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New Zealand Scenic Highlights Tours

New Zealand Scenic Highlights Tours

This was one of the last countries to be discovered during the colonial era and has often been dubbed 'God's Own Country' and 'The Last Paradise.'

Plan Your Tour

Our small country is crammed with a whole continent's worth of diverse scenery within its coastal borders. It's like the whole world in miniature - a microcosm of some of the most impressive geographical features on earth. 

The South Island has a multitude of features for you to enjoy: dramatic alpine scenery, wilderness areas, glacial lakes, peaceful fiords, grinding glaciers, roaring rivers and gold rush relics. You'll love the North Island if you are seeking pleasant, easy-on-the-eye scenery: gentle rolling pastures, stunning off-shore islands and beaches, thermal resorts, and Maori culture.

If you really want to 'go bush', then Stewart Island is a remnant of ancient Gondwanaland - an untamed and rugged wilderness.

Our Top 10 most scenic routes and locations, our Highlights

North Island

Reaching the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga is a goal that many travellers set for themselves. While it’s not quite the most northern point of New Zealand Cape Reinga is definitely the end of the road. Here the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a spectacular swirl of currents.

Waipoua Kauri Forest
As the largest remaining trace of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world full of huge trees and rare birds. This forest is the home of Tane Mahuta, the country's largest kauri tree, which is approximately 1200 years old and is still growing. From the ground, it is nearly 18 metres to the first branch and the trunk is 4.4 metres in diameter. Tane Mahuta is rightly called 'The Lord of the Forest'. 

Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a micro-region that includes many small townships, as well as a large area of offshore islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula. The best way to discover the beauty of the Bay of Islands is to charter a yacht, hire a sea kayak to paddle the shores, or join a daily cruise to the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island.

Waiheke Island
One of the larger Hauraki Gulf islands, Waiheke is just 14 kilometres by ferry from the heart of Auckland city. Home to many of New Zealand's successful artists, Waiheke has a long-standing arts and crafts focus. And with more than a dozen high-quality vineyards, Waiheke is a wine lover's delight. Many of the vineyards include relaxing cafe-style restaurants that look out across the vine-covered valleys to the blue sea beyond.

Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel features a dramatic and unspoiled coastline, dotted with native Pohutukawa trees on the western side and beautiful white sandy beaches on the east, and divided by ranges cloaked in native rainforest. Hahei is an attractive beach fringed with Pohutukawa trees and drifts of pink shells at the northern end. Offshore islands provide something of a breakwater, making this beach ideal for swimming, boating and fishing.

With its unique volcanic landscape, Maori culture, natural hot springs, and plenty of options for adventure, Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most famous destinations. Visit Wai-o-Tapu geothermal wonderland and view the fascinating 'Champagne Pool' and experience the panorama of vividly colourful hot and cold pools. Take a scenic flight offshore to White Island and explore the massive geothermal crater of New Zealand's most active volcano.

Lake Taupo
Situated in the volcanic heart of the North Island, the Lake Taupo region is home to New Zealand's largest freshwater lake, fascinating geothermal areas, and the famous Huka Falls. Take a scenic cruise on Lake Taupo and try to catch one of the Lake's many rainbow trout for your lunch or dinner.

Volcanic Plateau
Tongariro National Park has great cultural significance for Maori people and is recognized by UNESCO as one of only 24 World Heritage sites. The day hike known as the Tongariro Crossing promises close encounters with volcanic phenomena. Ski or board Mt Ruapehu's spring snow under a bright blue sky, or trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing after the ice has thawed. 

Rangitikei River Valley
Experience a picturesque and steep river valley in the rugged Ruahine Ranges, with unbelievable scenery not yet discovered by most tourists.

Hawkes Bay
Cape Kidnappers is an extraordinary sandstone headland to the east of Hastings in Hawke's Bay. The cape is home to the largest and most accessible gannet colony in the world.

South Island

Marlborough Sounds
The Marlborough Sounds is a collection of ancient sunken river valleys and inlets filled with the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Forested hills rise steeply from the sea around an intricate coastline of sheltered inlets and sandy bays. The area has three main bodies of water - Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. This vast system of drowned valleys provides sheltered water for boating, fishing, and diving.

Abel Tasman
It would be hard to imagine a more perfect piece of coastline - clear turquoise waters, golden beaches, interesting rocky headlands, lush native forest, and all kinds of interesting wildlife. The Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal paradise that you can walk through or explore by cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi, or sea kayak.

Kaikoura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds. The environment is truly spectacular – caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean. The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura is all about adventure on or near the sea. Watch whales, snorkel with seals, swim with the local dolphins or tuck into a plate of crayfish. 

