Classic New Zealand

This 18 day itinerary is designed for first time visitors to New Zealand to take in the iconic attractions. Time in the Bay of Islands gives an introduction to the founding of New Zealand at historic Waitangi. Meet locals on a farmstay and enjoy the excitement of a Maori cultural performance. The scenic Tranz Alpine train journey, geothermal Rotorua plus the isolation of the sub-tropical Franz Josef Glacier will be highlights. Cruise on Milford Sound in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, stay in the alpine resort of Queenstown and view Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak.

18 Day Classic New Zealand Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Auckland Welcome to New Zealand! Transfer from Auckland Airport to your accommodation. Remainder of day free to rest or explore the downtown area. Suggest a visit to the vibrant Viaduct Harbour on the waterfront to sample some of Auckland’s excellent cafés, restaurants and bars.

Day 2 – Auckland This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Auckland City. Highlights includes the panoramic city and ocean views from Bastion Point, the Domain Gardens, the boutique shopping area of Parnell Village and the Waterfront Drive. Afternoon at leisure for your choice of activities.

Day 3 – Auckland / Bay of Islands Today travel north across the Auckland Harbour Bridge passing the lovely beaches of Orewa and Waiwera. Continue through undulating farmlands to Paihia in the lovely Bay of Islands. In the afternoon visit the Waitangi Treaty House. It was here on 6 February 1840 that Maori and the British signed an historic Treaty, which gave birth to the nation of New Zealand. The carved Maori Meeting House in the grounds is an especially fine example of the woodcarving and weaving skills of the Maori people.

Day 4 - Bay of Islands Day at leisure to explore this area soaked in rich culture and history. Consider a day trip to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s most northern point; the delight of a ‘swimming with dolphins’ experience or perhaps a walk around the historic and picturesque settlement of Russell.

Day 5 - Bay of Islands / Auckland There is no better way to appreciate the beauty of the Bay of Islands than from the water. This morning cruise out among the islands to Cape Brett and conditions permitting, pass through the famous Hole in the Rock. Dolphins and other marine life can often be seen in the clear waters of the Bay. Enjoy views of the secluded bays, inlets and beautiful beaches of the area. In the afternoon travel south to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.

Day 6 - Auckland / Matamata / Waikato Farmstay Travel south over the Bombay Hills through the Waikato Valley, which is a major dairying and horse breeding region to Matamata for a guided tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set. During your guided tour, your guide will escort you through the ten-acre site recounting fascinating details of how the Hobbiton set was created and used for both the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ’The Hobbit’ trilogies. Hear stories from filming as you view the Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, Mill and other structures. Continue to a nearby working farm to stay with a friendly local family in their own home. Dinner and the opportunity to tour the farm are included.

Day 7 - Waikato Farmstay / Rotorua Farewell your farm hosts then travel on across the Mamaku Ranges to Rotorua in the heart of New Zealand’s famous thermal region. This evening enjoy a traditional Hangi dinner and concert of Maori song and dance, including the famous Haka, on a local Marae.

Day 8 - Rotorua Farmstay Sightseeing in Rotorua today includes a guided tour of Te Puia to view spectacular geysers and boiling mud pools at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute where young Maori carvers and weavers learn the crafts of their ancestors. Also visit lovely Rainbow Springs to see the huge trout in crystal clear bush streams, and the rare kiwi bird. The popular Agrodome Sheep Show displays the skills of New Zealand’s working dogs and the sheep shearers in an entertaining and informative show.

Day 9 - Rotorua / Wellington Travel south through forests and farmlands to Taupo, which is a popular holiday resort for New Zealanders and trout fishermen from around the world. Continue around Lake Taupo and across the Desert Road. On a fine day the mountains of Tongariro National Park, including volcanic Mt Ruapehu, can be clearly seen. There are two major ski fields on these mountains and some of the scenes for the award-winning Lord of the Rings movie trilogy were filmed here. Pass through Waiouru and Taihape and descend through the Mangaweka Hills to pastoral farmlands of the Manawatu Plains and Kapiti Coast arriving in Wellington late afternoon.

