Highlights: Queenstown | Mount Cook | Big Sky Star Gazing | Christchurch | Kaikoura Whale Watching | Nelson – Abel Tasman National Park | Rotorua | Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Valley | Waitomo Caves | Auckland | Waiheke Island
Explore New Zealand through the eyes of a local, adventuring through Queenstown, Mount Cook, Abel Tasman and more.
Take your pick of excursions out of Queenstown, then let the stars of Mount Cook surpass your wildest expectations and the colorful grounds of Rotorua challenge what you thought you knew about nature.
Stop in Kaikoura to swim with dusky dolphins or search for sperm whales aboard a boat tour, then travel by foot through Abel Tasman to feel like a true Kiwi adventurer among the trails.
The Waitomo Caves, Waiheke Island and Auckland wrap up the trip..
Itinerary at a Glance
The below itinerary is only a suggestion, we offer tailor-made personal service and solutions to help you plan your perfect vacation. This itinerary is also available in the reverse direction.
Day 1 Arrive Queenstown Welcome to New Zealand! Upon arrival in Queenstown we have included a transfer to your hotel. With the majestic Remarkables Ranges and Lake Wakatipu at your doorstep, it’s no wonder Queenstown is known for its adventure activities. Of course, you don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to appreciate the town’s appeal. There is plenty available to those wishing to relax and indulge, from the fine wines of the region to the many shops lining Queenstown’s streets. The best mountain views are to be had at the Skyline Gondola, which has a panoramic restaurant overlooking the town, and Lake Wakatipu, where travelers enjoy scenic cruises on a historic steamboat.
Day 2 Queenstown – Today you have the choice of one of five Excursions
Today you can personalize your Queenstown experience by choosing one of these five tours, all sure to leave you with lifelong memories:
1. Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
Travel by coach from Queenstown to Milford Sound through sheer mountains, towering cliffs, rugged valleys and native rain forest. Once at Milford Sound board a catamaran for a leisurely cruise along the fiord, learning from the onboard Nature Guide, visiting the skipper in the wheelhouse or viewing wildlife like dolphins, seals and penguins. Lunch options are available for purchase (must be preordered) and complimentary tea and coffee is provided. After the cruise, return to Queenstown by coach.
Milford Sound Return Flight Upgrade (Approx $395 PP)
Upgrade your itinerary to include a return scenic flight to Queenstown. See magnificent views of the alps, glaciers, lakes and forests of Fiordland National Park from the air – it’s a quick and convenient way to return to Queenstown.
The flight shaves approximately 4 hours off a return by coach, however it is very weather dependent so it’s possible you will need to return by coach and have the upgraded price refunded to you. 2. Half Day Boutique Wine Tour Spend an afternoon among the boutique vineyards and spectacular scenery of Central Otago. Enjoy tastings at four wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Cromwell and Bannockburn regions plus a delightful platter-style lunch at Carrick Winery Restaurant. Visit historic Old Cromwell Town (time and weather permitting) and take a stunning drive through the Kawarau Gorge to learn about the early pioneering history of the region and see the historic Kawarau Bridge and the original AJ Hackett Bungy jump. 3. Sheep Station to Sheep Station Cycle Tour & Walter Peak BBQ Lunch Experience Queenstown’s surrounds with a cycle tour. Boarding a Spirit of Queenstown cruise to Mt Nicholas High Country Farm, disembark on the other side of Lake Wakatipu to begin your cycling journey. Ride at your own pace along a quiet country road, taking in views of the Southern Alps, Glenorchy and The Remarkables on the way. After cycling 14 kilometers (1.5 hours) to Walter Peak you’ll enjoy a barbecue lunch, then board the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw to return to Queenstown. 4. Walter Peak High Country Farm Excursion / Shotover Jetboat Ride Step aboard the TSS Earnslaw and enjoy a 40-minute cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. On arrival, wander through gardens or enjoy tea/coffee in the Colonel’s Homestead, then take a tour of the grounds to view sheep, red deer and Scottish Highland cattle. Highlights of the experience are watching the farm demonstrator shear a sheep, sheep dogs working stock and a wool spinning demonstration. Take the TSS Earnslaw back to Queenstown, then transfer by coach to the Shotover River for the jet boat ride of your life. 5. Half Day Wilderness Safari - Jetboat & Forest Walk Combine wilderness jet boating with a guided walk and back-country drive. Surrounded by breathtaking snow-covered peaks, hidden valleys, waterfalls and glacial valleys, you’ll take a thrilling jet boat through the ever-changing shallow channels of the Dart River’s braided system. Enjoy a guided walk through ancient native Beech forest where you’ll be fascinated by the unique flora and fauna, then journey by bus along a back-country route. Your driver will stop to view some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery and will share stories of the land on the way.
Day 3 Queenstown at Leisure Today is yours to spend however you please. Enjoy a scenic stroll along the lakefront, discover some of the lively restaurants and bars in town or simply relax and soak up the views from your hotel.
Day 4 Queenstown to Mount Cook (240km / 149mi) Today collect your vehicle and enjoy a gorgeous drive through alpine scenery to Mt Cook, a comfortable haven in one of the most unforgiving parts of New Zealand. On every side, the Southern Alps scrape the sky, and despite the unpredictable weather, Aoraki/Mt Cook is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit and explore.
