The Road Less Travelled
For those who have been to New Zealand before or with a more adventurous spirit this tour takes you off the iconic trails to spectacular lesser known destinations. Includes an urban Maori tour of Auckland and a day on Great Barrier Island before visiting the outstanding native rainforests and beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula. Travel through Rotorua and tour White Island, New Zealand's only active marine volcano before taking the East Coast route past spectacular beaches and through isolated townships where the population is predominantly Maori. Enjoy a walk in picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound and down the east coast of the South Island and through The Catlins area of unspoilt rugged coastal landscapes. Visit isolated Stewart Island and experience a scenic flight, walk and jetboat through the stunning Siberia Valley near Wanaka. This is an unforgettable journey of adventure and discovery!
- Meet and Greet on arrival in New Zealand
- New Zealand Airport Transfers
- 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)
Day 1 - ARRIVE IN AUCKLAND; NEW ZEALAND
Arrive at Auckland International Airport where you will be met by our staff. Transfer to your Auckland City accommodation. The remainder of day free to rest and explore Auckland independently.
Day 2 - AN URBAN MAORI EXPERIENCE
Today explore Auckland from a Maori perspective on a small group tour, with an award winning local Maori guiding service. First visit Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), originally the site of a Maori fortified village and see the panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland City and Rangitoto Island. You will learn the significance of this place to Maori and about the controversial history of more recent times. Next you will travel out to a boutique village where you can buy your lunch at a funky café, enjoy mixing with the locals and view some authentic Maori/NZ made arts and crafts then continue on to the west coast for a bush walk set beside a fresh water stream. Here you will be able to walk amongst the plants and trees and learn some of the ancestral knowledge of the traditional Maori medicinal and practical uses for them. Learn about the Maori Creation stories and Tane Mahuta - God of the Forest. The day finishes by exploring the realm of Tangaroa, God of the Sea, with a walk along the velvety sands of one of Auckland's famous black sand surf beaches.
Day 3 - GREAT BARRIER ISLAND
An early start. Transfer to Auckland Airport for a 7.30 am flight by light plane over the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf to majestic Great Barrier Island (30 minutes). On arrival enjoy breakfast at a local café followed by an easy half hour walk with your experienced nature guide on gravelled tracks and boardwalks past giant Nihau palms and rare native flora and fauna over unique wetlands to the Kaitoke natural thermal springs. The adventure continues as we drive past native bush and rugged peaks to the secluded natural harbour at Port Fitzroy where we have a relaxed kiwi style picnic lunch. A short drive takes us to a sweeping, often deserted stretch of pristine white sand. There is time here for a swim or a meander along the beach to visit the graves of those drowned in one of New Zealand's worst shipwrecks. Visit the only working cattle and sheep farm on the island where relics of the past remain. Here the world's largest population of Brown Teal can be found, a friendly little duck on the verge of extinction. At a nearby stream, monster eels come when called and can be fed - if you dare! This unforgettable day is rounded off with a climb to the top of Windy Canyon, a spectacular short walk. The path winds around rocky outcrops and past sheer cliffs coated with rata vines and takes in breathtaking views of the island and beyond. The flight back returns you to Auckland Airport at 5.30pm.
Day 4 - AUCKLAND / THE COROMANDEL PENINSULA
Today drive south across the Bombay Hills and travel across the Hauraki Plains to the old gold mining town of Thames, then north following the coast to Coromandel for a ride on Barry Brickell's narrow gauge Driving Creek Railway. Barry who is a renowned potter and railway enthusiast built this amazing narrow gauge railway through the luxuriant native rainforest, some of which he planted himself, to bring clay down the mountain to his kilns. Barry is a bit of a character. You will enjoy the ride on the hand-built trains which provide comfortable open sided rides over 3 km track, incorporating three tunnels, two spirals, five reversing points and 6 viaducts. Afterwards drive on across the Coromandel Ranges to beautiful Matarangi Beach and Whitianga township. Next stop is Hotwater Beach where at low tide you can dig your own pool in the sand and bathe in the thermal waters, which bubble up. Continue south through farmland and forests to Tairua and Pauanui or Whangamata. Both are very popular beaches with 3 - 4 kms of lovely golden sand washed by the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
Day 5 - COROMANDEL PENINSULA / BAY OF PLENTY / ROTORUA
Today drive south through the Coromandel hills clad in lovely native rainforest to the gold mining town of Waihi. From here drive through the Bay of Plenty to Tauranga and New Zealand's top beach resort township of Mt Maunganui. It is a further 45 minutes drive on to Rotorua travelling through Te Puke and past pretty Lake Rotoiti. In the evening you will be welcomed onto a Marae (Maori Village) with a traditional powhiri followed by a Hangi (dinner cooked over hot stones in the ground) and a cultural performance of Maori song and dance, including the vigorous Haka.
