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Stay a night in Auckland and visit Northland and Coromandel. Experience Maori culture in the Waipoua Forest and in Rotorua. At Lake Tarawera and on a farm in mid-Canterbury enjoy private lunches with your hosts. Get acquainted with Napier and Wellington and cruise across Cook Strait. Drive the spectacular Kaikoura coastline to the foothills of the Southern Alps. Stay close to Aoraki/Mt Cook and drive to Milford Sound to cruise by Mitre Peak. Fly back over the mountains to Queenstown, a picturesque resort town at the heart of the action.
Prices from £3495 per person, based on 2 people sharing a room and include daily breakfast, 3 lunches and 3 dinners. Single traveller price from £4385.
Please note, prices quoted are for the tour only and do not include international flights.
Chris has travelled all over this majestic country. He is familiar with no star hidden gems to five star uber luxury resorts, with places ideal for couples as well as the perfect family retreats.
If you have any questions why not send Chris Hawkins a message or contact Chris Hawkins directly on 0844 332 9366
Highlights & Inclusions
Day 1: Auckland - Matakohe - Waipoua Forest - Omapere, Hokianga
We travel north through the wine growing district of Kumeu and Huapai and on to Helensville. From here we skirt the shoreline of the Kaipara Harbour, one of the world’s largest inland tidal estuaries. There are elevated views of the harbour as we travel to Wellsford and on to the Matakohe Kauri Museum, dedicated to the mighty kauri tree, growing to over 50 metres tall with 16 metres girth and living for 2000 years.
North of Dargaville we enter the primeval Forest of Waipoua (translated as water falling at night), the largest kauri forest. Here we plant a kauri with the Te Roroa Maori people, the guardians of the forest.
At twilight we accompany Footprints Waipoua, a group of young Maori dedicated to preserving the traditions and culture of Ngapuhi, the northern Maori tribe, to visit both Tane Mahuta (the God of the forest) 51 metres tall, girth 13.8 metres. This journey will give you a deeper understanding of this unique forest from both an ecological and Maori perspective.
Day 2: Omapere - Matauri Bay - Bay of Islands:
The Hokianga harbour providing shelter from the Tasman Sea has not changed since the time of Kupe, the Polynesian sea captain and navigator who is credited with discovering New Zealand 1000 years ago. From this harbour Kupe sailed for home to Hawaiiki the ancestral homeland of Maori (hence the name Hokianga Nui A Kupe meaning “great returning place of Kupe”).
This morning we cruise out onto the Hokianga Harbour with the MV Hokianga Express. This beautiful waterway is a significant and spiritual place for Maori, something that is made evident to us as we cruise this great harbour. We have a chance to explore the sand dunes and, if you are adventurous, ride a body board down the dunes.
We leave Omapere for the tiny town of Rawene on the southern side of the Hokianga. The vehicle ferry takes us from here to Kohukohu (the place of mist) to the northern side of the inlet. In the afternoon we tour the scenic coastal road to Matauri Bay following the picturesque coastline with views to the Cavalli Islands and the resting place of the Green Peace flagship the Rainbow Warrior.
Kerikeri is a thriving town known for citrus orchards and arts and crafts. We visit the Stone Store and Kemp House, New Zealand's oldest stone building. Our destination is Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. The sparkling blue waters of this maritime park are dotted with islands - paradise for beach lovers and sailors.
Day 3: Cruise the Bay of Islands - Dolphin Swim - tour Russell township
Step on board at Paihia this morning to cruise out to a martime park of 144 islands, Cape Brett and the “ Hole in the Rock” and Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. The catamaran is purpose built for dolphin viewing and swimming. Encounter these intelligent and playful mammals. Get ready with the provided mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuit. Once we find a pod of dolphins, Department of Conservation regulations will determine whether a swim is possible. Swimming is optional.
Your cruise returns to Russell at 1.10pm approximately. The first capital of New Zealand, Russell (Kororareka) has a rollicking 19th century past when it was known as the “hell hole of the South Pacific” and was a favourite haunt of whalers and sealers. The missionaries were there too - building Christ Church, Russell / Te Whare Karakia o Kororareka in 1836 and Pompallier House, the headquarters for the French Catholic mission in 1841.
We drive up to Flagstaff Hill for wide views over the Bay before catching the vehicular ferry to Opua and return to Waitangi.
Day 4: Bay of Islands - Tutukaka Coast - Auckland
We visit Waitangi Treaty House where local Maori signed the Waitangi Treaty with Queen Victoria’s representatives in 1840 – a significant event in New Zealand’s history. From Waitangi’s lawns there are magnificent views out over the Bay of Islands. We tour the Kawiti Glowworm Caves then at Hikurangi we leave civilization behind and head to the coast to the beautiful beaches of Woolleys Bay, Sandy Bay, Whale Bay and Matapouri. From here to Tutukaka, departure point for the Poor Knight Islands to Ngunguru, the city of Whangarei and on over the Brynderwyn hills to Auckland, the city of sails. Enjoy this vibrant city from your waterside hotel.
