Kiwi Adventure Tour: Akaroa, Waitomo Caves, Milford Sound & More

A 12 day trip to New Zealand 
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Extinct volcanoes encircle the water to make a stunning pool of emerald blue. The mountains undulate and create a stunning bay. A frozen river sits between two mountains slowly inching its way toward the Tasman Sea. You press your nose to the local Maori chief and are welcomed into the meetinghouse as one of the tribe. This is not just New Zealand, this is the entire Kiwi experience, where your journey stands beyond the visual and sits on the grounds of ineffable. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown, Franz Josef, Christchurch

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Ready Yourself For New Zealand

Depart from home and ready yourself for the exceptional adventure of New Zealand. Whether summer, autumn, winter, or spring, New Zealand is prime for exploration. The scent of evergreen comes to your mind. The vast ocean sits calmly below you. You dream of boats sailing along the horizon. Soon the whole of New Zealand will become a reality. From the southern glaciers to the northern bays, you will leave no mountain unturned and no shore untouched as you venture through the North and South Islands, experiencing all that the country has to offer.

Day 2: Over the Dateline

Fly over the International Date Line and propel yourself forward one full day. The sun seems to shine through the window faster, filling the plane with bright, clean light above the clouds. The ocean lies below, the serene water glistening in the sunlight. You are one step closer to the bright green hills of New Zealand, the lush trees and pristine shores. The day will be given back to you on your return trip home, but you are more engrossed with the thought of New Zealand’s coming majesty, the smell of roasted lamb sitting in your mind and making your mouth water.

What’s Included: accommodation

Day 3: Arrive In the City of Sails

Today you will arrive in Auckland to the vision of beautiful forests, open water, and sailboats drifting through the sea. Known as the “City of Sails,” the two harbors that flank Auckland give home to an incredible array of boats that sway in the calm waters of the largest city in New Zealand. The city inhabits a seven-mile volcanic isthmus that separates the harbors and gives the surrounding area lush forests, mountainous terrain, and a collection of islands sprawled out around the water.

Auckland is a great place to leisurely explore much of what the city has to offer. Take a walk along Queen Street, essentially the central hub of Auckland activity stretching about two miles, from Auckland Harbour to Newton Road, heaving with shops, restaurants, cafes, arcades and side streets with unique trinkets and tasty treats. The breeze blows in the cool, salty scent of the ocean. From designer clothes to trendy coffee shops, exploring Queen Street is a fun and relaxed adventure that will settle you into the Kiwi life.

For a unique experience wander just off of Queen Street to Rare Book’s on High Street. Open the door and be absorbed by the scent of leather bound books and history. Some rare bookstores carry a small selection, making browsing difficult to those that just like to be around the passed down history of antiques. However, Rare Book’s on High Street is known as a treasure trove of rare and collectable books, so if you just feel like holding a first edition explorers’ journal filled with his exploits through the Pacific Ocean, or have been after a first edition Don Quixote for years, this store opens up, welcomes you in, and gets you involved with the Kiwi spirit.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 4: An Adventure to Rotorua

Depart from Auckland and watch the Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere, fade into the horizon. When making your way to Rotorua, the lush land of Waikato lingers outside your window. Cows graze along the grass. Horses prance along the fences. Kiwi orchards line the distance, the fuzzy rind of the fruit blending into the tree’s bark. Watch the evergreen scenery pass along the road until you stop at the Waitomo Caves. Climb aboard the skiff and drift through the dark waterway that carves through the cavern. A waterfall trickles in the distance. The darkness gives way to a speckled blue light dangling from around the cave and reflecting in the water. The light comes from the glowworms that call the cave home and light the night-like darkness for themselves and for visitors. They look like an assembly of stars strung throughout the cavern, lingering over the still water. As you make your way out of the wondrous cave you will continue your journey through the Mamaku Ranges and down to Rotorua.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation, tour

