- 25 Days -

Off The Beaten Path Self Drive Tour

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

Highlights

Auckland ◦ Hobbiton ◦ Rotorua ◦ Lake Taupo ◦ Wine regions Hawkes Bay & Wairarapa ◦ Wellington ◦ Dunedin ◦ The Otago Peninsula ◦ The Catlins ◦ Stewart Island ◦ Queenstown ◦ The Southern Alps ◦ Aorakai Mt Cook ◦ Christchurch ◦ Whale Watching ◦ Marlborough wine growing region ◦ Abel Tasman National Park ◦ Queen Charlotte Sound Drive ◦ Nelson.


Price

From

$3088.00

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 Napier

  • 136 Miles
  • 2 3/4 Hours

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.

Days 5 to 7

Art Deco Napier, Wine Country

This is the Hawkes Bay, the first wine growing region established in New Zealand and today, producing some of the countries finest wines. The restaurants, chic cafes and wine tasting opportunities in this peaceful and sun drenched corner of the North Island make it a favorite destination for discerning visitors.

Day 7

Drive from Napier to Wellington

  • 200 Miles
  • 4 Hours

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.

Days 7 to 9

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 9

Fly from Wellington to Dunedin

  • Flight
  • 1 Hour 10 Minute Flight

Days 9 to 11

Dunedin, Wildlife Gateway

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. On June 18, 2018 CNN published an article titled Dunedin: New Zealand's Most Underrated City? that is well worth reading. 

Day 11

Drive from Dunedin to Curio Bay & The Catlins

  • 110 Miles
  • 2 1/2 Hours

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.

Day 11

Drive Curio Bay to Invercargill

  • 50 Miles
  • 1 Hour

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

Days 11 to 14

Stewart Island & The South Coast

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.

Day 14

Drive from Invercargill to Queenstown

  • 116 Miles
  • 2.5 Hours

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.

Days 14 to 17

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.

Days 14 to 17

Wanaka (Option)

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. 

Day 17

Drive From Queenstown to Twizel

  • 123 Miles
  • 2 1/2 Hours

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. 

Days 17 to 19

Twizel

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.

Day 19

Drive from Twizel to Christchurch

  • 190 Miles
  • 4 Hours

Days 19 to 21

The New Christchurch

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.

Day 21

Drive from Christchurch to Blenheim

  • 192 Miles
  • 2 Hours to Kaikoura then 1 1/2 hours to Blenheim

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.

Days 21 to 23

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.

Day 23

Drive from Blenheim to Motueka

  • 115 Miles
  • 3 hours

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.  

Days 23 to 25

Motueka

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!

Day 25

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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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 Tarawera Cafe

This is no downtown Starbucks, it's a cafe that's about as remote as a cafe can be. Located halfway between Taupo and Napier, not far from the beautiful Waipunga Waterfalls is the Tarawera Cafe. This is one of the few places on this stretch of road where you can enjoy a coffee while you stretch your legs and relax. Read about local life on the Notice Board or take a stroll along one of the adjacent forest tracks.


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Waipunga Waterfalls

Roughly halfway on todays drive between Taupo and Napier, 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. 

The Waipunga Falls, easily accessible, about half way between Taupo and Napier.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Classic Vineyards Tour

Guided Vineyards tour - Havelock North and Cape Coast Wineries

Visit up to 7 of this region's finest wineries and enjoy easy cycling on some stunning, off road trails following the beautiful Tuki Tuki River and the coast. 

Your cycle starts at the small, boutique winery of Red Barrell in the village of Havelock North where you have the opportunity to taste their wines before continuing on to Black Barn Vineyards. Here you can visit the vineyard gallery featuring some great New Zealand art. 

If you happen to be in town over the summer, make sure you check the concert schedule for the annual Black Barn outdoor amphitheatre concerts. Past guests have included English rocker Rod Stewart, Canadian Bryan Adams and UB40 (early bookings an absolute must!). 

