This luxury tour is a delight for the most discerning travellers. We have picked the most beautiful locations this country has to offer and included some extraordinary light adventures for any fitness level.
You will stay in luxury boutique hotels, exclusive B&Bs and private lodges and find each enjoys a particular style and charm, which is excellent for relaxing. Travel times are kept as short as possible.
Day 3: Bay of Islands - Auckland
Category: Relaxing, culture
Location: North and South Island
Departing/Finishing: Auckland – Queenstown (Itinerary can be reversed)
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Luxury Serviced Apartments, Premium Lodges
Next Departure: Departs Daily
The Bay of Islands is a subtropical micro-region known for its stunning beauty & history. For those that love beaches and water activities, it's paradise. The Bay of Islands encompasses 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula and includes the boutique towns of Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri.
The historic township of Russell, in the Bay of Islands, was the first capital of New Zealand. You can wipe away the hours fossicking along the beachfront, wandering through little streets of some of New Zealand's oldest buildings, enjoy a drink at the waterfront Duke of Marlborough Hotel or dine at The Gables Restaurant, which was built in 1847.
Or: The Northland town of Kerikeri has a long, colourful history. The area was home to the fearsome Maori chief Hongi Hika, who was kind to missionaries, allowing Samuel Marsden to establish New Zealand's second mission station here. The Kerikeri Mission Station, also known as Kemp House, is New Zealand's oldest standing European building. Nearby is the Stone Store, which dates back to 1832 and is New Zealand's oldest stone building.
Accommodation: Bay of Island
Salt Air’s “Cape Reinga Fly/Drive” ½ day tour by aeroplane is the alternative way to travel to the top of New Zealand to experience its beauty, history and scenery from the air and on land. The initial stage of the tour consists of a flight up to Cape Reinga via Northlands’ spectacular harbours. From Ninety Mile Beach, we fly inland, landing at our airfield. Once on the ground, you take a tour around the top of New Zealand and visit The Cape Reinga Lighthouse. A short drive to Tapotupotu Bay allows some time for a stroll on the beach. Then we move to the Te Paki quicksand stream with its giant dunes.
Or: Enjoy the private use of a sailing boat for a day charter sailing adventure you will never forget. Explore some of the local beaches and enjoy a delicious lunch. You can then relax or participate in activities such as kayaking, swimming, or the Stand Up Paddleboard (or SUP) is very popular too! For your day charter, the skipper will choose a course to best take advantage of the day’s weather and the guest’s particular interests.
Heading back to Auckland lies the Matakana Coast Wine Country, which includes the boutique townships of Puhoi -famous for the Puhoi Valley Cheese & historic Puhoi Pub, Warkworth, Matakana - home to the Matakana Village Farmers Market, Mahurangi East & West, Kawau Island, Tawharanui, Leigh, Goat Island Marine Reserve and Pakiri Beach.
Enjoy idyllic coastal views & exotic white sandy beaches. Indulge in wine tasting, follow the boutique Matakana Wine Trail, and sample the local cuisine at the many Matakana Coast cafes, restaurants and markets. Take in the stunning walking tracks around the Matakana Coast, cycle trails, activities and attractions.
Auckland the City of Sails, imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands. Add a sunny climate, a background rhythm of Polynesian culture, and a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping, and you’re beginning to get the picture of Auckland, our largest and most diverse city.
In the evening, dine at one of many gastro restaurants: Depot, Ostro, The Sugar Club, or SidArt, to name a few.
Accommodation: Auckland City
Rotorua is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs, and showcasing our fascinating Maori culture. Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland.
Later, immerse yourself in Maori culture by visiting Te Puia Arts and Crafts Centre and enjoy a private guided tour of the park. You will taste an exquisite Maori feast prepared in the traditional Hangi style and watch the Maori cultural performance featuring traditional storytelling and entertainment.
The Waikato River, New Zealand's longest river, moves gracefully north from Lake Taupo between banks 100 metres apart. Then, just before the Huka Falls, it enters a shallow ravine of hard volcanic rock. The effect is nature's large-scale equivalent of a fire hose feeding into an ideal nozzle. The previously placid waters roar and rumble at great speed along the ravine before bursting into space out over Huka Falls to crash into the turbulent pool 11 metres below.
