful pōhutukawa trees on a beach north of Auckland.

Quite by chance, on the day we wrote about the pōhutukawa trees on Rangitoto Island, we came across this story about a New Zealand couple who had just built themselves a home they've called a pōhutukawa house

Here's how you say the word pōhutukawa.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: Ferry $21.00 Return
  • Age: All
  • 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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Auckland's Best Market Day

Matakana Markets, Artist's Studios and Beaches

Matakana is a great place to visit on any day of the week. Nestled on the banks of the picturesque Matakana River, it's just a 40 minute drive from Auckland.

The Saturday morning Matakana Farmers' Market is a showcase for local artisans, growers and farmers. What better start to your New Zealand vacation than a delicious breakfast with freshly brewed coffee and homemade baking before browsing through the offerings at the farmers market across the road! 

After a stop at the village you can also visit one of the artist studios found in this peaceful corner of the world or drive to one of our favorite nearby beaches, located within a nature reserve and offering some nice walking trails and beach walks. Visit a local vineyard for lunch before returning to the city.


This picturesque beach is the perfect spot for a walk after breakfast.

Recently retired New Zealand Prime Minister John Key enjoying a morning shop at Matakana Markets.

  • Allow: Half to a full day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Island Conservation Visit

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf is one of New Zealand's most important bird conservation projects, a place 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 that pre-dates the dinosaurs. 

A volunteer guide welcomes arrivals and explains the island's history and forest restoration.  

Tuatara have grown in population since being introduced to the predator free island in 2003.


  • 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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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.

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.

  • 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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The Auckland Art Gallery

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.


Auckland Art Gallery

The stunning entrance to the gallery.


AKL Art Gallery.

The beautifully restored Wellesley gallery in the Heritage Building. 


The Kauri wood canopy sits over the veranda of the gallery's cafe designed to emphasize the native tree in 

the parkland beyond.


  • Allow: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: Free. Charges may apply to special exhibitions
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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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.

Join the crew and help steer the impressive yacht around Auckland harbor, a must do for yachting enthusiasts. 

  • 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.

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.

  • 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

The wetlands at the center provide a home to many bird species, a great vantage point to take some photos.

NZ shorebirds at risk of being endangered including the Wrybill that can be seen at the Miranda Centre.

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

A tour through the Hobbiton movie set is a must for any Hobbit/Lord of the rings fan.

The hobbit houses and gardens are kept in beautiful condition.

Dining in hobbit style, part of the Wednesday evening dinner tour.

All lit up for the evening, there's much to see on the tour of the set part of Matamata's most famous farm.

  • Allow: 2 hours
  • Cost: From $55.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Waitomo Caves

This is one of the iconic visitor attractions on any New Zealand vacation itinerary. 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.

The boat tour takes you into the cave past the thousands of magical glowworms.

The guided tour continues inside the caves with information and history about the amazing rock formations.

  • Allow: Guided Cave tour takes 45 minutes
  • Cost: From $35.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Mount Maunganui Beach

After visiting Hobbiton, instead of driving directly to Rotorua, you have the option of driving for 45 minutes, across the Kaimai Hills to enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches of Mount Maunganui. After a swim in the warm Pacific waters or a pleasant stroll to the summit of Mount Maunganui, it's a just an hours further drive, via a lovely scenic route to Rotorua.

Relaxing on the sandy beach after a swim in the surf.

The walk up to the top of the Mt Maunganui is well worth the views.

The stunning views from the top of the summit include the inner port and harbor.


  • Allow: Adds 3 hours to the days driving
  • Cost:
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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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 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!

Feeling that natural healing!

It doesn't get more relaxing than an invigorating mud bath.

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: From $30.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Traditional Maori Feast

Mitai Māori Village

There are many options available in Rotorua for enjoying a traditional Māori feast. We selected this particular one becasue, quite simply, it's the best.

