LUXURy highlights TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand is an extraordinarily unique country offering a continent's worth of scenery crammed into its two main islands - having every geographical feature you can think of, plus more! The following itinerary is a sample only and covers most of New Zealand’s ‘highlights’ while staying in some of New Zealand’s best establishments. It can be adapted to the number of days you have and/or to your personal requirements - for example whether you prefer to stay at less-exclusive establishments, or wish to fly-fish or play golf or hike as much as possible and/or visit wineries and gourmet restaurants. Or you can choose to be chauffeur-driven (additional charge) and/or invite another couple (or two) to the tour and/or add some more adventure or more down-time to the trip, or turn it around and go from south to north – it is up to you and fully adaptable! The choices and possibilities are endless, limited only by the amount of time you can spend in New Zealand.
The following 22 night/23 day sample itinerary is designed for the discerning traveller wishing to stay in world-class luxury award-winning accommodation in outstanding locations. Many also include gourmet dinner in their tariffs to enhance the experience.
This is a self-drive tour from north to south, the price starts from $50,500NZD in the high season for two persons sharing a twin or double room. The price is subject to availability of each establishment and/or additional excursions and/or deletions. Please request a quote for the low season or shoulder season or for additional persons. This is of course only a sample ‘top-of-the-range’ itinerary, it is possible to create something similar but less expensive by substituting accommodations so if this does not suit your budget, please click here to see an example of a 5* itinerary as well as many other itinerary examples.
The below sample itinerary includes 22 nights’ accommodation mainly in exclusive or luxury lodges, 20 days’ car hire, excursions & transfers where listed as '(included)', 16 dinners, 4 lunches and 22 breakfasts. Long drives have been avoided and everything has been thought of so you can enjoy our incredible and varied scenery on a stress-free vacation! More information about the chosen establishments & fabulous video footage can be found on the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand website
Let me know if you would like a unique & bespoke itinerary drafted to suit your individual interests - I will gladly assist you in planning that perfect vacation!
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland
All travellers using Amazing New Zealand services are personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative. You will receive at the airport a comprehensive Deluxe Travel Pack. The pack contains the prepaid service vouchers, daily maps, Atlas and brochures to local attractions, plus a detailed daily explanation of driving routes, including suggested stops en route. For driving instructions on how to find your accommodation each evening, please refer to the pre-paid vouchers. Also, please reconfirm your excursions and activities at least 24 hours in advance to check on times and locations where you need to be by.
The representative will then transfer (included) you to the ferry terminal in Downtown Auckland with a brief city tour en route (if there is time).
Today you have open time return tickets (included) to catch the Fullers Ferry to Waiheke Island, departing every hour on the hour. Exchange your voucher at the Fullers ticket office for boarding passes. Or let us know if you prefer a transfer by helicopter instead directly from Auckland Airport. The ferry ride is about 45 minutes long. Once you know which ferry you will be on, call The Boatshed on 09 372 3242 to confirm your arrival time on the island so they can send down a driver to meet you.
Since the late 1970's Waiheke's benign Mediterranean climate has seen the growth of a flourishing wine industry. A "small is beautiful" philosophy yields low quantities of extremely high-quality fruit, which is made into international award-winning wines. The big Bordeaux-style reds of Stony Ridge, Goldwater Estate and Peninsula Estate are now appreciated by wine lovers all over the world, and more than 30 vineyards have followed in the footsteps of the original three.
On arrival to the island, look for the representative from the Boatshed who will then transfer you to your accommodation above the sun-drenched bay and white sandy beach of Oneroa.
This is a boutique hotel with a difference. You have the Bridge suite with panoramic ocean views. They are reminiscent of a bygone era, of seaside cottages and lazy days on the beach. A scrummy breakfast is included each morning. In addition, you have the Romantic Retreat Package which includes a plus dinner this evening only.
The Boatshed, Bridge Suite + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: Delamore Lodge/ Lavender Hill/ Marino Ridge/ or in the city Sofitel Viaduct Hotel/ So Hotel/ Hilton Hotel/ Cordis (ex-Langham Hotel)/ Skycity Grand Hotel/ St Mary’s Residence
Day 2 (B,D) Waiheke Island
Today you have a free day on the island. You could begin your day with a 60-minute massage each. Or hire a ‘Picnic Truck’ (small jeep, $150pd which includes fuel) from the Boatshed so you can also explore the eastern end of the island. You can also ask for a gourmet picnic to take along ($40pp).
If you feel like a walk, I can recommend the Coastal Track, with the added bonus of vineyard cafes and beaches en route! Your hosts will be able to drop you at the wharf - from the wharf, walk along the beach and follow the green and yellow markers around the coast. The path takes you along the cliff-top past exclusive homes, vineyards and olive groves. About ½ an hour along there is a great picnic spot amongst the old Pohutakawa trees with views back to Auckland. At Te Miro Bay you will see a path marked Oneroa, via Nick Johnston Drive. This will bring you eventually to the white sand beach, shops and cafes at Oneroa.
You can extend the walk by continuing along the coast past Church Bay, which will then take you up to the lookout and past the Mudbrick Vineyard and Café (enjoy a cheese platter while sampling their wines) plus the Cable Bay Vineyard and Restaurant (more upmarket) whilst enjoying stunning Waiheke vistas from both vineyards.
Day 3 (B) Waiheke Island – Auckland – Rotorua 232kms
Today you have an open-time ferry ticket back to Auckland. On arrival, please take a taxi to the hire-car company. Please let us know your preferred vehicle (all are automatic) - for example, a full sized luxury SUV (Toyota Prado or similar) or a sedan (Toyota Corolla sedan) from Thrifty Rentals, included in their tariff are any airport pick up and drop off fees, extra driver fees (if any), one way fees and their comprehensive all-inclusive Stressfree insurance (which reduces the excess to $0).
Please note that petrol stations are sometimes few and far between, particularly in the South Island and especially ones that are open on Sunday’s, so always make it a habit to fill up each morning before departing and NOT to wait for the petrol gauge to get low! Also, set your odometer each day on 0kms so you know when an attraction/lookout is coming up. Although GPS is built into most modern vehicles, it not advised as ‘it’ will sometimes take you the wrong way (sometimes even to the wrong town with a similar spelling)…..it is best to follow our driving instructions and then use the GPS on your phone or tablet if you are not sure if you are on the right road! You should also download the CamperMate app to your phone which will give you your GPS location as well as closest restaurants, petrol stations etc.
Please ask the hire-car company on the best way to find the motorway entrances. Follow the signs south on SH1, direction Hamilton.
52kms - After the Bombay Hills, turn left onto SH2 direction Coromandel. After another 34 kilometres there is a new roundabout, take the 2nd exit to stay on SH2, sign posted ‘Tauranga’. A few kilometres south of the roundabout, SH2 goes left, but you need to go straight on what is now the SH27. As you head south you will have the Kaimai Ranges on your left.
154kms – Waharoa is a good option for a coffee break…..look for the Kaimai Cheese Factory on the right, just before the village…..here you can see the fresh cheeses being made as well as enjoy a wonderful selection of cheese themed dishes.
In Matamata continue straight at the roundabout and stay on SH27 to Tirau.
Or you could first visit the filmset of the Hobbiton village. The location and countryside is particularly pretty here and if you are garden-lovers you will certainly enjoy the tour. The tour is based on the various scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy so you have the unique opportunity of touring the set as it is seen in the films. The 2-hour tour also offers a wonderful insight into the logistics involved in creating a movie and building various film-sets with all the supporting personnel required to go with it, from vets to cooks to gardeners and even road builders! The set is located on a real farm with restricted access. The Alexander family has lived on the 1250-acre (approx 500 hectares) property since 1978. The land supports a thriving sheep and beef cattle business. The Alexander farm runs 300 beef cattle and more than 13,000 of New Zealand’s famous sheep on the lush, rolling hills.
180kms – On reaching SH1, turn left into Tirau - the town has a bit of a love affair with corrugated iron, there are quite a few other imaginative signs right the way along the main road, including a giant corrugated iron sheepdog housing the tourist office and a giant sheepdog next door which houses the Big Sheep Wool Gallery. Other tourist shops worth at least a peek at is the Jade Factory - they specialize in Maori Koru necklaces. Or for something really unique try the Natures Touch Gallery.
Change to SH5 two kilometres further south at the new large roundabout. You will soon encounter the unusual terrain of the Mamaku District where mini volcanic cones dot the landscape, some showing their solidified lava core.
232kms - You will probably smell Rotorua before you see it, as the area is still active with sulphur escaping from the earth’s crust (think rotten eggs). Don’t worry, you will get used to the smell. The city lies on a beautiful lake, actually a flooded volcanic crater - the surrounding hills are the remains of the rim of the giant volcano. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present.
Your accommodation for 2 nights is in the fabulous Peppers on the Point Boutique Hotel on the western side of the lakefront of Lake Rotorua and well away from any of the sulphur smells but only 5 minute’s drive from the centre of Rotorua! Turn left just after the Skyline Gondola to Kawaha Point. Please note that the office closes 5pm, so call ahead if you are going to be late.
The Boutique Hotel has fabulous views of the lake, Mt Tarawera and Mokoia Island as well as spacious grounds, a solar heated swimming pool, sauna and a private jetty. You have a spacious Lakeview Lodge Suite which has fabulous lake-views! Breakfast is also included in the tariff here. There is a tennis court and onsite Spa facilities. For dinner, look no further than the restaurant at your lodge – they offer a set ‘Chef’s Menu’ for $130 per person including pre-dinner drinks and canapes followed by a 4-course gourmet dinner (extra charge)…..please call ahead as bookings are essential by 3pm!
This evening you could visit Hells Gate. Here you can enjoy a unique New Zealand experience by taking a mud bath, they say its like playing in silk! The Twilight Spa is a great option as you can relax and star gaze at the same time.
Peppers on the Point Boutique Hotel, lakeview lodge suite + breakfast
Other recommended establishments: Treetops Lodge/ Solitaire Lodge/ Hamurana Lodge/ Black Swan/ Wildwood Lodge (trout fishing)
Day 4 (B) Rotorua
Today is a free day. Rotorua has become New Zealand’s second largest tourist centre – so if you’d like to make the most of what Rotorua has to offer and all that is thermal, here are some of my suggestions:
Soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a delightful but busy public pool. In the morning the spa is less crowded and it is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with serene views across the lake.
Walk from the Polynesian Spa to the town on the Lakeside Walk via the bird sanctuary at Sulphur Bay. You will also see the remains of the first ever public bath – here Hydrogen Sulphide mixes with Carbon Dioxide to create a mixture similar to the dentist’s laughing gas!
The tranquil Hamurana Springs are well worth a visit! A short peaceful 1 hour loop track will take you via a beautiful clear fresh water spring that attracts abundant birdlife. The spring is 15 metres deep and produces 4 million litres of fresh water per hour! And the Redwood Trees here are worth the visit on their own!
Kuirau Park has the largest display of steam and mud pools….and it’s free! An eruption took place here as recently as 2001 when mud, steam and debris were thrown 200m into the air. Springs regularly just appear, resulting in families being forced to move and the land having to be given back to nature.
Visit the beautiful (and steaming) Edwardian styled Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum of Arts & History.
Wander around the original Maori settlement at Ohinemutu. The church is worth a look at, as is the Marae (Maori meeting house) across the courtyard. Wander the tiny streets where everyone has their own private hot-water bore to fill their bath in the out-shed….just follow the steam and stay on the paths!
Check out the Redwoods Treewalk – the half kilometer long walkway consists of 21 suspension bridges traversing the gaps between the majestic 110 year old Redwood trees.
Play golf on the 9 hole part of the Whakarewarewa Golf Course. Here the usual hazards are not sand-traps or bunkers, but steaming geysers and bubbling mud-pools instead!
Visit the Kiwi Hatchery at Rainbow Springs for an informative behind-the-scenes tour about saving our endangered birds
Take the scenic drive to the Buried Village which takes you past the beautiful Green Lake and the Blue Lake up to the plateau with Lake Tarawera The museum here commemorates New Zealand’s biggest disaster that saw Mt Tarawera split into two and 3 villages being buried killing 150 people and destroying our famous “Pink and White Terraces”.
The adventurous should try the 3 hour Canopy Tour through the native New Zealand forest while suspended up to 22 metres high amongst ancient trees as you travel between the 10 platforms on 6 Ziplines and 2 swing bridges.
Another possibility is to take an awesome helicopter flight over Mt Tarawera that was dramatically split during its last eruption – includes landing. Or upgrade this excursion with a dual landing and guided walk on White Island (an active volcano)
Start your day with a scenic helicopter flight to White Island (an active volcano!)
And/or combine this with a private charter and sail on Lake Rotoiti with Pure Cruises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5zAANRIc7s
This evening you could join the the excellent Mitai Maori Cultural Experience. First the performers arrive in a Waka (war canoe), then you will be entertained with a cultural performance, followed by a traditional Hangi (earthen cooked meal) and a bush walk to the glow-worm grotto and Fairy Springs.
Day 5 (B,D) Rotorua – Taupo 90kms
En route to Lake Taupo there are many more thermal attractions! Continue south on SH5
29kms - Turn left at the Wai-o-tapu Tavern and 400m further left again onto the Loop Road and take a look at the thermal Mud Pools (free). Don’t forget to lock your car - the bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours!
The Lady Knox Geyser blows her top at 10:15am - it attracts hoards of tourists by the bus-load but worth timing your visit to see this as it is spectacular none the less! It is on the Loop Road, between the Mud Pools and the main Waiotapu attraction.
Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland (included), the best thermal reserve in the area. It really is a wonderland of orange, green, yellow, blue, white and black pools, the highlights being the exquisitely coloured Champagne Pool, Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath - you’ll be amazed how nature can conjure up such colours. There are 3 self guided walks, the short, the medium and the long – the latter takes about 2 hours which I recommend as it takes you all the way to the green lake of Ngakoro, with great views en route of the blue lake Whangi-o-terangi, meaning `colour of the sky’. The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes. Continue on the Loop Road back to SH5 and turn left.
