- 12 Days -
We're just assembling some amazing activities to choose from - wont be long!
Auckland ◦ Waitomo Caves ◦ The Tongariro Crossing ◦ Weka Workshops Wellington ◦ Ferry North Is to South Is via The Marlborough Sounds ◦ Premier wine growing region, Marlborough ◦ Abel Tasman National Park.
This price is based on two persons sharing a room and includes accommodation and the use of a rental car. Prices will vary according to your actual travel dates and accommodation choices.
Auckland is not only the biggest city in New Zealand, it's also the gateway to some amazing local 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 an ideal starting point for any New Zealand trip, be it to enjoy great scenery, fascinating local culture, or fine food and wines.
If you have the time, you can select activities from the options below to create your own Wish List.
This will be a long day of driving, but with many interesting activities to enjoy along the way. The highlight for most will be the world famous Waitomo Caves. A great start to your self drive North Island tour.
This massive high country plateau, a World Heritage Park, is an incredibly diverse region of tussock grassland, wild rivers, forests and birdlife with the three volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominating the landscape. There are great walking and biking trails, white water rafting, some of the best trout fishing in the world and the highlight of any visit, the Tongariro Crossing. The ultimate destination for any adventurer.
Instead of taking the the main road south, follow the beautiful Whanganui River Road for 80 miles, passing rural landscapes and enjoying forest and river views until you reach the town of Wanganui. From Wanganui, rejoin the main road south for an easy drive, following the coastline and reaching the capital city of Wellington two hours later.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the country's most cosmopolitan city. Since the opening of the new National Museum "Te Papa" it has become an increasingly popular destination for international visitors and food lovers will appreciate the large number of excellent boutique cafes and ethnic restaurants that are a feature of the city.
This is a 3 to 4 hour ferry trip, carrying both passengers and vehicles, with several sailings a day. Most of the journey is within Wellington Harbor and in the South Island, the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The arrival and departure terminal in the South Island is Picton, just 20 minutes away from Blenheim and the wine growing region of Marlborough. Picton is also at the start of what many regard as New Zealand's most scenic drive, the Queen Charlotte Sound Drive and within 2 hours the city of Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.
Blenheim lies at the heart of Marlborough, the wine-growing region that first brought New Zealand wines to the attention of serious wine lovers from around the world. There are more than 20 wineries within driving distance of the town, and most of them welcome visitors for sampling sessions and cellar door sales.
Today will be a highlight of your New Zealand vacation as you drive north to Picton where you join the wonderful Queen Charlotte Sound Drive, one of the most scenic drives in the country.
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.
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.
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.
Relaxing on Waiheke Island, with Auckland visible in the distance.
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.
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.
This is a terrific opportunity to experience some of New Zealand’s best walking tracks along the trails of the wild West Coast, just 45 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.
In 2007 the original Auckland Art Gallery was completely closed for 4 years while it underwent extensive renovations. Since reopening it has established itself as one of the country's most iconic buildings. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of traditional and contemporary international works of art. The gallery is located right in the heart of the city and also boasts the largest permanent collection of New Zealand art. Their popular cafe is a great place to enjoy a coffee or lunch and the back entrance looks out on Albert Park and the adjoining University of Auckland. A nice place for a stroll to admire the historic fountain, bandstand and flower gardens.
The stunning entrance to the gallery.
Auckland, also known as 'The City of Sails' is the city that provided the core of the team that first won the America’s Cup in 1995 in San Diego. Here's your opportunity to feel the thrill of sailing an authentic America’s Cup yacht. Take the helm to help steer, work hard on the grinders to hoist the mainsail or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Join the crew and help steer the impressive yacht around Auckland harbor, a must do for yachting enthusiasts.
We can help you arrange a free self-guided walk around the city or for a more in-depth experience, you can walk with an expert guide to discover some of the hidden treasures of Auckland City. From the must-see highlights and picturesque views, to the trendy backstreets and cultural offerings, there will be a range of experiences on offer and stories about how this young city emerged from a narrow volcanic isthmus to become a bustling, cosmopolitan city on the edge of the world.
Britomarkt is Auckland's waterfront precinct and with heritage buildings,new architecture, eateries, health and beauty and designer boutiques it's a must see on any walking city tour.
If you depart from Auckland nice and early you'll have time to include a drive of one hour round-trip to the colorful seaside town of Raglan, the place made famous by film-maker Bruce Brown in his legendary surfing documentary 'The Endless Summer' A must-do for anyone with even the vaguest connection with surfing. We have a blog about our visit to Raglan here.