This evening, you’ll have the chance to see one of New Zealand’s most magnificent attractions: a night sky that’s un-spoilt by light pollution and covered in a breathtaking blanket of stars.
Day 5 Lake Tekapo to Christchurch (309km / 192mi) Today’s journey takes you north through the MacKenzie country, passing the tiny Church of the Good Shepherd on the way. Built of local stone and oak in 1935 on the shores of Lake Tekapo, it’s a gorgeous little building that’s perfect for a photo op. Then, follow the foothills of the Southern Alps into Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.
Day 6 Christchurch to Kaikoura (181km / 112mi) Continue to the beautiful coastal town of Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea. Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning you have the choice of one of two sightseeing options, both sure to leave you with lifelong memories:
Option 1: A chance to swim with adorable dusky dolphins! These playful dolphins reside in Kaikoura’s coastal waters year-round, and pods of 100 dolphins or more are common. Get into the water and watch with delight as the dolphins swim, leap and play around you.
Option 2: Embark on a whale watching cruise to see giant sperm whales in action. While these year-round residents are always the star of the show, a typical tour can also include New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of dusky dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season, you may also see migrating humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales.
Day 7 Kaikoura to Nelson (243km / 150mi) Departing from the marine playground of Kaikoura, take a jaw-dropping coastal drive north to Nelson. Grab lunch at one of the roadside stalls selling incredibly fresh and fantastic lobster, then continue to Nelson, a stunning seaside town on the South Island and your gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Nelson is home to diverse communities that have blossomed on rich land in a Mediterranean climate. It is a true lifestyle destination based on adventure, art and nature, and you’ll pick up your new rental car here.
Day 8 Nelson - Abel Tasman National Park Cruise Today you’ll cruise into the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, a wilderness reserve known for its walking tracks and wildlife. Disembark at idyllic Medlands Beach in Bark Bay and walk to the long golden-sand beach of Anchorage via Torrent Bay. The track will have you weaving through sunny groves of Manuka and fern between breathtaking views of the granite coast and lush gullies of mature forest. Today’s cruise is a must on any New Zealand itinerary.
Day 9 Nelson to Rotorua (Flight) It’s time to say goodbye to the South Island as you drop your rental car off at the airport and take a short flight (not included) to Rotorua. Upon arrival, collect your new rental car and spend the day however you please.
Sitting squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua is a spectacular place to witness geothermal activity. The earth’s crust is at its most exciting and accessible in the downtown parks and lakefront, making it the ideal location to see giant geysers rocket into the air and colorful Sulphur terraces hiss and boil. But Rotorua is also more than boiling mud, and you can just as easily stroll through ancient forests and alongside pristine lakes. Packed with history and tikanga (culture) of the Maori people, you’ll have endless ways in which to spend your time, all equally as interesting.
Day 10 Exploring Rotorua Today we’ve included admission to Wai-O-Tapu: a geothermal wonderland loved by both the young and young at heart. Wai-O-Tapu means 'Sacred Water' in Maori, and you’ll see exactly why as you peruse hot pools ranging in color from turquoise blue and rich green to gold and an almost olive tone. This dazzling kaleidoscope of natural colors is caused by the many mineral salts in the water, including arsenic, gold and silver. Wai-O-Tapu is also the home to steaming vents, huge volcanic craters, the world-famous Champagne Pool and New Zealand’s largest bubbling mud pool – but the real highlight has to be the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts with spectacular flair every day at about 10:15am. The rest of the day is free to explore the many attractions of Rotorua.
Day 11 Rotorua to Auckland via Waitomo Caves (334km / 207mi) This morning you’ll depart Rotorua through the forested Mamaku Ranges to reach the famous Waitomo Caves where you meet your private Guide and take a short walk through breath taking New Zealand native bush to the cave entrance. Your guide will light candles setting the scene for an intimate cave experience. See glowworms and cave formations up close and appreciate the beauty of Footwhistle Cave (also known to local Maori as Te Anaroa Cave). Around a corner lie the bones of one of New Zealand's lost treasures, the ancient Moa bird. As the lights cast a warm glow over the stunning cave formations, your guide will speak a bit on the insects that live here - titiwai, the glow worm and tuna, the eel. After enjoying a relaxed stroll through the cave, take a seat in Footwhistle's Cathedral to see it lit up by a dazzling magnesium torch. After the tour, continue onto Auckland to drop off your rental car. Your hotel is located in the heart of the city, near the vibrant Viaduct Harbour and the new Wynyard Quarter. Spend the evening enjoying the fashionable viaduct and vibrant marina areas, then take the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure.
