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New Zealand Uncovered (Southbound)


Welcome to New Zealand, where snow-dusted peaks rub shoulders with glacial lakes, and off-the-grid surf towns give way to cosmopolitan cities. This in-depth 20-day adventure takes you to all the places where you can see the country at its best, from the North Island to the South Island. Join a local leader in Auckland and travel through the geothermal wonders of Rotorua, chill out on the beaches of Coromandel and Raglan, explore the otherworldly landscapes of Tongariro National Park and get to know Wellington’s creative side. Hop over to the South Island where the high-adrenaline activities of Queenstown, fabulous wineries of Marlborough, and awe-inspiring scenery of Franz Josef await.

20 days, from

$5,985

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: PHKYC
Style: Original
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Details

Countries Visited:  New Zealand
Accommodation: 19 nights in twin-share 3–4 star accommodation: a mix of hotels, motels, lodges, and rainforest retreats. Spend one night glamping (luxury camping).
Transportation: Private Vehicle , Train , Ferry
Meals: 4 dinners, 19 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 6, Max 16

  • Discover the diversity of Rotorua, from unbelievable geothermal activity to rich Maori culture. Visit a Maori village for a hangi dinner and traditional haka performance.

  • Admire the out of this world landscapes of Tongariro National Park, from emerald green lakes to soaring volcanic peaks. If you’re up for the challenge, tackle the famous Tongariro Crossing.

  • Get to know New Zealand’s creative and cosmopolitan capital, Wellington. Your local leader will show you the best of the city, including Weta Workshop of Lord of the Rings fame.

  • Live it up in the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown. Whether you fancy bungy jumping, jet boating, horseback riding or wine tasting, there’s something here to entice everyone.

  • You’re on track for one of the world’s most scenic train journeys – cross the spectacular Southern Alps on the famous TranzAlpine from the West Coast to Christchurch.

Itinerary

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Day 1: Auckland

Welcome to the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Your North Island adventure begins in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest, busiest and buzziest city. If you get here with time to spare, perhaps check out the beach down at Mission Bay or take a stroll along the restaurant-lined waterfront. Meet your local leader and new travel buddies at your accommodation at 6pm for a welcome meeting, then the rest of the evening is yours. If you’d like to take a dip into Auckland’s nightlife, your leader will have tips on the best places to grab a drink or a bite to eat.

Day 2: Coromandel Peninsula

Leave the bright lights of Auckland City in the rear-view mirror as you jump in your vehicle and drive on the Coromandel Peninsula – the journey is a highlight in itself, following the extraordinary coastline and watching clear blue water stream past the window. A land of white sand beaches and lush rainforests, the Coromandel Peninsula feels a world away from where your journey began. Make a stop at Hot Water Beach, named after the famous warm waters found beneath its golden sand. If the tide allows, dig a hole on the beach and enjoy your own natural hot tub – absolute bliss! Arrive in Whitianga in the afternoon – your local leader will show you around this relaxed town known for beaches, surfing and a mellow atmosphere.

Day 3: Raglan

Hit the road and make a scenic drive to Raglan, passing tree-clad hills and dramatic valleys. The journey will be broken up with photo-worthy stops, including a visit to the magical 55-metre cascade of the Bridal Veil Falls. Widely considered to be New Zealand’s premier surf spot, Raglan is the ideal place to catch some waves, whether you’re a beginner or a pro. If surfing isn’t your thing, the chilled-out town offers a wealth of awesome activities. Check out creative local cafes, shops and galleries, stretch out on the beach and enjoy the view or head out on a hiking trail to get a better look at the landscape. Tonight is set to be one to remember – get on the water for a sunset boat cruise around Raglan Harbour, and tuck into a tasty fish and chips feast while you’re at it – a true Kiwi experience!

