Your mesmerizing New Zealand vacation begins today in the South Island! Enjoy a journey through Christchurch’s city centre onboard the beautifully restored Christchurch Tram. The driver will inform you about the city and its landmarks. With the day-long ticket, you can get on and off the tram as often as you please. Visit the colourful Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the evening. These gardens boast an impressive collection of both native and exotic New Zealand plants and a variety of other beautiful flora and fauna from around the world. Its traditional legacy is nicely upheld and is interestingly juxtaposed with contemporary art and sculpture exhibitions. Go to The Happening Bar and Kitchen for dinner. Located in the heart of the city, this European cuisine restaurant is an elegant dining destination where style meets substance.
Start the day early and head to the Christchurch train station. The 5-hour train journey aboard the TranzAlpine will take you to Greymouth. Regarded as one of the most scenic rail routes in the world, the train runs through some of the very stunning topographies of New Zealand. Travel through the dramatic contrast of lush green landscapes of the Alps on one side and dry beech forests and tussock land on the other. Once at Greymouth station, rent a car and drive towards Franz Josef. The views along the Great West Coast Road would be amazing. Feel free to stop along the road to take photos or take a detour to one of the beaches. You should reach Franz Josef by early evening, it is about a 175-km drive.
For dinner, go to the Alice May Restaurant. The restaurant resembles an old trading post with a relaxed dining room atmosphere and serves some delicious delights along with Glacier valley views.
Another wonderful experience awaits you today, the Franz Josef Helicopter Glacier Landing. Rising from sea level to the heart of the magnificent Southern Alps, this flight explores the awe-inspiring ice falls of the Franz Josef Glacier. Experience the seclusion of a snow landing in this largely inaccessible alpine region. Get back on the road after the ride and start the 350-km drive towards Queenstown. It would be tempting to stop every few kilometers with magnificent views! The drive takes you near Fox Glacier and then out of Glacier Country winding through lush forest and eventually back to the coast at Haast. It then goes into the mountains and over one of the most treacherous and spectacular passes, the Haast Pass. At the other side of the mountain, the drive touches the north of Lake Wanaka and then the road switches to Lake Hawea half way along, leading you into the Wanaka township. Take the longer route from here to Queenstown, that is also easier to drive. The route goes through the fertile plains of Otago that have some great views of the surrounding mountains. Then via Lake Dunstan and the Gibbston Valley, reach Arrowtown from where it’s just a short drive into Queenstown.
Relax for the rest of the evening.
Plan on going to the town of Wanaka today. You might have passed through it the previous evening but it deserves a full day! Drive straight to Lake Wanaka. A spectacular lake lying in the heart of majestic mountains, this body of water breathes serenity. And with autumn season in full-swing, it would be even more colourful and mesmerizing. Near the lake, inquire about the Waterfall Creek Track. It is actually a walk along the lakefront that passes by the iconic Wanaka Tree and offers lovely views of the lake as well as the Wanaka township. It starts from the western end of Roys Bay, then winds along the lake’s western shores, passes through vineyards before reaching Waterfall Creek. Another interesting trail is the Mount Iron Walk, an impressive, glacier-carved, rocky knoll. From its summit a great panorama unfolds with lakes Wanaka and Hawea, the upper valleys, and all the surrounding peaks. Since you aren’t in a real hurry to drive to the next destination today, how about a Picnic by the Lake? For the closest option to Wanaka’s centre, stroll across the street to the lovely lakefront and pitch up here along the seemingly endless beachfront. There is no dearth of picnic-friendly places along the lake. Back in Queenstown, head to the Eichardt’s Bar in the main city area for dinner and drinks in the evening. The stylish bar is attached to an award-winning hotel and features a welcoming fireplace, comfortable sofas, attentive service and delicious tapas.
Get set for another adrenaline pumping adventure! It is said that the excitement of free-falling is life’s ultimate thrill! The day time activity for today is Queenstown Skydiving. The flight goes high above the Wakatipu basin, where you will have a bird’s eye view of the stunning Queenstown scenery. Feel the wind blast your cheeks as you plummet towards turquoise lakes and jagged mountain peaks! Once back in the city, enjoy an afternoon stroll along Lake Wakatipu and if the weather is warm, just relax at the little beach by the lakeside. The mountains in the backdrop make this a perfectly scenic setting. The second half of the day will be the Shotover Jet Boat Experience. Take a unique breathtaking ride through dramatic and narrow canyons and hold on tight during this half hour adventure through the exhilarating 360° spins on the fast-flowing water. In the evening, you can walk the pedestrian-friendly Queenstown Mall. It is centrally located and has a large number of high street chain stores and local fashion boutiques, undispersed with cafes and restaurants to sate your appetite after an evening of perusing the shops.
