Auckland, Waiheke, Rotorua, Wellington, Blenheim, Greymouth, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Luxury and exploration will highlight diverse landscapes and timeless adventures during your 14-day best of New Zealand tour. Tropical islands in the north will juxtapose the mist-covered fiords of the south. Vineyards will blanket the hills leading to dramatic coastlines. Glaciers will tumble through mountain passes and calve into glassy lakes. Maori culture and remarkable scenery will highlight history as you discover the best of the North and South islands.
Auckland – Exploring the Waterfront
Land in Auckland and you may find it hard to believe that this is New Zealand’s biggest city. Yachts lull in the harbor as hills poke up to dominate the cityscape. The waters are blue and inviting, and though a third of the country lives here the urban landscape is dwarfed by nature. This is just the beginning of the New Zealand experience as you have landed in a country where nature writes the script. Today it will be a coastline narrative as you check into your waterfront hotel and explore the promenade as popup cafes juxtapose with sailing yachts. Islands jut out along the horizon, and you will find the laid-back culture of a land cast adrift in the South Pacific.
Auckland – Day Trip to Waiheke Island
Giant ferns and lush forests greet you on Waiheke Island with the colors a rainbow of interior green tumbling towards coastal turquoise. It might not seem how you expected New Zealand to be as Waiheke is more of what you would expect elsewhere in the Pacific, perhaps on Fiji or even Hawaii. The island is just 45 minutes from Auckland and makes for a relaxed day trip, especially if you are battling a little with jet lag. Take the ferry, and then use the tourist bus to get around, hopping out at vineyards, beaches, and tiny towns. Many of the stops are connected by short, signposted trails, so you can walk through tropical nature and feel the silence of New Zealand.
Rotorua – The Movie Set and a Maori Evening
After two days exploring on your own, it will be time for your guide to take over. Driving south, you will cross strange volcanic hills as the cityscape soon gives way to a sheep-speckled vista. Hobbiton is hidden here, positioned so that nothing modern can be seen in any direction. Wander through the movie set, past the manicured hobbit gardens and circular doors, across a fictional town to the fictional Green Dragon Inn, where they serve very real Middle Earth beer. Hobbiton is a convenient stop on the journey to Rotorua, New Zealand’s most volcanically active town and the heartbeat of Maori culture.
At Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre the locals will come to greet you. Stamping their feet and exhaling loudly they will meet you in the traditional manner. Laying down a single feather, they make a show of peace. By picking up the feather, you accept their invitation. This is one of the only places in the country where you are allowed to enter a Maori meeting place, and once inside, you can join the Maori in song and dance before dining on a hangi meal. There is a reason that the Maori traditionally thrived here, and that is the volcanic thermals. Your dinner has been roasting naturally underground, while the geysers and mud pools are part of the people’s natural well being.
Rotorua – Outdoor Adventure and Mud Pools
Mountain bike trails cut through the indigenous forest while a lake invites you to go kayaking to a small island of natural hot springs and baths. Walking trails ascend past geysers as raging rivers cut through ferns, leading to a stunning grade IV rapid you can raft down. In bubbling mud pools you bathe a morning away while on another trail you witness flumes of water rising 20 meters into the air. Rotorua symbolizes the North Island’s volcanic and natural history and is a destination where the adventure can be adapted to your interests and energy levels. Your guide will meet you in the morning and plan a day based on your preferences with options to include cycling, walking, rafting, kayaking, and all of the therapeutic outdoor thermals.
Lake Taupo – Waterfalls and Geothermals
Dramatic geothermal activity continues to dominate as you travel towards Lake Taupo. Stop at Orakei Korako Cave to gaze upon craters of boiling mud. Gasp at a geyser, and then continue across the hills to Lake Taupo where the Huka Falls provide a surging, soul-stirring sight. A half-day guided transfer will leave you with a free afternoon to spend around the lake. You could take a boat cruise or go kayaking, or simply wander along the lakeshore and feast on the views. Backdropped by mountains and rolling to a laid-back rhythm, Lake Taupo is very much how you may have pictured a vacation in New Zealand.
Wellington – Culture and Character in the Capital
With only two weeks in New Zealand, you will save time by flying from Lake Taupo to Wellington, landing in the world’s southernmost little capital. Here you can wander through neighborhoods of small art galleries and quirky cafes, stopping to enjoy the flat white coffee that originated here, and then travel along the harbor towards the summit of Mount Victoria. The Museum of New Zealand is the best museum in the country and an essential afternoon excursion for a chance to follow the storyline through Maori and European settlers. Wellington has a superb dining scene, and your guide can make reservations at one of the city’s standout restaurants.
