Tale of the Whale
Are you ready for your exciting nature-focused trip to New Zealand? Grab your camera and board your flight! When you land in Auckland meet your guide and enjoy a transfer to your hotel, the centrally located SkyCity. After check-in, there’ll be time for you to familiarise yourself with the local surroundings before you take a relaxed wander down to Viaduct Harbour and indulge in a waterfront drink with a gorgeous view.
The next day you’ll explore Auckland in greater depth. Head to the Sky Tower to start, where you will be treated to a 360-degree view over the city, harbors and surrounding volcanic landscape. In the afternoon visit Waiheke Island by way of a 35-minute ferry ride and spend a few hours exploring this stunning spot packed full of pretty vineyards, olive groves, and beaches.
The next morning fly to Christchurch where you’ll pick up your hire car for a spot of adventuring. While the consequences of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes remain apparent, the city is rebuilding and the results promise to be spectacular. Alongside the regeneration, you’ll also find new shops, restaurants and entertainment spots worth checking out. If the weather is decent, swing by Hagley Park on the outskirts or take a tram ride through the center to take in the sights. You'll spend the night at the Rendezvous Hotel.
Pack your bags and head north – today it’s on to Kaikoura for a whale-watching trip off the coast. It remains one of the best spots in the whole world to view Sperm Whales thanks to the 3km deep Kaikoura Canyon which runs up against the coast, along with a rich marine food chain. While whale watching you might also spot fur seals, dusky dolphins and a huge variety of sea birds. Stay overnight at the Lemon Tree Lodge, perched on the cliffside overlooking Kaikoura and the Pacific Ocean.
Abel Tasman National Park
It’s a long but worth-it drive today as you make your way to Kaiteriteri. When you arrive, take a boat transfer from the wharf which will drop you off at Arawoa Lodge. This super-secluded lodge is a nature lovers paradise and the perfect spot for connecting with the wild. Enjoy two full days to explore Abel Tasman at your leisure. Hike the surrounding trails by yourself or with a guide, chill out on Awaroa beach or take a kayak or boat out and explore the inlets and secluded beaches of the National Park.
After a boat ride back to Kaiteriteri, it’s time to hit the West Coast. You may wish to break up the scenic four-hour drive with a break at the thrilling Buller Gorge Swing Bridge where you can take an unforgettable ride on the zip line. Daredevils will be in their element here! Then take the coastal Route 6 so you can stop off at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, before making your way to Greymouth where you'll spend the night at the Kingsgate Hotel.
Franz Josef Glacier
Activity and Adventure
Wake up and make your way down the breathtakingly beautiful West Coast. Along the way, there are plenty of spots you can stop off at and take some travel photos for your New Zealand album. The next day take part in a guided ‘heli-hike’ on Franz Josef Glacier itself! Don the appropriate kit and listen as your guide talks you through the skill of walking across a groaning ice field. Then it’s a stunning helicopter trip to the glacier before you start your hike. Spend an hour hiking under, over and through all sorts of glorious ice formations, all the while learning about the history of the glacier. Hike complete, it’s time to soak those aching muscles and warm up in the hot pools at the heli hiking base center. Your base at Franz Joseph will be the cozy and luxurious Glenfern Villas.
The next morning leave for Wanaka, this route will see you journey through the forests, coasts, and mountains of the remarkable Haast Pass and along the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park. It's definitely worth stopping off at the Blue Pools and Thunder Creek Falls - two of the South Islands' hidden gems! While the drive takes around five hours, go slow - the views are worth it. Spend the night at Te Wanaka Lodge, a welcoming guest house in the center of town.
Activity and Adventure
Compared to the previous few days, today’s drive to Glenorchy is a short one. En route stop off at Queenstown and take a look around the town. For an unbeatable view of the town and Lake Wakatipu, take a ride on the skyline gondola.
You’ll enjoy two full days at your leisure to explore Glenorchy and the Dart River. For more stunning waterside scenes, you might like to take a Dart River Jetboat Safari up the shallow narrows of the Dart River. Or alternatively, jump into an inflatable kayak and see the turquoise streams in a more action-packed manner! You might also like to arrange a horse ride or go on a hike through the surrounding trails. Some scenes from Lord of the Rings were famously shot here, so it’s a must-see spot for middle-earth fans.
Stay for two nights at the quirky Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat, close to the action of Glenorchy, and equally the perfect place from which to soak up the rural peace and quiet.
Take a drive to Milford Sound stopping at the town of Te Anau and the spectacular Gertrude Valley lookout on your way. You might also want to stop for a walk to see ‘the Chasm’, which is where the Cleddau River runs through a labyrinth of underground caverns which you can see from above. Spend the evening as you please, enjoy the peace and quiet as the tourists depart and perhaps catch a sunset over the sound. Your hotel for the next two nights will be Milford Sound Lodge which occupies a scenic spot beside the river, walking distance from Milford Village. The next day is spent on Milford Sound; you can either take a boat out or explore by kayak. You might even get to spot local penguins or seals.
It’s time to head south, to Bluff, where you’ll leave your car and hop aboard a ferry to Stewart Island. Here, you have two full days to explore the island at your own pace. Check out the Ulva Island wildlife sanctuary - reached by boat it’s a haven for birdwatching and along the way, you might spot fur seals or penguins. Spend an evening on a Wild Kiwi Encounter which will see you enjoy a catamaran journey from Halfmoon Bay at dusk, cross Paterson Inlet and arrive at Little Glory Cove. Once you arrive, you’ll hike across the Neck Peninsula and venture through the forest, by the light of a torch, and on to a huge sandy bay. Here you’ll hopefully get to see New Zealand’s rare yet charismatic national bird, the kiwi, in the wild.
Your Stewart Island base is the Bay Motel in Half Moon Bay, a cozy spot overlooking the ocean and well equipped with a kitchenette, so you can choose to eat in, or walk five minutes to the nearby restaurants in the Bay.
Back in Bluff get your hire car and head to Dunedin, known as the Edinburgh of the South. It’s not hard to see why - driving here, you could be in Scotland. Visit the impressive Larnach Castle or swing by Speights Brewery for a look at how New Zealand's favorite beer is produced. Spend a night at the Brothers Boutique Hotel.
Mount Cook National Park
Activity and Adventure
Another day, another spectacular drive. Today you’ll drive along the coast, before heading back inland towards Twizel. The next day, drive along the shores of Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mount Cook Village. Once you arrive, drop off the car and enjoy a trek up the track of Hooker Valley and finishing at Hooker Lake. It’s worth the journey for the incredible views up the glacial valley towards the peak of Mount Cook. Sleep for two nights at the bright and airy Matuka Lodge, overlooking a beautiful lake, five minutes from Twizel Town, and 50 minutes' drive to Mount Cook National Park.
After a drive back to Christchurch, spend the night at the Rendezvous Hotel and spend some time at leisure before catching your flight home the next day.