A short ride will then take you to Te Mata Estate winery before joining the Landscapes Trail for a scenic, off road cycle to the coast through stunning orchard country. 

On arrival in the coastal village of Haumoana enjoy visits to the rustic Beach House winery, Elephant Hill Estate, Clearview Estate and Te Awanga Estate. 

Lunch is available at either Elephant Hill or Clearview before your return transfer to your accommodation. 

  • Allow: 4-Hours. Total cycling distance 10-miles.
  • Cost: From $241.00 per person.
  • Age: 20+
  • Best time: November - April
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Food & Wine in Style

A Twilight Odyssey

Your late afternoon progressive dinner starts with a scenic drive through the vineyards as your guide talks about the Hawkes Bay region and its world class wines.

At your first stop enjoy a full interactive wine tasting alongside gourmet platters at the Vidal Estate. 

Sunset from the summit of Te Mata Peak.

Then it's summit of Te Mata Peak. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views, 1300 ft above sea level while enjoying a glass of bubbles and watching the setting sun.

Then proceed to Craggy Range Vineyards or Elephant Hill Vineyards for the main course served with wine. 

Finish a fun-filled evening with dessert and dessert wines at the country’s oldest and grandest winery, the Mission Estate.



  • Allow: 5 Hours - Afternoon
  • Cost: From $275.00 per person.
  • Age: Adults
  • Best time: November to April.
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Art Deco Napier

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. 


  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: Downloadable Self-guided Walk Brochure $6:00. One hour guided walking tour $17.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Cape Kidnappers Gannets

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.


  • Allow: 4-5 hours
  • Cost: From $75.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Mount Bruce Wildlife

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!


  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: $14.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Towns of Wairarapa

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!


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  • Best time: All year
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Stonehenge

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.


  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: From $16
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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The Rimutaka Ranges

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. 


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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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The Yellow Eyed Penguins

This half-day wildlife tour on the rugged and beautiful Otago Peninsula includes the afternoon arrival from the sea of the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins. To watch these delightful little animals returning to their beach and then slowly making their way to their overnight nests is an incredibly moving experience. You will hear about the impact of penguin conservation and know that your visit contributes to the ongoing conservation effort. Other marine wildlife encountered on this tour include Hooker's Sea lions, Blue Penguins and a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. 

  • Allow: Half A Day
  • Cost: From $180.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Royal Albatross Colony

This is your 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, watching these magnificent birds something never to be forgotten. Update July 03, 2018. The New Zealand Herald reports on a recent new arrival at the colony that's been named after American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Donations Appreciated
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Larnach Castle & Gardens

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'

  • Allow: 1 - 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $30 Castle, Garden and Grounds access
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Tunnel Beach Walkway

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. 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year but closed during the lambing season from August to October.
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Dunedin Railway Station

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Taiere Gorge Rail

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.

  • Allow: Half Day
  • Cost: From $91
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Chocolate World

Stop Press: Sadly, Chocolate world recently closed. You can read the story behind its demise in local newspaper Stuff

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!

  • Allow: One Hour
  • Cost: From $17
  • Age: All ages
  • Best time: All year
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Best Botanic Garden in NZ

The Dunedin Botanic Gardens

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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Nugget Point Lighthouse

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. 

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Falls are probably the prettiest waterfalls in New Zealand. Located in the heart of the Catlins Forest Park, it's an easy walk from the roadway 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 Purakanui Falls on our blog at - Day 5 - The Wild & Remote Catlins; Curio Bay, McLean Falls, Purakanui Falls

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Cathedral Caves

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.

  • Allow: 45 Minutes
  • Cost: Small charge for use of the car park
  • Age: All
  • Best time: October - May
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The Petrified Forest

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

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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One Day Stewart Island

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.

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: $200.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Overnight Stewart Island

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

  • Allow: 2 Days
  • Cost: Varies
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Ulva 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

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $125.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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World's Fastest Indian

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.

  • Allow: Half hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All year
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Riverton

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.

