Exploring New Zealand
From the steaming geothermal vents of Rotorua and the ice sheets and temperate rainforest of Franz Josef Glacier, to the genuine warmth of a farm stay with a local family, experience all of New Zealand’s many facets on this unforgettable journey. Enjoy city tours of Auckland, Napier, Wellington and Dunedin. Spend two nights discovering the sun-soaked Bay of Islands. Explore the wineries of Marlborough. Experience the wild and stunning west coast in Punakaiki famous for the pancake rocks and blow holes. Sip wine at a regional vineyard in Otago. Immerse yourself in the Maori culture. Witness the famous Haka war challenge, followed by a Hangi feast.
Auckland – Bay of Islands – Matakohe – Rotorua – Napier – Wellington – Picton – Blenheim, Marlborough – Punakaiki – Franz Josef – Queenstown – Te Anau – Dunedin – Mt. Cook - Christchurch
• 21 Nights accommodation
• 21 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 12 Dinners
• All transportation included during the trip
• Expert Tour Guide, Driver and local guides
- Visa or travel documents that may be needed
- Meals that are not shown
- Items of a personal nature
Related Services Available to Add:
Day 1: AUCKLAND
Your tour opens in Auckland, the “City of Sails,” consistently rated one of the best places in the world to live. Auckland’s Polynesian population instills into its chic atmosphere the vibrant feel of the Pacific Islands. This evening, join your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner.
Day 2: AUCKLAND – BAY OF ISLANDS
Come to know the best of Auckland during a panoramic city tour featuring the America’s Cup Village, the War Memorial, bustling Queen Street, and the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Next, depart Auckland and travel north to the Bay of Islands, your home for the next two nights. This sun-soaked region boasts more than 144 islands and warm waters with abundant marine life. Visit the Waitangi Treaty House where Maori and British leaders signed the 1840 treaty establishing New Zealand as a nation.
Day 3: BAY OF ISLANDS
We begin the day with a cruise that features the bay’s famous Hole in the Rock and a stop off at picturesque Urupukapuka Island. Relax on the beach or walk to a higher elevation to enjoy 360° views. Look out at the Cape Brett Lighthouse which stands nearly 500 feet above sea level at the edge of the Cape Brett Peninsula. The rest of the day is yours to independently explore Paihia – the quaint town known as “the jewel of the Bay of Islands.”
Day 4: BAY OF ISLANDS – MATAKOHE – HOME STAY*
Leave the sparkling waters of the Bay of Islands behind and head to Matakohe in the heartland of the North Island. Make a stop at the Kauri Museum where you will come to know the stories surrounding the giant kauri tree that can live for 2,000 years. Discover how the early settlers used this abundant tree to build a life for themselves. Later, make yourself right at home when a New Zealand family welcomes you for the night!* This is sure to be an unforgettable experience as you make new friends, learn about the customs of the “Kiwis” and enjoy a home-cooked meal.
Day 5: ROTORUA
Today, find yourself amid the dramatic geothermal landscape of Rotorua. With over one-third of its population boasting Maori roots, this city is known as the Maori capital of New Zealand. Visit Te Puia, New Zealand's premier Maori cultural and geothermal experience. The National Carving School and National Weaving School are located here, passing on age-old customs by teaching the tribal youth these traditional skills. Enjoy the chance to view the Kiwi bird and learn what is being done in an effort to remove this marvellous creature from the endangered species list. Tonight, experience an authentic Hangi dinner celebration where you learn about the warm-hearted Maoris and their lives before European colonists arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and since. Enjoy an immersive experience featuring authentic entertainment such as the poi dance and the famous “Haka” war challenge.
Day 6: ROTORUA - NAPIER
Journey into the Hawke's Bay region. After arriving in the city of Napier, which boasts some of the greatest Art Deco architecture in the world, enjoy a guided tour and learn why Napier took on such an eclectic design style. This afternoon, take advantage of time at leisure to stroll the oceanfront promenade and simply soak up the atmosphere.
Day 7: NAPIER - WELLINGTON
Travel through the rolling countryside of the North Island. The rural vistas and the rugged Rimutaka Range slowly give way to Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.
Day 8: WELLINGTON
This morning we embark on a panoramic coach tour of Wellington. See the Beehive, New Zealand’s Parliament; historic St. Paul’s Church; and the Old Government Building – the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere. Following the tour, visit the Te Papa Tongawera Museum, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history, and the Maori culture. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Day 9: WELLINGTON – PICTON – BLENHEIM, MARLBOROUGH
Board a ferry and sail across Cook Strait. This has been called “the most beautiful ferry ride in the world.” Arrive in Picton on the South Island where you will have free time for lunch. Next, drive along the coast to the picturesque village of Havelock where you will have free time to enjoy the quaint colonial buildings in a town that bills itself as the “green-lipped mussel capital of the world.” Upon arrival in Blenheim, relax at your hotel before heading to a local winery where you will see the vineyard, enjoy a tasting, and dine at the cellar door bistro.
Day 10: BLENHEIM
The morning is yours to enjoy the town of Blenheim. Next, we continue our introduction to the world-famous wine region of Marlborough with a visit to another of the family-owned wineries in the region for a tasting and tour. The area is famous for its Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and late harvest Riesling wines, all of which you will taste today.
