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Cruise across Cook Strait on the ferry. Visit the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim. Then drive the Kaikoura Coast, where seals bask on the rocks between the mountains and the sea. Enjoy country hospitality at its best in a mid Canterbury farmhouse. Stay close to the alps at Mt Somers and Mt Cook villages and cruise on Milford Sound at the heart of Fiordland, flying back over the mountains to Queenstown. Discover the West Coast’s rainforests, glaciers, Punakaiki Pancake rocks and Arthur’s Pass.
Prices from £2755 per person, based on 2 people sharing a room and include daily breakfast, 1 lunch and 3 dinners. Single traveller price from £3545.
Please note, prices quoted are for the tour only and do not include international flights.
Brendan is real life Kiwi, born in Auckland and has travelled all over his native homeland, from Cape Reinga in the North to Stewart Island in the South.
If you have any questions why not send Brendan Prendergast a message or contact Brendan Prendergast directly on 0844 332 9366
Highlights & Inclusions
Day 1: Wellington - Cook Strait - Picton - Blenheim - Kaikoura
This morning we catch the Interislander ferry to cruise for three hours across Cook Strait into Tory Channel and up beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton. With our feet firmly planted on “Te Waka a Maui”, the South Island, we tour Marlborough’s premier wine and food region renowned for sauvignon blanc and the collection of World War 1 flying memorabilia at Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre(optional). Leaving behind the dry hills of Marlborough we drive south to Kaikoura, a small hamlet beside the ocean and beneath the towering Kaikoura Mountains. We stay right on the waterfront. Seafood, especially crayfish, is a specialty in this ocean side town.
Day 2: Explore the Kaikoura coast
Relax on the coast with time for close encounters with seals, seabirds and whales (optional). This afternoon cruise on the “Albatross Encounter”. Kaikoura is the albatross capital of New Zealand, if not the world, with up to 12 species of albatross plus penguins, gannetts, skuas, shearwaters, petrels and terns. Your driver/guide has a day off today.
Day 3: Kaikoura - Akaunui Farm homestead - Mt Somers
The highway continues down the coast and winds inland over the Hunderlee Hills before dropping down to the Canterbury Plains. The wine district of Waipara set on terraces above the river is an ideal coffee stop. Our special lunch destination is Akaunui Farm homestead where we enjoy the warm hospitality of Di and Ian Mackenzie, picking up farming tips from Ian and lunching on fresh produce from Di’s bountiful garden. Later we drive over to the foothills of the Southern Alps and the small village of Mt Somers. There’s time for a walk to the Staveley waterfall at the base of Mt Somers. This evening high country cuisine is on the menu.
Day 4: Mt Somers - Lake Tekapo - Aoraki/Mount Cook
We leave the Canterbury Plains and ascend Burkes Pass as the landscape changes from farmland to dramatic, sweeping vistas of tussock lands, the mountains of the Mackenzie Basin and the aquamarine waters of Lake Tekapo. Nearby the Church of the Good Shepherd and a sculpture celebrating the hard-working high country sheep dog are two irresistible photo stops. We continue our journey to the head of Lake Pukaki and up to the village at the foot of Mt Cook, at 3,754 metres New Zealand's highest mountain known in Maori as Aoraki “the cloud piercer”. This evening we are surrounded by towering mountain peaks and magnificent alpine scenery.
At Mt Cook board the “Glacier Explorer” – a boat ride on the Tasman Glacier. Perhaps treat yourself to a scenic helicopter or fixed wing flight around Aoraki/Mt Cookand over the main divide to the West Coast (optional).
Day 5: Aoraki/Mount Cook - Queenstown
You are picked up from your hotel to travel alongside Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau and Milford Sound deep in the heart of Fiordland National Park. Perhaps take an early morning stroll in the valley before we head down the mountain rimmed Mackenzie Basin, over the golden grass ranges of Lindis Pass and through the craggy Kawarau Gorge into Queenstown. We ride the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak for a scenic overview of this picturesque resort and adrenalin adventure destination. Your hotel is just above the town with views to Lake Wakatipu and Remarkables Range.There’s a great variety of restaurants and cafes and your driver/guide will let you know our favourites.
