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Discover back roads, country hospitality and nature in the wild. Experience Maori culture in Rotorua and visit Tongariro National Park; relax in Queenstown and discover the West Coasts rainforests, glaciers, Punakaiki Pancake rocks and Arthurs Pass.
Day 1 – Auckland & Rotorua
Upon arrival into Auckland meet your travel companions and continue to Rotorua. Your first stop is the dramatic Karangahake Gorge for a stroll alongside the Ohinemuri. Pass through Te Puke, the Kiwifruit capital of the world, where well visit a working Kiwifruit orchard before continuing on to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Along the way, at Okawa Bay, we board Tiua, a 53ft catamaran for a relaxing sail on serene Lake Rotoiti to secluded coves and natural hot pools reached only by boat – a memorable end to an awesome day.
Hotel for 2 nights: Novotel Lakeside
Day 2 – Rotorua
Take it easy this morning! Perhaps stroll down to the lakeside, just minutes from your hotel, or enjoy one of Rotoruas many guided tours and attractions. Then head to the famous Lake Tarawera for a hosted lunch with your hosts David and Karen.
Day 3 – Rotorua & Tongariro National Park
No Kiwi holiday would be complete without a visit to the surreal, geothermal reserve of Wai-O-Tapu. The bubbling mud pools and incredibly colourful silica terraces are unforgettable. Continue to Great Lake Taupo and stroll to view the famous Huka Falls, before heading to Tongariro National Park.
Hotel: Chateau Tongariro
Day 4 – Tongariro National Park & Wellington
After a relaxed breakfast drive up the mountain road to the Top of the Bruce to enjoy panoramic views over the volcanic plateau. Then drive around the slopes of Mt Ruapehu before continuing Wellington.
Hotel for 2 nights: The Bolton
Day 5 – Wellington
The day is yours to enjoy. Take a short walk to the waterfront and Te Papa National Museum. Wellington is the food lovers capital of New Zealand with a huge selection of cafes and boutique breweries to choose from. Wellington is also the spiritual home of The Lord of Rings where you can visit Weta Workshop and see how all the props are made.
Day 6 – Wellington & Nelson
Today cruise on the Interislander ferry across Cook Strait and into beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton. Visit Forrest Wines for tasting and lunch then head through the heart of Marlborough toward Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand and gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.
Hotel for 2 nights: Beachcomber Hotel
Day 7 – Abel Tasman National Park
Today is a highlight of the tour for many people everyone has seen stunning photos of Abel Tasman National Park and now youre here. Take your pick from a full scenic cruise or a cruise/walk combo to walk a section of the coastal track, one of New Zealands Great Walks. The coast is dotted with islands just offshore, sheltered bays, estuaries and golden sand beaches. Lie on the beach, or go for a swim, keeping your eye out for dolphins who often make an appearance. After your magical day out youll return to Nelson for another night
Day 8 – Nelson & Kaikoura
Travel to Kaikoura today. Your afternoon is free to explore Kaikouras bountiful marine wildlife – a result of the ocean canyon close offshore. One of the many highlights is viewing the seal colony with a backdrop of the Kaikoura mountains and coastline.
Hotel: White Morph Inn
Day 9 – Kaikoura & Mt Cook
Leaving the coast drive over the Hunderlee Hills to the Canterbury Plains. Stop for a special lunch at Akaunui, a 100-year-old homestead prepared by your warm hosts Di and Ian Mackenzie. After lunch we continue to Mt Cook, youll make plenty of stops en route, such as the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo and the unreal turquoise blue of glacier fed Lake Pukaki.
Hotel: The Hermitage Hotel
Day 10 – Mt Cook & Queenstown
Today take your pick from exploring the dramatic landscape on one of the many easy walking tracks around the village or alternatively take a boat cruise on a glacier lake, scenic flight or heli-hike on the Tasman glacier! After lunch head over the Lindis Pass to Queenstown.
Hotel for 3 nights: Scenic Hotel
Day 11 – Milford Sound
From Queenstown travel to Te Anau before heading into the heart of Fiordland National Park on the spectacular Milford Road. On arrival at Milford cruise by launch out onto the sound dominated by iconic Mitre Peak and home to birdlife, seal colonies and pods of dolphins. A magical flight over the Southern Alps returns you to Queenstown
Day 12 – Queenstown
Today is yours to explore Queenstown. Perhaps take a jet boat ride on the remote and beautiful Dart River in The Lord of the Rings scenery, walking along the lakeshore and the Botanic Gardens or take a thrilling raft ride on the Kawarau River. Why not indulge in wine tasting in the celebrated boutique vineyards of Central Otago, golf on one of New Zealands best courses, a day walk on the famous Routeburn Track or cruising Lake Wakatipu on the 1912 Steamship, the TSS Earnslaw.
Day 13 – Queenstown, Cardrona Valley & Wanaka
Your day starts with a short hop to leafy Arrowtown, where gold mining history comes alive beside the Arrow River. Then head into tussock country for the climb up the Crown Range and our last views of the beautiful Wakatipu basin. We call into picture perfect Cardrona Hotel, its history dates back to the colonial era, then continue on to Wanaka.
Hotel: Edgewater Resort
Day 14 – Wanaka & Franz Josef
Today start off following the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before reaching the pristine mountain and river scenery of the Mount Aspiring National Park. Then its up and over the Haast Pass through beech forests, past cascading waterfalls and clear blue pools before following the Haast River out to the sea. Theres plenty of time for short walks and photo stops on the way. Head north through the lush, prehistoric Gondwanaland forest of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, stopping at Ship Creek to stroll the beach, keep your eye out for dolphins feeding in the shallows. Get your camera ready for Lake Mathesons famous reflections and our first glimpse of Fox Glacier descending from Aoraki/Mt Cook. Your home for the night is Franz Josef.
Hotel: Punga Grove
Day 15 – Franz Josef & Punakaiki
Your morning is free to discover Glacier Country and Westland, right in the heart of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Walk to the Franz Josef Glacier Valley lookout or cruise out on Okarito lagoon on an optional kayak or boat trip in search of the Kotuku. Next head to Hokitika the Pounamu (greenstone) capital of the country and youll have the chance to visit the carvers as well as glass blowing, wood and copper artisans. Continue on to Punakaiki.
Hotel for 2 nights: Punakaiki Resort
Day 16 – Punakaiki & Paparoa National Park
The surrounding Paparoa National Park is very different to any other area on the trip, towering limestone cliffs and karst rock formations with beautiful river valleys draped in subtropical forest. Youll have plenty of time to discover the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. There are also some great optional activities here such as the Glowworm Caves at Charleston
Day 17 – Punakaiki & Christchurch Departure
This morning check out of our hotel and travel to Christchurch known as the Garden City were you will be dropped off at the airport for your onwards flight home