This 17-day New Zealand adventure ticks off the best of the North and South islands with extreme thrills, cultural connections, and unusual destinations and experiences. Land in Auckland, then drive south to Rotorua for a Maori feast and zorbing adventure. Swap to the South Island to experience Fiordland National Park, then chase thrills with bungee jumping, swings, and a jet boat in Queenstown. Helicopter to the Fox Glacier, then board the TranzAlpine Scenic Train for Christchurch.


  • Feel the geothermal powers of Rotorua and get silly with some zorbing
  • Connect with local Maori culture with traditional dinners and a haka performance
  • Get off the beaten path with a cruise across the remote Doubtful Sound
  • Take a leap of faith with an adrenaline-pumping bungee jump in Queenstown
  • Land atop the ancient ice fields of Fox Glacier by helicopter

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Auckland, Private Walking Tour, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise Auckland
Day 2 Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton & Waitomo Glowworm Caves Rotorua
Day 3 Te Puia Tour, Kiwi Tour & Māori Arts, Polynesian Spa Day Rotorua
Day 4 Morning Eco Thermal Park Tour, Te Pā Tū Māori Feast & Performance Rotorua
Day 5 Zorb Experience, Drive to Auckland via Hamilton Auckland
Day 6 Fly to Queenstown, Drive to Te Anau Te Anau
Day 7 Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise Te Anau
Day 8 Te Anau Glowworm Caves, Explore Te Anau Te Anau
Day 9 Drive to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner Queenstown 
Day 10 Jet Boat Ride, Original Onsen Evening Session Queenstown 
Day 11 Nevis Bungy & Swing Combo, Dinner at Rātā Queenstown
Day 12 Glenorchy Safari Tour, Wine & Food Experience Queenstown 
Day 13 Drive to Fox Glacier, Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing Fox Glacier
Day 14 Drive to Greymouth, TranzAlpine Scenic Train to Christchurch Christchurch
Day 15 Ko Tāne Māori Experience & Guided Kiwi Tour, Historic Tram Dinner Christchurch
Day 16 Half-Day City Tour, International Antarctic Centre & Penguin Backstage Pass Christchurch
Day 17 Depart Christchurch  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Auckland, Private Walking Tour, Auckland Harbour Dinner Cruise

Auckland's skyline
Auckland's skyline is easy to identify with its distinctive Sky Tower

Welcome to Auckland! Known as the "City of Sails," New Zealand's largest metropolis is located on the North Island and is the perfect introduction to New Zealand's world-renowned natural beauty and cultural diversity. A driver will meet you at the airport to transfer you to your accommodation. Check in, drop your bags, and set off to explore. For top views, scale the 1,075-foot-tall (328 m) Sky Tower with its dizzying observation deck, or make your way to the summit of Mount Eden, one of the city's 48 volcanic cones.

Later, discover central Auckland's hidden lanes, legends, and stunning landmarks on a private three-hour walking tour. Pop to the hotel to refresh ahead of tonight's memorable dining experience on the water as you sail around Auckland's Waitematā Harbour. Watch the city twinkle after the sun dips below the horizon. You'll be treated to a drink and canapés as you set off toward Westhaven Marina, followed by the main course. Finish the evening with a tasty dessert as you sail back to central Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

Day 2: Drive to Rotorua via Hobbiton & Waitomo Glowworm Caves

Drive from Auckland to Rotorua via Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Hobbiton
Hobbit holes found at the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata

Pick up a rental car and hit the road as you make the three-hour drive to Rotorua with a few detours. You'll pass through the rolling farmlands and rich dairy pastures of the Waikato region. Make a stop at Matamata, home to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Set over a 12-acre (4.8 ha) Alexander family sheep farm, you'll take a two-hour guided walk where you'll hear stories about filming and visit intricate sets. Stop at the Green Dragon Inn for a Southfarthing ale, cider, or ginger beer and a late lunch.

Continue through the limestone hills of the Waitomo countryside. Here a vast 30 million-year-old cave network filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and glow worms begs to be explored. Embark on a gentle boat trip through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and glide beneath a galaxy of tiny living lights. After, continue to Rotorua, where a wonderland of geothermal activity awaits, complete with boiling mud pools, steaming geysers, and natural hot springs. You'll arrive in the early evening.

Day 3: Te Puia Tour, Kiwi Tour & Māori Arts, Polynesian Spa Day

Te Puia
Visit the Te Puia Springs to experience the Pacific Ring of Fire up close

Today you'll discover New Zealand's geothermal landscapes in Rotorua, an area famed for its otherworldly green and orange sulfur pools, bubbling mud baths, and spurting geysers. You'll see all of this at the Te Puia Springs, home to Pohutu Geyser, which erupts up to 20 times a day, shooting a plume of scalding water up to 100 feet (30 m) into the sky. Afterward, visit the Kiwi Conservation Centre, a refuge for native birds, including New Zealand's national emblem, the flightless kiwi. Next, learn about carving and weaving with artists at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute before heading home to refresh.

