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New Zealand Explorer

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New Zealand Explorer

offered by supplier M07207 (read about supplier)

Key Information:
Tour Duration: 19 day(s)
Group Size: 12 - 15 people
Destination(s): New Zealand  
Specialty Categories: Small group tour   Sightseeing  
Season: January - April
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 5410 Canadian Dollar (CAD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 5570 Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Join tour in Auckland

Our journey begins in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and a thriving sporting and cultural centre that lies sprawled across a narrow isthmus between the harbours of Waitemata and Manukau. Popularly known as the ‘City of Sails’, Auckland is surrounded by volcanic peaks and blessed with a profusion of beaches and museums, whilst its vibrant waterfront easily makes it one of the most exciting cities in the southern hemisphere. The country’s most cosmopolitan city, with a rich mix of European, Maori and Pacific Island influences, Auckland is the largest Polynesian city on the planet and on arrival today there's free time to enjoy the city or relax at the hotel.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: None

2 Guided tour of Auckland's highlights; free afternoon

This morning we take in the delights of Tamaki Drive and Mission Bay, before we head for a guided tour of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, it is also one of New Zealand’s most important museums, housing a large collection of Maori and Pacific Island artefacts, as well as an extensive exhibition that covers New Zealand’s involvement in both domestic and overseas conflicts. The Cenotaph and the consecrated grounds that surround the museum serve as a memorial to those that have lost their lives during these conflicts, particularly during the First and Second World Wars. After our visit the rest of the day is free to enjoy as you wish, with a number of options available to make the most of your time in the city. You could take a sail on one of New Zealand’s unique America’s Cup racing yachts, or perhaps pay a visit to the nearby Gannet sanctuary.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

3 Exploring the Cormandel Peninsula

Departing Auckland this morning we head for the beautiful landscapes of the Coromandel Peninsula, which separates the waters of the Hauraki Gulf from the Bay of Plenty. A staggering mix of rugged coastline, golden beaches and native bush, the peninsula’s interior is littered with a fascinating collection of abandoned mining equipment, old Kauri dams and timber machinery, providing us with an enthralling day’s journey. We will visit the enchanting sands of Hahei Beach, fringed with pohutukawas trees and pink shells, whose offshore islands provide a perfect break-water that makes these waters ideal for swimming. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy some optional excursions in the area, including a chance to enjoy some guided bush walking or perhaps a kayak through the amazing sea caves of Cathedral Cove, rated as one of the best kayaking trips in the country. We’ll be spending this evening in the coastal community of Tairua, where you can enjoy some fish ‘n’ chips on the beach and gaze out across the vistas that lie off the Coromandel’s east coast.

Overnight: Standard Chalet, Included Meals: Breakfast

4 Morning on Coromandel; PM drive to Waikato via Waihi

A leisurely morning in Tairua provides an ideal opportunity to explore a little more of the Coromandel. You can relax and enjoy brunch at a local cafe. If time permits there may also be the chance to take a short bush walk before we leave. Our journey today then takes us into the heart of North Island and the diverse landscapes of the Waikato region, travelling via the gold mining town of Waihi to learn something of the area’s rich history as one of the world’s most productive gold mining regions. There may also be an opportunity to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set at Matamata (optional), where some of the original Hobbit holes from the Lord of The Rings still sit amongst the fertile hills that lie in the shadow of the Kaimai Ranges. Our evening’s accommodation this evening is located on a working farm, where we will divide into smaller groups to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts, taking dinner and breakfast with the local families, touring the farm and learning something of the workings of a typical rural community. You will need an overnight bag for your farmstay.

Overnight: Standard Farmstay, Included Meals: Breakfast Dinner

5 Exploring Rotorua and Maori banquet

Today we head into the geothermal landscapes that surround the Maori heartlands around Rotorua, New Zealand’s ‘Sulphur City’. We’ll visit the city’s museum, discovering something of the region’s legends and history through a series of in-novative and interactive exhibits. You will have free time to explore the stunning Bath House building and a series of computer generated films that take you through the cultural and seismic origins of this fascinating region. . This afternoon has then been left free to enjoy at your leisure, with options for mountain biking, relaxing spa treatments and volcano walking. This evening we attend a traditional Te Po banquet, where we are treated to a ritual Maori welcome, followed by songs, dances and a Maori hangi feast. After the dinner we then drive out to the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley to enjoy the valley’s extraordinary illuminated attractions, including the Pohutu geyser.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast Dinner

6 Drive to Napier via Wai-o-Tapu and Lake Taupo; visit Hawke's Bay Vineyard

This morning we pay a visit to the remarkable Waiotapu Thermal Valley, a dazzlingly colourful collection of bubbling pools and silica terraces that lie on the edge of the active Taupo Volcanic Zone before heading to New Zealand’s largest lake. Occupying an ancient volcanic crater, Lake Taupo covers over 600 square kilometres and was created by one of the largest eruptions ever documented. Reaching depths of over 180 metres and drained by the Waikato River (New Zealand’s longest river), the lake is famed for its trout fishing and provides us with one of the North Island’s most stunning natural attractions. From here we continue into New Zealand’s fertile wine country, where we visit the vineyards of Hawke’s Bay and enjoy an afternoon of fine wine, gourmet cheeses and a tour of some of the area’s best wineries. Famed for its Chardonnays and its superb reds, the area is home to over 80% of the country’s Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes and produces some of the richest and most exquisite wines in the country. Our final destination for the day is the engaging town of Napier, lying on the southern edge of Hawke’s Bay, whose unique collection of Art Deco buildings makes it one of the most popular attractions on North Island.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

7 Walking tour of Napier; drive Wellington

In 1931 Napier was destroyed by a massive earthquake that registered 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Following the wholesale destruction of the city, its centre was rebuilt in the popular Art Deco style of the period, creating a wonderful location to explore. We then head south, towards New Zealand’s capital. Wellington has been New Zealand’s capital since 1865 and its engaging mix of culture and art, combined with stunning harbour views and a backdrop of steep hills and precariously sited buildings, makes it one of the country’s most captivating cities. On arrival we will visit the superb Te Papa National Museum, one of the finest museums in the world, filled with a staggering collection of Maori treasures, artworks and a unique Marae (Maori meeting house). After this we will also be some free time to continue exploring the museum’s fascinating collections further, or to take a wander through Wellington’s engaging city streets.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

8 Ferry across Cook Strait to Picton; drive Kaikoura

This morning we cross the Cook Strait and head for the bustling port of Picton, at the head of the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound. On arrival we drive south, following the eastern coastline of South Island to the town of Kaikoura. Surrounded by snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps, the town once lay at the heart of New Zealand’s whaling industry and today provides one of the best places in the country to see these majestic leviathans up close. Translating from its original Maori as the place ‘to eat crayfish’, the town provides us with a relaxing location for an afternoon’s gentle wandering. You could explore its craft shops and galleries, perhaps take a stroll along the Peninsula Walkway, or even enjoy some of Kaikoura’s famous crayfish.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

9 Optional whale watching trip

This morning is free to partake in a whale watching tour, where there is the possibility of seeing sperm whales (depending on the season). This area is also renowned for its pods of dusky dolphins and can boast an incredible diversity of seabirds, including 13 species of albatross, 14 varieties of petrels and 7 types of shearwaters. Alternatively you may wish to relax and enjoy some free time. This afternoon we will head south to the Garden City of Christchurch. (Unfortunately in the aftermath of the earthquake there are still several sections of the city closed of to the public)

