Christchurch - Queenstown - Fiordland - Lake Ohau - Nelson - Wellington - Tongariro National Park - Rotorua - Auckland - Bay of Islands
Day 1 Christchurch
Kia Ora and welcome to your Kiwi adventure with Topdeck Your NZ journey unfolds and the scenery will totally amaze you today as we head off across the Canterbury Plains and into the Southern Alps. Our path is only one of three that cut across these impressive mountains that form the backbone of the South Island. We'll stop for a break at Arthur's Pass then continue on through the Otira Gorge with waterfalls cascading overhead. Welcome to the wild West Coast as we head into the town of Hokitika for our lunch break, the Whitebait fritters are a must when in season. We'll stop at the Jade factory and see the carvers skilfully creating works of art from the Pounamu greenstone, known as Jade, and grab the chance to purchase a souvenir pendant. Let's hope Lake Matheson's waters are still and the skies are clear so that we can get that famous reflection of New Zealand's two tallest mountain peaks in its waters. This afternoon we'll stretch our legs with an afternoon walk taking in the stunning scenery before we check into our accommodation.
Day 2 Queenstown
Westland National Park abounds with high mountain peaks and glaciers and today we'll have a chance to walk on a flowing river of ice A half day guided hike* is an excellent way to take a closer look at Fox Glacier as your ice guides take you alongside the glacier through rejuvenating temperate rainforest and onto the lower icefall. If you prefer to search higher on the glacier for stunning ice caves and formations take a heli-hike* onto the upper icefall and enjoy a more sedate walking pace as you explore with your ice guides and await the return of your helicopter. After lunch we will make stops for photos and short walks. A stop at Thunder Creek Falls, which flows into the Haast River amidst rainforest, highlights the beauty of this World Heritage area. We'll break at Makarora then journey past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea and onto our destination, the adrenalin mecca of the southern hemisphere, Queenstown, our home for next three nights Don't miss out on a famous Topdeck recommended Queenstown Fergburger* whilst in town the Little Lamby is always a winner.
Day 3 Queenstown
One is never quite enough so we've given you two full days in Queenstown and adventure waits at every turn Queenstown is perfect for everyone from the adrenalin junkie to the leisure seeker - there is just so much to do. Try a bungy jump* or a giant swing through a narrow canyon*, skim past canyon walls on the Shotover Jet*, pass through the breathtaking scenery of the Dart River on a jet boat safari* or for a more leisurely view take a horseback ride* through Paradise. If this is not your 'cup of tea', enjoy the mountains and views on the numerous mountain bike trails* or hike to Ben Lomond for 360 degree views, admire Queenstown from above with a ride on the skyline gondola* or take one of the many fantastic walks Queenstown has to offer. With two full days in this ever popular resort town, it's also a perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse of a Kiwi, why not head to the Kiwi Birdlife Park*?
