Day 1: Arrive Auckland, transfer to Queenstown
Upon arrival you will connect on a flight to Queenstown. Upon arrival in Queenstown you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Accommodation: Queenstown - 3 nights
Day 2: Queenstown
Milford Fly Cruise Heli
Enjoy a scenic plane flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound, over jagged mountains, turquoise waterfalls and the secret lakes of Fiordland National Park. Your flight connects you with Mitre Peak Cruises to discover the sights and sounds of Milford Sound up-close. Return to Queenstown by helicopter allowing you to set foot upon the alpine landscape for an unforgettable insight into New Zealand’s unspoilt beauty. *Features snow landing. Duration 4hrs
Day 3: Queenstown: Dart River Safari or Bike Queenstown Trails or Hike Routeburn Track
Routeburn Track Guided Day Hike
Your walk begins among towering ancient beech trees and blankets of moss and fern, climbing gradually and skirting the thundering Routeburn River. Just 90 breathtaking minutes later the woodland parts to reveal the rich grassland of Routeburn Flats, overlooked by cloud-scraping mountain stacks. A short stride through more alpine forest, the walk continues to climb through a vast alpine meadow to the Harris Saddle, some 1300 metres above sea level. High up in the clear mountain air a 360-degree view looks out along the Hollyford Valley to the Tasman Sea, and inland. The duration of this walk is entirely flexible and dependent on the group's fitness levels (this can be privately guided also).
Dart River Safari
Taking you to the heart of a World Heritage Park, experience the most scenic Jet Boating in New Zealand. A 1hr 30min ride along the Dart River amongst towering mountains and the refreshingly beautiful wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park. Then take ashore for an easy walk of 20-40 minutes through ancient forests, unchanged for 80 million years. Hear an informative and entertaining commentary on the area and its history - including quest by early Maori for highly prized pounamu (greenstone). Board your back road coach for a journey to Paradise and beyond.
Bike Queenstown Trails
Enjoy a full day supported but self guided biking adventure to experience the stunning surround of the Queenstown Trails and Wakatipu Basin and it’s magnificent scenery. With thorough directions, a map and trail tips you will set off on your ride following the shore of Lake Wakatipu. A after a morning tea stop at the historic Boatshed Cafe you are driven you to the heart of the Wakatipu Basin for more scenic riding. Pause for a picnic lunch in historic Arrowtown, then set off biking along the beautiful Arrow and Kawarau Rivers to the Historic Kawarau Suspension Bridge - home of the famous Kawarau Bungy. Finish with a short ride through to Gibbston Valley and enjoy a relaxing wine tasting & cheesery visit. Sit back and relax on your return to your accommodation. This trip can be catered to any level of rider and is well supported along the way. Distances can be tailored to your needs with vehicle support at designated points along the trail allowing you to hitch a ride if required. E-bikes (additional cost) are also available and can be reserved at time of booking.
Day 4: Queenstown - Aoraki Mt Cook Region
This morning you will collect your rental car and drive to the Aoraki Mt Cook region. From your accommoation you have exceptional views of New Zealand's tallest mountain - Aoraki Mt Cook standing at 12, 218 ft, hanging glaciers and the surrounding Southern Alps. You have the afternoon free to enjoy. Walking tracks start from your accommodation and are well marked. This evening you will enjoy dinner at your accommodation before a stargazing experience.
Aoraki Mount Cook is far from the city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand - perfect for viewing the southern night sky! Enjoy an outdoor stargazing guided experience for spectacular views of the southern sky. See the Milky Way and beyond. Unleash your imagination as you explore our neighborhood in the universe including the Southern Cross, star clusters, planets, moons and distant galaxies.
Accommodation: Aoraki Mt Cook Region - 2 nights
Day 5: Aoraki Mt Cook Region - Free day to explore
Aoraki Mt Cook is 3,724 metres (12,218 ft), the tallest mountain in New Zealand, helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Everest. You can visit the Sir Edmund Hilary Center while here. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It encompasses 23 peaks over 3000 metres high. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.
Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine tarns, herb fields and spectacular glacier views. Encounters with cheeky kea (mountain parrots) are part of the fun.
Today you can visit the Tasman Glacier on a Glacier Explorer tour, head out on one of the many mountain walks that leave from the hotel in the area & fly high above on a scenic helicopter flight. Note: if you are interested in a guided walk, heli-hike or the Glacier Explorer tour (additonal cost), let us know at time of booking. Tonight you will enjoy dinner at your accommodation.