Day 4: Waitomo / Rotorua

This morning’s adventure takes you underground during a visit to the Waitomo Caves, a subterranean system of caverns and passageways illuminated by thousands of ethereal glow worms. You may like to join a walking tour to hear the story of the caves’ history, geology and connection to Maori mythology. If you’d rather stay on the surface, the Ruakuri Forest walk is a must, cutting through dense rainforest and taking in views of verdant gorges and limestone arches. Continue your journey towards Rotorua, known for its Maori heritage, hotbed of geothermal activity and distinctive sulphur smell (you’ll get used to it!). To get your first look at Rotorua’s impressive scenery, take a treetop walk through an ancient redwood forest over a network of suspension bridges, reaching 12 metres at the highest point.

Day 5: Rotorua

Spend the day discovering the natural and cultural wonders of Rotorua – this unique destination is really like nowhere else in the world. Tucked into the rolling green hills of Matamata you’ll find Hobbiton, the set where part of the Lord of the Rings films were shot and a must-visit for any fans. The geothermal activity in the area is also second to none – simmering mud pools, dramatic geysers and fluorescent lakes must be seen to be believed. If you’ve got a head for heights, ziplining through Rotorua’s ancient forests is an unbeatable way to take it all in. This evening you’ll get a true taste of Maori culture during a visit to a local village. Here you’ll enjoy a hangi dinner, a traditional meal cooked underground, giving it a delicious earthy flavour. Members of the village will also give combat demonstrations and perform a soul-stirring haka. While here you’ll have the chance to witness New Zealand’s largest geyser in action, and if you’re really lucky, you may spot some nocturnal kiwi birds.

Day 6: Rotorua / Taupo / Tongariro National Park

Those looking for a thrill are in the right place – Rotorua is a fantastic spot for white water rafting, so if you’re up for an adrenaline rush, you may like to spend your morning paddling the Kaituna River. If you’d like a slower start to the day, Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa is the perfect place to unwind, or head to Kuirau park to walk through a landscape of hissing natural hot pools. If your morning activities have inspired an appetite, the town is chock-full of tempting cafes and bakeries serving up local favourites. Say goodbye to Rotorua and get on the road once more, first making the short drive to Taupo, set on the shores of the mighty Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. From here, continue to Tongariro National Park, the oldest national park in the country and your home for the next two nights.

Day 7: Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is an inspiring landscape brimming with emerald lakes and volcanic mountains. The park is also home to what’s thought to be one of the best one-day walks in the world – the Tongariro Crossing. Today you’ll have the chance to take on this challenging but oh-so rewarding hike, covering 19.4km through mountains, lakes, craters and thick bush. A good level of fitness and appropriate gear for all types of weather are a must for anyone considering tackling the crossing today. This is considered one of the world’s top walks for a reason – the views are simply unbeatable. You may prefer to set out on one of the shorter hikes in the park – there are heaps to choose from and your leader will help to pick one that best suits your interests and abilities.

Day 8: Wellington

Wellington is calling – leave Tongariro National Park behind and drive on to New Zealand’s trendy and attractive capital city. Strung between staggering green hills and a delightful harbour, Wellington holds onto a small-town charm despite its capital status. The city is known for its creative and artistic endeavours, making it a real joy to explore. Arrive in the afternoon, then your leader will give you a brief introduction to the city before heading up Mt Victoria for a view that will help you appreciate Wellington in all its glory. The rest of the evening is yours to explore the capital. With a booming food scene, be sure to ask your leader for some wonderful restaurant recommendations.

Day 9: Wellington

Today is all about getting to know windy Wellington, a charming place even on its most blustery days! Kick the day off with an orientation tour with your leader, checking out the bays, central Wellington, the Botanic Gardens and the Parliament Buildings. Pay a visit to Weta Workshop, the special effects studio used by Peter Jackson for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While here you’ll have the chance to take an optional tour around the studio to find out how the team here create film magic. This afternoon, you may like to check out Wellington’s most famous cultural attraction, Te Papa museum. Displaying an intriguing combination of New Zealand’s history and cultural heritage weaved with cutting edge technology and interactive displays, there’s something here to entertain everyone. If you’d rather spend the afternoon outdoors, a tour of Kapiti Island offers the chance to spot an abundance of rare and beautiful birds.

