New Zealand Activities

Natural. Distinctive. Welcoming.

TWO WAYS TO EXPERIENCE LUXURY New Zealand TOURS

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Join a small group of like-minded fellow travelers on a perfectly crafted New Zealand luxury tour. Or create your own personalized, private departure for just you, your family and friends. See the possibilities at Custom Trips to New Zealand.

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Like an architect creating your one-of-a-kind home, our Asia Travel Experts craft your personalized journey from the ground up. Your preference of destinations, pace, budget, dates, activities and lodging are skillfully arranged, down to the finest detail. Begin planning your custom luxury travel to Asia or the Pacific today!

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North Island

On the North Island discover cosmopolitan Auckland, an ancient Kauri forest, the geothermal pools of Rotorua, crystal clear trout streams near Lake Taupo, miles of quiet beaches and smoking volcanoes. It's also the center of Maori culture, the Polynesian people who first settled the island some 1,000 years ago.

AUCKLAND

In beautiful Auckland, New Zealand's largest and most cosmopolitan city, you'll find luxury hotels, world-class theaters, sophisticated clubs and fine international cuisine, as well as colorful outdoor cafes.

Visit the Harbor Bridge, Domain Parks and Gardens, The War Memorial Museum (with its fine collection of Maori artifacts), Tamaki Waterfront Drive, Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World & Antarctic Encounter, and the summit of Mt. Eden for magnificent views over Auckland City.

For an unforgettable New Zealand vacation experience, we recommend sailing aboard an America's Cup yacht, used in New Zealand's successful cup win in 1995. There's nothing better than the hands-on experience of helping to sail this state-of-the-art vessel. Under canvas, the experienced crew will guide you in the exhilarating aspects of real sailing. Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" and what better way to experience it?

BAY OF ISLANDS

Among the world's most spectacular regions one must count New Zealand's Bay of Islands, the deep blue waters of which is dotted with 150 islands. Set sail through the incredibly scenic waters, stopping at quaint beach towns.

We're well versed in the many wonderful lodging options to be found in this gorgeous area: let us know your style. Stop along the way at Ninety Mile Beach, or Spirits Bay, where souls of the Maori are said to depart this world. Witness the majesty of ancient Kauri forests, with hardwood trees reaching more than 165 feet high and 50 feet in diameter, in the forests of Waipoua, Puketi and Omahuta.

ROTORUA

We highly recommend a visit to the Rotorua area, home to bubbling mud pools, multicolored silica terraces and soothing hot springs. Don't miss Whakarewarewa during your New Zealand tour, where Maori villagers use the hot water for bathing, cooking, washing and heating.

Indeed, this is the hub of New Zealand's Maori population and culture, and your local Maori guides will unravel the mysteries of Maori culture, legends and history. Relax and enjoy a swim in the natural soothing waters of secluded thermal creeks and rivers.

Take a guided hike through the Whakarewarewa National Forest and Rainbow Springs wildlife sanctuary. Tour the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute and Museum to gain insight into the culture of New Zealand's natives. Perhaps embark on a 4WD volcanic excursion to Mt. Tarawera, site of New Zealand's last great volcanic eruption.

Ask us about the wide range of New Zealand activities available in this area, including trout fishing, golf and flightseeing.

TAUPO

Visit Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. Hot springs enter the deep blue lake, providing an opportunity to swim in water that is alternately hot and cold. Spend the day on a small sailing ship, gliding around small inlets during your New Zealand tour or walk through the Waipihihi Botanical Reserve, which teems with rhododendrons, azaleas, alpine herb gardens and exotic ferns; or visit the dramatic Huka Falls.

Head south to the stunning Volcanic Plateau and Tongariro National Park, with its cluster of dormant-and a couple active-volcanoes, glaciers, a hot crater lake, hot springs, barren desert, alpine terrain and spectacular Southern Hemisphere skiing.

Lake Taupo is considered among the best trout fishing spots in the world; your hosts at the lodge can help arrange this if you'd like. There are also great walking tracks in the area: hike along the magnificent Huka River to the thundering Huka Falls; or walk through subtropical forests to enticing geothermal hot springs. By all means stay at the award-winning Huka Lodge while exploring this lovely area. The lodge is set in 17 acres of lawn, gardens and trees on the banks of the Waikato River. A blend of European and New Zealand style infuses each individually designed suite, as well as the luscious cuisine served here.

From here it's possible to take a helicopter into the surrounding wilderness area for a bird's eye view of Taupo's dramatic landscape and an amazing New Zealand travel experience. Explore the mountainous terrain, and fly fish in streams of breathtaking clarity so undisturbed you'll be forgiven for believing you were the first to discover them.

