Mount Cook Lily (13 Days)
This tour squeezes more jaw-dropping scenery into 13 days than any other! The South Island has an unparalleled variety of landscapes from the majestic Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, to the vibrant alpine environment of Queenstown.
Day 1 Arrive Wellington
Haere mai - welcome! Arrive into Wellington, you are meet off your flight and transferred to your central hotel. The rest of the day is yours to explore or rest and recover from your flight. Wander along oriental parade and around the bays, or explore Cuba Street - 'New Zealand's Coolest Street' with its eclectic mix of boutiques, cafés and restaurants. A visit to Te Papa, the National Museum and one of the most exciting museums in the world, is highly recommended for New Zealand insights. City Hotel
Day 2 Wellington - Nelson (B)
We board the Interislander ferry to cross the 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. 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. This afternoon we stretch our legs along the pleasant Matai River on a section of the Centre of New Zealand Walkway. With a wide range of eateries, you are free to make your own choice for dinner, though we can recommend the bay scallops, not to mention the local Sauvignon Blanc! Local Bed & Breakfast - 2 nights
Day 3 Abel Tasman National Park (B)
Paradise found! Abel Tasman National Park is a mosaic of golden coves and turquoise lagoons sheltered by forested ranges to the south. With few roads in this pristine wilderness, most journeys are made by boat. Today at Kaiteriteri, we board a small cruiser for a day of exploration, with native wildlife a highlight of our scenery and opportunities for swimming and walking, dreaming and discovering.
Day 4 Nelson - Franz Josef (B)
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 at Westport to stretch our legs on rocky Cape Foulwind, so named in 1770 by Captain Cook after the Endeavour was blown off-shore by the 'foul winds'. The point is reached by an excellent track to viewing platforms where we may see fur seals, sooty shearwaters and blue penguins. Continue down the coast 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. Travelling south along the West Coast to Hokitika where, time permitting, we visit one of the greenstone factories where a local jade-like stone highly prized by pre-European Maori is crafted into exquisite jewellery. Continue south through forests and farmland, with views of the Alps to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, to the village of Franz Josef. 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. Country Hotel
Day 5 Franz Josef - 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. Local Bed & Breakfast
Day 6 Wanaka - Te Anau (B)
This morning there is time to relax, you may wish to take a jet boat ride up the Matukituki River or take the opportunity to enjoy one of New Zealand's best half day walks - The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Trail. As we depart Wanaka we stop to quench our thirst at the much photographed Cardrona Pub before travelling around Lake Wakatipu and into Te Anau, gateway to the magnificent Fiordland National Park. Country Hotel - 2 nights
Day 7 Milford Sound Day Trip (B,L)
Depart Te Anau for a full day excursion travelling via Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. 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. On arrival in Milford Sound, our walk begins with a short boat ride to Sandfly Point. An easy 5.5 km (11 km return) walk alongside the cascading Arthur River and moody Lake Ada, on a well maintained track through ancient temperate rainforest surrounded by an array of ferns, mosses and lichens in vibrant shades of green leads to Giant Gate Waterfall. An expansive swing bridge provides perfect photo opportunities. Return at a leisurely pace taking the time to enjoy this incredible forest. Your nature guide will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the fascinating human heritage of the track. On completion of the walk an opportunity is made for photos at the sign marking the end the track, festooned with the boots of walkers' that have made it to the end of the walk, not a single step further. Walkers then re-join the boat for the transfer back to Milford. At Milford Sound board your cruise down the fiord past Mitre Peak to the open sea. Seals and dolphins are often seen in the clear waters of the fiord. Lunch will be served aboard your cruise. The boat returns to Milford Wharf. Return to Te Anau travelling via the Cleddeau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and the lovely Eglinton Valley.
Day 8 Te Anau - Queenstown (B)
Leaving Fiordland National Park behind, travel through the quaint settlements of Mossburn, Athol and Garston then travel along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown 'Switzerland of the Southern Hemisphere'. Queenstown, nestled among glacier-rounded hills and dramatic rugged mountain peaks, is New Zealand's premier year-round alpine resort. It offers a host of holiday attractions for the visitor from helicopter flights and trips on jet-boats, to walks and tramps. The town is steeped in the history of the goldmining days, evident from the many relics scattered in and among the surrounding hills. City Hotel - 2 nights
Day 9 Queenstown (B)
Today is free for you to do your own thing - Thrill-seekers may choose to zip-line at Bob's Peak, get drenched on a Shotover jet-boat ride or go white-water rafting. But there is much more to Queenstown than bungy jumping and other adventure sports: less hair-raising, but no less enjoyable is the gondola ride up to Bob's Peak, or a 4x4 safari to Skippers Canyon and Arrowtown. Boutique wineries and local gardens welcome visitors and the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw is an elegant way to discover Lake Wakatipu during a cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm. And when it comes to eating out, you are spoiled for choice, so you are free to make your own arrangements for dinner.
Day 10 Queenstown - Twizel (B)
Today we drive north through to historic Arrowtown - a quaint town away from the hustle and bustle with plenty of shops and historic remains from the Gold Rush days. Then continue through the rugged Kawarau Gorge, past pretty Lake Dunstan and across the distinctive Central Otago countryside to the Lindis Pass. Pass the small towns of Omarama to arrive in Twizel where we overnight near Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. Country Hotel
Day 11 Twizel - Mount Cook National Park - Canterbury/Ashburton Area (B,D)
A beautiful drive this morning along Lake Pukaki to The Hermitage, our starting point for a choice of easy walks along the Hooker Valley trail for a close up of the majestic Mount Cook. Then onto Lake Tekapo where The Church of the Good Shepherd is one of New Zealand's most-photographed spots: a tiny church set against a majestic backdrop. Inside, the window behind the altar spurns the traditional stained glass to simply frame the astonishing view. Outside, a bronze statue of a collie dog reminds us that this is 'Mackenzie Country', named after a 19th century sheep stealer. Then pass through Burkes Pass and roll across the high country's tussock plains, through the small rural towns of Fairlie and Geraldine and onto Ashburton. Here you are met in small groups by your hosts who will extend their hospitality to you to with a tour of the property, perhaps a visit with the animals, and a delicious home-cooked dinner before a cosy night's stay. Rural Homestay
Day 12 Ashburton - Christchurch (B,D)
After a hearty farmhouse breakfast we re-assemble to head across the fertile Canterbury Plains and towards Christchurch. This most English of New Zealand cities suffered a succession of terrible earthquakes in 2010/11. Christchurch is reinventing itself with typical kiwi spirit and exciting new sights including the 'Cardboard Cathedral' and various pop-up bars and restaurants. A guided tour with your driver/guide will help you understand the present and future hopes for the city. This is the final part of our journey together so tonight we relax over a farewell dinner that showcases the best of New Zealand food and wine. City Hotel
Day 13 Depart Christchurch (B)
If you are leaving New Zealand today, after breakfast we transfer you to Christchurch Airport for your flight home. Alternatively we can extend you stay in Christchurch for a few days or arrange onward independent touring by car or TranzAlpine train. Either way, we must say farewell, and wave you off home with amazing memories of your time in New Zealand.
* Itinerary and Accommodation subject to change. Meals included as per itinerary (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner