You're invited to a Be My Guest lunch at the home of Lance and Bridgette O'Sullivan, New Zealand horse racing royalty. Enjoy a sumptuous country-style lunch at the Red Barn on their beautiful Waikato farm. Later, travel to the harbourside city of Tauranga, located in the Bay of Plenty region. A bridge over the harbour connects Tauranga to Mount Maunganui, where you'll have an afternoon at leisure.
Why not walk up the extinct namesake volcano with winding walking paths or relax on the main beach, this glorious stretch of golden sand has been voted the best in the country. Later, enjoy dinner at your hotel. (B/L/D) Stay: Trinity Wharf Tauranga
This morning we travel through Te Puke known as the kiwifruit capital of New Zealand with around 80% of all kiwifruit grown in New Zealand grown here. You'll stop at Kiwifruit Country, a family owned business that is set amongst a 60-hectare orchard. Later, its onto Rotorua for an orientation tour that takes in views of Lake Rotorua. This afternoon visit Te Puia and tour through the Whakawerawera Thermal Reserve.
Tonight, an evening of culture, history and scrumptious food awaits you at the Tamaki Maori Village. Wander through the ancient forest village and learn about Maori art forms and traditions, followed by a cultural preformance. Experience an authentic Maori Hangi meal, steamed underground in the traditional way. (B/D) Stay: Millennium Hotel, Rotorua (2 nights)
Say Haere Ra (goodbye) to Rotorua this morning and journey out through pine forests and farmland to a little hidden spot, the turquoise torrent of rapids known as Huka Falls. The road ahead unfolds in a broad panorama of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake.
The stunningly blue fresh water of Lake Taupo is home to some of the best Trout fishing in the world. You will then journey south over the Central Plateau, New Zealand's main volcanic area, and along the Kapiti Coast to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Tonight, you are free to dine as you wish. (B) Stay: James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington
Why not discover more of Wellington this morning? There's time to visit the Parliament buildings and the Beehive, home to New Zealand's politicians. Later, you'll visit Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand and explore the fascinating exhibits at your leisure, including their unique Marae (Meeting House).
This afternoon, we cruise the Cook Strait into tranquil Queen Charlotte Sound. The village of Picton is next, then it's on to Blenheim for a city sightseeing tour. Tonight, enjoy a 3-course ‘highlight dinner' prepared from local produce and matched with wines of the Marlborough region. (B/D) Stay: Chateau Marlborough, Blenheim
This morning enjoy a Christchurch city sights tour, see how Christchurch is rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and pop into the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral. It is the world's only cathedral made substantially of cardboard! Next, travel over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains to soak up some spectacular sightseeing. Visit Morelea, the home of Angie and Stan Taylor, for a be my guest afternoon tea and hear about a lifetime spent farming in New Zealand.
Later, view the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd, and the bronze statue of a collie dog, the touching tribute to the sheepdogs which helped develop the Mackenzie Country. Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country in Twizel. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel. (B/D) Stay: MacKenzie Country Hotel
Your day starts with a journey along the Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between the regions of Canterbury and Otago, and with its large catchment it is an ideal source of hydro-electric power. The Benmore Dam holds back New Zealand's largest artificial lake, and when the Benmore Power Station was opened in 1965 it was the largest power station in New Zealand. Even today, it is still the second largest, and generates 21 enough electricity each year for about 298,000 average New Zealand homes.
From the Waitaki Valley you will then travel through to the township of Oamaru, with its stately tree-lined streets and its famous white limestone buildings. As well as shipping limestone to the bigger cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for construction of their Town Halls and various churches, Oamaru locals made sure that their own town represented the best in limestone building the mid-late 1800's had to offer.
This afternoon you will make your way down to the Southernmost New Zealand city, Dunedin. With the rest of your free afternoon you may wish to see more of the region with an Optional Experience. Perhaps take a Wildlife Cruise out to Otago Peninsula, visit the Speights Brewery - a New Zealand institution or ride the historic Taieri Gorge Railway. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel. (B/D) Stay: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross, Dunedin
This morning travel through lush green pastures, crossing sheep-filled farming land. New Zealand is internationally known for its sheep farming, and these are sights many visitors to this country recognise as typically ‘New Zealand’. You are sure to find the perfect sheep photo here! As your journey continues, the rolling, grassy hills once again turn back into heavily forested, rugged mountains, and you meander your way up into the Fiordland National Park to the South Island’s largest lake and the town of Te Anau.
