- 25 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.
After leaving Auckland you will soon be enjoying the landscapes that lie at the heart of New Zealand’s economy, the farming region called The Waikato. An easy drive of around 3 hours, passing small towns and farms along the way. For the more adventurous we have suggested some interesting activities and diversions that will add to your driving time and of course the big attraction for many will be the Lord of The Rings settlement of Hobbiton.
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
After passing through gentle farmlands on the road to Taupo you join the spectacular Thermal Highway between to Napier, climbing through forest-covered mountains and some great views. At times the road is winding so care is needed. The road then descends through farmland and fruit orchards for your first glimpses of beautiful Hawkes Bay.
This is the Hawkes Bay, one of the premier wine growing regions of New Zealand. Restaurants, chic cafes and wine tasting opportunities abound in this quiet, sun drenched and peacful corner of the North Island with all local roads leading to the fascinating Art Deco city of Napier.
This will be the longest day of our North Island itinerary, a 4 hour drive, traveling south to the capital of Wellington. Highlights will include boutique vineyards, charming country towns, great scenery and at the end of the day the winding hills of the spectacular Rimutaka Ranges.
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.
A diversion at Balcutha takes you to the coastal roads of Southland, the most rugged, remote and beautiful corner of New Zealand, the place they call The Catlins. It's a long day, so an early start is needed, but for those who make the effort there will be rich rewards.
From Curio Bay it's just another hours easy drive through rolling farmland to the city of Invercargill on New Zealand's southern coast. Read about our visit on our blog at - Day 5 - The Wild & Remote Catlins; Curio Bay, McLean Falls, Purakanui Falls
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.
The first part of todays journey takes you up the Oreti River, through a series of rural settlements. After Lumsden, the scenery becomes gradually more alpine. Enjoy a break in Kingston and from here, the road clings to the edge of Lake Wakatipu nearly all the way to 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.
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.
If you wish to enjoy the Whale Watch experience, we suggest you allow 2 1/2 hours to get to Kaikoura in time to check-in (Check-in times over summer are 7.15am, 10.00am, 12.45pm or 3:00pm) Enjoy the other experiences you have selected on your Wish List before ending your day with the easy and beautiful drive along the coast to Blenheim.
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.
Prices start at
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Halfway between Taupo and Napier, not far from the Waipunga Waterfalls is the Tarawera Cafe, one of the few places on this stretch of road where you can enjoy a coffee while you stretch your legs and relax.
Roughly halfway on todays drive, make a stop at the beautiful Waipunga Falls and the Waiarua Falls. Both waterfalls are clearly signposted and easy accessible with great views from the car park.
In 1931 Napier was almost completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake. An interesting outcome of interest to visitors from the USA is that after the earthquake, a delegation visited Santa Barbara in California which had been rebuilt after their terrible earthquake of 1925. As a result of this visit the city fathers decided that Napier would be rebuilt in the Spanish Mission style of Santa Barbara, but although examples of this style are still to be found, it was the Art Deco style of the 30's that eventually prevailed.
This is the world's largest and most accessible colony of gannets birds where over 6,500 breeding pairs make their homes. Travel from Napier in a specialized air conditioned 4x4 vehicle to these amazing nesting grounds, a 'must see' for any visitor.
A fun filled wine tasting afternoon with like-minded people anxious to gain an appreciation of this regions fantastic wine. Visit four to five wineries including an enjoyable cheese platter besides the lilly pond at Ngatarawa Vineyard. Taste around 30 different wines including the main varieties, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.
'On Yer Bike Winery Tours' offers a great fun one-day cycling experience exploring wineries in the region by bike, following a user-friendly map. Discover some of the regions finest wineries, taste wines and take in the superb scenery of the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle wine growing regions. The terrain is flat and the cycling easy passing vineyards, olive groves, horse studs, orchards and farmland.
Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is a sanctuary for wounded and endangered New Zealand wildlife. It's also home to a rare white North Island Brown Kiwi, the only one in captivity. Wander through the interactive gallery and watch the lizard like Tuatara being fed at 11.30am daily. In the Kiwi Nocturnal House you might see a kiwi chick being fed in the nursery or if you are really lucky, witness a hatching!
A special feature of todays drive are the rural landscapes and small towns you will encounter along the way. American film director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, The Termintor) chose to make his New Zealand home in the Wairarapa district. Our favorite place is Greytown, with many beautiful examples of Victorian architecture and some excellent cafes. This part of New Zealand, centered at the town of Martinborough also has over 25 boutique vineyards and some fabulous restaurants, tempting those who might like to add a day to their itinerary to savor the local delights!
A full-scale working adaptation of the world famous Stonehenge in England has been built right here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) allowing you to experience the wonders of the stone circles. You will discover how stones, posts and shadows were used to unlock the mysteries of the earth and sky to form a cornerstone to the rise of civilization. Situated close to the town of Carterton.
The last hour of today's journey will take you over the Rimutaka Ranges, affording spectacular views of the sorrounding forest covered hillsides. It's a windy road, sealed the whole way, one lane in each direction, steep in parts and sometimes subject to high wind warnings. The highest point is The Remutaka Pass at 1820 feet.
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.
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.
This is a beautiful place where towering mountain chains meet an ocean rich in marine wildlife, the most famous being the worlds largest toothed predator the Sperm Whale. So incredibly deep are the coastal waters of Kaikoura that the whales are able to live here throughout the year and that means a 95% success rate in whale sightings by local whale watching operators.
Swim with, or watch the dolphins in their natural environment off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand. Whether you choose to view these delightful mammals from the boat or join them in the ocean, you will have a unique and enjoyable experience.
As you travel around New Zealand there are many opportunities to learn about Maori history and customs from a local perspective. This example is our favorite. It's operated by a local family, it communicates with visitors in a warm and welcoming way and it introduces them into the fascinating world of the Maori people of Kaikoura at a grass roots level. We strongly recommend this as one of the best.
Just 15 miles north of Kaikoura at Half Moon Bay you can view seals playing or sunning themselves on the boulders and beach below the road. Between May & October also walk up the adjacent Ohau Falls Track (10 min) to view dozens of baby seals playing in a large pool below the falls. Probably the "cutest" of the experiences you will enjoy in New Zealand, so don't forget your camera.
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.