Lake Taupo is actually the world’s largest volcanic crater, created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated all over the world - ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded in China and Rome. You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones (great for cleaning off rough skin) which were spewed out in that eruption. Just about everywhere you look in the Lake Taupo region, you will see a volcano.
Your accommodation for tonight is ranked the Best Hotel in New Zealand 2016 according to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. Tonight you are staying at the exclusive Huka Lodge, you have a Junior Lodge Suite with breakfast included in the tariff. Also included are pre-dinner drinks & canapés served at 6.30pm followed by a 5-course set-menu dinner each evening that emphasis the very best of New Zealand produce. Guests can enjoy the beautiful grounds as well as have use of a swimming pool, spa pool, tennis, croquet and petanque courts, a library and all the amenities available at the Main Lodge.
Please note, if you can come for longer in New Zealand, an additional night is recommended here so you can then do a daytrip to Napier with Garth London as your driver-guide to see the Art Deco buildings and/or visit a winery or two.
After checking-in, you could:
Visit the Huka Falls are not very high, but are certainly spectacular (free). Here the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15m gap before roaring over a 7 metre drop. There is a lookout just past the Helistar Helicopters, but the falls are much more impressive from below, where there is a walkway across the river.
Go fishing for Rainbow Trout, the specialty of the area. Choose between fly-fishing or trolling from the boat.
The freshwater Prawn Park is apparently the world’s only geothermal prawn farm. The informative tour leaves every 30 minutes, after which you are encouraged to munch out in the Riverside Restaurant.
The Activity Centre is well worth a stop. You are in the middle of one of the most active volcanic spots in the world, so it’s good to know what lies beneath your feet. There are hands on interpretive displays for the children of local volcanoes, up to the second earthquake Richter scale readings, even a room where you can experience a simulated earthquake.
There is one other walk I can recommend called the Craters of the Moon. The boardwalk takes you on a winding path through billowing steam clouds and plopping mud pools - it really does make you feel as if you are walking on the moon!
Huka Lodge*****, Junior Lodge Suite + dinner & breakfast
Other recommended properties in Taupo: Acacia Cliffs/ Lake Taupo Lodge/ Hilton Hotel/ Sacred Water Apartments/ Wharewaka Lodge/ Tauhara Sunrise Lodge/ Point View Lodge/ River Birches (Turangi), Tongariro Lodge (Turangi)/ The lodge at Kinloch/ Poronui Lodge
Day 6 (B) Taupo – Paraparaumu (Wellington) 328kms
Today there is a long drive (around 5 hours, plus stops) to Wellington. The earlier you depart the more you will be able to see in Wellington.
Drive down to Taupo and continue south along the lakefront. At the airport roundabout, turn right and continue south on SH1, direction Wellington. From Turangi (fill up with fuel here) the highway then passes along what we call the Desert Road. The road crosses a high plateau which experiences mountainous weather conditions as it skirt the three volcanoes of Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. The three make up the Tongariro National Park - Peter Jackson used the area extensively as Middle Earth scenery, with Mount Ngauruhoe as Mt Doom, surrounded by the rocky grounds of Mordor. It erupted as recently as 1998.
115kms – Waiouru is home of the QEll Army Memorial Museum and our army, but not much else. Continue south on SH1.
164kms – On the right of Mangaweka Village you could take a look at the original main street – the village seems caught in a time warp. Just past the village you have stunning views of the Mangaweka Gorge…….there is a lookout on top of the hill just after the village.
222kms - The next town is Bulls, named after one of the first settlers Mr. James Bull…. and nothing to do with the black four legged variety. That hasn’t stopped the town having a bit of fun though – I spotted the Bullocks Gravel Centre, Bulls Eye Café, Ye Auld Bull, the Forgive-a-bull church service, the Const-a-bull police station, the Extinguish-a-bull fire station, and so on.
Continue south on SH1, the highway takes you along the rugged Kapiti Coast with views of Kapiti Island and the South Island along the way.
328kms - Your accommodation for tonight is located just north of Wellington near Paraparaumu. The property is nestled in native bush and has views as far as Kapiti Island from the expansive balcony. Other highlights include the heated pool, hot-tub and gym, or enjoy a stroll through the gardens or a bush-walk. You have the upstairs Deluxe Suite, chosen for the views.
Greenmantle Estate Lodge, Deluxe Suite + breakfast
Other recommended establishments: QT Museum Hotel/ Intercontinental Hotel/ Amora Hotel/ Atahuri Luxury B&B/ Copthorne Oriental Bay Hotel/ Bolton Boutique Hotel/ Ohtel Boutique Hotel
Day 7 (B,D) Paraparaumu – Wellington – Picton 60kms
Continue south to Wellington – it is not the largest city but it does lie central to the two islands and is therefore the capital. The wonderful attraction of this city is that it is so compact.
There are several attractions you can enjoy here, if you have time:
The main attraction here is the free National Museum of Te Papa. You can easily spend hours engrossed here - if only you visit the excellent Maori heritage section.
The best place to start your visit to Wellington is Mount Victoria Lookout for awesome views of the city and harbour.
The Parliamentary District is interesting to wander around - our Beehive houses various government offices and there is a free tour of Parliament House.
Be sure to take the Cable Car up the steep hill behind the city centre and wander back down through the magnificent Botanical Gardens.
Today you cross to the South Island on the 2.45pm ferry (included). Please return your car filled with fuel to the Thrifty Office at the Wellington Interislander Ferry Terminal by 2pm. Park the car in a designated Thrifty car-park (in the caged area), fill in the details on the rental agreement folder and drop the keys in the generic rental car Key Drop Box located in the departures hall.
This trip is often described as a scenic cruise as the ship winds its way along the narrow Marlborough Sounds! A sound is a flooded river valley as opposed to the flooded glacial valleys called fiords (the 'sounds' in the south-west corner of the South Island are misnamed). You have access to the Premium Lounge where there is complimentary food & beverages as well as free WiFi. On entering the Sounds, the back deck is lovely and sheltered and is a great spot for dolphin spotting!
On arrival in Picton at 5.55pm, look for the Bay of Many Coves representative who will transfer you to the wharf to catch a private water-taxi (included) out to your accommodation on Queen Charlotte Sound. Picton was named after Sir Thomas Picton - a British General killed at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Two nights’ accommodation is at the secluded Bay of Many Coves Resort which is only accessible by boat. You have the spacious and private Kereru chalet. Enjoy some excellent local wines as you watch the sun go down on your own private deck which features a hot-tub. Your chalet is self-contained - however, dinner and breakfast are included in the tariff, in fact dining privately in-room is the specialty here! The restaurant’s menu reflects the abundance of fresh produce available in Marlborough. The region produces the finest harvest – from green shell mussels and plump succulent scallops to cherries, stone fruits, olives and grapes.
This is a place where the passing traffic is likely to be a pod of Orcas or dolphins leaping for joy. Noise here is not the sound of cars zooming past, but the sound of Bellbirds and Tuis singing and the smells are of fresh salt air mixed with the ancient odor of the bush. This is New Zealand at her very best.
Bay of Many Coves Resort, premier Kereru Suite + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: Sounds Retreat/ The Marlborough Lodge (Blenheim)
Day 8 (B,D) Marlborough Sounds
Today you have a full day to relax and enjoy this tranquil location. Enjoy a romantic soak in the Cedar Hot Tub situated near the swimming pool. Also recommended is a visit to the massage therapist to restore and rejuvenate your mind and body through the different treatments on offer!