  • Allow: 1 - 2 days
  • Cost: None
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Mores Reserve, Riverton

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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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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The Rob Roy Glacier Hike

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.

Just one step in front of the other is all it takes.

Exploration time.

  • Allow: Full Day
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: 10 +
  • Best time: All Year - avalanches and extreme cold are possible in winter, June to November.
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Kayak Lake Wanaka

This is a fantastic introduction to kayaking, with an easy guided paddle that explores the beautiful Lake Wanaka shoreline. The scenery you'll encounter as you paddle is outstanding. Light snacks and refreshments provided and no prior experience of kayaking is required.


  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: Adults US$68.00. Child under 13 US$55.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November to April
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The Cadrona Distillery

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.


  • Allow: 1 - 2 hours
  • Cost: US$20.00 - Includes a journey through the working distillery and barrelhouse and a tasting of Cardrona Distillery's offerings.
  • Age: Adults
  • Best time: All Year
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Biking Wanaka

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!

Heading home.

The best mountain biking in New Zealand

Speed and control.

Time to pause and admire the view.

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: Varies according to bicycle type and length of bike hire.
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Mt Difficulty Vineyard

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: Adult
  • Best time: All Year
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Cromwell Town

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.

  • Allow: 30 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Lindis Pass

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. 

  • Allow: An hour
  • Cost:
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Road gets closed at times during winter.
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The Clay Cliffs at Paritea

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

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

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

  • Allow: 40 Minutes drive from the main highway - each way
  • Cost:
  • Age:
  • Best time:
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Tasman Glacier Lake

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.

  • Allow: 2.5 Hours
  • Cost: USD105.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: Septembern to May (Subject to winter ice thawing at end of August)
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Hooker Valley Walk

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 

  • Allow: 3-4 Hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: 10+
  • Best time: All Year but winter is subject to alpine weather conditions
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Mt John Observatory

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

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: Expert Guided Tour from $145 for an adult
  • Age: 8+
  • Best time: October - April
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Church of The Good Shepherd

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.

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Geraldine

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

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Big Tree Walk, Peel Forest

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.

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Rakaia Gorge

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

  • Allow: 1 Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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International Antarctic Centre

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! 

  • Allow: 2 Hours
  • Cost: From $85.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Avon River Punting

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. 

  • Allow: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: From $28.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Christchurch Historic Tram

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.

  • Allow: Varies
  • Cost: From $20.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Christchurch Art Gallery

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.

  • Allow: Minimum One Hour
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Whale Watch Kaikoura

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.

  • Allow: 3.5 Hours
  • Cost: From $145
  • Age: 3+
  • Best time: All year
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Dolphins Kaikoura

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.

  • Allow: 3 1/2 Hours
  • Cost: From $170
  • Age: 8+
  • Best time: November - April
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Maori Tours Kaikoura

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.

  • Allow: 2 hour
  • Cost: $125.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time:
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The Kaikoura Seal Colony

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.

  • Allow: 10-20 minutes
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Cloudy Bay Winery

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. 

  • Allow: 1 hour
  • Cost: Varies
  • Age: 18+
  • Best time: All Year
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Omaka Aviation Centre

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.

  • Allow: 1 hour +
  • Cost: From $22.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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The Queen Charlotte Drive

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.

  • Allow: 3 hours +
  • Cost: Free
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - March
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Wearable Art Gallery Nelson

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. 

  • Allow: 45 minutes
  • Cost: $18.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Abel Tasman National Park

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. 

  • Allow: Half day
  • Cost: Free entry to PARK
  • Age: All
  • Best time: November - April
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Cape Farewell

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.



  • Allow: Full day
  • Cost: From $250.00
  • Age: All
  • Best time: All Year
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Cape Farewell Horse Treks

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. 

  • Allow: Drive to and from Puponga 2 hours. Trek is 3-3.5 hours
  • Cost: US$120 per person.
  • Age: Over 16 - basic horse riding skills a must
  • Best time: November to April
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