Day 4 Queenstown
Who's up for round two in all-singing-all-dancing Queenstown? Today is a free day to tick-off what you didn't have time to do yesterday, or you might just fancy kicking back and chilling by the pristine lake or at a local cafe, restaurant or bar. Life is pretty good here
Day 5 Fiordland
Departing Queenstown this morning we farewell this adventure playground and head to the Fiords. There will be time to stop and admire the reflection in Mirror Lake, the views down the Hollyford Valley, and we literally drive through the mountain via the Homer Tunnel and emerge back into a landscape of spectacular mountains and waterfalls. This afternoon brings a heightened enthusiasm rearing for your Milford Sound Nature Cruise and to enjoy the stunning views that have been pictured millions of times in the Fiord. Fur seals and bottlenose dolphins are often seen and, on the odd occasion the rare Fiordland Crested Penguins can also be out playing. Our afternoon cruise is an intimate look into the history and geology of the Fiord while exploring small nooks and crannies along the edges, nudging into sheer rock faces to examine flora and fauna in detail and is sure to be a real highlight
Day 6 Lake Ohau
We make our way along Lake Wakatipu this morning bound for quaint Arrowtown. You'll have some time to explore this historic gold mining town before tackling our next adventure. After lunch*, we leave the coach behind for just a little while this afternoon we're using pedal power Departing Arrowtown on our mountain bikes, your Topdeck trip leader guides you along the willow-lined Arrow River. Crossing various bridges, you'll zig-zag across the river which is sometimes tranquil, often rushing over rocks, then widening to crystal clear pools. There's no shortage of photo stops along the relatively gentle ride either, none more popular than the halfway mark when we arrive at the most awe-inspiring suspension bridge, it's a destination in itself. There is certainly time to take it all in and enjoy the journey before we finish at the famous Kawarau Bridge, home of the world's first commercial Bungy operation. Before too long it's time to hit the road again as we continue through to the Cromwell district before we venture up and over the Lindis Pass as we witness the dramatic variation in scenery of these ranges to those we've encountered in the west. Our home tonight is a classic Kiwi Lakeside Lodge on the shores of Lake Ohau. After a superb homemade meal, be sure to save room for dessert - it has been a Topdeck favourite for years There's time for an evening stroll by the lake, or quiet drink on the deck as we watch the sun silhouette Mt Cook whilst setting to the west.
Day 7 Christchurch
Wake up this morning to magnificent views of the mountains before you. Today we make tracks and follow the Southern Lakes hydroelectricity scheme around impressive blue water lakes with the ever-present Southern Alps as a backdrop. If the weather is right we'll head in to Mt Cook village, there is an opportunity to take a walk in the National Park, or simply sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery. Next stop, Lake Pukaki, and a chance for some amazing photos as we gaze across the clear blue waters back to Mt Cook known to the Maori people as Aoraki or cloud piercer, hopefully no clouds in sight to obscure our view The blue waters of Lake Tekapo greet us as we make a scenic lunch stop in the village. After lunch we make our way to the Church of the Good Sheppard and the monument to the Border Collie. On to Fairlie - situated smack in the heart of sheep country, we will learn about life on a Kiwi sheep farm and see the Collie dogs in action at our Kiwi Farm Experience the delicious homemade afternoon tea is true Kiwi Country fare. From here it's flat going as we once again cross the Canterbury Plains to reach the garden city of Christchurch.
Day 8 Nelson
North and along a very scenic coastal drive, today we are off to Kaikoura - a friendly town that sits right at the foothills of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges and the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Fans of seafood will certainly enjoy lunch in these parts. In fact, in the Maori language Kai = Food and Koura = Crayfish, so you know it's good There's even the option of meeting some marine friends with a whale watching* or dolphin swimming* or seal swimming adventure* here, while in winter you can snuggle up with a glass of NZ's finest at a local winery. Waving Kaikoura goodbye, keep your eyes peeled towards the water to spy New Zealand fur seals at Ohau Point. The late afternoon has us through the Marlborough region before reaching our afternoon destination at Nelson, the sunniest region in New Zealand known best for its beaches, wineries, breweries and energetic local arts community.
Day 9 Nelson
Today is yours to explore the breathtaking surrounds of Nelson and whatever you're into; it's all here, all year Home to three of New Zealand's most spectacular national parks, it truly is a diverse region. From snow capped mountains to lush green forests, and rolling vineyards to turquoise waters, make sure you pack your camera today You'll have the opportunity to explore the stunning Abel Tasman National Park by boat*, by the ever-popular walking tracks* or from the water as you paddle in ocean kayaks* along the shoreline. For a different view, why not try an unforgettable tandem skydive*? If you would prefer to keep your feet on terra firma, there's horse riding* and even quad biking* options available. Nelson is also the creative arts hub of New Zealand and home to a number of wonderful galleries and studios. With over three hundred working artists, you're guaranteed to see many scattered around the lakes, on the rivers, in forest dwellings and everywhere in between Tonight we regroup over a traditional Kiwi BBQ dinner provided by your champion Topdeck crew.
