Amazing New Zealand
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Suggested Itineraries
South to North
                                       
                             
                                                    2 Weeks in New Zealand South to North

This is the same as the 2-week tour above, however in reverse. Starting with Queenstown and our most beautiful attraction - the Milford Sound. Then following the Southern Alps to Wanaka, Mount Cook National Park and finishing in Christchurch. You then fly to the North where the scenery changes to culture in Rotorua. Take a trip past Hobbiton onto the awesome Coromandel Peninsula and then finishing your trip in Auckland where you will fly home after your 2-week vacation. Hire a car or if you prefer to be chauffeur-driven, the price starts from NZD $750 per day, depending on the size of vehicle required. This includes, fuel, vehicle hire, full insurance, Department of Conservation concessions & entry fees and the chauffeur's daily expenses & accommodation.

                                                                  

Day 1 arrive in Queenstown                               

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.

This afternoon, you could ride the Skyline Gondola to take in the awesome views - best viewed at sunset when the Remarkables Range on the other side of Lake Wakatipu glow in golden light. If you love having fun, then you must go up earlier and ride the Luge before dinner (closes sunset). Tickets are available from the café at the top (extra charge). There is a scenic track (to begin with) then you’ll be off to the fast track! The free two-seater chairlift takes riders and luge carts back to the top to do it all again, because once is never enough! It's safe too. You're in full control! A unique braking and steering system on your three-wheeled luge cart means you can alter course and speed at will. Go fast, go slow, stop to take photos, you decide.

Day 2 Queenstown     

Today you have a free day in Queenstown, there are many possibilities to chose from:

  • Start your day with a Sunrise Balloon flight
  • My favourite is the Shotover Canyon Fox, only a ‘little’ scary ….I can’t bungy or jump out of a plane but I could do this one J 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, adrenalin 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. 
  • 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, past 2 lakes, three river gorges, historic Arrowtown and even the wine area of Gibbston Valley if you are feeling energetic. Choose either Guided or Supported (self-guided) tours, both offer a free shuttle back if you need it!
  • Or cycle along the lakefront track to Frankton, turn right and continue along the lakefront to the Hilton and then if you wish, you can even go as far as the Kelvin Heights Golf Club or Yacht Club or the Bay View Reserve and catch the water-taxi back across to Queenstown ($10pp) – call Queenstown Water-taxis on 03 441 1124 to request a pickup and to check on times.
  • 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 – worth the 10 minute drive on its own! Call 0508 869463 to book.
  • 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 Nuku at 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 3 Queenstown – Arrowtown – Te Anau 210kms  

This morning I suggest an early departure so you have time to visit Arrowtown (and maybe a winery for lunch) before heading to Te Anau.

Drive into town and take the alternative route to Arrowtown via Arthurs Point. You could (should) drive up the Coronet Peak Ski-field access road for stunning views of the Shotover River and Wakatipu Basin. You don’t need to go right to the top, drive as far the Skippers Road and turn left, immediately on your left there is a lookout.

32kms - The pretty tree-lined town of Arrowtown is known for it’s early gold-mining history. 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) and wander along the path by the gold-laden river (you can hire gold-pans at the Lakes District Museum). The main shopping street is a particular shopper’s delight!

Head back to SH6 via the Lake Hayes Road…. on the corner of the highway and Lake Hayes you will find the multi award winning Amisfield Bistro & Winery, where you can stop and try some wines and have some lunch. Reservations are essential at this popular restaurant, telephone 03 442 0556 to book. Or, order a platter to share and you can have this out in their garden (recommended).

Keep an eye on the time though as Te Anau is at least 2 hours south of Queenstown. NB the road has many speed cameras (many of my clients have been ticketed), they give you a tolerance of only 4kms over the speed limit!

Turn right onto SH6 and continue south (direction Queenstown). At the Frankton roundabout turn left to stay on SH6.

134kms – At Five Rivers, turn right. The café on the corner is highly recommended – try their cheesy rolls, the specialty of the region!

210kms - Te Anau is the gateway to the Fiordland National Park - 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.

Two night’s accommodation is in the Distinction Te Anau Hotel down on the lakefront. You have a garden-view room plus breakfast is included in the tariff.

