Day 1: Arrival in Auckland
You will arrive in Auckland early this morning. Transfer to central city hotel - walking distance to the vibrant Viaduct Basin and harbour. Enjoy a sail on an America's Cup boat, ride the ferry to Waiheke Island for lunch at a vineyard or to Rangitoto Island where you can walk to the top for fabulous views back across the harbour to Auckland city. Visit SkyTower, wander in quaint Devonport or lively Ponsonby or visit the Auckland Museum.
Day 2: Auckland - Matakohe / Kauri Museum - Dargaville - Waipoua Forest
This morning you will collect your rental car. Enjoy a leisurely drive north to Waipoua, stopping along the way to visit the fascinating Kauri Museum in Matakohe. We recommend the 'Gumdiggers Cafe' at the museum for refreshments before arriving at your accommodation, 'Waipoua Lodge' - nestled on a ridge overlooking the vast Waipoua Forest - home to ancient and iconic kauri trees which have been living here for up to 3,000 years. The historic lodge and four suites are set in amongst beautiful landscaped gardens. Owners Ian and Fran offer authentic New Zealand hospitality. Dinner is included featuring New Zealand's best natural produce.
Day 3: Waipoua / Guided Twilight Encounter with Māori Guides in Waipoua Forest
Today, visit Trounson Kauri Park, freshwater Kai Iwi Lakes, or take a coastal walk along the hills of Maunganui Bluff. Early evening offers you a tour experience of a lifetime. Using well maintained walking tracks this 3-hour night walk experience visits the oldest and largest known kauri trees in the world; Te Matua Ngahere and Tane Mahuta, the Father and the Lord of the Forest. Let the night noises, foreign environment, time, local Māori guides and ecological and cultural interpretation (Māori story, song and instruments), awaken your senses. Dinner is included at Waipoua Lodge. You will have your first two courses before your tour and dessert will be waiting upon your return.
Day 4: Waipoua - Paihia, Bay of Islands
Today you will travel north, exiting the forest as the highway climbs steeply to reveal the majestic beauty of the historic Hokianga Harbour and views out to the stunning giant sand dunes. Heading inland you will drive towards the Bay of Islands - a myriad of secluded beaches, islands and a subtropical paradise.
This afternoon you may like to take a cruise to the 'Hole in the Rock' or a Dolphin viewing cruise or a day sailing aboard a 65ft maxi yacht (Oct-May). Sailing is a full day trip and would require an early departure from Waipoua. Alternatively you could rent kayaks or paddleboards from the beach in Paihia.
Your accommodation in the Bay of Islands is a luxuriously appointed boutique lodge or resort offering coastal views.
Day 5: Bay of Islands: Cape Reinga Half Day Scenic Fly/Drive Tour & Waitangi Treaty Grounds / Maori War Canoe
An unforgettable half day experience to Cape Reinga and Northland including a scenic flight / drive tour. Fly by fixed wing aircraft along the spectacular West Coast and famous Ninety Mile beach and land on a remote air strip. A comfortable vehicle awaits to whisk you away to explore Cape Reinga. Next it’s off to the giant sand dunes (sleds available for those who wish to experience the exhilaration of sliding down the sand dunes and try some “sand surfing”). Afterwards it's time for morning tea on a remote sandy beach before your return flight via the stunning Bay of Islands.
This afternoon you may like to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds - New Zealand’s most important historic site where in 1840 New Zealand's founding document was signed: the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty Grounds features Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, the Treaty House, the carved Meeting House and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe. Enjoy strolling through one of New Zealand’s great beauty spots with its panoramic views of the Bay of Islands.
Day 6: Bay of Islands - Auckland / Fly to Wellington
Today you will drive to Auckland Airport and fly to Wellington. Called the world's 'coolest little capital' Wellington is know for its vibrant arts scene, world class cafe and restaurant culture, and active outdoor lifestyle. Set around an attractive waterfront, you'll be hard preseed to find a city in the world that's eaiser to get around. Wellington enjoys more cafe's, bars and restaurants than New York city, and its coffee and craft beer producers are internationally recognized. A creative, cosmopolitan city, Wellington combines the sophistication of a capital with the warmth and personality of a village.
Your accommodation is a centrally located hotel within walking distance to many attractions, the waterfront, shops and restaurants.
Day 7: Wellington - Our 1,2,3
Ride the iconic Wellington Cable Car for views of the city. Walk back to the city through the Botanical Gardens.
Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the imagination and artistry behind some of the world's most spectacular movies at the Weta Cave mini-museum, right there where the special effects wizardy happens. Or, put yourself in the picture with a The Lord of the Rings location tour.
The National Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa, is fascinating and fun for curious minds of any age. The exhibits are innovative and interactive, telling stories of New Zealand's unique geolocial, biological, cultural and social history in new and exciting ways. By the way - general admission is free (some touring exhibitions have an entry fee).