Join the Milford Sound Cruise today. Just sit back and relax in the luxury glass roof coach on this incredibly picturesque route. The bus makes photo stops along the way. At the other end of the journey is the incredible Milford Sound fjord. A part of the Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a fusion of spectacular natural features with amazing visual cues around every corner. View stunning glaciated mountains, snow-tipped peaks that loom overhead and powerful waterfalls that tumble hundreds of metres down into the fjord. Go past rugged cliffs that are covered in magnificent ancient rain forests and keep a look out for the seals, dolphins, and penguins swimming in the waters below. Once back in Queenstown in the evening, go for the Skyline Gondola. Marvel at the stunning views of the mountains, the city and the Lake Wakatipu as you ride the Gondola, that is considered to be the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere. Soak in the spectacular panoramic views from the top and if time permits, have a dinner with a view, at the top!
Start the day a little early today and bid adieu to Queenstown. Begin the drive to Tekapo that goes by the vineyards of Gibbston and the old mining town of Cromwell. After crossing the beautiful Lake Dunstan, drive through the Lindis Pass, a picturesque area that is even more enchanting with snow around. Next, you will reach Omarama, a town popular among gliding enthusiasts. Twizel, a good base town for exploring Mount Cook National Park will be next and then you will be near the marvellous Lake Tekapo. The most apparent thing about the lake will be the astonishing aquamarine hue of the water. The snow-capped mountains in the background, along with the yellow green grass and vibrant wildflowers makes this a picturesque setting! On the shores of the lake you will see the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, where the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps beyond the lake. Because of the idyllic location, a visit to this iconic landmark is essential if you are in the area. There are walking tracks following the lake shore. For panoramic views of the Mackenzie Basin, hike or drive up to the Mount John Observatory. Try the Rakinui Restaurant at dinner today. It captures the flavours of the region nicely and is one of the most upscale restaurants in the town.
Head out to Christchurch in the morning! You will pass through several towns, fields and farmlands before making it to Christchurch to catch a flight to Rotorua.
Welcome to the North Island! In the evening, head to the Eat Streat. It is the most colourful, atmospheric street in Rotorua with a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars. The covered central walkway with enhanced lighting and retractable roofing allows for year-round al fresco dining. Have dinner at the Atticus Finch restaurant here. They offer tapa style meals that are fresh, innovative and flavoursome. The food is made from scratch and offers a range of options including vegetarian delicacies.
Immerse yourself in the Polynesian Spa of Rotorua in the morning. Experience a blissful state of pure tranquility at this internationally acclaimed thermal spa that offers relaxing hot mineral spring bathing, sumptuous therapies and picturesque Lake Rotorua views. Escape into the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest by early afternoon. You can walk or bike on some of the most scenic trails of New Zealand here. Take a Treewalk in the Redwoods that consist of 21 suspension bridges traversing between 22 Californian coastal redwoods. It gives walkers a unique view of the native undergrowth below. The evening has an authentic Maori cultural experience in store for you. Visit the TePuia village for the ‘Te Ra’ and ‘Te Po’ experience. Start with an extended guided tour through the valley, explore the geothermal wonders and learn about their culture and traditions. Savour the Hangi-cooked mouthwatering Maori feast and go on a journey through the Valley under Lights to see the Pohutu Geyser illuminated in its full glory!
Rent a car from Rotorua city and drive to Waitomo. A 140-km drive from Rotorua through an array of farmland, lakeland and forest will take you to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Marvel at the light display as the boat glides through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Caves. Experience a serene ambience as you meander underground along the Waitomo River and gaze in silence at the myriad of luminescent lights. Return to Rotorua by the afternoon and go for a different kind of attraction i.e. the 3D Trick Art Gallery. This unique gallery enables you to experience an optical illusion of 3 dimensional structures from two dimensional paintings. Make your way through the 50 trick artworks and take snaps galore as you interpret each piece and let your imagination guide you! Across the street from the gallery, is the Rainbow Springs National Park. A visit here is a great way to understand New Zealand’s wonderful environment and animals. After dark, apart from viewing the pristine spring-fed pools full of trout, illuminated by 700 spectacularly coloured lights, you can take a walk through the kiwi enclosure where you get to see the country’s national symbol on display in a glass-free open-air environment.
