A 12-night exploration of both the north and south island that make up the beautiful, scenic New Zealand. Learn about the mud geysors of Roturua and marvel at the stark beauty of the Tasman Glacier. Travel with your family or a loved one and stay in some of the most beautiful properties in New Zealand.
Begin your self-drive exploration of the country in Rotorua, before flying south to Nelson for a cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 1 Arrive into Auckland – Rotorua
Fly direct to Auckland International airport where you will be met and assisted with your rental car hire. Along the way, you have the option of breaking your journey at either Hobbiton or Waitomo Glow Worm Caves – for a couple of hours to stretch your legs before continuing on to Rotorua.
Surrounded by steaming lakes, bubbling hot pools and bursting geysers, Rotorua is host to some of the world’s most incredible earth forces, capturing all that is precious and unique – feel its spirit – Manaakitanga.
Your accommodation for the next 4 nights is the Black Swan, a recently refurbished cosy boutique hotel on the quieter end of Lake Rotorua, a short 5 min drive from the main town of Rotorua. Set in mature rose gardens, and a quiet suburb, this is a wonderful option for a couple looking for a quiet spot still close to the town centre.
(Optional: If you have some time this evening before dinner, we suggest driving to the Polynesian Spa to use the thermal pools and enjoy a relaxing treatment to rid jetlag.)
Day 2 Roturua Excursions: Rainbow Springs & Maori Arts and Crafts Institute
Today begin your exploration of Rotorua closer to your accommodation.
Start with a visit to the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Here you’ll be able to see Maori people weaving traditional flax objects. During your visit, enjoy a Maori Cultural Performance at 10.15am.
After lunch (own cost), visit Rainbow Springs Nature Park, featuring unique flora and fauna and endangered and native species. Here you can watch trout go about their daily lives in large pools, spot a number of native birds including the much loved kiwi and walk along the ferny paths among giant redwood trees. Over 2 million litres of pure, fresh spring water well up naturally into the Rainbow Spring each day. A magical place, surrounded by New Zealand native bush!
Day 3 Rotorua Excursions: Rail Cruising & Zorbing
Today is your day of fun! In the morning, drive out to Mamaku, where you will cruise through the beautiful Dansey Scenic Reserve at a calming 20km/h, on the steep 1:35 gradient railway in your own revamped locomotive cabin, that travels between Mamaku and Tarukenga. With stunning lake views and rolling farmland, the 360° views accompanied with audio commentary of the area, is the ultimate way to experience a railway.
After lunch (own cost), have an afternoon of fun at Agrodome where you can test out the ride that was invented in New Zealand, the Zorb, generically called ‘globe riding’. This park is especially fun for a family or a young couple; try the Schweeb, a human powered monorail race track and other such other heart-racing rides.
Day 4 Roturua Excursions: Wai-o-tapu Thermal Reserve & Zip-lining
Early this morning drive out to the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park where you can see the old buried village as well as stunning geothermal activity including mud pools and geyser eruptions all on the site of an old mud volcano.
It’s easy to navigate on your own through the park with the clearly defined tracks taking from 30 to 75 minutes or more, each with their own unique volcanic vistas to fascinate all ages. Be sure to get there in time for the Lady Knox Geyser going off at 10.15am, while learning about the history and mechanics of a geyser system.
Drive back into town for lunch on Tutanekai Street, choose from the different bars and cafes serving up varied cuisines.
After lunch, make your way to the head-office in Rotorua’s town centre where you will then be driven out to the starting point of your Zipling experience. Unlike any other ziplining experience, this small group tour takes place in a 500 hectare Department of Conservation virgin forest, and has 2 guides to 10 guests, allowing close attention to safety as well as personal interaction during this 3 hour experience – ask any questions you want! You’ll experience trail walking, 10 platforms, 6 ziplines and 2 swing bridges mixing thrill and slow paced observation of the forest, birds and history of the area.
(Optional: This evening, make your way up to the Skyline by Gondola Cableway and relax at the Terraces Café and Sails or at the Cableway restaurant for the ‘Best of New Zealand Buffet and Grill at sunset)
Day 5 From Roturua to Nelson
Drive to the airport and drop off your car hire, in time for a midday flight from Roturua down to Nelson in the South island where you pick up your car hire again, and drive to Bronte Country Estate, where you will stay for 3 nights. The estate lies on the headland of Nelson’s historic Bronte Peninsula, overlooking Waimea Estuary and cradled between ocean and mountains, ensuring privacy and tranquillity. Upon your arrival, explore the grounds with your hosts and learn more about their coastal orchard and vineyard unique to the Nelson region.