Blenheim – Marlborough Sounds and Wine Tasting
They often say that travel is about the journey rather than the destination, but in New Zealand, it is definitely about both. Take today as an example as you will cruise through Marlborough Sounds with a scenic ferry trip past dolphins and seals and majestic cliffs. Wind rushes past your ears, and there will be silence, plus that inspiring sense of adventure. Arrive in Picton, and then continue by road to Blenheim. As you travel, nature’s raw splendor will be replaced by vineyards, colorful streets, as you arrive to your farmhouse-style suite amid the grapes. Soon you will have forgotten the journey as you are sitting on a terrace to sample different wines, including the world-famous Sauvignon Blanc. Relaxing into the experience, you will find Blenheim to be a destination from a dream.
Abel Tasman National Park – The Beaches and Coastline
It will be back to the tropics today as you transfer to Abel Tasman National Park and a beachside boutique hotel. Part of the journey will be by road, with the second half on the water as a private speedboat takes you beneath the cliffs and the overhanging forest. Tiny gaps appear between the cliffs, and you will dive inside, cruising into tidal bays and coves. Here the turquoise waters reveal rays and reef sharks, while further along the coast you can find beaches completely cut off from the road as golden sands are shaded by 300-year-old trees. It will be out here that your hotel is located, and it is one of the very few hotels in the national park.
Greymouth – Blowholes and Paparoa
New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world for a road trip. Self drive vacations are extremely popular and there is no debating why. On such vast natural landscapes there is so much to experience along the way. The roads are never boring, and they make wilderness very accessible. One of the country’s great highlights is watching how the nature changes, while another is the sense of freedom and solitude. On a two-week vacation it is usually too much to drive the entire time, but doing it for four days provides a unique New Zealand travel experience.
The most spectacular road is along the South Island’s West Coast, from Nelson down to Queenstown. Almost the entire route is through national parks, and you will traverse four of them with Paparoa, Westland, Mount Coo and Mount Aspiring, as well as much of Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it will be a leisurely four-hour drive to Greymouth, passing through Buller Gorge with stops at the blowholes and pancake rocks of Punakaiki, the highlights of the mysterious Paparoa National Park. Take your time over the journey, arriving in a small coastal town that always provides a warm welcome to visitors.
Franz Josef Glacier – Heli Hike on a Glacier
Swathes of forest dominate the landscape as you continue your journey south. Break the journey in Hokitika and walk in the treetops before hugging the coastline to Franz Josef. In total, it will be 2 ½ hours by road, and you can comfortably arrive by lunchtime. This afternoon you will soar, taking a helicopter to the icy realm of Franz Josef Glacier. Strange ice sculptures will appear as ice tunnels glisten blue. Strapping on crampons, you will go for a hike, admiring how the glacier flows down into a forest. New Zealand really makes adventure accessible, and the heli-hike is a perfect example of this. Not only is a glacier in a rainforest, but you can feel your feet on the ice.
Wanaka – Mt. Aspiring National Park
Mountains rise higher as the road crosses ancient moraines, evidence of where the glaciers had once advanced to. Stop at Fox Glacier and walk along its shimmering blue frame before hitting New Zealand’s most spectacular road. The road leaves the coast, snaking across Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring national parks. Snowy summits reflect in numerous lakes as you traverse both mountain passes and rainforests. Waterfalls dot the scene, and the wilderness appears unending. On such an open road you could stop at thousands of places along the way with the final one hour into Wanaka particularly memorable. In total, it will be a four-hour drive to Wanaka, although it is best to take your time and make this a full-day trip.
Queenstown – Relaxing Along Lake Wakatipu
Spend some time exploring Wanaka this morning before weaving just one hour south to Queenstown. Vineyards and wild gorges dot this road, with Lake Wakatipu a welcoming sight after four days spent on the road. Queenstown is draped along this lake, a quaint town backdropped by incredible mountains. Check into your waterside hotel and spend your afternoon in Queenstown itself. There will be adventure in the form of famous bungee jumps and jet boat rides, plus mountain bikes and hiking trails for all levels. A more laid-back option is to take the cable car up the mountain and savor the views before dinner at one of Queenstown’s excellent harbor-front restaurants.
