Our trip starts in Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most diverse city. Surrounded by volcanoes and volcanic cones, beautiful beaches and rolling countryside, Auckland offers a great introduction to New Zealand. Depending on your arrival time you could take a short city tour of Auckland before we all meet for a briefing this evening. Stay: Copthorne Hotel - Auckland (Comfortable)
After breakfast this morning, we depart Auckland and travel southwards through the Waikato Region to Rotorua, the North Island's most famous destination for overseas visitors and an important cultural centre. You'll soon adapt to the distinctive sulphur smell, which comes from many vents to the underground thermal region. The region is known for its many geysers, steaming lakes and streams, and mud and hot mineral pools known for their curative properties. On arrival we will explore Rotorua town or take an optional walk in the area before we check in.
This afternoon there are optional walks include around Blue Lake / Lake Tikitapu, and a trail through the magnificent Redwood and Douglas Fir trees of Whakarewarewa Forest . For those interested in walking your tour leader will recommend the most suitable walk for the weather and accompany the walkers. In the evening we get to experience a Maori 'hangi' dinner - cooked using heated rocks in a pit oven.
Today's optional five-and-a-half kilometre walk around Lake Tikitapu is expected to take around one-and-a-half hour and the optional three-and-a-half kilometre walk in Whakarewarewa Forest is expected to take around one hour. Stay: Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua (Comfortable) (B/D)
This morning we visit Waimangu Valley, a fascinating geothermal park of bubbling mud pools, hissing geysers and steaming lakes created in 1886 following the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera. We walk amongst the hot springs and steaming cliffs, with panoramas over the valley and the Southern Crater. We take the steps up to inferno Crater which erupts to eight metres high, every 38 days.
Leaving Rotorua we travel through an important forested area via the picturesque Huka Falls to Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Later we drive to Tongariro National Park where there is a choice of several short walks.
Our two kilometre sightseeing walk today in Waimangu is expected to take around one hours on a marked trail. Stay: The Park Hotel Ruapehu (Comfortable) (B)
Today we'll enjoy a combination of short walks and drives to see the best of Tongariro National Park. Exploring the diverse and dramatic terrain: steam vents, volcanic peaks, waterfalls and magnificent views.
We depart from Whakapapa Village to hike to Taranaki Falls, crossing scrubland to enter the beech forest. The path passes Cascade Falls and over Wairere Stream to the waterfall. There are views on a clear day to Ngauruhoe's cone (aka Mount Doom), keep an eye out for native birds in the diverse forest. Returning from the walk we take a scenic drive along Bruce Road for spectacular views over the Whakapapaiti Valley and to Tawhaii Falls (Gollums Pool).
This afternoon we head up the Mangatepopo Road to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for a return hike up to Soda Springs. The main track gently climbs through the valley alongside a stream and around the edges of old lava flows with views to Mount Tongariro.
Today's morning six kilometre walk to Taranaki Falls is expected to take around two-and-a-half hours. The afternoon's six kilometre walk on the Tongariro Crossing is expected to take around two hours. The terrain is boardwalks and well-trodden mountain paths. Stay: The Park Hotel Ruapehu (Comfortable) (B)
The trip continues southward through the fertile farmlands of Levin to Wellington (approximately six hours drive). New Zealand's capital lies partially on reclaimed land at the harbour and the steep hillsides adjacent to the Cook Strait. Wellington has been the capital city since 1865 and as such is also the country's political centre. We take a city sightseeing tour and drive to Mount Victoria from where we can enjoy a beautiful view over the city. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore. Stay: West Plaza Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning, we visit Te Papa Tongarewa, the modern National Museum, which gives a good insight into New Zealand history, Maori Culture and Pacific culture. More than 20 galleries house imaginative exhibitions and interactive experiences that explore New Zealand's unique natural environment, dynamic art heritage, fascinating history and the vitality of Maori culture. In the afternoon, we say farewell to the North Island and board the Interisland Ferry to cross Cook Strait and cruise through the scenic Marlborough Sounds, an area of 'drowned' valleys, which resulted from the geological sinking of a mountain range. Today the Sounds are a maze of deep channels, sheltered waterways and secluded bays, encompassed by verdant bush-clad hills. After an approximately three-hour journey often described as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world we reach the idyllic harbour town of Picton. Stay: Jasmine Court Motel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we board a water taxi and cruise to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary (1 hour) where we enjoy a short hour's walk from the jetty to the lookout over Marlborough Sounds. Later we are dropped off at Resolution Bay to walk part of the Queen Charlotte track. This 67 kilometre coastal walking track stretches from historic Ship Cove to Anakiwa in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds, and enjoys a temperate climate which allows good year-round walking conditions. Today we are walking from Resolution Bay to Endeavour Inlet. The verdant, subtropical native bush is home to many of New Zealand's native birds. In the late afternoon, we reach Endeavour Inlet, and board the water taxi again to cruise back to Picton.
Today's 11 kilometre walk is expected to take around three-and-a-half hours with an ascent and descent of 300 metres on a marked coastal trail. Stay: Jasmine Court Motel (Comfortable) (B)
After breakfast, we take the Queen Charlotte Drive between Picton and Havelock, one of New Zealand's most delightful scenic drives. Winding past the Sounds' numerous bays, this bush-fringed road takes us to the head of Pelorus Sound and the seaside village of Havelock. Once a thriving gold-mining town, Havelock is New Zealand's primary producer of Greenshell mussels. We then continue on to Keiteriteri, (approximately three hours drive), where we take a water taxi in Abel Tasman National Park to Onetahuti. We will pass several offshore islands that provide a protected habitat for native wildlife including Tonga Island famous for its seals. From Onetahuti we walk along the Abel Tasman Coast Track downto Bark Bay with beautiful goldan beaches and stunning coastal views. The return boat transfer from Bark Bay takes us to Nelson, the town with the most sunshine hours in the country. Many years ago New Zealand's first roadside cafe opened here and today the town is home to craftsmen and artists.
Today's five-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with an ascent and descent of 230 metres along a marked coastal trail. The walk is shorter at low tide. Stay: Palms Motel (Comfortable) (B)
Our journey today takes us inland through an unbelievably scenic region with excellent roads and minimal traffic. Rugged, green and wild, the West Coast was in the nineteenth century one of the busiest and richest areas, when gold drew men from all over the world. On the way to Westport we'll travel through Murchison, where we can learn about the earthquake of 1929. At Hawks Crag we'll drive under a spectacular overhang, where the road has been cut out of solid rock. Just past Westport is Cape Foulwind, where we will take the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony Walk (20 minutes) to have a close encounter with a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals in their natural habitat.
From Westport, we journey to Punakaiki, where visit the famous Pancake Rocks with dramatic blow holes during high tides and take a walk along the Pororari River Track; this track follows a magnificent limestone gorge with two main features - a river with huge rocks in deep pools, and beautiful forest featuring subtle changes from sub-tropical to temperate. Tonight we stay in a motel, with simple apartment style rooms and private facilities. It's ideally located on the West Coast Road.
Today's seven kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours. The duration of the walk will depend on the weather and time available, but will be up to two hours. Stay: Ashley Hotel Greymouth (Simple) (B)
Leaving Greymouth behind us we take a short drive to our next stop, Hokitika, known as New Zealand's Greenstone capital. Most of this precious stone is found in this region and then turned into beautiful pieces of jewellery. We pass the forgotten gold miners' towns of Hari Hari and Ross on our way down the West Coast to Westland National Park making a stop at Okarito lagoon. The lagoon is home to more than 76 species of native birds including the white heron and royal spoonbills. Here we have two short walks available depending on time, weather and interest, a wetland board walk or up to the Okarito Trig viewpoint overlooking Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
In the afternoon we reach the spectacular Southern Alps and the region of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Unfortunately at present the glaciers are in a state of retreat and as such we cannot walk to either of the terminal faces. We will however make our planned walk in the valley as the receding glaciers have carved out an impressive landscape which is fascinating to explore. If the weather is good then we will be able to view the glaciers from a distance. To get a closer view there is also the option, weather permitting, to take a scenic flight which offers a bird's eye view of the glaciers and surrounding landscape. Please speak with your tour leader who can help you arrange this activity locally.
This morning's wetland walk is expected to take around 30 minutes, the alternative four kilometre Trig Hill walk is expected to take around one-and-a-half hours. The afternoon three kilometre walk through the glacial valley is expected to take around one hour. The exact walks will be decided upon by your tour leader dependant on the day's weather conditions. Stay: Lake Matheson Motel (Comfortable) (B)
In the morning (weather permitting), we will go for a walk around Lake Matheson, which could provide us with an excellent opportunity to take that perfect photo of Mount Cook with its mirrored reflection on the lake's calm water. We then continue our trip through Westland National Park, a World Heritage Park. The rainforest is very impressive and has subtropical character. Here we undertake a walk through the coastal brainforest to reach the seldom-visited Monro beach, which once joined part of Gondwanaland. Your tour leader will explain the different species of native trees, such as Rimu, Kahikatea and Beech. We continue driving via Haast Pass towards Wanaka, in Aspiring National Park, with breathtaking views of the surrounding snowy peaks and the glacier lakes Hawea and Wanaka.