Stay: Bronte Country Estate
Day 6 Nelson at leisure
This is the time to relax on the beach, take your book and get comfortable in the sand. Optional visits for your time at leisure include an insight to some of Nelson’s museums inclufing The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatu, a public Art Museum. We highly recommend a visit to the ‘World of Wearable Art’ Museum – a remarkable display of creative talent and impressive handiwork to make intriguing visions of costumes come to life. Stop by the adjacent ‘Collectable Car’ museum.
Stay: Bronte Country Estate
Day 7 Abel Tasman Day Cruise, Nelson
This morning drive to Stephens Bay and check in for a day cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park. After boarding at Stephens Bay cruise around the headland to Split Apple Rock, taking your time to enable you to get the best views and photos during your scenic cruise. Here you may see several shags drying their wings above the warm rocks after their early morning fishing expeditions. The cruise itinerary is flexible so if there is something to see on your day trip, like dolphins riding the bow wave or New Zealand fur seals fishing, then the captain accommodates the group for a further look. Similarly if there’s a particular bay you want to visit or park feature you want to see, then please do let the skipper know and he’ll try to accommodate your wishes.
After saying goodbye to the seals the boat finds a sheltered bay for a light lunch. Sea kayak, go ashore for a bush walk, or just relax on the boat while lunch is prepared. The delicious platter style lunch with fresh local ingredients, whilst local beer and wine is available for purchase. Showing you the beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park and the Tonga Island marine reserve in a relaxed and unhurried day.
Stay: Bronte Country Estate
Day 8 From Nelson to Lake Tekapo
Return back to the Nelson airport in the early morning, and transfer from Nelson by plane to Christchurch where you will then pick up your car hire and drive to Lake Tekapo, a wonderfully scenic area great for star gazing and beautiful lake views.
Your accommodation for 2 nights is at Peppers Blue Water Resort, a property near the shores of the lake and surrounded by landscapes of the Southern Alps.
In the evening drive to Mount John Observatory for night time star gazing. The whole region is known for the clarity of its skies and freedom from light pollution. From here you can see aurorae, meteor showers and the zodiacal lights.
Stay: Peppers Bluewater Resort
Day 9 Mount Cook Day Trip from Lake Tekapo
Today drive into the Mount Cook National Park, followed by a half hour walk to the shore of Lake Tasman. From here you will board your water craft for an hour long adventure exploring the lake, glacier and icebergs.
Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer are readily accessible to travellers. By boat, explore the huge dripping iceface of New Zealand’s largest glacier. Watch and listen to the ice melting before your eyes in this tranquil glacial lake nestled in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
Discover spectacular ice formations which have calved into the murky waters of Lake Tasman. Touch and taste 500 year old ice and conditions permitting, a walk on an iceberg provides a new and exciting experience for all.
Guides provide a comprehensive commentary on the mechanics of the Tasman Glacier, disclosing facets of glaciation, terminal lake formation, plate tectonics, local and climbing history (excursion is approximately 3 hours duration).
Stay: Peppers Bluewater Resort
10 From Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
At your own leisure this morning, self-drive down to Queenstown where you will have the evening to settle in and get your bearings.
Along the way, stop for lunch in Cromwell, located in the valley of the Upper Clutha, by Lake Dunstan’s pristine waters. The town and surrounding regions are home to the merino and deer farmer, to orchards and vineyards, to artists and artisans. Supplement your lunch with fresh cherries and apricots picked from the orchards at harvest time (around December).
Continue on to Arrowtown for a short visit of the town which pays homage to Queenstown’s gold mining history before checking in at The Spire. Sleek, contemporary and centrally located to Queenstown’s best restaurants and bars, the 10-room boutique hotel’s spacious rooms feature stunning mountain and lake views.
(Option: Take the drive south with a stop off at the Lord of the Rings tour in Twizel – all the kids (including those who are grown up) will be given helmets and swords to really experience this world famous location)
Stay: The Spire
Day 11 Milford Sound Day Trip, Queenstown
Today is the day for Milford Sound, most famous for being the setting of the Lord of Rings’ films. You will be met at your accommodation and transferred to Queenstown Airport where you will then depart aboard your scenic flight – view hanging valleys, alpine lakes and cloud-piercing summits.
Upon arrival at Milford Sound you will board a specially designed vessel to undertake a breathtaking cruise on the fiord to the Tasman Sea. Sheer rock walls, waterfalls and the mile high monolith of Mitre Peak are the backdrop as you enjoy a picnic lunch which has been included today.
Return to Queenstown later this afternoon, where upon arrival at Queenstown Airport, you will be transferred to your accommodation.
Stay: The Spire
Day 12 Full Day Guided Hike, Queenstown
Today enjoy a full day guided hiking excursion in the Glenorchy area, including a jet boat ride on the Dart River.