Day 10: Wellington / Marlborough / Kaikoura

Say goodbye to the North Island and cross the Cook Strait on board a ferry, taking in some pretty unforgettable views along the way. Your introduction to New Zealand’s South Island sets the tone for the rest of the journey – pass through the iconic landscapes of the Marlborough Sounds as you cruise into Picton Harbour. Aside from its marvellous scenery, the Marlborough region is known for its production of world-class white wine, so what better way to get a taste of the South Island than by visiting some of its best wineries? Stop by and sample their goods while learning what makes Marlborough wine so renowned. Continue your journey south, eventually arriving in Kaikoura where you will stop for the night. This seaside town is known for its abundance of marine wildlife. This evening perhaps head out for a crayfish dinner – it’s a real specialty here!

Day 11: Kaikoura / Christchurch

Embrace a free morning to enjoy all Kaikoura has to offer. You may like to book an excursion to swim with dolphins in their natural environment – dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins and common dolphins are all regularly spotted. Kaikoura is famously one of the world’s top spots for whale watching, so perhaps take advantage of your time here and head out on a boat trip in search of humpbacks, orcas and sperm whales. Regroup and check out a colony of native fur seals, then depart Kaikoura and travel down to Christchurch, the South Island’s biggest city. A meeting will take place at your hotel at 6pm this evening to welcome any travellers joining you for the next leg of your journey. After your welcome meeting, perhaps get to know the new members of your group over dinner, or rest up for an exciting day ahead tomorrow.

Day 12: Christchurch / Lake Tekapo / Ohau

Christchurch is not just a pretty city – it’s also remarkably resilient. After a devasting earthquake destroyed much of the downtown area in 2011, the city has begun to rebuild in innovative and creative ways. Head out with your leader this morning to see this for yourself. Stop by the Christchurch Cathedral, which stood as symbol of the city before collapsing in the earthquake, and has now been replaced with an architecturally striking and quake-proof structure made out of cardboard. After a morning of exploring, say goodbye to Christchurch and drive inland to Lake Tekapo. An eye-catching combination of purple lupins, turquoise waters and snow-dusted peaks makes this one of the most photo-worthy spots in the country. The Church of the Good Shepherd sits on the shores of the lakes and attracts couples from all over the world shooting their wedding pictures. It’s easy to see why – backdrops don’t get much better than this! Continue to Lake Ohau where you’ll spend the night.

Day 13: Mackenzie Country / Queenstown

Hit the road this morning for a journey to remember – watch out the window as you pass the sprawling grasslands of the Mackenzie Basin and showstopping peaks of the Southern Alps. Your drive will be broken up with plenty of scenic stops, including a visit to Kawarau Gorge, a popular spot for bungy jumping. If you’re feeling adventurous, get involved and jump off the suspension bridge crossing the gorge, or just stand back and watch brave jumpers take the plunge. Continue on to Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of the world, and rightfully so! Aside from its high-adrenaline attractions, Queenstown has a booming culinary scene, produces some of the worlds best wine and boasts unbelievable scenery at every turn.

Day 14: Queenstown

The day is all yours to discover the varied delights of Queenstown. There are loads of options to get your heartrate up, whether you fancy shooting down the river on a jet boat, river kayaking, flying above the town in a gondola or horseback riding through landscapes of Lord of the Rings fame. If you’d like to take things a little slower, perhaps head to the Gibbston Valley to taste wines only topped by the inspiring scenery. A walk around the stunning Lake Wakatipu will give you a good dose of fresh air and epic views. There’s no shortage of dining options to tempt your tastebuds – if you’re willing to wait, a famous Fergburger is hard to beat!