Day 11: BLENHEIM - PUNAKAIKI
Today we drive through the heart of the South Island and further along the rugged coast to Punakaiki. Stop and gaze in wonder at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowholes. Here columns of water shoot skyward from rocks that resemble giant stacks of hotcakes. Upon arrival at your hotel you will have free time to explore the area before dinner.
Day 12: PUNAKAIKI – FRANZ JOSEF REGION
We continue our journey along the stunning coastline. Our destination is the glacially carved landscape of the Franz Josef Region. Along the way, make a stop in Hokitiki to meet the skilled carvers who work with the West Coast pounamu – New Zealand greenstone – at a local jade shop.
Day 13: FRANZ JOSEF - QUEENSTOWN
Before departing Franz Josef – if the dynamic New Zealand weather cooperates – you may opt to see this beautiful glacier region from a bird’s-eye view during a flightseeing tour. En route to Queenstown, watch as the amazing landscape unfolds before your eyes as you pass through the rainforest, bordered by the Southern Alps and the twisting coastline. After crossing the Haast Pass, arrive in Queenstown, one of the country’s prettiest towns. Tonight is sure to be a highlight as you board the cable car for a ride up to the Skyline restaurant where you will enjoy dinner and fantastic views of Queenstown.
Day 14: QUEENSTOWN
Set off for the beautiful 19th century gold rush settlement of Arrowtown. Take time to explore its quaint, historic streets. The Central Otago region is where some of New Zealand’s best wines are grown and produced. During a stop at a local winery, visit the underground storage cave – the largest in New Zealand – for a tasting of their award-winning wine. Follow this unforgettable experience with lunch at the winery’s fabulous restaurant. Later, return to Queenstown and enjoy some leisure time.
Day 15: QUEENSTOWN
A full day of leisure in Queenstown offers several options to enhance your dream trip. You may shop or people-watch in the village. Or, join the optional "Journey through Middle Earth" tour which takes you through the majestic Remarkable Mountains and the breathtaking Queenstown countryside showcasing many of the spots where The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.
Day 16: QUEENSTOWN – MILFORD SOUND - TE ANAU
En route to Milford Sound, enjoy the rugged grandeur of the Hollyford Valley. You’ll travel through ancient beech forest via the Homer Tunnel. During a cruise of the breathtakingly beautiful Milford Sound you will see why this fjord is one of the most visited sights on the South Island. With rock faces that rise nearly 4,000 feet on either side, the scenery will take your breath away. Following your cruise, enjoy an overnight stay on the southern shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. Indulge in a special “Taste of Fiordland” dinner showcasing the bountiful local produce.
Day 17: TE ANAU - DUNEDIN
Travel to Dunedin, on the southeast coast of New Zealand. One of the earliest European settlements on the islands, Dunedin holds proudly to its Scottish heritage and traditions. Visit the Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland breeding location in the world for these magnificent birds. Their epic wingspan can reach nearly 10 feet!
Day 18: DUNEDIN
This morning's panoramic drive reveals Larnach Castle as well as Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest public road. Later you may choose to embark on an optional trip on the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway; this line was begun in 1879 to serve the inland region of Otago and includes 10 tunnels and 35 bridges.
Day 19: DUNEDIN – MT. COOK REGION
The Maori word for Mt. Cook is Aoraki, which means “cloud piercer.” Journey through New Zealand’s unspoiled wilderness and arrive at Mt. Cook National Park, where permanent ice fields and glaciers blanket the ragged peaks. This is where famed New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary honed his skills before conquering Everest. Get a bird’s eye view of the mountain range on an optional glacier flightseeing tour (weather permitting). Upon arrival to your hotel the choice is yours: visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and learn how the story of the Mt. Cook region intersected with the exploits of one of the twentieth century’s greatest explorers or, very late that evening, participate in stargazing with a naturalist under the pristine Southern skies.
Day 20: MT. COOK - CHRISTCHURCH
As you travel to Christchurch this morning, pause to pay a visit to a working farm. Watch a skilled New Zealand “strong eye” sheep herding dog at work, followed by a sheep shearing demonstration. Get to know these New Zealand farmers over a home-made morning tea. Later, enjoy some free time to explore Christchurch on your own. Stroll the city’s magnificent gardens or learn its more recent history at the Quake City exhibition at the Re:Start Mall.
Day 21: CHRISTCHURCH
This morning enjoy a short tour of Christchurch. Afterwards, you have free time to enjoy the sights on your own or perhaps join in an optional excursion. Tonight, visit the region's earliest home, Riccarton House, and enjoy a farewell dinner.
Day 22: CHRISTCHURCH
Your adventure comes to a close, leaving you with many pleasant memories of a wonderful trip.
Price will be quoted in CAD. Departure dates available year round, prices may vary, please contact us for details. Other conditions may apply.
® Merit Travel trademark owned by, and use is granted by, Merit Travel Group Inc. Offers are based on availability and may be subject to change. Certain exclusions, limitations and restrictions may apply. For full terms and conditions visit, https://merittravel.com/terms-and-conditions/.