Discover the beauty and dynamism of New Zealand's North and South Islands

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.


Start
Christchurch, New Zealand
Finish
Auckland, New Zealand
Destination
New Zealand
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer, Walking & Trekking
Code
PTOACU
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 15

Why you'll love this trip

  • 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.

  • Set sail on an included cruise through the Milford Sound on the south-western coast. Passing by glacial waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and marine life, be sure to have your camera ready.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Lots of time allocated for optional activities and few meals included means freedom and flexibility, but it does require a level of independence. Your leader is always on hand to give advice, point you in the right direction and help you book optional activities.

  • This trip includes time spent travelling in a minivan with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

  • There’s so much to do on the South Island of New Zealand, we thought we’d give you the opportunity to explore at your own pace, and so, in most places there are more optional activities on this trip than included ones. These activities range from trekking moderate hiking trails to white water rafting, so you'll be able to choose your own adventure level.

  • Accommodation on this trip is often basic and simple. The accommodation that has been chosen, although not luxurious, is comfortable enough for you to relax after a day of adventure.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Apr 2019 to 31 Mar 2020.
View the 2020 itinerary
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive to the welcome meeting in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pancake Rocks and Blowhole
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The total driving distance today is approximately 300 km, taking around 5 hours. The total distance you’ll walk is 1-10 kilometres, depending on what activities you choose to partake in.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The total driving distance today is approximately 180 km, taking around 3 hours.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kiwi House
Optional Activities
  • Glacier Flights from - NZD280
  • Glacier Hike from - NZD485
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Optional activities driving times and distances are dependent on what you choose to partake in today. Please note that some ice walks can be up to 18 kilometres in length, so it is recommended you have at least a moderate level of fitness if you choose to experience the glacier up close.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Arrowtown Visit
Optional Activities
  • Bungy Jumping - NZD205
  • Jet boating - NZD135
  • River Rafting - NZD220
  • Paragliding - NZD205
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The total driving distance today is approximately 360 km, taking around 6 hours. The total distance you’ll walk today is 1-2 kilometres, depending on what you choose to explore on your driving stops.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Jet boating - NZD135
  • Bungy Jumping - NZD205
  • Paragliding - NZD205
  • Mountain Biking Tours - NZD170
Meals Included
  • Dinner (1)
Special Information
As tourism is at an all-time high in New Zealand, your tour leader will discuss optional activities with you prior to arriving in Queenstown to let you know what’s available, and to lock in any popular activities so as to avoid disappointment.

Please note that driving times and walking distances will depend on what activities you decide to take part in.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Milford Sound cruise
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Special Information
The total driving time today is around 7 hours.

In the event that there are not enough sufficient rooms in Te Anau to accommodate your group tonight, you will return to Queenstown to stay the night.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (2 nights)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (1)
  • Dinner (1)
Special Information
The total driving time today is around 7 hours.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kaikoura - Swimming with the Dolphins - NZD180
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 3 hours (approximately 160 km).

Whale watching and dolphin swimming are both subject to conditions.
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 4 hours (approximately 240 km).
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.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Nelson: Kayak tour (From price) - NZD140
  • Nelson: Sea shuttle discovery day - NZD92
  • Nelson: Sailing - NZD149
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Take the ferry across the majestic Marlborough Sounds, where rising sea levels filled valleys with water about 10,000 years ago, resulting in picturesque waterways and isolated islands. Cross into the North Island and arrive in Wellington in the afternoon. Enjoy free time to explore the capital, perhaps jumping on the historic cable car to get your bearings. Later, maybe hit the bars with your group and get to know this quirky city a little better.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2 hours (approximately 130 km).
Enjoy a free morning in Wellington. Maybe spend a few hours at the Te Papa Tongarewa (Container of Treasures), the result of two national museums that merged in the late 1990s. If the weather is nice, maybe take a stroll around the colourful Botanic Gardens. After lunch depart Wellington for Tongariro National Park, travelling through the North Island plains. Arrive in the afternoon and settle into your lodge. You’ll have a full day tomorrow to explore on foot, so perhaps take a gentle walk around the area or relax at your accommodation.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Total driving time is around 5.5 hours (approximately 330 km).
Today you can choose whether to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This full-day (approximately 7-hour) hike is considered one of the best in New Zealand and offers rocky trails, magnificent aquamarine lakes and volcanic steam vents. This approximately 19-kilometre trail through remarkable landscapes is no walk in the park – trekkers need to have a good level of fitness and the track is tough in parts. For those who don’t want to take on this all-day trek, there are plenty of shorter walks and tracks that begin near the accommodation. It’s also possible to book an optional scenic flight to get a bird’s eye view of the area.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tongariro Crossing - NZD40
  • Mt Ruapehu: Scenic flight (From price) - NZD125
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information

It is essential you have a good level of fitness in order to participate in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It involves hiking uneven and sometimes loose rock terrain for approximately 7 hours. Please pack good hiking shoes and appropriate clothing if you plan to hike.