Arthur's Pass
This magnificent alpine park straddles the Southern Alps. The mountains and valleys of Arthur's Pass National Park were heavily glaciated during the ice ages, and the land has retained many distinctive glacial features including tarns, cirques, and hanging valleys.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – West Coast
Local lime formations are set amidst native New Zealand vegetation and provide a stunning drive along the rugged West Coast... The blowholes at Punakaiki are a blast. Stand back and watch the performance.

Franz Josef and Fox Glacier
See spectacular alpine scenery in the middle of a moderate rainforest and close to the ocean. While many glaciers around the world have been retreating, the Franz Josef still flows almost to sea level. Easy walks to the foot of the glaciers pass along ancient river valleys with steep sides bearing gigantic horizontal scars from when the glaciers have retreated and advanced over millennia.

Haast Pass and Mt Aspiring National Park
A hiker's paradise, Mount Aspiring National Park offers a large number of short walks that are mostly concentrated at the end of the park's access roads. The Park is peppered with mountains. Mount Aspiring is the highest and the only peak over 3000 metres outside of Mount Cook National Park.

Wanaka and Hawea
Excavated by massive glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, Lakes Wanaka and Hawea lie side by side. At a sliver of land known as The Neck, which is just 1000 metres wide, the glaciers were once joined. Lake Wanaka is a place to take a deep breath and relax. Protected from the outside world by the grandeur of the mountains, you’re enclosed in a hidden paradise. The alpine zone beneath Mount Rob Roy brings you face to face with glaciers, river valleys, and alpine lakes.

Queenstown and Paradise Valley 
The first people to discover Queenstown's rare beauty were Maori pounamu (jade) hunters. Then came the gold miners, in search of another kind of treasure. Today Queenstown is treasured for its magnificent scenery, adventure opportunities, and luxury lifestyle. The 45-minute journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most scenic drives you'll ever experience. The road follows the edge of Lake Wakatipu, providing spectacular views of the surrounding mountains which rise abruptly from the lake's shores.

Fiordland National Park, Milford and Doubtful Sounds
The power of Fiordland’s scenery never fails to enthral travellers. Waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres into massive fiords; ancient rainforest clings impossibly to the mountains; shimmering lakes and granite peaks look the same today as they did a thousand years ago. Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world'.  Its distinctive landscape was carved by glaciers during successive ice ages. Sometimes called the 'Sound of Silence', Doubtful Sound is the deepest (421 metres) and second longest (40 kilometres) of the South Island's fiords. It is a powerful place - serene, mysterious and untouched by the modern world.

Stewart Island 
Unspoilt diverse beauty surrounded by crystal clear water makes Stewart Island a nature lover’s paradise and the best place in New Zealand to spot a Brown Kiwi in its natural environment.

Combine the Catlins River Wisp Loop Walk with visits to Purakaunui Falls and Jack's Blow Hole - it'll be an amazing day. The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail takes you to see isolated beaches, a fossilised forest, Hector's dolphins, and many historic sites.

Otago Peninsula
Flanking the southern edge of Dunedin's extensive harbour, Otago Peninsula is high and rugged on the ocean side and warm and sheltered on the harbourside. As a scenic drive, Otago Peninsula is spectacular. Beginning at Vauxhall, you can follow the coastal road past small settlements and beaches to Taiaroa Head, where there's an albatross colony. Have a picnic at Sandfly Bay and stay long enough to see the penguins arrive home at sunset.

These are our personal favourites…but there is so much more to see and experience!

Tours that include this Activity

4 Day - Traditional Teaser Tour North

4 Day - Traditional Teaser Tour North

Spend a day relaxing in the city of sails and then take 3 days to visit the North Island's best cultural attractions.
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8 Day - Taste of North & South Islands Tour

8 Day - Taste of North & South Islands Tour

Active volcanoes, island sanctuaries and history top the list when visiting New Zealand's North Island. New Zealand’s South Island hosts the purest natural landscapes you’ll ever experience.
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10 Day - Taste of Both Island Tour

10 Day - Taste of Both Island Tour

This tour covers both the North and South Islands. Visit the geothermal areas and glow-worm caves in the North Island. Experience the sheer splendour of the Southern Alps and Fiordland in the South.
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10 Day - Traditional Highlights Tour

10 Day - Traditional Highlights Tour

The South Island's spectacular and beautiful landscape includes vast mountain chains, rugged coastlines, turquoise glacier lakes, deeply indented fiords and lush rainforest.
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