New Zealand - Land of the Long White Cloud

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Day 1: Arrive in Auckland

Upon arrival into Auckland, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Relax and rest after a long flight before you meet the group at the welcome dinner and meeting. Overnight in Auckland.

 

Day 2: Auckland

Today we relax as we sail the Auckland Harbour to start the day off. Enjoy a morning coffee as we sail by some of the city's most stunning spots including the Harbour Bridge.

After lunch we visit the Auckland Museum which has a magnificent collection of Maori and Polynesian artifacts. We take in a Maori performance and there is time to meet and speak with the Maori performers afterwards. Overnight in Auckland.

 

Day 3: To Waitomo via Rotorua

We depart this morning to drive to Waitomo. In Waitomo we stop to explore a glowworm cave and see the amazing effect of thousands of softly shining glowworms on our raft ride through the cave. We then take a gentle walk along a gorge path which brings us to the Cave of the Spirit. Te Ana o te Atua, is a time vault preserving evidence of extinct animals and abandoned stream passages. We continue to Rotorua for dinner and overnight.

 

Day 4: Rotorua, Maori Feast

Today we have the opportunity to experience the wonders of Rotorua. We visit the Agrodome for a live show displaying aspects of New Zealand agriculture, including sheep shearing and sheep-dogs working. There are 19 different breeds of sheep here!

Based in Rotorua at Rainbow Springs, we visit the "Kiwi Encounter", a Kiwi conservation center. Here we can see the efforts being made to stop the extinction of New Zealand's national icon and see the Kiwi's up close.

We then visit the thermal village of Whakarewarewa, for an informative visit with a local Maori. Maori legend narrates that this was the place where the Goddesses of Fire emerged from the earth's core, creating this geo-thermal area. There are 500 pools and at least 65 geyser vents, 7 active geysers and many bubbling mud pools. Tonight we experience a Hangi style dinner while getting entertained at the Tamaki Tours Maoir. Overnight in Rotorua.

 

Day 5: Rotorua, Huka Falls, to Taupo

After breakfast, visit the church at Ohinemutu and see a Maori Christ figure depicted walking on the waters of Lake Rotorua. We then travel to Waimangu Valley for an unforgettable journey through a geo-thermal valley formed by a massive eruption in 1886.

Travel to Taupo, through exotic forests and recently developed farm lands. View the Aratiatia Dam and the rapids on the Waikato River, a good combination of environmental and economic concerns. This afternoon visit Huka Falls with an optional 1-hour walk upstream. Dinner and overnight in Taupo.

 

Day 6: Tongaririo River rafting

After breakfast, we continue to Turangi and begin our white-water rafting adventure on the Tongaririo River. We raft for about 3 hours, covering over 80 rapids. An alternative is to take a cruise on Lake Taupo to see its many attractions.

Continuing south past Tongaririo National Park, we stop at the Waiouru Military Museum. Situated as part of a living Army environment next to the Waiouru Army Base, it is a unique fortress-like building which resembles a castle with a moat. The Army Museum's galleries will help us learn the story of the New Zealand Army from the Land Wars in the 1800s, through WWI and WWII to peace-keeping and UN missions in the 21st century. We then travel to Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. Overnight in Paraparaumu.

 

Day 7: Wellington sights

Today we travel to Wellington. Upon arrival, we climb to the top of Mount Victoria for an excellent view over Wellington Harbour and its fault line. We take a guided tour of Te Papa (National Museum of New Zealand) and then walk back into the city via the fascinating waterfront of this capital city of New Zealand. This afternoon we visit Parliament and have some free time to explore independently before dinner and overnight in Wellington.

 

Day 8: Ferry to Picton, Nelson

Today, we take a ferry to Picton, through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Following lunch, we will walk around Picton, the starting point to an idyllic marine playground. The sheltered waterways of these sounds meander for more than 600 miles, and are full of secluded coves and pristine beaches. We will have a short drive to Blenheim, chief down of the Marlborough Wine Region. Enjoy lunch and a wine tasting at tone of the local vineyards before our journey to Nelson. If time permits we will enjoy a short bush walk at the Pelorus Bridge scenic reserve. Overnight in Nelson/Motueka.