Day 10 Wellington
Our morning drive back up and over the range sees us back into the sensational Marlborough Wine Region. We soon discover the very reason why this area has become so famous around the world � yes, the vino This area has one of the world's greatest wine trails: fabulous wine, breathtaking scenery, a warm climate and relaxed people clustered in one small grape growing region. A visit to our secret Marlborough Winery for some famous NZ wine tastings, will certainly appeal The family-owned vineyard was one of the first to be set up in this area and the passion the staff have for all facets of wine making is truly infectious. From here a short drive to Picton where we board the inter-islander ferry across Cook Strait. Leaving behind the South Island & the blue waters of the Marlborough Sound, shortly the harbour city of Wellington will greet you - you'll notice the change of scenery immediately, as we arrive right into the middle of the capital city. With stylish cocktail bars and award-winning restaurants all in a compact CBD area that make Wellington the most vibrant city in NZ Wellington's been crowned the '4th coolest city' in the world to visit and you're about to find out why
Day 11 Tongariro National Park
After checking out our rooms it is time to check out the City A Visit to Te Papa - the NZ National Museum - with six brilliant levels of interactive history, art and all round awesomeness is certainly a must For all you cool city cats, there's the funky designer shops and contemporary art galleries a plenty in the city streets. We leave the Capital behind and traverse between the coast and the lower north farmlands destined for the central vast volcanic plateau of World Heritage listed Tongariro National Park. The three mountains at the heart of the park - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu - have cultural and religious significance for the Maori people. Here we bunk down for the next two nights in a true alpine retreat nestled on the edge of Whakapapa Village. You'll have the opportunity to relax in the sauna and spa or unwind with a drink in the Terrace Bar by the fire. We'll top the night off with a hearty country style meal, but leave room for desert � you'll be introduced to a Kiwi favourite tonight, the Pavlova
Day 12 Tongariro National Park
With dual cultural and natural heritage status, and often described as one of the best full day hikes in NZ, the �Tongariro Crossing�* is yours to take on today if you choose. Two active volcanoes, a cold mountain spring, lava flows, an active crater, emerald lakes and hot springs combine to make this an enjoyable and memorable trip into a most interesting area of the park (8 hour hike � transfers at own expense, seasonal and subject to weather conditions). Around the Village there are also a number of many shorter walking tracks for you to experience the grandeur of Tongariro National Park. If hiking is not your thing, there are a variety of other optional activities available including Quad Biking*, Mountain Biking*, Kayaking*, even Skiing in winter* (check with your crew for the best deals). After a full day's exploring, take a leisurely stroll into the village where numerous options are on offer for dinner*. After a full day spent exploring, head back for another relaxing night at the mountain lodge, perfect
Day 13 Rotorua
Taupo is first, and hanging above the free flowing Waikato River, the Taupo Bungy is a must for those game enough to take the plunge* Next up, it's onwards to the raging waters of Huka Falls before reaching Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. Travelling North we divert from the highway to explore the uniquely different landscape of Wai-O-Tapu (Maori for sacred waters), an active geothermal area located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The vibrant colours of the hot springs along the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Track make for the most spectacular Facebook cover photo A visit here would not be complete without taking the short detour to see (and hear) the gurgling, bubbling Mud Pool. We continue to the heartbeat of Maori culture in Aotearoa - Rotorua. This steamy thermal playground is renowned for its natural and cultural beauty and a distinct welcoming aroma in the air - breathe in that sulphuric goodness Tonight we'll be staying in a traditional Maori Marae where the elders will welcome us on arrival in their time-honoured style; this stay is an opportunity to experience the real side of Maori Culture, as it is today. After a hearty traditional family style dinner, our Whanau host will enlighten us through some Maori history and legend before we are treated to an exclusive cultural performance by the Te Arawa people. We also interact and learn facets of the cultural performance including the actions of various Haka and Poi. The Haka that we learn is not a traditional one (as this would break tribal protocol), instead it is one that was written specifically for Topdeck. All of this traditional Maori entertainment, education and performance by a local Kapa Haka group exclusively for us this certainly is the real deal Later, doze off to sleep eye to eye as you check out all of the carvings inside the Marae up close and personal.
