The ultimate guided tour of the most beautiful and action packed country in the world. The Epic New Zealand tour takes in both islands with a small group of like minded travellers. For travellers who demand more than just a bus pass, you will be taken by Kiwi guides to off the beaten track places searching every incredible corner of the country. There are plenty of included activities and some insane adrenaline packs you can bolt on too.
Epic New Zealand 24 DaysBook Now
Experience all of New Zealand in a fully guided group. With so much on offer over the two islands, it pays to spend a little longer exploring the two. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the adrenaline and adventure activities are not to be missed. With this tour you really can do it all.
- 24 days of accommodation and transport.
- Kiwi tour guide with expert local knowledge.
- Guided tour of every location we visit.
- Evening´s entertainment and dinner at a ´marae´.
- Entrance to Wai-O-Tapu thermal reserve.
- Visit to the adrenaline capital of the world: Queens Town.
- Overnight boat trip in Abel Tasman National Park.
Day 1: Auckland
Kia ora and welcome to New Zealand! We begin our tour in the country´s largest city Auckland.
The metropolitan area of Auckland sits on the narrow sliver of land where the Northland peninsula tapers south to meet the rest of the North Island. Therefore the sea is ever present, and it isn’t difficult to guess the origin of its nickname ‘City of Sails’!
Throughout your tour your tour guide will be on hand to help you plan your time and ensure things are as hassle-free as possible. As with every day on tour, you have the choice of taking part in a number of optional add-on activities, or you can stay with your tour guide who will always have plenty of free or low cost things for you to do.
After meeting the group at our central accommodation, we set off for an orientation tour to let you get acquainted with all that Auckland has to offer. If you are not taking part in any activities you can escape the city with your guide and admire the beautiful surroundings with a walk at Piha on the west coast. He will also show you around the city with an opportunity to climb the Sky Tower, Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World and Mount Eden.
In the evening we like to invite everyone for dinner in order to get better acquainted as a group although we promise no cheesy introductions!
Day 2: Auckland to Coromandel
We depart from Auckland early and set off for the Coromandel peninsula. One thing that is great about travelling with us is that your tour manager will break up each journey with unique stops along the way. These off-the-beaten-track places give you an inside look to New Zealand that the other tour companies miss out on! Some of the stops are written about in this itinerary, others we like to keep as surprises!
Volcanoes dominate much of the land between the Coromandel and Auckland. Remnants of this volcanic activity can be found in the form of natural hot pools and one of the highlights of the region is Hot Water Beach, where around low tide you can dig in the sand and make your own hot tub!
Included in the tour this afternoon is the opportunity to carve your very own Kiwi pendant from bone a souvenir that many of our group members choose to wear for the rest of their trip!
In the evening your guide might take you to the Lost Springs, a luxury spa resort where you are able to have dinner and relax with a drink in the natural hot pools.
Day 3: Coromandel to Waitomo
Experience the gorgeous coastal scenery of the area with a walk along the cliff top to Cathedral Cove, a bay made famous by films such as The Chronicles of Narnia. Pure New Zealand!
After lunch we make the short journey south to Waitomo, with possible stops at Matamata (home to Hobbiton from ‘Lord of the Rings’) and Otorohanga Kiwi House. Waitomo and its surrounding area has a distinctive limestone region where surface water and underground streams have dissolved the rock over tens of thousands of years, creating an amazing system of underground caves.
Tomorrow morning you will have the opportunity to explore the caves in a number of different ways but for now we check in to our accommodation and have dinner at the local pub.
Day 4: Waitomo to Rotorua
You cannot visit Waitomo without experiencing its main attraction the glow-worm caves, which have attracted people for over 100 years. The moment you enter this subterranean wonderland you´ll discover an ancient underground labyrinth of limestone caves and grottos, with its amazing stalactites and stalagmites – mother nature’s decorations.Two of our favourite ways to explore the caves is black-water rafting or a wicked four hour caving trip which starts with an awesome abseil! If the caves really don’t appeal, then there are choice of walks around the area, or go watch the Angora rabbit shearing – a sight to be believed with your own eyes!
