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Highlights of NZ
 

NZ Highlights 

New Zealand has an abundant amount of amazing attractions, which an be over-whelming when doing research! But if you have limited time and would like to experience what everyone else has on their "must see" list, then this itinerary will take you to those main tourist centres.

Let me know if you would like a unique itinerary drafted to suit your individual interests - we will gladly assist you in planning that perfect vacation.
  iry
 
  

 
Self-Drive Holiday

Duration :  13 nights/14 days.  
Activities include : Milford Sound, Rotorua, Maori Culture, Queenstown, Outdoor Adventure, Sight-seeing. 
Notes :
Internal flights are not included, these should be booked by your Travel Agent.

A two week self-drive tour to the main attractions of New Zealand.  Be sure to let me know your preferred activity level, so that I can adjust the itinerary accordingly. Remember this is just a sample.

Day 1 Arrive in Auckland

All travellers using Amazing New Zealand services are personally met at the airport by our friendly professional representative. You will receive at the airport a comprehensive Deluxe Travel Pack. The pack contains the prepaid service vouchers, maps, discount vouchers and brochures to local attractions, plus a detailed daily explanation of driving routes, including suggested stops en route.  

The representative will then take you to your accommodation in Auckland, stopping en route on the extinct volcano of Mount Eden for a panoramic view of the city and to point out the city's many geographical features and attractions around the harbours. We recommend that you use the services of an Amazing New Zealand chauffeur to guide you on your first day here for several reasons :- they are keen to show you their favourite locations around Auckland, their local knowledge is invaluable, you can relax knowing that someone else is driving you in this unfamiliar location giving you driving tips along the way, plus it will give you some time to recover from the jet-lag.


Suggested activities:-  

Head north over the Harbour Bridge to pretty Orewa Beach and Wenderholm Regional Park on the tranquil east coast, followed by morning tea in the original Bohemian settlement of Puhoi. You then drive inland past wineries and orchards to the wild beaches of the West Coast. The gannet colony at Muriwai is a must see as not only will the cute chicks and the flying skills of the adults keep you mesmerized, but the sweeping views along the surfing beaches north will certainly blow any jet-lag away. Heading south again lunch can be enjoyed at the Bees Online cafe where many honey orientated products are on sale, or wine lovers should take advantage of having a chauffeur and dine in a restaurant under the vines of a world class winery.

After lunch I recommend a walk in the lush bush of the Waitakere Ranges to a secluded waterfall or along a deserted beach, such as the one made famous in Jane Campion's movie The Piano. Return to Auckland along the Scenic Drive and take a ferry ride to the old suburb of Devonport - Auckland is known as the City of Sails, so a venture out onto the water is an essential part of visiting this city. Take the tour or wander up under your own steam to North Head for awesome views of the city and our youngest dormant volcano Rangitoto Island. For a late afternoon swim in our clean, clear and safe harbour you can wander down the steps to beautiful Cheltenham Beach. On your return to the Ferry Building enjoy the sunset and dinner up in the revolving restaurant of the Sky Tower.

Day 2 Auckland - Hahei 270kms

Before you depart for Coromandel, you may like to visit a few attractions you missed yesterday. The Waterfront is where you can find the extremely informative Maritime Museum - the displays are chronological, so you begin with the Maori migration across the seas, step back in time on board a European immigrant's ship, then appreciate New Zealand's proud yachting history including the Whitbread Round the World race and of course the America's CupKelly Tarlton was the inventor of the undersea walkway where you can view the fish from below without getting wet - the Antarctic Encounter and Penguin Encounter are worth stopping here on their own. The revamped old homes of Parnell have brick paved alleyways full of boutique clothes stores, art galleries and specialty shops.

Head south (direction Hamilton) on SH1.

56kms - After the Bombay Hills, turn left onto SH2 direction Coromandel and at 88kms change again to SH25 at the new roundabout.

110kms – Just after the long Kopu Bridge, turn left towards Thames – the gateway to Coromandel Peninsula. In the late 1880s this was a thriving gold mining and kauri logging centre. (NB if you prefer a shorter drive today then turn right at the roundabout after the bridge and follow SH25A up and over the Coromandel Ranges instead of going left to Thames). This is also where you should stop and buy groceries if you intend preparing your own meals for the next 2 nights as there is not a lot of choice at Hahei!

