Intrepid travellers explore the world's most wondrous places - discovering real people and cultures and having incredible life experiences.
This tour takes you to the hidden treasures and allows you to spend time with the country's local people. We experience the human side of New Zealand. We meet sheep and dairy farmers, learn about Māori culture and find a bit of Scottish heritage in the South Pacific. Three weeks in New Zealand offers more excitement and diversity than two years in most other parts of the world!
Category: Culture, Active
Location: North Island
Departing/Finishing: Auckland - Christchurch (Itinerary can be reversed)
Accommodation: 4* or 5* quality Hotels, boutique B&Bs, Luxury Serviced Apartments
Next Departure: Departs Daily
In Waipoua Forest and a local guide will take you on a memorable journey through nature's stages of evolution whilst providing a mythological and interactive interpretation of life in the forest. First, meet our ancestors; the mighty Te Matua Ngahere ('The Father of the Forest') is estimated to be 3,000 and 4,000 years old, and his mighty girth is over 5 metres (15ft) in diameter. Next, 'The Four Sisters' are an elegant collection of kauri trees that have grown close together in sibling harmony, and finally, Tane Mahuta ('The Lord of the Forest') stands an impressive 51 metres (150ft) tall.
Or: Discover the secrets of the Great Kauri Forests on a Guided Night Walkthrough Trounson Kauri Park. Marvel at the magnificent Kauri Trees and explore the sights and sounds of the forest at night. You will learn from your knowledgeable guide about the Kauri Tree and the native wildlife species, including Morepork, Brown Kiwi, Kauri Snails, Glow Worms, Long Finned Eels, Weta, Koura and Banded Kokopu.
Accommodation: Hokianga Harbour
Like so much of this coastline, the beach can be walked uninterrupted for kilometres. A water taxi to the Opounui dunes, including the unique ‘Sand sculptures’ and ‘Sand canyon’. Enjoy the panoramic views of the harbour and its entrance from this fantastic location. Ride along the stunning West Coast and hear local stories and legends of this area. Return along the beach and buggy over the dunes.
Dotted with 144 islands and a myriad of secluded beaches, the entire region offers a fantastic opportunity to fish in waters rich with abundant sea life! We take you on a walk along the spectacular Paihia waterfront and Waitangi beach to the historic Waitangi Treaty grounds, the location of the signing of the peace treaty between the Māori and the British Crown in 1840.
In Russell, you will experience New Zealand’s volatile colonial history. Take time to have lunch in one of the historic buildings, enjoying glorious views over the idyllic harbour. Then, settle into your accommodation for the evening, and enjoy a leisurely dinner in the Russell township.
Or: Take a tailor-made Quad bike tour in the Far North. Explore the vast white sands of Great Exhibition Bay, zoom along the incredibly long and wild 90 Mile Beach or the coral sands of Henderson Bay.
Accommodation: Bay of Islands
Go on a boat cruise around the many islands that make up the Bay of Islands, passing through the famous "Hole in the Rock" at Cape Brett, a fascinating natural geological attraction. Dolphin-watching tours can also be arranged.
If you want to relax, you can spend the afternoon strolling the beach, and the shops for local arts and crafts, enjoy a game of golf or maybe take to the waters of one of the world's most renowned game fishing regains and have lunch at one of the areas beautiful vineyards... there are many excursions available.
Or: Enjoy the private use of a sailing charter for a day sailing adventure you will never forget. A two-hour stopover allows plenty of time to enjoy a delicious lunch and to participate in your preferred activities, such as kayaking, swimming or exploring our local islands and beaches. The Stand Up Paddleboard (or SUP) is very popular too! Be sure to bring sunblock, swimming gear, a towel and perhaps a light jacket for cooler days.
Accommodation: Bay of Islands
Only an hour north of Auckland city and close to many stunning east coast beaches, Matakana is a popular getaway spot for locals and visitors alike. Matakana is foodie heaven - if you enjoy home-grown delicacies and award-winning wine, look no further.
Travel through the lush green rural farmland of the Waikato region; the rich and fertile pastoral land of the Waikato is one of New Zealand’s major dairy-producing and horse breeding areas.