Guests are welcomed to Mitai Māori Village by the arrival of warriors in their war canoe. Within the village, guests are entertained with the performing dances of the Māori, including the poi, and of course the war cries of the haka. 

By the time they leave, guests will have an understanding of the Māori art of ta moko (tattoos) and they will remember their journey to the sacred pools and the glow worms - and of course, not forgetting the delicious food cooked in the earth oven - the Hangi as it is called by the Māori people.

A warrior announces the ceremonial arrival of the canoe.

Delicious food taken from the hot earth oven, the hangi.

  • Allow: 3-hours from late afternoon
  • Cost: $95.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Stargazing and Dinner

Skyline Rotorua Gondola, Stargazing and Stratosfare Dinner

Explore constellations, look for a shooting star and discover planets invisible to the naked eye with the Skyline Rotorua Stargazing experience. Ngongotaha is one of the top eight locations in New Zealand for stargazing where the dark clear skies blanketing Rotorua make for a breathtaking experience. Keen stargazers have the opportunity to access a 'hidden world' not seen by the naked eye, and impossible to see in many other locations around the world. 

Skyline Stargazing takes visitors to a specially-constructed area high above the Gondola, where there is no trespassing light, allowing for an unbelievably clear view of the night sky. Top-of-the line telescopes give stargazers the chance to view an amazing array of stunning sights, from the iconic Southern Cross, to nebulas, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies. 

After taking-in the beauty of the night sky, settle down for dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant.

There's something out there ...

The world is turning.

  • Allow: All evening
  • Cost: $96.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Thermal Wonderland

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

The Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is located 20 miles south of Rotorua, providing a chance to explore spectacular scenery in New Zealand’s most colourful volcanic zone. See unique volcanic features as you walk at your own pace along well defined tracks. At 10.15am each day there's the opportunity to learn the history and mechanics of the famous Lady Knox Geyser. A presentation by an expert guide in the natural amphitheatre, is an opportunity to see the geyser erupt by dropping a surfactant into the opening of the vent, followed by a jet of water spraying into the sky, reaching heights of up to 65 feet.

Lady Knox Geyser

A lunar landscape? No, it's Wai-O-Tapu.

The beauty of nature, in this case a hot one!

  • Allow: 3-4 hours
  • Cost: $25.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Volcanic Valley Visit

The Waimangu Valley

The strange geological formations, the forests and the lakes of Waimangu Valley always creates 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 Rotomahana, where stories will be told of the violent eruptions of 1886 that formed the Waimangu Valley and the natural beauty that it created. You can also read about our visit to Waimangu Valley in our blog - North Island Highlights - Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

The incredible geothermal waters.

Walks through the forests make for amazing views of the cobalt waters.

Cruising Lake Rotomahana brings you up close to the geothermal wonders.

  • Allow: A minimum of 1-2 hours
  • Cost: From $52.00, including optional cruise
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Māori Village Visit

Whakarewarewa - Guided Tour and Cultural Show

For over 200 years the local Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao tribe have welcomed visitors into their 'backyard' and allowed them to experience at first hand the culture of one of Rotorua's most enjoyable attractions. The village and geothermal delights of Whakarewarewa Village are where you'll relive the history of their village, with stories from experienced Māori tour guides who will share the stories from their pasts. After enjoying the geysers, mud pools and hot springs, be sure to call at Te Puia, New Zealand’s Māori Cultural Centre, located just 5 minutes away. This 150-acre site is also home to the official 'New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute' a great place to consider the purchase of quality Māori art effects.

The geysers at Whakarewaerewa village.

Te Puia showcases Moari arts, craft and culture.

Te Puia, NZ Moari Arts and Craft Institute.

Wood carving seen at the Institute.

