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Day 1: DEPART US
Depending on flights chosen and due to the time difference, departure may be one or two days before arrival date.
Day 2: ARRIVE AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Met on arrival by our New Zealand staff who will deliver your final tour documents and vouchers. Transfer to the hotel by private vehicle and driver. If early morning arrival, rooms will be ready for immediate occupancy. The remainder of morning is free to rest and explore New Zealand’s largest city. It’s a wonderful kick-off to your New Zealand adventure tour.
Walk downhill from your hotel to the Viaduct Basin and check in at the Explore NZ booking kiosk. If you choose not to walk, take a taxi (own cost). Report to the Explore NZ booking kiosk. Dress warmly and wear flat shoes.
Sail on a genuine Americas Cup 12 metre yacht – either NZL40 or NZL41. Passengers become the crew and are encouraged to take the helm, exert energy on the grinders or simply sit back and enjoy the thrill of these grand prix racing machines as you sail down lovely Auckland Harbour (2 hours – other travellers may be on board). Afterwards walk back uphill to your hotel – or take a taxi (own cost).
Our accommodation is a modern full service hotel located on the edge of the central business district close to Queens St. It has a stunning atrium lobby, indoor swimming pool and choice of two restaurants. Rooms are modern and spacious.
Day 3: WAIHEKE ISLAND VINEYARD TOUR
After breakfast, walk downhill to the Ferry Terminal (approx. 15-20 minutes walk). Alternatively take a taxi (own cost). Report to the Fullers Office at the Ferry Terminal and collect boarding passes for our 10 a.m. departure. It is a 35 minutes high-speed catamaran ride across the sparkling waters of the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf to Matiatia on Waiheke Island.
You will be met on arrival by your tour guide for a private tour of Waiheke Island with a special focus on the boutique wineries. Since the 1970s the island’s Mediterranean climate has seen the growth of a flourishing wine industry with high-quality fruit. Visit Stonyridge vineyard for a wine tasting. Stonyridge was the second vineyard to establish on the Island, with their first plantings in 1982. The vineyard is also home to maturing cork trees, the Islands oldest olive grove and one of New Zealand’s most prestigious Bordeaux style wines, La rosé.
Visit Rangihoua Estate where the first olive oil in the North Island was produced. Rangihoua is the winner of one silver and three gold medals at the Los Angeles County Fair. You will learn how the oil is produced and taste four different oils, including the peppery Greek-style Koreneiki, the Spanish-style Picual, or the Tuscan-style Frantorio, as well as island blends. Enjoy wine tasting at Jurassic Ridge. This is a new vineyard open to the public producing hand-crafted, high-quality Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Gris as well as Montepulciano. All their wines are made entirely on the estate from grapes grown in their north-facing boutique vineyard at Church Bay. All winery visits subject to change without notice.
There will be a break in Oneroa Village where you can buy lunch (own cost) or walk on the beautiful beach. Alternatively, you may wish to book at a vineyard for lunch (own cost). Visit the Waiheke Community Art Gallery to view the works of both local and international artists before returning to Auckland on the 4.00 pm ferry. On arrival walk back up to the hotel or if you choose not to walk, take a taxi (own cost). (B)
Day 4: AUCKLAND / WAITOMO CAVES / ROTORUA (352 kms)
Today drive south across the Bombay Hills through the Waikato Valley and continue to the Waitomo region. At Waitomo enjoy a guided tour into the recently reopened Ruakuri Cave which offers a comprehensive cave experience including winding passageways, immense caverns, and deep crevices. The tour commences with a spiral descent from ground level via a remarkable drum entrance and walkway then wanders along narrow corridors and across low-lit walkways suspended above the Huhunui River below. The tour is two-hours duration and includes 1.6 kilometres of walkways. Your guide will bring you up close to glowworms, elaborate cave formations, underground rivers, myths, legends and sacred Maori sites. At the completion of the tour, retrace your journey back to the entrance.
Afterwards drive on across the picturesque farming country and over the bush-clad Mamaku Ranges to Rotorua. Our hotel is situated mid-way between the town centre and the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. With its beautiful garden setting, and heated outdoor swimming pool & spa the Distinction Rotorua is the perfect place to relax and unwind after enjoying all the attractions that Rotorua has to offer.