This evening, you could join the cruise to the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves. Te Anau means rushing water in Maori – so both the lake and the town derived their names from the caves. Spectacular rock formations, fossils, whirlpools, waterfalls and glow-worms lie half an hour away by launch.

Be sure to fill up with petrol this evening as there is nothing en route tomorrow! There are also no shops, so buy picnic ingredients to take with you tomorrow!     

Day 4 Te Anau – Milford – 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 plus you need extra time in case you have to park far away…..so I suggest departing around 11am and take a picnic to enjoy on the way there as there are no shops en route or at Milford.
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!

The drive towards Milford Sound is quite stunning to say the least. Possible stops en route include Eglington River Valley, Mirror Lake and Knobs Flat before reaching the Divide – the lowest pass over these mountains. You could hike the Nature Walk at the southern end of Lake Gunn is (it starts from the Cascade Creek parking)…..it is like walking through a fairy tale!    

100kms – The Homer Tunnel is one-way, so there are traffic lights at the entrance, which can take 10 minutes to turn green! 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.

There is parking available 10 minutes walk from the Visitor Terminal, if that one is full then the alternative parking is half hour walk from the terminal (they offer a free shuttle that departs on the hour and half-hour).  The 2 hour small-boat cruise with Cruise Milford departs at 2.45pm. Check-in 20 minutes before departure at the Cruise Milford office in Milford.

120kms - Milford Sound is quite simply unparalleled to anything in this world - wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. The awesome cruise with Cruise Milford 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.

After the cruise, return to Te Anau the way you came.     

Day 5 Te Anau – Wanaka 270kms
 

Before departing 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! 

Or you could take a 70 minute scenic helicopter flight to Doubtful Sound. Southern Lakes Helicopters will take you on a scenic helicopter trip of a lifetime to enjoy the spectacular beauty of Doubtful Sound. The flight begins with the Iris Burn Valley and Lake Manapouri before climbing over the Wilmot Pass into Doubtful Sound. If the weather is suitable they detour into Campbell’s Kingdom, a beautiful hanging valley complete with its own lake and waterfall. Airborne again, you will glimpse Bradshaw Sound before overflying the Main Divide of the Southern Alps to Mt Kidd for a second remote landing before returning to the Helipad.
This is a great opportunity to take a look at the heart of Fiordland, with two remote landings at the top of the world!

Return the way you came on SH6 towards Queenstown.

165kms - At the Frankton Roundabout (just after the Queenstown airport), turn right to stay on SH6 and drive east direction Cromwell.

On the drive north to Wanaka there are many possible stops, such as:-
  • The Amisfield Bistro & Winery on the corner of Lake Hayes
  • Or just north of Amisfield is the new Wet Jacket Boutique Winery and Whitestone Cheese Aging Room in the historic Bendemeer Woolshed…..you can sample the fully matured cheese cut straight from the artisanal rounds of cheese, the perfect combination with the Wet Jacket Pinot Noir! There is a viewing room, cheese deli and shop all on site.
  • The Kawarau River Bridge is home to A.J. Hackett's very first bungee jumping platform - this is where you just have fun watching the others as they tie a huge elastic band to your ankles and jump out into space over the river.
  • You could then stop for lunch at the excellent winery (220 awards to date) and restaurant at Gibbston Valley Wines. You may also like to explore the Gibbston Valley Cheesery next door to buy supplies for the coming days at your farm-cottage!
  •  Once through the Kawarau Gorge, look for the large fresh fruit shop on the right (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!

220kms - Cromwell is another gold mining centre and it 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 also worth a exploring.

