Classic New Zealand

Experience the breath-taking scenery of snow-capped Alps, wander through lush tropical rainforests and relax on wide sandy beaches. You will learn how this beautiful land has been shaped by ancient volcanoes and southern seas, by Maori warriors and colonial settlers. Friendly local guides will share their cultural, historical and ecological expertise as you travel throughout Aotearoa – ‘the land of the long white cloud’.

* This itinerary can be run as an independent trip and personally customized for your travels.

Day 1  – Auckland
Haere mai – welcome!  Arrive into Auckland and spend the afternoon and evening getting to know the ‘City of Sails’.
Accommodation: MSocial, Auckland – 1 night
A contemporary hotel for the curious, the explorers and those who thrive on new experiences, Msocial hotel overlooks the vibrant Princes Wharf.

Day 2 – Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula  (B)
We take to the water for a scenic cruise to the Coromandel Peninsula. The ferry heads out from Auckland Harbour into the Hauraki Gulf passing the volcanic Rangitoto Island on the way. Roughly halfway through the journey, we make a brief stop at Orapiu on Waiheke Island and then, after around two hours, disembark near the township of Coromandel. Whilst we are on the ferry our coach will travel empty to meet us and we then visit the Driving Creek Railway where we climb 120m on a narrow-gauge line to the Eyefull Tower for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and Hauraki Gulf back towards Auckland. We then drive east across the Peninsula through beautiful scenery and passing lovely beaches to reach the resort of Whitianga on Mercury Bay.

Accommodation: Oceans Resort, Whitianga – 2 nightsNestled on the western shore of the beautiful Mercury Bay and only a stone’s throw from the golden sands of Buffalo Beach, you will find the relaxed luxury Whitianga Apartments of Oceans Resort in the heart of popular Whitianga. The resort is only a short stroll to the ferry and the picturesque marina, or wander through the town centre where you will find an abundance of cafés, restaurants and bars and boutique stores. Please note these are self-contained apartments and there is no restaurant onsite.

Day 3 – Explore the Coromandel Peninsula (B)
White cliffs and golden beaches, inviting turquoise waters and green forests are the colors of the Coromandel, with scarlet highlights courtesy of the flowers of Pohutukawa trees in summer, making this one of our favorite regions.  Rightly famous is Hot Water Beach, where warm springs bubble up through the sand, and when the tide is right you can dig out your very own ‘spa’ pool for a wallow.  This afternoon we walk down into Cathedral Cove – our efforts are rewarded with one of the most photogenic beaches in NZ, with water-worn rock formations sparkling against the blue-green of the Pacific.  We depart Cathedral Cove by water taxi to Hahei where our coach driver will meet us to take us to Cooks Beach – named after Captain James Cook who sailed on the HMS Endeavor into Mercury Bay in 1769 – and famous for its long golden sandy beach which now a popular retreat for Kiwis during summer months.  From Cooks Beach you may wish to catch the short ferry ride back to Whitianga and walk to our accommodation or stay with your driver and travel back by coach.

Day 4 – Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua (B)
We take the Pacific Coast Highway through the beachside towns of Whangamata and Tauranga in the beautiful Bay of Plenty before turning inland.  En-route we visit a well-formed bushwalk with scenic lookouts over Okere River and its spectacular waterfalls.  Rotorua is the epicentre not only of New Zealand’s geothermal activity but of Maori heritage, and no visit to Rotorua would be complete without including Te Puia, not only an active geothermal site, but the nation’s centre for indigenous arts and crafts and a Kiwi conservation project.  At Te Puia, it’s part of their culture to welcome, guide, entertain you, and treat you like part of the family and we are treated to a private guide throughout our time at Te Puia.

Accommodation: Prince’s Gate Hotel, Rotorua – 2 nights
Originally built in the gold mining town of Waihi, in 1917 nail by nail and board by board, the hotel was dismantled and transferred by horse-drawn wagon to the Waihi Railway Station and the timber and fittings were duly taken by rail to Rotorua.

Day 5 – Rotorua day of leisure (B)
Today is at your leisure.  Your Optional Touring Booklet will give you plenty of options on how to spend your time.  As a special treat to yourself why not head to an enriching cultural experience with a special evening by visiting Tamaki Maori Village for a traditional Hangi (feast) and Maori Concert (extra cost).

Day 6 – Rotorua to Napier (B)
We head south, past Huka Falls to the vast Lake Taupo – more inland sea than lake, though its fresh waters teem with trout.  Across the lake – weather permitting – we should see the mighty peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro rear their heads.

Napier is one of the world’s most complete examples of Art Deco architecture, second (arguably) only to Miami Beach.  And yet this joyful seaside town had a tragic birth, being virtually levelled by fierce fires that followed the devastating 1931 earthquake.  With typical Kiwi spirit, Napier was rebuilt in just two years in the most up-to-date style of the time, which today we call Art Deco.  This afternoon our local guide brings history and architecture alive with entertaining stories as we discover Napier on foot.

