Duration: 28 days – 27 nights
Itinerary: Auckland to Queenstown
Tour type: Self-drive
This is a journey into New Zealand natural and wild world. With a focus on wildlife and the natural environment, this itinerary will enchant travellers who want to get off the beaten track and want to deepen their understanding of New Zealand Natural Environment. We’ll expose you to New Zealand Natural Beauty and its challenges, whilst spotting New Zealand Wildife.
- Off the beaten-track destinations
- In depth touring of both Islands
- Focus on New Zealand Wildlife and Nature
- Explore with your own private Hybrid car
- A hands-on volunteering day in Queenstown
- A chance to see Little spotted Kiwi in the wild
- 5 wildlife guided tours with expert Nature guides
- Accommodation in a mix of B&B, wilderness lodges and glamping cabins
- Meals as per itinerary
- Car rental with full insurance and GPS
- Ferry crossing between Wellington and Picton
- Tour inclusions as per itinerary (private and small group)
- One day volunteering at Wakatipu Reforestation Trust
- New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- E-documentation from Greenz Travel
- 24/7 assistance in the country
Day 1 – Arrival – Auckland
Kia Ora and Welcome to Aotearoa, New Zealand!
On arrival in Auckland airport, collect your Hybrid car rental (model Toyota Camry Hybrid or similar).
Take a leisurely drive to the North Shore to your accommodation.
Established over a narrow isthmus between the Tasman sea and the Pacific Ocean, Auckland city is blessed with two natural harbours, 25,000km of coastline and many beaches. The city is resolutely turned to the sea, as the many yachts dotting the city attest, giving it the nickname of ‘’City of Sails’’.
By far the largest city in the country, with a culturally diverse population of 1.5 million, Auckland remains the trade capital despite losing its position as seat of Government in 1865.
Today, Auckland faces modern challenges due to a rapidly increasing population, an underdeveloped public transport system and one of the most expensive real estate in the world. But the city is looking into the future, and with forward thinking initiatives aims at becoming one of the most liveable cities in the world and an example of balanced city life where the vibrancy of the city lets in the healing power of the natural environment.
Accommodation: Warblers Retreat – 2 nights
Includes continental provisions
Day 2 – Auckland and Tiritiri Matangi
Distance: 35km / 40min (each way)
Today take a short drive to Whangaparoa peninsula to board your ferry to Bird lover’s Island Tiritiri Matangi.
360 Discovery – return ferry to Tiritiri Matangi
Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of New Zealand’s most important and exciting conservation projects. A hundred and twenty years of farming had seen this 220-hectare island stripped of 94% of its native bush but between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 native trees as well as work on the eradication of all mammalian predators. The result is now a thriving population of threatened and endangered birds and reptile species, including the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the tuatara. There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.
Enjoy a guided walk with an expert Nature guide!
Day 3 – Auckland – Coromandel Peninsula
Distance: 175km / 2 hours and 30 minutes
This morning leave the shore of Auckland for the Coromandel Peninsula.
The Coromandel is only a short distance from Auckland as the crow flies but the drive will take you just under 3 hours, on winding, yet stunning country and costal roads! With a mountainous interior cloaked in native rainforest and more than 400 kilometres of dazzling white sand beaches, the Coromandel is rustic, relaxed and is Aucklander’s favourite summer playground!
Accommodation: Serenity Retreat (Glamping) – 2 nights
Day 4 – Coromandel Peninsula
Kiwi Dundee – 1 day Coromandel circuit (full day – small group tour)
Kiwi Dundee Adventures is recognised as one of New Zealand’s top guiding companies and have make the decision to keep the company small & personalised to ensure visitors receive an incomparable experience. The company has been involved in eco-tourism since 1975 and won the New Zealand inaugural Eco Tourism Award.
On this day trip, you will tour the peninsula with your guide and fellow travellers. Enjoy a ride over the rugged Coromandel ranges through to the old gold-mining town of Thames and Coromandel, enjoy a gentle walk in a semi tropical rainforest to see giant Kauri trees and marvel at mountain and coastal scenery stopping at amazing photo stops.
Enjoy a delightful lunch at a quaint cafe.
In the afternoon, take a ride on a narrow-gauge train through regenerating forest to an incredible view point of Coromandel town, the harbour and islands right across to Auckland in the distance.
Day 5 – Coromandel Peninsula – Rotorua
Distance: 190km / 2 hours and 30 minutes
Rotorua lies at the heart of Pacific ring of fire and is the centre of an extensive thermal region. Its geysers, bubbling mud pools and steaming, sulphurous lakes give evidence of nature’s frightening yet fascinating power.
In Rotorua you will see the earth come alive! The city is also surrounded by wonderful lakes and native forests and is an incredible outdoor playground as well as being the centre of modern Maori Culture.
Te Puia – Te Ra, day time experience (shared guided tour)
Follow your Maori guide as you explore Te Whakarewarewa, a 60 hectare Geothermal Valley, showcasing the famous Rotorua mud pools and over 500 geothermal wonders, including the Pohutu Geyser, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser!
Learn about traditional Māori Carving and Weaving as residence artists perform their Art before your eyes and hear ancestral stories of the Māori settlement in Rotorua.
90 minutes guided tour.
Kiwi Encounter – Behind the scene (private tour)
Kiwi Encounter is a working nursery and hatchery. Eggs are brought to us from the wild and when they have hatched, and the Kiwis are large enough to protect themselves from predators, they are released back into the wild. Learn all about the efforts of our team, discover what it takes to hatch a chick and if you’re lucky, see baby chicks in person!
Every Behind the Scenes Tour booked is a 100% donation to our kiwi conservation program, which helps ensure our ability to research, house and feed these precious birds so that we can continue to play a vital role in their survival.
Duration: 30 minutes
Accommodation: Koura Lodge – 2 nights
Day 6 – Rotorua
Foris – Whirinaki forest walk (full day – small group)
Rotorua hiking at its best. Whirinaki is an icon of NZ ecology. It is simply the best example of lowland podocarp forest left on earth. These forests are renowned for ancient trees, rich biodiversity and stunning scenery.
Day 7 – Rotorua – