New Zealand is the "down-under" paradise for nature lovers. Where else in the world can you find as many different landscapes, climate zones and vegetations so close together as in New Zealand. Bushwalking is the best way to explore NZ's natural beauty. Therefore this tour includes many walks in the most beautiful National Parks. You will discover extinct as well as active volcanoes, secluded beaches, deep mountain lakes, geysers and thermal activity areas, as well as fiords and rainforests. Experience the multi-culture of the Polynesians, Maoris and European settlers with their different traditions and feel the cosmopolitan flair of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
If possible there will be daily walks as specified in the tour itinerary. The average walking time is between 3-4 hours, except the Tongariro Crossing, which will take 7-8 hours and is rated medium to hard. We remind you to expect a range of terrain from flat to undulating to hilly, so we recommend a good level of fitness. Hiking boots or shoes with ankle support are strongly recommended.
Day 1: Christchurch - Arrival. After your arrival in Christchurch, you will be transferred to your downtown hotel. In the afternoon there will be a sightseeing tour through the ’Garden City‘, including the Port Hills and the ‘Sign of the Takahe’ with its magnificent views over the South Pacific and across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps.
Day 2: Christchurch – Queenstown (490 km). After a drive across the flat, alluvial Canterbury plains the road climbs the 709 m Burkes Pass which serves as the northern entrance to the area known as the MacKenzie Basin. On a picnic at the shores of Lake Tekapo you will be treated to magnificent views of New Zealand's Southern Alps. There may be time for an optional scenic flight over Mt Cook, or Aoraki, the cloud piercer. You continue your journey over the Lindis Pass and alongside Lake Dunstan, one of the newest artificial lakes. We travel past fruit stalls and wind through the Kawarau River gorge. There is the opportunity to stop at the world famous A.J Hacket bungy bridge (optional bungy jump) before we arrive in Queenstown.
Day 3: Queenstown (Rest Day). Queenstown is an outdoor adventurer’s playground. Options could be a lake ride aboard the historic steamship Earnslaw, jet boating on the Shotover River, white water rafting, tandem paragliding, scenic helicopter flights, ride up the Gondola or a visit to the Kiwi house to see New Zealand's national icon in the flesh.
Day 4: Queenstown – Te Anau (168 km). We suggest an early start this morning for the beautiful 2.5 hr drive alongside the shores of Lake Wakatipu until you reach Te Anau, the last township before Fiordland National Park. You have the option to do a half day excursion to the Manapouri Underground Power Station (departure from Te Anau is at 11.30 am). Alternatively there is a walk to the bird sanctuary, a 3 hr walk on the Kepler Track, kayaking or just relaxing.
Day 5: Te Anau - Milford Sound (121 km). There are many great walks in this area such as the Routeburn, Hollyford and Key Summit. Depending on the weather the guide will suggest the best option(s) for the day. On the way to Milford Sound, you might spot cheeky Keas (Mountain Parrots) at rest areas next to the road. About 4 pm we board a cruiseship (Milford Wanderer) for an amazing journey through the deep glacier carved Fiords of Milford Sound. In the evening you will be served a delicious dinner while anchoring in one of the tranquil bays. The on-board sleeping rooms have multiple beds per cabin – an unforgettable experience.
Day 6: Milford Sound – Wanaka (351 km). We disembark around 9 am and drive back towards Queenstown. There may be time for a little detour to Arrowtown - an old gold rush village with lots of history. Continuing in the vehicle we drive over the Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest road to Wanaka. At the west end of Lake Wanaka you can see the glittering snowtops of Mount Aspiring (3027 m).
Day 7: Wanaka (Mt Iron walk). Today we start with an easy stroll from the motel down to the lake. We continue along the shore past all the cafes and shops to Bremner Bay and then towards Penrith Beach. We link the 'Beacon Point Walk' with the 'Lake Outlet Walkway', followed by the short climb to the top of Mt.Iron. In total it a pleasant half-day trip (with total walking about 4 hrs). We suggest you take your swimming togs as there will be enough time for a dip in the warmer shallow bays around the edge of the Lake.
Alternatively, you have the option of booking an Alpine hiking tour in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. One of the local guiding companies will drive you approximately 50 km into the West Matukituki Valley to the end of a rough gravel road. From here you start the moderately strenuous guided walk to the foot of the Rob-Roy Glacier. The view from the top of the trail to the surrounding mountains and the glacier is well worth the effort. This optional excursion will be subject to local weather conditions. (Hiking time is approx 4-5 hrs return and driving time). This evening we have the option of organizing a barbecue at our Motel. Please note: today is a rest day for your driver and the bus will not be used.