Day 6 - ROTORUA SIGHTSEEING
Today take a private full day tour of Rotorua and environs with experienced local Maori guide. Start with a drive past the Buried Village of Te Wairoa and the beautiful Blue and Green Lakes. Then travel south to the Waiotapu Thermal Reserve to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10.15 am and for a walk through the thermal reserve and to view New Zealand's largest mud pool. Also includes 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 their stained glass window of Jesus appearing to walk on the waters of Lake Rotorua can be seen behind the altaar of St Faith's Anglican Church. Lunch is included.
Day 7 - WHITE ISLAND DAY TRIP / WHAKATANE (85 KMS)
From Rotorua it is about 75 minutes drive to Whakatane travelling past Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoma through Hongi's Track and some lovely native rainforest. Here board a boat for an 80 minute ride across the water to New Zealand's only active marine volcano. On arrival transfer from the boat to the island by tender craft for a guided tour of White Island with its crater lake, sulphur vents and old sulphur works. On the return trip the launch will interact with any marine life that is encountered - the pods of Dolphins that inhabit these waters are often seen (duration 6 hours). Lunch is included.
Day 8 - WHAKATANE / EAST COAST / GISBORNE (340 KMS)
A full day drive south to Opotiki and through Te Kaha to the East Coast. The scenery is marvellous and the population is predominantly Maori. About every 15 kms along the highway you will see Marae with traditional carved Maori Meeting Houses which are integral to the everyday life of the local people. Time permitting there is the option of a Maori guide from the Ngati Porou at Te Araroa taking you for a 4 wheel drive tour 1,000 metres up Hikurangi Mountain to Maui Whakairo, There are 9 large carved Whakairo (sculptures) depicting Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga and his Whanau (family) here, which are a tribute to the cultural heritage and artistry of the local Maori. Sit in the quiet shelter of the mountain and absorb the stories these magnificent Whakairo tell. At Ruatoria, which is the largest settlement on the East Coast where you may meet a master-carver at Te Runanga o Ngati Porou. The carvings he produces are simply amazing and his artistry and skill stunning. Afterwards continue south through hilly but picturesque sheep and cattle farming country To Te Puia Springs, Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay. There are some lovely beaches along this coastline - none better than Anaura Bay which English explorer Captain James Cook visited.
Day 9 - GISBORNE / BLENHEIM (BY AIR)/ MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS
Morning at Gisborne, which is a lovely coastal city renowned for its warm sunny climate, beaches and strong Maori culture. It was here that Captain James Cook first landed in New Zealand in 1769. There are some excellent wineries in the Gisborne area, which can be visited.In the afternoon fly south to Wellington and connect to Blenheim at the top of the South Island. You will be collected at the airport and transferred to Picton for a cruise across Queen Charlotte Sound by water taxi to Torea Bay and your resort accommodation. It is in a wonderful isolated setting with a prime waterfront location surrounded by bush-clad hills and is a popular anchorage for cruising boats (not ocean liners), sea kayaking, and hikers as the Queen Charlotte Walkway passes close to the property.
Day 10 - IN THE MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS
Today there is the option of hiking on the popular Queen Charlotte Walkway. You can walk north or south on the walkway from your accommodation or take a launch further along the Sound and then walk back. The views from the track out over the sparking waters of the Queen Charlotte Sound are marvellous. There are some very nice areas of native rainforest along the way. Another option is sea kayaking; or a cruise to a Mussel farm on Kenepuru Sound to taste these delicacies and sip the famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Day 11 - MARLBOROUGH WINERIES / HANMER SPRINGS
This morning transfer back to Picton by water taxi. Then drive across the hill to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough Wine Region. This is New Zealand's top wine producing area, its wines winning awards around the world. Among the leading wineries are Grove Mill, Hunters, Alan Scott Estate, Shingle Peak, Cloudy Bay and Montana.Lunch and wine tasting at one of the top Marlborough wineries; and in the afternoon visit the new Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum. The Knights of the Sky exhibit here occupies 3,000 sq metres and is one of the world's largest collections of WW1 aircraft and rare memorabilia including a mix of dramatically staged static displays along with flyable aeroplanes. The collection is owned by a trust chaired by renowned Film Director - Peter Jackson (Oscar winner for the Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy)Afterwards drive down the Pacific Coast to Kaikoura which is a popular base for whale watching and inland through Waiau to Hanmer Springs.This pretty alpine village is situated in a high country basin 385 m above sea level - and is one of New Zealand's favourite retreats - perfect for a rest, as a get away, or for adventure. The outdoor thermal pools in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve are popular year round. Sit back and relax in the natural thermal water of these pools surrounded by towering trees and a magnificent mountain backdrop. Hanmer Springs has something for everyone from a variety of walking trails, golf and dining to thrill seeking adventure in jet boats, mountain bikes, 4WD drive safaris, horse trekking and a bungy site.
