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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. As most flights arrive in the morning we will do a little exploring upon arrival. Auckland is built on an isthmus and is surrounded by water on both sides. Consequently, boating is a common hobby here and Auckland is fondly referred to as the ‘City of Sails’. With a short wander down to the viaduct harbor you’ll soon see why it has this nickname! Tonight, you’ll meet your guides and the rest of your group with a welcome dinner as we prepare for our adventures ahead!
Day 2: Karangahake Gorge Windows Walk, to Rotorua
We depart Auckland in the morning and head south along the Hauraki Plains and through a small town of Paeroa, famed for its natural spring waters. We’ll hike along the Karangahake Gorge – an area steeped in mining history, which we’ll learn about as we walk on old mining tram lines and through purpose built gold mining tunnels. Afterwards we’ll drive to Rotorua, considered the heartland of New Zealand’s Maori culture and the spiritual home of New Zealand’s tangata whenua (original people of the land). Rotorua is also famed for its geothermal activity – which you can distinctly smell as you arrive into the town!
Day 3: Lake Okataina, Maori Pa Site, Te Puia Thermal Wonderland and Mud Pools
Lake Okataina is one of the many beautiful Rotorua lakes and we’ll spend the morning visiting the stunning lake and wandering along its shores. This area was traditionally inhabited by the local Maori people and those who’d like a walk can walk to explore the remnants of a ‘pa’ site – where a traditional village once stood. In the afternoon we’ll head to Te Puia which is famed for the Te Whakarewarewa geothermal valley – a place of gushing waters, steaming vents, boiling mud pools and impressive geysers. Tonight you’ll enjoy a cultural performance by members of the Te Arawa tribe and share a traditional feast. A hangi, as it’s known, is prepared by wrapping food and burying it in the earth to cook over hot stones. This healthy cooking method is similar to steaming and imparts a wonderful flavor.
Day 4: Huka Falls Near Taupo, Hike Lake Rotopounamu
No need to hurry this morning – we’ll take our time with breakfast, before heading south to our largest inland body of water, Lake Taupo. Draining from the lake is the Waikato River, which starts its journey through a tight cataract and spectacular chute – Huka Falls. We’ll explore the trail to the falls and have lunch on the lakefront. After lunch we’ll travel south around Lake Taupo past many rivers popular with fly fishing, so we may see some anglers trying their luck! For those who are keen, we’ll then walk some of the loop track around a crater lake, Lake Rotopounamu in Tongariro National Park. Afterwards we’ll head to our accommodation, Creel Lodge, nestled along the river banks of some famous trout fishing areas.
Day 5: Tongariro National Park, Afternoon Tea at Cheateau Tongariro
Wide open arid volcanic landscapes, picture perfect volcanic peaks, waterfalls and clear flowing waters; it’s no wonder this is a World Heritage Site! Today we’ll take the Silica Rapids walk, which follows a cascading stream through mountain beech forest to the creamy white terraces carved out from thousands of years of volcanic activity. This afternoon we’re heading to one of New Zealand’s most iconic hotels, in the volcanic central plateau, the Chateau Tongariro, where we’ll have afternoon tea. This evening your wonderful guides will prepare another delicious meal.
Day 6: Waitomo Caves and Glowworms, Return to Auckland
Today we’ll get to explore below the surface, as we head to the spectacular Waitomo Caves. We will take a walk through Ruakuri Cave, among stalagtites and stalagmites, to learn more about the geological significance of the area. Then we’ll hop into a boat to glide silently through the starry wonderland of the glowworm grotto, with amazing commentary from our local guides. Afterwards we’ll head back to Auckland for the evening to catch our breath before heading to the South Island.
Day 7: Fly to Christchurch, Walking Tour
After breakfast we fly to Christchurch. Today you’ll enjoy getting to know the sights of Christchurch through a city walking tour with a local guide. Learn all about the 2011 earthquake that shook the city and how its been rebuilt. In the afternoon, we'll hop on a shuttle bus to visit the International Antarctic Center to learn about the amazing feats of the early explorers, what is currently happening now with Antarctic research, and see some delightful penguins!
