Three Week Best of New Zealand Vacation Itinerary

 21 Day Leisurely Discovery Tour

Hello Auckland!

‘Haere Mai’ … Welcome to New Zealand

We will meet you at the airport and drive you directly to your hotel to freshen up and unwind. Make the most of some free leisure time in the 'City of Sails' - simply relax or take this opportunity to explore the many sights of Auckland. This evening we suggest you head down to the viaduct for dinner.

Some Activities and sightseeing options if you have time:

Explore Waiheke Island    Island Kayaking Adventure    America’s Cup Sailing
Auckland's Sky TowerRelax on the BeachRangitoto Island Cruise & Walk
West Coast Wine TourWhale and Dolphin SafariMuriwai Surf Beach

Accommodation: Auckland - 1 night

Auckland Waterfront

Within a stones throw of the Britomart & Harbour side entertainment and dining precinct - your stay in Auckland will be a memorable one. Fully equipped modern serviced one, two and three bedroom apartments are perfect for short or long term stays within Auckland City. Full kitchen and laundry facilities allow you the freedom to stay as if you had never left home. Newly refurbished hotel rooms are perfect for shorter stays.

Nesuto Stadium Apartments, Located in Auckland Central Business District.


Rotorua / Hangi & Concert

This morning head to the heartland of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is host to some of the world’s most incredible geothermal forces. Geysers and clouds of steam are dotted around the city and the unmistakable smell of sulphur gives the city an otherworldly feel.

Discover the heart of Maori culture in New Zealand at Te Puia. This is also one of the most geothermally active environments in the country and Te Puia's 70 hectare park in the beautiful Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley is right in the heart of the action. Restless forces boil to the surface in the enchanting, superheated mud pools and hot springs and geysers gush hot steam and water in spectacular fashion. The famous Pohutu Geyser erupts approximately every 20 minutes and bursts reach heights of 30m (100ft). Silica terraces, native bush and birdlife and a wonderful insight into Maori culture and tradition rounds off a fascinating and memorable experience.

In the evening, you will experience an entertaining Maori Cultural Performance. Enjoy a traditionally cooked hangi meal steamed under ground. During the cultural performance, you'll learn about the Maoris past, see their carvings and ta moko (tattoo art).

Approximate Distance: 230 km | 143 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 

Accommodation: Rotorua - 2 nights

Located only a short way from the town centre and the lake front, our motel in Rotorua has been independently assessed by Qualmark as 4 star quality accommodation. Easy to find on Lake Road and from the moment you arrive, you'll enjoy the convenience of being located in close proximity to the nearby aquatic centre, the CBD, shops, entertainment and other activities.
Bella Vista


Waimangu Geothermal Walk and Lake Rotomahana Cruise

This is a great half-day geothermal and nature experience, beginning with a walking tour along the Waimangu Volcanic Valley Crater walkway (this is mainly downhill and flat). There are shuttle buses to transfer from the valley to the Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise.

Enjoy the 45-minute cruise voyaging around the beautiful lake. This is a protected Wildlife Refuge and scenic reserve. Allow 3 hours for the walk and boat cruise.

Waimangu Cruise


Rotorua to Wellington via Lake Taupo

The Thermal Explorer Highway guides you to the Central North Island and the largest body of freshwater in the Southern Hemisphere - Lake Taupo. follow its shores south and climb up to the spectacular Desert Road into the Tongariro National Park where a dramatic alpine vista unfolds, crowned by the imposing volcanic peaks of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngaruahoe. Continue along the Kapiti Coast to Wellington.

