A fantastic selection of New Zealand's dramatic natural scenery, hospitality, and wildlife. Encounter endangered birds on a Department of Conservation bird sanctuary island, Glow-worms in a limestone cave, Tane Mahuta - New Zealand's largest tree, Dolphins you can swim with, Sperm Whales, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. Feel the heat of spectacular geysers and boiling mud pools and the freezing cold on the West Coast Glaciers. Also meet educational and entertaining local Maori guides, taste a hangi dinner, stay overnight on a working dairy farm, a high country sheep station, a comfortable ensuite cabin on isolated Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park and an eco lodge in an ancient rainforest!
- Meet and Greet on arrival in New Zealand
- New Zealand Airport Transfers
- English/Foreign speaking guide depending on arrangements
- Quality hotel accommodation, twin/double rooms, (single rooms available with single supplement) all with private facilities
- Cooked Breakfasts (B) and Dinners (D) where indicated on the itinerary or to be included by arrangement.
- Tour admissions as per itinerary. (eg scenic boat cruises, cultural events). Please see itinerary for specifics.
- Touring in a modern air conditioned vehicle, type depending on arrangements
- Complimentary Travel Kit including travel vouchers, support documentation and a New Zealand Map.
Self Drive Rental Vehicle - Private Car & Driver/Guide (or a combination)
NOVEMBER / APRIL - DAILY DEPARTURES
Day 1 - WELCOME TO AUCKLAND; NEW ZEALAND
Arrive at Auckland International Airport where you will be met by our staff who will provide you with the final documents and vouchers for your New Zealand tour. Transfer to your Auckland city accommodation by private car and driver. The balance of the day is free to rest and explore New Zealand's largest city.
Day 2 - TIRITIRI MATANGI ISLAND
This morning take a 75 minute cruise by twin hulled catamaran across the Hauraki Gulf to Tiritiri Matangi Island. This island is a Department of Conservation bird sanctuary, which has been cleared of rats, cats and other predators allowing many of New Zealand's rarest and most endangered species to breed in relative safety. Among the birds to be seen here are the Takahe, thought to be extinct until discovered in 1947 in a remote part of Fiordland National Park. Even today there are only a few hundred of them in the whole world. There are also Saddlebacks, Stitchbirds, Bellbirds, Tuis, Kereru, Bush Robins and the Kokako on the island. A 60 minute guided tour will be provided on arrival and then you are free to roam the island yourselves looking for the birds. Return to Auckland late afternoon.
Day 3 - AUCKLAND / WAIPOUA FOREST / BAY OF ISLANDS
Today drive north across the Harbour Bridge and through the North Shore. Pass lovely Orewa and Waiwera Beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Time permitting you may wish to stop for a stroll along one of these beaches (or a swim). Visit the excellent Matakohe Timber Museum where the gum digging and timber milling history of this Northland Region is on show. Continue through Dargaville to the Waipoua Kauri Forest to see Tane Mahuta, which is the largest of all the giant kauri trees. Afterwards drive around Hokianga harbour and through Kaikohe to the lovely Bay of Islands.
Day 4 - SAILING AND SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS
Enjoy a six hour sailing outing aboard a 40ft catamaran for a tour of the Bay of Islands experiencing fantastic sea life, exploring the coastline within the Bay of Islands Maritime Park with an island stopover for snorkelling, taking a nature walk or just relaxing on the beach. This is the only yacht licensed by Department of Conservation from which you can swim and play with the dolphins. Watching and swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat is an amazing and wonderful experience and swimming with the dolphins is at their invitation (and conditions permitting). All equipment supplied and includes BBQ lunch.
Day 5 - BAY OF ISLANDS / WAITOMO FARMSTAY
Today drive south to Whangarei and down the Pacific Coast to Auckland. Cross the Bombay Hills and continue south through the lush Waikato dairy farmlands and Hamilton City to the Waitomo area. Your accommodation tonight is on a farm. This opportunity to meet the friendly New Zealander's in their own home will be a tour highlight. Home cooked dinner with your hosts.
Day 6 - WAITOMO CAVES / COROMANDEL
Farm breakfast and then your guide will take you over private farmland to visit two caves. See super stalactite and stalagmite limestone formations, Emu bones and a wai-tomo, followed by a gentle float in a raft on an underground stream to see an impressive display of glow-worms. Afterwards drive on across picturesque farming country and through the Karangahake Gorge and Waihi to the Coromandel Peninsula. This is where many New Zealanders holiday - an area of beautiful golden sand ocean beaches and lovely rainforest.
