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I’ll never forget how anxious I was as I planned my first trip to New Zealand. Believe or not this was just before we had something called the “Internet”, so books and brochures were the only ways to see what this great country had to offer. Even though I had read about the many adventures that were available, I had a hard time piecing together the geography and ways to experience the “must do list”. With the help of some Kiwi friends I figured out how to do it all in about two weeks.
This itinerary features 14 days of adventure, scenic beauty, Maori culture and Kiwi hospitality. This unique itinerary was designed with the adventure enthusiast (me) in mind. Its ideal for the traveler who wants to independently explore the best of New Zealand’s North and South Islands but join small groups and activities along the way.
Featured activities include sailing, blackwater and whitewater rafting, mountain biking, sea kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, canoeing, jetboating and glacier hiking. Start off sailing in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor, and then continue through the North Island to the small farming town of Waitomo. Experience “cave-tubing” in the Waitomo Caves, then venture to Rotorua, the heart of New Zealand’s native Maori culture and a center of geothermal activity.
Nelson, the gateway to three national parks and the geographic center of New Zealand, is your introduction to the South Island. Hike and kayak in sub-tropical Abel Tasman National Park, then continue to Paparoa National Park, and the “pancake rock” shore of Punakaiki overlooking the Tasman Sea. Finally, venture to Westland National Park for a stunning heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier before ending in Queenstown, “the adrenaline capital of the South Island.” If this sounds like the type of trip for you, see the detailed outline below:
Day 1 : Auckland
Upon arrival you will be met and transported to your hotel. Your first day is spent in the "City of Sails," where you embark on a hands-on sailing experience aboard a yacht in Waitemata Harbor. Make sure to take a trip up the Sky Tower for a panoramic view of beautiful Auckland.
Day 2 : Waitomo Cave Tubing
Pick up your car rental and travel to Waitomo from Auckland this morning for your cave tubing adventure. Gear up in wetsuit & hardhats with custom-built electric light for this afternoon's cave tubing adventure. You'll be in the company of glow worms as you navigate the region's cave system. Tonight settle in at your B&B for some real Kiwi hospitality.
Day 3 : Waitomo to Rotorua
The morning is at your leisure to choose from horse riding local bush trails to thrilling caving adventures such as the Lost World Tandem Abseil or Haggis Honking Holes (only in New Zealand), an abseil through underground waterfalls! Later today you travel to Rotorua for a fun evening of Maori song, dance, dinner & story telling.
Day 4 : Rotorua
Your choice of adventure today: white water rafting the class V Kaituna River, lake kayaking or mountain biking. You have part of the afternoon free to explore the steaming geysers of this fascinating area. Tonight enjoy a visit to the Polynesian Spa Thermal Pools.
Day 5 : Rotorua to Nelson
Today you fly south to sunny Nelson. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your well located B&B. (Local air not included). Free day to rest or to enjoy the many available adventures.
Days 6-8 : Abel Tasman National Park/Nelson Area
Sub-tropical Abel Tasman includes thousands of hectares of native forest, beaches of golden sand, clear coastal waters and the best climate in the country! 1 Dayl sea kayak and hiking tour in this spectacular region. Two free days to days to explore the park on your own.
Day 9 : Punakaiki "Pancake" Rocks
Pick up your car rental and head to Punakaiki on the West Coast for a short walk beneath a canopy of nikau palms and tree ferns to view the unique "pancake" rock formations and explosive blowholes. Optional afternoon adventures include horseback riding, river canoeing, or a river canyon walk.
Days 10-11 : Fox Glacier
Transfer to Fox Glacier, which is fed by the snows of the Mount Cook National Park and is one of the most accessible glaciers in New Zealand. Next day, board a helicopter to fly over pinnacles and crevasses and land on the upper levels of the glacier. With a qualified alpine guide, spend 2.5 hours exploring the glacier's awesome ice formations.
Day 12 : Fox Glacier to Queenstown
Nestled in the shores of Lake Wakatipu, your hotel provides the perfect location for exploring.
Days 13-14 : Queenstown
Queenstown is a breathtaking and beautiful playground for all seasons. Bungee jumping, jet boating, rafting, kayaking, hiking and exploring the Milford Sound can all be enjoyed. Take in local cafes and night spots before saying "goodbye" to New Zealand.
For details on booking the New Zealand explorer