Full of excitement at the adventure that awaits you, you’ll leave the UK bound for Auckland.
Auckland, the City of Sails is bustling with art, culture, galleries and cafes. Take a stroll along the harbour and watching the boats bob up and down against one of the most scenic backdrops any city can boast. Enjoy these panoramic views from Mount Eden or introduce yourself to Maori culture at the Auckland Museum. The historic buildings of Parnell are an architect lover’s dream and lead you nicely to the many waterfront restaurants. Where you can gaze upon those boats once more.
It’s hard to leave Auckland but time to hit the road. As you drive towards Rotorua you can stop off for an authentic Middle Earth experience. At the Hobbiton Movie Set you can admire the scenery of New Zealand that so easily lent itself to the film adaptations of Tolkien. There will be plenty more stunning landscapes framed by your car window as you drive south.
You’ll enjoy an action-packed day in Rotorua, amid the sulphurous air, bubbling hot springs and spouting geysers. Rotorua is one of the world's most concentrated geothermal areas, displayed to its finest effect at Te Puia, but there’s plenty more here to make your Earth move. Discover the town's backstory at the Rotorua Museum, meet the residents of Kiwi Encounter and experience an evening of Maori storytelling and cuisine, including a traditional hangi meal cooked on hot stones under the ground.
You’ll love the drive to Napier, a graceful town on Hawke’s Bay with a world-class collection of art deco buildings, courtesy of an earthquake that hit during the heyday of this architectural style. As stunning as the contoured curves of Napier are the contrasting dramatic ridges and winding switchbacks that you’ll encounter on the road here. If you’re a bit of a foodie, Napier is a great place to be: you can join a guide to meet some of the local producers, smelling and sampling their tantalising wares.
Get under the skin of New Zealand in its culture-rich capital, Wellington. Start at the Te Papa museum, home to a treasure-trove of Maori artifacts that your personal guide can help you explore. You can get your culture fix with an evening trip to the theatre or a visit to one of the many art galleries, but simply strolling around the city's compact centre and out to the fringing hills and parks is one of Wellington’s pleasures. Set on a harbour, Wellington is also home to some great beaches too.
Today you’ll head to Nelson, driving along Queen Charlotte Drive. One the most picturesque stretches of road in the country will greet you after taking the ferry that crosses Cook Strait to the South Island. The countryside undulates gently along this winding road, revealing numerous bays along the route. Be sure to leave enough time to make plenty of stops, particularly at Cullen’s Point where the view will stay with you long after your holiday has ended.
It’s time to explore the golden beaches, turquoise waters, rocky promontories and verdant bush of Abel Tasman National Park. Board a boat to cruise the coastline, looking out for dolphin riding the bow of the waves and fur seal on the hunt for fish. If you’re feeling energetic you can jump in for a swim or explore the shoreline by kayak. If relaxation is what you crave, sit back on deck and watch as the coastline unfolds.
It’s a leisurely drive south to Christchurch, a city that feels very English with its schoolboys in shorts and punting on the river. Beneath this you’ll find an eclectic mix of history and contemporary culture. Just to the east lies the Banks Peninsula, a rugged, volcanic protrusion riddled with quiet bays and ancient lava flows. From pretty Akaroa, take a boat trip to look for Hector's dolphin, the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world.
Tickets please: you are about to travel on the TranzAlpine, one of the planet’s greatest train trips. Running from Christchurch to Greymouth, and slicing through the Southern Alps, this is a train journey you will never fall asleep on, surrounded as you are by dramatic scenery. After your train ride take a few breaths, because the excitement is far from over. You’ll drive to Franz Josef and explore the glacier. To get the ultimate view, swoop across both the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier snowfields by helicopter.
It’s 200 miles from Franz Josef to Queenstown but you’ll barely notice the distance, distracted by the wild, west coast and the myriad of lakes, white rivers, alpine passes and curious kea (alpine parrots) that you’ll encounter. You’ll nonetheless deserve a well-earned rest when you reach the Azur Lodge in Queenstown. On a hilltop set against some of New Zealand’s most emotive scenery you’ll stay in one of nine private contemporary villas, making the most of the memorable view and the fantastic facilities.
Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand: you may find yourself wondering if there is no activity you can't try here. There’s bungy-jumping, jetboating, zip lining, skydives, whitewater rafting and don’t miss out on a scenic flight over the mountains to reach Milford Sound. Here you’ll find a mesmerising fusion of cliffs, glaciers and waterfalls which you can explore on a luxury cruise along the waterfall-tickled inlet, looking out for dolphin, fur seal and penguin.
It may feel like it’s passed by in a flash but you’ll have spent almost three weeks exploring New Zealand and it’s time to return to the UK now. Take home with you wonderful memories of icy glaciers, snowy mountain peaks and jet boat adventures as well as new-found understanding of Maori culture.