Kiwi Experience: Kea pass (15 days minimum)
Start Christchurch, Finish Auckland Loop around the South Island, then head up to the North Island and venture to Taupo and Rotorua to experience local culture and awesome scenery.
Overnight Stops: Kaikoura, Nelson, Westport, Mahinapua, Franz Joseph, Wanaka, Queenstown, Christchuch, Wellington, Taupo, Rotorua. Optional Stops Include: Picton, Punakaiki, Makarora, Twizel, River Valley.
Minimum Trip Time: 15 days
Maximum Trip Time: 12 months
CHRISTCHURCH TO KAIKOURA
Kaikoura is known as one of the best coastal wildlife regions in the world - whales, dolphins and seals!
Departing Christchurch bright and early, we arrive at Kaikoura in time for you to check out what Kaikoura is most famous for – its whale watching, or swimming with the dolphins or the seals. Spend the evening chilling on the beach or sampling some of the best seafood New Zealand has to offer for your dinner. In fact, the name Kaikoura means to eat Crayfish (“kai” meaning to eat, “koura” meaning crayfish).
KAIKOURA TO KAITERITERI
Travel though New Zealand’s most renowned winery region.
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive, and we may take the opportunity to stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long. We make our way to Picton and then to Kaiteriteri at the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. You can simply wile away the evening on the golden sand beach just metres from your accommodation. Kaiteriteri is a great spot to begin an adventure (on foot, by kayak or by water taxi) into Abel Tasman National Park.
KAITERITERI TO WESTPORT
Snow-capped mountains and adventure activities on the Buller River
Spend the morning kayaking out to Split Apple Rock and along the golden bays nearby Kaiteriteri, looking out for the local marine wildlife; or catch a water taxi to a one of the bays in the Abel Tasman National Park to go for a morning stroll in the native New Zealand forest. We stop in the iconic Nelson Lakes on the way so you can get the legendary wharf jumping shot. In Wesport we meet the team from Buller Adventure Tours where you can experience the best value for money jet boating, horse trekking and quad biking in New Zealand.
WESTPORT TO LAKE MAHINAPUA
Spend the night in a traditional West Coast pub!
Today we journey down the spectacular State Highway 6 that stretches 435 kilometres along the rugged Tasman shoreline, from Westport in the north, to the Haast Junction in the south. The road winds through a diverse series of landscapes which never cease to amaze both locals and visitors alike. This includes fertile farmland, sparsely populated towns, deserted goldfields, lush green rainforests, and the snow-capped Southern Alps. Highlights include the Cape Foulwind seal colony, rugged beach walks, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
LAKE MAHINAPUA TO FRANZ JOSEF
Continue along the rugged West Coast of New Zealand towards Franz Josef.
This morning will have a breakfast at Lake Mahinapua and hit the road on our way to Franz Josef. Franz Josef is the northern gateway to Te Wahipounamu, the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage area. The region includes Aoraki/Mount Cook, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring, the Fiordland National Parks, and surrounding conservation lands. We factor in a free day in Franz Josef so that you can get out there and experience what Franz Josef has to offer. It’s a wicked spot and whatever you get out and do, you will be blown away by the views of the glacier and Alps.
FRANZ JOSEF (EXTRA DAY)
We recommend staying an extra night in Franz Josef because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Today is your chance to hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, rated as one of the top three activities to do in New Zealand, by Kiwi Experience passengers. You could also take the option of a heli-hike, and be flown up the glacier, or take a more sedate approach and explore the various walks in the area.
FRANZ JOSEF - WANAKA
Take the time to chill out by Lake Wanaka.
We start out early in order to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps on Lake Matheson. We then cruise down the last stretch of Highway 6, stopping at popular scenic spots along the way. Then it’s into Mount Aspiring National Park, arriving in the awe-inspiring destination of Wanaka in the afternoon.
WANAKA - QUEENSTOWN
Adventure capital of New Zealand…and the world!
