Escape To New Zealand
New Zealand is renowned for being somewhere you can truly escape and unwind, becoming immersed in nature while experiencing our relaxed way of living.
Our incredible landscapes, fascinating culture and the anticipation of adventure naturally make for a popular travel destination. This itinerary has been carefully crafted to offer a more unique experience, allowing you to bypass many of the crowds, journey lesser-known travel routes and partake in new activities that are not typically listed in the guidebooks.
With superb, locally-run accommodation and activity providers included throughout the two-week tour, you’ll travel responsibly and give back to communities while experiencing the most stunning scenery and authentic interactions New Zealand has to offer.
Days 1-2: The city of sails and Auckland’s Island neighbour
Your journey begins in New Zealand's largest city, where you'll ease into your trip by avoiding the traffic entirely in favour of exploring Auckland on foot. Your private walking tour with a highly experienced local guide will take you through the city at your own pace, allowing you to experience many hidden gems from local galleries to artisan goods and trendy boutiques. In the afternoon, experience the thrill of sailing Auckland Harbour in a yacht that was once part of the prestigious America's Cup. Join the crew in operating the vessel, or sit back, watch the action and enjoy the view.
The following day, see the harbour from new heights as you take off in a seaplane, gliding over the stunning islands of the Hauraki Gulf before landing on the tranquil waters of Man O’ War Bay at Waiheke Island. Indulge in award-winning wines and sumptuous food on the beachfront at the remote Man O’ War Vineyard, then return to the mainland to explore the lush Tawharanui Regional Park. Here, you can swim in the Pacific Ocean, enjoy a picnic dinner at sunset and venture into the forest at dark for the chance to spot the elusive kiwi in its natural habitat.
Days 3-4: Nature and culture collide
You’ll wind your way south through the idyllic New Zealand countryside to reach a privately-owned glowworm cave, nestled on a sheep and cattle farm. Meander through the cave on foot and on a comfortable inflatable raft as the cave becomes lit up by thousands of tiny, radiant glowworms. Afterwards, stroll along a dry gorge to the Cave of the Spirit where you’ll walk among ancient stalactites, stalagmites, fossils and sinkholes.
The next day, prepare for a cultural experience like no other as your personal guide takes you on a special journey, retracing the footprints of their ancestors, the original Maori guides, who travelled the same paths over 150 years ago. Learn about the wonders of the Maori culture, its strong traditions and spellbinding stories as you travel to a village outside of Rotorua to interact with local people in a geothermal setting. Enjoy a delicious, traditionally cooked Maori lunch, then soak in your personal natural hot pool on the lake’s edge.
Days 5-6: The deep South
Day five will take you to a place that most New Zealanders have not had the privilege of visiting—our most southern inhabited island. Stewart Island locals will share with you their simpler, slower lifestyle, as your accommodation hosts take you on a tour by road to learn about life on the island, past and present. Hear about the island’s earliest Maori inhabitants, the whalers and sealers, the saw-millers and the fishermen as well as what it is like to raise a family today among a population of only 400. After dark, you’ll have another chance to see the native kiwi through exclusive access to private land where the nocturnal birds are known to feed at night.
The next day, you’ll take a boat to the little-known Ulva Island, a sanctuary for native flora and fauna and a picture of what New Zealand was like prior to the introduction of foreign species. Hear from the locals working tirelessly to keep the island predator free, explore the flourishing forest and see many threatened bird species thrive on the lush island safe-haven.
Days 7-8: Cruising the coasts
After a short boat transfer along Steward Island’s stunning coastline, set forth on our most southern ‘Great Walk’—a hike from Rakiura National Park forest to Lee Bay. Discover the former Maori Beach sawmill settlement, watch a variety of bird life and enjoy the novelty of exploring New Zealand’s southernmost island. In the afternoon, you’ll fly back to the mainland and travel the lesser-known coastal route into the Catlins, a dramatic, rugged and beautiful part of Southern New Zealand that encompasses so many of the spectacular landscapes New Zealand is known for.