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

10 Drive to Hokitika optional Tranz Alpine to Greymouth

With an early start, crossing from the west to the east coast today we traverse some of New Zealand’s most captivating natural beauty, as we pass through the rugged vistas of Arthur’s Pass en route to the township of Hokitika at the mouth of the Hokitika River. For those that wish, there is the option to take the famous Tranzalpine train from Christchurch, meeting up with the rest of the group in Greymouth (be aware, the train journey costs 85GBP and must be booked through Explore at the time you make your booking). The journey takes you across the Canterbury Plains and through the beautiful gorges of the Waimakariri River Valley, negotiating some 16 tunnels and 5 viaducts as you head up into the dramatic landscapes of the Southern Alps. From here we continue on to Punakaiki Rocks to visit the amazing coastal rock formations before following the coast down to Hokitika, stopping off to take in the wild and rugged beauty of the west coast, before we finally arrive in the old gold mining town later this afternoon. Founded in 1864, Hokitika was once a thriving community of over 50,000, until the end of the gold seams saw its population drift away. Today it is home to around 4,000 people and the gold has been replaced by paua (abalone) shell and greenstone (jade) jewellery. It still retains something of its old frontier spirit though and a stroll through its historic heart makes for an interesting diversion.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

11 Drive to Franz Josef Glacier

Crossing the Hokitika River this morning we head south, passing through native bush of Rimu and Kahikatea (white pine). The first European to discover the west coast was Abel Tasman in December 1642. Long and thin and enclosed by the Tasman Sea to the east and the Southern Alps to the west, it is a land of glacial deposits and alluvium that flows from the rivers and glaciers of the alps. There are some 60 glaciers in the park, but only Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are readily accessible. Franz Josef Glacier is one of the few that actually creeps down below the vegetation line and today we have an opportunity to walk up to the terminal face of this spectacular river of moving ice. A relic of the last Ice Age, named after the old Austrian emperor, Franz Josef Glacier has been moving forward at an astonishing rate of a metre a day for the past quarter of a century. There are a number of optional excursions available today, including glacier valley walks heli-hikes that take you up onto the glacier itself and scenic flights over both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

12 Visit Fox Glacier then drive via Wanaka to Queenstown

A short drive south this morning brings us to Fox Glacier, named after a former Prime Minister of New Zealand. The track from the car park down to the glacier face crosses a landscape of ancient moraine that testifies to the continual advance and retreat of the glacier over the centuries. After our visit we continue on to the breathtaking setting of Lake Matheson, where we are treated to a picture perfect image of Mount Cook reflected in the lake’s dark, mirrored waters. Our journey then continues across the River Haast and away from the coast, passing through the beautiful scenery of the Haast River Valley as we snake our way through the Aspiring National Park and onto the town of Makaroa. After a brief stop to refuel and refresh, we head next for the lakeside setting of Wanaka, impressively situated amongst an encircling ring of mountain peaks before the still waters of a lovely lake. The final leg of our journey today then takes us on to Queenstown, New Zealand’s adrenaline capital and the most popular resort town on the South Island. Surrounded by mountain peaks (including the famous Remarkables), and set on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a stunning location to break our journey for the next couple of days.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

13 In Queenstown

Queenstown’s spectacular lakeside location, with mountain peaks rising on all sides, makes for an impressive list of possible optional activities. The skiing and snowboarding here is fantastic (all equipment available to hire locally) as are the more adrenaline-based activities such as jet boating. You can take helicopter flights over the stunning peaks of the Remarkables or tackle the Grade 3-5 rapids of the Shotover River. Another possible excursion is a half-day tour which combines a 90-minute jet-boat journey along the Dart River with a short hike into the rainforests of Mount Aspiring National Park and then heads back by 4-wheel drive to Queenstown, via Paradise (location of Lothlorien, Isengard and Amon Hen in the Lord of the Rings films). Bordering the Fiordland National Park, this trip takes you into some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in New Zealand. Alternatively, less active but equally rewarding options may be to sample some of the local Queenstown wines, or take a scenic boat trip on Lake Wakatipu on board the handsomely restored steamship the ‘TSS Earnslaw’.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