Approximate Distance: 455 km | 283 miles  Total Driving Time: 6 hours

Accommodation: Wellington - 2 nights

Citylife Wellington offers modern 4-star accommodation in the heart of Wellington’s trendy shopping area of Lambton Quay and within easy walking distance of tourist attractions and cultural landmarks. Enjoy a fully equipped fitness centre and free WiFi. Guests can choose between studios with open-plan sleeping and living areas, or larger 1 and 2-bedroom apartments with separate living rooms and kitchens. All rooms include a flat-screen TV and kitchenette.
Citylife Wellington


Day at Leisure – Visit Te Papa

Wellington is the nation’s capital city. A magnificent landscape of steep-sided hills sits beside a beautiful harbour, and the city itself bustles with a vibrant creative culture. Renowned for its eclectic, arty atmosphere, Wellington is a real kiwi cultural treat and numerous galleries and character-filled shops line its colourful streets. The Museum of New Zealand 'Te Papa' is full of national treasures and sits beside the water in the downtown area of the city centre - well worth a visit. Wellington is also famous for having some of New Zealand's best restaurants - gourmet dining experiences here are truly world-class. Culture, cuisine and scenic beauty abound in New Zealand’s iconic capital.

Some suggested activities and outings

National Museum - Te Papa    Visit Cuba StreetWeta Workshop Tour
Zealandia Wildlife Reserve 

Wellington Cable Car   

Carter Observatory 
Cafe scene Wellington


Fly to Blenheim and Drive to Kaikoura

Return your rental vehicle to Wellington Airport and fly to Blenheim where you will collect your next rental vehicle on arrival. Blenheim is the winemaking engine room of the New Zealand wine industry. In the 1970's the plains would have been filled by sheep - now it  is vines as far as the eye can see, producing world class wines.

Drive to Kaikoura
The vines will keep you company as you reach the headlands of the East Coast. Once down on the flats this road - (worthy of any big budget car commercial) hugs the coastline - make sure you stop to enjoy the marine life as the New Zealand Fur Seals bask and play along the rocky shoreline, before arriving in gorgeous Kaikoura. The Kaikoura peninsula enjoys a mild microclimate and is overlooked by majestic snowcapped mountains. This unique proximity of ocean and mountain range offers a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including whale watching, dolphin and seal swimming, kayaking, fishing and hiking.

Approximate Distance: 130 km 81 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours

Accommodation: Kaikoura - 2 nights

Marlborough Vineyards
Bella Vista Motel Kaikoura offers stunning views of Kaikoura and the mountains. The center of town, with many restaurants and activities is a 5 minute walk away. The modern rooms are all self-contained, have private bathrooms, cable TV and heating. All rooms feature high-speed internet connections and are serviced daily. Facilities include a guest laundry, outside barbecue area and plenty of on-site parking.
Bella Vista


Whale Watching Scenic Flight

For a birds eye view of giant humpback and the mighty sperm whale, go whale aeroplane! It's the best way to view whales and Kaikouras mighty mountains and in a typical 30-minute flight you will see the majestic sperm whale getting ready for his next dive. Pods of up to 500 Dusky Dolphins playfully swimming are often spotted. Sightings can include the southern right, humpback, fin, sei, brydes, pilot, southern bottlenose, and blue. Other visitors can include the common, hectors, risso's and southern right whale, dolphins, and orca.
Flying over Kaikoura Peninsula, you can see evidence of ancient Maori fortifications (Pa sites), the township of Kaikoura, and New Zealand Fur Seals relaxing on the rocks. During favourable conditions, passengers can enjoy a spectacular flight over the 2800m (9186 ft) high Seaward Kaikoura Ranges.



Travel to Christchurch

Leaving Kaikoura and the coast, you will head inland towards the rural Canterbury Plains on your way to Christchurch the South Island's largest city. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Christchurch is known as the "Garden City", blessed with beautiful parks and gardens right in the heart of town.

Why not step back to Edwardian times with a relaxing Private Punting Trip down the Avon River? It's a wonderful introduction to the "Garden City". Gliding gently along the river in a flat-bottomed boat, you will take in Christchurch's 'must-see' historic buildings and Botanic Gardens away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Some other Activities Options for Christchurch

Easygoing Cycling Tour  Punting the Avon River  Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural EveningFrench Akaroa TourSouthern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch GondolaClearwater GolfArthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike

Approximate Distance: 180 km | 112 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 Night