This evening relax in the natural mineral water of a Lake Spa at Polynesian Thermal Pools – about a 35-minute walk from the hotel. The Lake Spa Retreat offers unique and exclusive bathing in four hot mineral rock pools with lovely views over Lake Rotorua. Towels, soap, and shampoo are provided and use of security lockers and hair dryers is included.
Day 5: ROTORUA SIGHTSEEING & MAORI CULTURE
This morning you will be collected from the hotel by your local Maori Guide for a morning introduction to this fascinating area. Enjoy a tour of the Rotorua area, which includes a drive up Mt Ngongotaha to the Aorangi Peak lookout for views across the lake, a visit to a Marae (Ancestral House) and a talk about the protocol attached to these sacred places then watch a geyser erupt (with a little help from her friends) and view the largest mud pool in New Zealand. Also take a self-guided walk (map provided) through the colourful thermal reserve of Wai-O-Tapu (the Sacred Waters) – see the Artist’s Palette where different minerals form areas on the pool surface, view the tiny bubbles surfacing in the Champagne Pool, walk down alongside the silica terrace to Bridal Veil Falls as well as other thermal activity. You will be returned to your accommodation at the conclusion of the tour (approx. 12.30 pm). In the afternoon, visit the entertaining Agrodome sheep show and the Government Gardens.
Enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Te Puia – the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve to see the geysers and other fascinating thermal activity and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where young Maori are learning traditional carving and weaving skills. After the tour join other travellers for the Powhiri (welcome), hangi (dinner) and concert of Maori song and dance in the Magnificent carved Meeting House on the Marae (Maori village) at Whakarewarewa. (B, D)
Day 6: ROTORUA / NELSON (by air)
After breakfast transfer to Rotorua Airport and check-in. Rotorua / Nelson by air (VPLUSW fare – subject to availability). On arrival board your coach for an orientation tour of Nelson, concluding at the hotel. Our hotel is ideally located only a short stroll from Nelson’s main street and landmark Cathedral. There are a number of art studios and galleries nearby. The hotel features two restaurants, outdoor pool and health center with gymnasium and sauna. Free evening. (B)
Day 7: ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Today drive out through Richmond and Motueka to Kaiteriteri, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. Take a Scenic Cruise up the coastline viewing en-route the world-famous Split Apple Rock, New Zealand Fur Seals, golden sands and the turquoise waters of Anchorage, Bark Bay, Tonga Quarry, Awaroa and Totaranui Beach. Then drop off at Medlands Beach at 11.30am for a walk to Anchorage Beach. Scenic highlights en-route include South Head lookout, the famous Falls River swing-bridge and time permitting, Cleopatra’s Pool. At Anchorage, join a water taxi and return to Kaiteriteri then travel by coach back to Nelson. Walking distance: 10.5-kms / walking time is approximately 4-hours. Walking is optional. (B)
NB: Itinerary may be modified on the day. The above start and finish times are observed but the operator reserve the right to modify the day after consultation with guests and consideration of weather and tidal conditions. Other travelers may join.
Day 8: NELSON / PUNAKAIKI / HOKITIKA (325-kms / 202-miles)
Breakfast and check out. Drive south through the lovely Waimea Valley, once well known for the growing of tobacco. Continue south through rugged and remote bush covered mountains. The road follows the Buller River towards the coast. Enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Buller Gorge before reaching the West Coast. Continue down the coast to the small settlement of Punakaiki on the edge of the Paparoa National Park. Punakaiki is renowned for its wild, rugged coastline and the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes. These stratified limestone stacks are an extraordinary monument of nature. There are various scenic walks and hiking opportunities in this beautiful isolated area.
From Punakaiki travel south through Greymouth to the small town of Hokitika. Visit a Greenstone Factory at Hokitika where a local jade-like stone, highly prized by pre-European Maori , is crafted into the most exquisite jewellery. Our hotel is situated near the beach. (B)
Day 9: PUNAKAIKI / FOX GLACIER (247-kms/153-miles)
Follow the coast south through Greymouth which is the largest town on the West Coast then continue south stopping to see a Greenstone Factory at Hokitika where a local jade-like stone, highly prized by pre-European Maori, is crafted into the most exquisite jewelry. Afterwards, drive south through forests and farmlands with the mighty Southern Alps rise sharply to the east while to the west there are vistas of the Tasman Sea. Pass the Franz Josef Glacier and 30 minutes later arrive at Fox Glacier.