 

Day 9: Abel Tasman Park

This morning we travel by bus and water taxi to the starting point of our hike in the Abel Tasman Park. We explore coastal Abel Tasman National Park, located between Tasman and Golden Bays. The park was named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who anchored in Golden Bay over 350 years ago. He was the first European to explore New Zealand coastline. Graced with magnificent beaches, unspoiled native forest and rocky headlands, this rare park is a hiker's haven.

We will explore the park on foot for approximately 5 hours with a picnic lunch before returning to Nelson/Motueka.

 

Day 10: Golden Bay

Today we travel across the infamous Takaka Hill to arrive in Golden Bay. In this remote part of the region we fill our day with interesting sightseeing including:

Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs - These are probably Golden Bay's most famous attraction, and its story and mysteries are still a fascinating one. The springs are best known for the clarity of the water, and the volume of water discharged. The horizontal visibility of the water in the springs has been measured at an average of 63 metres, second only to sub-glacial water in the Antarctic. The springs are also spiritually significant to the Māori people.

Wharariki Beach - From the car park at the end of Wharariki road, it is a 20 minute walk over rolling farm-land to Wharariki Beach, with its amazing sand dunes, caves and off-shore islands. At low tide you can walk along the beach to the "Stone Bridge". Continue following the markers and you will come down to the Cape Farewell. Keep an eye peeled for seals sunning themselves on the rocks below! From here you can extend your walk over the hilltop track to the Farewell Spit.

Marble Mountain - if time permits on the return journey we'll stop to visit this unique vantage point. Gateway to Golden Bay, the marble mountain (Takaka Hill) safeguards the tranquillity and relaxed lifestyle of the local residents. The scenic drive winds its way through an almost surreal limestone landscape with superb views over Golden Bay and the Tasman Sea.

We will return late afternoon to Nelson/Motueka for a relaxing evening. Overnight in Nelson/Motueka.

 

Day 11: Abel Tasman Park - Sea Kayaking

We travel back into the Abel Tasman National Park this morning for a short Sea Kayaking excursion. Follow your guide in your 2 person kayak between Marahau and Watering Cove which takes you through the safe, sheltered, scenic southern reaches of the Abel Tasman. Home to beautiful golden sand beaches, Adele and Fisherman Islands, sea caves, in fact a taste of all the Abel Tasman has to offer. After finishing kayaking at historic Watering Cove enjoy a scenic water taxi ride back to Marahau. After our picnic lunch on the beach we will visit local craft people in their studios before our last night in Nelson/Motueka. Overnight in Nelson/Motueka.

 

Day 12: Greymouth

This morning we journey into the fertile farmlands of pine forested hills around Murchison. We will pass through the mighty Buller Gorge which is the gateway to the West Coast and from there it is on to the incredible drive down the coast. The mighty rollers from the Tasman Sea crash and thunder endlessly onto the rocky shore and along the way we have glimpses of Nikau Palms, the only Palm species native to New Zealand.

We travel at our own pace today out to the West Coast of the South island, numerous stops for short walks can be made along the way and a lunch stop at a local cafe will be included.

We drive on the State Highway 6 (SH6), a highway that is with us for the majority of the remainder of this tour. This highway travels the full length of the South Island's West Coast, is the most scenic drive in New Zealand and arguably one of the most scenic highway's in the World Nestled between the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea the West Coast of the South Island is an area in a spectacular and beautiful environment.

Teeming with abundant wildlife, rare kiwi and white heron (kotuku), seal colonies, the world's rarest penguins, dolphins and a variety of unique native alpine flora, this 375 mile long region (no wider than 44 miles at any point) serves as a time capsule, revealing what our country might have looked like before humans arrived some 1000 years ago.

With towering mountains, clear, clean rivers and lakes, vast Podocarp forests, temperate coastal forests, diverse wetlands, accessible glaciers, wild beaches and long captivating caves, the West Coast is a wonderland of natural features just waiting to be explored. Overnight in Greymouth.

 

Day 13: Franz Josef Glacier & Fox Glacier

Enjoy a relaxed start to the day after yesterday's long drive. For the early risers there is an opportunity to take a hike in the Paparoa National Park. Later in the morning we will hike a section of the "Inland Pack Track". Built in 1867 during the gold rush to avoid dangerous coastal travel this track gives access to some of the finest features of Paparoa National Park. After an invigorating walk we will continue the journey along the spectacular West Coast.