Other possibilities are exploring the inlet by kayak, swimming, SUP, mountain biking, fishing charters, sailing or take the Eko-cruise to the head of Queen Charlotte Sound for some dolphin watching. Or you could take the Cougarline Cruise to discover more of the Sound as it stops off at all of the resorts making deliveries and dropping off the hikers. You yourself could disembark at one of the resorts for a leisurely lunch! Or hike a part of the famous Queen Charlotte Track – the section Resolution Bay back to Furneaux Wharf is recommended. Please discuss with reception the different possibilities.
Day 9 (B) Picton – Nelson 135kms
This morning your private water-taxi will pick you up at 9am and transfer (included) you back to Picton. On arrival, the Bay of Many Coves representative will transfer you to pick-up your new rental car (included) from Thrifty.
Drive west along the waterfront of Queen Charlotte Sound to the enchanting little village of Havelock at the head of Pelorus Sound.
34kms – Turn right onto SH6, this will take you east via Havelock – it was once a thriving gold-mining town, however the gold is green these days and comes in the form of green-lipped mussels - try them at the Mussel Pot Restaurant. The town's most famous resident was Sir Ernest Rutherford, Nobel winner for being the first person to split the atom!
110kms - Next stop is Nelson – the city holds the title as the most sunniest place in New Zealand. Another claim to fame is that they played the first ever game of rugby here! It is also the Geographical Middlepoint of NZ on Botanical Hill! The region is home to countless artists and crafts people in and around the city, many of them were involved in creating the many props of Middle-Earth.
Don’t miss the World of Wearable Art and Collectable Cars just north of Nelson Airport, which has some rather bizarre outfits previously created for the annual fashion show.
Continue south on SH6.
122kms – Just after Richmond, turn right onto SH60 (direction Motueka).
134kms – Turn right, your accommodation for two nights is in a luxury waterfront Villa set on Nelson’s historic Bronte Peninsula, the Te Koi Lodge overlooks Waimea Estuary and in a natural setting cradled between ocean and mountains. You have a Shoreline Villa with breakfast included in the tariff. The architectural design places you ‘in tune’ with the environment – all the better to appreciate the natural setting – either in the double bath or relaxing in the lounge soaking up the unforgettable views.
For dinner, either dine in (pre-booking required) or in nearby Mapua is home to the excellent multi award winning restaurant the Smokehouse and the Forest Fusion Gallery on Mapua Wharf features pieces by Lynne Price (fused glass). The Jellyfish Bar & Restaurant is another recommendation, for the view!
Te Koi Lodge, Shoreline Villa + breakfast
Other recommended establishments: Eden Lodge (Upper Moutere)/ Resurgence Eco Lodge (Motueka)/ Kimeret Place (Mapua)/ Peppers Awaroa Lodge (Abel Tasman National Park)/ Split Apple Retreat (Kaiteriteri)/ Stonefly Lodge (fly-fishing lodge)
Day 10 (B,L) Abel Tasman National Park
The Abel Tasman National Park is our most beautiful, but unfortunately it is also our most popular - hence the famed Coastal Walkway can become quite crowded at times. It is named after the Dutchman Abel Tasman who first 'discovered' this land in 1642 and consequently named it New Zealand after his home province in The Netherlands.
Today I suggest departing by 9am - return to SH60 and turn right to Motueka (approx 15 minutes driving). Once there, continue along High Street and drive another 8 kilometres north and just over the Riwaka River Bridge, the highway veers hard left, take the 1st turn right signposted to Abel Tasman National Park via Kaiteriteri.
30kms – As you are driving down the hill towards Kaiteriteri there is a big bend with many signs on the corner, here you turn right to Stephens Bay.
34kms - The Abel Tasman Charter departs Stephens Bay at 10am (included) - you are booked on the Best Abel Tasman National Park Day Trip Scenic Cruise, hopefully with Rod Stewart as your skipper-guide today. This is a small-group tour….please let us know if you would like to have a private charter instead. Also included today is a delicious platter-style lunch at your beach stop. Please bring swim-wear and walking shoes as well as an extra layer or two in case it cools off in the afternoon. Towels, sunscreen, snorkeling gear and kayaks are provided.
From Kaiteriteri, cruise north past the golden coves and sculpted granite headlands via the seal colony in Tonga Island Marine Reserve to the remote northern beaches where Nikau palms and native Rata feature in the rainforest fringing the long golden beaches. There is a one-hour beach stop planned today where you can kayak, snorkel, swim, go for a bush-walk or just sit and relax!
You will arrive back in Kaiteriteri around 4pm. You could add a 3rd night here and make a daytrip then to visit the Golden Bay area, including Farewell Spit.
Day 11 (B,D) Nelson – Kaikoura 258kms
Return to Richmond and Nelson and continue east on SH6. This will take you to Blenheim, home to our world famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and is a great place to spend some time at some wineries.
126kms - Just before Blenheim, turn left and follow SH62 (Rapaura Road) east – the locals call this the Golden Mile due to the multiple award winning wineries along this road. At the beginning of this road on you will find Wairau Winery & Café - a favourite café of mine.
And don’t miss the ultimate chocolate experience at Makana Confections on the corner of Rapaura and O’Dwyer roads. You can watch them making the tantalizing confections and taste a few samples – complimentary, of course.
Or a great place for a shared-platter is Giesen Winery, it is near the Makana Confections.
Blenheim is also home to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre….you will find it near the airport. As a non aviation fan my visit left me speechless with what I saw and learnt, this is a ‘must-see’! On display is the Knights of the Sky – one of the world’s largest private collections of WW1 aircraft and memorabilia brought to life by the masters of cinematic spectacle….the collection belongs to Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and his Weta Workshop has created some awesome real-life scenes! Also the large collection of original uniforms (complete with war medals) worn by the top flying aces from France, Germany, the US and New Zealand will surely impress you, as it did me! I had trouble dragging myself away from the captivating stories about each hero that accompanies each display. There is a great café on site serving light refreshments. The Sydney Herald called this “the best Museum in the world”!
142kms – On reaching SH1, turn right and continue south to Kaikoura. The rugged coast is home to a diverse range of wildlife which gladly pose within camera range. Watch out for seals amongst the rocks, or dolphins and albatrosses out to sea, freshly cooked crayfish is usually available from a roadside shop housed in a caravan. A deep-sea canyon system rich in plankton lies close to the coast, which then attract a variety of those very special creatures - the whales. However only male sperm whales are resident all year round as the females stay in the warmer tropical waters near the equator. Sperm whales can dive to a depth of 2kms and stay submerged for up to 2 hrs and can swim at 40km/h. Also, did you know that dolphins do not breath automatically as humans do so when they sleep only half the brain sleeps at a time.
244kms - The Ohau Point Lookout is a great spot to stop to view the Fur Seals playing amongst the rockpools below.