After lunch we make our way to Rotorua, one of the longest standing tourist destinations in New Zealand. Geothermal activity first attracted tourists to this inland region in the 19th century, and volcanic landscapes and thermal wonders dominate the landscape.
One of our most random activities is the Zorb – undoubtedly a Kiwi invention! Roll down the hill whilst inside a giant air-cushioned ball! The Agrodome is located just over the road where you can watch sheep shearing, sheep dog shows and a variety of other farm-related goings-on.
The therapeutic qualities of geothermal springs were recognised early on by Maori settlers, and so Rotorua is also a town steeped in Maori culture and history. This evening we are all invited to a â€œmaraeâ€ (meeting ground) for a Maori cultural performance and â€œhangiâ€ feast, where the food is cooked below the ground and tastes absolutely delicious!
Day 5: Rotorua to Taupo
It is an early start for anyone white-water rafting or sledging on the Kaituna River! This optional activity is a definite highlight for many of our tour members, but if it doesn’t sound like your thing then your tour guide will show you around Rotorua, or you can visit one of the rather inexpensive geothermal hot spring baths in the area.
After lunch in town we may take a trip up the Rotorua gondola to another stunning panoramic view and the chance to ride down on the luge heaps of fun!
On the way to Taupo we make a stop at Orakei Korako, an extraordinary geyserland and thermal park included within your tour price. The park is the ideal way to see some great examples of the thermal activity in the North Island and you can walk around at your own pace.
Day 6: Taupo
Lake Taupo was created a few thousand years ago in what was the largest volcanic eruption in 5,000 years. The eruption was so dramatic that records report the sun became hazy in places as far as China. What is left today is a fresh-water lake the size of Singapore and the largest in Australasia.
You can start off the morning with an epic skydive over the lake, and on a clear day you can see both the west and east coast of the North Island. Skydiving is the ultimate thrill and never fails to get great feedback from all those who do it!
Alternatively, go quad biking, play golf or bungee jump over New Zealand´s longest river, the mighty Waikato. In the afternoon we may offer the option to take a cruise on The Barbary sailing boat to see Maori rock carvings alongside Lake Taupo.
In the evening your guide will treat you to a soak in some naturally-heated thermal rock pools situated in a local park. It will keep you warm for hours!
Day 7: Taupo to Wellington
On the way to Wellington we drive along the Desert Road that divides the Rangipo Desert, an area with poor vegetation because of bad soil conditions and drying winds. The climate is harsh and in winter it is not unusual to see snow. The biggest attractions on this road is that of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, the volcano better known for Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.
We make a stop at Mokai Gravity Canyon, an extreme adventure park including the world´s most extreme flying fox and New Zealand’s second largest bungee. Tour members are welcome to do a spontaneous bungee, flying fox or canyon swing.
After this we pass through the towns of Bulls and Levin, before briefly touching upon the west coastline. We reach Wellington by nightfall and this evening is free for your own leisure time.
Day 8: Wellington to Kaikoura
Your tour guide will give you all a choice for this morning you can stay and explore Wellington City for a few hours, or you can depart for the South Island immediately. The ferry crossing is one of the most beautiful in the world, and passes through the Cook Strait into the Marlborough Sounds, with views of the mountains in the distance.
Upon arriving into Picton we have a short break to explore the port and get something to eat before travelling to Kaikoura. Meaning â€œto eat crayfishâ€, Kaikoura is a coastal settlement rich in marine activity, with its deep sea trench allowing sea creatures such as whales, dolphins and seals to come up close and personal. The water here is as deep as the mountains surrounding it are high.We introduce you to the town with a walk over the peninsula from South Bay to the northern seal colony, where many fur seals choose to bask lazily along the rocks. If the conditions permit, there may be a chance to go snorkelling along this area and your guide may catch something for dinner!