The Quest Christchurch is located just off Cathedral Square in the heart of the commercial, arts and tourist precinct. This purpose built property is on Christchurch's famous inner city tram loop and features a mix of new and heritage architecture. Incorporated in the complex are a variety of retail shops, cafes and restaurants. All apartments have free Wi-Fi & fully equipped kitchens.
Quest Hotel in Christchurch


Christchurch to Mt Cook - StarGazing

Leave the city today westwards through the Canterbury plains, you will find a superb location for some great photos at Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is one of three significant, neighboring lakes that border the Mackenzie Valley in New Zealand's South Island. Golden tussock grass carpets the surrounding hillside and roll away into the distance where the Southern Alps frame the horizon. The charming 'Church of the Good Shepherd' sits alone on its shores and the views to our highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook are remarkable. 

But it gets even better, recently earmarked as one of only three Grade 1 “Dark Sky Reserves” in the world, the Aoraki Mt Cook will show you an unforgettable night sky exposing the Milky Way Galaxy, Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri and more.  Your expert guides will get an insight into our universe and beyond, through both telescope and specialized binoculars...

Approximate Distance: 330 km | 206 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours 30 Minutes

Accommodation: Mt Cook Village - 2 nights

Mt Cook National Park
Situated in the iconic Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, Mt Cook Lodge & Motels offers a selection of accommodation types from backpacker styled dorms, cosy chalets to newly refurbished and contemporary self-contained motel units. All rooms include ensuite bathrooms, quality linen, fridge and a patio or balcony so you can soak up the stunning mountain views. Chill out in the Chamois Bar & Grill, a favourite of travellers and locals alike.
Mt Cook Lodge & Motels


Tasman Glacier Explorer

Experience the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake and its icebergs, in the National Park. A unique guided experience departing Mt Cook village by bus to the beautiful Tasman Valley followed by a 1/2hr gentle alpine walk. Board our MAC boat, and explore the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, where you will discover the ever-changing ice face of the Glacier and icebergs. Have you ever been alongside, discovered or touched an iceberg?

Glacier Explorer


Travel to Dunedin

Heading South: Making your way to Dunedin starts with a drive down the beautiful Waitaki Valley to visit Oamaru. While its façade is strictly of the Victorian era with ornately decorated grand white stone buildings that once housed upstanding banks, hotels and restaurants - the locals are bohemians artisans, creative’s and antiquarians who run ‘out-there’ galleries, museums, shops, and venues – it has to be seen to be believed and you'll love it.

Dunedin - Scottish City of Grace and Grandeur
It is for good reason that New Zealand's oldest city is known as the 'Edenborough of the South' - Dunedin comes from Dun Eideann the Scots-Gaelic name for Edinburgh, founded largely by Scottish immigrants, who raised the impressive buildings which now add much to the city's charm. 

Approximate Distance: 320 km | 198 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours  

Accommodation: Dunedin - 2 nights

858 George Street is an architecturally designed Award Winning motel complex capturing the essence of the George Street character. 13 luxury studio, family and executive units located on George Street, Dunedin. Just minutes walk to city shops, university, hospital,restaurants and the Forsyth Barr Stadium. All units serviced daily. In-room spa baths (2 rooms), Sky select 50+ channels, Continental breakfast available.


Otago Peninsula Wildlife Cruise

Today cruise the length of the Otago Harbour. Experience an unforgettable half day cruise and peninsula tour and explore Careys Bay historic fishing village, Port Chalmers’ busy wharves and the harbour’s beautiful bays, hills, farmland and forest. Enjoy Monarch’s fascinating Wildlife Cruise around Taiaroa Head and the surrounding coastline of dramatic cliffs. Watch the NZ Furseals play and swim near their breeding colonies, out at sea you can spot rarely seen ocean birds including other albatross species and petrels, and you may see penguins, dolphins and other marine mammals.

Dunedin wildlife cruise


Te Anau - Gateway to Fiordland

Te Anau is an area of breathtaking natural beauty, and several key Lord of The Rings movie scenes were filmed amid the unspoiled forests and lakes of this region. Immerse yourselves in the gorgeous surroundings: flight-seeing, fly fishing, kayaking, sailing and horse riding are all on offer and are great ways to get up close to nature. 