In 2011, local resident Barry Cox decided to construct a unique church on his remote rural farm, made of living trees. He never imagined it ever becoming a tourist attraction but there's been so much interest in his project that his Tree Church Gardens is now available for public viewing. Enjoy first-hand the living Church, the labyrinth walk and the extensive gardens. Read about our visits to the Tree Church in our blog - North Island Highlights - The Tree Church & The Warden
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.
The Black Abyss is the ultimate Waitomo adventure, the caving tour of choice for natural born adrenaline junkies and those who want to experience the thrill of an amazing underground adventure. It starts with a descent into the seemingly bottomless black depths of the glow worm studded Ruakuri Cave. This next five hours will be an expedition that combines abseiling the 35 metre 'tomo', some climbing, whizzing down a flying fox and then cave-tubing underneath brilliant glow worm canopies. An unforgettable journey of the very best that Waitomo has to offer. At every stage you're accompanied and supported by experienced caving guides from 'The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.' who know nearly every square inch of this environment, one that is unique to the world.
To quote a colleague who completed the Black Water Abyss "This was the most amazing adventure of my New Zealand vacation. I was still bouncing off the walls several weeks later at the memory of it all"
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.
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.
Navigating one of the 60 white water rapids.
Taking in the scenery on gentler parts of the rafting journey.
A calmer part of the stunning Tongariro River.
Easy to see why its one of New Zealand's best white water rafting experiences.
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.
Views from within the beech forest.
View from the base of the Taranaki waterfall.
Waitere stream looking towards Mt Ruapehu from the bridge above Taranaki Falls.
The views of the Falls from the top make the 2 hour loop is well worth the walk.
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.
View of the 'hidden' lake from the summit above.
The lake attracts lots of bird life often seen on the beach or in the surrounding forest.
The 3 mile loop trail around the lake has stunning forest scenery.
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.
The ravines and river banks make for stunning scenery.
Travelling down the river on a jet boat.
The stunning scenery with moss lining the riverbanks.
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.
The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge with its gorgeous wild surroundings.
Map of the showing the Lodge within Whanganui National Park.
Canoeing down the Whanganui river.
Jet boating to the lodge from Pipiriki.
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.
A stream coming down the summit at Hemi Matenga Scenic Reserve.
The different tracks available around the Scenic Reserve.
View of Kapiti Island and Waikenae from the summit.
Forest covered Kapiti Island, 3 miles off the coast north of Wellington, is our favorite island nature reserve. It's one of the oldest and most secure publically accessible nature reserves in the world. Free of all introduced pests and predators, visitors can expect to see many endemic bird species, some of which are no longer found on the New Zealand mainland. You can visit Kapiti Island for just a day or to truly experience all the island has to offer, make an overnight stay. Some of the beautiful birds you will seee on Kapiti include -
Kaka, Weka, Little Spotted Kiwi (if you stay overnight), Tieke (Saddleback), Kokako, Hihi (Stitchbird), Ruru (Morepork), Tui, Korimako (Bellbird), Kakariki, Kereru, Toutouwai (North Island Robin), Popokatea (Whitehead), Piwakawaka (Fantail)
New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" and Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide all New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington, visiting the main points of interest and some "off the beaten path" places as well. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and your "What To Do in Wellington" team.
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.
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.
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.
Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the
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.
No other New Zealand winery has played such an important role in establishing Marlborough and New Zealand's reputation for producing some of the world finest wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. Now owned by the French company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, this vineyard offers visitors a stylish and enjoyable tasting experience.
Working quietly behind the scenes, movie director Sir Peter Jackson and a small group dedicated enthusiasts created the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre situated just a 10 minute drive from Blenheim. The Knights of the Sky exhibition, features Sir Peter Jackson’s own collection of World War 1 aircraft and rare artifacts. The story of aviation in the Great War of 1914-18 is brought to life in sensational sets, lovingly created by the combined talents of WingNut Films and the Weta Workshop. A 'must do' for anyone with an interest in history.
A nice and early start is recommended for todays spectacular drive, there's a lot to see and do, especially on the road between Picton and Havelock. Stop at the lookout near the Havelock end of the road for breathtaking views. Parts of todays drive encounters some sharp and twisting turns but proceed carefully and you will be well rewarded with a most enjoyable day.
Only a minute off the road to Motueka this gallery displays 60 World of WearableArt award-winning creations submitted for competition by designers from all over the world. Anyone with even the slightest interest in fashion and design will be thrilled by what they experience here. The adjacent antique car collection will be enjoyed by motoring enthusiasts.
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.