Continue north direction Coromandel Town. You are now skirting the Firth of Thames, the road follows the dramatic and winding coast, so please take it easy. But most importantly, please remember that the locals are not on vacation and are quite often in a hurry to get somewhere. So if someone is pressuring you from behind, just pull over and allow them to pass. You will enjoy the driving much much more and the locals will in turn be much much more friendlier when you do eventually cruise to your destination at your own pace! There are places to pull over and take photos all along of this dramatic coastline.

165kms – Here you could turn right onto the 309 Road.

  • 4.8kms up this road is the Waiau Waterways Garden and café, where whimsical wonders are worked by water - there are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart.
  • 7.9kms - Continue inland to the Kauri Grove parking. This stop is excellent, giving you a real taste for the New Zealand bush without much effort. The bush walk is an easy 10 minute stroll on a level path to 600 year old kauri trees. These trees are magnificent, with native bush wonderfully lush and cool and peaceful. Continue past the first lookout for a lovely circuit past the Siamese Kauri and to the Kauri Grove. The Kauris are endemic to the northern part of New Zealand’s North Island and can live for 4000 years and grow to twice the height of these ones! They are the largest trees in the world if calculating volume of usable timber. No wonder they call them the giants of the forest and were almost wiped out by the colonials for their timber. The cutting down of a Kauri is now banned as they are protected, so thankfully now we are seeing a comeback of these giants to our forests.

Return to SH25 and turn right to visit Coromandel Town, another 5kms north.

188kms - The main street in Coromandel Town is an old world delight, full of cafés and craft shops. After your visit, drive south (go back) 400m and turn left towards Whitianga – at the top of the hill there is a lookout point with views all the way back to Auckland.

224kms – Wharekaho Beach has a fine stand of Pohutukawa trees. One of these is a gnarled old specimen that exactly fits a description in the journal of explorer Captain Cook written in 1769.

228kms – You are now arriving in Whitianga, a safe harbour full of holiday homes favoured by Aucklanders. Continue south, following signs for Tairua and SH25.

260kms - Turn left and drive 10 kilometres to Hahei Beach

If you feel like a walk, then the Coastal Track starts at the northern end of Hahei Beach….enjoy commanding views over Hahei and to the islands beyond and north along the dramatic coast. You can walk as far as you like before turning back, or you can even walk all the way to Cathedral Cove. 

Day 3 Hahei

This morning you could visit Hot Water Beach. It is a lovely beach, but more importantly hot water rises to the surface here from a geothermal reservoir under the seabed. Check the tides, as you need to dig a hole below the high water mark, 2 hours either side of the low tide is your time limit. I recommend it after low tide, so you may then get to use an abandoned hole instead of having to dig one for yourself! You can dig a hole on the northern end of the beach, then sit back and soak in your very own private spa. Look for the sulphur bubbling to the surface of the sand.

Hahei's main attraction is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach nearby hidden within a dramatic coastline. There are 4 ways of reaching it :-
  • Walk the coastal track which starts on the northern end of Hahei Beach. The views are excellent, and it will take you about 1 hour to reach the cove itself.
  • Drive up to the car-park via Grange Road, then walk 45 minutes to the cove.
  • Take the Hahei sight seeing boat, departing 10am (no time at the beach).
  • Or my recommendation is to join the sea kayaking tour departing at 9am. A 3 hour truly kiwi experience, includes top quality kayaks and gear, tuition and even a coffee brewed for you on the beach while you take a swim. You can order which ever style – Cappuccino, Mochachino, even an L Baccino (long black). Sea kayaking is a "must do" in New Zealand, and this is one of the most beautiful places to try it.
Day 4 Hahei - Hobbiton - Rotorua 268kms

Today’s drive takes you south to Rotorua, actual driving time to Hobbiton is just under 3 hours, plus the suggested stops, so I would depart by 9am today. One mistake visitors to New Zealand make is under estimating how long it takes to drive – 250kms in New Zealand is not the same as driving 250kms on motorways, as you have probably already noticed!

Return to the SH25 intersection and go left towards Tairua. You will see many kiwifruit and citrus orchards and vineyards today as you travel through what is known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.

