Be welcomed to Whakarewarewa by the Maori people who have lived there for over 700 years and wonder at the area’s steaming geysers, bubbling mud pits and lakes.. Feel the rush of Huka Falls, where a 100-metre-wide river is forced through a narrow volcanic chamber causing a torrent of incredible speed and power.. Explore the Abel Tasman National Park independently or on an optional tour, hiking through thick native forest and emerging on deserted sandy beaches.. Spend three nights in Queenstown – New Zealand’s adventure capital – where you’ll have tonnes of time for optional activities, from thrill-seeking jaunts to some chilled-out haunts.
Visually striking, culturally daring and ever-surprising, New Zealand will charm the socks off even the most reserved traveller. Nature enthusiasts will be awe-struck by the Franz Josef Glacier, photographers dazzled by the Bay of Islands, food lovers swooning over Kaikoura’s cuisine and thrillseekers will have their pulses racing in Queenstown – the diversity of landscapes and activities in NZ is boundless. From south to north, beaches to volcanoes and charismatic towns to historical legacies, New Zealand has the capacity to wow on all fronts.
Kia ora! Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, where you’ll meet your group leader and new travel crew. If you arrive early into the city, you could go exploring – Christchurch has so much to explore and today is a great chance to get your bearings around this city on the Avon River. Your evening is the free to do as you wish, and with a whole new range of pop up cafes, restaurants and bars check out, why not get a group of your travel pals together and get to know each other over a meal.
You’ll depart Christchurch early this morning on your South Island adventure. Head through the Canterbury Plains, passing sweeping farmlands framed by snow-capped peaks before hitting the wild west coast. You’ll notice the changing scenery from arid landscapes on the island’s east to the greener pastures as you cross the Southern Alps. Stop by Punakaiki today with a variety of activities you might choose to opt in for – perhaps you’d like to explore the popular Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes at Dolomite Point on a 1-kilometre walking loop, take a hike along the Pororari River Track, passing limestone cliffs and through sub-tropical forest, or simply laze beachside at this sleepy town. It’s all up to you and your group’s desires. Afterwards, hop back on the road and make your way to Greymouth for the night.
This morning, enjoy an included breakfast with your group in Greymouth. Afterwards, you have the option of discovering Greymouth’s history of coal mining – an industry that has had an interesting past and is considered the birthplace of the modern kiwi lunch break. Continue south to Franz Josef Glacier in time for lunch. This afternoon, enjoy a special visit to the West Coast Wildlife Centre to view one of the most endangered animals on earth – the kiwi. Your group leader will organise a 24-hour pass for you to be admitted into the nocturnal viewing area. This wildlife centre is home to the rarest of the rare – the rowi and Haast tokoeka kiwis, with only around 500 of each bird remaining, because of introduced predators and habitat loss. Tonight is free for you to choose what to do – perhaps grab a bite to eat with your group in town.
Today is free to do as much or as little as you please. You might like to head back to the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see the kiwis one more time, take some time to relax in town, or it might be time for the main event: the Franz Josef Glacier. This glacier is one of the steepest in New Zealand, descending from a height of 3000 to 240 metres over a distance of 11 kilometres, and into the native rainforest of Wetlands National Park at its base. Because of its composition, Franz Josef Glacier shifts around 50 centimetres per day, moving faster than the average glacier. There are a number of ways in which you can visit the glacier – there’s guided glacier hikes, kayaking opportunities, or if you want to splash out, why not book yourself in on an unforgettable scenic helicopter flight, enjoying unrivalled views over the region, and some with the option of landing on the glacier for a heli-hike experience. Speak to your group leader about all the options today; they’ll be able to help you organise a memorable day.
