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Both the North Island and South Island boast equally stunning and diverse scenery, wildlife and culinary experiences. But it’s often having a yarn with a friendly local or enjoying a special place off the beaten track that go towards creating some of the best New Zealand holiday memories. We’ve hosted small group tours in New Zealand for over 30 years, and the feedback we’ve gained from our clients has allowed us an insight into what the top highlights are. The beautiful lakes, coastline and grand mountain environments always rank highly; but it’s the personal, unexpected experiences on tour that go towards making these places so unforgettable.
Here are our top ideas for three magical days in Aoteaora - all promise to rank highly among your best New Zealand memories.
Sailing, history and an exclusive lunch in Rotorua
Rotoiti stands out among the many special lakes of the Rotorua region, and taking to the water on a sailing cruise is an absolute must-do. Explore secluded coves fringed by lush native forests and take a swim in the pristine fresh water. Don't miss a relaxing bask in the glorious thermal hot springs, rich in minerals and accessible only by boat. Returning to shore, add to an already unforgettable day with lunch at Pounamu Lodge. Set beside the lake and with spectacular views of sacred Mt Tarawera, this quintessential taste of New Zealand is a popular favourite. Hosts Karen and David Walmsley treat guests to colourful hospitality and cultural insights as well as truly special kiwi cuisine, spiced up with a dash of local Maori herbs freshly harvested from their on-site garden. Later in the afternoon, round off the day with a stroll around the Rotorua Museum, known for its stunning Maori artefacts and stories of local history.
A day in the grand fiord
Carved by an immense, ancient glacier, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's top tourist destinations and only the awesome Milford Road can begin to prepare you for the scenic grandeur that awaits. Begin your journey by coach and discover why the Milford Road is considered one the world's most scenic drives. Arriving at Milford Sound itself, cruise to the secret corners of the Sound and uncover unique wildlife including dolphins, seals and penguins. Waterfalls as high as 160 metres crash to the sea from atop soaring vertical cliffs, surrounded by an ensemble of towering mountain peaks with lush rainforest carpeting the lower slopes. To really top off your Milford experience, return to Queenstown via a scenic flight like no other and gain the ultimate perspective of the landscape below.
The mystical wetland
The Okarito Lagoon lies 130km South of Hokitika on the famous wild West Coast of the South Island. Off the beaten track and covering an area of roughly 12 square kilometres, Okarito is the largest naturally formed wetland in the country. Native birdlife thrives in its calm, secluded waters and the lagoon is surrounded by shrub lands and unspoiled rainforest. Quiet waterways reach deep into secret forests and over 70 bird species have been documented here. Okarito Lagoon is best explored by kayak, and no previous experience is necessary to enjoy a relaxing paddle on these tranquil waters. Don't forget your camera. Glide through this wetland paradise and photograph the ornate and rare white heron its local feeding ground, keeping an eye out for the majestic royal spoonbill or the endangered eastern great egret. In the distance, the mighty Southern Alps grace the skyline; crowned by New Zealand's highest mountain; Aoraki Mt Cook, 'the cloud piercer'. The Okarito Lagoon is a truly unique kiwi experience, and a day exploring its waters by kayak is a definite New Zealand highlight.
We offer all three of these magical New Zealand highlights as part of our 22-day Kakapo Small Group Tour. Enjoy the best of New Zealand with quality accommodation, expert guides and delicious food and wine. Find out more on our website, or contact us directly.