Continue north on SH6 to Wanaka, it lies on a tranquil lake with picture-perfect mountains as a backdrop and it is one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

There are several options available in Wanaka this afternoon:

  • Cycle along the Outlet Track along the banks of the mighty Clutha River, a favourite spot for trout fishing.
  • Watch out for “The Leaning Tower of Wanaka”, the centerpiece of Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Only one of the world’s most interesting and eccentric visitor attractions!
  • Visit to the Rippon Winery…..probably the prettiest winery in the world (Ok, I am biased).
  • Pop out to the end of the Wanaka Wharf to see the big fat trout (no fishing permitted from the wharf, sorry)
  • Visit Cinema Paradiso for an old-fashioned movie experience where you get to lounge around on huge sofas or enjoy a meal or drink before, during or after the movie!
  • For the best views in town wander along the lakes edge to the Edgewater Resort for freshly baked scones or pre-dinner drinks on the lawn on the lake’s edge
Day 6 Wanaka – Mt Cook 210kms

This morning you could join the Wanaka Highlights 4WD Safari. The 2.5 hour tour takes you via a working deer/sheep/cattle farm track to a high point above Lake Wanaka for the most incredible and jaw-dropping views while enjoying a scrummy morning tea. This tour offers a wonderful mix of heritage, history and modern day high country farming. NB wear comfortable walking shoes and take a jacket (as it can be cold up there!)

Today your drive takes you north over the scenic Lindis Pass. Return south-east on SH6 for 12 kilometers towards the Wanaka Airport then change to SH8A which will take you along the northern banks of the Clutha River – New Zealand’s largest by volume of water!

34kms - In Tarras, change to SH8 and follow this north to Twizel. It lies in 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) 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. In Omarama, check the fuel gauge.

144kms – Just before Twizel, look out for the Salmon Farm on the right – here you can feed the fish for free and/or try it sashimi style or smoked! NB buy groceries for breakfast and/o dinner in Twizel as there are no shops where you are staying tonight!

152kms – Soon after Twizel, change to SH80 to Mt Cook Village. The 55 kilometer 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.

Later, you could join the Star Gazing tour departing from the Hermitage around 9.30pm. Gaze in awe at the galaxy of stars in the Milky Way – our skies are some of the clearest in the whole world! 

Day 7 Mt Cook – Christchurch 346kms 

Return to SH8 and turn left to continue north. The Lake Pukaki Lookout is a great spot to stop for photos of Mt Cook being reflected in the lake - the gorgeous turquoise-blue lake derives its colour from fine glacial particles suspended in the water.

A few kilometers further north you will cross another huge man-made Tekapo Canal constructed for the Upper Waitake hydroelectric scheme, a significant source of our country’s electricity.

100kms - Just before Lake Tekapo you can (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. There is a small charge per car which goes towards the maintenance of the University buildings & private carpark.

120kms - 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

162kms - In Fairlie, turn left onto SH79. Consider stopping off at the Fairlie Bakehouse to try one of their famous freshly baked pies! 

207kms - In Geraldine you could visit: 

  • Kiwi Country is purpose built for the tourist buses and is full of the usual souvenirs. However it does have excellent coffees and toilet facilities
  • 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

Continue north on SH79 to Rangitata and turn left onto SH1. From here it is literally a straight line north to Christchurch across the Canterbury Plains, you should have the Southern Alps on your left.  

346kms - Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city which sprawls across the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps. The main attractions here are the 748 English style gardens and parks, the city even has its very own Avon River on 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! The city is now going through a major rebuild.

Attractions in Christchurch worth considering are:-

  • Head to Antigua Boatshed and hire your very own gondolier to punt you through the city.
  • Or wander through the Botanical Gardens along the picturesque Avon River.
  • The Grand Café at the Casino is a great option ….open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
  • Visit the Canterbury Museum (free) for their informative Earthquake exhibition as well as the Antarctic section and impressive Maori collection
  • Or visit Quake City which is a unique multi-sensory attraction, where you can learn about all there is to know about earthquakes and view photographs of the aftermath and iconic objects such as the Cathedral Spire.
  • The newly re-opened 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.
  • The Tram is up and running again, it is a wonderful way to see the city.
  • Or the Red Bus Rebuild Tour is another great way to see the city and learn about the rebuild. It departs from outside of the Museum.
  • Mona Vale was a beautiful Edwardian-style homestead set amongst 5½ ha. of beautiful gardens…..the gardens are still worth the visit! The homestead was near destroyed in the earthquake but has now been restored.
  • The nearby Dean’s Bush at Riccarton is home to the only surviving stand of wetlands podocarp forest
  • 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 8 Christchurch – Akaroa – Christchurch 180kms 

Today's short drive explores the Banks Peninsula created over nine million years of fiery volcanic activity. Akaroa Harbour and Lyttelton Harbour are the two giant craters that remain. Originally the Banks Peninsula was an island, but over the millennia the alluvial rivers have brought down the glacial debris from the Southern Alps, slowly joining the two and creating the Canterbury Plains.