Day 8: Wanaka – Fox Glacier (265 km). The journey takes you alongside Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. First through arid countryside followed by dense rainforest on the border of Mount Aspiring NP. After a short walk through beech forest at Haast Pass you continue to the township of Fox Glacier. There may be time for a walk to the Glacier Face, or an optional scenic helicopter flight over the glaciers (including a landing on the Glacier).
Day 9: Fox Glacier – Westport (305 km). In the morning you drive to the Franz Josef Glacier lookout before continuing on to Hokitika. Those who are interested can visit a Greenstone factory, where you have the opportunity to buy jade carvings and jewellery at reasonable prices. Pounamu is the Maori name for Greenstone. In Punakaiki you will see the well known pancake rocks and will walk the Truman Track. If time permits we can do the walk along the Pororari River (approx. 2 hrs return, or a shorter walk of 40 mins) which takes you through sub-tropical forest with many of those remarkable Nikau palm trees and lime stone cliffs.
Then it is just a 57 km drive (50 mins) to Westport along the spectacular coastal road. Before checking into our motel, we drive out to Cape Foulwind (just a few km from Westport), where you will see a seal colony on one of the short coastal walks.
Day 10: Westport – Picton (292 km). If we didn’t have time to visit the seal colony at Cape Foulwind yesterday, we can do that this morning. We then continue in the vehicle to Murchison and follow the Buller River to Lake Rotoiti. We take a lunch break at St Arnaud, where there may also be time to do a walk (approx. 2 hours) in the Nelson Lakes National Park.
We drive down the Wairau valley to the world-renowned grape growing region of Marlborough, where we stop for some wine tasting at one of the well known vineyards. Then it is just a short distance to tonight’s destination of Picton
Day 11: Picton – Queen Charlotte Walkway. An early boat transfer this morning from our little fishing village, through the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound to the beginning of the same named walking track. In 4-5 hours (depending on drop off point) you walk through natural scenic reserves with lush coastal forest and over mountain ridges, with splendid views of the Sound. At 3 pm the small boat meets you again (at Furneaux or Punga) and takes you to the idyllic Portage Resort nestled right on the waterfront, where your luggage is already waiting for you.
Day 12: Queen Charlotte Walkway – Wellington. In the morning you hike along the coast through dense rainforest with its gigantic tree ferns. At Mistletoe Bay a boat pick-up is scheduled for 12 noon, which will take you back to Picton. This afternoon you enjoy the 3 hour journey on the Interislander Ferry via the Marlborough Sounds and Tory channel across Cook Strait and to Wellington, arriving early evening. Today is the arrival day in Wellington for those who have booked the North Island only.
Day 13: Wellington – Tongariro National Park (348 km). Departure from Wellington for those who have booked the South Island only). During your sightseeing tour through the city, euphemistically known as the "Windy City”, you will see among other things the Parliamentary Buildings and the historical district with its St. Paul Cathedral. You will be driven to Mount Victoria, from where you can enjoy fantastic views of the city and the harbour. Time permitting you can visit one of the most innovative museums of the world, the National Museum ‘Te Papa’. Towards the evening you reach the small National Park village with amazing views of the largest volcanoes in the country.
Day 14: Tongariro National Park – Rotorua (200 km). The Tongariro Crossing is one of New Zealand's premier day walks. This is an optional non guided walk, which takes you on a fascinating journey through a variety of vegetation zones, over scorer-scattered moonscapes, past the most beautiful turquoise blue lakes, solidified molten rock pillars and boiling hot springs. There are some spectacular panoramas over the surrounding countryside during this 7-8 hour trek. If you are unlucky and the weather is unfavourable, there are a number of alternative shorter walks of 2-3 hours in the National Park. In the afternoon you will drive alongside Lake Taupo, New Zealands biggest Lake before you reach Rotorua, the most unique and active thermal area in the country.
Day 15: Rotorua. The morning is free for you to explore the active thermal valley, or take a walk along the lake shore with a visit to the historic St. Faith`s Church and its beautiful woodcarvings. Around 4 p.m. visit the Maori Cultural Centre, Te Puia, which is famous for its active wonderland of geysers, colourful terraces, hot springs and boiling mud pools. In the early evening there is the optional ’Hangi and Cultural experience’ at one of the popular Maori Villages, where the successor of the first Polynesians present their culture. It is a relaxed evening including a series of song and dance performances followed by a banquet or Hangi (food cooked in the traditional earthfire oven).
Day 16: Rotorua – Whitianga (240 km). Today the tour travels past Lake Rotorua and through the unspoiled Kamai Mamaku forest to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. The mild climate is excellent for kiwi fruit growing. We then drive onto Coromandel Peninsula. At the beginning of the 19th Century this region was in a gold rush. A walk through Broken Hills near Pauanui is a reminder of the turbulent times.