Drive along the Catlins Coast at your own pace the next day, stopping where your interests are piqued—whether it be rainforest, waterfalls, beaches or farmland. With abundant wildlife and incredible natural beauty that cannot be put into words, this sparsely populated part of the country offers short walks aplenty throughout the wild and untouched coastal paradise.
Days 9-10: Boulders, penguins and castles
Arrive in Dunedin, the South Island’s second largest city, and stay within sight of our country’s only Castle, Larnach Castle. The afternoon will see you visit the beautiful Otago Peninsula, joining a local wildlife expert to witness tourism and conservation working together in harmony. Thanks to our highly knowledgeable guides, you’ll receive access to the best possible viewing locations that are little known to others, with opportunities to observe and photograph the peninsula’s incredible wildlife including Hooker's sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals and the royal albatross.
On day ten, you’ll continue north along the coast to one of New Zealand’s fastest growing travel destinations, the quaint town of Oamaru. After checking in to your historic homestead, you will be met by your private guide who will take you along the North Otago coast to the small hamlet of Moeraki to visit the 60-million-year old Moeraki Boulders—a fascinating collection of large round rocks situated close to the shoreline. Afterwards, head to the yellow-eyed penguin colony to view one of the world’s rarest penguin species and other marine wildlife including New Zealand fur seals, oyster catchers and other birds.
Days 11-12: The coast through the geopark to the lake
Begin your day by wandering the old streets of Oamaru, the best-preserved historic town in New Zealand. Your guide will take you through the Victorian Precinct, explaining the background to the impressive limestone buildings and their rich history. Afterwards, drive from the ocean towards the alps through the Waitaki Geopark, discovering a world formed by ancient oceans and rich in fossils. In your own time, marvel at the many unique geological and geomorphological features including Elephant Rocks—which has featured in many Hollywood movies—and the stunning Clay Cliffs.
The next day, spend time in spectacular Wanaka. A vibrant town set upon jaw-dropping scenery, Wanaka is a great alternative to the ever-bustling Queenstown. Cruise on Lake Wanaka to the remote Mou Waho Island where you’ll be guided through bush to reach a hidden gem—a secret lake perched at the island’s peak. Enjoy a quaint high tea overlooking both lakes while revelling in the vibrant birdsong and the magnificent panorama of the Southern Alps. You’ll have the opportunity to give back to this special island by planting a native tree, supporting the important ecosystem that is home to the Rare weka—a flightless bird that has been extinct on the mainland since the 1920s.
Days 13-14: Time to adventure
The last few days of your tour will begin on a high note as you rise early to catch a flight to the famous Milford Sound. You’ll soar over the stunning Southern Alps to a jaw-dropping view of the many glaciers and waterfalls, then cruise along the full length of the fiord by boat to the Tasman Sea. A spectacular experience no matter what the weather, you’ll be in a prime position to see seals, penguins and dolphins. Disembark the boat to explore the area by foot and get up close to the unique native flora including vibrant green ferns and mosses. Lastly, your guide will transfer you to the nearby town of Te Anau where you’ll spend the night in a beautiful and luxurious log cabin.
In the morning, experience more of the Fiordland region on the Upper Waiau River. Take a thrilling ride on a jet boat down the river then leisurely cycle 19 kilometres back to town on the Lake2Lake Cycle Trail, recently constructed upon the river’s banks.
Day 15: The scenic way home
On your final day, travel back to Queenstown Airport through the farmlands of the Te Anau Basin, the Mavora Conservation land and the glistening Mavora Lakes—which were used as filming locations in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. You’ll travel through the lunar-like landscape of the Von Valley and the rugged Mt Nicholas high country sheep station, then on to the Walter Peak station to board a vintage coalfire steamship for a cruise to Queenstown. Watch the stokers fuelling the fireboxes and hear the sound of the steam engines working as the TSS Earnslaw takes you across beautiful, glassy Lake Wakatipu—leaving you with one last treasured memory to keep forever from your beautiful journey through the land of the long white cloud.