HAWKES BAY

This scenic coastal area is worth a day of exploration. Visit Napier, a gorgeous, unique town that will fascinate architecture buffs. The town's original brick buildings were essentially destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1931 and the town was rebuilt in the whimsical style of the day.

Indeed, Napier is considered home to the world's most significant collection of art-deco architecture. The Hawkes Bay Museum features an art gallery and an interesting collection of Maori cultural artifacts. 

The area around Hawkes Bay hosts one of New Zealand's best wine-producing regions. Enjoy tours and tastings at sprawling vineyards or small, family-run wineries. 

Visit the remarkable gannet colony at Cape Kidnapper's Sanctuary, then travel to the town of Gisborne set on Poverty Bay-where the first Europeans stepped ashore in 1769.

WAITOMO CAVES

This day trip from Auckland or Rotorua is an absolute must when touring New Zealand. Cross the rich farmlands of Waikato, on your way to the fabulous Waitomo Caves.

These subterranean limestone caverns contain incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations, massive columns and a famous glow-worm grotto, an amazing phenomenon where thousands of tiny glow worms shine like stars in the darkness. This is truly spectacular! Take an hour-long boat ride through the caves. If you're feeling adventurous try the Black Water Rafting option.

BLACK WATER RAFTING

An unusual-but super fun-way to explore the subterranean scene. It involves an inner tube, a wet suit, a helmet, a headlamp, an adventurous spirit and three hours of tubing on an underground river. If you're looking for an extraordinary New Zealand travel experience-this is it!

WELLINGTON

Perched on the windswept southwest tip of the island, visit Wellington, the country's capital city, during your New Zealand holiday. This small but cosmopolitan city has charming gabled cottages, impressive Gothic architecture and some of the country's best restaurants, featuring international cuisine. Stroll along the seaside promenade for sweeping views of the bay.

To the north are massive ranges of hills, to the west, long stretches of beaches and sand dunes. In the south find low-lying coastal land and to the east see New Zealand's first sheep stations. From Wellington you can fly to the South Island or take the leisurely inter-island ferry to Picton.

South Island

The South Island is legendary for its sharp, steep Southern Alps that rise from sea level to heights of 12,000 feet. It's also the hub for New Zealand's best hiking routes, including the Routeburn and Milford Tracks. Add fjords, glaciers, hidden beaches, glow-worm grottoes, whale watching, fur seals, albatross colonies, penguins, huge sheep stations, and a wide range of sporting activities, and you have the makings of your wildest New Zealand travel dreams come true.

CHRISTCHURCH & SURROUNDINGS

New Zealand's "Garden City," Christchurch is a gorgeous, tranquil and fun city. Decidedly English in feel, the third-largest city in the country has exquisite Gothic and Victorian-era architecture, lush gardens, peaceful parks and the picturesque Avon River. One of the best ways to enjoy the river is aboard a traditional punting boat.

Explore the shops, galleries and theater of the Arts Center. Check out the Canterbury Museum for a great perspective on Maori and pioneer history, and the world's best collection of artifacts from early Antarctic exploration.

Climb the steep steps up to the bell tower balcony of Christchurch Cathedral for marvelous views of the city and distant mountains. Atop lovely Cashmere Hill sits "The Sign of the Takahe," an excellent place to have tea and soak up the city views. Learn to windsurf in the shallow waters of the estuary or rent a bicycle and see the sites as the locals do.

If you decide to travel to New Zealand in the winter, take advantage of great skiing at Mt. Hutt, about two hours from Christchurch.

MARLBOROUGH SOUND

Marlborough Sound is an area of great natural beauty, with its deep blue waters and lush surrounding vineyards. An essential stop for the wine enthusiast traveling New Zealand, this area produces award-winning vintages of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot.

The clear waters of the Sound may be explored on an informative cruise that explores the greenshell mussels farmed in this area, among other sites. Take in the natural beauty of this tranquil environment and learn about the history of Marlborough Sound and the pioneering families who settled here. While on ship, sample the fresh mussels for which this region is renown, perhaps complemented with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

KAIKOURA

With its black volcanic beaches and sheer limestone cliffs, Kaikoura is an amazing setting for hiking and viewing fur seals that sun themselves on the rocky shore. Or perhaps try swimming with the dolphins; these intelligent and engaging creatures are a particular hit with children (and the young at heart).

Kaikoura is the best place in New Zealand for whale watching. Sightings of orca and huge sperm whales are common December to May. Other common sightings include dolphins, penguins and albatross. Feast on delicious fresh lobster-this area is famous for them. Kaikoura may be visited as a day trip from Christchurch or as a destination in its own right on your New Zealand tour.