Cambridge is in the heart of rural Waikato, a picture-perfect town characterised by quaint charm and tree-lined streets. With a long-standing history of thoroughbred horse racing and high-performance sport, Cambridge boasts champion racehorses and many rowing, cycling and equestrian Olympic medallists, earning the town the unofficial title of ‘Home of Champions.
Close by, Lake Karapiro provides great kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, fishing and boating options, while those seeking adventure can experience the thrill of jet-boating further downstream.
Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. The area's name comes from the Māori words wai (water) and tomo (hole). One of the major attractions of the Waikato/King Country region is the famous Waitomo Caves (translation: 'where the water disappears into a hole in the ground').
There are over 300 caves in Waitomo, but there are one of only two cave systems classified as 'of international significance' by NZ's Department of Conservation. Guided tours are for small groups so you can enjoy an up close and personal experience at your own pace. This is an authentic, real-deal caving adventure with untouched glow worm caves and stunning limestone formations in their purest form.
Enjoy walks and natural wonders, including the beautiful Marokopa Falls and limestone Mangapohue bridge.
Sitting within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland with bubbling mud pools, clouds of steam, and natural hot springs perfect for bathing and relaxing. After marvelling at the distinctive landscapes and volcanic activity within a geothermal park, enjoy a simple soak in a natural hot stream or indulge in a wellness getaway at a luxurious spa.
Accommodation: Rotorua or Lake Taupo
Experience beauty and history like no other on Mokoia Island. Located in the middle of Lake Rotorua, Mokoia Island is the site of one of our country's most famous love stories and the home of some of our most notorious Māori warriors and tribes. All tours to the Island are accompanied by experienced tour guides that walk you through the Island's birdlife, wildlife, cultural events, history and geography. This is one of the area's most unique experiences, made even more exciting with the addition of the jet boat ride (or boat) to and from the Island. Experience a traditional Māori greeting and dance!
Take another journey through a world of unique thermal formations at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. View the fascinating 'Champagne Pool' and experience the panorama of vividly colourful hot and cold pools, steaming fumaroles and hot boiling mud pools.
Lake Taupo, the largest Lake in this country and the world's largest volcanic crater, was created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated worldwide - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome. As a result, you see a volcano everywhere in the Lake Taupo region.
Stop at the Huka Falls - these spectacular falls roar through a 15-m vast chasm before plunging a further 11-m.
Accommodation: Rotorua or Lake Taupo
Please stop at the remote Lake Rotoaira to get our first spectacular view of the Volcanic Plateau and Mount Tongariro. Next, we pass the park ranges, which include wildly differing landscapes and scenery: from deserts to vast areas of tussock land, mountain beech forests and wetlands, all with a mix of native flora and fauna. You will see active volcanic craters, natural springs, and valleys filled with jagged lava flows. Driving through the National Park area, which is a World Heritage Site, you will get superb views of the volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.
Remote Mokai Valley, where the picturesque Rangitikei River meets the rugged Ruahine Ranges. The location is set at the edges of the crystal clear waters of the Rangitikei River, amongst the beautiful native flora and fauna, which provides a stunning and picturesque backdrop.
Drive deeper into farming country to the remote Mokai Valley, where the picturesque Rangitikei River meets the rugged Ruahine Ranges. The location is set at the edges of the crystal clear waters of the Rangitikei River, amongst the beautiful native flora and fauna, which provides a stunning and picturesque backdrop. Help is always needed to collect the eggs and feed the chickens, pigs, deer, goats, dogs & puppies, rabbits, possums, sheep, llamas, and turtles. Plus, any extras, especially in spring, when bottle-feeding the orphan lambs.
Or: Enjoy an authentic old fashing river BBQ before taking a helicopter through the Canyon back to your lodge.
Accommodation: Mokai Valley
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is nestled between rolling hills and a stunning harbour and has a vibrant and compact downtown area that's best explored on foot. Get your city bearings and some of Wellington’s best views at the Mount Victoria Lookout.
The City is home to Te Papa, the national museum, which tells the story of New Zealand’s history through bold and interactive exhibits. In Wellington, you’ll discover a fantastic range of cafes, art galleries, theatres, attractions and a humming nightlife. You can ride the historic Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Gardens. Or head to Cuba Street for a slice of bohemia, boutique shopping and some of the best coffee in town. Your B&B is located in the heart of the City, and this evening you can walk to some of the best restaurants in Wellington.