Our accommodation is in a modern B & B hotel, previously known as Te Weheka Lodge, which has just 20 well-appointed en-suite guest rooms with super king beds and tea and coffee making facilities. Each room has a private balcony with views over the lower Fox Valley and Cook River Valley. (B)
Day 10: FOX GLACIER
Day at leisure to view the Fox Glacier (subject to weather conditions), walk in the rainforest or perhaps try a heli hike into the Southern Alps (optional extra). (B)
Day 11: FOX GLACIER / WANAKA / QUEENSTOWN (381 kms)
Today drive south by private vehicle through magnificent rainforests passing the Fox Glacier and some pretty bush-fringed lakes before turning inland and crossing the Haast Pass through the Southern Alps. Descend past glacial Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to Wanaka township on the eastern shores of the lake. Continue past Lake Dunstan, across Central Otago sheep country and through the Kawarau Gorge into Queenstown. Arrive Queenstown in the early evening.
Our hotel is situated a short walk up a hill from the town centre. (B)
Day 12: DART RIVER WILDERNESS SAFARI
This morning, private transfer around Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy. At 8:40 am report for a Dart River Wilderness Safari. This is more than a jetboat ride – each safari is a total wilderness experience into Mt Aspiring National Park World Heritage area. This journey into ‘Middle Earth’ combines 1½-hours of jet boating amidst the spectacular scenery of the Southern Alps; a gentle walking ancient forests amidst birdsong and cultural heritage and a back road journey by 4-wheel-drive vehicle through the high country farmland and forests around Paradise, film location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy (3 hours duration plus travel time – other travellers may be on board). In the early afternoon, return to Queenstown. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure.
Dine this evening at the Skyline Restaurant from where there are panoramic views across the lake and surrounding mountains. Access is by aerial gondola. Return coach transfers included.
Day 13: MILFORD SOUND DAY EXCURSION (598-kms)
Breakfast at hotel, then at 6:30 am depart by private vehicle. Travel around Lake Wakatipu and through Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound. Fiordland National Park, part of the UNESCO Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, is one of the great wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere. The scenery is spectacular with lofty mountains and deep valleys carved out by Ice Age glaciers. There are clear rushing streams and leaping waterfalls set in magnificent native rainforest.
At 12:30 pm board the Milford Wanderer for a Nature Cruise down Milford Sound past towering Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea. Enjoy the stunning scenery of cascading waterfalls, dense rainforest, steep cliff faces and marine life that inhabits these waters. Picnic box lunch is included. Your nature guide will give a commentary on the interesting features of the area.
3:00 pm The boat returns to Milford Wharf. Board the coach and retrace your journey back to Queenstown traveling via the Cleddeau Gorge, Homer Tunnel, and the lovely Eglinton Valley. Arrive Queenstown at approximately 8.00 pm. (B, L)
Day 14: QUEENSTOWN
Breakfast at the hotel. Free day for your own choice of tours and activities. (B)
Suggested optional activities include (can be pre-booked at extra cost):
- A thrilling ride through the canyons of the Shotover River on the Shotover Jet
- Take a private or small group wine tour of the premier wineries in the area – with the opportunity to meet a local wine-maker.
- Join Nomad Safari’s for a 4-wheel drive excursion to see unique filming locations used in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy.
- Take a guided Lakeshore Forest & Bird Walk along Lake Wakatipu.
- Cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard the vintage steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak High Country Station. Here enjoy a delicious buffet dinner in the Colonel’s Homestead followed by an entertaining farm show.
- For a thrill, try bungee jumping, sky-diving or white water rafting!
- Other opportunities include horse-riding, golf, fly-fishing, and scenic flights by helicopter.
Day 15: QUEENSTOWN / AUCKLAND / DEPART
Breakfast at the hotel. Day at leisure until transfer to Queenstown Airport. (B)
Fly from Queenstown to Auckland. Arrive Auckland Domestic Terminal. Take the courtesy airport shuttle bus to the International Terminal. Depart Auckland on flight to US. Arrive in US on the same day.