Day 12 Auckland – Today you have the choice of one of five tours Today you can personalize your Auckland experience by choosing one of these five tours, all sure to leave you with lifelong memories: 1. Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour Travel by ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island, Auckland’s food and wine neighbor just 12 miles away. Sample succulent New Zealand oysters, award-winning olive oil and other locally produced foods, all accompanied by wines from some of Waiheke’s top vineyards. Your guide will provide an entertaining and informative commentary as you go, and treats may include wild honey, the famous local green herb spread and artisan cheeses. A lunch platter at one of the area's top vineyard restaurants is included. 2. Explore the dramatic landscapes of the West Coast This small group eco tour to the Waitakere Ranges showcases the stunning beauty of Auckland’s wilder side. Visit dramatic landscapes with surf beaches and black sand, explore some of New Zealand's lush rain forests with ancient trees like the magnificent kauri tree and discover a hidden lake fringed by native bush and sand dunes. The tour includes a visit to a spectacular gannet colony, one of only three on mainland New Zealand (birds in residence approximately August to April). 3. Taste of Kumeu Wine & Food Tour The wineries of Kumeu date back to the 1930s, and some of New Zealand's most renowned wines are still going strong. Enjoy tastings at the award-winning Soljans Vineyard – which skillfully marries traditional with modern techniques to produce stylish, richly flavored wines – and a Mediterranean-style lunch at Soljans Winery restaurant. Take a break from wine tasting to see one of the few mainland gannet nesting sites in the world, then visit Matua Valley Wines and West Brook Winery. 4. Morning Guided Bike Tour of Auckland’s Waterfront / Afternoon America's Cup Sailing Experience This guided bike tour follows flat paths through the Viaduct Basin to the charming seaside community of Mission Bay. Relax, take a swim and enjoy light refreshments on the beach, then pedal back to Auckland for your sailing tour on Waitemata Harbour. Home to two of the America’s Cup races (the world’s oldest sporting trophy and ultimate yachting regatta), you’ll board a grand prix racer to take the helm, trim the grinders or sit back and enjoy the action. 5. Full Day Auckland Maori Culture & Sights Tour Experience Auckland’s fascinating Maori culture on a very personal small group tour to important historic sites. Learn how this unique living culture is an integral part of what Auckland and New Zealand has to offer, from its well-known cityscapes to its numerous volcanoes and the amazing West Coast. Finish with a visit to the Auckland Museum with its Maori and Polynesian Gallery. You can enjoy the Museum's Maori Cultural Performance to see a postural war dance (the haka) first-hand.
Day 13 Depart Auckland Today marks the end of your magical New Zealand adventure, and we’ve capped it off with a private transfer to Auckland Airport.
- 3 nights of accommodation at Scenic Suites Queenstown – Superior Room with View
- 1 night of accommodation at the The Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook – Standard View Mt Cook Room
- 1 night of accommodation at the Rydges Latimer Hotel, Christchurch – Superior Room
- 1 night of accommodation at The White Morph Motor Inn, Kaikoura – Deluxe Studio
- 2 nights of accommodation at The Rutherford Hotel, Nelson - Premium Room (Includes: Breakfast)
- 2 nights of accommodation at the Millennium Rotorua Hotel, Rotorua – Superior Lakeview Room
- 2 night of accommodation at M Social Hotel, Auckland – Social View Room
(Includes: Continental breakfast)
In Queenstown, the freedom to choose 1 of 5 Excursions
- Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, Milford Sound Nature Cruise)
- Half Day Boutique Wine Tour
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, wine tasting at 4 wineries and platter style lunch)
- Sheep Station to Sheep Station Cycle Tour & Walter Peak BBQ Lunch (Includes: One-way Spirit of Queenstown cruise and one-way TSS Earnslaw cruise, Walter Peak BBQ lunch, bicycle and bicycle helmet and cycle map)
- Shotover Jetboat Ride & Walter Peak High Country Farm Excursion
(Includes: Coach transfer to shotover Jet, Earnslaw cruise, high country life farm tour & tea/coffee and home baking)
- Half Day Wilderness Safari - Jetboat & Forest Walk
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off)
- Full Day Milford Sound Coach/Nature Cruise/Coach
- 8 Day rental Vehicle (full size) including insurance & GPS
- Evening Big Sky Stargazing
- In Kaikoura, a choice of either swimming with dolphins or a whale watching cruise
- Abel Tasman National Park Swing Bridge, Bush & Beach Cruise
- Admission to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Valley
- Admission to Glow Worm Caves
In Auckland, the freedom to choose 1 of 5 Excursions
- Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour
(Includes: Return ferry to Waiheke Island, Waiheke ferry terminal pick up and drop off, platter lunch and tastings)
- Day Tour of Auckland’s West Coast
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, Picnic Lunch)
- Afternoon Taste of Kumeu Wine and Food Tour
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, 3 wine tastings, vineyard lunch with a glass of wine)
- Morning Guided Bike Tour of Auckland’s Waterfront / Afternoon America's Cup Sailing Experience
(Includes: Private guide, bike, helmet, cable lock, souvenir map, light refreshments, life jackets)
- Auckland’s fascinating Maori Cultural Performance & City Sights
(Includes: Hotel pick-up/drop-off, snacks, refreshments and lunch, Auckland Museum and Maori Cultural Performance)
- Waiheke Island Gourmet Food & Wine Tour
- Private airport transfer to Auckland International Airport.
- National Park fees
- International or domestic airfares (unless specified above).
- Meals other than specified above.
- Travel insurance.
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