Or: ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225-hectare ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years.
Accommodation: Wellington City
Ferry across the Cook Strait and encounter a glorious world as the ferry enters the Marlborough Sounds from the Tory Channel into the Queen Charlotte Sound. The Marlborough Sounds encompass 1,500 km of coastline, bays, beaches and native forest. It is a place of incredible natural beauty that needs to be seen to be believed. The area is abundant with wildlife, from penguins and rare King Shags to dolphins and fur seals, and offers some of the world's best boating, diving, fishing and hiking.
Picton sits snuggled between the mountains and the sea at the head of the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. Stunning coastal views and native bush make the Queen Charlotte Track a uniquely Marlborough walking and biking experience.
Enjoy the natural beauty of the Marlborough Sounds with the indulgent Greenshell Mussel Cruise, featuring freshly steamed mussels paired with a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for the ultimate wine/food match. Relax and unwind while you cruise the tranquil Pelorus Sound and Kenepuru Sound aboard our luxury launch MV Spirit on this half-day exclusive tour, departing Havelock. Learn about local history, visit a mussel farm and take in the stunning scenery.
Or: Take a short domestic flight from Wellington to Picton.
Accommodation: Marlborough Sounds or Blenheim
Sunny days and cool nights caress river plains that run to the sea. Discover wine, fruit and seafood that is as unforgettable as the landscapes. At the top of the South Island, there's an unmistakable freshness to the land and the ocean. Here a friendly artisan culture creates confident and uncluttered cuisine, matched with wines that leap from the glass.
The Nelson district is known for its irresistible blend of lifestyle and stunning landscape at the top northwest corner of the South Island. Apples, cherries, and classic wine varietal grapes are well suited to the mild climate around the area.
At Mapua, there’s a smokehouse with an adjacent cafe - the menu includes fish, mussels and vegetables delicately hot smoked on site. In Motueka, you’ll find great organic cafe food.
Drive over Takaka Hill and to the “Golden Bay”, New Zealand's best-kept secret because there is only one road. On the drive over Takaka Hill, you catch your first sight of Golden Bay, taking your breath away. The idyllic charm and lifestyle of Golden Bay attract an exciting variety of artists and crafts-folk.
The "Pupu" springs, as they are affectionately known to the locals, are home to the most transparent spring water in the world (the only place with more transparent water is the salt water Weddell Sea in Antarctica). Underwater clarity tests have shown the water from the springs to have underwater visibility of 63 metres!
Accommodation: Golden Bay - Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's smallest national park- but it's perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. Here, inviting sandy beaches fill the spaces between trees and tide line. Crystal clear streams tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean. Granite and marble formations fringe the headlands, which are cloaked in regenerating native forest.
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.
The Tata Islands provide a breathtaking backdrop as you launch your kayak from the golden sands of Tata Beach, straight into the Abel Tasman National Park. Motu and Ngawhiti Islands (Tata Islands) are home to New Zealand's largest and busiest shag colony, seals lazily watching you paddle by.
Accommodation: Golden Bay - Abe Tasman
Driving distance 4.5h
The West Coast – New Zealand’s longest 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. The West Coast, or 'the Coast' as locals call it, is an untamed natural wilderness of rivers and rainforests, glaciers and geological treasures. In fact, the Great Coast Road stretching from Westport to Greymouth was recently voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.
Gaze in wonder at the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes, where columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of hotcakes. Cliffs and ravines with hundreds of horizontal slices along their vertical faces, like huge stacks of pancakes. Around high tide, the ocean swells rush headlong through ever-narrowing tunnels and force large amounts of water and compressed air to race upward through the vertical shafts
Accommodation: West Coast
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.
Named after Sir William Fox, New Zealand’s Prime Minister from 1869 to 1872, Fox Glacier describes the glacier and the nearby village. Like its twin, Franz Josef, the glacier descends from the Southern Alps into temperate rainforest 300 metres above sea level.
Bruce Bay is a small settlement of only six residents and several holiday houses. Bruce Bay beach recently (2014) was voted one of NZ's top beaches.
Hear a local interpretation tour of the environment, culture and history of Bruce Bay. Learn about the native birds inhabiting the area and the Mahitahi Wildlife Protection community volunteer programme, which was set up to protect them. The site holds a historical significance, especially for the local Māori (Runanga), who have since built a marae opposite the beach.
