Time to return our adrenalin levels to normal and make tracks to the wild (and often wet) West Coast and it's towering glaciers. Enjoying our scenic drive we'll stop for lunch in Wanaka, a pretty ski resort town situated on a lake front and dwarfed by mountains. This town is fast becoming one of NZ's most popular spots, and a trip to the 'Dough Bin' for a luscious pie should be high on the list today.
Our first piece of NZ eye-candy comes in the form of Hasast Pass, beautified by ancient rainforests, small glaciers and waterfalls. Note how the scenery changes as we roll away from Queenstown through the Southern Alps. Playing host tonight is the town of Franz Josef, home to some of NZ's finest natural beauty with bushlands and glaciers that almost reach the sea. Tomorrow we'll be out and about making the most of it - who's excited? (B/D) Stay: Rainforest Retreat (or similar)
This morning will be another big ol' tick off the list as we take to the ice of Franz Josef Glacier. We've got a heli ride over the glacier up for grabs, or the opportunity to carve your own Pounamu (jade) pendant, under the tuition of a Maori mastercraftsman. Pounamu is sacred to the Māori people, and this is a great way to learn about its cultural significance, while also creating a beautiful please of jewellery.
An optional highlight today is a boat cruise across Lake Mapourika. But this ain't your ordinary boat cruise. You'll cruise up the glassy lake, framed by glaciers and mountains, before switching to a stand up paddle board and gliding along a narrow estuary. This takes you to your journey's destination, the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, where you'll get to meet New Zealand's adorable but vulnerable national bird. (B)
Armed with a new found appreciation for frozen water, we hop back on the coach & start making our way back to Christchurch. In the gold rush town of Hokitika we'll watch authentic carvers get to work on green jade and take a look at traditional Maori art. Back on the coach we're coastline bound to one of the islands most jaw-droppingly beautiful spots... Take in the beautiful scenery as we wind our way across the highest and most spectacular mountain pass across the Southern Alps.
Tonight we'll sleep well in Christchurch, drifting off to the pleasant memories of NZ's natural beauty that seasoned our day. (B) Stay: The Breakfree on Cashel (or similar)
We'll set off on an inspiring tour of Christchurch this morning, the city that was totally rebuilt after the Christchurch earthquake. Look out for the Cardboard Cathedral, which as the name suggests, is the only cathedral in the world to be built mostly from plain old cardboard! After that, it's another jaw-dropping drive up to the top of the South Island. The coach cuts across the Canterbury Plains to Kaikoura.
Arriving in Kaikoura will see us amongst a seaside settlement known for whales & dolphins, so have those cameras at the ready as we roll around the coast. We'll stop at a seal colony, where you'll struggle not to break into a collective 'cuuuute' as you watch these guys sunning themselves on the rocks.
Next up, we'll visit Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue to meet a local wildlife biologist, Sabrina Leucht, who has been working to build a dedicated wildlife hospital in Kaikoura. We'll learn about the types of wildlife we might encounter here, which threats they face, and what we can all do to make a difference - locally and in our own hometowns.
After a busy day of wildlife wonders, we'll check into our seafront hotel, before heading out for a spot of dinner. Did you know that Kaikoura literally translates into 'eat (kai) crayfish (koura)'? So, no prizes for guessing what type of local cuisine we'll be trying! (B) Stay: Sudima Kaikoura (Or similar)
We wave goodbye to Wellington and its beautiful scenery and we prepare ourselves for our next adventure – and trust us, this one is bucket-list worthy. Known as the après-ski capital of the North island, Ohakune is a tranquil town with stupendous view.
Today you have the option to go mountain biking along one of NZ's most picturesque track, "the Old Coach Rd" or spend the day bettering your skills on the slopes or generally treating yourself to all the snowy based activities on offer, then tonight snuggle down in our Special Stay ski lodge, located in prime position at the base of Mt. Ruapehu. (B/D) Stay: Kings Ohakune (or similar)
Wake up in the spectacular surroundings of Mt. Ruapehu with the epic views of the volcano, and you have the option this morning to go mountain biking along one of NZ's most picturesque track, "the Old Coach Rd" before we head to Taupo. Volcanic peak views & trout fishing will seamlessly slip us into quaint lake life. But don't be fooled by the seemingly still scenery - a skydive is on the menu if that adrenaline itch needs scratching.
This evening we jump on a cruise on the lake to watch the sun set, go fishing and enjoy some eats with our Contiki fam. (B) Stay: Lakeland Resort Taupo (or similar)
As we leave Lake Taupo keep an eye out for even more recognisable ‘The Lord of the Rings' backdrops. 220,000 litres (58 000 gallons) of water gush over Huka Falls per second. Just let that sink in for a minute. Wild, right? When you catch your first whiff of that… ‘unusual' sulphur smell, you'll know we've arrived in Rotorua.
Upon arrival in Rotorua we get to learn some fascinating info on NZ's national birds, as well as watch new lives hatch right in front of our eyes! How impressed are you right now? Soak in a hotspring, go skydiving or take a canopy tour - there's plenty of time for you to make the best of this town. Tonight we enjoy a Maori cultural performance and feast on a Hāngi dinner that is sweetly roasted in the ground. (B/D) Stay: Sudima Lake Rotorua (or similar)
We'll cross Aucklands Harbour Bridge admiring the 'City of Sails' harbour before starting our journey north to Paihia. But first, a stop off at the stunning yacht marina in Whangarei. Here we'll check out the weird and wonderful Huderwassert art centre, a unique architectural project dedicated to the ecological activist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. After lunch we'll hit the road again onwards to the Bay of Islands.
On arrival to the Bay of Islands we're starting off with a dose of Kiwi history on a guided tour at Waitangi Treaty grounds where in 1840 New Zealand officially became a nation of two communities. And because we like to give you that something extra, how about a free admission at the Treaty museum, in case you seek a bit more detail on Kiwi history. Tonight we'll feast like the locals as we enjoy a true Kiwiana fish'n'chips as we overlook the glittering Bay of Islands. (B/D) Stay: Bounty Motel (or similar)
There are currently no departures available on this trip. Either it's the end of the season and new departures will be released shortly, or this itinerary has been changed and will no longer continue. Feel free to contact us for information about when next seasons dates will be released or click here to view the general release dates for all destinations.