Glowworm Caves

Start with a cruise across spectacular Lake Te Anau to a remote section of the lake with the entrance to the caves hidden by a large and beautiful native forest. By geological standards the caves are young (12,000 years) and are still being carved by the river that flows through them.

The system is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with beautifully sculpted rock, underground waterfalls complete with whirlpools. The quite top section of the system houses a series of small lakes, here you will be taken by small boat pulled along by rope into a silent hidden grotto’s inhabited by thousands of small glow-worms. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a magical display almost like you are staring up at the Milky Way that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Approximate Distance: 290 km | 180 miles  Total Driving Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Accommodation: Te Anau - 2 Nights

Te Anau
Rooms at Motel Edgewater are a mix of superior and standard rooms complete with a small kitchenette, toaster and microwave. Some rooms enjoy panoramic views over Lake Te Anau and the mountains of Fiordland National Park. Featuring free WiFi, this motel is located less than 5 minutes’ walk from tranquil Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland World Heritage National Park. Edgewater Motel provides 3-star accommodation and free private parking.
Edgewater Te Anau


Cruise Majestic Doubtful Sound

Transfer to Manapouri this morning for a very special cruise in one of New Zealand's most remote and beautiful wilderness areas: Doubtful Sound.

Larger and deeper than better-known Milford Sound, Doubtful is by far the quieter of the two. A visit to its isolated splendor is a peaceful, almost religious experience. Being so remote, getting here is half of the fun!

After a leisurely cruise across picturesque Lake Manapouri you'll travel by road over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove, where you will board your trusty cruise vessel, The Patea Explorer. You'll find spacious deck areas perfect for viewing the cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife, rainforest, and mountains of Doubtful Sound.

An onboard nature guide will answer questions, point out landmarks, and provide you with information about the varied wildlife you may encounter. Dolphins, fur seals, and the rare Fiordland crested penguin are among the many non-human visitors to this impossibly vast, secluded wilderness paradise.

Let the majesty of Doubtful Sound unfold before you and take your breath away.

This is a coach cruise coach - return to Te Anau

doubtful sound


Queenstown & Steamer to High Country Farm

Take your time heading to Queenstown today: you won't want to miss the spectacular scenery as it transforms from rugged ranges and mirror lakes to the winding Kawarau River Gorge. You will finally emerge into the lush green farmland surrounding Queenstown, your destination.

This Evening: Cruise across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station aboard the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a gourmet barbecue dinner prepared in front of you at the Colonel’s Homestead. After dinner enjoy a short farm tour before reboarding the Earnslaw for a sing-along by the piano as you sail back to Queenstown.

Approximate Distance: 175 km | 108 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Accommodation: Queenstown - 2 Nights


Just 8 minutes walk into the heart of Queenstown you will find the Alexis Motel and Apartments, surrounded by majestic alpine scenery and spectacular views across Lake Wakatipu. Choose from a variety of self contained one bedroom apartments, two bedroom apartments and studio suites

Alexis Motel and Apartments


River Wilderness Safari into Mt Aspiring National Park

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage, and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, our Wilderness Jet, half-day adventure takes you on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

You’ll experience a unique combination of breath-taking scenery and an exhilarating ride as we follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat with exciting 360 degree spins along the way. Your guides give you their authentic touch, talking about the area’s rich history, the Greenstone trail and countless Maori legends. We’ll also take the chance to tie up the boat and let you walk amongst the ancient beech tree forests – an atmosphere you may recognize from The Lord of the Rings films. It’s a complete Queenstown to Glenorchy experience in an untouched natural wonderland.




Lake Wanaka Cruise & Island Wildlife Walk

Today you'll tour the Isle of Mou Waho, one of only five islands to be found in the vastness of Lake Wanaka. Accessible only by a 35-minute boat cruise, Mou Waho is an island nature reserve with a difference. With no predators or pests roaming here, New Zealand's rare & endangered species can live in peace, giving you the opportunity to observe them up close. Walking with a long-time local guide, the well-formed track leads you through the native bush to Tyrwhitt Peak.

