Departing Christchurch bright and early, we arrive in Kaikoura in time for you to check out what it's most famous for - its whale watching or swimming with the dolphins. Spend the evening chilling on the beach or sampling some of the best seafood New Zealand has to offer for your dinner. In fact, the name Kaikoura means to eat crayfish (“kai” meaning to eat, “koura” meaning crayfish).
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive and we stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks. We make our way to the Picton ferry terminal in time to catch the afternoon sailing to the North Island. Say farewell to the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) and we’re on our way! The ferry ride takes a few hours so chill out and enjoy the view of the amazing Marlborough Sounds!
With an early start from windy Wellington we head north through Taihape, the gumboot capital of New Zealand and the Central Plateau, home of the Tongariro National Park. Then it’s through to Taupo driving alongside New Zealand's biggest lake. If the weather suits, it’s time to skydive!
This morning we head north to Rotorua, renowned for its Maori heritage and thermal activity. After dropping off passengers in Rotorua who are spending a night or two here, we stop at the National Kiwi Hatchery, where you can get up close and personal with our national icon - the Kiwi bird. Next, we make our way to Matamata (aka Hobbiton). You can jump off here if you’re a Lord of the Rings nut. Then it’s onwards through the rolling countryside to Auckland, otherwise known as the ‘City of Sails’.
Departing Auckland we head south-east to the pristine beaches of the Coromandel and the world-famous Cathedral Cove (included). Here you have the option to kayak around this stunning coastline (optional activity) as well as the opportunity to visit Hot Water Beach (included); a unique surf beach where if you catch the tide right, you can dig a hole in the sand to create your own personal spa pool.
Leaving the gorgeous Coromandel behind we’ll venture into the enchanting Karangahake Gorge nestled among the Kaimai Ranges, for a hike (included) amongst the walkways and old mining tunnels. If that isn’t enough fun for one day, then never fear, next we’ll be heading over to Waitomo ('wai' meaning water, 'tomo' meaning hole) for a magical tour of the world-famous glow-worm caves. For those feeling a little more adventurous, you will have the opportunity to experience a Black Water Rafting trip.
We start the day with a walk through the Ruakuri Reserve and say goodbye to those glowing little critters. Next, we'll pass through The Shire of Hobbiton where you’ll have the opportunity to discover the Hobbiton Movie Set (optional activity) before rolling on through to Rotorua; a mystical land of bubbling mud pools, rocketing geysers and natural hot springs. Optional activities (which are not included) are luging down the SkyLine, White Water Rafting, Hells Gate, Mountain biking through the Redwoods, Zorb, Wai-o-tapu, Polynesian Spa or National Kiwi Hatchery.
If you haven't had a chance yet to explore the geothermal reserve of Te Puia, we will check it out this morning before heading onto Great Lake Taupo, taking in a walk to the pounding Huka Falls (included). In Taupo there is lots to do, just tell us what you’re in the mood for and we’ll get you there. The lake itself (actually an extinct volcano crater) is a sight to behold from the shoreline (included), but the more adventurous might want to take the opportunity to experience optional activities such as sail across the lake on a yacht to the Māori rock carvings, or even get a birds-eye view by skydiving above it.
Taupo’s central location means it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from other world-class activities which we give you the option to experience on this free day. Head up the Sky Waka (extra activity) to experience Mount Ruapehu or hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (extra activity); a dramatic landscape of stunning contrasts created by extinguished lava flows and emerald lakes. It’s no surprise Tongariro is often described as one of New Zealand’s best one-day hikes.
We head south around the “great lake” towards the Tongariro National Park for a picnic lunch and a two-hour walk through native bush and waterfalls. In the afternoon we travel through to the ultimate adventure lodge - River Valley, situated amongst towering cliffs and bush-clad hills. The lodge offers grade five rafting on the Rangitikei River, scenic horse riding and an amazing dinner with homegrown produce. Spend the evening enjoying the delicious roast dinner and relaxing by the open fire.
We head away late after a morning white water raft or horse ride and head through the rolling hills full of deer, cattle and sheep. We arrive in Wellington late in the afternoon. This city is the undisputed capital of culture, the arts, restaurants, fashion and nightlife. Here you can experience Mount Victoria (included) and then passengers have the opportunity to experience the national museum, Te Papa and get amongst the thriving craft beer scene.
We take the Interislander ferry** across to the South Island through the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. Travel through vineyards to Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city, then on to Kaiteriteri at the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. Kaiteriteri is a great spot to begin an adventure (on foot, by kayak or by water taxi) into Abel Tasman National Park, or see it all from above by jumping out of a plane!
** From 01OCT23, ferry between North and Island will be included.
Spend the morning kayaking out to Split Apple Rock and along the golden bays near Kaiteriteri, looking out for the local marine wildlife; or catch a water taxi to one of the bays in the Abel Tasman National Park to go for a morning stroll in the native New Zealand forest. This afternoon we stop at the iconic Nelson Lakes, so you can get your legendary wharf jumping shot before hitting surf town Westport.
Today we start our journey down spectacular State Highway 6, that stretches 435 kilometres along the rugged Tasman shoreline. The road winds through a diverse series of landscapes which never cease to amaze. Highlights today include the Cape Foulwind seal colony walk, rugged beaches, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. Tonight's unique accommodation is a chance to enjoy a delicious group meal and bond with your bus mates. For those wanting something a little more special to take home with them; passengers can carve their own greenstone necklaces (pounamu).
After breakfast at Lake Mahinapua, we hit the road on our way to Franz Josef. Franz Josef is the northern gateway to Te Wahipounamu, the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area. The region includes Aoraki/Mount Cook, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring, the Fiordland National Parks, and surrounding conservation lands. We factor in a free day in Franz Josef so that you can get out there and experience what Franz Josef has to offer. It’s a wicked spot and whatever you get out and do, you will be blown away by the views of the glacier and Alps.
Today we have a free day in Franz Josef where you have the opportunity to experience a Heli-Hike to New Zealand’s most famous Franz Josef Glacier or you can explore this lush corner of New Zealand (for free) on foot; hitting up the many walking trails in the area.
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. We then cruise down the last stretch of Highway 6, stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then it’s into Mount Aspiring National Park, arriving in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.
Before we leave Wanaka get your brain working at Puzzling World and then its on to the world’s first commercial bungy site - the Kawarau Bridge. Only the brave will sign themselves up for this iconic New Zealand activity. On arrival in Queenstown, we will head down to the spectacular waterfront before it’s out on the town exploring Queenstown’s infamous nightlife with all the crew!
Queenstown is one of the most amazing places on Earth. No matter what time of the year it is rated as one of our passenger’s favourite spots. Take the time to spend a few days here as it is one of the most picturesque places in the world. Make the most of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. If there was one activity that you couldn’t miss it would be the day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as The Eighth Wonder of the World.
Free day to explore Queenstown.
We head out of Queenstown, through the Lindis Pass, so get your cameras ready because this is ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory. After stopping to admire Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki, we travel to Lake Tekapo with its amazing location by snow-capped alps and clear starry skies. Lake Tekapo has something for everyone - relaxing at the lakeside and taking in the untouched view, soaking in the hot springs, discovering one of the many scenic walkways or checking out the mind-boggling stars in what is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
We have a straight run into Christchurch, our largest city in the South Island and the 3rd largest in New Zealand. Witness a city rebuilding and flourishing in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes, and explore the street art, see the blooming botanical gardens and learn about the history of a city that’s experienced so much in recent times.