This afternoon, you will hear and learn about the conservation efforts of the Pomona Island Charitable Trust which aims to restore the largest inland island in New Zealand to its natural state. Get up close to the islands on a boat ride on Lake Manapouri. Stop in some quiet and tranquil spots, to soak up the amazing surrounds, spot a few trout, and learn about the unique environment and fascinating history. This evening you have the opportunity to head out across the lake to the Glow Worm Caves for a tour (optional – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel. (B/D) Stay: Distinction Luxmore Te Anau
Today is one of those days where you will want to have your camera battery charged, and ready to go! After leaving Te Anau, you will journey through the Fiordland National Park and out to Milford Sound on one of the most scenic roads you could hope for. Travel through native rainforests, beech forests, alluvial flats and meadows. You will stop at Mirror Lakes where, as the name suggests, you can see the stunning mountain scenery perfectly reflected in the waters of the lakes.
Then on to the Homer Tunnel, man's attempt to master the sheer rocky ranges, still left rough-hewn around the edges. As you emerge out the other side of the tunnel, you are presented with one of the world's most dramatic alpine drives, down through the Cleddau Valley. You will have a stop at the Chasm, where the roaring Cleddau River has carved its way through solid rock, and then it's on to Milford Sound, where you will cruise the waters of this natural wonder.
Your cruise meanders down the sound, taking in the Bowen and Stirling Falls as they plummet from glacial hanging valleys sharply into the sea, and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising from the deep waters of the fiord. From the spectacular scenes of Milford Sound, you will travel on to the beautiful sights of Queenstown. An orientation tour skirting around the shores of Lake Wakatipu, takes you into the city centre. (B) Stay: Millennium Hotel, Queenstown (2 nights)
Explore Queenstown your way, choose from a range of optional sightseeing experiences. You could choose to ride the Shotover Jet, take a gondola to Bob's Peak. Perhaps take a minibus tour through spectacular Skippers Canyon or immerse yourself among the boutique vineyards and spectacular scenery of Central Otago on a Boutique Wine tour.
After a day of activity, enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet barbecue highlight dinner at the Colonel's Homestead. Then enjoy an entertaining after-dinner farm show providing a glimpse into high-country farm life. On the cruise back to Queenstown, join a sing-along or a dance across the polished wooden floors of the Earnslaw. (B/D)
This morning you will leave the alpine wonderland of Queenstown behind, and begin the passage through Central Otago and out to Westland. On the way out of the Queenstown region, you will stop and visit the faithfully restored gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. As you amble down the beautiful tree-lined avenues, past the 19th century wooden buildings, you will feel like you have stepped into a movie set.
From here you will travel over to Cromwell, situated next to the sparkling pristine waters of Lake Dunstan, where you will stop in at a local orchard for a taste of some of the town's delicious stone fruit. It is a day of gorgeous lakes, as after Dunstan, you will travel further into Central Otago and view the vivid blue waters of Lake Hawea, followed by Lake Wanaka, where the shoreline is charmingly lined by poplars and willows. Following an ancient greenstone trail, you will travel over Haast Pass, marking a change from the alpine scenery of the Southern Lakes, to the rainforest marvel of the wild West Coast.
View the sheer drop of Thunder Creek Falls and the grand sight of Mt Hooker, flanked on three sides by extensive glaciers. Our final destination for today is the extraordinary rivers of ice that make up Franz Josef Glacier. You may want to get up close and personal with the glaciers on a helicopter flight. Your flight will hover over the snow face and may land high up in the valley so that you can walk across the ice fall - subject to weather conditions (Optional Experience, own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner with wine at your hotel. (B/D) Stay: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier (Douglas Wing)
If weather conditions are unfavourable on Day 12, you will get another chance to fly up to the glaciers this morning or you might want to take a stroll through the small but lively Franz Josef village. Then it's time for an exhilarating adventure among temperate rainforest giants on the West Coast Treetop Walkway, followed by a visit to Hokitika, home of the native greenstone (jade) for a factory visit and jewellery demonstration.
Later, travel to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. You'll spend the night in an eco-friendly resort, right on the waterfront. This evening enjoy dinner with wine at your hotel, while watching the surf thundering at your doorstep! (B/D) Stay: The Ocean View Retreat - Punakaiki
Enjoy a leisurely start this morning before you travel to Greymouth, here you will join a brewery experience at Monteith’s Brewery where you will be guided through the traditions and heritage of this national icon. You will get to experience and taste ever changing and innovative brews before enjoying a pub style lunch. This evening join your AAT Kings Travel Director and Driver, and your new-found friends for a farewell dinner with wine. (B/L/D) Stay: Novotel Christchurch
A little bit of leisure, a little bit of culture - today is one of those days. Sleep in before a peek behind the scenes of racing history on the New Zealand Maritime Museum's America's Cup Tour, highlighting Auckland's heritage of boat-building, and offering a glimpse of one of the world's only replicas of the America's Cup.