14 Drive to Milford Sounds; cruise to Te Anau

This morning we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage setting of Fjordland National Park and the stunning beauty of Milford Sound. Once described by Rudyard Kipling as the 8th wonder of the world, Milford Sound is a breathtaking setting of peaks and inlets that run some 15km inland from the Tasman Sea. Boarding a custom built boat, built along the lines of the old trading scows that used to ply these waters, we spend some time exploring the fjords and waterways of this incredible landscape this morning, looking out for dolphins, seals and penguins as we thread our way past towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Afterwards we then continue to the lovely setting of Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island and second only to Lake Taupo in size. If time allows on arrival it may be possible to undertake a tour of the Te Anau Caves (optional), a two and a half hour river journey into the depths of the region’s famous glow worm caves.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast Lunch

15 Drive to Dunedin with wildlife spotting on the peninsula

Our journey today takes us across the spectacular Peninsula high road and on to the city they call the ‘Edinburgh of the South’. Dunedin was settled by Scottish settlers in the middle years of the 19th century and today presents a gracious setting of towers and spires that still retains something of its Gaelic heritage. Our route takes us via the town of Gore and, as we drive across country that was once home to Maori tribes and the great (but now sadly extinct) Moa, we take in the fabulous views out across the Pacific Ocean and Otago Harbour. Besides its Scottish ancestry, Dunedin is also famed for its wildlife, especially its albatross and penguin colonies, and this afternoon we will pay a visit to the Albatross Centre on the outskirts of the city. After a chance to wander around its exhibits and hopefully see a few of the famed birds in flight, we then board 8 wheeled all-terrain vehicles for a journey down onto Penguin Beach. Here we enter a world inhabited by yellow-eyed and blue penguins, fur seals and colonies of cliff-dwelling cormorants, all living together in complete harmony. A number of hides located along the beach-front allow us to view these remarkable animals in the wild, watching them go about their daily business free from the disturbance of human interlopers. At the end of our tour we return to Dunedin for the evening.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

16 AM free in Dunedin. PM drive to Mount Cook via Moeraki Boulders

A morning of leisure allows a chance to see a little more of a city that can lay claim to a remarkable number of achievements. It was home to New Zealand’s first university, as well as its first daily newspaper, first public art gallery and first public cable car system. It can also boast the country’s first use of kerosene street lighting and its first chocolate factory! Indeed, in its heyday Dunedin was a progressive and vibrant centre of commerce, culture and education, an impressive claim for a city that lay at the ends of the empire. We depart the city and head north, stopping off to view the incredible boulders that lie strewn across Moeraki Beach, before continuing via the coastal towns of Oamaru and Timaru to the rural community of Omarama. Situated near the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin this is traditionally sheep country, but of late the region has also benefited from a growing reputation as one of the world’s best gliding locations. For us though, it is our gateway into the dramatic vistas of the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

17 Visit Mount Cook village; drive Ashburton

This morning we visit Mount Cook Village, lying at the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain. Rising to a height of 3754m, Mount Cook sits amongst the stunning beauty of the Southern Alps, which themselves stretch across the length of South Island. Weather permitting, there will be an opportunity this morning to take an optional flight over these ranges by plane or helicopter, taking in the Murchison and Tasman Glaciers (the latter being the largest ice flow in the Southern Hemisphere), as well as the towering presence of Mount Cook itself. This evening will be spent in Ashburton after passing through Church of Good Shephard on the shores of Lake Tekapo.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

18 In Christchurch

This morning we will drive to Christchurch. The rest of the day has been left free to enjoy as you wish, with numerous options available to make the most of your final day. Unfortunately in the aftermath of the Earthquake there are many sections of Christchurch that are closed of to the public due to damage. There are however options outside the city. You might like to take a punt along the River Avon, there are also trips available to view the Southern Alps and the colonial settlement of Akaroa, as well as the beautiful mountain landscapes around Mount Sunday, the setting for Edoras in the Lord of the Rings. Your tour leader will be happy to help you arrange an itinerary for the day

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

19 Tour ends in Christchurch

The tour ends in Christchurch this morning after breakfast.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

prices based on double occupancy land only and vary on departure dates no air is included

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