Day 14 Rotorua
We say goodbye to the Marae after breakfast and the rest of the day is yours to explore, and there are countless options on offer in this beautiful area. Relax in the famous thermal spa pools*, or indulge in a rejuvenating massage*. If you're looking for adventure, there's also mountain biking*, white water rafting*, the original OGO Zorb* or tackle some unique activities on offer at the Agroventures adventure hub*. Another option is The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour*, an absolute must-do for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans. This fascinating tour takes you through the real middle-earth as you view the set through Frodo's eyes - exactly as it appeared in the films Get lost among the Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, the Mill and the Party Tree whilst admiring the picturesque landscape on this privately owned, working New Zealand farm. A little slice of luxury tonight as we settle into Rotorua's largest hotel, set right on the shores of beautiful Lake Rotorua and just a short stroll from the vibrant city centre.
Day 15 Auckland
The lush green rolling hills of the Waikato and King Country today line the roads as we trek towards Auckland, or Tamaki-Makau-Rau as it's known in Maori, meaning 'the maiden with a thousand lovers'. It earned its name because it was coveted by many tribes, and let's face it, what's not to love Afterwards, we'll meet some more excited Topdeck travellers and together, crossing Auckland's scenic harbour and heading north, Our first stop is at Parry Kauri Park to marvel at the magnificent Kauri tree, NZ's oldest and largest tree species dating back to Jurassic times. Then it's onto the seaside town of Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands - 144 islands, secluded bays, and an abundance of marine life - this is the picture perfect New Zealand you've been dreaming about. Settle into your hotel and make the most of this evening at your own pace - relax by the pool, head into town for a meal and most importantly, get to know your new tour buddies
Upgrade to overnight 'Rock the Boat' option if you're keen to experience everything the bay has to offer, this cruise aboard New Zealand's largest houseboat is not to be missed. With a laid-back atmosphere and cosy bar, a fun night of laughs, music and good company is always on offer. If you consider yourself a shark, there's even a pool table competition Spot satellites and shooting stars with the experienced crew, who'll take any chance to use their laser pointers to impress you with their knowledge of New Zealand's southern skies. As for hopeless nautical romantics, you can expect amazing views, golden sunsets and an open log fire - the vessel is lit up with candles too
Day 16 Bay of Islands
Today is yours to explore the fascinating Bay of Islands and there's a whole host of optional activities on offer. Adventure lovers can catamaran along the inner bay looking for dolphins*, kayak through mangrove forests to Haruru Falls*, or take a ride along 90 Mile Beach to Cape Reinga* and board down the Te Paki sand dunes. History buffs can take a step back in time and learn about the fascinating past of New Zealand at the Waitangi Treaty House*. There's also time to visit Russell, the oldest settlement in New Zealand, or hike to the Haruru Falls through native bush. Tonight swap stories about our day in the bay over a delicious Kiwi favourite - fish and chips
Day 17 Auckland
This morning we start our journey south. If the weather's nice, you'll enjoy a scenic walk to view Whangarei Falls before it's back to Auckland, we once again cross the harbour to reach our final destination and say our goodbyes ... as they say in Kiwi ... it's been real-as, bro Ka Kite Ano We hope you have enjoyed the past 17 Days travelling with Topdeck and we look forward to seeing you on one of our great trips again soon. Not ready to end your adventure just yet? You're in luck - Topdeck also have numerous trips on offer Down Under Whether it's the sun, surf and sand of the east coast, the rugged natural beauty of the southern states or the fascinating aboriginal history of the outback, Topdeck have an Australian trip sure to interest you.
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