Lake Taupo, the largest Lake in this country and the world's largest volcanic crater was created in one giant explosion nearly two thousand years ago. It darkened the sky in Europe and China. Taupo is famous for its fishing and its trophy-sized trout.
Accommodation: Rotorua or Lake Taupo
The Tongariro National Park encircles the volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and features some of New Zealand's most contrasting landscapes. Tongariro National Park – covering almost 80,000 hectares – was gifted to the nation by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887. Over a hundred years later, the park was awarded dual World Heritage Site status. Emerald lakes, alpine meadows and hot springs surround the largest volcanoes on the North Island, offering an environment of stunning diversity. All three volcanoes are very much alive, with Mount Tongariro erupting as recently as August 2012. But this doesn't deter people from skiing down the slopes and hiking to the craters – a monitoring system provides early warning of eruptions. The park's most celebrated activity is the 'Tongariro Alpine Crossing', a one-day trek traverses the otherworldly terrain along the slopes of all three mountains. Steaming craters, old lava flows and thermal lakes make the walk an unforgettable experience.
In the evening, you have the option of boarding a private luxury yacht for a scenic sunset cruise and dinner. You even have the option of doing a spot of fishing yourself!
Accommodation: Rotorua or Lake Taupo
Nelson is a lifestyle; that's the best way to describe it. Situated at the top northwest of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand. Nelson's diverse geography captures everything from the long golden beaches to untouched forests and rugged mountains. Perhaps it's the sun or the location, but Nelson has long been a magnet for creative people. More than 350 working artists and craftspeople live in the area, traditional, contemporary and Maori. Visit their studios and find a unique piece to take home with you. Sit in the sun, sip a wine from one of the local vineyards, and dine on the famous Nelson Bay scallops.
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. A coastal paradise that you can walk through or explore by cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi or sea kayak, visitors love the way the Abel Tasman National Park mixes physical exertion with beach life. Bursts of hiking or paddling are punctuated by sunbathing, swimming and sedate snorkelling.
Golden Bay edges Able Tasman Park. Imagine a region with endless variety, where golden beaches, alpine valleys and tranquil fishing rivers share proximity to the sea: breathtaking scenery, arts and crafts, and sporting activities. There's something for everyone.
Accommodation: Abel Tasman or Golden Bay
Explore the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand with Abel Tasman Eco Tours and boat charters. Join the iconic Golden Future Tour, our original tour showcasing the wonders of the Abel Tasman National Park coastline. Then, spend a whole day cruising on our private charter boat, visiting numerous beaches, inlets, islands and forests. Enjoy natural discovery, bird watching, sightseeing, photography, relaxing, and learning with Abel Tasman Eco Tours. Explore the coastal wonders and hidden waterways where marine, freshwater and bird life can be seen in their natural habitats. Your expert guides will enthral you with the fantastic conservation story unfolding around you in the Abel Tasman National Park, the different wildlife that lives here and the dedicated people that work to help them thrive.
Or: Get a taste of all the Abel Tasman has to offer from the comfort of an Abel Tasman Charters' boat. You can decide to just stay on board and relax or take one of the kayaks for a paddle. Go for a swim, snorkel over the marine reserve, or be dropped off for a bush walk. Enjoy a delicious lunch, and then do it all again.
Accommodation: Golden Bay
The Nelson Lakes National Park is an enchanting alpine landscape of rugged peaks, forests and stunning glacial lakes. A compact area of mountain ranges separated by forested valleys, the Nelson Lakes National Park is home to the beginning of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps.
The West Coast – New Zealand’s most extended region – is a narrow 600km stretch of wild coastline, mountain peaks, glaciers, clear lakes and sparsely populated towns. This immense, untamed natural environment is New Zealand’s most protected region.
A passive eco-tour through the enormous Nile River Caves in the Paparoa National Park. At our Charleston Base, you will be equipped with caving helmets, coats and boots if necessary – then taken to the Nile River Rainforest Train for travel through the primaeval rain forest close to the enormous Nile River Caves. You will explore an ancient wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites in the significant dry upper levels and become entranced while under the galaxies of glowworms in the awe-inspiring Ananui entrance series. Discovered only recently, the Metro cave is one of the few caves you can walk through and see the way it was found in its natural, unspoilt Punakaiki, the jewel of the West Coast. The famous Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki resemble a layered stack of pancakes, and caves beneath them open into blowholes that emit spectacular bursts of spray.