Day 5: Auckland - Thames Coast Highway - Coromandel Peninsula – Whitianga
Heading south from Auckland over the Bombay Hills and into the dairy farming heartland of the Waikato ("full flowing water"). Driving east across the Hauraki Plains, the jagged ranges of the Coromandel Peninsula dominate the skyline. Thames, once a thriving gold rush town, lies at the southern end of the Hauraki Gulf. From here we drive the scenic western side of the Peninsula to our special lunch at Rapaura Watergardens where you can wander through native bush to a cascading waterfall and lily ponds.
Travelling further north along this picturesque coastline, we arrive at Coromandel where the town’s gold mining past is visible in the restored wooden buildings lining the main street. This afternoon we cross the ranges to visit the stunning east coast beaches of Whangapoua (Harbour of Shellfish), Matarangi (Headland in the Sky), Kuaotunu (Young of Eels) and Otama (of my son). No wonder this beautiful coastline is a favourite holiday playground for Kiwis. We stay the night in Whitianga on Mercury Bay.
Day 6: Whitianga - Rotorua
We start the day with a short ferry ride across the Whitianga estuary to Cook’s Landing to meet your coach. Alternatively, take a cruise (optional) to and on to Hahei Beach. On the coast just north of Hahei is Cathedral Cove, a sublime beach of white sands and limestone outcrops. Nearby at Hot Water Beach natural thermal hot springs bubble up through the sand. Depending on tide times you can dig your very own hot pool. We continue south to Tairua, Whangamata and Waihi to the Bay of Plenty, the centre of the kiwifruit industry. Near Katikati we take the road less travelled, for a forest walk to a giant 800-year-old kauri tree. Driving beside three bush-fringed lakes, Rotoma, Rotoehu and Rotoiti we reach Rotorua, our home for two nights.
Day 7: Rotorua sightseeing
A leisurely day in this lakeside town at the heart of Maori culture. Our first highlight is a cruise on Lake Rotoiti on a 53ft catamaran “Tiua” exploring secluded coves with the chance to take the helm, fish for trout, swim in the lake or soak in hot pools. The skipper and crew share local legends and point out historic sites. We come ashore to “go bush” driving to the Blue Lake (Tikitapu), and the Green Lake (Rotokakahi). Above Lake Tarawera relax over an exclusive lunch at Pounamu Lodge with our hosts David and Karen. Karen has stories to tell of her ancestor Guide Sophia who lead visitors to safety when the Pink and White Terraces were destroyed when Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886. After lunch we learn about Maori culture with a personal experience at Ohinemutu Village before finishing the day at Rotorua's exceptional Museum. This evening you will be touched by the warmth of a Maori concert – the traditional welcome to visitors – and a dinner that includes hangi food steamed in an earth oven.
Day 8: Rotorua - Napier
Explore our favourite geothermal hideaway, Orakei Korako, (place of adorning) crossing the lake to a wonderland of silica terraces, bubbling mud pools and an enchanting Aladdin’s Cave, Ruatapu (sacred hole in Maori). A hot pool at the bottom of this 120ft deep cave is known as Waiwhakaata, (pool of mirrors). On the road into Taupo we view the turbulent Huka Falls, where the Waikato River thunders through a narrow chasm. From Taupo there are magnificent views across the lake to the three active volcanoes - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu (2,797 metres), the highest mountain in the North Island. Leaving the lake, the road winds over the ranges to the seaside town of Napier. Renowned for its Art Deco architecture, Napier was rebuilt in this style after anearthquake in 1931. These days it’s also an acclaimed wine region and your guide will introduce you to the premier vineyards before we end the day with a guided art deco tour. Your hotel is right on the waterfront.
Day 9: Napier - Wellington
We start the day with a drive to Havelock North and up Te Mata Peak for fantastic views of the region before heading south through Hawkes Bay’s pastoral landscape of orchards, farms and vineyards to the Wairarapa. At Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre see endangered birds such as kiwi, kaka, kokako and takahe and the tuatara, a “living fossil” reptile that lived at the time of the dinosaurs. We finish the day by traversing the Rimutaka Ranges to Wellington, the capital city. Your contemporary inner city hotel is at the heart of Wellington's eclectic cafe scene.
Day 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: Aoraki/Mount Cook - Queenstown
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 15: 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 on a stunning scenic flight over the mountaintops to Queenstown where your tour ends.
Tour Dates available, starting in Auckland:
2013: Apr 22; May 6; Jun 3; Jul 1; Aug 5; Sep 2; Oct 7; Nov 4; Dec 2.
2014: Jan 6, 13, 20, 27; Feb 3, 10, 17, 24; Mar 3, 17; Apr 7.