Day 7 - ON THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA
A full day tour with an experienced local guide. Includes a hike through native rainforest featuring a variety of specimen native trees such as Rimu, Miro and Totara plus regenerating Kauri forest and tree ferns. See an 1890s gold town, glow-worms, an historic gold cave and learn about the flora and fauna of this magic area. Than travel down to the coast to see magnificent golden sand beaches, off shore islands and ancient pohutukawa trees. Visit popular Hotwater Beach where when the tide is right you can dig a pool hole on the beach and it will fill with thermal water, which bubbles up through the sand. You can bathe in it/or paddle while the surf washes over you. Also walk to an old Maori pa site to enjoy the spectacular panorama before returning to your accommodation. Picnic lunch is included.
Day 8 - COROMANDEL / ROTORUA
Morning drive south to Rotorua. In the afternoon take a guided tour of Te Puia - the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve where there are spectacular geysers and boiling mud pools, and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute where young Maori are being taught traditional carving and weaving skills. Then in the evening enjoy a traditional Hangi dinner followed by a concert of Maori song and dance including the vigorous Haka, on a local Marae.
Day 9 - ROTORUA SIGHTSEEING / CHRISTCHURCH (BY AIR)
This morning take a 4 hour tour of Rotorua and environs with an experienced local Maori guide. Start by taking in the views over Rotorua from Mt Ngongotaha followed by a visit to the Marae (Maori Village) at Ohinemutu on the Rotorua lakefront. This is where there stained glass window of Jesus appearing to walk on the waters of Lake Rotorua can be seen behind the alter of St Faith's Anglican Church. Then drive south to Waiotapu Thermal Reserve to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10.15 am and a walk through the thermal reserve. Lastly view New Zealand's largest mud pool before returning to your accommodation.
In the afternoon fly south to Christchurch. The balance of the day at leisure to explore "the garden city".
Day 10 - KAIKOURA WHALE WATCHING
Today travel north by coach and up the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura for a whale watch cruise in a purpose built boat. The sea in this area is especially rich in nutrients, which attract a wide variety of sea life including Sperm Whales - the largest of all the toothed whales, which can be seen in these waters on 95% of days year round. There are also pods of playful Dusky Dolphins, seals, penguins and occasionally Orca can be seen. After lunch at a local café visit a seal colony where the fur seals may be viewed at close quarters. On the way back to Christchurch there will be a stop at one of the very good wineries in the Waipara Area where wine tasting has been arranged for you.
Day 11 - CHRISTCHURCH / ARTHUR'S PASS
Drive inland across the sheep and cropping farmlands of the Canterbury Plans and through Porter's Pass to Arthur's Pass. Stay on a 6,000-acre high country sheep station surrounded by native beech forests and tussock lands. There are wonderful views from the modern 20-room lodge across the Waimakiriri River Valley toward the mighty Southern Alps. The lodge is owned and operated by well known conservationist Dr Gerry McSweeney and his wife Anne Saunders. Dinner at the lodge.
Day 12 - AT ARTHUR'S PASS
A day to relax and explore. There is a complimentary daily guided programme of two half-day activities such as bird watching, forest, wetlands and tussock land walks, shearing and wool spinning, historical and night sky walks. Dinner and breakfast are included in the tariff.
Day 13 - ARTHUR'S PASS / THE GLACIERS / LAKE MOERAKI
After breakfast drive across Arthur's Pass through the Southern Alps and descend through native rainforest to the West Coast. Suggest a stop at Hokitika to visit a greenstone studio where a local jade stone is crafted into traditional and contemporary jewellery and ornaments. The Franz Josef Glacier and its near neighbour the Fox Glacier are huge rivers of snow and ice which flow from vast snowfields high in the Southern Alps almost to sea level. There are half and full day guided walks onto the Glacier. Today take a 40-minute Grand Tour by helicopter over the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and across the main divide in the Southern Alps to Mt Cook National Park viewing the Tasman Glacier and New Zealand's tallest peak, Mt Cook (12,349 ft). A snow landing on one of the glaciers is included. Afterwards drive an hour further south to an award winning eco-lodge at Lake Moeraki. The lodge is sited on the banks of the Moeraki River where it flows from Lake Moeraki and is 2 kms from the Tasman Sea. Its very remoteness is its prime feature, giving access to a pristine area of New Zealand including 1,000 year old native trees. Rare Crested Fiordland Penguins, Elephant Seals (in season), and Fur seals can be seen. There are canoes for the use of guests and a daily programme of naturalist guided wilderness walks. Dinner at the lodge.
