Explore New Zealand
A fantastic selection of New Zealand’s dramatic natural scenery, hospitality and wildlife on this 20 day itinerary. Encounter glow-worms in a limestone cave, the world’s most colourful thermal area; whales, seals, albatross and penguins. Feel the heat of boiling mud pools in Rotorua and fresh alpine air in the heart of the Southern Alps. Meet local Maori guides, taste a hangi dinner, stay overnight on a working farm, visit Stewart Island and relax in a comfortable ensuite cabin on isolated Milford Sound plus visit vibrant Auckland and Queenstown!
20 Day Explore New Zealand Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive Auckland Kia ora and welcome to NZ! Transfer to your hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure resting and exploring New Zealand’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.
Day 2 – Auckloand / Waitomo / Rotorua Collect your rental vehicle this morning and travel south into the lush Waikato Valley to the Waitomo Caves region. Here join a guided tour into Ruakuri Cave – wander along narrow corridors and across low-lit walkways suspended above the Huhunui River below. Your guide will bring you up close to glowworms, elaborate cave formations, underground rivers, myths, legends and sacred Maori sites. Afterwards travel through picturesque farmland and across the bush clad Mamaku Ranges to Rotorua. Located in the heart of New Zealand’s famous thermal region, Rotorua forms part of the geologically active ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’.
Day 3 – Rotorua Spend time today with a local Maori Guide for a private morning sightseeing tour of the Rotorua area, including a visit to a Marae (Ancestral House) and a talk about the protocol attached to these sacred places then visit the world’s most colourful thermal reserve of Wai-O-Tapu to watch a geyser erupt (with a little help from her friends) and view the largest mud pool in New Zealand. This evening visit Tamaki Maori Village for a Cultural Experience and Hangi Dinner. Experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling & hangi feasting.
Day 4 – Rotorua / Nelson Region Return your rental vehicle then fly Rotorua / Nelson (flight not included). Collect another rental vehicle at Nelson Airport and time permitting you may wish to drive into Nelson City to explore – the city of Nelson is known for its sunny climate, golden sand beaches, artists and craftspeople. Drive out to the Tasman region for your overnight.
Day 5 – Abel Tasman National Park Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park – but it is perfectly formed for relaxation and adventure. Today visit this coastal paradise for a cruise up the coastline into Tonga Island Marine Reserve where you may see the resident seals sunning themselves on the rocks then land at a beach and enjoy a walk along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – the track comes down onto golden-sand beaches fringed by lush native forest and protected azure waters – ideal for swimming. In the afternoon, reboard a water taxi and return to Kaiteriteri and then your accommodation.
Day 6 – Nelson Region / Blenheim Today you may wish to spend further time in Nelson City or alternatively head directly to Blenheim and spend time at your own leisure exploring some of the excellent Marlborough wineries and their cellar doors for wine tasting.
Day 7 – Blenheim / Kaikoura Today enjoy the coastal views as you drive along a thin ledge of land pinned between the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged ranges to Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea and the whales come close to the land. Here enjoy a Whale Watch experience by purpose-built boat and see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. – an unforgettable experience!
Day 8 – Kaikaoura / Christchurch / Akaroa The road south follows the indentations of a wild coastline affording constantly changing seascapes as it skirts an exposed rock strewn shore before arriving in Christchurch. Continue on to the beautiful unspoilt old French whaling depot of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula.
Day 9 – Akaroa Today take a nature cruise of Akaroa Harbour which is known for its wildlife including penguins, marine birdlife and the very rare Hector’s Dolphins (smallest species in the world). Your local skipper will entertain you with a comprehensive commentary on geology, history, ecology and Maori heritage and traditions. Afternoon at leisure to relax and enjoy the quaint village of Akaroa.
Day 10 – Akaroa / Ashburton Farmstay This morning you may wish to travel into Christchurch City and see how the city is rebuilding following the February 2011 earthquakes. In the afternoon head south across the Canterbury Plains to the rural service town of Ashburton. Your accommodation tonight is on a farming property in the Ashburton region. This opportunity to meet friendly New Zealanders in their own home and enjoy a home cooked meal with them will be a highlight.