AKAROA

Akaroa means "Long Harbor" in the native Maori tongue. A naturally blessed, sheltered harbor was the site of a large Maori settlement, and during colonial times was settled by the French. The surrounding village exudes the quaint charm of a provincial French.

The Maori and Colonial Museum is worth a look, as is the Akaroa Museum. Take a harbor cruise to spot pods of dolphins, or perhaps try getting up close in a sea kayak for an unforgettable New Zealand vacation experience.

ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK

Explore the glistening golden sand beaches, tidal estuaries and rivers of beautiful Abel Tasman National Park on a day trip during your New Zealand tour, or better yet, by a combination of trekking and sea kayaking on a three-day program.

If conditions allow, paddle out to the seal colony on Tonga Island. Stay at gorgeous lodges and homesteads along the way. Delicious cuisine and friendly locals round out this classic adventure, high on our list of great things to do in New Zealand.

NELSON

Not only is Nelson the jumping off point for exploring much of the upper South Island, it's a charming and lively city in its own right. Take in its art-deco architecture, the Nelson Provincial Museum, the Botanical Reserve, and beautiful surrounding beaches of Tasman Bay.

Nelson is encircled by mountains on three sides and enjoys New Zealand's best climate, making it a delightful place for a stroll.

MT. COOK NATIONAL PARK

In the heart of the Southern Alps, Mt. Cook National Park is packed full of rugged peaks, glaciers, pristine lakes and great valleys forged by prehistoric ice flows. New Zealand's two highest mountains, Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman are located here. Nearby are two of the most scenic glacial lakes in the country-Lake Tekapo, an opaque turquoise hue and Lake Pukakai, with its milky blue-green waters.

Great hiking, biking (guided or on your own) and camping are easily accessed here, as well as world-class mountaineering. A number of fabulous mountain lodges dot the area, including the historic Hermitage, the most famous hotel in New Zealand. A scenic plane ride can take you on an up-close-and-personal tour of the mountain peaks-you'll understand first hand why the Maori call Mt. Cook, "Aeorangi"-the Cloud Piercer.

FRANZ JOSEF AND FOX GLACIERS

On the Western coast of the South Island is Westland National Park featuring the impressive Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Hike to the mouth of the mighty glaciers, or take an exhilarating helicopter ride to the top of a glacier for unforgettable views and a rare chance to do some heli-hiking or heliskiing during your New Zealand holiday.

The views are absolutely extraordinary, with glaciers terminating in tropical rainforests that fringe the open ocean.

QUEENSTOWN

New Zealand's undisputed adventure capital, Queenstown, is a popular resort town for locals and foreigners alike. It's fabulously scenic and chockfull of possible adventures. Choose from New Zealand travel adventures such as high-speed jet boating, horseback riding and hiking.

Or savor more relaxed pursuits such as nature walks, quaint strolls around Lake Wakatipu or window shopping and relaxing at cafés in the city center.

For a nostalgic outing, take a boat ride across Lake Wakatipu aboard the vintage steamer ship, Earnslaw, to the Mount Nicolas Sheep Station. An outing on the America's Cup can also be arranged. Or ride the Skyline Gondola for panoramic views of the entire area. Queenstown offers fabulous skiing, heliskiing and snowboarding at the surrounding Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK & MILFORD SOUND

This park is arguably the most gorgeous area in all of clean and green New Zealand. Take an exhilarating boat ride around Milford Sound, stopping on deserted islands covered in lush rainforest and fern gardens. These islands are scattered amongst stunningly beautiful fjords.

The lakeside town of Te Anau is the jumping-off point for boat excursions and hiking in the area. You can also take a punting (pole-driven) boat ride through the magical realm of Te Anau Caves, huge limestone caverns sparkling with glow worms. Note that this area of New Zealand sees a great deal of rainfall annually.

Just bring a raincoat, some water-worthy boots and an umbrella and get into it-the myriad waterfalls that suddenly appear are part of the great spectacle. A great way to experience this area is with an overnight cruise on the sounds. See the New Zealand Activities page for our favorite ways to cruise the South Island.

ARTHUR'S PASS/TRANZ ALPINE TRAIN

The timeless elegance of train travel is exalted to new levels of grandeur by the spectacular views found on the coast-to-coast Tranz Alpine train, from Christchurch to Greymouth.

This four-hour trip is an excellent way to tour New Zealand and see some of its best scenery in a relaxed fashion.

Questions? Ready to start planning your trip?

CONTACT A New Zealand TRAVEL EXPERT

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