258kms - Your accommodation is located 14 kilometres north of Kaikoura, just after leaving the sea-front and a big bend, look for the Hapuku Lodge on your left. You have a 1-bedroom luxury ‘tree-house’. Breakfast is of course included, plus gourmet dinner this evening will be a highlight, the menu features Kaikoura’s famous seafood and their home-raised venison.
Hapuku Lodge, 1-bedroom Tree-house + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: Kaikoura Boutique Hotel/ Manakau Lodge
Day 12 (B) Kaikoura – Christchurch 200kms
After a leisurely start to your day and checking-out, drive into Kaikoura.
14kms - This morning you are booked on the Whale Watch Cruise – reporting time is at 10am (included). Every Whale Watch tour is a unique experience and the sightings vary. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. On occasion sightings include Southern Right, Humpback, Fin, Sei, Brydes, Pilot, Southern Bottlenose and the mighty Blue Whales, as well as Common, Hectors and Risso's Dolphins.
Afterwards, continue south on SH1. The highway takes you along the dramatic and rocky coastline and via the Waipara Valley, our newest wine producing region. Pegasus Bay Winery is highly recommended for wine tasting (turn left 4.5 kilometers after the village) – their restaurant has won of the Cuisine Best New Zealand Winery Restaurant award for the last 5 years!
194kms – Stay on SH1 until you reach the large airport intersection. There you turn left and drive into the City Centre along Memorial Ave. On reaching Hagley Park, turn left at the traffic lights. Then follow the driving instructions on the pre-paid voucher.
200kms - Your accommodation in Christchurch for 2 nights is at The George, a luxury boutique hotel. This is Christchurch’s best hotel and is centrally located overlooking Hagley Park. You have a spacious premium-executive room plus breakfast is included in the tariff each morning, as is WiFi. There are 2 dining options - in the multi award-winning Pescatore Restaurant or the more relaxed 50 Bistro……please call your hotel around a week in advance to make a reservation on 03 379 4560.
Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps. The main attractions here are the English style gardens and parks, the city even has its very own Avon River on which one can punt. It has an English colonial feel to the city with school children in formal blazers and straw hats, with fine architecture and heritage sites evident everywhere. ……however, on February 22nd 2011 the city suffered a devastating earthquake that has unfortunately destroyed many of those heritage buildings, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral! The city is now going through a major rebuild.
Attractions worth considering over the coming days are:
Head to Antigua Boatshed and hire your very own gondolier to punt you through the city.
Or wander through the Botanical Gardens along the picturesque Avon River.
Visit the temporary Cardboard Cathedral, the Anglican church’s solution while they wait for the ruined Cathedral on Cathedral Square to be rebuilt!
Visit the Canterbury Museum (free) for their informative Earthquake exhibition as well as the Antarctic section and impressive Maori collection
Or visit Quake City which is a unique multi-sensory attraction, where you can learn about all there is to know about earthquakes and view photographs of the aftermath and iconic objects such as the Cathedral Spire.
The Christchurch Art Gallery is a must see if you are an art-lover.
The excellent International Antarctic Centre near the airport is where you can experience all there is to know about the icy continent.
The historic Tram is a wonderful way to see the city.
The George Hotel, Premium executive room + breakfast
Other properties: Annandale Luxury Villa (Akaroa)/ Otahuna Lodge (Tai Tapu)/ Montreal Hotel/ Elizas Manor
Day 13 (B) Christchurch – Akaroa – Christchurch 180kms
Today's short drive explores the Banks Peninsula created over nine million years of fiery volcanic activity. Akaroa Harbour and Lyttelton Harbour are the two giant craters that remain. Originally the Banks Peninsula was an island, but over the millennia the alluvial rivers have brought down the glacial debris from the Southern Alps, slowly joining the two and creating the Canterbury Plains.
SH75 to Akaroa starts in the south-east corner of Hagley Park, allow 2 hours for the drive so you have time to stop for photos. Additional stops en route (if you depart early) could be Little River Craft and Gallery and Barry's Bay Cheese Factory for cheese tastings.
68kms - The Hilltop Tavern at the summit is a must before you make your way down to the harbour, if only to stop and look at the view.
From here it is another 20 kilometres to Akaroa. In 1835 French whaler Jean Langlois established a whaling station in the harbour at French Bay and bought some land from the Maori. Once he had secured the deal he returned to France to organize a group of settlers to come and establish a community. Unfortunately the English had placed the whole of New Zealand under British sovereignty only 13 days before, so the French settlers were forced to sell their claims. They did however stay, bringing both their rich French character and their culture to this far flung outpost of the world.
Akaroa’s other attraction are of course the tiny and rare Hector’s dolphin – join the afternoon Akaroa Dolphin cruise out onto the harbour (included), check-in by 12.20pm at their shop on the waterfront to get your boarding pass. The cruise is fully narrated by your skipper who has extensive knowledge of the nature, wildlife and history of the harbour. A complimentary beverage, including award-winning wine, beer and soft drinks, along with home baking are included in your ticket price.
The highlight of this trip is undoubtedly the sighting of one of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector's Dolphin. These friendly and inquisitive mammals meet the boat most days throughout the year.
Also on the trip you will catch glimpses of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world. There are many different bird species in the harbour, including five different cormorant species and the chance of sighting the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. You'll also see the New Zealand Fur Seal sunning themselves on the harbours rocks near the entrance at Seal Bay.
I can recommend the scenic route back to Christchurch via the beautiful but winding road along the crater rim, offering stunning views along the way – access to the Summit Road is a few kilometres back, direction Eastern Bays. This Tourist Drive has to be THE most scenic route in the whole world, the views down both sides really are spectacular!
122kms - Back at the Hilltop Tavern turn right and head back towards Christchurch for 37 kilometers. At the Blue Duck Cafe turn right to return to Christchurch via Gebbies Pass and Lyttelton Harbour - the second of the craters that make up the Banks Peninsula. After crossing the pass, turn left to Governors Bay and Lyttelton.
176kms – In Governors Bay, be sure to make a stop at the She Universe Chocolate Café - they make the best chocolate brownies and iced chocolates in the whole southern hemisphere! Unfortunately it closes at 4pm most days so is only really an option if the cruise was cancelled.
Soon after, turn left onto Dyers Pass Road and this will bring you back to the Sign of the Takahe and the city. The Sign of the Takahe is one of several original staging posts used by weary travellers crossing from the Lyttelton Harbour to the city.
Day 14 (B,D) Christchurch – Lake Pukaki 290kms
There is no hurry to depart this morning if you prefer a leisurely lie-in or to visit an attraction or two in the city.
126kms - Soon after passing over the Rangitata River, turn right onto SH79, direction Geraldine and Fairlie. The Tin Shed has a large selection of New Zealand wool products and souvenirs.
140kms - The Geraldine Orchard Farm Shop & Café is a great option for a coffee stop, you will see it on the left about 1 kilometre before Geraldine.
Turn right after the Geraldine shops to stay on SH79.
187kms – In Fairlie, turn right onto SH8 to Lake Tekapo. Or you could first stop for a famous pie from the Fairlie Bakehouse – locals come from miles to buy these!
Also, just after Fairlie is a small village of Kimbell, on the southern side look on the left for the Garage Art Gallery, worth stopping to view the stunning New Zealand landscapes painted by Nathanael Provis.