A great photo op is from the Paku Hill, turn left as you enter Tairua towards Ocean Beach. Keep following the road, at the marina go up Paku Drive, then follow signs to Paku Summit. A short walk will take you the rest of the way, for awesome views over Tairua Harbour and Pauanui Beach. Return to Tairua and continue south, direction Whangamata. Just after the Pauanui turnoff, SH25 goes left….if you go straight you end up in Thames again!

63kms - Whangamata Beach is over 4kms long and is popular for swimming and surfing. Drive through town (which is less winding than following the official SH2 signs) and the beach is certainly worth checking out.

93kms – Waihi once had 1200 mines producing half of the country’s gold. There is only one mine left now, the massive Martha’s Mine – a huge open cut mine right in the middle of town. On the SH2 intersection, turn right to Town Centre, then at the roundabout go right and drive up through the shops and park by the information centre (i-Site). Walk up the steps to view the impressive mine from above….if you walk uphill along the fence there is an impressive Maori warrior statue worth seeing – it is amongst the plants, plus the views over the town are quite lovely. The i-Site has an informative display about the mine.

Return to the roundabout and go straight and follow SH2 west (direction Auckland and not Tauranga) which takes you through the pretty Karangahake Gorge. Paeroa is world famous, in New Zealand, for their soft drink…..you must stop and try a can of Lemon and Paeroa.

114kms - Just before the Paeroa shops, turn left and cross over the river and follow SH26 south to Te Aroha. Drive another 14 kilometres on SH26, when you reach SH27 turn left at the large roundabout and drive south – you should have the Kaimai Ranges on your left.

177kms – In Matamata continue straight at the roundabout and soon after when SH27 takes a sharp left to go over the railway tracks, you should continue straight and stay on Firth Street. Drive 10 kilometres and turn right onto Puketutu Road (just before the SH29 intersection) and follow the signs to Hobbiton on Buckland Road.

194kms - Turn right then immediately left onto SH29. Drive east for 4 kilometres then turn right onto SH27 to Tirau.  

214kms – On reaching SH1, turn left into Tirau - the town has a bit of a love affair with corrugated iron, there are quite a few other imaginative signs right the way along the main road, including a giant corrugated iron sheepdog housing the tourist office and a giant sheepdog next door which houses the Big Sheep Wool Gallery. Other tourist shops worth at least a peek at are the Jade Factory - they specialize in Maori Korunecklaces. Or for something really unique try the Natures Touch Gallery.

Change to SH5 two kilometres further at the new roundabout. You will soon encounter the unusual terrain of the Mamaku District where mini volcanic cones dot the landscape, some showing their solidified lava core.

268kms - You will probably smell Rotorua before you see it, as the area is still active with sulphur escaping from the earth’s crust (think rotten eggs). Don’t worry, you will get used to the smell. The city lies on a beautiful lake, actually a flooded volcanic crater - the surrounding hills are the remains of the rim of the giant volcano. Rotorua sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanic activity is part of the city’s past and present.

The city has become New Zealand’s second largest tourist centre – so there are no shortages of establishments willing to take some cash away from you but if you’d like to make the most of what Rotorua has to offer and all that is thermal, here are some of my suggestions :- 
  • Kuirau Park has the largest display of steam and mud pools. An eruption took place here as recently as January 26th 2001 when mud, steam and debris were thrown 200m into the air. Springs regularly just appear, resulting in families being forced to move and the land having to be given back to nature.
  •  Wander around the original Maori settlement at Ohinemutu. The church is worth a look at, as is the Marae (Maori meeting house) across the courtyard. Wander the tiny streets where everyone has their own private hot-water bore to fill their bath in the out-shed….just follow the steam, and stay on the paths!
  •  If you have time, soak in the reputedly therapeutic thermal pools at the Polynesian Spa, a delightful but busy public pool. If you wait until tomorrow morning the spa is less crowded - it is a wonderful way to start the day - relaxing with serene views across the lake.
  • Agrodomes principle attraction is the Sheep Show, a highly entertaining explanation of sheep and the caring of said sheep – the mainstay of New Zealand’s exports.
  • This evening don’t miss the excellent Tamaki Brothers cultural show followed by a traditional Hangi (earthen cooked meal). Pickups from your accommodation in a waka (war canoe) cleverly disguised as a bus, followed by a fun evening superbly hosted and entertained by local Maori.
  • The excitement junkies can take the Gondola up Mount Ngongotaha for awesome views, interspersed with hair raising rides on a luge (3 levels available, so suitable for children).
Day 5 Rotorua - Taupo - Rotorua 184kms

There are many more attractions between here and Taupo! The Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland is the best thermal reserve in the area and highly recommended for today.  

