DAY 1 - Auckland to Rotorua
All aboard the Contiki bus! Starting in Auckland, we'll drive through the lush farmlands of Waikato, an area famous for rugby - many of New Zealand's best players for the All Blacks are trained in this town.
We'll stop off at the New Zealand Kiwi Hatchery, the world's largest conservation project for the kiwi bird. Watch these adorable little birds roam around, stand in a human-sized kiwi burrow, and visit the incubation centre, where over 2100 kiwi chicks have been born. Who knows, maybe you'll see a newly-hatched kiwi chick!
DAY 2 - Rotorua
The day is yours to roam free in this geothermal paradise. Soak in a hot spring, go white water rafting or hike up a volcano. The options are limitless and the decisions are yours. We recommend the Rotorua Dawn Canopy Tour, exclusive to Contiki, where you'll watch the sun rise, eat some breakfast and drink coffee up in the towering trees as the birds make start their morning calls. Then, you'll get to soar 1200m through the forest on the ultimate zipline adventure.
DAY 3 - Rotorua to Lake Taupo via Huka Falls
From Rotorua, we make our way to Lake Taupo, but not before a cheeky stop-off at the awesome Huka Falls. 220,000 litres (that's 58 000 gallons) of water gush over Huka Falls per second. Just let that sink in for a minute. Wild, right? Even wilder still is the Hukafalls Jet experience - a thrilling ride that will get you experiencing the full force of the falls and leave you with even more of a taste for adventure. A good thing really, given Lake Taupo is on the horizon.
We arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. Volcanic peak views & trout fishing will seamlessly slip us into quaint lake life. But don't be fooled by the seemingly still scenery - a bungee jump or skydive are both on the menu if that adrenaline itch needs scratching.
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DAY 4 - Lake Taupo to Mount Ruapehu
We drive through the central plateau to the southern end of the Tongariro National Park, Ohakune is known as the aprés ski capital of the North Island.
Today you have the option to go mountain biking along one of NZ's most picturesque track, "the Old Coach Rd".
Tonight we stay in a heritage listed building built in 1913 which is now a vibrant modern ski lodge, located at the base of a volcano, Mt Ruapehu with views unlike any other you've seen.
DAY 5 - Mount Ruapehu to Wellington
These landscapes are unique and the sights will leave you breathless. On route to the windy capital Wellington where we'll show you the sights of this city.
As much as we've been loving the nature time, the change of scenery to New Zealand's well-cultured capital will prove an utter delights. After an orientation through the narrow streets of Wellington a night on the town will be on the cards, plus an optional dinner to start the night off as we mean to go on.
DAY 6 - Wellington
Ready to explore Wellington in all its glory? Today, we'll head to a local cafe and try the famed flat white coffee in its city of origin (sorry Australians). Caffeinated and refreshed, we'll take a trip to Zealandia, a 225-hectare (basically massive) eco-sanctuary that protects over 40 rare native wildlife species. Because Zealandia is fully fenced, you'll be able to walk alongside incredibly rare birds like the hihi and the takahē. Look out for the tuatara, a prehistoric reptile known as a 'living fossil', which can only be found in New Zealand!
DAY 7 - Wellington to Kaikoura via Picton
So long north island! Today we're making tracks for your southern brother, darting across the Cook Strait via the Inter-Island ferry.
Our first port of call on the South Island will be Picton, the gateway to wine country. Sauv blanc, anyone?
Our next drive takes us through Marlborough’s wine country along the rugged east coast. Arriving in Kaikoura will see us amongst a seaside settlement known for whales & dolphins, so the camera needs to be on 110% charge as we roll around the coast. We'll stop at a seal colony, where you'll struggle not to break into a collective 'cuuuute' as you watch these guys sunning themselves on the rocks.
Next up, we'll visit Kaikoura Wildlife Rescue to meet a local wildlife biologist, Sabrina Leucht, who has been working to build a dedicated wildlife hospital in Kaikoura. We'll learn about the types of wildlife we might encounter here, which threats they face, and what we can all do to make a difference - locally and in our own hometowns.
After a busy day of wildlife wonders, we'll check into our seafront hotel, before heading out for a spot of dinner. Did you know that Kaikoura literally translates into 'eat (kai) crayfish (koura)'? So, no prizes for guessing what type of local cuisine we'll be trying!
DAY 8 - Kaikoura
We all love a free day - especially one spent in beautiful Kaikoura! We recommend taking a whale watching tour, where you'll have the opportunity to see giant sperm whales in action, as well cute seals, dusky dolphins, and the endangered wandering albatross. Other free time add-ons include a thrilling helicopter ride over the Kaikoura Peninsula, a kayak trip across the coastline, and more. We'll stay another night in Kaikoura after an action-packed day, before heading to Christchurch tomorrow morning.
DAY 9 - Kaikoura to Christchurch
So long Kaikoura! We'll arrive in Christchurch by lunch-time, where we'll take an inspiring tour of the city that was totally rebuilt after the Christchurch earthquake. Look out for the Cardboard Cathedral, the only cathedral in the world to be built mostly from plain old cardboard!
DAY 10 - Christchurch to Franz Josef
Christchurch, it was short and sweet, but with with ice age action on the horizon we gots to move on.
Take in the beautiful scenery as we wind our way across the highest and most spectacular mountain pass across the Southern Alps.
In the gold rush town of Hokitika we'll watch authentic carvers get to work on green jade and take a look at traditional Maori art. Back on the coach we're coastline bound to one of the islands most jaw-droppingly beautiful spots...
Franz Josef Glacier
We'll pull up for the night in glorious Franz Josef, probably one of the most beautiful places you'll ever of clapped eyes on. A bold statement we know, but well deserved.
DAY 11 - Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier
This morning will be another big ol' tick off the list as we take to the ice of Franz Josef Glacier. We've got a heli ride over the glacier up for grabs, or the opportunity to carve your own Pounamu (jade) pendant, under the tuition of a Maori mastercraftsman. Pounamu is sacred to the Māori people, and this is a great way to learn about its cultural significance, while also creating a beautiful please of jewellery. An optional highlight today is a boat cruise across Lake Mapourika. But this ain't your ordinary boat cruise. You'll cruise up the glassy lake, framed by glaciers and mountains, before switching to a stand up paddle board and gliding along a narrow estuary. This takes you to your journey's destination, the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, where you'll get to meet New Zealand's adorable but vulnerable national bird.
DAY 12 - Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown
Franz Josef Glacier
Armed with a new found appreciation for frozen water, we'll hop back on the coach & start making our way to Queenstown, making a few cheeky stops along the way.
Our first piece of NZ eye-candy comes in the form of Haast Pass, beautified by ancient rainforests, small glaciers and waterfalls. Note how the scenery changes as we roll towards Queenstown through the Southern Alps and region of Otago.
Intermitting our scenic drive we'll stop for lunch in Wanaka, a pretty ski resort town situated on a lake front and dwarfed by mountains. This town is fast becoming one of NZ's most popular spots, and a trip to the 'Dough Bin' for a luscious pie should be high on the list today.
Welcome to the adventure capital of the world. Rest up tonight - the next few days are going to be BIG.
DAY 13 - Queenstown
Today is yours to get acquainted with Queenstown and spend some time mulling over the activities up for grabs in the next two days. First stop is the legendary Kawarau Bungy Bridge, get your morning adrenaline hit with a heart pounding jump at the world home of the bungy. Later, take a stroll around beautiful Queenstown, nestled in the Southern Alps this stunning town has plenty to offer other than adventure activities.
DAY 14 - Queenstown
It's times like this that you really start to work out what sort of traveller you are. And human for that matter. You might be the one trailing through wine country and doing a spot of horse back riding, or you may be that guy that crams in a bungy jump, a skydive and a heliraft & still craves more. It's your holiday - run wild as you see fit.
DAY 15 - Queenstown
With our last day in adrenalin city edging closer, this is the time to push yourself to the limits and jump over any mental barriers you've put up around yourself. Embrace the spirit of adventure and conquer those niggling fears once and for all. For those who did their dash yesterday, a day staying mellow and enjoying this beautiful region will prove more than sufficient.
DAY 16 - Queenstown to Te Anau via Milford Sound
Alright, it's time to return our adrenaline levels to a normal level and make tracks to the spectacular natural wonder of Milford Sound.
Welcome to New Zealand's most stunning attraction, with a magical combination of mountain peaks, forest-clad cliffs and deep dark waters. We take an included cruise of the fiord and experience the beauty of this pristine destination by boat, the best way to see Milford Sound in all its glory.
Arriving in the stunning lakeside town of Te Anau, we'll visit a local farm, learning about life in the outback, as well as playing some games and activities. Laura, who runs the farm, founded the Fairlight Foundation, a charity helping local girls to learn a range of practical farming skills and gain important qualifications. The goal is to advance women in the agricultural industry. For every traveller that attends this Farm Experience, Contiki will donate more funds to the Fairlight Foundation! It's feels good to do good – especially when all it takes is meeting some locals in a spectacular setting.
After our trip to the farm, you'll have the day to do as you please. Decisions, decisions...If I were you, I'd opt to take a guided jet boat trip to Fiordland National Park. From Te Anau through Lake Manapouri, it's a pretty exhilirating way to soak up the scenery. Prefer to keep you feet (or wheels) on dry land. You can also take a trip to the ethereal glow worm caves (woaahhh) or simply cycle the gorgeous trails through native bush.
DAY 17 - Te Anau to Lake Ohau via Arrowtown
Departing Te Anau we will make a stop at a true Kiwi farm experience, to discover how country life really looks like in this corner of the world. Anyone up for sheep shearing or milking a cow?!
We make a quick stop for lunch in this historic gold mining town before heading onto Lake Ohau.
We will stop by a farm to experience true country NZ life. Envisage - Horse back farmers, mustering sheep using dogs. Following that we travel to Arrowtown for a lunch stop then onto Lake Ohau.
DAY 18 - Lake Ohau to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo
It's our last day, let's end it on a high!
We'll stop off to see the intense milky blue waters of glacially-fed Lake Tekapo. Here (from October 2020) we'll also get to enjoy an unforgettable Dark Sky experience, an interactive multimedia exhibition that mixes stargazing, science and traditional Māori astronomy, teaching us how the Māori people used to use stars to harvest food, and about the importance of reducing light pollution.
Onto Christchurch and there's sure to be some sadness. But don't worry - memories will put smiles on faces for many years to come.