Accommodation: West Coast
You will visit the historic gold mining town of Hokitika; it is a place to appreciate the fascinating history of the West Coast. Hear about the shipwrecks, gold miners and pounamu hunters.
Take a scenic drive to the famous glacier region, and your day’s itinerary will end in the tiny settlement of Franz Josef. The rugged West Coast is hemmed between the Tasman Sea and the imposing Southern Alps, making for spectacular contrasts in the surrounding scenery. The two glaciers are located only 25 km from each other and are unique worldwide as they nearly reach the ocean. Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor.
Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are two of New Zealand's largest glaciers. Take a helicopter flight, and from above, you’ll view and appreciate the incredible natural phenomenon, towering ice formations and vastness of the glaciers. Top it off with a snow landing. Stand on the ancient ice of the glaciers. You’ll also fly over the Tasman Glacier on the eastern side of the Southern Alps and close to Mount Cook/Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest peak.
Accommodation: Glacier area
Go as far South as the township of Haast. Nearby take a gentle walk following the slow-flowing Ship Creek Tauparikaka. A creek-side viewpoint allows easy observation of the forest plants and wildlife. Deep in the swamp forest are views of New Zealand's tallest tree, the Kahikatea. Explore a part of New Zealand that's splendidly isolated - there are more resident seals and penguins than people.
A spectacular and scenic road links Haast and Wanaka. It reaches beyond wind-whipped Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, through golden tussock-covered hills, to wind among steep mountains cloaked in lush rainforest and crosses tumbling rivers. Just 20 minutes from Haast, take a short walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall; an easy fern line walk will take you to the shores of the Haast River. Stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls or take a 30-minute return walk to the Blue Pools. The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the colour of deep azure blue and so clear that you can see right to the bottom, making the resident brown trout look like they are suspended in the air.
As you exit Mt Aspiring National Park, you will travel through what is known as "The Neck", a formation of land that separates two of our great South Island lakes, Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Nestled below towering mountains, Wanaka is the most tranquilly set of the South Island lakes. Forty-five kilometres long and covering 193 square kilometres, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka are perfect for jet boaters, sailors and kayakers to explore.
Accommodation: Lake Wanaka
Affectionately called ‘Central’ by those that know it well, Central Otago is New Zealand’s most inland region. It’s breathtakingly different with vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, deep gorges and tussock-clad hills. All of the main winegrowing sub-regions lie within close reach, with the distinctive mountainous terrain providing each with a unique climate, aspect and altitude. Visit a selection of vineyards in the area.
Arrowtown is a living historic settlement with many stories to tell. Wander the tree-lined streets of restored cottages and explore gold mining sites. A special highlight is a Chinese settlement at the edge of the river. Built by Chinese miners from 1868, this area of restored shelters and buildings paints a picture of earlier times. In April and May Arrowtown ignites with colour as deciduous trees prepare for winter.
Queenstown has transformed into a sophisticated cosmopolitan town, tucked into a picturesque bay on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, beneath majestic mountains. There’s a permanent buzz in downtown Queenstown, where you’ll find a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping.
Take a scenic flight; situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is a fusion of spectacular natural features with excellent visual cues around every corner. At Milford, board your cruise boat. Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages and is breathtaking in any weather. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect. One of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, the power of Fiordland's scenery never fails to enthral travellers. This unique natural environment features stunning fiords, spectacular waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. Ancient rainforest clings impossibly to the mountains; waterfalls tumble hundreds of meters into massive fiords; shimmering lakes and granite peaks look the same today as they did a thousand years ago.
Or: Visit the southern part of the South Island's wild West Coast by helicopter and experience the many scattered islands and early history unique to New Zealand's largest fiord, Dusky Sound. Your return journey will take you to the head of Doubtful Sound, through the hidden valley of Campbell's Kingdom and back down the Southern Arm of Lake Te Anau.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand's top visitor destinations; if you come to the region, you'll understand why. The town sits on the shore of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu amidst dramatic mountain ranges; this stunning location will blow you away. Queenstown is suited to all kinds of adventures – especially throughout summer. Activities like paragliding, Zip lining, 4WD Driving, and kayaking are the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. However, if adventure isn't your thing and you need time to kick back and relax, plenty of rejuvenating experiences are available. Treat yourself to some boutique shopping, and experience excellent local food and wine.
You will be collected from your accommodation and taken to the airport.