Later, experience Rotorua's geothermal features in a unique way as you relax at the Polynesian Spa on the shore of Lake Rotorua. The spa's main attraction is its four alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures ranging from 96.8°F to 107.6°F (36°C to 42°C). While soaking in the warm waters, you'll be able to take in views of the lake, native plants, wildlife, and a nearby grotto.

Day 4: Morning Eco Thermal Park Tour, Te Pā Tū Māori Feast & Performance

Explore Rotorua's volcanic activity (like the colorful Frying Pan) deeper with a local guide

Set within the Pacific Rim of Fire, there's no shortage of otherworldly activity in Rotorua, and today you'll continue exploring geysers, bubbling mud holes, steaming vents, and sulfurous pools while learning how volcanic activity below ground creates this spectacular show above the surface. Your guided eco-tour will take you to Wai O Tapu, a geothermal park known for its amazingly colorful hot springs, moon-like landscapes, and the famous Lady Knox geyser. And you'll visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley to learn about the Mount Tarawera eruption and native flora and fauna.

This evening, you'll feast on songs, traditions, and seasonal kai (cuisine) within the forest Pa (village) of Te Pā Tū. Settle into an enchanting space surrounded by towering tawa trees, blazing bonfires, and a forest-formed amphitheater for a four-hour celebration of Māori history and culture.

Day 5: Zorb Experience, Drive to Auckland via Hamilton

Zorb - Three Ride Flexi Pass
You'll have loads of silly fun bouncing down hills inside a Zorb

Did you know Kiwis invented the Zorb ball? Visit the original home of the Zorb and take on four epic zorbing tracks today. Enter a giant inflatable ball that has water inside, making it slippery, then bounce and roll down hilly terrain. Challenge yourself on the most exhilarating track with tight corners and epic drops, or pick one that will have slip, slide, and giggle the whole way down.

Later, return to Auckland via the vibrant city of Hamilton. Your 90-minute drive will follow the Thermal Explorer Highway. Pass the town of Tirau, known for its antique shops and animal-shaped corrugated iron buildings. Skirt Lake Karapiro and travel through Cambridge, then arrive in Hamilton, where you can explore the beautiful Hamilton Gardens and the Waikato Museum of Art and History, which boasts an impressive collection of Māori wood carvings. Then follow the Waikato River on the two-hour drive to Auckland.

Day 6: Fly to Queenstown, Drive to Te Anau

Te Anau
Look out over Lake Te Anau and enjoy mountainous views of Fiordland National Park

You'll swap the North Island for the South Island when you land in Queenstown today. Drop off your rental car before taking the domestic flight to New Zealand's adventure capital. On arrival, collect another rental car and start the 2.5-hour drive to Te Anau, the gateway to the Fiordland National Park. Te Anau sits on the shores of Lake Te Anau, which reaches depths of 1,368 feet (417 m). The town is the starting point for many walking tracks, including the Milford Track and the Kepler Track, and is home to a limestone grotto of glowworms.

Day 7: Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise

The magnificent landscape of rugged Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park
The magnificent landscape of rugged Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park
Plan your trip to New Zealand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Experience the spectacular, remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound with today's special cruise. This sound is a beautiful, isolated fjord that's three times longer than Milford Sound / Piopiotahi and has a surface area of 10 times larger. With its rugged peaks, verdant rainforest, and hidden inlets, the natural wonder will take your breath away. There's no direct road access, so to reach Doubtful Sound, you'll cruise across the picturesque Lake Manapouri, then take a bus over Wilmot Pass, New Zealand's most expensive (and scenic) road.

Pause along the way to experience the dense Fiordland rainforest and view Doubtful Sound glistening below. The isolation makes this fjord a very special place that only those in the know get to see. Board the Patea Explorer for a three-hour cruise. As you sail across the teal waters, your captain will provide commentary on the area and its history, pointing out landmarks like Browne Falls, which crashes 2,030 feet (619 m) into the sound. Look out for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and Fiordland crested penguins along the way. 

Day 8: Te Anau Glowworm Caves, Explore Te Anau

Glowworm Caves
Witness the majestic glowworms twinkling on the roof of caves

Today you'll cruise across Lake Te Anau aboard a luxury catamaran, disembarking on the western side to enter special glowworm caves through Cavern House. Read displays sharing the story of this 12,000-year-old underground cave network. Then follow your guide along a limestone path as they point out whirlpools, intricate rock formations, and a staggering underground waterfall. Board a small boat to glide through darkness, surrounded by the blue-white pinpricks of thousands of glowworms on the cave walls. 

