Picture this: you are in a pretty seaside town, where down-to-earth kiwis greet you like they’ve known you forever. Next minute you’ve travelled back in time – Maori are cooking a hangi in a traditional earth-oven. Now it’s like you’re in the middle of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, where threatening dark waters mirror snow-tipped mountains. Born & bred in New Zealand, we know that a top-notch New Zealand vacation includes experiencing all of these things, and more. To help you plan your trip ‘down under’, we’ve put together what we think is the Ultimate NZ Itinerary.
Start in Auckland, our biggest city and home to world-class restaurants, boutique shopping and the iconic Sky Tower, with sweeping views of the cityscape and yacht-dotted harbor. All flights from the USA or further afar land here.
North of Auckland, some of New Zealand’s most colourful history and wonderful seascapes lie in the Bay of Islands. Wander the historic streets of Russell, the first capital of New Zealand, swim with dolphins, cruise to the word-famous Hole in the Rock and visit the significant Waitangi Treaty grounds.
Travel south, heading inland to explore the geothermic wonderland of Rotorua, where geysers splash up from the earth and Maori culture thrives. Then journey to Taupo and on to Tongariro National Park, where three active volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu – stand sentinel.
Visit the Hawke’s Bay before a picturesque drive down to the bottom of the North Island will bring you to “the coolest little capital in the world,” as eloquently put by Lonely Planet. From Wellington, travel on the Interislander Ferry, across the Cook Strait on one of the most scenic ferry crossings in the world.
With your feet back on dry land, you’ll need to re-hydrate with Marlborough’s first-rate Sauvignon Blanc, before carrying on to Abel Tasman National Park – home to golden-sand beaches, rocky coastal headlands and a fur seal colony, this is heaven for lovers of accessible coastline.
Journey to Kaikoura – an animal-lover’s paradise and home to whales, dolphins, fur seals and albatross; with the coastline here lying directly under the craggy Kaikoura Mountain Range.
From the coast, we would recommend that you travel inland to Sir Edmund Hillary’s training ground, Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Consider booking in a helicopter ride in the morning for incredible vistas of jagged peaks and breathtaking glacial environments.
Afterwards, continue south to Queenstown - the adventure capital of New Zealand. If you’re really brave try the world-renowned Shotover Jet. A short ride from Queenstown is New Zealand’s hidden gem. Milford Sound will take even the most seasoned traveler’s breath away, with its dark waters, cascading waterfalls and soaring granite peaks.
The Ultimate New Zealand Itinerary isn’t complete without a visit to the historic gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown, where gold-mining comes to life beside the Arrow River. And don’t miss the vibrant lakeside town of Wanaka – take a leisurely bike or kayak or sample some exquisite Central Otago wine.
On the West Coast of the South Island lies Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers – tumbling down through the mountains to the rainforest below, don’t miss including a visit in your New Zealand itinerary.
Travelling up the West Coast, visit artisan galleries in Hokitika, admire some of nature’s best work at the Pancake Rocks and finish your vacation by descending through the Canterbury Plains to the colourful city of Christchurch.
Are you inspired by our Ultimate NZ Itinerary? Let us bring it to life with our 23-Day Kakapo Small Group New Zealand Tour. Travelling from North to South, you’ll experience all of the above places and activities and more. Learn about the Kakapo Tour here, or contact us directly.