You will be met at your accommodation for a scenic drive along the shores of Lake Wakitipu to Glenorchy (approximately 45 minutes drive). Upon arrival at Glenorchy, enjoy an exhilarating jet boat ride on the scenic Dart River, taking you through wilderness so untouched it has been declared a World Heritage Area.
Two fascinating hours and 35km later, not to mention 150 metres higher, your guide leads you on a gentle ascent under a canopy of native beech forest, where birdsong supplies an unrivalled, natural soundtrack. The vast numbers of plant species compete for attention with the orchestra of native bird life and your guide will point out your new, inquisitive travelling companions as they stop by to look you over.
After a delicious picnic lunch in a forest glade it’s on to the magical, forest-framed waters of Lake Sylvan. Nestled among a family of mountains, the lake’s brooding waters have a reddy-brown tint picked up from plants by its feeder streams on their journey down the hillsides over the 11,000 years of its existence. Sylvan teems with native trout and in season, the most attractive species of geese and duck.
Winding back from the lake, the track ambles through to the Routeburn River, flowing down the very edge of the forest. A stout swing bridge carries you over the deep water far below, and on to your transport. From there it’s a short drive through rich farmland to Glenorchy where you might enjoy a brief refreshing stop in the local country pub, before the road trip back to Queenstown.
Stay: The Spire
Day 13 Queenstown at leisure
This morning you will be met at your accommodation for an exhilarating hot air balloon adventure above the valleys between Queenstown and Arrowtown with magnificent views of the mountains and lakes. The complete experience is approximately three hours duration and includes champagne at the completion of the flight.
You have the remainder of the day at leisure to relax and enjoy all that Queenstown has to offer. You may want to spend a few hours at the iconic golf courses, Jacks Point or The Hills; join a private wine-tasting tour or visit the sites and surreal landscapes where the ‘Lord of the Rings’ was filmed.
Stay: The Spire
Day 14 Queenstown Departure
Self-drive back to Queenstown Airport for your flight up to Auckland. Depending on flight timings, see the sights in and around Auckland city including the Sky Tower and suburbs such as Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. Enjoy a gourmet lunch at the Harbourfront before being returned to the Airport for your return flight home.
Looking for something different? Visit our main New Zealand page for further inspiration.
|Day 1||Arrive into Auckland – Rotorua||Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel|
|Day 2||Roturua Excursions: Rainbow Springs & Maori Arts and Crafts Institute||Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel|
|Day 3||Rotorua Excursions: Rail Cruising & Zorbing||Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel|
|Day 4||Roturua Excursions: Wai-o-tapu Thermal Reserve & Zip-lining||Black Swan Lakeside Boutique Hotel|
|Day 5||From Roturua to Nelson||Bronte Country Estate|
|Day 6||Nelson at leisure||Bronte Country Estate|
|Day 7||Abel Tasman Day Cruise, Nelson||Bronte Country Estate|
|Day 8||From Nelson to Lake Tekapo||Peppers Bluewater Resort|
|Day 9||Mount Cook Day Trip from Lake Tekapo||Peppers Bluewater Resort|
|10||From Lake Tekapo to Queenstown||The Spire|
|Day 11||Milford Sound Day Trip, Queenstown||The Spire|
|Day 12||Full Day Guided Hike, Queenstown||The Spire|
|Day 13||Queenstown at leisure||The Spire|
|Day 14||Queenstown Departure|
- Meet & greet upon arrival
- Shared excursion as detailed
- Full size automatic rental vehicle including daily insurance, unlimited mileage, accident excess reduction and GPS
- International flights
- Optional activities
- Items not mentioned in Inclusions
- Travel insurance (please note that this is required for all Lightfoot Travel holidays)
From US$ 8,799 per person, based on two guests travelling
Notes on our prices
- This price guide provides you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your holiday.
- Prices are generally based on two people travelling together (unless stated otherwise) on a shared room basis.
- Prices can fluctuate depending on season, standard of accommodation, excursions selected (private versus shared) etc.
- This basic structure works very nicely, but don’t forget that Lightfoot Travel can provide a range of experiences and we tailor-make each itinerary based on your travel requirements. Get in touch to start planning your perfect trip with your own travel consultant
- Capital: Wellington
- Main Language: English
- Population: 4.4m (2011)
- Time Zone: GMT +12
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
- Best time to go: November through April
- Private charter in Abel Tasman Park with lunch on a private beach with only the odd seal for company
- Indulge in a helicopter ride over the incredibly scenic Lake Tekapo
- Stay lakeside in Queenstown
- Discover the Maori culture whilst in Rotorua
From US$ 8,799 per person