Accommodation:   Scenic Hotel Te Pania, Napier
Hawke’s Bay is one of the first places in the world to see the light each day. The hotel enjoys a premium waterfront location on Napier’s Marine Parade and is a short stroll from the main art deco style street.

Day 7 – Napier to Wellington (B)
This morning we travel through vineyards and orchards, through the bush-clad ranges of the Wairarapa, which has an off-the-beaten-track charm that belies its proximity to New Zealand’s capital, and into Wellington.  Full of artists, writers and film-makers – the most famous of whom is Sir Peter Jackson – Wellington has a lively arts scene and café culture.   On arrival into Wellington, we drive past New Zealand’s magnificent Parliament Buildings and the iconic ‘Beehive’, the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Government.   From the Kelburn lookout we take the Wellington Cable Car down into the central business and shopping precinct then visit Te Papa – one of the most exciting museums in the world, featuring New Zealand insights – the shaping of its land, the spirit of its diverse peoples, its unique wildlife, landscapes and its distinctive popular culture.

Accommodation:   James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington
Located in the heart of Wellington the hotel is minutes from the Cable Car, Parliament, and Lambton Quay’s shopping district.

Day 8 – Wellington to Nelson (B)
Our day commences with the Interislander ferry journey crossing Cook Strait on a journey of 3½ hours that’s often accompanied by dolphins riding the bow wave, before entering Queen Charlotte Sound and disembarking in Picton. From here we travel the short distance to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine country.  What better way to enjoy this region famous for its Sauvignon Blanc than with wine tasting at one of Marlborough’s premier wineries?   From Marlborough we cross to the Nelson district where this corner of South Island is blessed with a sunny microclimate which has long been a draw to artists and adventurers alike, many of them settling in the delightful town of Nelson, our base for two nights.  With a wide range of eateries in central Nelson, you are free to make your own choice for dinner.

Accommodation:   Heritage Rutherford Hotel – 2 nights
The hotel boasts a prime spot only minutes’ walk from Nelson’s landmark cathedral and main shopping district (including just a block away from Jens Hansen Goldsmiths, creators of the ring in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy).

Day 9 – Nelson day of leisure (B)
Today is at your leisure. We highly recommend taking an optional tour and cruise of Abel Tasman National Park.  Travel to Kaiteriteri, to board a small cruiser for a morning of exploration of New Zealand’s smallest National Park. View world-famous Split Apple Rock, New Zealand Fur Seals, golden sands and the turquoise waters of Anchorage, Bark Bay, Tonga Quarry, Awaroa and Totaranui Beach before returning to Kaiteriteri. Enjoy a comprehensive commentary from the on-board guide and watch the comings and goings of the park (extra cost).

Day 10 – Nelson to Punakaiki (B)
We head south to the Nelson Lakes National Park – an enchanting alpine landscape of rugged peaks, forests and stunning glacial lakes and the beginning of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps.  We stop at the small village of Saint Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti – where according to Maori mythology the lakes of Rotoroa and Rotoiti were created by the great chief Rakaihaitu digging holes with his ko (digging stick). One hole became Lake Rotoroa (large waters) and the other became Lake Rotoiti (small waters).

Turning inland we follow the Buller River Gorge: its Maori name of Kawitiri describes the power of ‘water flowing swiftly’.  This is one of the world’s best but least-known scenic drives, carved out of the forest by 19th century prospectors, it follows the deep river gorge, often crossing it on single-track bridges.  We emerge from the forest then the road hugs the coastline south to the small settlement of Punakaiki on the edge of the Paparoa National Park.  Punakaiki is renowned for its wild, rugged coastline and the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes.  These stratified limestone stacks are an extraordinary monument of nature.  Time this evening for a walk along the wild west coast beach near our hotel.

Accommodation:   Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki – 1 night
This hotel is two minutes’ walk from the beach, situated in Paparoa National Park just 300 meters from the magnificent Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.

Day 11 – Punakaiki to Fox Glacier (B)
e continue our journey south along the Great Coast Road which stretching south from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.    We pass through historic small towns before reaching Hokitika which with the pounamu (greenstone) rich Arahura River entering the sea just north of the town, features galleries specialising in pounamu jewellery and artworks.   We stretch our legs at scenic Lake Kaniere then again at the dramatic Hokitika Gorge where the blue/green waters pass through the rugged rocks.

Continue south through forests and farmland, with views of the Alps to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, to Franz Josef then on to the small remote village of Fox.  The huge rivers of snow and ice of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers flow from vast snowfields high in the Southern Alps almost to sea level which is unusual in a temperate climate.  Weather permitting, an optional helicopter ride with a snow landing is a terrific way to experience the sheer grandeur of these West Coast glaciers (extra cost).

Accommodation:  Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier – 1 night
Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier hotel is situated in one of the world’s most ruggedly beautiful environments – nestled beneath the towering Southern Alps on the stunning West Coast of New Zealand.