Or: Helicopter flight and landing on ice. Discover the gigantic expanse of the Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier snowfields with a landing at a high altitude. Step out of your helicopter and experience how it feels to stand in the snow. The flight includes fantastic views of the Tasman Glacier and Mount Cook.
Accommodation: Lake Moeraki
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 across tumbling rivers.
Walk to the Roaring Billy Waterfall, an easy fern line walk that take you to the shores of the Haast River. Later you make a short stop at the 28m drop Thunder Creek falls, followed by another visit to take a 30-minute return walk to the Blue Pools. It features a carefully maintained gravel path and boardwalks that wind through a native silver beech forest and lead to a swing bridge high above the Makarora River. The views back to the mountains of the Main Divide are breath-taking. 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. Wanaka is a new and modern Alpine resort visited mainly by us New Zealanders. A year-round destination set against the pristine alpine backdrop of Mount Aspiring National Park, you can still discover that relaxed Kiwi way of life at Lake Wanaka.
Or: Experience a valid New Zealand wilderness adventure. Fly, Walk, and Jet boat through New Zealand’s most spectacular Alpine environment on an adventure like no other.
Accommodation: Wanaka or Lake Hawea
As braided river valleys, native beech forests and lush alpine meadows give way to the dramatic glaciated Southern Alps, the pure beauty of the scenery pushes daily pressures a million miles away. Part of Te Wahipounamu - Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, Mt Aspiring National Park is an area of unrivalled natural beauty and host to hundreds of hiking tracks, rock climbing routes and trout fishing rivers, all within easy reach of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. At its heart is Mt Aspiring, the park’s highest mountain at 3,027m and known to early Māori as ‘Tititea’ or ‘glistening peak’. Since the age of mountaineering began in New Zealand, it’s been a drawcard for climbers worldwide.
Hike to the majestic Rob Roy Glacier and picnic by a cascading waterfall with native alpine parrots for the company while listening to the cracks of the hanging glacier high overhead. The track is an ideal entry point to Mt Aspiring National Park - an area of spectacular alpine scenery, snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and waterfalls.
Or: Boat cruise to the remote and magical Mou Waho Island nature reserve, which is predator-free and home to the rare flightless Buff Weka (extinct on the mainland since 1920).
Accommodation: Wanaka or Hawea
Central Otago is New Zealand's fastest-growing wine region and is also most scenic. As you leave Wanaka, you travel to Queenstown via Cromwell. You can take some time to explore these incredible vineyards set in small micro-climates in a landscape dominated by high snow-capped mountains and tussock-clad slopes.
She is widely regarded as a safe spectator attraction; the famous Kawarau Gorge Bungy Jumping is exhilarating. Arrowtown is a historic colonial village that takes you back into the Gold Mining days of the Otago region.
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, and you will find a fantastic choice of restaurants, a lively bar scene and excellent shopping.
Te Anau is the perfect town to base yourself on to visit Milford Sound. Nestled on the edge of a lake, there are many options for accommodation. Here you will be visiting one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. The extraordinary scenic beauty has earned this region a reputation as a significant sightseeing and walking destination and a 'Must See' for anyone travelling to New Zealand.
The Kepler Track is located outside the town. The scenery is spectacular, and the track passes through many landscapes of the Fiordland National Park, ranging from rocky mountain ridges to tall mossy forests along the lake shores. The walking path is constructed to a very high standard; most streams are bridged, boardwalks cover boggy areas, and the very steep sections have steps. Nevertheless, it is a moderate walking track.
Accommodation: Te Anau
Fiordland is one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Absorb the breathtaking treasures of this region by water, air or hiking. Carved by glaciers over 100,000 years, the landscape is one where waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into deep black fiords, where ancient rainforest untouched by man clings to mountains, and where shimmering lakes and granite peaks look as they did a thousand years ago.
Spectacular Milford Sound, described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world”, was carved out during successive ice ages and, at its deepest point off Mitre Peak, plunges to a depth of 265 meters. The extraordinary splendour of this region is unsurpassed anywhere else in the World, a bold claim in a country that offers extraordinary beauty around every corner. Getting there is half the experience; we take you through the Fiordland National Park, passing through staggeringly beautiful valleys, lakes and creeks.