Day 14 - AT LAKE MOERAKI
The day at leisure to relax and explore the area independently or join one of the naturalist- guided activities - such as a rainforest and birding walk, lake canoeing, giant eel feeding, evening historic and glow/night sky walks. Breakfast and dinner are included in the tariff.
Day 15 - LAKE MOERAKI / WANAKA / QUEENSTOWN
Breakfast at the lodge. Then drive south through the rainforests of Westland National Park and across the Haast Pass through the Southern Alps. The scenery is spectacular with high peaks all around. Descend to Makarora and drive around glacially formed Lakes Wanaka and Hawea into Wanaka Township. Wanaka is a very popular resort town with a wide range of outdoors activities available. Continue to Queenstown travelling via the picturesque Cardrona Valley and the Crowne Range.
Day 16 - AT QUEENSTOWN
There is lots to do in this wonderful alpine resort. Suggest spend time exploring historic Arrowtown plus take a cruise on the 1912 vintage lake steamer TSS Earnslaw. Other options are the thrill of a Shotover Jetboat ride, a drive out to Glenorchy for a day walk on the famous Routeburn Track, a Safari of the Rings tour or a Dart River Safari (maybe a combo with the Fun Yaks). There are also half and full day guided tours of the Central Otago wineries. Suggest dine one evening at the Skyline Restaurant from where there are panoramic views across the lake and surrounding mountains.
Day 17 - QUEENSTOWN / MANAPOURI / DOUBTFUL SOUND
From Queenstown drive around the north-eastern side of Lake Wakatipu in the lee of the Remarkables Ranges to Kingston and on across the picturesque Southland countryside to Manapouri village on the shores of Lake Manapouri. Board a high speed launch and cruise across lovely Lake Manapouri to West Arm, where there is a large underground hydro power station. Here board a coach and drive across the Wilmot Pass through Fiordland National Park. This is one of the most remote parts of New Zealand - the isolation is splendid. On arrival at Deep Cove board the MV Fiordland Navigator for an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. Cruise down the fiord to the open sea. Seals and dolphins are often seen. Opportunities to go ashore with a nature guide and for sea kayaking. The boat anchors for the night in an isolated cove where the only sounds are the sounds of nature. Your accommodations are in an en suite cabin aboard a modern scow, which is modelled on the lines on the sailing scows common around the New Zealand coast 100 years ago. Dinner served aboard.
Day 18 - DOUBTFUL SOUND / MANAPOURI / DUNEDIN
Breakfast on the boat. The boat berths and returns you to West Arm by coach across the Wilmot Pass and then cross Lake Manapouri on the launch. In the afternoon drive across the Southland and Otago countryside to Dunedin on the Pacific Coast.
Day 19 - THE OTAGO PENINSULA
Today travel out to the Otago Peninsula to visit the Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Heads -- the only mainland nesting place in the world for these magnificent seabirds, which can have a wingspan of over 11 ft. (Note the birds are nesting at this time of year and DOC does not allow visitors down to the nesting area. The Observatory is closed mid September to mid November however Albatross can be seen from a Monarch Wildlife Cruise during this time). Then travel on to see the rare Yellow Eyed Penguins come ashore from a day at sea and make their way across the beach to their nests. Little blue penguins and seals can also be seen here.
Day 20 - DEPART DUNEDIN
Today fly from Dunedin Airport - or you can instead drive to Christchurch (360 kms north) stopping en route to see the Little Blue Penguin Colony at Oamaru
NOTE: The MV Fiordland Navigator does not do overnight cruises from mid May to mid September - but can visit Doubtful Sound on day trips. If you can spare 2 more nights recommend proceed to Stewart Island on day 19, visit Ulva Island on day 20 and on day 21 drive from Invercargill to Dunedin via the Catlins.