Day 8: Head North to Kaikoura, Whale Watching Tour
Today we’ll travel up the coast to the seaside town of Kaikoura, where we’ll take a scenic boat ride to get a closer view of Kaikoura’s abundant marine life. We’ll hop aboard a uniquely designed catamaran and explore the krill-rich waters off the coast. With a 95% success rate of seeing whales year-round, this is one of New Zealand’s most iconic wildlife viewing opportunities. Sperm whales and other species including humpback, blue, minke, southern right and beaked whales are common here. You may also get the chance to observe albatross, penguins, New Zealand fur seals and inquisitive local dolphins.
Day 9: Hanmer Springs Forest, Scenic Jet Boat and Soak in Mineral Waters
After breakfast we’ll head inland on a scenic road past Mt. Lyford to the mountain village of Hanmer Springs, a well-known spot for its thermal hot springs. Upon arrival we’ll hop into a jet boat to take us down river to the Waiau Gorge to see the steep canyon walls and rugged cliff faces. This evening you can soak, relax and take in the view of the snow capped mountains and forests of the Southern Alps in the local hot pools. There’s over 6 different types of therapy, mineral, rock and sulphur pools of varying temperatures to choose from. The mineral spas are great for soaking after a day of walking and, if you want a bit of extra pampering, you can arrange a massage after your soak.
Day 10: Peel Forest, Explore Lake Tekapo
This morning we’ll head south again to Peel Forest for a walk amongst ancient podocarp trees and many varieties of ferns. Many of New Zealand’s athletes, including the famous rugby team, the All Blacks, wear the fern as a national symbol. After lunch, we’ll travel inland towards Aoraki Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, and Lake Tekapo – an unreal turquoise-blue colored glacial lake. We’ll visit the ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’ on the shores of the lake – easily one of the most scenic locations for a church you’ll ever come across! Tonight, the wide open spaces, regular clear evenings and lack of artificial light provides us with the perfect opportunity to gaze at the Southern Hemisphere’s constellations, including the Southern Cross.
Day 11: Explore Aoraki/Mt. Cook
The highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt. Cook was first named Aoraki or ‘cloud piercer’ by South Island Maori. This region was Sir Edmund Hillary’s training ground as he prepared for his and Tenzing Norgay’s famous summit of Mt. Everest in 1953. Feeling inspired, we’ll take a gentle hike up to a lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier, complete with impressive icebergs. The track is surrounded by peaks, glaciers, native vegetation and mountain streams, and provides excellent views of Aoraki/Mt. Cook on a fine day.
Day 12: Queenstown, Ride the Historial Earnslaw Steamship
Today we’ll journey south over the beautiful tussock country of the Lindis Pass to the excitement of the adventure capital of New Zealand – Queenstown. This small resort town packs in a lot of adventure including bungee jumping, jet boating, skydiving, mountain biking and hiking opportunities, as well as great local cafés, bars, and restaurants. This afternoon we’ll hop onto the historic steamship the T.S.S Earnslaw, which has been cruising lake Wakatipu for over 125 years! It will take us to the working sheep station, Walter Peak, where we’ll experience life on a working sheep farm, and a delicious high tea of scones with jam and cream.
Day 13: Explore Fiordland, Overnight at Milford Sound
This morning, we set off for our largest and perhaps most spectacular national park, Fiordland, where along the way we’ll stop off for some beautiful viewpoints and short walks such as Mirror Lakes, the Chasm and the Marian gantry. Once we drive through the Homer Tunnel we’ll emerge at the top of a spectacular glacier-carved valley for a memorable descent to the shore of Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling rated this fiord as the eighth natural wonder of the world and it is truly breathtaking, with steep granite walls plunging over a thousand meters to the Tasman Sea, and waterfalls cascading into deep inky water.
Day 14: Walk Milford Track, Return to Queenstown, Afternoon Wine Tasting
After waking up in the peaceful serenity of Milford Sound, we’ll head out on a boat this morning to Sandfly Point on the Milford Track to hike a little way up the trail to Giants Gate Waterfall. Wandering along in the lush green forest you’ll think you’ve stumbled right into Narnia! After lunch we’ll retrace our steps back out to Milford and head towards Queenstown, along the scenic Milford Road. It’s a spectacular drive back through the mountains, and we’ll stop along the way in Te Anau to stretch our legs. Once back in Queenstown late afternoon we’ll visit ‘The Winery’ where we’ll have a chance to taste the delicious local pinot noir wines grown in this area. Tonight, we’ll celebrate our two weeks of adventure with a farewell dinner together with our new friends.
Day 15: Depart Queenstown
We transfer to the airport for our international flights homeward today.
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