Ask your hosts on how to find the SH75 to Akaroa, (allow 2 hours for the drive so you have time to stop for photos). Additional stops en route (if you depart early) could be Little River Craft and Gallery and Barry's Bay Cheese Factory for cheese tastings.

68kms - The Hilltop Tavern at the summit is a must before you make your way down to the harbour, if only to stop and look at the view.

From here it is another 20 kilometres to Akaroa. In 1835 French whaler Jean Langlois established a whaling station in the harbour at French Bay and bought some land from the Maori. Once he had secured the deal he returned to France to organize a group of settlers to come and establish a community. Unfortunately the English had placed the whole of New Zealand under British sovereignty only 13 days before, so the French settlers were forced to sell their claims. They did however stay, bringing both their rich French character and their culture to this far flung outpost of the world.

 For lunch, I can recommend a BBQ fish sandwich – you will find them on the wharf. Try the Akaroa Salmon on Ciabatta bread!

Akaroa’s other attraction are of course the tiny and rare Hector’s dolphin – you could join the cruise out onto the harbour aboard the Into the Blue catamaran. The cruise is fully narrated by your skipper who has extensive knowledge of the nature, wildlife and history of the harbour. The highlight of this trip is undoubtedly the sighting of one of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector's Dolphin. These friendly and inquisitive mammals meet the boat most days throughout the year.

Also on the trip you will catch glimpses of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world. There are many different bird species in the harbour, including five different cormorant species and the chance of sighting the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. You'll also see the New Zealand Fur Seal sunning themselves on the harbours rocks near the entrance at Seal Bay.

I can recommend the scenic route back to Christchurch via the beautiful but winding road along the crater rim, offering stunning views along the way – access to the Summit Road is a few kilometres back, direction Eastern Bays. This Tourist Drive has to be THE most scenic route in the whole world, the views down both sides really are spectacular!

122kms - Back at the Hilltop Tavern turn right and head back towards Christchurch for 37 kilometers. At the Blue Duck Cafe turn right to return to Christchurch via Gebbies Pass and Lyttelton Harbour - the second of the craters that make up the Banks Peninsula. After crossing the pass, turn left to Governors Bay and Lyttelton.

176kms – In Governors Bay, be sure to make a stop at the She Chocolate Café - they make the best chocolate brownies and iced chocolates in the whole southern hemisphere! Unfortunately, it closes at 4pm most days.

Soon after, turn left onto Dyers Pass Road and this will bring you back to the Sign of the Takahe and your accommodation. The Sign of the Takahe is one of several original staging posts used by weary travellers crossing from the Lyttelton Harbour to the city.

Day 9 Christchurch – Rotorua  

Today you have a domestic flight to Rotorua in the North Island.

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.

Rotorua has become New Zealand’s second largest tourist centre – so 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:

  • The tranquil Hamurana Springs are well worth a visit! A short peaceful 15 minute loop track will take you via a beautiful clear fresh water spring that attracts abundant birdlife. The spring is 15 metres deep and produces 4 million litres of fresh water per hour!
  • Kuirau Park has the largest display of steam and mud pools….and it’s free! An eruption took place here as recently as 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.
  • Visit the beautiful (and steaming) Edwardian styled Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum
  •  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!
  • Visit Hells Gate. Here you can enjoy a unique New Zealand experience by taking a mud bath, they say it’s like playing in silk! The Twilight Spa in the evening is a great option. They also offer special Mud Therapy packages, such as the UltiMUD with entry to the Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve, a private MUD bath and Spa and a 1-hour massage.
  • Walk from the Polynesian Spa to the town on the Lakeside Walk via the bird sanctuary at Sulphur Bay. You will also see the remains of the first ever public bath – here Hydrogen Sulphide mixes with Carbon Dioxide to create a mixture similar to the dentist’s laughing gas!
  • The 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. Other attractions onsite invented by enterprising New Zealanders include Zorbing (rolling down a hill in a giant plastic ball), Swooping (a glorified swing), bungee jumping (jump from a massive height with an elastic cord tied to your ankles), plus there is a farm tour by tractor.
  • Take the scenic drive to the Buried Village which takes you past the beautiful Green Lake and the Blue Lake up to the plateau with Lake Tarawera. The museum here commemorates New Zealand’s biggest disaster that saw Mt Tarawera split into two and 3 villages being buried killing 150 people and destroying our famous “Pink and White Terraces”.
  • Another possibility is to take an awesome scenic flight over Mt Tarawera that was dramatically split during its last eruption. You can choose between a flyover by Float Plane or a helicopter flight with landing. 