Day 6: Aoraki Mt Cook Region - Christchurch
Today is a scenic drive to Christchurch. This afternoon you may like to enjoy a relaxing punting trip along the Avon River, stroll in the Botanical Gardens or Hagley Park. This evening, walk to a nearby restaurant from your centrally located hotel.
Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night
Day 7: Christchurch - Kaikoura: Whale Watch or Swim with Dolphins or Albatross Encounter
This morning you will drive to Kaikoura in time for a mid-day / early afternoon tour of your choice.
Come face to face with these magnificent creatures in their own environment aboard either airplane or boat designed specifically for this purpose. Giant Sperm Whales grow to 20 meters long and are present in these waters year round. Other species include migratory Humpback whales, Orca (killer whales), tiny Hector dolphins, the high-spirited Dusky Dolphins and fur seals.
Swim with Dolphins
Kaikoura is home to the amazing dusky dolphins. Experience the delights of a wonderful marine environment, close to our beautiful coastline during this 3 to 3 ½ hour dolphin swimming or watching tour. You may also be lucky enough to see other marine mammals such as orca (killer whales), pilot whales, New Zealand fur seals, and Hector’s dolphins.
Kaikoura boasts the greatest variety of ocean birds (pelagics), within a short distance, than anywhere in New Zealand, maybe even the world. Skippers have an excellent level of knowledge of the seabirds you will encounter while out at sea. Travel time out to where you begin to see seabirds can be anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes. We carry 'chum' (fishy bits) on the boats that attracts the seabirds very close, offering wonderful opportunities for photography.
After your tour you will drive to Blenheim.
Accommodation: Blenheim - 2 nights
Day 8: Blenheim: Wine & Greenshell Mussel Cruise or Hike Queen Charlotte Track or Bike the Vines
Wine & Greenshell Mussel Cruise
The three icons of Marlborough - Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the Marlborough Sounds and Marlborough Greenshell Mussels are combined into an exciting day. Take in the very best that Marlborough has to offer with a visit to some superb Marlborough wineries in the morning then through to the Havelock Marina for lunch and an afternoon Greenshell Mussel Cruise in the stunning Marlborough Sounds.
Hike Queen Charlotte Track
Take a boat cruise from Picton past salmon farms and sea birds on a beautiful voyage to Ship Cove, an historic and scenic reserve that Captain Cook visited several times in the 17th Century. This premier section of the Queen Charlotte Track affords beautiful views across the Marlborough Sounds and a gourmet lunch as your guide explains the European and pre-European history of the area.
Bike the Vines
Enjoy a full or half day of cycling and wineries starts with a pick-up from your accommodation in the morning and drop-off at the starting point. After ensuring that you are set up with bikes and helmets you'll set off for a relaxing day of touring the local wineries. The pace is leisurely and the terrain is gentle, ensuring easy riding. The off road riding through the vineyards and along the stop-banks is across hard packed earth covered with grass or gravel and is easy to bike by all skill levels. In the middle of the day, you'll enjoy a long, slow lunch in a winery restaurant.
Day 9: Blenheim - Nelson / Tasman Region
For those interested in aviation, this morning before departing you may like to visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim. This world class world-class museum showcases WW1 and WW2 aircraft and artefacts, with captivating and immersive dioramas. This is the world’s largest collection of WW1 and WW2 aircraft and rare memorabilia, featuring NZ Film Director Sir Peter Jackson’s private collection.
Today you will drive to the Nelson / Tasman Region which is home to three National Parks, wineries, art & craft studios, cycle trails, beaches and gardens. At the end of the day you can settle in to your accommodation before heading out for dinner.
Accommodation: Nelson/Tasman Region - 2 nights
Day 10: Abel Tasman National Park: Best Abel Tasman Day Trip or Two Gods: Kayak & Independent Hike or Open Day Pass: Cruise & Independent Walk
Best Abel Tasman Day Trip
A scenic cruise today includes a visit to Tonga Island Marine Reserve and seal colony. Further along the Abel Tasman choose to paddle our complimentary sea kayaks in a tranquil lagoon, snorkel, take a bush walk, or just sit back and enjoy the sights and tranquil surroundings of New Zealand's most enchanting national park, all in one day! Our comfortable power catamaran carries kayaks, snorkeling/fishing gear and towels, gourmet lunch, snacks and refreshments are all included. Local beer and wine are available for purchase. This is a relaxed and unhurried day onboard the ‘Taranui’. Operates Oct-Apr.
