This itinerary is for a past tour program.
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If you've ever dreamed of traveling to far away lands and seeing once-in-a-lifetime natural wonders, you simply can't afford to miss New Zealand! This jewel of the South Pacific is a land of diversity, both in landscape and culture. From the stark beauty of the Franz Josef Glacier to the flora and fauna of Rainbow Springs in Rotorua, you will experience the very best New Zealand has to offer. You'll view the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps from the TranzAlpine Railway. You'll sail Milford Sound and explore the Glowworm Grotto in Waitomo. And that's just for starters. Add to the stunning scenery, cultural adventures and magnificent wildlife a comprehensive array of included features, such as great hotels, many meals and plenty of included guided touring, and you've got a vacation that's a winner at a price you won't believe. But don't wait too long to reserve your spot, because at prices like these, our New Zealand Adventure tour is sure to sell out quickly!
Day 2: En Route. Cross the International Date Line and lose one day en route. (You'll make up this day on your return.)
Day 3: Christchurch. Late morning arrival into Christchurch Airport where you will be met by our representative and driver. En route to your hotel, discover why Christchurch is known as the "Garden City" on an orientation sightseeing tour. Enjoy the charm of the award winning botanic gardens and the grandeur of the historic neo-Gothic buildings, which blend gracefully with the modern. See Cathedral Square, Mona Vale and the University of Canterbury, the Avon River and Hagley Park.
Check into your hotel located in the center of the city and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. There are many excellent cafés and restaurants located along the Avon riverbank, adjacent to your hotel. Rydges Christchurch Hotel
Day 4: Christchurch, Arthur's Pass, Franz Josef Glacier. After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the Railway Station and board the Tranzalpine Train for your journey to the Southern Alps. The TranzAlpine is world renowned as "The Great New Zealand Rail Adventure". Crossing the fertile patchwork farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, the TranzAlpine winds its way dramatically up into the mountains through spectacular gorges and river valleys to Arthur's Pass, the highest mountain crossing in New Zealand.
Here you'll find a small village, originally settled by the workers who built the incredible train tunnel that pierces the mountains. Board your coach once again and follow the Otira River down the lush western slopes of the Alps. At Kumara Junction, the native beech forests suddenly give way to the Pacific again, and from here, you'll head south along the pristine West Coast to Franz Josef Glacier.
Regarded as the gem of New Zealand’s glaciers, Franz Josef originates from a snow field high in the Southern Alps, 2700 m above sea level, plunging down a steep valley into the lush greenery of Westland’s National Park, just above sea level. The steep gradient and surrounding rainforest and waterfalls make the Franz Josef one of the most spectacular glacier viewing sites in the world. Be on the lookout for the native Kea birds, large alpine parrots who are as cheeky and intelligent as they are inquisitive. Glacier Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 5: Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier & Queenstown. Depart Franz Josef and travel to nearby Fox Glacier, another of the most accessible glaciers in the world. From here, on a clear day, you can see Aoraki/ Mount Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain at 3754 meters. Continue through the forests of red and white pine and rustic mining towns which recall the boom of New Zealand's gold rush in the 1860's. A sudden turn in the road returns you to the Pacific at Bruce Bay, where you'll find a pristine, deserted beach that you won't want to leave.
Carry on past tranquil Lakes Paringa and Moeraki, home of the Potuku (white heron), to the tiny settlement of Haast. Venture back over the Alps through Haast Pass, en route catching a glimpse of Mt. Brewster Glacier, then down a long, gentle descent to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Nestled at the south end of the lakes and at the foot of some of New Zealand's best snowfields is the quaint and beautiful town of Wanaka, a favorite vacation spot for New Zealanders. Continue over the undulating countryside and skirt picturesque Lake Hayes to descend via the Lower Shotover Bridge to the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. Copthorne Lakefront Hotel Breakfast provided.
Day 6: Queenstown. Today is free to relax and explore this pristine region at your leisure. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown enjoys a magnificent setting amid pockets of native bush and steep mountain ranges. Most noteworthy are the jagged peaks of the Remarkables Range, which Lord of the Rings fans will recognize from many scenes in the trilogy, as well as various other sites around the town.
Lake Wakatipu was scooped out by glacial action thousands of years ago. A mysterious phenomenon causes the lake to vary several inches in depth every few minutes, giving credence to a Maori legend of an ancient Taniwha (demon) still breathing beneath the surface.
Queenstown is a year-round alpine resort that caters to all interests, features over 100 restaurants, and yet is compact enough to travel around on foot. Your hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of the center of town, and your hotel offers many activities for your pleasure, including swimming, horseback riding, ballooning and many other adventures. If you can, catch a ride on the mountain-side gondola for a shortcut to breathtaking views over the town, lake and peaks. Your guide will be happy to make other suggestions, and several optional tours will be available as well. Breakfast provided.
Day 7: Queenstown & Milford Sound. After breakfast, depart Queenstown and skirt the lake under the shadow of the Remarkables until you arrive at the township of Five Rivers. Turn off the main highway towards Mossburn and into the tussock covered hills. At the highest point, there are magnificent views of the mountains of Fiordland to the north, south and west. After a few miles the wide panorama of Lake Te Anau comes into view, the largest body of freshwater in Australasia.
Depart Te Anau and follow the valley of the Eglinton River into a magnificent beech forest before descending into the dramatic Hollyford Valley. Tussock and scrub replace the bush as the road climbs steadily upwards until the steep peaks close in. Here, the road dives underground through the legendary Homer Tunnel, a long narrow portal cut right through the mountain. Emerging from the dark tunnel, you'll find yourself in the magnificent Cleddau Canyon, a forested valley hemmed in between towering rock faces and hundreds of waterfalls spilling down to the valley floor. Only a few kilometers further, the valley opens up to the magnificent fjords of Milford Sound.
