15 Day Wonders of New Zealand (Monday Departure, Discovery Tour, Itinerary A)
15 days with
Gate 1 Travel
DAY 1, Monday - Depart for New Zealand
Depart for New Zealand.
DAY 2, Tuesday - En Route
Cross the International date line en route to New Zealand and skip a day ahead.
DAY 3, Wednesday - Arrive in Auckland
Welcome to New Zealand! Arrive in Auckland, the country's largest city, often called the "City of Sails" because of its lovely harbor side location. This evening, attend a briefing by your Tour Manager on the exciting adventure that awaits you in New Zealand followed by a Welcome Dinner and drinks with your fellow travelers. (Dinner)
DAY 4, Thursday - Auckland
Begin the day with a visit to the fabulous Auckland Museum, guided by an expert New Zealand natural historian. Here, you'll see the monumental carvings, canoes and taonga (treasures) of the Maori people along with an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits depicting the growth of the country. Learn about the significance of Maori and Polynesian history and understand how the melding of diverse cultures helped shape the unique culture that exists in New Zealand today. Stop by Bastion Point, and then return via Mission Bay for an afternoon at leisure to enjoy all of the delights of Auckland on your own. Or, join the optional Wine on Waiheke Tour. Travel by ferry to Waiheke Island, a haven of beautiful vineyards, olive groves and gorgeous beaches. Upon arrival you'll be greeted by your knowledgeable guide, who will lead you on a wine tour of the island. Enjoy wine tastings in one of Waiheke’s vineyards. This evening, take a moment and admire the views from the Sky Tower on your own (entrance included). (Breakfast)
Optional: Wine on Waiheke Tour (PM)
DAY 5, Friday - Tongariro National Park
From Auckland travel to the fertile Waikato Plains, stopping in Ngaruawahia, home of the Maori King, and through the country's major dairy region. View the hilly farmlands that mix with indigenous bush as you continue south. A unique experience is in store for you at the astonishing Ruakuri Caves with its amazing formations and underground secrets. The caves are home to swirling rivers, echoing waterfalls, glow worms and rocks that flow into delicate shawl-like formations. You'll also see a deep limestone shaft and an astonishing soaring subterranean cathedral. Afterwards, on to a local farm for a sumptuous barbecue lunch. Then, drive through Te Kuiti and Taumarunui on the way to Tongariro National Park. Your accommodations are at the unique Chateau Tongariro at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, renowned for its classical style and grandeur, fondly referred to as the "Grand Old Lady of the Mountain". Tonight, dinner together surrounded by history and magnificent antiques in this grand Chateau. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6, Saturday - Huka Falls, Wai O Tapu Thermal Park, Rotorua
Luxuriate in the chateau's historic lounge, or, take a short walk to see the magnificent landscape and endless mountain views. Then, a scenic drive takes you to Taupo on the banks of the Tongariro River, where anglers come from all over the world to fish for rainbow or brown trout. You then skirt the eastern shores of Taupo Lake, the largest in the country, to thundering Huka Falls, with its striking foamy rapids that fall into crystal-clear blue waters. Continue to the geothermal wonderland of the Wai O Tapu Thermal Park. Walk through New Zealand's most colorful geothermal attraction, with its steaming geysers and bubbling hot springs. As you drive past Kaingaroa State Forest, the largest in the North Island, have your first glimpse of Rotorua, where you stay for the next two nights, home of fascinating Maori culture, hot springs and boiling mud pools. Tonight, a special highlight - home hosted dinner in a typical New Zealand home. Enjoy friendly hospitality and a three course traditional meal and a glass of local wine. (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 7, Sunday - Buried Village of Te Wairoa, Whakarewarewa, "Hangi" Feast Dinner
Morning is at leisure for independent explorations in Rotorua. In the afternoon, have an informative look into Maori culture. Begin with a visit to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, New Zealand’s mini version of Pompeii. Afterward, take a scenic drive to the Blue and Green Lakes and the Redwood Forest to hear about their history and relevance to Maori. Arrive at Te Puia, in Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, set amidst a landscape of erupting geothermal activity and thermal springs. Discover the unique lifestyle and traditions of the Maori and witness the phenomena of Mother Nature and how the Maori people live in harmony within this unique landscape and environment. You'll meet with a member of the local Maori tribe who shares the many aspects of traditional wood carving and its importance within the Maori culture. In the village observe the weaving demonstrations and traditional ways of creating piu piu (grass skirts). You’ll visit the kiwi house to view the nocturnal Kiwi Bird before continuing to the boiling mud pools and geysers. Then, you’ll be welcomed into the Whakarewarewa Marae with a traditional Haka ceremony and Maori concert. Afterward, enjoy an authentically prepared Hangi dinner, cooked in the steaming ground and hot pools, ending with the most delectable steamed dessert. Tonight will indeed be a memorable and authentic Maori experience! (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 8, Monday - Oamaru and the Blue Penguin Colony
