Explore New Zealand
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PLEASE NOTE: We can help you add, adjust and tailor the itinerary to suit your requirements. Each clients itinerary is different. We work to your budget and take advantage of current specials in the marketplace for your time of travel.
Destinations: Auckland, Rotorua, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch
Experiences: Culture, Scenery, Wildlife, Food and Wine, Adventure, Relaxation
No. of days: 18 days/17 nights
You get to start at the top of New Zealand and work your way down to almost the bottom with this 17 night itinerary. As you move from one destination to another, you can see the landscape change dramatically from the North Island to the South Island. On your travels see and experience New Zealand through a variety of informative and enjoyable activities. There are cultural opportunities in the geothermal center of New Zealand, Rotorua and see the famous Waitomo Caves. Discover the joys of the Hawkes Bay’s on a gourmet wine and food tour. Land on a glacier and hike into beautiful ice formations, jet boat into Mount Aspiring National Park and cruise on Lake Wakatipu on a vintage steamship. Visit Dunedin and learn more about the Royal Albatross and very rare Yellow Eyed Penguin in their natural environment. This comprehensive itinerary includes something for everyone.
DAY BY DAY:
Day 1: Today you arrive into Auckland, transfer to hotel or pick up your rental car. This afternoon you’re on an Auckland city tour. See the highlights of Auckland city with its 55 volcanoes and the marine village of Devonport on Auckland's North Shore. Be amazed by spectacular views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, dramatic views of several volcanoes and the marine village of Devonport. (1 night Auckland)
Day 2: Today you leave Auckland and drive to Rotorua or board transport. On the way you’ll be stopping at the famous Waitomo Caves. Your guided tour will take you through over 250 metres of stunning underground limestone caves. You’ll see magnificent cave formations and the highlight of your tour is an unrivalled boat trip through the spectacular Glowworm Grotto. As your eyes adjust to the dark, the walls and roof sparkle with the lights of glowworm larvae. Glide through the starry wonderland of the glowworm grotto, your way lit by a myriad of tiny glowworm lights glittering and reflecting off the water. This evening you’ll enjoy and evening cultural experience which includes exploring the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, cultural storytelling, entertainment and a traditional hangi dinner. (1 night Rotorua)
Day 3: This morning you’ll be picked up from your accommodation for a geothermal wonderland tour around the Rotorua region. Experience the amazing geothermal activity, gushing geysers, boiling mud pools and the many colors of every tint and hue displayed in the pools, lakes, craters, steaming vents and mineral terraces of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Then enjoy the Waimangu Volcanic Valley nature walk amidst a stunning volcanic landscape with spectacular views of hot crater lakes, steaming cliffs, hissing fumeroles, colourful silica terraces, rare thermally adapted plants and the opportunity to see some of NZ's native birdlife. You have this afternoon at leisure. We recommend visiting Skyline Rotorua for great views and fun luge rides, also the Redwoods Treewalk during the day and in the evening.
Day 4: Today you leave Rotorua either driving to Napier or on-board transport. This afternoon you have a very relaxing afternoon on a half day Wine and Gourmet Odyssey tour around the Hawke's Bay region. Savor some internationally acclaimed wine and relax amongst a wealth of scenery on this fabulous odyssey. Take a behind the scenes look at a winery with a chance to learn from a local wine maker, learn about wine and food matching at one of New Zealand's top winery restaurants and indulge in gourmet platters with top local produce including meats, seafood, vegetables, cheese, olives, breads and dips. You’ll be dropped off at your accommodation in time for dinner. (1 night Napier)
Day 5: This morning you’re driving or boarding transport from Napier to Wellington. You have the afternoon at leisure in Wellington city. (2 nights Wellington).
Day 6: Today you get to explore Wellington on a city highlights tour. You will travel around the earthquake-scarred South Coast to see the site of the Wahine ferry disaster and the distant ranges of the South Island, overlooked by coastal houses perched on the steep, rocky hills. Enjoy views of the harbor from the top of Mount Victoria and ride the steep cable car up to an incredible, far-reaching panorama. See famous landmarks and buildings on your adventure. This afternoon visit the national museum of Te Papa to experience the extraordinary mix of Maori and European history, amid the nation's natural and cultural treasures.
Day 7: You leave Wellington today and travel to Picton on the Interislander Ferry through the very scenic Marlborough Sounds. On arrival to Picton you either pick up a rental car or board transport to Nelson. (2 nights Nelson).
Day 8: You’re off exploring the Nelson region today on wine and artisans tour for the day. You’ll get to visit local arts and craft studios and also stop for a gourmet lunch at a renowned local Restaurant. On this tour you will learn to taste wines like a professional and see some amazing art that Nelson is renowned for. Learning about the local European and Maori history as you travel between the wineries and art galleries covering over 100kms of pristine scenery.
Day 9: Today you drive or board transport from Nelson to Franz Josef on the West Coast. It is a full day of scenic driving, approximately 6 hours. (2 nights Franz Josef).
Day 10: You’re going to get up close and personal with the Franz Josef Glacier on today’s heli hike helicopter tour. Franz Josef Glacier is 12km long and features ice pinnacles as high as multi-story buildings, deep crevasses and stunning, pristine blue ice. It's all on show and the most dynamic glacier in New Zealand is accessible to you via one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world. First witness the majesty of the beautiful ice formation from the air as your helicopter takes to the skies above the glacier. Then descend onto the glacier itself and set foot on the ice. Your heli hike guide will then lead you through some of the most stunning ice formations, immersing you in the world of the Franz Josef Glacier. To touch the ice and breathe in the fresh alpine air is a unique experience and one which you will never forget.
Day 11: Leaving Franz Josef today you drive or board transport to Queenstown. (3 nights Queenstown).
Day 12: Today you’re on the Dart River Wilderness Jet. This half day adventure will take you deep into Mount Aspiring National Park. You’ll experience breath-taking scenery and an exhilarating ride as you follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat. Learn about the area’s rich history, the Greenstone trail and countless Maori legends and walk amongst the ancient beech tree forests – an atmosphere you may recognize from The Lord of the Rings films. It’s a complete Queenstown to Glenorchy experience in an untouched natural wonderland. This afternoon is at leisure. We recommend riding the Gondola to the top for fantastic views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. At 6pm you’re cruising Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw a coal-fired vintage steamship originally built in 1912. Once on board, enjoy spectacular views of Cecil and Walter Peaks and the western shores of the lake while sipping on a glass of wine.
Day 13: You have today at leisure in Queenstown. If you would like to experience a gourmet food and wine tour or any other activity on this day we have great recommendations.
Day 14: Today you leave Queenstown and drive or board transport to Dunedin. Stop at Moeraki Boulders if you are self driving. (2 nights Dunedin).
Day 15: Dunedin is a great place to view New Zealand wildlife. Today you’re on a wildlife tour. Cruise the length of the beautiful Otago Harbour and experience unrivalled viewing of the exciting diversity of wildlife which abounds on spectacular Taiaroa Head; the only mainland nesting place for Northern Royal Albatross in the world, and home to New Zealand Fur Seals and eight other nesting bird species. Other wildlife seen may include dolphins, sea lions and a fascinating array of rarely seen ocean birds including other species of albatross, penguins and marine mammals in their natural environment. After the cruise, enjoy a guided tour of the Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve to see the rarest penguin in the world, found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand.
Day 16: You’re off to Christchurch today either driving or on board transport. (2 nights Christchurch).
Day 17: Discover Christchurch on a morning city sightseeing tour. You visit the central city highlights, then up to Sign of the Takahe for spectacular views of the city, Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps, then over the Port Hills to Lyttleton through the harbor tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and Cave Rock before returning to the central city. You have the afternoon at leisure. We recommend wandering through the beautiful Botanic Gardens.
Day 18: Today you begin your journey home departing Christchurch for Auckland and your outbound flight.
1 night Auckland
2 nights Rotorua
1 night Napier
2 nights Wellington
2 nights Nelson
2 nights Franz Josef
3 nights Queenstown
2 nights Dunedin
2 nights Christchurch
Auckland city highlights tour
Waitomo Caves and glow worms
Rotorua Cultural tour,
Geothermal wonderland tour, Rotorua
Gourmet food and wine tour, Hawkes Bay
Wellington City Highlights Tour
Nelson Wine and Artisans Tour
Franz Josef Glacier heli hike tour
Dart River Wilderness Jet Boat Tour
Lake Wakatipu cruise on TSS Earnslaw
Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour
Christchurch city tour and arctic center visit
All transfers (if not self driving)
Rental Car if using
Coach transport if using
Activity transfers where required
All aspects of this itinerary can be changed to suit your requirements.
The itineraries provided are great introductions to your chosen destination. You can create a travel plan using the itinerary provided or make modifications to destinations, activities and accommodation and create the dream trip you want.
Not every traveler is the same, we get that and so that’s why we recommend making changes to suit your needs. In fact, we insist - we want you to have the best trip.
If you would like any recommendations for dinner or shopping areas please let us know we are happy to help and make bookings for you where necessary.
To travel to Australia you will need a US passport valid for at least 6 months and we can process an ETA Visa for free for US Citizens. We will need a copy of your Photo Page of your Passport. Nationalities of any other countries please enquire with your agent to see if you are eligible for a free ETA Visa or if you need to apply for a Visitor Visa.
To travel to New Zealand you will need a US passport valid for at least 6 months and an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority. More information on the NZeTA application requirements and process can be found on our FAQ page here.
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to protect your investment. We will provide a travel insurance quote at the time of booking, and you are free to use our recommended insurance with Travelguard, find your own, or book without insurance.
A product that we can offer is a Cancel For Any Reason policy that will provide you with 80% back in refunds. If the cancellation is for medical reasons there is a 100% refund..
Downunder Journeys services travel requests from the United States and Canada for travel to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands and Tahiti. All pricing on this website is in US Dollars.
All of the sample itineraries on this website do not include airfares as the airfare price changes daily and to ensure you get the best possible price we will work with the best airfares at the time. If you happen to buy your airfare first and then need a package to fit it, we can certainly help with that as well, just let us know.
As an idea for a 2-week vacation to Australia or New Zealand we recommend a budget of around $8,000-10,000 (including economy airfare), this would be for a 4 star and above itinerary, a little cheaper if we did more moderate accommodations.