Please note the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is unguided (i.e. you will be exploring independently).
Hit the road for Taupo, the North Island’s home of extreme sports. Stop en route at the famous Huka Falls, where the Waikato River is forced to squeeze through a narrow volcanic channel that results in a powerful flow of water. Once in Taupo you’ll have enough time (around three hours) to squeeze in an optional bungy jump or a ride in a speedboat (both subject to availability and extra cost). If you’d prefer, maybe relax on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake. Continue to Rotorua and the town of Whakarewarewa, where the local Maori population can trace their heritage all the way back to the Polynesians who settled the area in the 14th century. Visit the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and explore the incredible landscape where geysers burst forth and mud pools bubble. Tonight, you have the chance to partake in an optional Maori cultural evening, including a performance and traditional hangi dinner cooked in the geothermal waters.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Rotorura: Maori Cultural Evening
  • Taupo: Huka Falls
  • Te Puia Thermals
Optional Activities
  • Bungy Jumping from - NZD180
  • Jet Boating from - NZD155
  • Mountain Biking - NZD35
  • Rotorua - Te Puia Maori Art & Cultural Centre - Free
  • Thermal Baths from - NZD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 2.5 hours (approximately 180 km).

The smell in Rotorua can be off-putting at first due to the geothermal gases released by pools and geysers. Some people find it more intense than others, but most people get used to it quickly.
Another free day in gorgeous surrounds means you can be as active or restful as you’d like. Maybe head to Dansey Road Scenic Reserve for a tour with kiwi bird experts and a zip-lining adventure through 1000-year-old canopy. You could also do a tour that combine trips to the glow-worm caves of Waitomo and the film set of Hobbiton (where the Shire sections of Lord of the Rings were filmed). If you’re flush with cash, consider the once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach White Island – an active marine volcano – by helicopter. If you’re after a relaxing day, perhaps hang back and soak in the thermal pools or mud baths.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Rotorua: Agrodome Farm Culture Show - AUD36
  • Rotorua: Hells Gate Thermal Area and Spa (From price) - AUD35
  • Rotorua: Waitomo Caves Visit (From price) - AUD230
  • Rotorua: Hobbiton: Lord of The Rings Set - AUD120
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Leave Rotorua and drive north towards New Zealand's ‘winterless north’, so called because the weather in this part of the country is comparatively mild. Today will involve lots of time on the road, so be sure to have a book or podcast ready in case you need it. Take this time to organise what you’d like to do in the Bay of islands, as options need to be finalised this morning in order to secure places. Take a look at the optional activities listed tomorrow for an idea of what’s on offer.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bay of Islands - Evening Harbour cruise
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Total driving time is around 6.5 hours (approximately 420 km).
Enjoy a whole day to explore the unspoiled Bay of Islands. Some options are a boat trip to the Hole in the Rock, an aptly-named rock tunnel which offers a good chance at spotting dolphins, and a full-day sailing tour around the islands. If you’d prefer to stay on land, the town of Russell offers historic buildings leftover from the its past life as a busy maritime hub in the 1800s. Now a serene holiday destination, Russell was once known as the ‘hellhole of the pacific’ for its abundance of brothels, bars and sailors. In the afternoon, board a boat for a harbour cruise with an included dinner of local food.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bay of Islands: Boat Trip - Hole in Rock - NZD115
  • Bay of Islands: Sailing - Full day - NZD120
  • Bay of Islands: Parasail (From price) - NZD99
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Begin the journey south to Auckland, passing beautiful beaches and lush forests. Cross into the city via the Auckland Harbour Bridge, getting spectacular views of the ‘City of Sails’ as you do. Your tour ends on arrival at a central hotel. While we aim to arrive in Auckland in the afternoon, we may arrive as late as 6 pm. For this reason, we advise you not to book any flights out of Auckland before 8 pm.
Optional Activities
  • Skytower, Auckland - NZD32
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Total driving time is around 4 hours (approximately 225 km).

Meals

5 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 4 dinners

Transport

Ferry, Van

Accommodation

Lodge (21 nights)

Included activities

  • Pancake Rocks and Blowhole
  • Kiwi House
  • Arrowtown Visit
  • Milford Sound cruise
  • Wellington: Scenic Cruise through Marlborough Sound across to the North Island
  • Wellington - Te Papa Museum
  • Rotorura: Maori Cultural Evening
  • Taupo: Huka Falls
  • Te Puia Thermals
  • Bay of Islands - Evening Harbour cruise

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Tour commences in Christchurch with group meeting on day 1 at 6:00pm and finishes in Auckland day 22 at approx 6pm; please consider when booking flights and accommodation.
2. We recommend you book accommodation in advance and extend your stay.
3. This trip also runs in reverse, see tour code PTOZCU.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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