Two Gods: Kayak & Independent Hike
Your day starts with a water taxi ride from Marahau into the park whisking past the golden sand beaches and sandy coves. After a briefing you will kayak approx 2hrs with interspersed breaks, the length of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Spend the afternoon walking unguided (approx 2hrs) from Onetahuti to Bark Bay and enjoy a packed picnic lunch on the beach. You will meet your water taxi at a specified time and beach location and return to Marahau.
Open Day Pass: Cruise & Independent Walk
Take a scenic cruise 9:30am (or 1:00pm) from Kaiteriteri into the Park to walk the well-formed coastal track as it weaves through lush native forest from one golden beach to the next. Cruise through Tonga Island Marine Reserve, pausing to view the antics at its resident Seal Colony, then land at picturesque Tonga Quarry beach. Your boat hosts will direct you to the start of your unguided walk: 2 hours (4.1 kms, 2.5 miles) over the forested Tonga Saddle and around stunning Bark Bay waterfall track with its new swing bridge. Continue on to Medlands Beach for your pick up at 3.00pm or 4.55 pm. Returning Kaiteriteri 3.55 or 5:50pm.
Day 11: Nelson - Auckland - Tauranga: Romantic Dinner
Today you will return your rental car to Nelson Airport and fly to Auckland where you will collect another rental car and drive to Tauranga. Here, you will enjoy a luxurious accommodation created in the style and charm of a French Provencal home nestled in the hills. This evening you will enjoy a romantic dinner in this stunning setting. Your hostess, Kay is one of our favorites, you'll be in good hands (along with her small pooch, Freddie).
Accommodation: Tauranga - 3 nights
Day 12: Tauranga: Bike Hauraki Rail Trail or Hobbiton or Glow Worm Kayak
Bike Hauraki Rail Trail
Enjoy an easy self-guided ride on the Hauraki Rail Trail from Paeroa through the Karangahake Gorge to Waikino and back (approx. 8 miles each way). This is considered one of the most picturesque parts of trail offering spectacular gorge scenery – the bush, cliffs and the dynamic river below. Carved through solid rock, the 1.1Km Karangahake Rail tunnels are a labyrinth of glow worm lit historic mining tunnels. The Karangahake Gorge, one of the “fourteen wonders of New Zealand” and packed with gold mining history. Ride through the tunnels, stop for short walks and enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. The Hauraki Rail Trail is all Grade 1 (easiest) making it suitable for riders of all ages and abilities. The trail is wide & smooth with gentle gradients. Note: this ride can be 8 miles with return transport (additional cost) provided back to the starting point. If you prefer this option, please advise at time of booking.
Located just 1hrs drive away, The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour offers an interesting and entertaining experience incorporating the famous film set and a special insight into rural life. The tour starts with a drive through a picturesque 1,250 acre working sheep farm (there are 13,000 sheep and 300 beef cattle on the property) with spectacular views across to the Kaimai Ranges. Your tour guide will escort you through the ten acre site recounting fascinating details on how the Hobbiton movie set was created. After your tour of the film set your host will then take you to The Shires Rest with time to bottle feed the pet lambs and visit The Shire Store.
Glow Worm Kayak
This is a truly unique experience; while you can see glow-worms elsewhere in New Zealand, and you can paddle a sea kayak in many places around the world, this is the only place when the two combine for a magical & truly unique experience. The tour is great fun with beautiful scenery, fantastic birdlife, and awesome glow-worms. Enjoy wine and cheese on the edge of Lake McLaren while your guides brief you on how to kayak effectively before launching you onto picturesque Lake McLaren at twilight to paddle to the mysterious glow worm canyon. The glow-worms are situated in a narrow, high-sided canyon at the top of the lake, not in a cave, so our tour only departs once a day before sunset so by the time we get to the glow-worm canyon it’s completely dark, as required to see the glow worms to the best effect. Paddling a kayak may be something you have tried before, but you probably haven’t kayaked at night (we provide head-torches) and certainly not have kayaked in the dark to see constellations of glow-worms. Tour Duration: Approximately 1-1½ hour kayaking. Total tour duration: 3-3½ hour tour. Min ages: 8 years.
Day 13: Tauranga | Free day to explore
We recommend a walk around Mt Maunganui (known as 'The Mount') for beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. From here you can enjoy miles of sandy beaches safe for swimming, surfing and paddle boarding. Alternatively you may like to drive up to the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua or simply relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Day 14: Tauranga - Auckland
Today you have most of the day free before and easy drive back to Auckland for your evening flight back to the US.