Lake Te Anau is a great place for walking, tramping, boating, fishing, hunting, kayaking, mountain biking, swimming, and even water skiing. Later today, you can choose how you explore this part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. Visit the Wildlife Center to learn about the local wildlife and see the rare flightless takahē bird as well as native waterfowl, weka, parakeets, tui, kea, kākā, and wood pigeons. Lace up your hiking boots and hit local trails, or take a scenic flight above Doubtful Sound or Dusky Sound.

Day 9: Drive to Queenstown, TSS Earnslaw Farm Tour & Dinner

Welcome to Queenstown!
Queenstown is set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, which you'll cruise across this evening

Depart beautiful Lake Te Anau this morning and take the scenic drive to Queenstown, passing trout fishing rivers and high country scenery en route. Pause at the small towns of Mossburn and Lumsden, or break at Kingston, the home of a remarkable vintage steam train. The route then skirts along the shore, between Lake Wakatipu and the sheer faces of The Remarkables mountain range, to the resort town.​ In Queenstown, you can enjoy hair-raising thrills, go wine tasting in the Central Otago, visit historic gold-mining towns, or simply relax.

Later on, get ready for a leisurely cruise across beautiful Lake Wakatipu. At the appointed time, the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamship will take you to the lakeside gardens of Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet dinner by the water. Soak up the alpine scenery at the homestead and watch as chefs prepare a seasonal bounty of succulent meats cooked on the outdoor rotisserie and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Enjoy desserts and New Zealand cheese before the return cruise, complete with a singalong from the ship's pianist.

Day 10: Jet Boat Ride, Original Onsen Evening Session

Get your thrills with the high-speed Shotover Jet in Queenstown
Get your thrills with the high-speed Shotover Jet in Queenstown

Lean into the thrills of Queenstown and kick off your day with an exhilarating ride through the Shotover River Canyon in a high-speed jet boat that seems to defy gravity. Take a ride on "Big Red" through the spectacular canyon walls of the upper Shotover River. You'll gasp in amazement as your jet navigates 46 miles (75 km) of rapids and narrow twists and turns. Spend the rest of the day exploring Queenstown as you wish.

One of the best ways to appreciate the area's majesty is to ride the Skyline Gondola high above the city. Up here, you can enjoy a drink with panoramic views of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables before taking the downhill luge track back to town. This evening, relax in a hot pool under the stars with a session a the Onsen Hot Pools. Based on the Japanese bathing tradition, Onsen offers cedar-lined steaming pools on a cliffside overlooking the Shotover River. Enjoy an hourlong soak accompanied by a drink and snack as you take in the alpine scenery. 

Day 11: Nevis Bungy & Swing Combo, Dinner at Rātā

Downtown Queenstown
Downtown Queenstown is filled with quaint shops and restaurants

Start today with another huge adrenaline rush as you brave AJ Hackett's Nevis Bungy and Swing. You might want to skip breakfast before you take on these two thrills! The enormous swing takes a mammoth 985-foot (300 m) arc into the valley below, perfectly shaped to amplify your shrieks and screams. Then, take a leap of faith with the 440-foot (134 m) bungee, New Zealand's highest. You'll free fall for 8.5 seconds in a blitz of pure fear and adrenaline. 

Spend the rest of the day coming off your adrenaline high. Later you should make a reservation at Rātā, an award-winning restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett. The menu takes inspiration from the southern landscape and everything that epitomizes New Zealand. This relaxed eatery combines slow-cooked food with wines from New Zealand's local Otago region.

Day 12: Glenorchy Safari Tour, Wine & Food Experience

Safari of the Scenes to Glenorchy
Pass by Glenorchy Wharf set on Lake Wakatipu

This morning you'll traverse the countryside searching for Tolkien's Middle-earth on a Glenorchy 4WD Safari. Glenorchy is a small settlement known as a filming location for "The Lord of the Rings," and today's off-road adventure will give you the chance to experience the unreal panoramic landscapes as you follow one of the South Island's most scenic drives. Look outside your window for brilliant views of the Southern Alps, and enjoy the ride as you explore Isengard, Ithilien Camp, Lothlórien, Fangorn Forest, and the Battle of Amon Hen while on tour.

Later, taste the sophisticated side of Queenstown when you experience the best quality wine and food on a tasting tour of Central Otago. Your lunch at Wild Earth will be expertly matched with the best local wines. Then you'll explore the scenic Kawarau Gorge and mighty Kawarau River before arriving at New Zealand's largest underground wine cave. Here you'll listen to wine stories while savoring premium local drops. Finally, you'll stop for a delicious cheese tasting in the Gibbston Valley before returning to Queenstown.