Day 11 – Ashburton / Aoraki -Mt Cook Today head inland to Geraldine and through Burkes Pass to the MacKenzie Country named after a 19th Century sheep stealer. See the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo then travel along the shores of glacial Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook Village in the Mt Cook National Park. At the heart of New Zealand’s most spectacular alpine region is Aoraki-Mt Cook, at 3754 metres the highest peak in Australasia.
Day 12 – Mt Cook As you fill your lungs with crisp alpine air and marvel at the surrounding alpine landscapes, you may wish to walk some of the shorter alpine trails, take a scenic flight over the Southern Alps by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft or perhaps join a small boat excursion to the terminal moraine of the Tasman Glacier (extra cost for optional excursions).
Day 13 – Abel Tasman National Park Make your way south along the East Coast then on to Moeraki to see the giant marble-like boulders on the beach before reaching Dunedin. Sitting at the head of the magnificent Otago Harbour, Dunedin was founded in 1848 by Scottish settlers and envisaged as the ‘Edinburgh of the South’. The influence of its Scottish heritage is still strongly evident.
Day 14 – Otago Peninsula Head out to Taiaroa Heads at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, an area renowned for wildlife. At Wellers Rock take a cruise on the sparkling waters around Taiaroa Heads. The cruise offers unrivalled viewing of the exciting diversity of wildlife which abounds on and around spectacular Taiaroa Head; the only mainland nesting place for Northern Royal Albatross in the world. Also enjoy a very close encounter with a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals and their pups basking on the rocks and swimming in natural pools in front of you. Walk down to the beach to watch the rare Yellow Eyed Penguins come ashore to their burrows after a day fishing at sea.
Day 15 – Dunedin / Invercargill/ Stewart Island Today travel south through Balclutha and across Southland countryside to Invercargill, New Zealand’s southern-most city. From Invercargill fly to Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island and situated 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. Over 85% of the island is National Park, and most people come here for the hiking and birdwatching. The island has just 28km of road, but 280km of walking tracks.
Day 16 – Stewart Island Today a wildlife highlight – a visit to Ulva Island. Your half day guided tour visits this picturesque forested island, which is predator free and has become an open sanctuary for species of native birds. There are recently released rare South Island saddlebacks and the threatened South Island Robin as well as tui, bellbird, fantail, kaka, weak and parakeet. The walking pace of the tour is dictated entirely by the pedestrian activity of birds crossing the tracks, bird discoveries in the bush edges and forested canopy. Remainder of the day is at leisure – some optional activities include bush walks, kayaking, fishing, golf on the world’s most southern golf course or a cruise on Paterson Inlet (activities at extra cost).
Day 17 – Stewart Island / Invercargill / Milford Sound Fly back to Invercargill and collect your rental car for the drive to Te Anau via the small towns of Lumsden and Mossburn. Continue into Fiordland National Park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area and one of the great wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere. For the ultimate Milford Sound experience, spend the night aboard a purpose built comfortable vessel – the Milford Mariner and wake up to the dawn of a new day in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The cruise style is relaxed, allowing plenty of time to view the fiord’s spectacular waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife. The Milford Mariner then anchors in a sheltered cove, where you can join the nature guide and explore in the vessel’s tender craft and kayaks. Or, if you prefer, you can simply relax on deck and soak in the beauty of this amazing place or go for a swim (if you’re brave enough!) As evening falls, enjoy a delicious dinner in the dining saloon then relax in the company of fellow travellers or indulge in some star-gazing before retiring to your private cabin.
Day 18 – Milford Sound / Queenstown After breakfast on board, return to Milford Sound and retrace your journey back to Te Anau then travel across Southland farmlands and around Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. Nestled among glacier-rounded hills and dramatic rugged mountain peaks, Queenstown is New Zealand’s premier year-round alpine resort.
Day 19 – Queenstown Day at leisure. Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty and the unique energy of the Queenstown region create the perfect backdrop for a holiday full of adventure, exploration or relaxation.
Day 20 – Depart Queenstown Today depart Queenstown with memories of an incredible time exploring New Zealand.
*Itinerary subject to change.