New Zealand's North and South Islands brim with geological drama and natural beauty. Volcanic forces simmer on the North Island, leaving craters, caves, and geysers considered sacred by the indigenous Maori people. The Southern Alps shelter sparkling lakes and unfurl into majestic fiords. Encounter unusual wildlife in astonishing landscapes and get acquainted with New Zealand's vibrant cultures on your way from Auckland to Queenstown.
Arrive in Auckland and settle into our historic hotel. Join your fellow travelers for a welcome dinner this evening.
Heritage Hotel or Hilton Auckland (D)
Board a ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island, home to one of New Zealand's most important wildlife sanctuaries. Learn about conservation efforts here while seeking out endangered bird and reptile species, including the flightless takahe and the tuatara. Back on the mainland, explore the coastal cliffs and beaches of Shakespear Regional Park with a ranger before meeting with members of the local conservation community. This evening, enjoy free time to discover Auckland, known as the "city of sails" for the many sailboats that teem in its harbor.
Heritage Hotel or Hilton Auckland (B,L)
Travel to Waitomo and cruise through an otherworldly cave system illuminated by the turquoise light of thousands of tiny glowworms. Drive south toward Rotorua through the bucolic Waikato countryside and stop for lunch amidst blueberry fields, then tour a stud farm where many of New Zealand’s champion thoroughbred racehorses have been bred. Arriving in Rotorua, visit a traditional Maori meeting house in Whakarewarewa village to take part in a Maori mihi whakatau welcome ritual, followed by dinner with members of the local community. As night falls, take a guided walk along suspended walkways in the nearby redwood forest, where hanging lanterns illuminate the towering trees and giant ferns.
Novotel Rotorua Lakeside (B,L,D)
Delve deeper into Maori traditions, exploring the Lake Tarawera region in the company of a guide from the Tuhourangi tribe. Learn about the region’s geological history with its boiling hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and Te Wairoa, a village that was destroyed when Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886. This evening, participate in a specially arranged poroporoaki farewell ceremony to bid goodbye to your Tuhourangi hosts.
Novotel Rotorua Lakeside (B,L,D)
Take a walking tour of Ohinemutu village, home to the Ngati Whakaeue tribe. Built in 1914, Ohinemutu’s historic St. Faith’s church is a fascinating blend of European missionary and Maori influences, with a Tudor-style exterior and an interior featuring intricate Maori carvings and woven panels. Fly to Wellington, New Zealand's charming capital city. Visit the famous Weta Workshop, the special effects group behind several blockbuster movies, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of their design studio and participate in a hands-on demonstration of the creative process used to develop their props.
Copthorne Hotel (B,D)
Join a local expert at the impressive Te Papa Tongarewa national museum for an insider's tour, followed by a special viewing of cultural artifacts in the private galleries. Wander the museum’s public galleries at your leisure, or enjoy some time to explore Wellington’s shops and cafés on your own. (The city is known for its vibrant café culture.) This evening, search for kiwis during a guided after-dark walk at Zealandia, an important mainland wildlife sanctuary whose innovative predator-proof fence was the first of its kind.
Copthorne Hotel (B,D)
Take in the capital’s history and impressive architecture during a guided walk through the city, including the Parliamentary Precinct, the National Library, and Old St. Paul’s Church. Fly to Christchurch and continue to Akaroa, home to the largest Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. After returning to Christchurch and settling in to our hotel, take a stroll along the river or explore the surrounding neighborhood on your own.
Hotel Montreal (B,L)
Spend the morning with a local police officer who was on call during the earthquake that all but leveled Christchurch in 2011, getting a personal perspective on the city's resurgent cultural scene and its efforts to rebuild. Fly to Queenstown and head into the picturesque surrounding countryside, wandering the quaint streets of the historic gold-mining settlement of Arrowtown. Have dinner at a winery in the world’s southernmost wine-growing region, then settle into our hotel on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Doubletree by Hilton Queenstown (B,D)
Journey into Fiordland National Park for a wilderness cruise through magnificent Doubtful Sound. As we navigate these pristine waters, take in the majesty of the fiords and their surrounding cliffs, blanketed in lush forest and sprinkled with waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and fur seals!
Doubletree by Hilton Queenstown (B,L)
Venture into the undulating landscapes of the Lakes District and experience the tranquility of Lake Wakatipu. After taking in the spectacular surrounding landscapes along the way, arrive at the historic Kinloch Lodge for a lakeside lunch. Return to Queenstown for our farewell dinner.
Doubletree by Hilton Queenstown (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
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