Milford Sound – Milford Sound Overnight Trip
Completing the journey along the West Coast, you will soon escape into the fjords on a guided overnight tour to Milford Sound. First travel three hours by road, passing icy escarpments on a remote road through Fjordland National Park. Board a boat in the early afternoon and then cruise alongside the increasingly vertiginous cliffs. Hundred-meter waterfalls gush from these cliffs and soon the landscape towers a kilometer above you. Milford is the narrowest and most dramatic of the New Zealand fjords, and you must spend the night to appreciate its true splendor.
Queenstown – Departure
Yesterday afternoon you cruised past basking seals, and you likely spotted dolphins in the water. Last night you were docked deep in the sound, surrounded by silence and the workings of nature. At night, you will not see much, although the solitude is superb. The great highlight of spending a night is waking up in the fjord as mist flutters through, and the cliffs emerge slowly, unfolding before your eyes. There are very few other boats, and you will sense a wilderness that has never been tamed. After a morning spent exploring more of Milford Sound, you will be transferred back to Queenstown for your outbound flight. Such a remote experience in nature should leave you in a very relaxed frame of mind for the journey back home.
- Ride a helicopter onto a glacier above a rainforest, and then take a walk across the ice
- Stroll around New Zealand’s lakes with Taupo, Wakatipu and Wanaka all featured during your two-week itinerary
- Escape into the ethereal landscape of Milford Sound on an intimate overnight cruise
- Feel the adventure of the road with a four-day self-drive route across New Zealand’s national parks
- Experience New Zealand’s volcanic history, including the Rotorua geysers, Punakaiki blowholes, and a bubbling mud pool spa
- Wander through the preserved movie set of Hobbiton
- Explore the tropical bliss of Waiheke, an island of beaches and vineyards just north of Auckland
- Connect with the Maori culture with a dramatic local welcome and hangi dinner at Te Hana Te Ao Marama Maori Cultural Centre
- Cruise the coastlines as these two weeks include boat trips in Marlborough Sounds and Abel Tasman National Park
- Relax into the characterful culture of modern New Zealand, particularly during your days in Blenheim and Wellington
- Gasp at the incredible Huka Falls, try the famous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and bask in the daily outdoor adventure
New Zealand’s dramatic landscapes will set the scene for an adventure like no other. Glaciers cascade through the rainforest and they are made accessible so that you can hike amid the ice sculptures. Sounds and fjords create a surreal realm, especially when they are explored on small boat tours. One day you will be bathing in mud pools, and then on another day, you will be exploring a lush tropical island. There are mountains, lakes, blowholes, vineyards, and waterfalls, and sometimes you will see all of these on the same day. When eventually reaching a city, you will find a character and spirit so different from other travel destinations. And at some point along the road, you will realize that the journey is just as important as the destination for a chance to feel the silence and solitude of a faraway land.
Handcrafted to celebrate the complete suite of New Zealand highlights, this two-week tour will take you from Auckland in the far north to Queenstown in the far south. The two main islands are wildly different, and you will spend roughly a week on each. Volcanic and pastoral, the North Island is a languid place to roam. Here you can connect with the Maori culture, go from tropical bliss to exploding geysers, and stop by Hobbiton along the way. The South Island is then dramatic with soaring peaks and a coastline of fjords. Nature really dominates here as you travel through the sounds, glaciers and a sense of the wild all around you.
Auckland is the obvious and easy place to start as you check into the city on your first day before a short day trip by ferry to Waiheke, a lush and tropical Pacific island. Stop at Hobbiton on route to two nights in Rotorua, where you will receive a traditional Maori welcome at the traditional home of Maori culture. Geysers and mud pools are among the other attractions, along with a chance to really get outdoors with hikes and bicycle rides. This theme continues in Lake Taupo before you fly to Wellington, the country’s capital city that abounds with character. On day seven, you will take the ferry to the South Island for a sublime journey through Marlborough Sounds for a night spent amid the vineyards of Blenheim.
Nature really dominates on the South Island, so you will spend day eight in Abel Tasman National Park, where indigenous forest hangs over delightful beaches and hidden bays. Then hit the road as a huge highlight of the New Zealand travel experience is to drive through the changing landscapes. The most impressive scenery is along the West Coast, and you will have four days with a rental vehicle with almost the entire journey in national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Drop by the Punakaiki blowholes, do a heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier, cross Mt Aspiring National Park, relax around Lake Wanaka, and reach Queenstown on day 12. An overnight cruise on Milford Sound will then bring your New Zealand adventure to a close. New Zealand is a region unlike any other; learn more by seeing how our partner New Zealand travel companies can personalize the experience for you.
$9,795 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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