Day 15: Queenstown / Wanaka

Take the chance this morning to cross off any Queenstown activities you didn’t have time for yesterday – be sure to speak to your leader for tips on the best way to spend a morning here. In the afternoon, get back on the road for a seriously scenic 1-hour drive to Wanaka through the Crown Range Mountains. Stop off along the way in Arrowtown, a little goldrush town with big personality. Take a walk along the tree-lined high street where historic buildings nod to the town’s glory days. Arrive in Wanaka in the afternoon and embrace the vibe of this laidback and beautiful town. With Lake Wanaka as its glittering centrepiece and dramatic mountains as its backdrop, the town is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most bewitching. This afternoon you may like to head out on a hike or just stretch out on the shores of the lake and take it all in.

Day 16: Wanaka

Get ready for a memorable start to the day as you hop aboard an electric bike, joining your leader for a cycling tour of picturesque Wanaka and its surrounds. Just like a regular bike but with a small motor, using an e-bike makes pedalling easier, especially uphill. After your cycling tour, the balance of the day is free for your own discoveries of Wanaka. You may like to pay a visit to Mou Waho Island – home to an island in a lake on an island in another lake, this is a real geological anomaly! No visit to Wanaka would be complete without seeing #thatwanakatree. Springing up from the waters of Lake Wanaka, this sloping willow is one of the most photographed trees in the world. There's no shortage of excellent hiking routes in the region if you'd like to get out and explore on foot, or you may prefer to hire a bike and hit the cycling trails. Tonight’s accommodation is pretty special – connect with nature as you go to sleep in comfortable yurts fitted out with modern comforts.

Day 17: Wanaka / Franz Josef

Enjoy a morning at leisure in Wanaka before getting back on the road and making tracks for Franz Josef. This is another incredible drive that you're going to want to have your camera ready for. Depending on the weather, stop off at either Lake Hawea or Lake Wanaka, both boasting incredible lookout points. Along the way, your leader will pause at some off the beaten track spots to snap some pictures and stretch your legs. If you're travelling between September and December, you're in luck – this is whitebait season. Tasting these local treats is an absolute must when you're in the South Island, so if you're travelling within this time you can expect a few stops to get your hands on these tasty little fish, usually served fried with eggs on toast. Arrive into Franz Josef in the early evening and perhaps head out to one of the town’s cosy pubs for dinner.

Day 18: Franz Josef

Rise and shine – you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and there's so much to discover here. Known for the dazzling Franz Josef glacier and awe-inspiring views of Mt Cook, this is natural beauty on the biggest scale. The region also has a cultural history that’s every bit as captivating as its natural wonders. Only found in the South Island of New Zealand, pounamu (greenstone) is an important part of Maori culture. Today you’ll pay a visit to a local gallery where you’ll have the chance to carve your own pounamu pendant while learning about its spiritual and cultural significance. If you’d like to get up close and personal with Franz Josef Glacier in the afternoon, you can arrange for a helicopter to drop you in for a hike on the ice. You may prefer to sit back and unwind in local hot springs, or head out kayaking on an icy blue glacial lake. Your leader will be on hand to help make arrangements.

Day 19: Hokitika / Greymouth / Christchurch

Begin the journey up the west coast – this is the rainiest part of New Zealand, resulting in greenery and lush rainforests like nowhere else in the country. Stop off in the lovely little town of Hokitika where a visit to a pounamu factory will give you the chance to pick up any last souvenirs of gifts. If time allows, there may be the chance to check out the National Kiwi Centre – the nocturnal house here gives visitors the opportunity to see how these delightful birds behave at night. The next stretch of your journey may just be the most magnificent – hop aboard the TranzAlpine train back to Christchurch, widely believed to be one of the top train journeys in the world. Cross through the Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass and travel past the rushing blue waters of the Waimakariri River and endless native beech forest. Arrive in Christchurch in the evening.

Day 20: Christchurch

Your South Island adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. If you’d like to spend some more time in Christchurch, just get in touch ahead of time and we’d be happy to arrange additional accommodation (subject to availability).

Unscripted experiences, insider access and authentic local flavors


Our team of travel specialists and local contacts have curated some of the best, most exclusive and authentic experiences, restaurants and accommodations in New Zealand to truly immerse yourself in a way that wouldn't be possible in larger groups or just on your own.

20 days, from $5,985

to book call 1-844-205-6226

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