Tonight enjoy the legendary craft beers available or wine and dine at one of many fabulous restaurants. After dinner take a stroll around Oriental Bay.
Day 8: Fly to Christchurch / Drive to Lake Pukaki
Today you will drive to Auckland Airport and fly to Christchurch. Upon arrival you will collect a rental car and drive to Lake Pukaki (located just 45minutes from Mt Cook Village - New Zealand's highest mountain and stunning National Park. Your boutique accommodation is situated in a remote area with spectacular, uninterrupted views of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook. It is also located in the Aoraki McKenzie Dark Sky Reserve - internationally recognized as the clearest skies in the world and fantastic for star gazing. The lodge offers hiking and biking trails nearby with complimentary bikes for guest use. Tongiht you will dine at the lodge (included in your stay).
Day 9: Lake Pukaki / Aoraki / Mt Cook
Today will be a day of postcard scenery! After breakfast head to Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park offering an abundance of hiking trails. Other activities available which can be prebooked are: Heli-Hike on the Tasman Glacier offering up to 2 hrs hiking on a glacier, scenic helicopter flights or a boat cruise to see the Tasman Glacier (Sept-May). Guided walks are also available. The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is also open for visitors.
Day 10: Lake Pukaki - Queenstown
Enjoy a leisurely start this morning before departing for Queenstown. On the way to Queenstown you may like to stop in Cromwell (wonderful streetside markets offering locally grown fruit), Gibbston Valley (wineries - many with restaurants) and Kawarau Gorge - home to New Zealand's first commercial bungy jumping site. Here you can watch, or go bungy jumping! Quaint and historic Arrowtown is also nearby.
Arriving in Queenstown your hotel accommodation is centrally located and walking distance to the lake, shops, restaurants and activities. Here your driving is complete and can return your rental car.
Day 11: Queenstown: Scenic flight to Milford Sound & Nature Cruise
A scenic flight and cruise to Milford Sound awaits you today - you will take in the breathtaking alpine scenery including glaciers, rivers, lakes and rainforest along the way and enjoy a birds eye view of Fiordland. Upon landing at Milford Sound you will board a nature cruise on the fiords before returning by air to Queenstown.
Day 12: Queenstown: Routeburn Track Guided Day Hike or Boutique Wine Tour
Hiking or Wine! Choose today between a guided walk on the Routeburn Track or a Boutique Wine Tour
Routeburn Track Guided Walk
Your New Zealand journey culminates with a trip on the Routeburn Track - hikers love this dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes.
From the head of Lake Wakatipu, you’ll walk among towering ancient beech, as you climb gradually through blankets of forest moss and fern. Thundering below, the Routeburn River runs through the gorge it’s carved over the last millennia. Further on the woodland parts to reveal the rich grassland of Routeburn Flats, surrounded by cloud-scraping mountain stacks.
The walk continues to climb through alpine forest to a vast alpine meadow & the Harris Saddle, some 4265 ft above sea level. High in the clear mountain air a 360-degree view looks out along the Hollyford Valley to the Tasman Sea, and inland.
Note: Due to the nature of the terrain, altitude and alpine conditions, the duration of this walk is entirely flexible and dependent on the group's fitness levels. You can enjoy anything from 7 to 10 miles return journey. Note: This is a moderate walk and operates year round, except Christmas Day.This walk can be substituted for another, easier walk.
Boutique Wine Tour
Central Otago wine country spreads from the outskirts of Queenstown’s Wakatipu Basin through picturesque valleys and dramatic gorges to the rolling vine-clad foothills of Bannockburn and beyond. Our tours take you from Queenstown to the Gibbston Valley and through to the Bannockburn and Cromwell region, the heart of the Central Otago wine country.
As we travel with a small groups (max 12 adults) we will visit the selection of boutique vineyards. Our day includes a stunning drive through the Kawarau Gorge whilst learning about the early pioneering history of this rugged region and the opportunity to view the historic Kawarau Bridge and the original AJ Hackett Bungy. Enjoy a platter lunch & glass of premium wine. This is a delighful afternoon among the boutique vineyards and spectacular scenery of Central Otago, a perfect introduction to the region.
Day 13. Queenstown: Dart River Funyaks or Dart River Jetboat Safari only
Your Dart River Funyak trip is an amazing escape deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park and an opportunity to get close to nature. Funyak inflatable kayaks offer a fun and unique way to explore the Dart River as well as its hidden side streams, rock pools and dramatic chasms.
Take it slow as you drift and paddle your way along the Dart River into the serene surroundings that provided the backdrop to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings movies. Then travel a back-country route passing by locations used in the movies to illustrate Middle Earth. Min age: 5yrs. Operates year round except Christmas Day.
Note: for those not interested in canoeing we can book just the Dart River Jetboat safari.
Day 14: Auckland - Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston
Today you may have time for a morning walk, a touch of last minute shopping before heading to the airport for your flight home.