Departing from the tourist office, drive up Fenton Street direction Taupo. At 29 kilometres turn left at the Wai-o-tapu Tavern and 400m further left again onto the Loop Road to take a look at the thermal Mud Pools. Don’t forget to lock your car - the bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours! The Lady Knox Geyser is between the Mud Pools and Waiotapu and blows her top at 10:15am, so try to time it to arrive in time for this spectacle….a bit touristy but quite impressive none the less!

Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. It really is a wonderland of orange, green, yellow, blue, white and black pools - the highlights being the exquisitely coloured Champagne Pool, Oyster Pool and the Devil’s Bath - you’ll be amazed how nature can conjure up such colours. There are 3 self guided walks, the short, the medium and the long – the latter takes about 2 hours which I recommend as it takes you all the way to the green lake of Ngakoro, with great views en route of the blue lake Whangi-o-terangi, meaning "colour of the sky". The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes. Continue on this road to SH5 and turn left.

52kms – The Ohaaki Geothermal Power Station provides 5% of the country’s electricity. The Kaingaroa Pine Forest that you are driving through is the largest man-made forest in the world.

72kms – At the large roundabout where SH5 meets SH1, go straight and continue south past the Wairakei International Golf Course, mentioned on the 'Top 100 Golf Courses in the World' list! The best time to visit is in August and September when the trees behind the clubhouse are full of the native tui birds.

78kms – Turn left for the mighty Huka Falls, Volcanic Activity Centre and Prawn Park.
  • If you first go left, you will come to the freshwater Prawn Park, apparently the world’s only geothermal prawn farm. The informative tour leaves every 30 minutes, after which you are encouraged to munch out in the Riverside Restaurant. The lawn sweeps down to the river's edge, where jet-boats entertain the tourists with their 360° spins.
  • The Activity Centre is well worth a stop. You are in the middle of one of the most active volcanic spots in the world, so it’s good to know what lies beneath your feet. There are hands-on interpretive displays of local volcanoes, up to the second earthquake Richter scale readings, even a room where you can experience a simulated earthquake.
  • The Honey Hive also has interesting interpretive displays, a glass fronted live beehive and the Beez Kneez Café.
  • The Huka Falls are not very high, but are certainly spectacular. Here the sedate Waikato River is forced between a 15 metre gap before roaring over a 7 metre drop. There is a lookout just past the Helistar Helicopters, but the falls are much more impressive from below, where there is a walkway across the river.
  • There is another attraction called the Craters of the Moon volcanic reserve, that is if you’re not all "thermalled out" yet. To reach the reserve after visiting the falls, return to the highway intersection and cross straight over. Follow the road for 1.5kms to the car-park. From here a 40 minute stroll along a boardwalk will take you through steamy billowing clouds and hissing escaping gases – you really do feel as if you’re walking on the moon.
Return to SH1/SH5, go right to Taupo. After 4 kilometres turn left for the lookout over the huge Lake Taupo, actually the world’s largest volcanic crater, created in one giant explosion. The ash cloud floated all over the world. Ice samples from as far apart as Antarctica and Alaska have determined the explosion to have occurred in 186AD. The effects of the ash were even recorded as far away as China and Rome. You can gather your own free volcanic souvenir from the shoreline in the form of very light pumice stones (great for cleaning off rough skin) which were spewed out in that eruption. The mountains to the south of the lake are popular for skiing in the winter and walking in the summer. In Taupo go right at the first roundabout towards the lake front where most of the restaurants are situated. Return to Rotorua the way you came.


  

Day 6 Rotorua - Christchurch ... internal flight

The flight can be described as a scenic flight, with spectacular views of the North Island volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the LOTR Trilogy), Ruapehu, Taranaki (Mt Fujiyama in the Last Samurai) before crossing to the South Island and following the Southern Alps all the way down to Christchurch. Arriving by air gives you a wonderful overview of the area - sea to the east, a carefully laid out city bordered by the Port Hills to the south-east, then an expanse of patch-work fields ringed by perfectly manicured wind-breaks that stretch all the way to the Southern Alps.....ask for a window seat on the right side of the plane!