Day 17: Whitianga (Coromandel Peninsula). This Peninsula has a diverse landscape on a small scale. On one side you find bare mountains of volcanic origin and on the other side a rugged coastline with beautiful beaches. This day has a lot to offer, from kayaking, riding or hiking some of the local bush walks, to an excursion to Hot Water Beach, so named because a hot spring bubbles up through the sand, making it a lovely warm place to relax at low tide and watch swimmers enjoying the sea and surf.
Day 18: Whitianga – Auckland (190 km). In the morning you drive south to the small village of Waiomu. On a 2 hour hike with several river-crossings or swing bridges, you will see some of the few Kauri trees (local giant) left. You will leave the Coromandel Peninsula and reach Auckland after about 3 hours drive. During a sightseeing tour in the ’City of Sails‘‘, which is famous for its many sailing yachts in the Hauraki Gulf, you will see among other things the Harbour Bridge, Waitemata Yacht Harbour and Mount Eden, from where you can see the Skytower.
Day 19: Auckland - Departure. The last morning is for your own leisure. We offer free transfers to the airport departing the Hotel between 7 am and 3.30 p.m. Please note that your trip may differ from the above itinerary either to better suit the needs of the group, or due to circumstances beyond our control such as the weather.
Optional Tour Extension:
- Optional Akaroa and Kaikoura extension - 3 day pre-tour (or customized for just Akaroa or just Kaikoura):
Day 1: Christchurch. Arrival in Christchurch. Shuttle transfer to your hotel in the central city.
Day 2: Banks Peninsula/ Akaroa day excursion. You will be picked up at 8.30 a.m. The bus will drive on a panoramic route to the first French settlement, Akaroa. On the way there are numerous photo stops, as well as a visit to the cheese factory of Barry`s Bay. Once in Akaroa you will have time to do a harbour cruise (optional) or just stroll through this beautiful village. You will be back in Christchurch at about 5.45 p.m.
Day 3: Kaikoura day excursion. You will be picked up at 7.30 am. The bus will travel through the rolling hill country of North Canterbury and further along the fantastic coastal road to the fishing village of Kaikoura. You have the choice of whale watching or swimming with the dolphins. In the afternoon you will visit a seal colony where fur seals may be viewed at close quarters. A wine tasting has been arranged in one of Canterbury vineyards on your return journey. Arrive in Christchurch at about 7 p.m.
- Bay of Islands extension, 3 day post-tour (2 or 4 day tours ex Auckland also possible):
Day 1: Auckland to Bay of Islands. Travel across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, north via the Hibiscus Coast to the beautiful Bay of Islands. Arrive in Paihia and visit the historic Waitangi Treaty House. The rest of your day is at leisure. Accommodation in the Bay of Islands - Scenic Circle Bay of Islands Hotel (2 nights).
Day 2: Paihia (Cape Reinga Excursion). Your tour departs in the morning and takes you through Puketi Kauri Forest. Travel along the aptly named Ninety Mile Beach to the northern most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. A BBQ lunch is included followed by an afternoon museum visit, before returning to Paihia.
Day 3: Bay of Islands to Auckland. This morning you will board the Fullers Cruise for a memorable trip to Cape Brett and Piercy Island. Travel through the famous "Hole in the Rock" (weather permitting).
On your return, disembark in Russell, the first capital of New Zealand, and enjoy a sightseeing tour of this historic township. Board the ferry back to Paihia, then rejoin your coach for the return journey to Auckland.
- Airport transfers:
* Day 1 only: Christchurch (between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. from the Airport)
* Day 19 only: Auckland (between 7 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. from the Hotel) Transfers outside these days/ times are your own arrangements
- Accommodation: 18 nights in 3–4 star (NZ standard) hotels and motels
- Meals: 1 breakfast and 1 dinner (Milford Overnight cruise)
- There is an option to contribute to a group kitty for the occasional breakfast and many picnic lunches. For those that are interested (purely optional), the Tourguide will collect approx NZ$100 pp
- Tour guide (who is also the driver)
- Support vehicle (Coaster Bus) with luggage compartment (for 1 bag pp)
- Overnight cruise in Milford Sound
- Boat transport in Queen Charlotte Sound (with luggage transfers also)
- Ferry crossing Picton to Wellington (normally mid afternoon crossing)
- Te Puia entry in Rotorua (maori cultural centre and geothermal site)
- All National Park and other entry fees, except the “optional“ ones
- Wine tasting in Marlborough region.
- International flights and airport taxes
- Airport transfers outside the days/ times specified above
- Travel Insurance
- Meals (except 1 breakfast and 1 dinner as specified above)
- Drinks (except daily drinking water), phone calls and Minibar expenses
- Personal expenses (including any specific medical related requirements).
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