New Zealand Discovery
Highlights: Bay of Islands | Auckland | Waitomo Glowworm Caves | Hobbiton | Waimangu Volcanic Valley | Abel Tasman National Park | Swimming with Dolphins or Whale Watching Cruise | Queenstown
Beginning in the beautiful Bay of Islands, explore New Zealand’s rich culture, storied history and wildlife as you drive south to Queenstown.
Embark on a wilderness cruise, explore Auckland, whisk away to your choice of excursions and explore the geothermal landscapes of Rotorua.
You'll venture between beautiful beaches and fern-filled forests in Abel Tasman National Park, then continue to Kaikoura and Christchurch to take your pick of wildlife activities.
The trip comes to a close as you visit Queenstown, where once again you'll have your choice of one of five adventures..
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 Auckland to Bay of Islands Welcome to New Zealand! Fly into Kerikeri (not included) on the North Island, where you’ll pick up your rental car and drive to the beachside hamlet of Paihia amid the sunny Bay of Islands. Your beach resort has an award-winning spa onsite, as well as a wonderful restaurant. Local attractions include fabulous beaches, the quaint village of Russell, Kauri Cliffs Golf Course, and the historic Waitangi Treaty grounds.
Day 2 Bay of Islands Cruise with lunch Today, rise early to embark on a wilderness cruise in the Bay of Islands. Cruising among the 144 islands, you’ll discover the very best of the area, including a mix of spectacular scenery alongside rich culture and history. Encounter diverse wildlife in their natural surroundings and enjoy the entertaining commentary from your local nature guide. Explore NZ guarantees viewing marine mammals, including dolphins, whales and orca over 90% of the time. Explore the iconic Hole in the Rock and when conditions permit, travel through it! Spend some time adventuring on an island, whether it’s a walk, paddle board, kayak, swim or something else entirely, then enjoy a scrumptious island lunch. After, drive over to Kerikeri for a tour of this area’s best kept secrets. Visit a winery, learn about the history and culture of Kerikeri, and visit a boutique chocolate factory. After your busy morning, return to your resort for a manicure, pedicure, or 30-minute massage.
Day 3 Bay of Islands – Auckland (228km / 141mi) There are plenty of interesting stops along the way to Auckland today. Turn left at Waipu and follow the road down through Langs Bach and Mangawhai to Waipu Cove, the local surf beach in the area. Further on at the old Bohemian settlement of Puhoi, have a drink and sample some local cheese before arriving to Auckland. Here you’ll spend two nights in a fabulous hotel in the heart of the city, between the vibrant Viaduct Harbour and the new Wynyard Quarter. Venture into town to explore designer shopping and fabulous restaurants, or enjoy fine dining at the hotel’s sleek restaurant.
Day 4 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 5 Auckland to Rotorua (361km / 224mi) This morning, collect your rental car and drive through idyllic countryside to the Waitomo. It’s hard to believe that a hidden labyrinth of glowworm caves lies just beneath you, and once inside you’ll find formations and creatures that are simply out of this world. Afterwards, head onwards to the movie set of Hobbiton and The Shire. Duck into the hobbit holes and grab a drink at the Green Dragon Inn while learning the fascinating process of constructing the set. After your tour, continue on to Rotorua.
Day 6 Exploring Rotorua Today we’ve included admission to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, an active area of Rotorua created by the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886. Destroying the surrounding area and opening the earth along a 17-kilometre rift, it split Mt Tarawera itself in two, exploded Lake Rotomahana to 20 times its size and formed the seven craters that make up Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This nature walk showcases a wide range of geothermal activity, New Zealand plants and birdlife in one of the newest eco-systems in the world.
Day 7 Rotorua to Nelson (Flight) This morning drop your vehicle off at the airport in Rotorua and catch your flight (not included) into 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 Kaikoura (243 km / 150mi) This morning head south east through Marlborough, famous for its food and wine, then head south to Kaikoura, where the road is dominated by the awesome beauty of the Pacific Coast. Kaikoura, located in a narrow strip of stunning coastline between mountain peaks and the Pacific Ocean, is a place of unparalleled wildlife experiences.
Day 10 Kaikoura to Christchurch (181km / 112mi)
This morning you have a choice of two sightseeing options, both sure to leave you with lifelong memories:
Option 1: Swim with the dolphins 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: Whale Watch Cruise 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.
Then this afternoon continue south and head inland into sheep country of North Canterbury and the city of Christchurch.
Day 11 Christchurch to Queenstown (Flight) This morning you’ll drop your vehicle off at the airport and catch your flight (not Included) into Queenstown. Waiting to greet you are the majestic Remarkables Ranges and Lake Wakatipu, so keep an eye out as you get closer to see them glistening from below. Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, and it’s the place where bungy jumping began and where sledging and jet boating found their fame. So from white water rafting and horseback riding to mountain biking and hiking, let’s just put it this way: if it can be done in New Zealand, you can probably find it in Queenstown.
Day 12 - 14 Queenstown – You have the choice of two of five Excursions
You can personalize your Queenstown experience by choosing two 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 15 Depart Queenstown It’s now the end of your magical New Zealand adventure, and we’ve capped it off with a private transfer to Queenstown Airport.
- 2 nights of accommodation at Paihia Beach Resort & Spa, Paihia – Superior Studio
- 2 nights of accommodation at M Social Hotel, Auckland – Social View Room
(Includes Continental Breakfast)
- 2 nights of accommodation at Millennium Rotorua Hotel, Rotorua – Club Room
(Includes Continental Breakfast)
- 2 nights of accommodation at The Waters, Nelson – Double Room
(Includes: Continental breakfast provisions & bottle of wine)
- 1 night of accommodation at White Morph Motor Inn, Kaikoura – Studio Room
- 1 night of accommodation Distinction Hotel, Christchurch - Superior Room
- 4 nights of accommodation at The Rees Apartment Hotel, Queenstown – One Bedroom Executive Lake View Apartment)
- Discover the Bay - Hole in the Rock Cruise
- 10 Day rental car from Bay of Islands to Rotorua (full size) including insurance & GPS
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
- Admission to Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- Admission to Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
- Admission to Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Abel Tasman National Park Swing Bridge, Bush & Beach Cruise
- In Kaikoura, a choice of either swimming with dolphins or a whale watching cruise
- Return Queenstown airport transfers to hotel
In Queenstown, the freedom to choose 2 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
- National Park fees
- International or domestic airfares (unless specified above).
- Meals other than specified above.
- Travel insurance.