Leave Franz Josef town in your dust, driving the remainder of the West Coast. From there, wind up through the Southern Alps before arriving at Lake Wanaka for a lunch stop. Today is one you want to shotgun a window seat – some of the views on your drive are out of this world! Head onwards towards Queenstown, en route stopping by Arrowtown, which is famous for its Autumn festival. Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, with something for every type of activity seeker. It’s not all about the adrenaline junkie – sure, there is bungy jumping, jetboating, paragliding and white-water rafting, but there’s also some incredible hikes to embark on, and some fine food and wine around. With two full days to experience Queenstown at your own pace, you’ll be able to achieve the perfect balance.
Queenstown and the surrounding region will spoil you for choice today (and tomorrow!) when you can choose your own adventure, however thrill-seeking or chilled out that may be. Jump in a jet boat, off a bridge or out of a plane, weave your way down the river by raft, kayak or paragliding, see the countryside by mountain bike, hiking, scenic flight, or relax with a glass of wine overlooking Lake Wakatipu – it’s up to you! Depending on the season, there may be other weather specific activities that you might like to consider – be sure to ask your group leader for their recommendations at the time of your adventure and the costs for each. In the evening, see the stunning city by lights and lake by night with an included dinner at the renowned Stratosfare Restaurant at Skyline. Located high above Queenstown, this restaurant is surely a memorable experience for anyone visiting New Zealand, and with an included gondola ride up the mountain, you’ll be getting a birds-eye view all the way.
Take a break from the activity of Queenstown on a drive towards Milford Sound, known locally as Piopiotahi. Here, board a nature cruise through the fjord to the Tasman Sea, feeling dwarfed by the imposing mountains like Mitre Peak, passing the stunning Stirling and Lady Bowen falls, soaking up the airbrushed nature surrounding you and breathing in the crisp mountain air. Be sure to keep an eye out for marine life like dolphins and fur seals passing you by on the boat! Lunch is included with your cruise today. After your on-water adventure, continue on to Te Anau – home of New Zealand’s second largest lake of the same name.
Head on your way back north towards the spectacular Aoraki, Mt Cook. Standing at an impressive 3724 m (12,316 ft), this is the highest mountain in New Zealand. One you’re there, take some time to explore the nearby lakes, stream and glaciers in the surrounding national park. You’ll have today and tomorrow to embark on some nature hikes, check out the local museum, or go in search for the world's only true alpine parrot, the Kea. If you’d like, you may like to book in to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, where you’ll learn about the history of the Mt Cook region and pioneer explorer Sir Edmund Hillary. Here, there will also be the option to see a 360-degree multimedia experience focused on all things space. Your group leader will have some great itineraries planned, so ask them for more information about your time in Mt Cook.
Kia ora! Welcome to Christchurch. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Meet your fellow travellers and leader and perhaps head out for dinner to get to know each other better. If you’re thirsty, the city is also overflowing with tiny hole-in-the-wall bars, perfect for slipping into with your small group. Just remember you’ll have an early start tomorrow.
Rise and shine for an early 8 am departure from Christchurch. Drive the beautiful coastline to Kaikoura, known for its rich marine life. On arrival you’re free to explore this mountainous coastal town. Two of the most popular activities on offer here are sperm whale watching and swimming with wild dolphins. Chat to your leader about how to book these optional activities. If you prefer to stay dry there are plenty of hikes in the area, either along the coast or into the bush. The Peninsula Walkway offers the best chance of spotting seals among the rocks.
Nelson – Stoke
Head for Nelson, a picturesque destination in its own right as well as your entry point to the Abel Tasman National Park should you choose to explore. Spend the afternoon exploring the town, which is full of arty shops, galleries and historic buildings.
Nelson – Stoke
Take a day to explore Nelson with a huge amount of optional activities to choose from. Take a kayak or sailing tour through the waters of Abel Tasman National Park, or maybe a tour of the coves and bush trails. Of course, if you’d prefer to explore on your own, you can buy a ticket on the shuttle and head to the Abel Tasman to explore independently. Whatever you choose, have plenty of space left on your memory card, because the photo opportunities are many.