Day 5: The Cultural Capital

Rotorua claims the title of New Zealand’s “Cultural Capital,” boasting an indelible connection to its Maori past, along with its history as a luxury resort destination due to its thermal pools. The cultural history, whether European or Maori, shines in Rotorua from its extensive spa culture to the Maori tribes that educate, locals and visitors alike, on the traditions of their people. Today you will explore the city through a variety of its highlights including the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. The park is surrounded by mist that drifts from the geysers. Home to the largest geysers in New Zealand, Pohutu, meaning “big splash,” the geyser erupts often, sometimes 15 times a day. Pohutu, along with the surrounding geysers, were once at risk of extinction due to the redirection of the area’s steam into the city as a source of heat. However, this practice was ceased in the late 1980’s giving the geysers and Pohutu a chance to revive and thrive.

In the evening you will enjoy an incredible display of Maori culture. Upon entering the land be prepared for the wero, the challenge, issued by one of the guardians of the land. Their voice raised high, their staff raised in defense. Their eyes almost bulge from their skull as they ask what your business is for coming. You answer them, making sure you keep eye contact the entire time before you are welcomed into the meetinghouse. The carvings along the posts are imitations of Maori spirits, their masks decorated with swirls and bulging tongues. Greet the host with a hongi, the traditional greeting of pressing your noses together to show that you come in peace, you are a friend and may consider yourself one of the family. Sit in the meetinghouse, feast on the hangi, a feast that has been roasted in a pit for hours, the meat succulent, falling off of the bone, the vegetables hardy and rich. The cries of the Haka, the traditional war dance meant to intimidate opponents and often performed before an All Blacks rugby, fills the meetinghouse. The food is delectable. The company is friendly. And the experience is unforgettable.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, lunch

Day 6: From Cultural City to a Queen’s Town

Today you will make your way from the Cultural Capital to the alpine city of Queenstown. The city sits comfortably between the opulent beauty of Lake Wakatipu and the foothills of the Remarkables Mountain range. Bob’s peak is the closest peak to the city with a gondola is prepared to take you up to the mountaintop and offers a spectacular panorama of Queenstown. The lake laps gently at the sand. The streets quintessentially boast a mountainous village; streets are filled with antique lamps that flicker in the setting sun. The buildings boast a combination of wooden pillars and stone facades. Whether walking around the city or viewing it from the exceptional vistas that surround it, Queenstown’s beauty is never understated and always present, its majesty sitting between, and surrounded by, New Zealand’s unparalleled nature.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer

Day 7: The Sound of Silence

Put on your explorer’s shoes and get ready for the breathtaking experience of the Milford Sound, located in Fiord National Park. Upon entering Milford Sound, the soft breeze blows along the water’s edge. The smell of pure seawater and untouched greenery fills the air. The sweet sound of natural silence surrounds you. The mountains that enclose the area reflect in the serene water. Climb onto the boat and begin your journey through the pristine site. Waterfalls careen down mountain; the crash of the falls echoes through the air. The mist rises from the water’s surface, ripples slowly, and then drifts away from the heart of the crash. The craggy cliff face sits gray and wet behind the falls. The lush green that surrounds the water shines next to the rocky display. The rolling mountain peaks hover around the sound and dwarf the boat. The waterfall fades as you glide to the seal colony.

Lazing on the large rocks around Milford Sound, the seals soak up the sun and snuggle up to the warm fur of one another. Their barks jump out at you. Their teeth show tiny and sharp when they yawn. As you float past it looks like they’re waving when they roll over, their fin raised into the air to dry the underside of their fur. Seals, dolphins, waterfalls, penguins, and so much more call Milford Sound home, a home that you wouldn’t mind spending more time in and experiencing it all.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, lunch

