- 12 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.
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.
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
This is one New Zealand's iconic visitor attractions. The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa is unique to New Zealand and thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light as your expert guides explains the Caves' historical and geological significance. A highlight of a visit to Waitomo Caves is the river boat ride under the thousands of magical glowworms.
If you depart from Auckland nice and early you'll have time to include a drive of one hour round-trip to the colorful seaside town of Raglan, the place made famous by film-maker Bruce Brown in his legendary surfing documentary 'The Endless Summer' A must-do for anyone with even the vaguest connection with surfing. We have a blog about our visit to Raglan here.
In 2011, local resident Barry Cox decided to construct a unique church on his remote rural farm, made of living trees. He never imagined it ever becoming a tourist attraction but there's been so much interest in his project that his Tree Church Gardens is now available for public viewing. Enjoy first-hand the living Church, the labyrinth walk and the extensive gardens. Read about our visits to the Tree Church in our blog - North Island Highlights - The Tree Church & The Warden
Towards the end of todays drive, take this excursion, away from the main route south, into one of the most remote parts of the North Island, the tiny settlement of Kakahi. Here you are able to visit their Glow Worm Caves, much less known than their famous cousins at Waitomo but offering the advantage of a free visit. Also, keep an eye out for local delicacy, freshwater mussels.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is widely regarded as the best one-day trek available in New Zealand and is ranked among the top ten single-day treks in the world. This will be a long day and a challenging one, traversing a remarkable volcanic landscape. Ever present as you walk is the brooding Mount Ngauruhoe, used by filmmaker Peter Jackson as Mt Doom in his Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies.
The is one of New Zealand's best river rafting experiences. After an on-shore safety briefing and paddle instructions with an experienced guide you begin your white water rafting journey on grade 3 rapids – an ideal grade for experienced paddlers or first-time rafters. In 2.5 hours you navigate over 60 roller coaster rapids with your expert guide at the helm and treated to sights only accessed by raft.
Taranaki Falls is a 20-minutes drive away from National Park Village where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. An easy 2 hours loop, the Taranaki Falls Walk leads to the waterfalls lookout, and then to the waterfall's base. The track is awesome! The first part of the track goes through the alpine grassland with amazing views of the volcanoes. The second part of the loop goes through the beech forest with some river crossings (all bridged) and small waterfalls.
This beautiful lake is a 25 minute drive from the town of National Park where most of our New Zealand Vacations customers will stay. From the Rotopounamu car park it's just a 20 minute walk to the lake or 2 hours if you choose to walk around the 3 mile loop trail. Beautiful Rotopounamu (the greenstone lake) is nestled into the side of Mt Pihanga and is a favorite place for birdwatchers, walkers and swimmers.
Just 25 minutes south of Tongariro is a side road to Pipiriki, the access point one of the most remote and beautiful rivers in New Zealand, The Whanganui River. You'll travel by jet boat exploring magnificent forest scenery, deep ravines covered in mosses and an array of native ferns.
This option will require an extra day to be added to your vacation, but it's a choice you will never regret. Stay overnight at The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge deep in the Whanganui National Park wilderness, perched high above the river and accessible only by jet boat, canoe, by foot or helicopter. The canoe journey downstream, back to Pipiriki is simply breathtaking
At the town of Waikenae, an hour and a half south of 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.
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)
Kapiti Island Tui
New Zealand Vacations director Jerry Bridge also owns the company "What To Do in Wellington" and Jerry says that as long as he's in town (which he usually is) he will personally provide all New Zealand Vacations customers with an exclusive and free personalized tour of Wellington, visiting the main points of interest and some "off the beaten path" places as well. All you'll be responsible for are entry fees at the places you choose to visit. Thank's Jerry and your "What To Do in Wellington" team.
Te Papa is a state of the art modern museum, bringing together under one roof both the Maori & European history of New Zealand. It is New Zealand's national museum, the largest cultural project in New Zealand's history, completed in 1998 at a cost of $317 million. You will encounter Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, through authentic portrayals of their traditions and living culture, including an opportunity to visit a unique Marae (communal meeting place) Then there's the geology, the geography and other exhibitions that will give you the best insights to New Zealand in the country. The best introduction to Te Papa is a 90 minute guided tour that explains Maori culture and treasures, art and New Zealand's colonial history.
The Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary is an outstanding example of efforts to save New Zealand most endangered native birds and animals. Visit in late afternoon to hear the dusk chorus of the birds before the nocturnal animals come to life or consider a night tour for a special experience. This will be the best opportunity on your itinerary to see such a wide variety of beautiful native birds and other native wildlife.
Although famous for their award winning work on movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, the
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.