In the evening we cook and have a bonfire on the beach, when the conditions permit.
Day 9: Kaikoura to Christchurch
This morning is for activities and you have the chance to swim with dolphins, watch for whales, learn to surf or even play mini golf. Dolphin swimming is incredibly popular, with groups often seeing hundreds of dolphins at a time!
Lunch can be from a seafood cart along the esplanade, allowing you to admire the stunning view of turquoise ocean met with snow-capped mountains. This is the true New Zealand living that we love! Afterwards we set off on the short drive to Christchurch, aiming to arrive by late afternoon. As the internationally famed ‘Garden City’, Christchurch’s well-established expansive parks and public gardens are guaranteed to impress. Wide tree-lined avenues, beautifully maintained gardens, ambling inner-city rivers and restored heritage buildings make this a picture-perfect city with a definite English feel.
Tonight you are privileged to stay at Haka Lodge, our backpackers lodge located just outside Christchurch CBD. This is our home so we hope you feel welcome here! We provide dinner but you are welcome to head into the city for the evening as well.
Day 10: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
Escape the city with an epic hot air balloon ride this morning. There also may be a chance to go surfing at Sumner for anyone interested (Oct-April).
For those not participating in activities, your day begins with an orientation tour of Christchurch´s surrounding area. Unfortunately the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 have damaged many buildings, including the iconic cathedral – but the city is in the re-build stage and things look optimistic for its future.
After lunch we leave New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ and head south. The jewel of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo is an alpine village in the heart of the South Island high country. It sits at the edge of its 20 kilometre glacial lake, completely surrounded by the impressive Southern Alps. The landscape is outstanding, sculpted by successive Ice Age glaciers, the remnants of which continue to discharge fine rock flour giving the lake its intense turquoise hue. The sky is of extraordinary clarity, making this one of the world´s best locations to probe the heavens from its observatories atop Mount John. We take a trip up to the top to admire the view.
Day 11: Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
We have time to enjoy Lake Tekapo before leaving for Queenstown in the mid-morning. Consider experiencing the region on a one hour scenic flight, taking you up close to Mount Cook and the Southern Alps. Beautiful.
Your guide will take a break at one of the many salmon farms along the drive to allow you to feed the salmon and taste some sashimi. After heading past Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook and through the village of Omarama there is a chance to experience some wine tasting just outside of Queenstown.
Queenstown, named in honour of Queen Victoria, is well-established as the jewel in NZ’s tourism crown , with more adventure options per square metre than any other similarly-sized town across the globe. It is one of the most beautiful settings on earth, nestled beside Lake Wakatipu. In the evening we take the Queenstown gondola to view our spectacular surroundings. We are situated a five minute walk from the centre of town allowing great accessibility but also a quiet night´s sleep. The night life in the town is also second to none and there is always something going on no matter what day it is.
Day 12: Queenstown
You have a whole day to spend in Queenstown and you are spoilt for choice!
For a more relaxed day, your guide may take you to Glenorcy where there are multiple half and full day walks. Another awesome and world famous experience that we fully recommend is a trip to Milford Sound absolutely gorgeous. This can be accessed by coach or by flight.
Something that also shouldn´t be missed is a visit to the infamous Fergburger cafe where you can try one of the numerous different delicious burgers.
Day 13: Queenstown to Wanaka
Still time to do one more Queenstown activity in the morning!
We drive over the Crown Range along the highest inland road in the country. We pass the oldest pub in New Zealand, the Cardrona Hotel. A potential stop is Cardrona Adventure Park, where everyone is invited to drive monster trucks and eight-wheeled argos!