  • Allow: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: Whakarewarewa - $25.00. Te Puia From $32.00.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Forest Canopy Tour

Over the past two years this new activity has taken Rotorua by storm and is now on the must-do list for most visitors. It takes customers on a journey that provides unprecedented views of a magnificent native New Zealand forest. From as high as 72 feet above the ground, safely secured in harnesses, clients travel along an exhilarating 1-mile course. This course is a network of ziplines, tree to tree swing bridges, treetop platforms and walking trails. The highlight for many is stepping out of the canopy from a magnificent 500 year old native Rimu tree and travelling 700 feet above a long forgotten forested valley to finish at the hidden landing platform. 

Jane from our office did the forest canopy tour last year and she thought it was great fun. The all Kiwi staff were friendly, knowledgeable and obviously serious about safety issues and this gave her the confidence to try the zipline experience, which she rated as a 5-star thrill.

The tour guides are a wealth of knowledge about the rain forest's history and future.

Swing bridges provide a view over the ferns and forest floor.

  • Allow: 3-hours
  • Cost: $90.00
  • Age: From teenage to adult
  • Best time: All Year
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Rainforest Eco Experience

Whirinaki Rainforest Walk

Previously the domain of only the most experienced hikers, the untouched wilderness of the magnificent Whirinaki Rainforest is now accessible on a full-day guided walk. Regarded by many as one of the finest one-day walks in the country. 

This is where towering rimu,totara, matai, miro and kahikatea trees, some of them 800 to 1000 years old are found. These ancient giants of New Zealand’s podocarp tree species reach for the sky, to heights of over 200 ft. Beneath the forest canopy wonder in awe at the rich diversity of native vegetation and birdlife amidst the spectacular scenery of rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls.

The team here at New Zealand Vacations recommend this tour as a highlight of any New Zealand vacation. The diversity and richness of the Whirinaki Forests is unequalled.

We have an interesting blog about Whirinaki that provides more background information.

The full day guided walk has tracks and bridges leading into the otherwise untouched forest.

Cascading waterfalls are a highlight for many on the guided walk.

  • Allow: Full day. Approximately 7- hours
  • Cost: $205.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Volcanic Valley Visit

The Waimangu Valley

The strange geological formations, the forests and the lakes of Waimangu Valley always creates 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 Rotomahana, where stories will be told of the violent eruptions of 1886 that formed the Waimangu Valley and the natural beauty that it created. You can also read about our visit to Waimangu Valley in our blog - North Island Highlights - Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

The incredible geothermal waters.

Walks through the forests make for amazing views of the cobalt waters.

Cruising Lake Rotomahana brings you up close to the geothermal wonders.

  • Allow: A minimum of 1-2 hours
  • Cost: From $52.00, including optional cruise
  • 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, at the mighty Huka Falls. At this point the banks of the falls are just 300ft part, so the view and the sounds of the falls are truly spectacular. Don't miss it, just off the main road before arriving at the town of Taupo.

The magnificent Huka Falls - well worth the stop.

The viewing and information platform is a great standpoint for photos.

For the more adventurous an exciting jet boat ride is another way to view the falls up close.

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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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, interspersed with elevated viewing platforms.

Lookouts allows you to look down into a crater to see the steam and plants that have adapted to the heat.

A wooden walkway makes for easy access to this geothermal wonderland.

  • 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 tiring one, so you'll need to be moderately fit. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as the Land of Mordor and  'Mt Doom' in his Lord of The Rings movies.

A great look at the magnificent Mt Ngauruhoe, digitally enhanced by Peter Jackson to create 'Mt Doom'

Multi colored lakes are a highlight of the walk.

Walking on layers and layers of ancient lava flow, this is an unforgettable a one day trek.

Well maintained pathways make access to the summit accessible to all.

  • 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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The Forgotten Highway

The Forgotten World Highway is a fantastic adventure option for driving to New Plymouth. It wriggles its way over four mountain saddles, through an eerie one-lane tunnel and along a sinuous river gorge. The only significant settlement on the way is 'The Republic of Whangamomona' with it's historic hotel, famous for it's hospitality. 