If your flight is later in the day you could :-
  • Have a game of golf on the beautiful Arikikapakapa course on the southern end of Fenton Street. On the 9 hole course, the usual hazards are not lakes and sand-traps but rather steam vents and boiling mud pools!
  • For non-golfers there are several other tourist attractions vying for your dollar. One possibility is to take an awesome flight over Mt Tarawera, famous for its 1886 eruption that not only split the mountain rather dramatically, but also buried the famous Pink and White terraces, together with three villages and the loss of 153 lives.
  • The Te Wairoa Buried Village could also be visited this morning, or take a 4x4 tour to the top of Mt Tarawera.

Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps. The main attractions here are the English style gardens and parks, the city even has its very own Avon Riveron which one can punt. It has an English colonial feel to the city with school children in formal blazers and straw hats, with fine architecture and heritage sites evident everywhere. ……however, on February 22nd 2011 the city suffered a devastating earthquake that has unfortunately destroyed many of those heritage buildings, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral!

Attractions still worth considering are :-

  • Head to Antigua Boatshed where canoes are available for hire. Request a picnic basket hamper to be enjoyed on the banks of the Avon River along the way.
  • Or hire your very own gondolier to punt you through the Botanical Gardens.
  • The Grand Café at the Casino is a great option ….open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
  • Visit the Canterbury Museum for their informative Earthquake exhibition as well as the Antarctic section and impressive Maori collection.
  • The new Christchurch Art Gallery is a must see.
  • The excellent International Antarctic Centre near the airport is where you can experience all there is to know about the icy continent.
  • Take to the Port Hills for stunning 360° views as you walk along the Crater Rim Track.
  • Mona Vale was a beautiful Edwardian-style homestead set amongst 5½ ha. of beautiful gardens…..the gardens are still worth the visit!
  • The nearby Dean’s Bush at Riccarton is home to the only surviving stand of wetlands podocarp forest.
  • Join the Christchurch Bike Tour…..they ride along the bike paths and through parks and there is not a hill in sight! Stops include both Mona Vale and Deans Bush, as well as Hagley Park and the attractions.
  • The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is a zoo with a difference with plenty of opportunities to get up close and touch the animals.....be sure to check out the massive eels! And buy a bag of food to feed the various animals as you walk around the well marked bush lined paths. Time your visit to include the 4.30pm guided tour (no extra charge) through the Natural New Zealand section showcasing our rare native birds, including the kiwi of course. Other highlights here are close encounters of the wildlife kind with various and the farmyard animals that clamber for your attention to be fed and stroked!  
Day 7 Christchurch - Mt Cook 350kms

Follow SH1 south, direction Ashburton and Timaru.

126kms - Soon after passing over the Rangitata River, turn right onto SH79, direction Geraldine and Fairlie.

140kms - The Geraldine Orchard Farm Shop & Café is a great option for a coffee stop, you will see it on the left about 1 kilometre before Geraldine.

In Geraldine there are a few attractions worth stopping for. You can choose from:-

·         Try the hot-chocolate and or handmade chocolates at Coco - the prices ensure they are sold fresh

·         The Giant Jersey has, you guessed it, the largest jersey in the world, plus lots of woolly stuff on sale. It is also home to the incredible Medieval Mosaic, a perfect recreation of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

·         The Vintage Car Club and Machinery Museum has a sizable collection of cars, tractors and aircraft

·         Barkers Berry Barn is a specialty shop selling unique gift and gourmet items

Turn right after the Geraldine shops to stay on SH79.

187kms – In Fairlie, turn right onto SH8 to Lake Tekapo. Or you could first stop for a famous pie from the Fairlie Bakehouse – locals come from miles to buy these!

The scenery dramatically changes as you cross over Burke's Pass. You are now entering the Mackenzie Basin, a flat expanse of tussock grasslands and home to New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki (or Mt Cook as it is known in English) plus the longest glacier Tasman and sparkling turquoise glacial lakes below the Southern Alps - and it bears little resemblance to anywhere else in New Zealand.

228kms – The village at Lake Tekapo is small - their claim to fame being that it has the cleanest and clearest air in New Zealand….the skies above have recently become the world’s first ever Night Sky Reserve. Be sure to visit the much-photographed Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog.

232kms - You could (should) drive up to the summit of Mount John by day (turnoff just south of the village) to Astro Café and enjoy spectacular 360° views.

