Spend three epic weeks in New Zealand and see Middle‑earth™ at its finest.
Experience otherworldly landscapes and fascinating fiords and get to know the real Middle‑earth™.
A vibrant city of harbours, beaches and islands, Auckland is known as the 'City of Sails' and is our largest city.
Auckland is a hub of relaxation and adventure, start the morning with a stroll a golden beach and dine on local cuisine at waterfront restaurants in the bustling Viaduct area overlooking the Waitematā Harbour.
Enjoy the views from the top of the Skytower, which features hotels, restaurants with a casino and at 328 metres high is a favourite with adrenaline junkies with a jump from the Skytower with AJ Hackett(opens in new window). For something tamer, check out the many museums in the city.
Take a short ferry ride from Auckland to one of the islands dotted nearby. Fullers(opens in new window) offer regular ferry trips from Auckland city to many islands including Waiheke Island, Rangitoto Island, Rotoroa Island.
Waiheke Island is known for its vineyards, sandy white beaches, ziplining and other adventure activities as well as quirky galleries. While Rangitoto is a dormant volcano laced with spectacular walking tracks. Keen twitchers can seek out New Zealand's native birds in their natural habitat on Rotoroa Island(opens in new window) which is also a perfect spot for snorkeling.
Many of the islands are within a 40-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.
Nestled in the rolling green hills of Matamata you'll stumble across the Hobbiton™ Movie Set Tour , take a guided tour and experience this magical piece of Middle‑earth™ for yourself - all 44 Hobbit-holes have been rebuilt exactly as they appeared on film.
Spend some time in Cambridge 'the town of trees' and lovely little cafes, lake views and native birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatoutari(opens in new window).
Visit the Waitomo Caves(opens in new window) where millions of twinkling glowworms twinkle from the cavern roof. Or visit the farm where The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was filmed and find out what it was like having a film crew on-site at Hairy Feet Waitomo.
Continuing south from Waitomo you'll come across Taumaranui(opens in new window), a small town with loads of history and an abundance of outdoor adventure. Tick a couple of the Great Walks and paddle the Whanganui Journey(opens in new window).
Check the weather and start exploring the Central Plateau and another of the Great Walks, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Take in the stark volcanic landscapes and visit Mt Ngauruhoe which featured as 'Mt Doom' in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
In winter the dry alpine plains become a wonderland of fresh powdered snow Whakapapa and Tūroa ski fields, both popular places with skiers, snowboarders and families - take a short trip of Mt Ruapehu on a Sky Waka.(opens in new window)
Make your way towards the scenic west coast until you reach Whanganui(opens in new window) the heart of the Whanganui River Journey and the Whanganui National Park.
Continuing south to Bulls and meander around the cute cafes and boutique stores, almost every place in the town has a humorous bull nickname.
Snack on delicious Dutch treats and climb the windmill at Foxton(opens in new window). Stop in Levin for some fresh fruit from the many roadside stores then follow the coastal road to Paraparaumu and look for Kāpiti Island in the distance.
Kāpiti Island is a paradise hideaway for native birds so is home to many kiwi, Kākā, wood pigeons, saddleback, morepork and many more. Linked to the Kāpiti Marine Reserve is the Kāpiti Island Nature Reserve, take the ferry to the island and listen to kiwi calling in the night from the glamping areas or cabins. Book ahead with Kāpiti Island Nature Tours(opens in new window).
Located at the southernmost tip of the North Island, Wellington is home to Weta Workshop and the Weta Cave(opens in new window). It's a city with a passion for art, coffee and fantastic food, wine and craft beer. From here take the 3.5-hour journey to Picton with Bluebridge(opens in new window) or Interislander(opens in new window) ferries.
Sail through the Queen Charlotte Sounds and disembark on the shores of the South Island, pretty Picton is surrounded by pristine waters and native forest, it is the gateway to the Malborough region and the Queen Charlotte Track. Take a scenic cruise through the sounds with a scrumptious seafood cruise.(opens in new window)
In just 30 minutes you could be in Blenheim(opens in new window) soaking up the sun with a world-famous, zesty sauvignon blanc. There are over 120 wineries in the area and with 30 cellar doors and annual wine events, there is no shortage of tastings.
Head west to Nelson which is known as the sunniest region in New Zealand. Seek out Jens Hansen Goldsmith, maker of the 'One Ring' and many other Tolkien-themed items, before journeying deep into the Abel Tasman National Park(opens in new window) - another Great Walk of New Zealand.
Head over the hils to Takaka(opens in new window), a laid back town with friendly eclectic locals, great cafes and a super relaxed atmosphere. Stock up on supplies before trekking in the Kahurangi National Park.
Spend a day kayaking(opens in new window) on the water and paddle around the famous Split Apple Rock.