The scenery dramatically changes as you cross over Burke's Pass. You are now entering the Mackenzie Basin, a flat expanse of tussock grasslands and home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki (or Mt Cook as it is known in English) plus the longest glacier Tasman and sparkling turquoise glacial lakes below the Southern Alps - and it bears little resemblance to anywhere else in New Zealand.
228kms – The village at Lake Tekapo is small - their claim to fame being that it has the cleanest and clearest air in New Zealand….the skies above have recently become the world’s first ever Night Sky Reserve. Be sure to visit the much-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog.
232kms - Just south of the village, turn right and drive up to the summit of Mount John and enjoy spectacular 360° views. There is a small cash charge per car which goes towards the maintenance of the private road & carpark and the University’s buildings. Return to the main road and continue south on SH8.
290kms – Just after the Lake Pukaki Information Centre turn right onto SH80. Around 1 kilometre from the turnoff, look for the entrance to the Mt Cook Retreat on your right. Your accommodation for two nights is in a luxury villa chosen for the stunning views over Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki-Mt Cook (our tallest mountain). The gorgeous turquoise-blue lake derives its colour from fine glacial particles suspended in the water.
You have the exclusive use of the villa. Included in the tariff are hosted wine & canapés served between 6 & 7pm up at the homestead, a 2-course self-serve dinner each evening with a bottle of wine (call ahead to discuss menu possibilities) and breakfast ingredients (also self-serve). Or, if you prefer, you can go up to the house for the meals….call ahead if you prefer this option so they know not to take everything down to the villa.
On the other side of the lake you are looking at Braemer Station where they filmed the escape from inside the Misty Mountains (1st Hobbit movie) and the Warg chase. The farm next door is called Tasman Downs Station – site of the Lake Town set! The whimsical lakeside village set sat over the water and incorporated clusters of two-storey wooden dwellings arranged around connecting walkways, waterways and wharves. Filming at this location was one of the largest operational periods in the shooting schedule with around 700 people on set.
Please note you also have the private use of the tennis court and Fantail Spa facility (includes sauna, spa, fitness room). Call ahead if you would like to book the masseuse as she has to come in specially (extra charge for massages).
Also available is the onsite Wine Cellar Observatory Experience (extra charge). This is an exclusive stargazing experience in the middle of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve you will be awestruck by the number of stars and clarity of the Milky Way. Enjoy a personalised stargazing experience which includes introduction to stargazing, telescope viewing, wine and chocolate matching or a wee tot of whisky, as well as astrophotography of deep space objects as part of this experience.
Then finish off your evening in the Hot Tub to gaze in awe at the galaxy of stars in the Milky Way – our skies are some of the clearest in the whole world!
Mount Cook Lakeside Retreat, self-contained villa + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: The Lindis Lodge (Omarama)/ Hermitage Hotel/ Lakestone Lodge/ Matuka Lodge/ Peppers Bluewater Resort (Tekapo)
Day 15 (B,D) Mount Cook National Park
From your driveway, turn right. The 55 kilometre scenic drive to Mount Cook Village at the base of Aoraki / Mt Cook (our highest mountain) and the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this world heritage site known as the Mount Cook National Park.
This morning you are booked in for an awesome 55-minute scenic flight either by helicopter or by small plane (included) departing from Mt Cook Airport at 11.30am (check-in closes 11am). The flight takes you over Lake Tekapo, across the Southern Alps to view the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, then around Mount Aoraki and lands on the awesome Tasman Glacier (wear suitable shoes and clothes for walking on snow!). If you prefer, pickup and dropoff can be made at your lodge by helicopter for an extended flight (extra charge).
Or let us know if you prefer to do the guided-hike instead (extra charge), The Wigley – Top of the Tasman Glacier Hike with Mount Cook Glacier Guiding involves flying high up onto the glacier (usually by snow-plane) for awesome views of Mt Cook and the glacier from above then landing and exploring the spectacular ice-caves, arches and cracks with your guide. Groups on the upper reaches have a ratio of only 6 per guide.
This afternoon you have free, possibilities are:
Several different alpine walks with wonderful views. The view of the Tasman Glacier from the lookout up a short steep track is well worth the effort!
I can also recommend the Hooker Valley Track - this is one of the most popular short walks in the Mount Cook National Park. Start at the White Horse Hill camping and follow the Hooker River. There are massive views of Mt Sefton and the shrunken Mueller Glacier, past an Alpine Memorial and over two swing-bridges until the final destination of the terminal lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier. Here Mt Aoraki looms ahead with great walls of ice up on the left and buttresses of rock tower over the foaming river to the right. The walk takes approximately 2 hours one way – so walk as far as you like. This is New Zealand at its very best!
Visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.
Or the DoC Visitor’s Centre is excellent and informative.
Eat, drink and just relax in the Hermitage while enjoying the incredible views that lie before you.
Day 16 (B,D) Lake Pukaki – Wanaka 158kms
There is no real hurry to depart this morning as it is only 2 hours to Wanaka from here, however I suggest a walk at the Clay Cliffs en route! Return to SH8 and turn right to Twizel, soon after you could stop at the Salmon Farm to feed the massive fish and to try the smoked salmon.
36kms – Here you could turn right to drive to the Clay Cliffs Scenic Reserve. There is a gate where you should make an honesty payment ($5 I believe), please close the gate after passing through. There are tracks that lead up into the beautifully eroded cliffs and it is well worth spending at least half an hour here!
Continue south on SH8, consider stopping in Omarama for petrol as there is not another fuel station for 80 kilometres! The highway will take you over the scenic Lindis Pass, the pass was first used by the Maori people walking to Lake Wanaka for summer fishing.
124kms - Just after Tarras, turn right onto SH8A to Wanaka. The tranquil lake has picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and is one of my favourite places in New Zealand!
158kms - Wanaka lies on a tranquil lake with picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and it is one of my favourite places in New Zealand!
Before checking-in, you could visit an attraction or two, such as:
You could drive along the lakefront to Glendhu Bay which is a sheltered and picturesque bay for postcard perfect photos of the mountains behind.
Continue driving past Glendhu Bay and Treble Cone to the very end of the Matukituki Valley, the drive will take you deep into the mountains along a stunning valley carved by glaciers. Towards the end there are a couple of fords but all quite passable (usually) in a normal car.
Cycle the Outlet Track along the banks of the mighty Clutha River, a favourite spot for trout fishing.
Watch out for “The Leaning Tower of Wanaka”, the centerpiece of Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Only one of the world’s most interesting and eccentric visitor attractions! Here you will encounter a mix of bizarre buildings, rooms of illusion and the famous Great Maze this attraction is designed to baffle your brain and challenge your perceptions of reality.
Pop out to the end of the Wanaka Wharf to see the big fat trout (no fishing permitted from the wharf, sorry)
Visit the Warbirds & Wheels Museum near the airport where you can see 5 regularly flown warplanes and 25 vintage cars.
Or visit the Beerworks Microbrewery near the airport.