Day 10 – Wellington Enjoy a sightseeing tour of New Zealand’s capital city set around a magnificent natural harbour. Highlights include the famous Beehive and Parliament Buildings; Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, a fine example of Revival Gothic architecture; the lovely Lady Norwood Rose Gardens and the breathtaking views from Mt Victoria. Time also to visit Te Papa - the National Museum of New Zealand which offers visitors a unique and authentic experience of New Zealand’s treasures and stories.

Day 11 - Wellington / Picton (ferry) / Blenheim Cross Cook Strait on a 3-hour ferry journey to Picton on the South Island. The last part of the cruise through the Marlborough Sounds is especially scenic. On arrival travel across the hill to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough Wine Region. This is New Zealand's top wine producing area with its wines winning awards around the world. Afternoon at leisure.

Day 12 - Blenheim/ Christchurch Travel south following the rugged coast past Kaikoura, a popular whale-watching spot. The Pacific Ocean around Kaikoura is especially rich in nutrients, which attract a wide variety of marine life and seabirds to the area. Continue south through sheep and cropping farmlands to Christchurch, known as the Garden City.

Day 13 - Christchurch / Tranz Alpine / Franz Josef Glacier Take the popular TranzAlpine train inland across the Canterbury Plains to Arthur's Pass and through the mighty Southern Alps to Greymouth. The scenery is spectacular with high peaks all around. From Greymouth travel 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.

Day 14 - Franz Josef / Wanaka / Queenstown Today continue south through rainforests, past bush fringed lakes and clear rushing rivers. At Haast turn inland and cross the Haast Pass through the Southern Alps. Descend past glacial Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to Wanaka township on the eastern shores of the lake. Travel on through the Central Otago farmlands and around Lake Dunstan to Cromwell which is an important fruit growing and wine making area. From here pass through the rugged Kawarau Gorge into Queenstown. Set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by mountain peaks including the breathtaking Remarkable Ranges, Queenstown is New Zealand’s premier year-round alpine resort. As well as the proclaimed ‘adventure capital of NZ’, the resort town of Queenstown is sophisticated and fantastically scenic. Its lake and mountain landscape is suited to almost any kind of adventure; but Queenstown is just as well known as a place for indulgence, for wine and cuisine and for gold-mining history.

Day 15 – Queenstown Day at leisure for your own choice of tours and activities. Suggest a cruise on the 1912 vintage lake steamer TSS Earnslaw or the thrill of a Shotover Jetboat ride. Perhaps travel out to Glenorchy for a popular Dart River Safari or a day walk on the famous Routeburn Track. Dine this evening at the Skyline Restaurant from where there are panoramic views across the lake and surrounding mountains. Access is by aerial gondola.

Day 16 - Milford Sound Day Excursion Travel around Lake Wakatipu and through Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. Fiordland National Park, part of the UNESCO 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 cascading waterfalls set in magnificent native rainforest. Cruise down Milford Sound past Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea. Seals, penguins and dolphins are often seen in the clear waters of the fiord. Lunch is served aboard. Afterwards retrace your journey back to Te Anau and Queenstown travelling via the Cleddau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and lovely Eglinton Valley.

Day 17 - Queenstown / Mount Cook / Christchurch Today travel north through Central Otago ascending the Lindis Pass to the Mackenzie Basin. Travel around glacially formed Lake Pukaki and into Mt Cook Village. There are 19 peaks above 3000-metres in Mt Cook National Park. At the heart of New Zealand’s most spectacular alpine region is Mt Cook, at 3754 metres the highest peak in Australasia. The alpine scenery is breathtaking. Pass the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo stopping to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd before crossing the cropping farmlands of the Canterbury Plains and arriving in Christchurch.

Day 18 - Depart Christchurch Farewell from New Zealand. Transfer to Christchurch International Airport and check in for your flight home.

*Itinerary subject to change.

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