It may not look so big on the map, but New Zealand is a big country full of epic destinations. This comprehensive New Zealand tour departing from Auckland delivers the most immersive NZ experience possible.
You’ll get up closer and personal with New Zealand in your small group by exploring the beaches of Coromandel, the glaciers of the rugged West Coast, the snow-capped Alps of the South Island and the adventure capital of the world in Queenstown.
The tour includes accommodation, transportation and a local Kiwi guide. Starting and ending in New Zealand’s biggest city Auckland, the tour travels down the middle of the North Island. In Wellington we catch the ferry across the Cook Strait to the epic South Island, and we tour the Island in a clockwise direction before returning to the North.
24 days? You’ll wish it was longer.
Number of Days 23
Starts: Auckland Finishes: Auckland
Tour Type: Small Group Tour
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Today we start your adventure by heading north to the Bay of Islands, exploring Northland and Paihia. This is both the most tropical part and hottest part of New Zealand, and is home to some of the North Island’s best beaches and scenery. Kick back and relax and leave the planning and surprises to our guides. Your New Zealand tour has begun!
Haka Lodge Paihia
Today is yours to explore Paihia. You can swim with dolphins, skydive or go sailing, go on a day tour to Cape Reinga or just chill out with new friends and take it all in. The choice is yours.
Haka Lodge Paihia
Optional Paid: Sydiving, swimming with dolphins, Hole in Rock Cruise, Cape Reinga Day Tour
On the way back to Auckland today, we'll visit the mighty Tane Mahuta, “the Lord of the Forest” in the Waipoua Forest.
This is largest known kauri tree standing today, and estimates put his age at between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. We’ve got a few more secret spots to visit during the day, before heading back to Auckland to spend the evening in New Zealand’s biggest city.
Included: Tane Mahuta
On our first day, our meeting time is at 8am where we will have prepared a continental breakfast at the reception of YHA International. Today you'll meet your guide and the rest of your group, and we'll highlight everything you need to know during your trip.
Our tour begins in the country's largest city - Auckland. You'll learn a bit more about the city as your tour guide takes you on an orientation tour depending on the season and weather of that day. After this, we are headed off to Coromandel - one of New Zealand's favorite getaways. It's home to spectacular remote beaches, deep forests and clear blue waters. Today you'll also have the opportunity to carve a kiwi pendant from a bone.
A great way to end our first day is to visit the world-famous Hot Water beach where you can dig your own jacuzzi as you dig a hole in the sand where natural hot springs bubble up. Perfect!
Turtle Cove Backpackers.
Included: Hot Water Beach, carve your own pendant
Optional Paid: Sea kayaking
Today we will check out the cliffs down by Cathedral Cove, you might recognize them form the Chronicles of Narnia. It's a beautiful place with perfect beaches and massive rock arches, a very famous spot in the Coromandel.
Later this afternoon we head towards Rotorua; en route, we’ll visit Matamata – best known for being the home of Hobbiton.
While the majority of the North Island is volcanic in some way, Rotorua is exceptional for its geothermal activity. With neon blue and red lakes, steaming rivers, active volcanoes and geysers galore, there are more unique natural wonders to be found in Rotorua than many other places in the world.
Included: Cathedral Cove
Today is a free day to explore Rotorua and its surrounding area. Talk to your guide for the best free things to see and do in the neighbourhood (Kuirau Park’s steaming and hissing mud pools are a great option).
There are also a number of optional activities you can choose from:
If adrenaline is your thing, the highest commercial waterfall drop in the world, on the Kaituna River, is begging to be conquered on an exhilarating rafting trip.
Perhaps you’d like to try thundering down grassy hills in a giant air-cushioned inflatable ball (aka ZORB)?
A day trip to Waitomo is another option today. Famous for its glowworms there are a number of ways to experience these twinking creatures up close. Discover the magic of both the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, as well as the enchanting Ruakuri Cave on a ‘2 cave combo’ walking/boat tour.
Or you can float along an underground river on a Black Water Rafting trip as the glow worms light your path.
Included: Maori cultural evening
Optional Paid: Black water rafting, ZORB
This morning we visit Te Puia Maori Village. Here you’ll learn more about Māori history and culture, come face to face with the Pohutu Geyser, see jumping mud pools and get up close and personal with kiwi birds.
Later this afternoon we head to Kohutapu Lodge in Murupara – a living Māori village - where you will experience a tribal tour by a village elder.
Here you’ll also have a chance to learn the world-famous haka dance, and weave your own dinner plate using flax (a type of plant).
Tonight’s dinner is a traditional hāngi meal. Cooked in an underground earth oven you can expect tender meat and delicious vegetables infused with a smoky, earthy fragrance – it will fill your puku (belly) right up!
It’s only a short drive to our next destination, Taupō, and there’s plenty to discover along the way. From mesmerising mud pools to the thundering rapids of the Huka Falls and Aratiatia Dam, your trusty Haka guide will make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Taupō is a beautiful lakeside town with a stunning mountain backdrop. Lake Taupō is New Zealand’s largest lake – believe it or not, it’s roughly the same size as Singapore!
This place is all about the thrills and spills, and there are plenty of options in store this afternoon. Get your hair wet with a water touch bungy jump, take an unforgettable skydive or a sunset lake cruise for amazing lake and mountain views.
Included: Soak in a natural hot spring
Optional Paid: Bungy jump, skydive, jet boat ride, Tongariro Crossing
A full day in Taupō… are you in the mood for peaceful lakeside tranquility or unlimited adrenaline and adventure? Either way, Taupō’s got you covered. For many, the ultimate adventure on offer here is the hiking (or tramping, as we Kiwis know it).
The Tongariro Crossing is among the top 10 full-day walks in the world. This 19.4-kilometre mountain trek in Tongariro National Park boasts emerald green lakes, venting steam, lava flows and craters. You’ll come back grinning from ear to ear before falling into bed and sleeping like a baby.
If you’d prefer to relax, jump on a boat for a sailing trip to view Māori rock carvings. Or head to Spa Park and soak until your fingers are wrinkly. However you choose to spend today we guarantee you won’t forget it.
It’s a big drive from Taupō to Wellington, but there’s some unmissable scenery on offer. Lord of the Rings junkies, you’re in for a treat!
Our journey takes us through Tongariro National Park via the Rangipo Desert (bet you didn’t know New Zealand had one of those!). Some of your favourite Lord of the Rings battle scenes were filmed right here.
The Desert Road boasts incredible views of three active volcanic peaks – Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Ruapehu. You may know Mount Ngauruhoe as Mount Doom, so be sure to snap a Mordor selfie!
We pull into Wellington in the afternoon, with just enough time for film buffs make a trip to Weta Workshop, where the special effects of Lord of the Rings and Avatar were produced.
New Zealand’s capital is famous for its bars and eateries, and is a paradise for lovers of craft beer – you’ll be spoilt for choice tonight!
The tour officially finishes at 8pm today in Wellington, but your accommodation tonight is included.
Included: Scenic drive through Tongariro National Park, Mt Victoria Lookout
Today begins with the sailing across the Cook Strait. This is no ordinary ferry crossing, and will likely be a highlight of your time in New Zealand!
After taking in a vineyard or two soon the green mountains around the Marlborough Sounds rise up welcoming us to the South Island. We then head along the coastline to Kaikorua, passing seal colonies along the way.
Included: Cook Strait Crossing
The day begins with your choice of activities, most likely one that will take in the abundant marine life found offshore. We suggest either swimming with dolphins, or alternatively going on a whale watching tour. You can choose to just relax and have coffee in one of the town's cafes, if you prefer!
In the afternoon, we'll head down the stunning coast and onto Christchurch, where we spend the evening.
Optional Paid Activities: Whale Watching, swimming with dolphins
Your day begins with an orientation tour of Christchurch’s surrounding area. Sadly the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 have damaged many buildings, including the iconic cathedral – but the city is in the re-build stage and things look optimistic for its future.
After lunch we leave the South Island’s ‘Garden City’ and head south to the jewel of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo – an alpine village in the heart of the South Island high country. It sits at the edge of its stunningly beautiful glacial lake, completely surrounded by the impressive Southern Alps.
Optional Paid Activities: Hot Air Ballooning, Learn to Surf at Sumner
This morning if you’re feeling energetic, hike up to the summit of Mt John. With awesome views of the Southern Alps, you’ll feel on top of the world. Speaking of views, today’s scenic drive to Queenstown is a show-stopper.
From the golden tussocklands of Mackenzie country – where epic battles of Return of the King were filmed – to the dramatic peaks of the Southern Alps, it’s like you’re driving into a postcard.
We’ll pause for lots of photo stops en route to give your camera a workout, including a stop at the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. This also happens to be the World Home of Bungy, give it a go or enjoy watching the jumpers scream their way through the gorge!
Whether you’re an adrenalin junkie, an avid hiker, wine taster or scenery lover, Queenstown has something for absolutely everyone. With two nights and plenty of daylight hours here, get ready – this town certainly knows how to live life to the max!
Included: Gondola ride to Bob's Peak
Optional Paid: Loads of adventure activities to choose from
You have a whole day to spend in Queenstown and you are spoilt for choice! There are heaps of adventure activities on offer, or you can opt to do a day trip down to Milford Sound.
For a more relaxed day, your guide may take you to Glenorchy (one of the best drives on the South Island) where there are heaps of half and full day walks.
Optional Paid: Day tour to Milford Sound
After the excitement of Queenstown, today is a chance to chill. Wanaka is Queenstown’s slightly quieter little sister, a mere one hour drive away. On the way we’ll stop in at charming Arrowtown, a historic gold rush village with heaps of old world character.
Blessed with towering peaks and a glacial blue lake, you’ll soon see why Wanaka’s considered to be one of New Zealand’s most beautiful mountain towns. There are stunning hikes and bike rides all around for a welcome chance to chill.