Drive towards the east coast and down to Kaikōura(opens in new window) (meaning 'crayfish' in Māori). Crayfish are so abundant in the area they're featured on almost every menu in town and locals are known to have their freezers full of the season's catch.
The area feels remote but is well linked to Picton and Christchurch by the Coastal Pacific train ride, the Kaikōura Ranges hug the township and are often capped in snow.
Visitors flock from near and far for the spectacular marine animals, your trip to Kaikōura would not be complete without a whale, dolphin or albatross tour with Whale Watch (opens in new window)Kaikōura(opens in new window).
Hanmer can be reached within 2 hours drive and is the perfect spot to soak in mineral water at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa(opens in new window) and with jet boating(opens in new window), ziplining, wineries and cellar doors there is something for the whole family.
Further south you'll come across the Waipara(opens in new window) area, famous for its pinot noir and riesling and home to over 90 wineries.
Amberley(opens in new window) is nearby and is a great spot for golf and fly fishing.
Continue onto Christchurch(opens in new window), an eclectic city of elegance and contemporary culture. Have a go at Punting on the Avon(opens in new window) River, mountain bike down well-worn tracks in the Port Hills and enjoy delicious dining options in the central city including the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant(opens in new window). Spend a day or two in Akaroa(opens in new window), New Zealand's only French-inspired town and a gateway to dolphin tours.
From Christchurch head south, over the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere to the salmon fishing capital of New Zealand, the small town of Rakaia(opens in new window).
Head inland to Lake Tekapo(opens in new window), to see the darkest skies in the world in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. The Church of the Good Shepherd sits proudly on the lake front and is the place for optimum photo opportunities, day and night. Dark Sky Project(opens in new window) can take you on an ultimate stargazing journey at one the nearby observatories with a knowledgable storyteller guide.
Views of the Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring are only part of the breathtaking scenery on the route from Tekapo to Wanaka. Stop in for a soak in your own private outdoor pool at Hot Tubs Omarama(opens in new window).
Once you reach Wanaka keep a look out for 'That Wanaka Tree' from the lakefront. Possibly the freshest salmon you've ever eaten can be found at Hook Wanaka(opens in new window), once you've caught your fish from the onsite fishing area, have staff prepare your catch and prepare the meal for you.
You can do as little or as much as you like in Wanaka - enjoy the views from the lakefront, via Ferrata and climb the highest waterfall cable climb in the world with Wild Wire(opens in new window) or jump out of a plane with Skydive Wanaka(opens in new window).
Check the weather and road conditions and head to Queenstown through the winter skiing and summer mountain biking and area of Cardrona(opens in new window) and be sure to get your photo taken outside the famous Cardrona Hotel. Or take the scenic route through the dramatic landscapes of Central Otago and head from Wanaka to Cromwell to try some fresh local cherries, apricots, nectarines and other stone fruit at Mrs Jones Fruit Stall and be sure to try a local pinot noir at the many cellar doors in the area.
On the drive from Cromwell to Queenstown, you'll come across the Kawarau Gorge, the home of AJ Hackett bungy,(opens in new window) then head to the Gibbston Valley to sample local cheeses and tastings at the many cellar doors.
Continue down into the 'Adventure Capital of the World', Queenstown(opens in new window). Surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains and crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s top visitor destinations. Take a tour of local filming locations with Lord of the Rings experts Nomad Safaris. Relax on board the historic steamship the TSS Earnslaw and arrive at Walter Peak for a delicious feast of local ingredients. Top of the day with a soak at Onsen Hot Pools(opens in new window).
Be sure to check out Skippers Canyon and try your luck at gold panning in the historic mining settlement of Arrowtown(opens in new window).
Hikers and trampers will need to stay a while in Fiordland, amazingly it is home to three out of ten Great Walks(opens in new window) - the Kepler Track, Milford Track and the Routeburn Track.
The lesser-known but equally spectacular Dusky Track begins from Manapouri and this area is also the gateway to mesmerizing, once in a lifetime Doubtful Sound(opens in new window) cruises.
From Manapouri head north to Te Anau(opens in new window), a small quaint town with a peaceful lakefront, which becomes a bustling hub in the peak season, book accommodation and activities well in advance. The local Department of Conservation centre is in the town so pay them a visit before heading out trekking.
Take a day tour or a comfortable overnight boat trip on Milford Sound and feel the cool mist of waterfalls on your face as you cruise the fiord and out to the Tasman Sea. Marvel at surrounding Mitre Peak and keep a look out for seals, dolphins and native birds.
Kayak on the fiord or take a scenic flight and feel the remoteness of this amazing part of New Zealand. You can also explore the nearby towns in Fiordland(opens in new window) and visit the resident glowworms at Te Anau Gloworm Caves(opens in new window).
As your 3-week expedition comes to an end, head back to Queenstown Airport or up the West Coast(opens in new window) if time allows.