Flight this morning to Christchurch in the South Island. A panoramic drive then leads you down the coast where you cross the longest bridge in New Zealand over the Rakaia River. Drive through Ashburton, center of the sheep and wheat farming area to the port city of Timaru, with one of the world's largest man-made harbors. Then, on to the pretty town of Oamaru, with its impressive display of charming Victorian architecture. This evening, visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, home to the world's smallest penguins who nest under the cliffs along the foreshore of the harbor. Watch from the outdoor observation area as they walk up the stony ramps in front of you, returning home to the breeding colony at the end of the day*. Dinner this evening at the hotel. (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 9, Tuesday - Central Otago Wine Region, Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown
Traveling south, arrive at Moeraki. Here, view the mysterious large and spherical boulders, known to be over 60 million years old, scattered along the beach, with others emerging from the sandstone cliffs. A change of scenery as you head inland to the heart of the Central Otago Wine Region, the fastest growing wine area in New Zealand, with its unique climate and rich soil that creates ideal growing conditions. After lunch, drive through Alexandra & Clyde to the Clutha Valley and view the rugged scenery of the Kawarau Gorge following the river to Queesntown. The drive then takes you to Queenstown, named for Queen Victoria, surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown's stunning scenery is inspiring and revitalizing. The city is acclaimed by international travelers and "kiwis" alike as New Zealand's adventure capital. Before arriving at the hotel sample some of the fine wines at one of the locally owned boutique vineyards in the Gibbston Valley. Leisure time to explore this dazzling city on your own. (Breakfast, Lunch)
DAY 10, Wednesday - Te Anau, Milford Sound
Depart Queenstown for picturesque Te Anau, gateway to Milford Sound. Nestled on the lake's edge, it's the perfect base from which to discover the spectacular glacier carved wilderness of Fiordland National Park. Follow the glacier-hewn Eglinton River Valley into a magnificent beech forest before descending into the precipitous Hollyford Valley. Tussock and scrub replace the bush as the road climbs steadily up the Hollyford to the gigantic cirque where sheer rock faces dwarf the Homer Tunnel portal beneath. Beyond the tunnel you descend into the Cleddau Canyon, between towering, rugged mountains and forests, until the road comes out into the open at spectacular Milford Sound. Board your cruise on Milford Sound and be surrounded by astonishing scenery from atop the viewing decks. An informative commentary on the natural history and wildlife follows you as you stop at waterfalls and points of interest along the way. Return to Queentown for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 11, Thursday - Full Day in Queenstown
A day at leisure for personal discovery in Queenstown. In the morning, perhaps join the optional Lakeshore, Forest & Bird Walking Tour. Embark on a delightful half day guided walk with an experienced guide, who will introduce you to the diversity of New Zealand's flora & fauna. This hike is a unique nature interpretive experience taken at a leisurely pace through native beech forest. Have fun spotting native birds on the edge of the forest as they flit in and out of view. Enjoy morning tea or coffee on the lake shore to the sounds of native bird calls and surrounded by majestic mountains. The path winds around the lake shore with an option of a steeper climb to a lookout for breathtaking mountain and lake views. (Breakfast)
Optional: Lakeshore, Forest & Bird Walking Tour (AM)
DAY 12, Friday - Lake Wanaka, Franz Josef
Today, a magnificent drive on your way to glacier country. Depart Queenstown and follow the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell, with its lush vineyards and history dating back to the hectic gold rush days of the 1800s. A short drive along the Clutha River Valley brings you to picturesque Wanaka nestled on the crystal clear waters of Lake Wanaka. View the rugged coastal scenery as you cross the rivers and streams flowing from the upper reaches of the mighty Southern Alps. Enjoy a country-style lunch en route to the destination of Franz Josef. Upon arrival, views of the famous glacier discovered by Europeans in 1865, named after the Austrian emperor. Although the glacier has retreated considerably, its frozen past is still visible in the present landscape. Dinner at the hotel tonight. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 13, Saturday - Franz Josef Glacier
After a morning at leisure, an adventurous afternoon. Your experienced and knowledgeable guide will lead you on an adventurous walk in the Franz Josef Glacier valley. Learn more about the role of the glacier in shaping this remarkable landscape as you continue through the regenerating rainforest and along the glacier valley up to the receding terminal face of the glacier. The rest of the day is at leisure in this stunning setting. Spend time in the charming and hospitable town with its cafes and international restaurants. Or, if you're looking for more adventure, opt to take a heli-hike, aerial sightseeing, or a guided ice walk atop the glacier on your own. (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 14, Sunday - Christchurch
Depart Franz Josef, traveling north on the South Island's West Coast before turning inland. You gradually descend the Southern Alps and emerge in the Canterbury Plains where you enter Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand. Often referred to as the most English of New Zealand's cities, it is also known as the "Garden City", because of its majestic trees and extensive parks and gardens, including expansive Hagley Park in the heart of the city. An informative stop follows at Quake City, coordinated by the Canterbury Museum. Visit this unique multi-sensory attraction aimed at informing and educating New Zealanders and travellers. Tonight, share wonderful memories together on your last night in New Zealand. Bid a fond farewell to your Tour Manager and newfound friends at a special Farewell Dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
DAY 15, Monday - Depart New Zealand
Your vacation ends after breakfast. (Breakfast)
*Note: Penguins have sensitive eyes and a bright, sudden flash or unusual light can frighten or disorientate a penguin. To ensure penguins keep coming back to this special area we ask you to not use your cameras, camcorders or camera phones at the Penguin Parade.
All This Included
Small groups of maximum 22 travelers guaranteed
12 nights accommodations
Hotel taxes, fees & service charges
25 meals: 12 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 9 dinners (including welcome & farewell dinners and home hosted dinner)
Beer and wine included with all dinners
Services of English-speaking tour manager throughout
Comprehensive, guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary
Active itinerary with unique cultural features
Thanks to our small group size, we can get to the heart of our destination, visit places that other tours miss, and get to know the locals.
Visit the fabulous Auckland Museum and learn about Maori history
Descend into the astonishing Ruakuri Caves with its swirling rivers, waterfalls and glow worms
Stay overnight at the unique Chateau Tongariro renowned for its style and grandeur
VisitWai-o-Tapu Thermal Park and admire its steaming geysers
Home hosted dinner in a traditional New Zealand home
Enjoy a traditionally prepared "Hangi" dinner, cooked in the steaming ground
Visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin colony, home to the world's smallest penguins
Explore the dazzling city of Queenstown, the country's adventure capital
Cruise on spectacular Milford Sound, surrounded by breathtaking scenery
At Criffel station, take a tour of a family-run working deer farm
Experience the dynamic environment at the Franz Josef Glacier
Enjoy delightful Christchurch, the "most-English" city in the country
Auckland: Rydges Auckland or Stamford Plaza Auckland Hotel
Mount Ruapehu: Chateau Tongariro
Rotorua: Hotel Novotel Rotorua Lakeside
Oamaru: Brydone Hotel
Queenstown: Copthorne Hotel & Resort Queenstown Lakefront or Heartland Hotel Queenstown
Franz Josef: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Christchurch: Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square
Land only prices do not include arrival/departure transfers.
Passengers traveling abroad require a passport valid for six months beyond their travel dates. All travelers are responsible to check if a visa is required for all countries on their itinerary.
This is a moderately active trip. The small group covers a lot of ground each day, and we spend 4-5 hours on our feet during tours. The overall pace is moderate - with 1 three-night stay, 3 two-night stays, and 3 one-night stays. Some of our tours require walking over uneven surfaces. This tour is not recommended for people who have difficulty walking or who have heart conditions.
Please ask your Vacations to Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
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The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.