Day 8: The Inspiring Mt Aspiring

The beauty of the South Island must be explored on land and sea. Just as with Milford Sound, the stunning life that New Zealand contains is built into mountain ranges and along the riverbanks. Today you will see more of New Zealand’s incredible history, both natural and manmade, on a jet-boat tour of the Dart River. Zoom into Mt Aspiring National Park, the water a turquoise blue and fed by glaciers, the mountains often blanketed in snowy white. The thin trees and lush forest stand out along the riverbanks and look like something out of the Lord of the Rings movies, because the area was used for various locations in the trilogy. The wind bites at your cheeks. The splash of cool water touches your hands. The mountains stretch alongside the river and it’s hard to imagine what your life was like before New Zealand.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, lunch

Day 9: Leave A Queen Gain a Glacier

Depart from the beautiful alpine city of Queenstown for the quaint beauty of Franz Joseph and its stunning glacier. Pass along the Kawarau Gorge, the river below constantly shifting between sapphire blue and emerald green. Take a moment to walk along the suspension bridge for a gander into the gorge. The trees that surround the gorge fill the air with the scent of pine. The sound of the rushing river eclipses the passing cars and shuffling people. Continue on to Franz Joseph to settle into the village-like comforts and to see the stunning Fox Glacier.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 10: Glacier at Leisure

Franz Joseph has a small-town atmosphere surrounded by an expanse of history. The Tasman Sea borders the west coast of the area while the Southern Alps linger in the east. A medley of uncharted lakes, glaciers, old mining towns, and mountain passes emboldens the enduring beauty of this area, an area for you to explore at your leisure. Visit Fox Glacier, set frozen between two mountains like a river frozen in motion. The crisp smell of snow fills your lungs. Join a tour and traverse the glacier. With the crunch of the snow beneath your feet, duck through the ice tunnels, an airy cylinder that carries you through the glacier. The mountains’ prominent white peaks roll through the distance. From the coastline to the foothills, explore, relax, sightsee, and enjoy.

What’s Included: accommodation

Day 11: Training the Alps

Bid farewell to the glaciers and Tasman Sea as you board the TranzAlpine train and begin your journey to Christchurch. The windows stretch along the train-cab to offer you the best view possible as you wind your way through the incredible Southern Alps and make your way from the west coast to the east coast. Considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, the cab smells of fresh coffee and sweet brioches. The foothills of the mountains round and stretch into quiet peaks. The train whistles and gently rocks as it continues along the tracks. The colors shift from green, to gray, to white. The terrain shifts from trees, to craggy cliffs, to snow-topped mountains. The window is cold against your fingers. The cab is warm and comfortable as the Alps begin to drift into the distance and you enter the city of Christchurch.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer

Day 12: Volcano Bays

Today you will journey through the incredible majesty of Akaroa in the Banks Peninsula. The lush farmland of the area flourishes as you make your way to Akaroa. The land is incredibly green and fertile. Sheep graze along the fabulous farmland creating specks of white in the green distance. Enjoy a tour and tasting of Berry’s Bay Cheese. Watch the guide and cheese monger slice into a full wheel of cheese, weighing an average of 65 pounds. The cheddar has a sharp flavor and creamy texture that coats your tongue.

Continue on to Akaroa where you will tour the bay that is flush with extinct volcanoes that have helped shape the bay and give fertility to the lush, undulating landscape. The water is opulent and serene. The land is quiet and effervescent. The villages that line the coast are historic, some even boasting French origins, and the mouthwatering scent of fresh bread often fills the streets. Watch out for the Hector’s dolphins that are often spotted playing in the boat’s wake. Jumping along the emerald water, Hector’s dolphins are the smallest known dolphin, with shifting colors of a bright gray body to deep black around its dorsal fin and eyes. It is as playful and boisterous as its bottlenose cousins, and just as curious.

Return to Christchurch in the late afternoon with the knowledge that your tour in Akaroa concludes your Kiwi exploration. Tomorrow you will board your flight and return home. However, your time around New Zealand has shown you the wonders that are present in many people’s backyard. Your journey home is not the end of your Kiwi exploration but is the beginning of your next adventure, instilled in you by the Kiwi spirit and the landscape that could do no less than captivate and inspire you. 

What’s Included: tour, accommodation, lunch


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.