If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand and are looking at one of our small group guided tours as an option, you’ll find this page really helpful to work out the differences between the tours you see on our website.
We know it can be overwhelming when you’re planning a big overseas trip, so many places you want to see and so many tours to choose from. So maybe you’ve had a look at a few tour companies and have decided our friendly, small group, family owned style is for you, and now you have to figure out the difference between our six tours!
This page is to help you do exactly that, tell you clearly what the difference is between the tours we offer and what you’ll see (and not see) on each.
The way our tours work is that our Kakapo 21 Day tour is our main tour, our most popular trip by far, and designed specially to give visitors who come to New Zealand for 3 weeks a really in depth look at the country, with an itinerary which takes in all the places you’ve heard of and don’t want to miss as well as lots of secret off the beaten track spots. We’ll talk more about the Kakapo tour later, but the main thing to remember is that the Kakapo is our most comprehensive tour, visiting all the best spots in the country from North to South, and the other tours visit some of the places and regions the Kakapo goes, but not all. They travel the same route as the Kakapo, but only a portion of the route, there are some destinations and experiences which you’ll miss out on doing a shorter tour.
Example - Our Kaka 17 Day Tour is Day 5-21 of the Kakapo Tour itinerary.
Here’s a handy summary of the different areas our small group tours go to, and the areas you’ll miss out on if you’re on a shorter tour.
|Tour||Northland||Rotorua, Tongariro, Wellington||
Marlborough, Abel Tasman, Kaikoura, Mt. Cook
|Queenstown, Milford Sound||Wanaka, West Coast, Arthur's Pass|
|Kakapo 21 Day Tour||
Kaka 17 Day Tour
|Kakariki 16 Day Tour||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Kiwi 12 day Tour||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Kea 7 Day Tour||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Kotare 4 Day Tour||Yes||No||No||No||No|
MoaTrek Tour Route Map
Here’s a route map showing the itinerary of all six of our New Zealand Small Group tours.
This is a big question and often one of the most important decisions for your trip. Most of us have some kind of time constraint when we travel and we know many of our guests will spend from 2-4 weeks in New Zealand. Which is why we designed our tours to fit nicely into these kind of itineraries.
What will I see and what can I do on the Kakapo 21 Day Tour? And what will I miss out on if I’m on a shorter tour?
We’ll split the country into regions and give you a quick rundown of the main spots we visit and the experiences our guests tell us they love.
This is the area to the North of Auckland. As we’re in the Southern hemisphere the northern parts of the country are the warmest, we actually call it “the winterless north”.
Lots of Kiwis love to holiday in Northland, there are beautiful beaches, coastline and islands dotted all over the place. It’s got a real summer holiday feel at any time of the year, there are no big cities and people are super welcoming and friendly.
Northland is also known as “the birthplace of the nation” as it’s where the country of New Zealand came into existence with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. So if you’re a history buff and want to get a real feel for the early days of New Zealand then you’ll love Northland .
Our favourite spots in Northland:
Matakohe Kauri Museum, Tane Mahuta & the Waipoua Forest, Hokianga Harbour, Paihia, Waitangi, Russell and the whole Bay of Islands.
Our favourite experiences in Northland, included in our tours:
Guided tour of Tane Mahuta the giant Kauri tree, sunset drinks on the deck in Omapere, Hokianga harbour crossing & sandboarding, guided tour at Waitangi Treaty House and Museum, Bay of Islands & Hole in the Rock cruise.
Optional experiences guests love:
Visiting the first capital of New Zealand, Russell, and walking to Flagstaff Hill.
MoaTrek small group tours which visit Northland:
The rest of the North Island from Auckland heading south includes Rotorua, the Māori culture capital of New Zealand and also the central North Island geothermal area, Great Lake Taupo, World Heritage Tongariro National Park and our super cool capital city Wellington.
There are three really unique features to visiting this part of the North Island, which you won’t see anywhere else in New Zealand.
- Māori Culture. Rotorua is really the epicentre of the Māori Culture universe and is home to institutions like the New Zealand Māori Art & Crafts Institute, which promote and foster Māori culture in many different ways. You can also visit places like Ohinemutu Marae which is a living Māori Village with some unique representations of the merging of western religion and Māori Culture.
- The geothermal areas and volcanic landscapes. From Rotorua to Lake Taupo is the geothermal heart of the North Island and there are lots of places you can see and experience this, from Kuirau Park in the centre of Rotorua to Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland and the volcanic moonscapes of Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park.
- The coolest little capital city in the World - Wellington. Wellington is a hybrid of New Zealand history, culture and politics with great food and coffee. The city centre is also really compact, ideal for walking and cycling. A visit to our national museum Te Papa will be something you’ll always remember and the globally recognized conservation sanctuary Zealandia is highly recommended.
Our favourite North Island experiences, included in our tours:
A visit to a working Kiwifruit orchard, sailing on Lake Rotoiti to private hot pools, hosted lunch with local Māori guides at Lake Tarawera, guided visit to Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, walking in Tongariro National Park.
North Island Optional Experiences our guests love:
Rotorua Canopy tours (ziplining), Te Puia Maori concert and feast, guided e biking in Wellington, Zealandia eco sanctuary.
The Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton.
Making the ferry crossing on the Cook Strait between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island is always a highlight for our guests. So much more than just a ferry crossing it’s a stunning 3.5 hour scenic cruise of Wellington Harbour, the Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds. The Interislander is included in all our tours which visit Wellington.
MoaTrek tours which visit Rotorua, Tongariro National Park & Wellington:
For the purpose of explaining our tour itineraries we’ll split the South Island into three sections, the first being from the very top of the South Island through to the high country of Mt Cook and surrounds.