Day 6: Queenstown - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Nature Cruise - Scenic Flight - Queenstown
You are picked up from your hotel to travel alongside Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau and Milford Sound deep in the heart of Fiordland National Park. The Milford Road is a panorama of high mountains and deep valleys studded with glaciers, waterfalls and mirror lakes. Cruise down Milford Sound, a majestic fiord dominated by iconic Mitre Peak, and out to the Tasman Sea. Return to Queenstown on a stunning scenic flight over the mountaintops.
Day 7: Queenstown - Cardrona Valley - Wanaka
The morning is free to further explore Queenstown. Perhaps cruise on the Tss Earnslaw (optional), take a jet boat ride (optional) on the remote and beautiful Dart River in The Lord of the Rings scenery or walk the lakeshore. This afternoon our first destination is the leafy village of Arrowtown where gold mining history comes alive beside the Arrow River. Heading into tussock country, the road climbs up the Crown Range with expansive views of the Gibbston Valley. We call into the Cardrona Hotel, its history also traced back to the goldmining era then continue on to Wanaka amid a panorama of mountain peaks. Tonight we dine in a private homestead with warm hosts and stunning lake views
Day 8: Wanaka - Haast Pass - Franz Josef
We drive beside Lake Hawea and the top of Lake Wanaka before heading into pristine mountain and river scenery of the Haast Pass in Mt Aspiring National Park. Well-maintained tracks through native beech forests lead us to cascading waterfalls and clear blue pools where trout lurk. Leaving the mountains, the road winds along the edge of the river to Haast where the Department of Conservation Centre documents the region’s colourful history, flora and fauna. Continue north through the lush, primeval rainforest of Westland World Heritage Park, stopping at Ship Creek for a stroll on the beach to the dune lake and through swampland rainforest. Lake Matheson is famous for reflections of the Alps and at Franz Josef we view the advancing glacier descending through rainforest.
Day 9: Franz Josef - Okarito Lagoon - Franz Josef
Today relax and enjoy the beauty of this remote World Heritage Park. Perhaps take an early morning flight over the Southern Alps to Aoraki/Mt Cook and experience the thrill of landing on a glacier(optional) or join a guided hike onto the glacier (optional). We drive out to the coast to visit the tiny, isolated settlement of Okarito nestled between the Tasman Sea and Okarito Lagoon. You could kayak (optional) on the shallow waters of the lagoon, a feeding ground of the rare white heron (kotuku) which breeds nearby in the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve, a 1,000-year-old kahikatea rainforest. Or, for close up take a jet boat ride(optional) from Whataroa down the river to an exclusive hide tucked away in the rainforest. At the end of the day there’s nothing better than to soak in Franz Josef’s hot pools(optional) fed by pure glacier water before dining in the village.
Day 10: Franz Josef - Hokitika - Punakaiki
Travel up the coast passing mirror lakes, boulder-laden rivers and catching glimpses of the Southern Alps. At Hokitika there’s time to visit a host of craft galleries – Pounamu (greenstone) carving, glass blowing, wood and copper artisans. A beautiful coastal road following part of the ancient Pounamu trails used by Maori leads to your hotel on the coast at Punakaiki. Unique coastal flora includes the southernmost nikau palms. A little further up the road is the leading local attraction - the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, sculpted limestone sea stacks and towering cliffs. If the tide is right, blowholes thunder spreading clouds of spray. We celebrate our travels this evening in the hotel’s Jacob's restaurant.
Day 11: Punakaiki - Arthur's Pass - Christchurch
Retracing our steps down the coast we drive up the Otira Gorge on a spectacular cantilevered road through towering mountains to Arthur’s Pass National Park stopping at the lookout to watch the mischievous antics of the keas. Stretch your legs in the beech forests at Arthur’s Pass village and at the massive limestone rocks rising out of bare pasture at Castle Hill before we descend Porter’s Pass to the Canterbury Plains reaching Christchurch in the late afternoon where your tour ends.
Tour Dates available, starting in Wellington:
2013: May 1, 15; Jun 12; Jul 10; Aug 14; Sep 11; Oct 16; Nov 13; Dec 11.
2014: Jan 15, 22, 29; Feb 5, 12, 19, 26; Mar 5, 12; Apr 16.