Day 10 Rotorua

Just before Lake Taupo there are many more thermal attractions! Head south on SH5.

29kms - Turn left at the Wai-o-tapu Tavern and 400m further left again onto the Loop Road and take a look at the thermal Mud Pools (free). Don’t forget to lock your car and keep valuables out of site - the bubbling mud can keep you mesmerized for hours!

The Lady Knox Geyser blows her top at 10:15am - it attracts tourists by the bus-load but worth timing your visit to see this as it is spectacular none the less!

Follow the Loop Road to the main attraction Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland, the best thermal reserve in the area. 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. The track is uneven at times so you need walking shoes. Continue on this loop road back to SH5 and turn right to return to Rotorua.

This evening, you could experience the excellent Mitai Maori Cultural Experience. First the performers arrive in a Waka (war canoe), then you will be entertained with a cultural performance, followed by a traditional Hangi (earthen cooked meal) and a bush walk to the glow-worm grotto and Fairy Springs.

Day 11 Rotorua – Hobbiton – Hahei 256kms

Follow SH5 north past the Skyline Gondola then left at the large roundabout (direction Auckland).

54kms – On reaching SH1 at the new roundabout, turn right to continue north to 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. Look for the giant corrugated iron sheepdog housing the tourist office and a giant sheep next door which houses the Big Sheep Wool Gallery. Other tourist shops worth at least a peek (if you have time) is the Jade Factory , they specialize in Maori Koru necklaces. Or for something really unique try the Natures Touch Gallery.

Just after the Tirau shops, change to SH27 and drive north another 10 kilometres.

66kms – At the major intersection, turn left onto SH29. After another 4 kilometres you will see the sign for Matamata and the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour - turn right then immediately left and drive 6 kilometres along Puketutu and Bucklands Roads to the Shire’s Rest.

76kms – This morning you could join the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour. The tour of the Hobbiton village is based on the various scenes in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies so you have the unique opportunity of touring the set as it is seen in the films. The tour also offers a wonderful insight into the logistics involved in creating a movie and building various film-sets with all the supporting personnel required to go with it, from vets to cooks to gardeners and even road builders!

The set is located on a real farm with restricted access. The Alexander family has lived on the 1250-acre (approx 500 hectares) property since 1978. The land supports a thriving sheep and beef cattle business. The Alexander farm runs 300 beef cattle and more than 13,000 of New Zealand’s famous sheep on the lush, rolling hills. Afterwards, enjoy a drink in the Green Dragon Tavern!

Lunch at the Shire’s Rest is highly recommended after the tour with the stunning views across the farmland to the Kaimai Ranges in the distance.

After your tour, return along Buckland and Puketutu Roads and at the end turn left to Matamata. Follow SH27 north another 27 kilometres, you should have the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges on your right.

118kms – Turn right at the roundabout and follow SH26 south to Te Aroha and Paeroa.

152kms - Paeroa is world famous, in New Zealand, for their soft drink…..you must stop and try a can of Lemon and Paeroa. After crossing over the river, turn right onto SH2 (direction Tauranga) which takes you through the pretty Karangahake Gorge.

174kms – 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. Follow the signs for the Town Centre, then at the roundabout when SH goes right, you should go straight 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, go left and at the next intersection turn left to change to SH25, from Waihi it is another 90 kilometres north to your accommodation on Hahei Beach, a stunning white sand beach squashed between two of our most famous attractions of Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.