At the end of our drive we are greeted by the shores of picturesque lakes Wanaka and Hawea. Over 1,300 feet deep and an incredible blue, both lakes are fringed by breathtaking mountain ranges. During summer, wake-boarding, water-skiing, stunning lake cruises and swimming are always high on the agenda but in the winter Wanaka is a complete snow sports destination. Four alpine resorts (Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snow Park and Snow Farm) cater for everyone’s ski and snowboarding needs, from well-groomed beginner slopes to thrilling off piste chutes & powder bowls; adrenaline-pumping pipes to tranquil cross country skiing trails.
Day 14: Wanaka to Franz Josef
Wake up with uninterrupted views of the stunning Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps. Anyone is welcome to begin their day with a mind-blowing skydive with views of both Fox Glacier and Mount Cook in the distance! An acrobatic flight or wake boarding lesson is also on the cards.
There are heaps to see and do along our drive today so we set off after any activities, passing along the shores of Lake Hawea, and back around to Lake Wanaka for the second time.
The road that we travel across is that of the Haast Pass, the lowest crossing of the Southern Alps at 536 metres. The east to west transition of climate is strongly marked by the changes of landscape from the alpine surrounding of Wanaka to the luxuriant rainforest of the West Coast. There are many stunning waterfalls on this journey and your tour manager will take you to one of our favourites, the Roaring Billy Falls.
The town of Haast signifies our arrival at the coast and we take our first look at the ocean from the Ships Creek viewing point. Between September and December it is whitebait season and so we will try to find a place to buy some. Whitebait (small fish) are considered a rare delicacy in New Zealand and is best cooked in a fritter with eggs great for breakfast!
The climate and subsequent rainforest accounts for why this region is so unpopulated. Between the mountains and the almost unbroken stretch of surf beaches are low hills and broad terraces among which are beautiful forest-fringed lakes, and a surprising number of places of historical interest.
You cannot visit Franz Josef without paying your respects to the glacier. Both the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are world-renowned on account of their relative accessibility and the low level to which they descend, although they no longer extend far enough down their valleys to reach the forest. The most popular way of visiting the glacier is with a half day guided trek.
The Franz Josef glacier is unique in that whereas most glaciers are retreating, Franz still flows almost to sea level. Surrounding the glacier is a stunning landscape of temperate rainforest of ancient podocarp trees and other evergreen species. The combination of ice and temperate rainforest is a unique feature of New Zealand’s glacier country and is an ecosystem found nowhere else on the planet.
If you can afford it, we highly recommend reaching the bluest ice via helicopter with a heli-hike. Trekking on the glacier is nowhere as strenuous as it sounds, but if it doesn’t sound like your thing, then your guide will take you as close to the bottom of the glacier as possible. There is some awesome quad biking for the afternoon, or otherwise relax in the hostel´s spa pool, TV lounge or have a drink in one of the cafes or bars.
Day 16: Franz Josef to Punakaiki
We head to the beautiful west coast on one of the most spectacular drives in the world. A rugged, primeval landscape of luxuriant rainforest juxtaposed against breathtaking beach and ocean waves.
Along the way from Franz Josef we pass through Ross, a town that arose from gold mining. The gold rush days of the second half of the 19th century were largely responsible for opening up the West Coast for settlement.
Before this there was a small number of Maori who searched for greenstone, or jade. We take a break at Hokitika to visit a jade factory. This place experienced a massive gold rush in the late 1860s and today remnants can be seen everywhere, in original buildings and in the landscape, altered by excavations and vast mounds of tailings.
We like to boast that we are the only tour company to stay at the unique Te Nikau Retreat. A firm favourite on tour, the resort is set 3km north of Pancake Rocks, a set of spacious lodges and cabins in peaceful rainforest beside the coast. In the evening we watch the sunset over the ocean and make use of the resort´s facilities.
Day 17: Punakaiki
Surfing, horse trekking, kayaking, four wheel driving, walking or simply taking in the view are all great activities in this region! In particular, Punakaiki is world famous for its ´Pancake Rocks´, which are huge columns of limestone resembling stacks of pancakes. With a heavy swell running at high tide, seawater is forced upwards through blow holes with an impressive roar.
