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 9000 ha Waipoua Forest. The historic lodge and suites are set in amongst beautiful landscaped gardens. Owners and hosts, Ian and Fran will welcome you to relax in the lodge by the fire or choose a soothing wine from the bar. Dinner is included and offers New Zealand's best natural produce.
Day 3: Waipoua / Guided Twilight Encounter with Māori Guides in Waipoua Forest
Today, enjoy a wide range of sightseeing experiences from walks in the kauri forests, on the remote and wild beaches (and clifftop walks) of the Kauri Coast to the Kai Iwi Lakes. Enjoy swimming, kayaking, golf, and much more. 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 / Waitangi Treaty Grounds / Maori War Canoe
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 visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Your accommodation in the Bay of Islands is a luxuriously appointed boutique lodge offering panoramic coastal views. Dinner (additional cost) is also available at the lodge and should be pre-booked.
Day 5: Bay of Islands: Cape Reinga Half Day Scenic Fly/Drive Tour / Afternoon Cruise to the 'Hole in the Rock'
Cape Reinga Half Day Scenic Fly/Drive Tour
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.
Afernoon cruise to the 'Hole in the Rock'
Experience the world famous 'Hole in the Rock', see whales, birds and other wildlife the Bay of Islands is famous for. Cruise among the 144 islands the Bay of Islands is famous for and enjoy the stunning scenery and informative commentary about marine mammals, geography and history. There is also time for an exclusive private island stop visiting one of NZ’s most significant Maori Pa’s (fortified village).
Day 6: Bay of Islands - Auckland - Christchurch
Today you will drive back to Auckland and connect with an early afternoon flight to Christchurch. Upon arrival you will collect your rental car and drive approx 90 minutes through the foothills of the Southern Alps to arrive at Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge, nestled in a spectacular mountain setting. Tonight you will enjoy a fabulous 3-course dinner, followed by an optional guided walk to view the magnificent mountain night sky. Note: today is a big travel day departing Bay of Islands around 8:00am to arrive at the Wilderness Lodge around 4:30pm.5:00pm.
Day 7: Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass
Early risers can join the lodge guide on a walk to listen to the dawn chorus of bellbirds, walk amongst ancient beech on a carpet of moss and discover dramatic mountain landscapes at first light. After breakfast you may like to take a map and choose one of the many self guided walks available or join a guided activity (additional cost) which can include a nature walks, easy canoeing, visits to limestone castles and desert landscapes, alpine flowers and more. On one of the evenings of your stay before dinner there will be an opportunity to watch the sheep dogs at work, learn about the fine Merino wool produced here, the economics of running a high country sheep station and have a go at blade shearing sheep. Dinner is included at the lodge tonight.
Day 8: Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge - Fox or Franz Josef Glacier
Your drive takes you through Arthur’s Pass, over the Otira Viaduct, and out towards the rugged West Coast of New Zealand. The contrast in scenery from one side of the Southern Alps to the other is immediately evident as you pass through lowland rainforest, wild beaches and the unspoilt nature. Stop in Hokitika, small town New Zealand where you can watch artisans working with the much prized ‘Pounamu’ (Greenstone) which is found in the nearby rivers. Wander the arts and crafts stores before continuing to the small glacier towns of either Fox or Franz Josef Glacier - your home tonight.
Day 9: Fox or Franz Josef Glacier
Today you are on the doorstep to two of NZ's most accessible glaciers - Fox & Franz Josef. You may like to take a scenic flight, helicopter flight or enjoy a heli hike onto the glacier which includes an exciting helicopter flight and glacier landing so you can explore the many ice caves. Either way, you will enjoy learning about New Zealand's unique glaciers from your guides and get up close and personal with this river of ice!
This afternoon you may like to enjoy a walk along Gillespies Beach or a stroll around NZ's most photographed lake, Lake Matheson, known for it's stunning reflections.
Day 10: Fox Glacier - Lake Wanaka
Today is a very scenic drive down the West Coast, with many opportunities to stop and take photo's and break for short bush and waterfall walks before heading over the Haast Pass to arrive in Lake Wanaka - your base for the next three nights to explore the Southern Lakes Region (Arrowtown, Queenstown, Wanaka).
Click here for suggested sightseeing experiences in Wanaka.
Click here for suggested sightseeing experiences in Queenstown
(Queenstown is approx 1hr 15mins drive from Wanaka)
Day 11: Wanaka / Scenic Flight to Milford Sound and Cruise on the fiords
The best scenic route to Milford Sound begins from Lake Wanaka and Makarora Valley. Take in huge chunks of Mt Aspiring and Fiordland World Heritage National Parks. Stunning vistas of rugged untouched wilderness, numerous glaciers, mountains, snow, ice, rivers, valleys and rainforest. Fly the full length of Milford Sound before landing and taking in the views from the water on a 1hr 45min scenic boat cruise. You will be back in Wanaka in time for an afternoon activity or simply time to relax after a fabulous experience!
Day 12: Wanaka
Free day to explore or take a day trip to nearby Queenstown.
Day 13: Wanaka - Dunedin (via Central Otago)
Today offers a lovely drive through the golden heartland of Central Otago, an area of dramatic landscapes, breathtaking colour, abundant flavours and pioneer sprited people. In summer, stop by an orchard stall of succulent fruits, spring admire the first wildflowers, autumn the stunning shades of colour, and winter cross-country skiing. Arrive early evening at your accommodation.
Day 14: Dunedin / Otago Peninsula Experience / Penguins / Albatross and Larnach Castle
This morning you may like to visit Larnach Castle and it's stunning gardens. Around noon you will be collected from your accommodation in a Classic Jaquar for a half day private tour. Your guide/driver will share their extensive knowledge of the stunning Otago Peninsula with you during a visit to the Royal Albatross Colony, the only mainland breeding site in the world and to see the Yellow Eyed Penguins.
Day 15: Dunedin - Auckland - Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston
Today you will bid your friendly New Zealand accommodation hosts farewell and drop your rental car at the airport before connecting to Auckland for your international flight back to the USA.