204kms - A great option en route is to visit the fabulous Whangamata Beach, it 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 head down to the beach – I recently rented a kayak and paddled out to Whenuakura Island where there is a cave entrance that opens up into a romantic beach hidden within the island surrounded by native bush, stunning! The locals call it Donut Island because of the hole in the middle.

240kms - Another great option en route is to go to the top of Paku Hill at Tairua. The view from the top of the lookout is one of the best in New Zealand! Turn right at the Tairua shops and follow the estuary around to the boating club, then follow the road to the summit.

256kms – Turn right to Hahei.

Day 12 Hahei

Today you have a free day to enjoy some time on the beach and swimming. I recommend you ask for a shovel from your hosts and drive 5 kilometers back to
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. You need to dig a hole below the high water mark. Dig 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. Be sure to visit the Moko Artspace, worth a visit on its own!

Hahei`s main attraction is Cathedral Cove, a gorgeous beach nearby hidden within a dramatic coastline. You can walk there (very steep path though), paddle there with Cathedral Kayaks, or my recommendation is to take the Cathedral Cove Water Taxi – pickup and drop-off occurs every 30 minutes. It departs in front of the main car-park on the Hahei Beach front. No bookings are needed – just wait on the beach by the yellow & black flag. Take cash ($25 return). Alternatively walk there and catch the water-taxi back ($15 one way)!

Or walk down to Gemstone Bay, a favourite snorkeling spot as it is on the edge of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve. You can hire snorkeling gear from the Dive Shop in the village.

For dinner, the new Pour Brewery & Café has been highly recommended to me as well as The Church.

Day 13 Hahei – Auckland 220kms  

I’m going to take you the long way around to Auckland so you can explore a little more of the Coromandel Peninsula…..return to SH25 and continue north via Whitianga to Coromandel.

Begin your day with a 1 hour walk to one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand! Actually it was voted as one of the Top 20 beaches in the world and yet hardly anyone knows how to find it.

65kms - Turn right on the western side of Whangapoua Harbour and drive 5 kilometres to Whangapoua. As you come into the village follow the road along the beach to the end. Park at the river mouth and wade through the lagoon at the northern end of Whangapoua Beach to the rocks where you will find a hidden track, follow the track around Motuto Point to New Chums Beach.

Return to SH25 the way you came and turn right. The road climbs steeply as you cross the Coromandel Ranges, there are awesome views from the lookout at the top towards Coromandel, Waiheke Island and Whangaparaoa Peninsula (Auckland`s northern boundary) to the east and Whangapoua to the west.  

90kms - The main street of Coromandel Town is an old world delight, full of cafés and craft shops. About 5 kilometers south of the town (towards Thames) look for the sign to the left for the 309 Road.

  • 4.8kms up this road is the Waiau Waterways Garden and café, where whimsical wonders are worked by water - the café is a good option for lunch. There are plenty of whacky contraptions to entertain the young and young at heart. There is swimming in the river and free onsite BBQs - bring your own sausages. They also provide umbrellas, plus toilets (a `long-drop` old style toilet – a rarity these days around New Zealand).
  • 7.9kms - Continue another 3km 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.

Return to SH25 and continue south down the dramatic pohutakawa tree-lined coast to Thames. You are now skirting the Firth of Thames, the road follows the dramatic and winding coast, so please take it easy.

160kms - In the late 1880s Thames was a thriving gold mining and kauri logging centre, the large heritage buildings are evidence of this. The turnoff to Auckland is about 5 kilometres south of the town.

220kms - On reaching SH1 you go up and over the Bombay Hill to Auckland.

My recommendation for dinner is in the revolving Orbit Restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower as a befitting finale to your amazing tour of New Zealand – telephone 0800 759 2489 to book. 

Day 14 Auckland Airport – international flight home

Allow about 30 minutes for the drive to the airport. Take SH1 south a few kilometres and get off the motorway at Gilles Ave, turn right at the lights and left at the third set of lights and then right at the T intersection (follow the airport signs)….this is Manukau Road, you basically go straight, straight, straight (the name changes several times) until you hit the airport motorway.

I hope you will enjoy your amazing tour of New Zealand and that the weather will be kind to you! “Haere Ra” (goodbye in Maori) and have a safe journey home. 

       


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