The next two evenings you are staying in Mahu Whenua Homestead (luxury lodge) chosen for the rural setting with breath-taking with mind-blowing views of the Mt Aspiring National Park mountains and Lake Wanaka. You have the Tui Master Suite, chosen for the uninterrupted views of the mountains and Lake Wanaka. Due to the remoteness, all meals are included here, including breakfast, lunch, pre-dinner canapés, refreshments and picnics, canapés, gourmet dinner, morning and afternoon teas.
Mahu Whenua Homestead, Tui Master Suite + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: Minaret Station Alpine Lodge (access by helicopter only)/ Tin Tub Lodge/ Te Kahu Luxury Villa/ Lime Tree Lodge/ Whare Kea Luxury Lodge
Day 17 (B,L,D) Wanaka
Today you have a free day. Your hosts can arrange a myriad of guided activities (extra charge), such as a private 4WD farm-tour or heli-hiking in the mountains. This is a working farm and Eco-sanctuary combined. The 55,000 hectare property consists of four adjoining stations, stretching from Wanaka to Queenstown and offering some of the most iconic and dramatic natural alpine scenery in New Zealand.
Guests are also encouraged to watch or engage in conservation practices on the farm, such as replanting areas with native trees and learning about the native Weka and Pukeko breeding programs and help feed them. This is an area rich in Maori legends, goldmining history and high-country farming is now also a sanctuary for native birdlife and native tree and bush regeneration.
Day 18 (B,D) Wanaka – Te Anau 246kms
Return to Wanaka the way you came. There you turn right and take the scenic Crown Range Route which takes you from the lakefront south via the old gold mining town of Cardrona. It is hard to believe that this sleepy region was the most populous in New Zealand during the chaotic gold boom years of the late 19th century. Before you drive up over the 1120m high pass, you may want to visit the original Cardrona Hotel.
Take your time coming down the zigzagging road! The views from the lookout are stunning.
66kms - At the bottom, turn right to continue south on SH6.
70kms - Just after the Arrowtown turnoff and before Lake Hayes is the new Wet Jacket Boutique Winery and Whitestone Cheese Aging Room in the historic Bendemeer Woolshed…..you can sample the fully matured cheese cut straight from the artisanal rounds of cheese, the perfect combination with the Wet Jacket Pinot Noir! There is a viewing room, cheese deli and shop all on site. Keep an eye on the time though, Te Anau is another 2.5 hours south of here!
80kms - At the Frankton roundabout, turn left to stay on SH6, direction Lumsden and Te Anau.
167kms – At Five Rivers, turn right.
246kms - Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park which is 1,250,000 uninhabited hectares of stunning wilderness. Fiordland has a primeval rugged landscape, largely untouched by humans apart from incursions by tourists at Milford and Doubtful Sounds and a few fishermen in other fiords. It was declared a World Heritage Area on account of the outstanding geological features and exceptional beauty, the jewel in the crown being Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.
Join the 2pm cruise to see the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves (included). Te Anau means rushing water in Maori – so both the lake and the town derived their names from the caves. Spectacular rock formations, fossils, whirlpools, waterfalls and glow-worms lie half an hour away by launch.
Two night’s accommodation is at the exclusive Fiordland Lodge, the location is just stunning seemingly in the middle of nowhere but just 5 kilometers from the town centre. The upstairs deluxe rooms are spacious and have commanding views to the lake and mountains beyond. Also included is breakfast as well as a 4-course gourmet meal each evening, specializing in local game and produce.
Fiordland Lodge, deluxe lodge room + breakfast & dinner
Other recommended establishments: Dock Bay Lodge/ Salt & Earth Lodge/ Dunluce Boutique B&B/ The Hollows Luxury Cabin/ Prospect Lodge
Day 19 (B,L,D) Te Anau – Milford Sound – Te Anau
A day off from driving – Trips ‘n’ Tramps will pick you up from your accommodation at 8am for a private daytrip to Milford Sound (included).... this way you both get to sit back and enjoy the scenery! Included is the extended Nature Cruise as well as the opportunity to hike to the Key Summit. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes if you intend doing the hike! Don't forget the insect repellent as the sand-flies are not only a menace, but practically man-eating! Plus a rain coat - the area receives 12,000mm of rain per year per square metre - so chances are high that you will see rain!
A picnic lunch is also included consisting of a filled roll, slice and seasonal fruit, as well as tea, coffee and homemade biscuits for afternoon tea.
Your local nature-guide knows all the best places to stop as you travel the Milford Sound Road to the Homer Tunnel with time out along the way for short easy bush walks. They can access the "special wayside places", for photography of wildlife, rainforest, wildflowers etc.
Milford Sound is quite simply unparalleled to anything in this world - wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. The awesome Nature Cruise on the fiord includes countless waterfalls tumbling hundreds of metres down sheer cliffs, mountains rising straight out of the sea, fur seals and (usually) dolphins. Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, as does the cascading Bowen and Stirling Falls. A 'Sound' is a flooded river valley, but these are flooded glacial valleys with sheer sided walls that plunge hundreds of metres under water as well as above - so they are misnamed. The Maori believe the fiords were created by the titanic mason Tute Rakiwhanoa, who used an adze to cut out the steep sided walls and gullies. Please note the cruise component is not ‘private’.
After the cruise you will be returned to Te Anau. Along the way they can drop you at the start of the renowned Routeburn Track for a 2 ½ hour unguided walk (optional) to Key Summit which is the best easily accessible view point of Fiordland - sit among the alpine plants and gaze down three valleys from which water flows to three different coasts! From there the view makes you feel like you are on top of the world.
Alternatively, the nature walk at Lake Gunn is a flat and easy walk. You will be returned to Te Anau around 5.30pm.
Day 20 (B,D) Te Anau – Blanket Bay (Queenstown) 220kms
Before departing you could take a 70-minute scenic helicopter flight (extra charge) to Doubtful Sound departing from the Fiordland Lodge Heli-pad. Southern Lakes Helicopters will take you on a scenic helicopter trip of a lifetime to enjoy the spectacular beauty of Doubtful Sound. The flight begins with the Iris Burn Valley and Lake Manapouri before climbing over the Wilmot Pass into Doubtful Sound. If the weather is suitable they detour into Campbell’s Kingdom, a beautiful hanging valley complete with its own lake and waterfall. Airborne again, you will glimpse Bradshaw Sound before overflying the Main Divide of the Southern Alps to Mt Kidd for a second remote landing before returning to the Helipad. This is a great opportunity to take a look at the heart of Fiordland, with two remote landings at the top of the world! Alternatively, you can make a similar flight by float plane instead (no landings).
And/or you could check-out the Wildlife Centre for a view of the near extinct pre-historic looking flightless Takahe as well as many other NZ native birds. You will find this on the right a 2-minute drive south on the Manapouri Road, it is run by DoC so donations are gladly accepted!
Return the way you came on SH94 and then SH6 north to Queenstown. Just after Queenstown Airport, turn left and drive into Queenstown.
175kms - Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of the World! The beautiful resort was originally named as 'fit for a Queen'. It lies on Lake Wakatipu where you can observe the strange seiches phenomenon - this is an unusual rhythmic rise and fall of 12cm in its water level every five minutes due to variations in atmospheric pressure. A Maori myth says it is the beating of a monster's heart lying in the depths of Lake Wakatipu! The sheer breadth of tourist activities available here is impossible to list, however the ' in-thing' at the moment are tours that have anything to do with the numerous Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations.