Here you will find Arethusa Pool, a beautiful miniature lake with small islands within it. Impress your friends by telling them you have visited an island in a lake, inside an island in a lake, inside an island in the ocean! From Tyrwhitt Peak, you'll be spellbound by the 360-degree views of Lake Wanaka surrounding you, and the mountains beyond. Don't forget your swimwear: on a hot day, it's hard to resist a swim in Mou Waho's cool clear waters.

Approximate Distance: 70 km | 43 miles  Total Driving Time: 1 hour 15 mins

Accommodation: Wanaka - 1 Night

Lake Wanaka
Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka is located in a quiet street in the heart of Wanaka. The motel is only 150 m away from the lake and within easy walking distance there are many restaurants, cafes and wine bars. Rooms are fully-serviced, with heating and electric blankets. Free off-street parking is available as well as a lock-up garage for motorbikes. Guests have access to laundry facilities and free WiFi. Continental breakfast is available on request.
Bella Vista Wanaka


Wanaka to Franz Josef - Glacier Country

Continue today to Franz Josef and travel along the rugged West Coast Road and over the Haast Pass. Discover the rich alpine rainforest as you journey through this historic region. Through the Gates of Haast is a lost world that’s so spectacular and remote UNESCO designated it a World Heritage area.

Franz Josef village is small (only 500 locals) and is located only ten minutes from the Glacier. The Franz Josef is a glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south it is a unique in the fact that it descends from the Southern Alps to just 200 metres above sea level amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.

Approximate Distance: 285 km | 177 miles  Total Driving Time: 4 hours

Accommodation: Franz Josef Village - 2 nights

West Coast Glacier
At Punga Grove, all of our stylish accommodation is set amidst the native Franz Josef rainforest. Our mountainside motel has been designed to maximise the beauty of the greenery with decks, outdoor areas and conservatory windows virtually putting you deep in the rainforest. All apartments include a fully equipped kitchen.
Punga Grove


Franz Josef Glacier Heli Hike

Experience the trip of a lifetime. After an exhilarating scenic heli-flight, above the rugged terrain, you will land high up on Franz Josef Glacier ready to undertake a two hour guided hike amongst some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring glacier scenery available. Your experienced guide will lead you on to the glistening blue ice, with spectacular ice formations, towering peaks, crevasses, and accessible iridescent blue ice caves. There are plenty of photo opportunities, and the chance to learn more about this magnificent (constantly moving) glacier. 

Franz J Heli Hike


TranzAlpine Train Journey

This morning travel to Greymouth where you will board the TranzAlpine to Christchurch. The TranzAlpine Train, renowned as one of the great train journeys of the world. Descend through spectacular gorges, river valleys and over massive viaducts before completing your journey at Christchurch.

Approximate Distance: 175 kms | 108 miles  Total Driving Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Accommodation: Christchurch - 1 night

The Quest Christchurch is located just off Cathedral Square in the heart of the commercial, arts and tourist precinct. This purpose built property is on Christchurch's famous inner city tram loop and features a mix of new and heritage architecture. Incorporated in the complex are a variety of retail shops, cafes and restaurants. All apartments have free Wi-Fi & fully equipped kitchens.
Quest Hotel in Christchurch


Goodbye! and Bon Voyage!

"Haere rā" Goodbye! and Bon Voyage!

Transfer to Christchurch Airport where you will board your onward flight, taking with you the magical memories of a truly exceptional New Zealand holiday.

Some suggested activities if you have time

Easygoing Cycling Tour  Punting the Avon River  Lyttelton Harbour Wildlife Cruise
Māori Cultural EveningFrench Akaroa TourSouthern Alps Ballooning
Christchurch GondolaClearwater GolfArthur's Pass TranzAlpine Hike

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What Gina says about this tour: The Leisurely Three Week Best of New Zealand Vacation Itinerary is a comprehensive look at both the North and South Island of New Zealand. Spend a relaxing 2 nights in those must-see locations and experience those must-do activities.
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