Day 13: Drive to Fox Glacier, Twin Glacier Helicopter Flight & Snow Landing

Fox Glacier
Take off in a helicopter to witness two glaciers and land at the top of one

Wave goodbye to the adventure capital and hit the road for Fox Glacier, the largest and longest of the magnificent west coast glaciers. Over 4.5 hours, you'll cross the Crown Range—the highest sealed road in the country—and pass through the alpine town of Wānaka. Following the shores of both Lake Wānaka and Hawea, enter the township of Makarora, the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Stretch your legs with a short walk to Blue Pools through lush rainforest. Cross the Haast River and continue through the deep wilderness until you reach your destination.

Fox Glacier stretches for 8 miles (13 km), and, remarkably, it ends in temperate rainforest, 820 feet (250 m) above sea level and only 7.5 miles (12 km) from the sea. Like all glaciers, the Fox Glacier advances and retreats. You'll see evidence of the latest surge forward in the bulging lower ice fall. You'll take in spectacular views of this glacier and another with a scenic 30-minute helicopter flight that will land at the head of one of these frozen rivers of ice. Admire how it winds its way through ancient valleys carved from the mountainside.

Day 14: Drive to Greymouth, TranzAlpine Scenic Train to Christchurch 

TranzAlpine Scenic Train Greymouth - Christchurch *Scenic Plus Experience*
The TranzAlpine Scenic Train crosses from coast to coast in spectacular fashion

Today's two-hour drive north takes you through Hokitika, where you can't miss the spectacular Hokitika Gorge. Once you reach Greymouth, drop off your rental car and board the Tranz Alpine Scenic Train for Christchurch. Considered one of the world's greatest train journeys, the train covers 139 miles (223 km) over five hours, crossing from coast to coast via the Great Divide and the indomitable spine of mountains that partitions New Zealand's South Island. Along the way, you'll enjoy a moving feast of local flavors and wines before reaching Christchurch.

The country's second-largest metropolis, Christchurch, is nicknamed "Garden City" due to its beautiful green spaces. One of the best ways to experience the lush parks is with a relaxing punt along the Avon River / Ōtākaro. Take a step back in time with an authentic Edwardian punting tour, where guides dressed in Edwardian costumes pole handcrafted flat-bottomed boats past landmarks like Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. You'll enjoy the spectacular flora and view the many exciting developments underway as part of Christchurch City's ongoing rebuild.

Day 15: Ko Tāne Māori Experience & Guided Kiwi Tour, Historic Tram Dinner

See Māori warriors in traditional dress with ancestral weapons
See Māori warriors in traditional dress with ancestral weapons

Get a unique glimpse into Māori culture when you visit the Ko Tāne Living Māori Village and Willowbank Wildlife Reserve today. Begin with a guided kiwi tour of the reserve with an experienced guide. Following this, enjoy a Māori kapa haka performance, which includes songs, dances, stick games, and weapons displays. Learn the poi (soft balls on strings that are twirled) and the haka (war dance), then enjoy a four-course hāngī dinner of meat and vegetables cooked in an underground pit.

Tonight, you'll board a historic colonial-style dining tram for a moving four-course dinner. Journey along the inner city tram loop, taking in the regenerating central business district and the city's top landmarks, all while enjoying a memorable, moving feast. Sit back and relax as you take in the views of the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum, and the Avon River / Ōtākaro from your window-side table.

Day 16: Half-Day City Tour, International Antarctic Centre & Penguin Backstage Pass

Christchurch is a buzzing city with loads to see and new secrets to uncover

On this morning's half-day tour of Christchurch, you'll learn about the virtual rebirth of the city after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Your guide will share details about the event, its impact on the city, and future plans as you explore the beautiful Botanic Gardens, discover New Zealand's flora and fauna, pass by the Transitional Cathedral (Cardboard Cathedral), and the Tannery shopping precinct.

This afternoon you'll go behind the scenes at a penguin habitat and penguin welfare center, the International Antarctic Centre. Explore off-limits areas and find out what it takes to keep these little stars happy while learning about their daily routines, penguin feeding and husbandry, and the long-term goals of the program. Your pass includes general admission, so you can visit "Antarctica" with the snow and ice experience and survive an Antarctic storm.

Day 17: Depart Christchurch

Enjoy a punt on the Avon River / Ōtākaro before departure
Leave Christchurch remembering your relaxing punt on the Avon River / Ōtākaro

It's your final morning in New Zealand. When the time is right, take a private transfer to the airport in time to catch your flight home or onward. Safe travels!

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Map of New Zealand Panorama:  Auckland to Christchurch - 17 Days
Map of New Zealand Panorama: Auckland to Christchurch - 17 Days