290kms - The Lake Pukaki Lookout is a great place to stop for photos of Mt Cook reflected in the water….the gorgeous turquoise-blue lake derives its colour from fine glacial particles suspended in the water. They also sell the locally farmed Salmon here (either hot smoked or cold smoked).

295kms – Turn right onto SH80. The 55 kilometre scenic drive to Mount Cook Village at the base of Aoraki Mt Cook (our highest mountain) and the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this world heritage site known as the Mount Cook National Park.

En route a stop at Peter’s Lookout is recommended - on the other side of the lake you are looking at Braemer Station where they filmed the escape from inside the Misty Mountains (1st Hobbit movie) and the Warg chase. The farm next door is called Tasman Downs Station – site of the Lake Town set! The whimsical lakeside village set sat over the water and incorporated clusters of two-storey wooden dwellings arranged around connecting walkways, waterways and wharves. Filming at this location was one of the largest operational periods in the shooting schedule with around 700 people on set.

The drive encompasses world-class scenery at its best where your excitement grows in parallel with the vista before you as you enter this world heritage site known as the Mount Cook National Park. On arrival you can choose from :-
  • Several different alpine walks with wonderful views.
  • Scenic flights either by ski plane or helicopter, guaranteed to be THE trip of your lifetime!
  • Glacier Explorer Trips involves walking to Tasman Lake and the taking an informative boat ride to the face of the advancing glacier.
  • Eat, drink and just relax in the Hermitage while enjoying the incredible views that lie before you.

Day 8 Mt Cook - Wanaka 206kms

If you feel like a walk this morning, then I can recommend the Hooker Valley Track - this is one of the most popular short walks in the Mount Cook National Park. Start at the White Horse Hill camping and follow the Hooker River. There are massive views of Mt Sefton and the shrunken Mueller Glacier, past an Alpine Memorial and over three swing-bridges until the final destination of the terminal lake at the bottom of the Hooker Glacier. Here Mt Aoraki looms ahead with great walls of ice up on the left and buttresses of rock tower over the foaming river to the right. The walk takes approximately 2 hours one way – so walk as far as you like. This is New Zealand at its very best!

Return along SH80 and turn right to Twizel, soon after you could stop at the Salmon Farm to feed the massive fish and to try the smoked salmon. Continue south on SH8, consider stopping in Omarama for petrol as there is not another fuel station for 80 kilometres! The highway will take you over the scenic Lindis Pass, the pass was first used by the Maori people walking to Lake Wanaka for summer fishing.

174kms - Just after Tarras, turn right onto SH8A to Wanaka. The tranquil lake has picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and is one of my favourite places in New Zealand!

Day 9 Wanaka

A day off from driving! There are several options for you to choose from today :-
  • One of the best short walks in this country is to the Rob Roy Glacier. The walk will take you up through beautiful rain forest to a hidden valley, right to the face of the glacier. For a shorter walk try the 2 1/2 hour Roaring Meg's Pack Track.
  • Wanaka is also the best place to try tandem sky-diving!
  • Or how about a 4x4 quad bike tour on a sheep farm with great views.
  • It is also possible to horse-ride on Appaloosas up the beautiful Cardrona Valley.
  • Trout fishing and skiing are the locals other favourites.
  • At the northern reaches of Lake Wanaka in a little place called Makaroa you can try the Siberia Experience of 3 thrills in as many hours – fly into the Mt Aspiring National Park (the Misty Mountains in LOTR), hike/tramp over the hill to the river and jet-boat back out. Wow!
  • Glendhu Bay is a sheltered and picturesque bay, particularly in autumn when the exotic trees provide rich colour for your postcard perfect photo of the mountains behind. Just beyond is a road leading to a popular swimming area in the spectacular Motatapu Gorge.
Day 10 Wanaka - Te Anau 270kms

Drive south on SH6 past Wanaka Airport. It is hard to believe that this sleepy region was the most populous in New Zealand during the chaotic gold boom years of the late 19th century. Cromwell is one of the sunniest, warmest places in the South Island (in the summer that is), making it ideal for growing fruit trees and the region is fast becoming renowned for fine Pinot Noir wines. Old Cromwell Town is worth exploring.