The two-and-a-half kilometre walk around Lake Matheson is expected to take around one-and-a-half hours and the five kilometre walk to Munro Beach is expected to take around two hours. Stay: Wanaka Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
Wanaka is a hiker's paradise because of its beautiful environment. The tranquil township lies directly on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka, New Zealand's fourth largest lake. It reflects the snow-capped peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park whose dominant feature is impressive Mt Aspiring, towering above a magnificent glacier-sculpted wilderness. The area boasts a great variety of walking tracks. Today is free for exploring. Stay: Wanaka Hotel (Comfortable) (B)
After breakfast, we traverse the Crown Range road and take the opportunity to visit the partially restored and well-interpreted Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. This is a quiet reminder and tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese goldminers and business people to the region's goldmining, cultural and business history. We then continue on to Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of New Zealand. In the afternoon, you can take an optional walk to Ben Lomond before returning down to explore the town. Stay: Heartland Hotel Queenstown (Comfortable) (B)
After breakfast, we make our way to Te Anau, known locally as 'the walking capital of the world'. Some of the most wild and dramatic scenery in New Zealand can be found in Fiordland, in the southwest corner of the South Island. Fiordland is one of the largest National Parks in the world and a World Heritage area. Here the power of nature stuns the enthralled visitor - from its waterfalls tumbling hundreds of metres into virgin, forested valleys and lonely fiords, to endless stretches of shimmering lakes and granite peaks. Today we walk part of the Kepler Track, one of the great walks of New Zealand, to Rainbow Reach.
Today's nine-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around five hours. The track is gently undulating and wanders through mountain beech forest with some great river views. Stay: KG Hotel Te Anau (Comfortable) (B)
This morning weather permitting we take a walk to Key Summit, a half-day walk on the Routeburn Track (departing at 7am). This walk offers spectacular views of Fiordland National and panoramic views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains.
In the afternoon we drive to the most accessible and best known of the fiords, Milford Sound. The Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford Sound) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest, and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand's alpine zone. We take a one-and-half hour boat trip on the Milford Sound, which is dominated by the mighty cone of the Mitre Peak, rising steeply up from the water where we will have an included lunch. Late this afternoon, we arrive back in Te Anau.
Today's nine-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 640 metres of ascent and descent. The terrain is forest sub alpine shrublands, although the majority of the walk is easy the last 30 minutes up to the summit is quite steep. Stay: KG Hotel Te Anau (Comfortable) (B/L)
After passing by Lake Wakatipu and through the rocky Kawerau Gorge and Cromwell village, the road winds upward to Lindis Pass where we can take a short walk to the viewpoint. The plains of the Mackenzie highland lie before us. On the left are the mountains of the Southern Alps that we will continuously see whilst we drive to Twizel. As we travel through old gold settlements and small towns there are some optional stops on route according to the group's interest and conditions. There are a number of vineyards which can be visited including one of New Zealand's premier winemakers Cloudy Bay cellar Door near Cromwell (there would be additional charge for wine tasting) or take an hour's walks along the Clay cliffs at Waitaki.
The afternoon is free for your tour leader and driver; you can independently explore the area or relax. Stay: Mackenzie Inn (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we drive to Mount Cook village to enjoy the unique environment of different alpine plants and flowers and the panoramic vista of New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki Mt Cook (3,724m). Walks may include Tasman Glacier and Tasman Lake. Blessed with a marvellous view of the surrounding peaks we overnight again close to the Mount Cook National Park.
There are different short walk available and one will be chosen by your tour leader depending on the weather. One of the regular walks is three kilometres and takes approximately one-and-a-half hours. Stay: Mackenzie Inn (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we drive to the stunning turquoise Lake Tekapo, and visit the Church of Good Shepherd set on the shore surrounded by mountains. Built in the 1930's in memory of the local pioneers all the materials for the church were sourced from a within a five mile radius and the builders were instructed not to disturb the site so rocks were incorporated into the walls. We then continue our drive to the French style village of Akaroa. The afternoon is left free to explore this quiet village and harbour sitting at the centre of an ancient volcano. Stay: Akaroa Criterion Motel (Comfortable) (B)
This morning we drive to Christchurch for a short city tour. The trip ends at 12.30 in Christchurch or 13.00 at Christchurch airport. If you have booked a later flight there is the option to be taken to the Heartland Hotel, where you are able to leave your luggage and be free to explore Christchurch more this afternoon. A shuttle bus transfer will then be arranged from the hotel to the airport to meet your flight. There are limited facilities available at the hotel but showers are available at the airport if required. (B)