Day 12 - HANMER SPRINGS / CHRISTCHURCH (135 KMS) / DUNEDIN (BY AIR)
The morning is free at Hanmer Springs. In the afternoon drive down to Christchurch Airport and take a flight south to Dunedin. Dunedin was settled by the Scots and is a popular university city. Time permitting on arrival take a drive out to the Royal Albatross Colony on Taiaroa Heads site of the only mainland nesting place in the world for these giant seabirds.
Day 13 - DUNEDIN / THE CATLINS / INVERCARGILL (249 KMS)
Today travel south from Dunedin past Dunedin Airport and Lake Waihola to Balclutha. Cross the Clutha River - which is New Zealand's largest river (by volume of water) and drive on south through picturesque farmlands for a day exploring the Catlins Region. Suggest drive first to Kaka Point and walk out to the Nugget Point lighthouse from where there are stunning views up and down the coastline and out to the southern ocean. Then continue through Owaka and visit to pretty Pounawea, which is located on the coast near the outlet of the Catlins Lake. Fur Seals and the huge Elephant Seals can often be seen on the lovely golden sands of nearby Surat Bay. Suggest a 10 minute walk through magnificent native rainforest to the Purakanui Falls. Continue travelling through Papatowhai. The fossils forest on the sea edge at Curio Bay is a "must see". There are also rare Yellow Eyed Penguins nesting here and they can be seen coming ashore in the late afternoon. Time permitting suggest a detour to Waipapa Point lighthouse, site of New Zealand's worst maritime disaster when 131 people lost their lives in a shipwreck in 1881. The lighthouse was built after that.
Day 14 - INVERCARGILL / STEWART ISLAND + ULVA ISLAND
This morning either travel across Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island by boat (60 minutes) or by air (20 minutes). In the afternoon meet your guide at Golden Bay for a Birds and Forest Half Day Tour. Ulva Island is the ultimate for bird watchers; it is free of predators and is a haven for native birds and plants. The birds are almost tame. Since 2000 four species of birds have been released on Ulva Island including rare South Island Saddleback, Yellowhead and the threatened Stewart Island Robin. Among other species to be seen here are the Weka, Tui, Robins, the Spotted Shag, the Brown Creeper and the Kiwi.In the evening there is the option of Kiwi spotting. (limited to just 12 people every second night).
Day 15 - STEWART ISLAND / INVERCARGILL / WANAKA
Morning flight back to Invercargill. From here drive north to Kingston and around Lake Wakatipu in the shadow of the Remarkables Ranges to Frankton, then across the Crown Range and down the picturesque Cardrona Valley to Wanaka. Wanaka is a popular lake side resort with a stunning backdrop of a beautiful glacial lake and the snow capped Southern Alps
Day 16 - SIBERIA VALLEY
Today drive around Lakes Hawea and Wanaka to Makarora on the Haast Pass Road for a memorable flight, walk and jetboat combo adventure. Starts with a 25 minute ride in a fixed wing airplane across stunning alpine scenery - glaciers, ice, snow, mountain lakes, hanging valleys, unspoilt native rainforests and clear rushing rivers. Upon landing in the Siberia Valley begin a 3-hour hike through valleys and native beech forest linking the remote Siberia Valley with the wilderness of the Wilkin Valley where you will rendezvous with a jetboat for a thrilling and scenic 30-minute trip back to Makaroa. Afterwards return to Wanaka.
Day 17 - WANAKA / QUEENSTOWN (116 KMS) AND DEPART
Today drive to Queenstown Airport and check in for your departure flight (or extend your tour by spending time in Queenstown and the Fiordland area)