54kms - You then continue south on SH6 through the dramatic Kawarau Gorge.  Just before the gorge, look for the large fresh fruit shop on the left (Jones Fruit Stall), it is well worth a stop at as they have all sorts of seasonal fruit that you can try and their real fruit ice-creams are amazing!

Soon after leaving the Gorge there is the excellent Gibbston Valley Winery and café which is a good option for lunch. They also run the Gibbston Valley Cheesery next door!

90kms - The Kawarau River Bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you get to tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river (if you dare?), or just have fun watching others.

106kms - At the Frankton roundabout (fill up with petrol here) turn left to stay on SH6, direction Lumsden and Te Anau.

194kms - At Five Rivers, turn right. The café on the corner is highly recommended – try their cheesy rolls, the specialty of the region!

270kms - Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park – it is 1,250,000 uninhabited hectares of stunning wilderness. Fiordland has a primeval rugged landscape, largely untouched by humans apart from incursions by tourists at Milford and Doubtful Sounds and a few fishermen in other fiords. It was declared a World Heritage Area on account of the outstanding geological features and exceptional beauty, the jewel in the crown being Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.

You could check-out the Wildlife Centre (a 10 minute walk from the Visitor Centre/DoC) for a view of the near extinct pre-historic looking flightless Takahe as well as many other NZ native birds. It is run by DoC so donations are gladly accepted!

Another great option before an early dinner is to see the Ata Whenua – Shadowland movie at the Fiordland Cinema. It is a 30 minute film show cases the unique beauty and remote wilderness of Fiordland from the air to the screen for all to enjoy! No reservations are necessary, there is a screening every hour, on the hour between 3pm and 6pm.

Day 11 Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau 240kms 

Please allow at least 2.5 hours for the drive to Milford as you will be stopping all the time to take photos…..so latest leave 10.30am! NB it is a good idea to take a picnic to enjoy on the cruise as there are no shops en route or at Milford and only a limited selection on board the boat. Also note that what you do not manage to see on the way there you can always stop at on the way back!

The drive towards Milford Sound is quite stunning to say the least. Possible stops en route or on the way back include Eglington River Valley, Mirror Lake and Knobs Flat before reaching the Divide – the lowest pass over these mountains. Continuing along the road you next have the Falls Creek Lookout down to the Hollyford Valley. Please note that there are traffic lights at the Homer Tunnel as it is only one way traffic…..you can be waiting for up to 10 minutes!

Once through the 1.2km long Homer Tunnel you will see the spectacular Cleddau Canyon and the incredibly precipitous walls on which the road slowly winds its way down.

120kms - Milford Sound is quite simply unparalleled to anything in this world - wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. The awesome Nature Cruise on the fiord includes countless waterfalls tumbling hundreds of metres down sheer cliffs, mountains rising straight out of the sea, fur seals and (usually) dolphins. Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, as does the cascading Bowen and Stirling Falls.  A 'Sound' is a flooded river valley, but these are flooded glacial valleys with sheer sided walls that plunge hundreds of metres under water as well as above - so they are misnamed. The Maori believe the fiords were created by the titanic mason Tute Rakiwhanoa, who used an adze to cut out the steep sided walls and gullies. Don't forget the insect repellent as the sand-flies are not only a menace, but practically man-eating! Plus a rain coat - the area receives 12,000mm of rain per year per square metre - so chances are high that you will see rain!

Return to Te Anau the way you came. If you feel like a short walk, the Nature Walk at the southern end of Lake Gunn is highly recommended (it starts from the Cascade Creek parking)…..it is like walking through a fairy tale!  

Day 12 Te Anau - Queenstown 206kms

Return the way you came on SH94 and then SH6 towards Queenstown.

165kms - At the Frankton roundabout, turn right and drive north another 8 kilometres on SH6. 

173kms – Turn left to Arrowtown. On the corner of the highway and Lake Hayes you will find the multi award winning Amisfield Restaurant & Winery, where you can stop and try some wines and have some lunch.

180kms - The pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown is another former gold mining settlement. Two years after the first European settlers established high country farms in the Wakatipu area, gold was discovered in the Arrow River and news soon spread. Within weeks 1500 people arrived as the news of gold spread and people in search of the alluvial treasure arrived in droves. At the height of the gold rush, Arrowtown's population grew to over 7000. In 1865 many of the miners started to leave for other gold-mining areas and the local government invited Chinese miners to the area. Most worked in the Shotover and Arrow Gorges, although wherever Chinese stores opened communities began to develop. Wander amongst the historic cottages, visit the reconstructed Chinese Settlement (the Chinese were subjected to many prejudices so had their own settlement. The main shopping street is a shopper’s particular delight!