Your Auckland tour guide then takes you around the city, pausing at Bastion Point and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial for epic photo opportunities over the city's dual harbour. By now you should have a few ideas for how to spend your afternoon exploring, but if not, ask us for recommendations. We have a little black book full of contacts. (B)
Bet you didn't know New Zealand is home to horse-racing royalty. The O'Sullivan's welcome you to their Waikato estate for a country-style Be My Guest lunch in the Red Barn. Expect banter, horse-riding gossip and farm-to-table fare prepared with a lot of love. Venture east to the harbourside city of Tauranga, where you have a free afternoon to tour the Bay of Plenty.
If you want to work up a sweat, enlist to climb extinct volcano Mount Mauao, offering dazzling vistas over some of the 140 subtropical islets that dot the coast. We wouldn't blame you for kicking off your shoes and chilling on the golden sands of the main beach, regularly voted the prettiest in the country. (B/L/D) Stay: Trinity Wharf Tauranga
Is there any food more classically New Zealand than the kiwifruit? The town of Te Puke grows the majority of the country's bounty, and you'll enjoy a bite that will wake up your tastebuds. The next hot-spot - in every sense of the word - on your NZ holiday is Rotorua. Visit Te Puia to see and support Maori artisans at work, then continue your Rotorua tour at the steamy Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, a staggering valley where geysers pop and thermal springs jettison skywards.
Fun fact: this is the only living Maori village in the world. The hot rocks in this pocket of the planet are prefect for cooking your hangi (underground) feast at Te Pa Tu Maori Experience, a bastion for Maori culture. Watch a performance before you dig in to your feast. (B/D) Stay: Millennium Hotel, Rotorua (2 Nights)
Say haere ra (goodbye) to Rotorua and hello to an immense amount of water. First stop is the raging rapids of Huka Falls, where 220,000 litres of water barrel over an 11-metre-high waterfall every second. You'll hear them (and perhaps feel the mist on your face) before you see them. Your outlook then unfolds into the dreamy landscape of Lake Taupo, the largest of its kind in the country and with a twinkling, blue-eyed-boy charm.
Your Lake Taupo tour sees you traverse the volcanic Central Plateau to NZ's cool little capital of Wellington, set on a pretty harbour that beckons with too many good restaurants to choose from. Ask us for recommendations, or explore at your leisure. Because every NZ holiday needs a little down-time. (B) Stay: James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor
Sperm whales and fur seals are a common sight in Kaikoura - get lucky and you can see them from shore or sign up for a bird's-eye view on an optional scenic flight over dramatic black beaches framed by turquoise ocean. You won't be disappointed.
The region is also known for its tasty crayfish, and there are plenty of places to sample the wares, whether waterside fish-and-chip shops or legendary food trucks serving buttery crayfish rolls. Think of this as your NZ holiday in a mouthful. Follow the coast and Canterbury Plains to Christchurch, home to some of the country's most innovative architecture, art institutions and restaurants. We can help you make a booking in any number of the latter. (B) Stay: Distinction Christchurch Hotel
We've got the power - hydro, that is. The Benmore Dam holds back New Zealand's largest artificial lake, and when the Benmore Power Station was opened in 1965 it was the biggest in the country. Just one of the fun facts you'll learn on your NZ tour. That should fuel you through to Oamaru, with its stately tree-lined streets and glam limestone buildings, before landing in Dunedin.
The afternoon is yours to discover the ‘Edinburgh of the Southern Hemisphere', whether wandering the manicured grounds of its stately castle, taking a wildlife cruise to spot little penguins, or refuelling at a brewery. (B/D) Stay: Scenic Hotel Southern Cross
The roll-call of Queenstown activities you could sign-up for today is near endless. Adrenaline-junkies may wish to zip about in the Shotover Jet, which reaches dizzying speeds in the white-water rapids of the Shotover River. Or perhaps get some perspective on a gondola to Bob's Peak, offering jaw-dropping vistas over the city and the Remarkables, those mountains framing town. Or maybe your Queenstown tour is dedicated to the gorges of Skippers Canyon.
If you're a gourmand at heart, sign up for a Central Otago wine tour, where your day involves sipping your way through award-winning cool-climate wines. Whichever route you take, your day ends on a dreamy TSS Earnslaw cruise across Lake Wakatipu, landing at Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet barbecue Highlight Dinner at the Colonel's Homestead. (B/D)