One of the best ways to admire Wanaka is from the air. Treat yourself to a skydive or a scenic flight in a vintage plane – you can even take a flying lesson, or if you prefer to keep your feet closer to the ground, stroll or bike around the lake and check out the famous Wanaka Tree, standing all alone in the water. As always, it’s your trip and your choice: you do you.
Optional Paid: More adventure activities
After a relaxing morning in Wanaka, the journey to Franz is an another stunner – many of our guides rate it as their favourite drive in New Zealand.
As we hit the road, we’ll stop at one of our favourite lakeside lookout points at Lake Hawea or Lake Wanaka. Your guide will keep an eye on the weather and pick the best option.
From the cascading waterfalls of Haast Pass to classic Kiwi coastal views, you won’t want to nap on the bus in case you miss anything. Your guide will have some epic surprise photo stops and short walks along the way.
Between September and December it’s whitebait season (a small fish that’s a delicacy in New Zealand). Fried up with eggs and served on toast, it’s a local treat and shouldn’t be missed. We’ll stop at one of the local spots for a taste during the season.
We roll into Franz Josef around late afternoon/early evening. This UNESCO World Heritage area is famous for its spectacular glacier, just 5 kilometres from town, which is begging to be explored tomorrow.
The Franz Josef glacier is a must see on the West Coast of the South Island. Surrounding the glacier is a stunning landscape of temperate rainforest of ancient podocarp trees and other evergreen species. The combination of ice and temperate rainforest is a unique feature of New Zealand’s glacier country and is an ecosystem found nowhere else on the planet.
Te Wahi Pounamu (which means ‘the place of greenstone’ in Māori) is the name given to the this part of the West Coast because of the abundance of pounamu (greenstone/jade) to be found here. Included in your tour today is a special opportunity to carve your very own pounamu pendant at a local gallery.
There are heaps of ways to enjoy Franz Josef Glacier; If you can afford it, we highly recommend reaching the bluest ice via helicopter with a Franz Josef Glacier heli-hike. Maybe you’d prefer to kayak on a glacial lake; or just relax in the steamy hot springs down below.
Optional Paid: Franz Josef Ice Explorer, quad biking, mountain biking
We head up the beautiful west coast on one of the most spectacular drives in the world en route to Punakaiki.
We take a break at Hokitika to visit a Jade factory. This place experienced a massive gold rush in the late 1860s and today remnants can be seen everywhere: in original buildings and in the landscape, altered by excavations and vast mounds of tailings. This small group adventure tour stays at the Te Nikau Retreat. A firm favourite on tour, the resort is set 3km north of Pancake Rocks; a set of beautiful lodges and cabins in peaceful rainforest beside the coast. In the evening we watch the sunset over the ocean. Pure bliss!
Te Nikau Retreat
We have the entire day to explore this remote and untouched region of the West Coast. There are heaps of activities to consider – from surfing, horse trekking, kayaking or simply going for a walk and taking in the view. South of our accommodation is the village of Punakaiki and its ‘Pancake Rocks.’ These huge columns of limestone that resemble pancakes are worth more than a couple photos – and with the heavy swell at high tide, water is forced up through blowholes. You also can choose to make your own knife in Barrytown. You begin by forging your own blade from red hot steel, and then complete your knife with a native timber handle. Sounds like a great souvenir, eh?
Te Nikau Retreat
Included: Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
We leave Punakaiki early today, en route for the clear blue waters of the Abel Tasman National Park. Along the way we continue to explore the West Coast – hopefully checking out seal colonies and remote windswept beaches. We will arrive at our accommodation by early evening – a remote farm just on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park.
Farm on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park
Today we explore Abel Tasman – New Zealand’s smallest but still stunning national park. You might choose to experience the park by kayak – no experience necessary, guides will teach you the basic skills needed. Alternatively you can choose to go for a walk on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track and explore native forest and secluded beaches. Summer has us staying on a boat docked on one of the bays, whereas winter has us heading down to Nelson – only about an hour away. Nelson is the sunshine capital of New Zealand and a beautiful seaside city to explore. Keen to see Abel Tasman from above? Check out Skydive Abel Tasman for the chance to jump from 16,500 feet above the beautiful blue waters of the national park.
Farm on the edge of the National Park
Optional Paid Activities: Skydive, kayaking in the National Park, canyoning
Included: Hike on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track
On our journey back towards Picton, where we will cross to Wellington once again on the Inter-Islander ferry this evening, we break up the drive by stopping at Havelock, the centre of the New Zealand green-lipped mussel industry. The Mussel Pot Café is a popular stop for seafood fans! There is more time to explore the small town of Picton, and your guide may take you for a cultural walk to learn more about the area. By the time we reach Wellington it will be around 10pm and so the rest of the evening is up to you!
Included: Cook Strait Ferry
Starts In: Auckland
Finishes In: Auckland
Number Of Days: 10
Starts In: Christchurch
Finishes In: Christchurch
Number Of Days: 14
Starts In: Auckland
Finishes In: Christchurch
Number Of Days: 17
Starts In: Auckland
Finishes In: Auckland
Number Of Days: 10