Return south by taking the road along the base of the hill, via Coronet and Arthur’s Point. You could (should) drive up the Coronet Ski-field Access Road for fabulous views of the Wakatipu Basin and Shotover River! You don’t need to drive all the way up….turn left onto Skippers Canyon Road and there is a parking and a Lookout immediately on the left.

 206kms - Queenstown is the Adventure Capital of the World! The beautiful resort was originally named as 'fit for a Queen'. It lies on Lake Wakatipu where you can observe the strange seiches phenomenon - this is an unusual rhythmic rise and fall of 12cm in its water level every five minutes due to variations in atmospheric pressure. A Maori myth says it is the beating of a monster's heart lying in the depths of Lake Wakatipu! The sheer breadth of tourist activities available here is impossible to list, however the ' in-thing' at the moment are tours that have anything to do with the numerous Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations. 

Day 13 Queenstown

Today in Queenstown you could :-

  • Start your day with a Sunrise Balloon flight
  • My favourite is the Shotover Canyon Fox, only a ‘little’ scary. And/or you could consider the Shotover Canyon Swing. as the 2 are side-by-side. I love their description on their website “this is an intense, undie staining, adrenilin stimulation activity”.
  • Or Cruise with Southern Discoveries on Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas. The 1.5 hour cruise departs 11am and includes a behind-the-scenes visit to a truly authentic, family-run merino sheep farm and a BBQ lunch. Watch the sheep being moved by the farm dog, touch the wool after it has been shorn and then take a 4WD tour of the high-country farm is also included.
  • Visit the Underwater World Observatory on the pier, where trout and eels are visible in the clear waters of the lake; they live freely in the lake however as they are fed they like to hang out here. The cutest part is seeing the ducks diving for the food. Beside the pier are marks showing the level to which the lake rose in the floods of 1878 and 1983.
  • Take the Skyline Gondola for awesome views! There are various activities you can do up here such as riding the down-hill Luge, descending to the bottom by Zip-linesmountain-biking or Bungy-jumping!
  • Have a leisurely lunch at one of the wineries – the Amisfield Bistro & Winery on the corner of the Lake Hayes-Arrowtown turnoff is highly recommended! As it is a favourite with Queenstown locals, call ahead on 03 442 0556 to book a table! If you are feeling guilty then why not go for a walk around Lake Hayes before your meal!
  • Take the plunge and try a bungee jump, or just have fun watching others do it
  • Learn to fly-fish in the trout infested lakes and rivers
  • Visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park near the gondola, the park spreads for over 2 acres and you need to allow about 2.5 hours to see everything 
  • Hire bikes from Around the Basin Cycle Adventures at 23 Brecon Street and follow the Queenstown Cycle Trail on purpose built cycle-ways through the Wakatipu Basin.
  • Or cycle along the lakefront track to Frankton.
  • Play golf on one of the most magically located courses in the world
  • Head to the Onsen Hot Pools at Arthurs Point. Each booking receives a private cedar-lined private pool, each with push-button retractable walls and ceiling so you can enjoy the dramatic scenery as you soak on the edge of the cliff overlooking the spectacular Shotover River.
  • For drinks, McNeill’s Cottage Brewery where there is a nice mix of heritage and atmosphere, plus fine home brewed ales; or The Sundeck Rooftop Lounge Bar on top of The Bunker at 14 Cow Lane is the newest bar in town and has incredible views!
  • For dining, the Madam Woo (Asian Restaurant) on Mall Street has funky décor and funky food; or Rata Restaurant is located in Te Nukuat 43 Ballarat Street and is Josh Emett’s (Michelin star chef and Masterchef judge) latest Queenstown venture; for a special dinner treat, try the Prime Restaurant & Bar on the waterfront of Queenstown Bay (the entrance is #2 Rees Street, above Sunglass Hut)…..if it is stunning weather then ask for a table on the upstairs balcony overlooking the lake.

Day 14 Queenstown ......internal or international flight

If your flight back to Auckland or to Australia is in the afternoon or this evening then you will have time to enjoy a bit more of Queenstown.


  


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