Alternatively you can spend the day making your very own knife in Barrytown! In this experience you get to forge your own blade from red hot steel, and complete your knife with native timber handle, brass bolsters and pins. And don´t worry about taking it home – hundreds of people have travelled with their knives (allowed in the hold luggage on flights).
Day 18: Punakaiki to Abel Tasman
Upon leaving Punakaiki we continue north along the State Highway 6. There is a stunning beach beside the Fox River where we can explore some awesome caves. Just ten kilometres west of Westport is Cape Foulwind where there is a fur seal colony accessible by a walking track.
Westport is home to a company that specialises in various adventure activities, including quad biking, extreme jet boating and river rafting along the Buller River. The river is one of the longest in the country and we travel alongside it for much of the day.
Our accommodation tonight is just on the outskirts of Abel Tasman National Park near the town of Motueka. The golden beaches, tranquil lagoons, clear water, native bush, seals and bird life make this an amazing year round destination. When we arrive there should be time for walk to Split Apple Rock a rock that looks exactly as the name suggests!
Day 19: Abel Tasman
Today is all about exploring Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand´s smallest, but by no means least beautiful, national park. One way to experience the park is with a half day kayak to the Split Apple. No previous experience is required as qualified guides will teach you all the basic skills to make sure this is a safe, yet awesome activity!
Alternatively, there are numerous half and full day walks, including transport via water taxi. These explore both the inland forest and many stunning secluded beaches, all of which we guarantee will take your breath away!
It is just an hour´s drive to Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand (with over 2,000 hours of sun every year). It is also home to the geographical ‘Centre of Zealand’ on Botanical Hill where we will take a walk before nightfall to witness the superb panoramic views of coast and countryside.
Day 20: Abel Tasman to Wellington
To visit the Nelson region is to discover azure skies and wide open spaces, beaches and lakes, spectacular national parks and unique landforms, vineyards and gourmet cafÃ©s, artists and galleries and boutique shopping experiences. This region expertly combines the finest elements of the New Zealand experience and delivers them across stunning geography, sun-ripened at the perfect latitude under New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours. Even the locals like to holiday here!
On our journey back towards Picton, where we will cross to Wellington once again on the Inter-Islander ferry this evening, we break up the drive by stopping at Havelock, the centre of the New Zealand green-lipped mussel industry. The Mussel Pot CafÃ© is a popular stop for seafood fans! There is more time to explore the small town of Picton, and your guide may take you for a cultural walk to learn more about the area. By the time we reach Wellington it will be around 10pm and so the rest of the evening is up to you!
Day 21: Wellington to River Valley
Perched on the edge of a spectacular harbour, encircled by green, towering hills, Wellington is a stunning and compact city. Vibrant, exciting and cultured, the nation´s capital combines the stimulation and sophistication of a big city with the quirkiness of a charming village. Extending just two kilometres in diameter, Wellington is a true ‘walking city’.
As always your tour guide will introduce you to the city with an orientation tour including a drive around the bays, a visit to Weta Studios, up to the lookout point at Mount Victoria and then through central Wellington, up the cable car, through the Botanic Gardens and to the Parliament Buildings.
Wellington has a feast of cultural attractions and its crowning glory is Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. Situated on Wellington’s magnificent waterfront, this internationally acclaimed museum combines leading edge technology with traditional exhibits to tell the stories of New Zealand´s land and people. The museum is free to enter and well worth a visit.
In the late afternoon we depart the city and retrace some of our previous steps up State Highway 1 in the middle of the North Island. Just a short way east from Taihape is one of our favourite locations on tour: the River Valley lodge.
Day 22: River Valley to National Park
There really is nowhere else like River Valley this place epitomises tranquillity: with a streak of adrenaline running through its belly! The lodge which offers a complete range of New Zealand adventure activities. This includes world class grade five white-water rafting, inflatable kayaking, scenic eco-rafting, horse trekking, guided natural and cultural interpretive bush walks and fly fishing.