It’s only a short drive today through to New Zealand's adventure capital, Queenstown. Highlights include Puzzling World and stopping at the world’s first commercial bungy site - the Kawarau Bridge. On arrival in Queenstown you can book all activities and confirm onward bus travel at Base, as well as get a group photo with all your new West Coast mates. Then it’s out on the town exploring Queenstown’s infamous nightlife with all the crew!
QUEENSTOWN (EXTRA DAY)
We recommend staying an extra night in Queenstown because there’s so much to do there. If you’re short on time, you can always skip this extra day, timetable allowing, and get to the next stop sooner.
Queenstown is rated as one of our passenger’s favourite spots to hang out in New Zealand. Take the time to spend a few days here as it is one of the most picturesque places in the world. Make the most of the beautiful lake and surrounding walks, or get into a whole range of adrenalin pumping activities. If there was one activity that you couldn’t miss it would be the day trip to Milford Sound, commonly referred to as New Zealand’s most beautiful spot!
QUEENSTOWN TO LAKE TEKAPO
Head to Lake Tekapo, discover the untouched beauty and crystal clear skies in what's the world's largest dark sky reserve.
We head out of Queenstown, through the Lindis Pass, so get your cameras ready because this is ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory. After stopping to admire Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki, we travel to Lake Tekapo with its amazing location by snow-capped alps and clear starry skies. Lake Tekapo has something for everyone - relaxing at the lakeside and taking in the untouched view, soaking in the hot springs, discovering one of the many scenic walkways or checking out the mind-boggling stars in what is the world’s largest dark sky reserve.
LAKE TEKAPO TO CHRISTCHURCH
Head to the ‘garden city’ Christchurch.
We have a straight run into Christchurch, our largest city in the South Island and the 3rd largest in New Zealand.
CHRISTCHURCH TO KAIKOURA AGAIN!
Get up close and personal with some of New Zealand’s most unique wildlife
We start early today and head north from Christchurch across the northern Canterbury Plains. After a quick breakfast break in Cheviot, we continue into Kaikoura (kai – to eat, koura – crayfish). Talk to your driver about some of the amazing experiences you can do in this spectacular harbour including whale watching, fishing, or swim with the dolphins or seals. Alternatively, walk down to the local seal colony and get up close and personal with some furry locals.
KAIKOURA TO WELLINGTON (VIA PICTON)
Check out seal colonies and drive along the amazing Kaikoura coastline
We head north and take in the last of the dramatic Kaikoura coastline. It’s a spectacular drive – voted New Zealand’s best – and we stop for a close look at the seals that lay about on the rocks all day long. We make our way to the Picton ferry terminal in time to catch the afternoon sailing to the North Island. Say farewell to the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) and we’re on our way! The ferry ride takes a few hours so chill out and enjoy the view of the amazing Marlborough Sounds!
WELLINGTON TO TAUPO
The Rangitikei region has beautiful rivers and lakes as well as Lord of the Rings landscapes!
We’ve got quite a distance to cover today, so we leave early from Wellington to beat the rush hour traffic. We pass through Taihape, where we drop off and pick up people for River Valley Adventure lodge. Departing Taihape we head to the Central Plateau, home of the Tongariro National Park, where we can drop you off in the township of Turangi if you wish to access it. Then it’s through to Taupo and if the weather suits, it’s time to skydive!
TAUPO TO AUCKLAND (VIA ROTORUA)
Hop-off in Rotorua, or head onwards to the ‘City of Sails’.
This morning we head north to Rotorua, renowned for its Maori heritage and thermal activity in the area. After dropping off passengers in Rotorua, who are spending a night or two here, we stop at Kiwi Encounter, where you can get up close and personal with our national icon – the Kiwi bird. Next, we make our way to Matamata (aka Hobbiton). You can jump off here if you’re a Lord of the Rings nut. Then it’s onwards through the rolling countryside to Auckland, otherwise known as the ‘City of Sails’. We call into the Kiwi Experience office for a chance to purchase merchandise, confirm future bookings or extend your trip even further!
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