On arrival, board your boat for a cruise on Milford Sound all the way to the Tasman Sea. The luxury vessel stops at various points and offers excellent viewing of waterfalls, rainforest and wildlife. The cruise is accompanied by comprehensive commentaries. Complimentary tea and coffee are available onboard. After your cruise, board your coarch and return to your hotel in Queenstown. Breakfast provided.
Day 8: Queenstown, Aoraki/Mt. Cook & Ashburton. After breakfast, depart for Mt. Cook and Ashburton.
Follow the Kawarau River to Cromwell and travel over the Lindis Pass to Omarama. Enjoy magnificent views of the rugged Southern Alps and the surrounding, glacial formed terrain. Pass Twizel, the location of a large hydroelectric plant, to reach Lake Pukaki. Follow the shores of the lake into the heartland of Mt. Cook National Park, which encompasses 15 peaks, all towering over 3000 m. The settlement of Mount Cook is nestled at the head of the Tasman River, providing visitors with access to the spectacular mountains or the native bush covering the lower slopes.
Enjoy a short stop at Mount Cook Village before continuing your journey across the Mackenzie Country passing by Lake Tekapo where you will make a stop at the historic Church of the Good Shepherd. You will then descend Burkes Pass and the foothills of South Canterbury before arriving in the rural town of Fairlie and Geraldine. The main road from the south is met at the Orari River and from here you will continue northwards to Ashburton, the centre of a large sheep and wheat farming area. Here you will be met by your farm hosts. Your accommodation this evening will be in the private home of this New Zealand family. Your meals will be included for the duration of your stay while you have the opportunity to learn about daily life of a New Zealand farmer and perhaps share some of the chores! Farmstay. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 9: Ashburton, Christchurch, Rotorua. Say farewell to your hosts this morning as you regroup in Ashburton and depart for your short journey across the Canterbury Plains. Arrive in Christchurch and board your flight to Rotorua. On arrival you will be met by your driver and depart on a sightseeing tour of Rotorua which will include Rainbow Springs and the Agrodome Stage Show.
At Rainbow Springs, take a tour through the park which displays Rainbow Trout in their various stages of development and is involved in the preservation of New Zealand's national heritage. Some of the other birdlife in the park include pigeons, pukekos, keas, kakarikis, moreporks, paradise ducks, wekas and harrier hawks. Rainbow Springs contains over 135 different native trees and ferns, from 60 foot tall tree ferns to tiny delicate maidenhair ferns. Take the opportunity to view a live "kiwi", New Zealand's naturally elusive national emblem, or hand feed and photograph the tame rainbow trout swimming in crystal clear pools.
The next visit is to the Agrodome, where the stars of the show are the 19 rams of different breeds. You will witness demonstrations of sheep shearing, a "huntaway" sheep-dog as a commentator describes the different commercial uses for each breed of sheep and the various grades of wool. A dairying display follows, during which those who wish may try their hand at milking a cow. Travel to your hotel to check-in and freshen up.
This evening, transfer to Te Puia, where you will be guided through the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute which gives an insight into Maori customs and history. While in the Whakarewarewa thermal reserve you will view shooting steam geysers and bubbling mud pools. Following your tour, a welcome ceremony will be performed which will grant you entry into the meeting house as women chant a welcome.
The performance in Te Aronui a Rua (house of learning) commences with an explanation of the main features of the meeting house, the playing of typical musical instruments, the use of poi, weapons, songs, games and dances. You will then be guided by a Maori host to view and try your own hand at various activities.
Day 10: Rotorua, Waitomo, Auckland. This morning your journey crosses over the bush-clad Mamaku Range through the Fitzgerald Glade to an area of planted pine forests, the most notable being Putaruru with its rapidly growing timber milling industry. Pass by the Arapuni hydro plant, to the provincial farming centers of Kihikihi and Otorohanga, situated in the richest dairying region in New Zealand. From the turn off at Hangatiki it's a short drive to Waitomo.
At Waitomo, enjoy a guided tour that will take you through over 250 meters of stunning underground scenery commencing with the impressive Cathedral with its amazing acoustics. The tour then proceeds along a low narrow passage to a tomo, a deep limestone shaft. Other magnificent cave formations are viewed including the Banquet Chamber, the Pipe Organ and the Catacombs. The highlight of the tour is an unrivalled boat trip through the spectacular Glowworm Grotto. Glide silently through the grotto while the roof sparkles with the blue-green lights of glowworm larvae, with their constellations reflecting off the water.
Afterwards, travel north through Ngaruawahia, home to the Maori King, and Huntly, one of New Zealand's most important coal mining centers. Continue on through the rolling farmlands of the Waikato River Valley, across the Bombay Hills, to join the Southern Motorway for a direct run through to Auckland. Sky City Grand Hotel Breakfast provided.
Day 11: Depart Auckland/Arrive USA. This morning is at leisure to explore Auckland, New Zealand's biggest and most cosmopolitan city, and perhaps its most beautiful. Built on the rolling hills of a meandering peninsula, surrounding a gorgeous harbor filled with sailboats, the city has been dubbed the "city of sails". Explore the downtown hub of Queen Street or any of the other charming districts, all laden with cozy cafés, lush parks and historic architecture.
This afternoon, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Auckland, including the Auckland Memorial Museum, reputed to have one of the largest and most significant collections of Maori artifacts in the world. You will also view the harbor suburbs and enjoy magnificent views of Auckland from Mt. Eden.
Continue on to Auckland Airport, where our representative will assist with your departure. Bid farewell as you board your early evening flight. Your exciting journey comes to an end as you touch down in Los Angeles later today.
For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about New Zealand, click here.
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