We will enjoy an extended break in Hokitika where we visit a local Greenstone (Jade) factory before before lunch.

From Hokitika we continue south passing through former milling towns and areas that have been worked over for alluvial gold. We will continue through numerous small farming settlements before the dense temperate rainforests envelope us. We travel into the Waitangi Forest to arrive at Franz Josef Village the first of the two small glacier villages, we take a short hike to the viewing area for Franz Josef Glacier before continuing over the rugged hill to Fox Glacier village. Overnight in Fox Glacier.

 

Day 14: Wanaka

We will travel out to Lake Matheson for a hike around this tranquil lake. We will pass through forests of red and white pine to Bruce Bay, an old gold mining settlement. Continue through attractive bush scenery until you pass tranquil Lakes Paringa and Moeraki, the haunt of the fabulous White Heron, to the township of Haast. From here, we drive through the Haast Pass Highway, viewing en route Mount Brewster, towering 2423 metres and the Brewster Glacier. Descend 82 kilometres, past the Lake Hawea Dam, water storage for the Roxburgh Hydro Electric Station, before we journey to Wanaka. Overnight in Wanaka.

 

Day 15: Queenstown

We leave Wanaka this morning and make a stop at the unusual Puzzling World. We then travel towards Queenstown with a break in the quaint former Gold Mining town of Arrowtown. Our final stop prior to arriving in the adventure capital in the world is the Shotover Jet, where you get to try out the worlds most exciting jetboat ride.

The afternoon will be time to explore on your own. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu Queenstown is a year-round alpine resort that caters for all interests. It enjoys a magnificent setting amid steep mountain ranges and pockets of native bush with the jagged peaks of the Remarkables Range rising from the lake. The town is compact enough to travel around on foot and features an excellent selection of restaurants, bars and stores.

Regroup this evening and travel up Bob's Peak for dinner in the Skyline Gondola Restaurant. Enjoy an extensive buffet dinner while taking in the spectacular views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. Overnight in Queenstown.

 

Day 16: Te Anau, Milford Sound

We depart for Milford Sound following an early breakfast. En route we travel through Te Anau along a scenic highway of massive peaks and bluffs, stopping for short bush walks if time allows. We skirt around Lake Wakatipu with the spectacular Remarkables towering above us.
Leaving Lake Wakatipu behind we enter rolling hill country dotted with deer and sheep farms to arrive in Te Anau, gateway to the Fiordland National Park.

We leave Te Anau and follow the valley of the Eglinton River into a magnificent beech forest before descending into the precipitous Hollyford Valley. Tussock and scrub replace the bush as the road climbs steadily up the Hollyford to the gigantic cirque where sheer rock faces dwarf the Homer Tunnel portal beneath. Beyond the tunnel is a rapid zig-zag descent into the Cleddau Canyon, between towering, rugged mountains and forest, until the road comes out into the open at Milford Sound.

On arrival in Milford Sound we board the Milford Mariner for en extended Nature Cruise. Remote, mysterious and uniquely New Zealand, Milford Sound is a spectacular reminder of the forces of nature that shaped this land. Formed thousands of years ago during the ice ages, Milford Sound is the northernmost fiord in Fiordland National Park and is, without doubt, the most dramatic. Here in this place of unparalleled beauty, you will find cascading waterfalls, luxuriant forests and the towering pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising one full mile to the sky. No matter what the fiord's mood, shrouded in mist or with sun glistening on deep waters, it will inspire you.

On departing Milford, we will cruise the length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea and explores many points of interest in a leisurely way. View waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife with the experienced nature guide onboard. After reaching the open sea, subject to weather and favourable conditions the sails are hoisted for a period. The vessel returns to Milford Wharf by mid afternoon. Overnight in Queenstown.

 

Day 17: Queenstown

We end our adventure with a stroll around the small compact town centre of Queenstown to enjoy the beautiful lakeside setting, the nearby gardens and boutique stores. We will take a Shotover Jetboat ride in the afternoon to see the city from the water. This evening we cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the historic steamer TSS Earnslaw before our farewell dinner. Overnight in Queenstown.

 

Day 18: Depart Queenstown

Today we depart, or join the Australia Extension.

 
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