Since you will be undertaking a 460-km drive to the Bay of Islands today, start early. About an hour’s drive from Rotorua is the town of Matamata. The Hobbiton Movie Set that was created for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ films is located here. If the movies interested you, consider joining the movie set tour and experience the Middle Earth as you step into the lush pastures of the Shire. The guide will escort you around the set, showing the intricate detailing, pointing out the most famous locations and explaining how the movie magic was made. Driving through Auckland and by the beaches, pretty towns, native forests and delightful landscapes, you will reach Russell in the Bay of Islands by the evening.
BAY OF ISLANDS (RUSSELL)
It would have been a long drive, so relax for a while in the evening. Go for a romantic dinner tonight. The Gables Restaurant by the bay is a great place for such an experience. Enjoy the ambience of waterfront dining and watch the lights of Paihia twinkling across the moonlit sea!
Plan an excursion to the Cape Reinga today. The full-day tour starts in a bus from Paihia. It will take you to the Far North of New Zealand. Drive along the sand on Ninety Mile Beach as the waves crash beside the custom-built coach. The off-road journey takes you to the Te Paki Stream, stopping at the massive sand dunes where you can experience the thrills and spills of Sandboarding. Clambering up and surfing down the dunes is sure to get the heart pumping. Visit the Puketi Kauri Forest and get up close to ancient and majestic giant kauri trees and native bush. Stroll along an elevated walkway and learn about conservation efforts to preserve the forest today. Go to Cape Reinga and hear the stories about Maori legends. Enjoy the spectacular panoramic view, perhaps the best view of the trip, when you visit the iconic Cape Reinga Lighthouse. See the point where the Tasman Sea and the mighty Pacific Ocean come crashing together. After coming back to Russell, roam around the charming town for rest of the evening. Historic buildings with a seaside setting full of cafes, restaurants and art galleries give Russell a truly romantic quality. Go for a moon-lit stroll along the bay after dark!
Keep it a relaxing morning but start your drive towards Auckland by noon. Enjoy the delightful scenery enroute to Auckland. Pass by a subtropical city named Whangarei, where you can stop to visit the beautiful Whangarei Falls. Warkworth will be another pretty town along the way that has many attractions like beaches, wildlife parks, vineyards and golf courses. You can also make a brief stop at Orewa, a town that spreads along the edge of a large, white sand surf beach. Through the bays and beaches of North Shore, drive over the Auckland’s Harbour Bridge and finally into Auckland. Drop the rental car in the city.
Plan on going up the Sky Tower this evening. Soak in the panorama from 328 m high tallest building of the country as the city and harbour light up! At the base of Sky Tower is the Skycity entertainment complex that is home to a world-class casino which offers fun and excitement 24 hours a day.
Be ready for another fun excursion of your vacation today, the Auckland City Sights & Waiheke Wine Tour. The City Sights Tour starts in the central city. It travels over the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge, providing great views of the harbour and city skyline. Visit the Viaduct Harbour and bustling Queen Street, and explore the Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park. Continue through the charming Parnell Village, where historic buildings have been transformed into a chic shopping area with a range of boutiques, craft and specialty stores. Pause for a short morning tea stop here, then travel along the waterfront to Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park, above Mission Bay. Named after one of New Zealand’s most revered Prime Ministers, the park offers spectacular views of Eastern Bays, Auckland city and the Hauraki Gulf. Following the morning city tour, enjoy a ferry ride across the Waitemata Harbour to Waiheke Island, a haven of beaches, eateries and boutique vineyards. Upon arrival you will be picked up by a coach and whisked away on a guided Waiheke Wine Tour. Admire the natural surrounds of olive groves and rustic herb gardens as you taste the wine varieties on offer at award-winning Mudbrick Estate. Take in the views across the Hauraki Gulf back to Auckland from Cable Bay as you sample their fine wines, accompanied by a delicious snack platter. Te Motu Vineyard is the last stop on this tour, they are specialists in Bordeaux-style wines and the vineyard overlooks beautiful Onetangi Beach. The tour concludes at Waiheke’s Matiatia Wharf. Board the cruise to Auckland city, arriving back in the city by the evening. It is time for some Club Hopping now. Ask the hotel front desk for recommendations, but make sure to specify the kind of club you want. Cassette 9, Bungalow 8, Ding Dong Lounge and Impala enjoy a good reputation. You know what to do here. Just drink and dance the night away!
Board your flight back home with great memories and experiences of a lifetime!