New Zealand: Ultimate 17-day North & South Island explorer

Day 1 Arrival day to Auckland

Haere Mai and Welcome to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), the largest city in New Zealand and home to over 2 million people. The magic of Auckland is in it’s diversity from culture to the environment. There are over 44 volcanoes in the area and 2 harbours, which explains why Auckland is known locally as the ‘City of Sails’.

Take the afternoon or early evening to explore after you make your way to Neusto Hotel in central Auckland.

Arrival: Anytime
Accommodation: Nesuto Hotel or similar

Day 2 Auckland to Rotorua

This morning we’ll be leaving Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and heading for the Rotorua region. Our first stop today is the Okere Falls. The falls lie on the Kaituna River which has cultural significance to the local iwi (tribes) in the area. Currently, the River is used for tourism, specifically white water rafting and sledging. We’ll stop by the Falls and see if we can spot some brave rafters going over the falls in their raft.

Next, we’ll continue on, skirting around the edge of Lake Rotorua to a lookout point where we’ll have a view of the infamous Mount Tarawera, once the home of the renowned pink and white terraces before a violent eruption destroyed them in 1886. This evening we’ll arrive in Rotorua township and check into our hotel, enjoy a delicious dinner together and then settle in for a luxurious night’s sleep at the Distinction Rotorua.

Accommodation: Distinction Rotorua or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 Free Day in Rotorua

Known as the North Island’s geothermal hot spot and hub for all the very best adventure activities, Rotorua is definitely one of the best places to explore… even if your nostrils tell you otherwise! There is so much to see and experience here and you have a full free day to see as much as you like.

If you want to see some geothermal activity for free, we recommend taking a walk around Kuirau Park to see boiling mud pools and steaming lakes.

You can book a multitude of tours via your Tour Guide and with options such as white water rafting, ziplining through the trees, relaxing at the Polynesian Spa and taking a Gondola up to see the amazing Rotorua Skyline you truly are spoilt for choice.

Visit: Rotorua
Accommodation: Distinction Rotorua or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 4 Rotorua to Lake Aniwhenua to Taupo

This morning we venture off the beaten track to the shores of Lake Aniwhenua in Murupara. Kohutapu Lodge is owned by a local Maori family who is passionate, not only about showcasing their Maori tribal heritage but also about making a difference in the local area.

Murupara is an impoverished community that has been transformed for the better through tourism and commercial development. Through community-driven initiatives and a clear vision to provide more opportunities for the local youth, Kohutapu Lodge has paved the way for change in the area.

Begin the experience with a guided tour of the sacred Maori rock carvings before arriving at the Lodge to witness the preparation of ground cooked hangi and tasting it for yourself!

After lunch, we’ll depart for the lush, green Whirinaki rainforest for a guided tour along the Rongoa trail. Spot native endangered birds and ancient medicinal plants, and learn more about the history of the forest, including the myths and legends before enjoying a hot kawakawa tea in the forest and a final karakia.

This evening, our destination is Taupo. First, we’ll stop at the spectacular Huka Falls to see more than 22,000 litres of water per second thundering into the Waikato River. Then we’ll continue on to our hotel, the fabulous Hilton Taupo, a 19th-century building that combines Victorian charm with modern decor. The resort-style hotel houses a tennis court, a fitness centre and swimming pools.

Visit: Murupara, Whirinaki, Taupo
Accommodation: Hilton Taupo or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Hangi Lunch + Dessert
Activity: Kohutapu Lodge Tribal Tour, Whirinaki Rainforest Tour

Day 5 Taupo to Napier

After a delicious breakfast, it’s time to leave Taupo and travel along the Napier-Taupo Highway to what is widely regarded as the ‘Tuscany of the Southern Pacific’.

The stunning Hawke’s Bay region boasts some of the best wineries around and a visit here would not be complete without a trip to Church Road Winery. Established in 1897, the team at Church Road were the first in New Zealand to craft an exceptional Bordeaux-style Red Wine.

After a wine tasting, you’ll sit down for lunch in the magnificent Tom McDonald cellar to enjoy an afternoon of delicious food and exceptional wines and soak up the ambience and heritage of this historic building. Later, it’s an easy drive into the beautiful coastal town of Napier.

Known for its perfectly preserved Art Deco facades, Napier is often referred to as a 1930’s film set. You have the option to stroll along the tree-lined promenade this evening and sample some fresh seafood from one of the many restaurants.

Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Te Pania or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Visit: Church Road Winery

Day 6 Napier to Wellington

Today it’s time to leave the Art Deco capital and journey down to Wellington, our sparkling capital city, where modern business style blends with a cultured, bohemian spirit.

On the way, we’ll stop in Greytown, Wairarapa’s oldest town, for a spot of lunch. A picturesque village with restored Victorian buildings, Greytown is a charming place to stop, refuel and do some boutique window shopping before we continue our journey to Wellington.

With a population of fewer than 200,000 people, there is no capital city on earth that marries relaxed and refined better than Wellington. The afternoon is free but we highly recommend a visit to our national museum Te Papa and your entrance fee is included. This evening is yours to explore Wellington.

Visit: Wairarapa, Wellington
Accommodation: Novotel Wellington or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Activity: Te Papa

Day 7 Wellington to Nelson

After breakfast this morning, you’ll take the Ferry to the South Island, don’t miss the spectacular views of the sunken valleys meeting the sea that form the Marlborough Sounds.

We’ll then head to Nelson arriving at our destination mid-afternoon, the coach will take you on a scenic drive along the seaside. This evening there’s plenty of time to relax, explore the area and the option to taste some of Nelson’s fine local beverages.

Visit: Picton, Nelson
Accommodation: Rutherford Nelson or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast
Activity: Omaka Museum
Optional activities: Hike to the centre of NZ, Craft beer tasting, wine tasting

Day 8 Abel Tasman National Park

Travel to the seaside resort town of Kaiteriteri and spend the morning cruising the stunning Abel Tasman National Park – a coastal paradise known for its golden sand beaches.

See the iconic Split Apple Rock and call into the most popular beaches along the coastline as you sail up to Totaranui and back. This afternoon we’ll take the scenic route and arrive back in Nelson mid-afternoon.

Visit: Kaiteriteri, Abel Tasman National Park, Totaranui Beach
Accommodation: Rutherford Nelson or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Activity: Abel Tasman National Park Vista Cruise

Day 9 Nelson to Christchurch

This morning we’ll travel back to Picton and here you’ll jump on board the magnificent Coastal Pacific train and journey down to the capital of the South Island in luxury, soaking up the gorgeous scenery en-route.

See Kaikoura’s rugged coastline, beautiful mountains, and rolling farmland of Canterbury before you arrive late afternoon in the South Island’s Capital Christchurch. Tonight we’ll have a group dinner at the hotel.

Visit: Picton, Kaikoura, Canterbury, Christchurch
Accommodation: Rydges Latimer or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Activity: Coastal Pacific Train

Day 10 Christchurch to Dunedin

After breakfast this morning, we’ll journey south down the coast and across the Canterbury Plains. We’ll pass through the township of Oamaru, home to some of the best-preserved heritage buildings in New Zealand before heading onto the mystical Moeraki Boulders

These geological marvels began to form about 60 million years ago and were exposed by the erosion of sedimentary rocks over time. We’ll arrive in Dunedin with plenty of time to make the most of this Scottish City.

Visit: Christchurch, Oamaru, Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin
Accommodation: Scenic Dunedin City or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 11 Dunedin to Te Anau

We’ll visit the iconic Larnach Castle of Dunedin this morning for a stroll through the magnificent gardens before departing for Te Anau. First, we’ll make a stop in Gore for a trip to the Illicit Past… Gore’s colourful past as a centre for illicit whisky distilling and bootlegging is brought to life at the Hokonui Moonshine Museum.

The adventures of the Scottish settlers and their exploits to avoid run-ins with the law are kept alive through dioramas, audio-visuals and artefacts. You can taste Old Hokonui made from the original recipe at the end of your visit, or even take a bottle home with you.

Afterwards, we drive to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland, where we’ll spend the evening.

Accommodation: Distinction Luxmore Te Anau or similar
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner
Activity: Larnach Castle, Hokonui Moonshine Museum
Optional activities: Speight’s Brewery, Dunedin Train Station

Day 12: Te Anau via Doubtful Sound to Queenstown

Departing Te Anau this morning we’ll travel to Manapouri, where we’ll take a leisurely cruise across the lake to West Arm. This is followed by a short coach trip on New Zealand’s most expensive road, travelling over Wilmot Pass and pausing along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view the Doubtful Sound glistening below.

At Deep Cove, we’ll board a modern catamaran and set sail into the majestic fiord – a sight that is sure to take your breath away. Listen to the onboard commentary for an insight into the region’s history as you view spectacular towering mountains and soak up the breathtaking views of this unique and beautiful area of New Zealand. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, as penguins, seals and dolphins all enjoy spending time in the sound!

Once the tour has ended, we’ll make our way to the alpine resort of Queenstown where we’ll spend the next two nights.

Visit: Lake Manapouri, West Arm, Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound, Queenstown
Activity: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
Accommodation: Novotel Queenstown (or similar)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 13: Day at leisure in Queenstown

Today is yours to experience Queenstown, a picturesque alpine resort town known for its vast array of adventure activities. If you’d like to explore the area, we recommend taking a ride on the world-famous Shotover Jet Boat or taking a tour of the gold mining area of Skippers Canyon.

For the best views of the town, travel to the top of Bob’s Peak by gondola and have lunch at the Skyline restaurant, why not make your way to the bungy centre to watch people hurling themselves off cliffs – bungy is a NZ invention after all! Alternatively, make your way to the lakeside and enjoy a refreshing drink or stroll through Queenstown’s lush park.

Accommodation: Novotel Queenstown (or similar)
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 14: Queenstown to Haast

This morning we’ll get to see some incredible scenery as we travel through Arrowtown, a picturesque village steeped in fascinating history relating to New Zealand’s gold mining era.

Next, we’ll visit Wanaka, a popular township on the lake’s edge with a spectacular mountain backdrop where we’ll enjoy lunch and spend some time enjoying the views.

Departing Wanaka, we’ll make our way north towards the east coast and the small town of Haast, a UNESCO world heritage site and home to the famous Haast River. This evening we’ll enjoy a group dinner together at our hotel.

Visit: Wanaka, Arrowtown, Haast
Accommodation: Heartland Haast (or similar)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15: Haast to Franz Josef

Travelling north along the coast of the Westland National Park this morning, we’ll travel to the home of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. This remarkable part of the country was shaped by dynamic glaciers and boasts lush rainforest which grows beneath towering mountains.

We’ll make a stop in Fox Glacier where we have the option to walk the gentle 2.6km track around Lake Matheson. Nestled amongst ancient forests and famous for mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, Lake Matheson aka Mirror Lake is a serene and beautiful place to enjoy a stroll.

This evening, we’ll spend the night in the township of Franz Josef, surrounded by rainforests and mountains, and enjoy a delicious group dinner together.

Visit: Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson
Accommodation: Scenic Franz Josef (or similar)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 16: Franz Josef to Christchurch

This morning we’ll depart Franz Josef and travel north to the artistic town of Hokitika, famous for its beautiful Greenstone. We’ll visit the Greenstone and Glass blowing factory to see the work of some talented local artists before continuing on to Greymouth, a historic town known for jade hunting and gold mining.

From Greymouth, we’ll board the Tranzalpine train, which is considered to be one of the world’s greatest one-day train journeys. Prepare to be blown away by epic vistas of forests, rolling plains and snow-capped mountains!

At the end of the journey, we’ll transfer to our hotel in Christchurch, where we’ll enjoy a farewell meal together on our final evening of the tour.

Visit: Hokitika, Greymouth, Christchurch
Activity: Greenstone and Glass Blowing Factory visit, TranzAlpine Train Journey
Accommodation: Distinction Hotel Christchurch (or similar)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 17: Depart Christchurch

Today is the final day of the tour, our trip has come to an end. Enjoy breakfast before saying a fond farewell to your tour leader and all your travel companions.

Whether you’re travelling home today or staying in Christchurch for longer, we hope you leave this tour with some happy memories and friends for life.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Explore both the North and South Island in 16 days, 15 nights on this Ultimate New Zealand tour. This small-group tour combines New Zealand highlights with incredible lesser-known destinations. This tour will impress even the most discerning traveller. You will leave with plenty of memories & stories to share for years to come.

Travellers worldwide still have fond memories and want to share stories of their Kirra Tour. We have been creating memorable New Zealand experiences since 1968. Our passion for this country is displayed through our unique itineraries.

  • Lake Aniwhenua Cultural Experience
  • Whirinaki Rainforest Tour
  • Huka Falls
  • Lunch at Church Road Winery
  • Coastal Pacific Train Experience
  • Tranzalpine Train Experience
  • Abel Tasman National Park Vista Cruise
  • Greenstone and Glass Blowing Factory visit
  • Seafood Experience in Haast
  • Scenic trip through the spectacular Haast Pass
  • Blue Pools Walk
  • Visit Arrowtown and Wanaka
  • Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
  • Hokonui Moonshine Museum
  • Larnach Castle
  • Moeraki Boulders

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  •  Experienced Tour Guide
  • Small Group Tour – Max 24
  • Luxury Coach
  • 17 days / 16 nights accommodation
  • 27 meals (16 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 7 Dinners)
  • Waitomo CavesExperience
  • Buried Village in Rotorua
  • Lake Aniwhenua Cultural Experience
  • Huka Falls
  • Mission Estate Winery Lunch and Wine Tasting
  • Te Papa
  • Inter-Island Ferry
  • Wither Hills Winery Lunch in Marlborough
  • Moeraki Boulders
  • Larnach Castle visit
  • Explore the Hokonui Moonshine Museum
  • Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
  • Visit Arrowtown
  • Greenstone and Glass Blowing Factory visit
  • TranzAlpine Train Experience

Ultimate NZ (Twin Share)


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