The unique areas of this part of the South Island, which you won’t see anywhere else in New Zealand are:
- Marlborough Wine Country. Our most famous wine region and home of the world famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Visiting a winery for lunch and tasting is a must here.
- Abel Tasman National Park. With its combination of pristine coastline, white sand beaches and native forest a day out in Abel Tasman is always a highlight. The excellent water taxi service up and down the coast makes it easy to combine a visit to the park with a day walk of whatever distance suits you.
- Kaikoura Marine Life. The deep ocean trenches just off the coast of Kaikoura make it a perfect place for Whale or Dolphin viewing, or Kayaking with Seals. Of course the seafood is great here too!
- Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Home to our highest mountain and longest glacier, staying overnight in Mt Cook village means this alpine wonderland is literally on your doorstep and there are lots of short walks or guided glacier experiences to get you right out amongst it in a safe and easy way.
- The South Island High Country. The landscapes of the South Island High Country, from Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki all the way down over the Lindis Pass and through the Kawarau Gorge into the Wakatipu will have you working your camera overtime. Million dollar views round every corner.
Our favourite South Island spots, included in our tours:
The Marlborough Sounds & Marlborough Wine Country, Abel Tasman National Park, Kaikoura, Mt Cook National Park and the South Island high country.
Our favourite South Island experiences, included in our tours:
The Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton, lunch and wine tasting in Marlborough, Abel Tasman Cruise or Cruise / Walk day trip, home hosted lunch at Akaunui Homestead.
South Island optional experiences our guests love:
Kaikoura Whalewatch, Kaikoura Sunset Sea Kayak, Glacier Explorers on the Tasman Glacier lake, short walks in Mt Cook National Park.
Southern hospitality at Akaunui Homestead
One place that we stop on all our South Island tours and have the hardest time getting people to leave is our home hosted lunch at Akaunui Homestead in Canterbury. Our friends Ian & Diana have been welcoming our guests like family to their home for years, we’ve met all the kids, grand kids and pets now!
MoaTrek tours which visit Marlborough, Abel Tasman, Kaikoura and Aoraki Mt Cook National Park:
Two places which are on everyone’s bucket list and of course ALL of our South Island tours visit these magical spots. Our longer tours spend 3 nights in Queenstown and include plenty of time for guests to try out all the famous adventure activities on offer, it's always so much fun when everyone gets back together to compare stories. Stunning scenery, literally hundreds of different activities to choose from and a great dining scene guarantees a memorable time for everyone.
Many New Zealand tours stay in Queenstown and build in time for activities and so do we, but how our guests experience Milford Sound is quite unique and something that guests tell us again and again is a highlight of their trip.
Experience the Milford by Land, Sea and Air all in the same day
The Milford Road is one of the world’s great drives and you won’t want to miss it, but with many tour companies it’s a 12 hour day as you have to drive in and drive out. It’s a long way, so what MoaTrek guests love is that after their Milford Sound Cruise we take the stunning flight over the Fiordland back to Queenstown and arrive back at our downtown accommodation with plenty of time to explore and enjoy even more of Queenstown.
A free day to experience the best of Queenstown
One way we sum up Queenstown is to say that you could travel there with three generations of your family and everyone would find something they have always wanted to do. There’s so much on offer, from the famous adventure activities like bungy jumping and jet boating to scenic delights like cruising on Lake Wakatipu or the Dart River jet-boat and easy adventure activities like e biking around the wineries or a day walk on the Routeburn track, there’s something for everyone, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, foodies and shoppers alike.
MoaTrek tours which visit Queenstown & Milford Sound:
The last section of the South Island we’ll cover to help you understand where our different tours go is Wanaka and the West Coast. Starting with the huge glacial lakes of Wanaka & Hawea, then following the World Heritage Highway over the Haast Pass into Glacier Country then up to Punakaiki.
What’s unique about Wanaka & the West Coast?
- Wanaka has the same stunning scenery of Queenstown, but is a bit smaller and more relaxed. We love staying a few minutes out of town right on the Lakefront, with easy walking and cycling paths right there.
- Beaches, Rainforest & Glaciers. The West Coast rainforest, glacier country and “kettle lakes” are found nowhere else in New Zealand. There aren’t many places in the world you can walk on the beach, in a rainforest and up to a glacier in the same day. But on the West Coast, easy.
- Get off the beaten track. There are a few little gems on the Coast we love, places that are just too far enough off the beaten track for big coaches and most visitors, but the kind of places we love sharing with guests. A couple of our favourites like this are Okarito Lagoon and the Nile River Valley. You’ll see what we mean when you’re there.
- Limestone carved valleys and ancient rock formations. The top of the West Coast around Punakaiki and Paparoa National Park is not on the itinerary for many tour companies but one of our absolute favourite spots on tour. We love staying right on the beach in Punakaiki and waking to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach and exploring the limestone river valleys draped in ferns and native palms, you’d almost expect to see a Pterodactyl flying towards you, it looks positively Jurassic.
Our favourite West Coast spots, included in our itineraries:
All the short walks along the Haast Pass and the World Heritage Highway, Franz Josef Glacier & Okarito Lagoon, Punakaiki & the Pancake Rocks.
Our favourite West Coast Short Walks:
Ship Creek, Lake Matheson, Franz Josef Glacier Valley, Cape Foulwind.
West Coast Optional Experiences our guests love:
Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hiking, Okarito Lagoon Wildlife Cruise, Nile River Underworld Rafting, “Johnny’s Journey” 4WD Adventure.
MoaTrek tours which visit the West Coast:
We hope this guide has been helpful for working out the difference between the six small group tour itineraries we offer and helping you find the right one for your New Zealand “Trip of a Lifetime”.
If you’ve got any questions about our tours, or would like to go ahead and book your trip talk to one of the friendly MoaTrek team now.