  • Allow: Total driving time from Tongariro to New Plymouth 3 + hours
  • Cost:
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Summer
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A New Zealand Republic

Whangamomona Republic

Declared in 1998, this proud village-sized republic that nobody takes very seriously, including the locals, is situated on the Forgotten Highway. On arrival in the town, visitors are requested to call at the Whangamomona Pub to have their passports stamped before "re-entering" New Zealand when they leave. 


The current president is Vicki Pratt, who claims she "wasn't interested in becoming president but was somehow picked, against the wishes of a number of her countrymen and women, while she was working in the kitchen" 

For an insight to the workings of the republic, visit this page - http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranak. 

Our photo of the Whangamomona Pub was taken on Republic Day, held every two years, the highlight of the day being a sheep race down the main street.

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost:
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Summer
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The Len Lye Centre

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre

For a full description of this amazing new gallery, read the blogs we wrote after our recent visit to New Plymouth - North Island Highlights - New Plymouth & Len Lye Center

  • Allow: 1 hour
  • Cost: US$15.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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New Coastal Walkway

New Plymouth Walkway

For a full description of the recently completed Walkway, read the blog we wrote after our recent visit to the city - North Island Highlights - New Plymouth Walkway

  • Allow: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Summer
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Hemi Matenga Reserve

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.

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

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)



  • 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" 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.

Wellington's famous inner city slice of bohemia, Cuba Street.

Cuba Street - shopping, dining and street performers. And home to some quirky cafes serving excellent coffee.

The Wellington Cable Car runs from downtown and offers exceptional views of the city.

Wellington's "solace  of the wind' statue looks out over the harbor.

Easily accessible from the city, Mount Victoria lookout offers 360 degree scenic views.

A stunning view of Wellington city seen from Mount Victoria.

  • Allow: Tailored to your needs
  • Cost: Free, as long as Jerry is in town when you visit.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Te Papa National Museum

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. At the museum, 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 interesting insights to New Zealand. The best introduction to Te Papa is to take a 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.

Opened in 1998 and designed by local architect Ivan Mercep of Jasmax Architects.

'The Great War' exhibition was created by Te Papa and Peter Jackson's Weta workshop.

Te Papa displays a large collection of native plants, sea creatures, birds and native animals.

An authentic and inclusive marae (Maori communal meeting place) is found on level 4. 

  • 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. We suggest a visit in the late afternoon to hear the dusk chorus of the birds 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.

Pukeko, one of NZ's most interesting looking native birds, can be found roaming freely around the reserve. 

Explore the sanctuary by torchlight experiencing rare and endangered species that only appear at night.

On a night tour your group might see some of the 130 little spotted kiwi who call Zealandia their home.

Tuatara, the rare and unique NZ native, is one of Zealandia's most popular inhabitants.

Your guides use their knowledge of birdsong, habitats and flora to find track down the unique birds & animals.

Kakariki or New Zealand parakeets are easily found due to their vibrant colors.

  • 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..

Weta Workshop is a mini museum and small shop celebrating some very big movies.

Taking photos is prohibited within the workshop but the foyer has plenty of incredible sculptures on display.

Waiting to greet you outside, the amazing stone trolls will make the perfect selfie for any Hobbit fan.

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: From $25
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Overnight Doubtful Sound

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.

  • 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 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 make for a thrilling ride.

For the less adventurous, you can enjoy the scenery while waiting for the others to finish their ride.

  • 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 Cruise

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

Alternatively, you can drive your car from Queenstown, around the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy and from there, find the start of the track and walk in. It's an in-and-out walk, so when you've seen enough, make your way back to the carpark. This is not such an in-depth look at the track, but if you just want to enjoy the stunning scenery, this option would be the right choice.

Or you can take the 3-day guided Routeburn hike and see scenery like this!

The Kea parrot. Inquisitive, cheeky and skilled thieves. Heavy fines apply if caught feeding them.

  • 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 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.

  • 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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