Or: Doubtful Sound is the second largest of the 14 fiords in Fiordland National Park, and it is three times longer and ten times larger than Milford Sound. Following a short cruise across beautiful Lake Manapouri and a coach trip over Wilmot Pass, you will board the Fiordland Navigator at Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound.
Accommodation: Te Anau
Take part in the longest, most daring and most exhilarating Jet Boat Trip In New Zealand. Hump Ridge Jet services the South Coast of Fiordland National Park, including Lake Hauroko and the Wairaurahiri River. Lake Hauroko is the deepest lake in New Zealand and is drained by the Wairaurahiri River, which falls 200meters to sea level and is 27 kilometres of grade 3 white water rapids. The river is commonly described as New Zealand's longest waterfall. Take a short walk to explore the Wild South coast (a lovely beach with views of Stewart Island and the Solander Islands) and a short walk to Waitutu Virgin Podocarp Forest (the Oldest Podocarp Forest in NZ). On this journey, you experience the wonders of the Wild South Coast and can still hear the call of the Wild (Native Bird Song). For lunch, enjoy a bush-style Venison BBQ Lunch.
The Catlin's is an area of untamed beauty, forests, farmland, remote beaches and splendid isolation. Only recently has it been discovered by national and international tourists. The "Southern Scenic Route" winds through the Catlins from Nugget Point to Curio Bay.
Natural curiosities and beauty combine to make this corner of the South Island a scenic treasure. Fossilized trees, beautiful waterfalls, golden beaches, high cliffs and secret caves are all part of this area's unique mix of attractions (McLean Falls and Cathedral Caves).
Nugget Point is one of the most distinctive landforms along the Otago Coast. It's a steep headland with a lighthouse and a scattering of rocky islets (The Nuggets).
Dunedin is the smallest of the four major New Zealand cities and displays a wealth of pioneering history in the town. The splendour of many of its public buildings reflects Dunedin's economic and cultural pre-eminence in Victorian New Zealand. Today, Dunedin has a rightly deserved reputation as one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
Stop at Shag Point's Matakana Reserve, home to fur seals. Two minutes walk from the first car park, and you're at the edge of the land. This is the seals' place. They glide beneath the waves, sleek, smooth, and beautiful as mermaids. They shuffle up the rocks, shaking themselves dry like puppies. They roll in the sun, flippers flopping, not a care in the world.
Moeraki is now most famous for its boulders, mysteriously spherical stones scattered across a beach. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and is up to two metres high. Scientists explain the boulders as calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago.
The whitestone townscape of Oamaru contains some of the best-preserved heritage buildings in New Zealand. In the late 19th century, the town prospered through gold mining, quarrying and timber milling. Some of the wealth was spent on elegant stone buildings made from local limestone. The Harbour-Tyne Street area is exceptional – and the shopping is excellent too. After exploring the Victorian precinct, swing by the steampunk playground and museum.
The Clay Cliffs are a natural rock formation of sharp pinnacles and ridges with deep, narrow ravines separating them. They are made of layers of gravel and silt deposited by rivers flowing from glaciers existing 1-2 million years ago.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense - with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snowfields, all set under a star-studded sky. At 27 kilometres in length, the mighty Tasman Glacier is a powerful piece of landscaping equipment. While it slowly carves the valley sides, it provides a landing place for small ski planes and helicopters. Surreal, milky lakes are a park's feature - suspended, glacier-ground rock sediment makes the water opaque.
Accommodation: Mt Cook or Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is about three hours' drive southwest of Christchurch in the Mackenzie Basin. The township faces north across the vast turquoise-coloured lake to the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock flour (ground by glaciers) suspended in the water.
Christchurch is a vibrant, energetic city where urban regeneration, creativity and innovation thrive. Picture unique street art, innovative projects, a booming hospitality scene and state-of-the-art architecture changing how the city looks, feels and functions – all the while staying true to its heritage and traditional English feel.
Take time to explore the city by double-decker bus, vintage bicycle, gondola, tram or classic Edwardian punt – or grab your walking shoes and discover bars, eateries and an eclectic mix of boutique shops by foot.
The city’s award-winning Christchurch Botanic Gardens offer a relaxing inner-city escape and are found near The Arts Centre, one of the most significant collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand.