Fly into cosmopolitan Auckland to begin your New Zealand trip, before heading south past Hamilton to Lake Taupo, where you’ll stay for three days. From here, you can drive a couple of hours to Waitomo Caves, where you can take a candlelit tour through Footwhistle Cave seeing thousands of glowworms. Spend a day exploring the hiking trails around Lake Taupo or kayak to the Mine Bay Maori rock carvings, and another seeing the magnificent Huka Falls. Fly from Taupo to Blenheim, then transfer to Marlborough Sounds for a couple of days. Hike or bike part of the Queen Charlotte Track, a 71km trail through glistening bays, forests and coves, and spend a second day on the water in a kayak, where you can see seals, dolphins and even orcas. Transfer to the small town of Kaikoura for whale-watching, hikes up Mount Fyffe and New Zealand’s best seafood, before ending in adventure capital Queenstown, where you can take a day trip to Milford Sound for a cruise through its unspoilt valleys.

Key information

Destinations Destinations New Zealand
Activity Activity Luxury, Adventure, Hiking & Trekking, Active, Nature & Wildlife
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Arrive in Auckland and explore Waitomo Caves

Arrive in Auckland and explore Waitomo Caves

Day 1 in Auckland

From Auckland airport travel to the Waitomo Caves, which takes around three hours. Here, you can take a 3.5-kilometre shuttle ride and a short walk through the spectacular bushland to the caves. By candlelight you can explore Footwhistle Cave, also known as Te Anaroa Cave, where you can see the glimmering glowworms up close.

Get on the water at Lake Taupo

Get on the water at Lake Taupo

Day 2–3 in Lake Taupo

Vast Lake Taupo is as big as Singapore and was created 2,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption so huge it would have been seen from China. Today, visitors come for the magnificent Huka Falls, Maori rock carvings and watersports. Lake Taupo is also an excellent base for exploring nearby Tongariro National Park, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike and skiing at Whakapapa.

After Lake Taupo you can drive to Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal system created over thousands of years of volcanic activity. The brilliant green jewels of geothermal waters are an impressive sight and another example of the sheer number of natural wonders New Zealand has to offer.

Don't miss

Hike Spa Park to Huka Falls

Hike Spa Park to Huka Falls

Take the easy one-hour trail from Spa Park to Huka Falls to witness the roaring Waikato Ricer plunge 11 metres over volcanic rock. The trail passes through forest and offers several viewing points of the Falls.

Kayak around Lake Taupo

Kayak around Lake Taupo

Enjoy a relaxing paddle in the crystal clear waters of Lake Taupo and explore the mysterious Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay, which can only be viewed from the water. The surrounding forests are also great for hiking and just north of Taupo you'll find the spectacular Huka Falls.

Get back to nature at Marlborough Sounds

Get back to nature at Marlborough Sounds

Day 4–6 in Marlborough Region

The Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine-producing region and home to the Marloborough Sounds.

With vineyards stretch in every direction beneath the hills, the Sauvignon Blanc produced here is considered some of the finest in the world, so try some in Blenheim town.

For many overland travellers, the Marlborough Sounds are their first glimpse of the South Island. The huge maze of beaches and jagged area of islands, inlets, and sunken valleys offer scenic road trips, remote hikes, secluded beaches, gentle sea kayaking with different views at every turn. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even dive a shipwreck in Port Gore.

Although not a national park, there are more than 50 reserves here. Some can be driven to — like the refreshing Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve — while others require a boat transfer, like Motuara Island.

Don't miss

Hike the Queen Charlotte Track

Hike the Queen Charlotte Track

The 72km long Queen Charlotte Track is a great way to explore the Marlborough Sounds. You can hike or bike the trail, passing through lush forest, hidden bays and empty beaches.

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Whale-watching in Kaikoura

Day 7–9 in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is the place to see wildlife in New Zealand, set against the might of the Seaward Kaikoura mountain range, this is a stunningly beautiful stop.

The ocean currents and deep trench offshore mean the seas around Kaikoura are home to a huge variety of marine life year-round. Sperm whales, humpback whales, blue whales, orca, dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, seals, albatross, penguins and sea birds, who come for the nutrient-rich waters that are perfect for feeding, can be seen on sightseeing cruises or flights (note a minimum age of three for cruises, but not flights).

Stopover in Queenstown

Stopover in Queenstown

Day 10 in Queenstown

Make the 3.5-hour drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch airport, and fly on to Queenstown. Spend the evening enjoying the vibrant restaurants and bars.

Cruise Milford Sound

Cruise Milford Sound

Day 11 in Milford Sound

Even by New Zealand’s standards, Milford Sound is a truly spectacular sight. Located in the southwest of the South Island, the beautiful fjord is packed with jaw-droppingly beautiful natural features, including Mitre Peak, rainforests and stunning waterfalls, such as Stirling and Bowen Falls.

Explore the adventure capital of the world

Explore the adventure capital of the world

Day 12–14 in Queenstown

New Zealand’s adventure sports capital is a surprisingly small town, famously the birthplace of bungy jumping, it’d be possible to spend days here hiking, biking, rafting, canyoning, zip lining or riding the luge.

However, if you’re after something less strenuous, it’s worth noting that Queenstown also has excellent vineyards and an exciting food scene. Tour nearby wineries, and enjoying the views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. It’s not a “typical” South Island town, but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying this pretty place.

Don't miss

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

Skydive high above the Glenorchy mountain range

The blue lakes and snow-capped mountains in and around Glenorchy are so stunning that they were used as locations for The Lord of the Rings films, and, for those who dare, skydiving is an incredible way to take in this amazing scenery.

Where to stay

Classic

Fletcher Lodge

Situated just minutes from the heart of Dunedin, this property is a registered Historic Places Trust building and has been beautifully refurbished with elegant styling and modern amenities, surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens.

The four luxury rooms in the original house are richly furnished with antique, hand-carved furniture, cast-iron claw foot baths, underfloor heating, and French doors leading out to sunny private balconies overlooking the gardens and valley below.

Superior

Lochmara Lodge

This unique hideaway in the Marlborough Sounds is the perfect place to disconnect and soak up the breathtaking natural beauty of the region.

Surrounded by pristine bushland, Lochmara Lodge has no road access, with guests arriving via the private Lochmara Bay on a 15 minute boat ride from Picton. You can also hike or cycle in through the Queen Charlotte Track.

It offers spacious, comfortable units that are perfect for families, while couples can retreat to the romantic chalets with balconies overlooking the bay.

Deluxe

Greenhill Lodge

Greenhill Lodge is a historic homestead located in the heart of Hawke’s Bay, a stretch of beautiful coastline on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

The region’s rolling hills and winding rivers are perfect for fishing, swimming, golfing and canoeing, among other outdoor activities. This is also an agricultural region and you’ll be treated to local produce and wines from the vineyards here during your stay.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from £4,400pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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