Everything here is first-class, set amongst a backdrop of mother nature’s best work. If the scenery of River Valley does not blow your mind, then we will be surprised! Most of the activities take place in the morning, so you can relax in the spa pool or play a round of pitch and putt on the nine hole course.
After lunch we make the short drive to National Park Village, which sits on the border of both Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks, near the base of Mount Ruapehu. This beautiful setting has been made famous by the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and there are many natural walks, bike tracks and kayaking options available. During the winter it becomes a snow haven for skiers and snowboarders visiting the fields of Turoa and Whakapapa. Our accommodation is a cosy lodge set in the middle of the village, complete with spa pool!
Day 23: National Park to Raglan
After exploring some of the area around National Park in the morning, we drive north to Raglan. Raglan is known as the surfing capital of New Zealand, with world famous breaks found at three points: Manu Bay, Whale Bay and The Indicators. This is the hottest surfing mecca in New Zealand, if not just in this part of the planet. Manu Bay (Waireke) is 8 km from Raglan. This famous surf break, also known as The Point, is said to have the longest left hand ride in the world. Our adventure lodge accommodation also offers a number of surfing packages for all levels of experience.
If surfing is not high on your agenda, not a problem. Raglan has some stunning geography, and after a short trek down to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls you will witness a spectacular view of a natural waterfall.
Raglan is definitely New Zealand’s piece of bohemia and we are sure that it will leave you just like it leaves us: spellbound and reluctant to return to the big city environment of Auckland!
Day 24: Raglan to Auckland
Before you know it, it’s your final day. After potential surfing and exploring the town of Raglan in the morning, we reach Auckland by 5pm to say our final goodbyes.
Accommodation on the tour is shared dorms in selected hostels.
You may be lucky to stay at some of our favourite accommodation places whilst on tour! These include Aquapackers – an ex navy marine boat in Abel Tasman, Te Nikau Retreat – cosy cottages set in the lush west coast rainforest, Dusky Lodge – complete with swimming pool and hot tub, and our very own Haka Lodge.
You can upgrade to single person supplement, or shared rooms for couples please ask us.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Accommodation (max 6 share, upgrades available)
- Kiwi tour guide with expert local knowledge
- Guided tour of every location we visit
- Carve your own traditional ´tiki´ pendant
- Evening´s entertainment and dinner at a ´marae´
- Entrance to Wai-O-Tapu thermal reserve
- Gondola ride in Queenstown
- Overnight boat trip in Abel Tasman National Park
- Airport Transfers
- Lunch and Dinner
Start time: 8am
Finish time: approx 7pm
Start Dates 2019
6 Dec to 30 Dec Auckland to Auckland
13 Dec to 6 Jan Auckland to Auckland
20 Dec to 13 Jan Auckland to Auckland
27 Dec to 20 Jan Auckland to Auckland
Start dates 2020
03 Jan to 27 Jan Auckland to Auckland
10 Jan to 03 Feb Auckland to Auckland
17 jan to 10 Feb Auckland to Auckland
24 Jan to 17 Feb Auckland to Auckland
31 Jan to 24 Feb Auckland to Auckland
03 Feb to 27 Feb Auckland to Auckland
07 Feb to 02 Mar Auckland to Auckland
14 Feb to 09 Mar Auckland to Auckland
21 Feb to 16 Mar Auckland to Auckland
24 Feb to 19 Mar Auckland to Auckland
28 Feb to 23 Mar Auckland to Auckland
06 Mar to 30 Mar Auckland to Auckland
13 Mar to 06 Apr Auckland to Auckland
16 Mar to 09 Apr Auckland to Auckland
20 Mar to 13 Apr Auckland to Auckland
27 Mar to 20 Apr Auckland to Auckland
03 Apr to 27 Apr Auckland to Auckland