Day 12 – Fox Glacier to Wanaka (B)
Ensure you have your camera for our visit to nearby Lake Matheson for a morning stroll and where, when conditions are right, perfectly mirrors beautiful Mount Cook in its still waters. This land is the heart of Te Wahipounamu – the place of the greenstone – explored by generations of Maori but penetrated by Europeans only 150 years ago.  We head up over the Haast Pass along the river road, which took more than 40 years to complete, travelling beside the icy river and deep into Mt Aspiring National Park.  The atmosphere lightens as we reach lovely Lake Wanaka, reflecting the mountain peaks that in winter offer superb skiing, and the pretty resort town of Wanaka.

Accommodation:  Edgewater Resort, Wanaka – 2 nights
The hotel is in a fantastic location, directly on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka.

Day 13 – Wanaka day of leisure (B)
Today is at your leisure.  We highly recommend a few different excursions (extra cost) to choose from or just relax in the village of Lake Wanaka.  A few options for your consideration:

Recommended Optional Tour – Eco Tour

Join a passionate local eco-guide as you depart Wanaka by boat and quickly leave civilization behind as you cruise across the lake to a predator-free island. The walking track leads from the landing and climbs steadily through native vegetation filled with very vocal birdlife to the top to the “island’s secret”- a lake on top of the island with small islands in it! Unique and very photogenic, the echo of birdsong here is astounding. Carrying on a little further you come to the very top of the island and have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka, its surrounding mountains and valleys, and the Arethusa Pool below. This is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the panorama. The flightless Buff Weka often join visitors on the island; this rare flightless bird has been extinct on Mainland NZ since 1920.

Recommended Optional Tour – 4WD Adventure

Experience New Zealand’s most authentic 4WD adventure – the perfect mix of incredible scenery, history, heritage and farming life. Explore remote and seldom travelled back roads of an authentic New Zealand High Country farm overlooking sparkling Lake Wanaka. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, glaciers and wild river valleys you’ll see farm animals including Red Deer, cattle and sheep up close and in their natural environment. Visit historical sites and experience what life was like for Wanaka’s first farmers. With two optional walks, through pristine alpine meadows and ancient lakeside forests, this journey offers a unique insight into Wanaka’s rich history, heritage, modern-day farming life and breath-taking scenery. This afternoon is at your leisure to relax or enjoy your own choice of activities.

Day 14 – Wanaka to Te Anau (B)
We depart Wanaka with our first stop at the much-photographed Cardrona Pub before we continue on to historic Arrowtown – a delightful gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River.  The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a procession of small-town heritage buildings that stretches into a tree-lined avenue of tiny miner’s cottages.  The buildings in this lovely precinct now house shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants – a perfect spot for lunch today, before continuing out journey via the road pinned between the base of the Remarkables mountain range and spectacular Lake Wakatipu before we leave the lake and continue south through the glacial formed valley that is now farmland.  Pass through small farming towns before reaching Lake Te Anau the largest freshwater lake in the South Island and the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Afternoon and evening at leisure.

Accommodation:  Distinction Hotel Luxmore, Te Anau – 1 night
The hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Te Anau’s town shopping centre and a short stroll from Lake Te Anau, the South Island’s largest lake.

Day 15 – Te Anau to Milford Sound to Queenstown (B,L)
The road journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic experiences you can have on four wheels.   Fiordland National Park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area is one of the great wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere.  The scenery is spectacular with lofty mountains and deep valleys carved out by Ice Age glaciers.  There are clear rushing streams and leaping waterfalls set in magnificent native rainforest and we make short stops as we journey along this spectacular remote road.

Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is breathtaking in any weather.  We board a comfortable vessel for a cruise past towering Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea.  Cliffs rise vertically from the inky waters and waterfalls cascade downwards.  Keep an eye peeled for seals and dolphins which are often seen in the waters of the fiord.  A boxed picnic lunch is served onboard.   Following the cruise, we retrace our journey back to Te Anau travelling via the Cleddeau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and the lovely Eglinton Valley then across the Southland farmlands and around spectacular Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown – the ‘Switzerland of the Southern Hemisphere’.  Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty and the unique energy of the Queenstown region create the perfect backdrop for a visit full of adventure, exploration or relaxation.

Accommodation:  Scenic Suites Queenstown – 2 nights
Scenic Suites Queenstown provides one of the most sought after locations for Queenstown hotels. The hotel’s elevated position gives fantastic views of the Southern Alps.

Day 16 – Queenstown day of leisure (B)
Today is at leisure. Your Optional Touring Booklet will give you plenty of options on how to spend your time. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover or Kawerau Rivers. Perhaps a scenic 4 wheel drive excursion through Skippers Canyon, it’s up to you.  This evening you may choose to take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead (extra cost).

Day 17 – Depart Queenstown (B)
If you are leaving New Zealand today, after breakfast, we transfer you to Queenstown Airport for your flight home. Alternatively, we can extend you stay in Queenstown for a few days or arrange onward independent touring by car.  Either way, we must say farewell, and wave you off home with amazing memories of your time in New Zealand.