Continue through Queenstown then follow the lakefront road towards Glenorchy at the far end of the lake, allow an extra 40 minutes or so for the scenic drive around the lake.
220kms - The next 3 nights’ accommodation is in the exclusive Blanket Bay Lodge, acclaimed as New Zealand’s best boutique hotel. However, it has mainly been chosen for its stunning location on the lake shore of Lake Wakatipu and well away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown!
You have a spacious lodge suite which has stunning lake and mountain views and private balcony. Included in the tariff is use of sports equipment and facilities, full breakfast, pre-dinner cocktails & canapes (which are served in the Den at 6.30pm) and a self-service bar in the games room at any time with no extra charge. Plus a superb a-la-carte 5 course degustation dinner is included each evening…..the menu changes nightly.
Blanket Bay Lodge, lodge suite + dinner & breakfast
Other recommended establishments: Eichardts Boutique Hotel/ Azur Lodge/ Matakauri Lodge/ Hidden Lodge/ Hulbert House Boutique Hotel/ Rees Hotel/ Hotel Saint Moritz/ Hilton Hotel/ Millbrook Golf Resort/ Lodge at the Hills/ Pencarrow Lodge/ Queenstown House Boutique B&B/ Remarkables Lodge/ The Arrow Private Hotel
Day 21 (B,L,D) Queenstown
This morning, Guided Walks New Zealand will be picking you up around 8.30am. You need comfortable walking shoes (preferably hiking boots), sunglasses (for the wind on the jetboat), water-bottle, sunscreen, water-proof jacket and insect repellent! Today you are booked on the Dart River Jetboat & private guided walk combo called Aspiring Wilderness Experience (included), a picnic lunch is also included today.
Today there is first a thrilling ride on a jet-boat (another New Zealand invention) which will take you from Glenorchy along the Dart River into the very heart of the Mt Aspiring National Park with plenty of Lord of the Rings filming sites along the way! This thrilling ride up the Dart River takes you into the very heart of the Mt Aspiring National Park. Your driver will weave through the braided glacial river and rock gardens, stopping to tell stories of Maori legends and yarns of local pioneers.
You will be delivered 35kms later to a remote spot only accessible to Guided Walks NZ, you will then walk 2-3 hours along unformed trail on leaves and moss to the famous Routeburn area with a wilderness picnic lunch stop included. Highlights include the variety of bird life, mosses, lichens and ferns, ancient native beech forest and spectacular snow-capped mountain and lake views along the way! At the end, your transport will be awaiting you to transfer you back to your accommodation, arriving back around 4.30pm.
Please note this day can be adapted to suit your personal preferences, such as horse-riding, tandem paragliding (from the side of a mountain), tandem sky-diving (from a plane), white water-rafting, Funyaks (river kayaking), Sunrise balloon flight, Station-to-station unguided cycling tour, fly-fish in the trout infested lakes and rivers, enjoy a private winery tour of the region with Odyssey, Play golf on one of the most magically located courses in the world, or take a 4WD tour to Skippers Canyon with Nomads.
Day 22 (B,D) Queenstown
Today you have a free day (or delete this day if need be). However, I recommend a scenic drive before visiting Queenstown itself. Drive back to the Queenstown shops and take the alternative route to Arrowtown via Arthurs Point.
52kms - You could (should) drive up the Coronet Peak Ski-field access road for stunning views of the Shotover River and Wakatipu Basin. You don’t need to go right to the top, drive as far the Skippers Road and turn left, immediately on your left there is a lookout. Return down the mountain and turn left.
68kms - The pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown. The pretty tree-lined town is another former gold mining settlement. Two years after the first European settlers established high country farms in the Wakatipu area, gold was discovered in the Arrow River and news soon spread. Within weeks 1500 people arrived as the news of gold spread and people in search of the alluvial treasure arrived in droves. At the height of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population grew to over 7000. In 1865 many of the miners started to leave for other gold-mining areas and the local government invited Chinese miners to the area. Most worked in the Shotover and Arrow Gorges, although wherever Chinese stores opened communities began to develop. Wander amongst the historic cottages, visit the reconstructed Chinese Settlement (the Chinese were subjected to many prejudices so had their own settlement. The main shopping street is a shopper’s particular delight!
To reach the highway follow the road east along the river at the base of the hill then turn left onto SH6 (direction Cromwell).
The Kawarau River Bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you get to tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river, if you dare - or just have fun watching the others.
Soon after the bridge, you turn right and drive the short but narrow unsealed road to Chard Farm for some wine tasting – they make my favourite Pinot Noir!
A few more kilometers along SH6 you will find the excellent winery (220 awards to date) and restaurant at Gibbston Valley Wines…..tours depart on the hour every hour. You may also like to explore the Gibbston Valley Cheesery next door! The local wineries also hire out bikes if you would like to go for a cycle through the vineyards.
Return the way you came and continue south on SH6 to Queenstown. On the corner of the highway and Lake Hayes you will find the multi award winning Amisfield Restaurant & Winery, where you can stop and try some wines and have some lunch. As it is a favourite with Queenstown locals, call ahead on 03 442 0556 to book a table! If you are feeling guilty then why not go for a walk around Lake Hayes before your meal!
Back in Queenstown, here are some possibilities:
Cruise with Southern Discoveries on Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas. The 1.5 hour cruise includes a behind-the-scenes visit to a truly authentic, family-run merino sheep farm. Watch the sheep being moved by the farm dog, touch the wool after it has been shorn and then take a 4WD tour of the high-country farm is also included.
Or cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the coal fired vintage steamship the TSS Earnslaw. The original steam engines can be seen in operation from the open viewing area. On arrival at Walter Peak Station, wander around the gardens and Colonel’s Homestead followed by a farming demonstration (optional) about raising sheep on a high country farm, including sheep shearing and sheep-dog mustering.
Visit the Underwater World Observatory on the pier, where trout and eels are visible in the clear waters of the lake; they live freely in the lake however as they are fed they like to hang out here. The cutest part is seeing the ducks diving for the food. Beside the pier are marks showing the level to which the lake rose in the floods of 1878 and 1983.
Take the Skyline Gondola for awesome views! There are various activities you can do up here such as riding the down-hill Luge!
Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park near the gondola, the park spreads for over 2 acres and you need to allow about 2.5 hours to see everything!
Head to the Onsen Hot Pools at Arthurs Point. Each booking receives a private cedar-lined private pool, each with push-button retractable walls and ceiling so you can enjoy the dramatic scenery as you soak on the edge of the cliff overlooking the spectacular Shotover River – worth the 10 minute drive on its own! Call 0508 869463 to book.
Day 23 (B) Queenstown – flights home
Please return your hire-car filled with fuel - NB there are no fuel stations near the airport so fill up as soon as you see one! Park your car in the Rental Car Returns Car-park at the Queenstown Airport in one of Thrifty’s designated parking bays and hand the keys in at the Thrifty counter inside the terminal.
Flights from Queenstown to your home can either go via Auckland or Sydney. I hope you will enjoy your amazing tour of New Zealand and that the weather will be kind to you! “Haere Ra” (goodbye in Maori) and have a safe journey home.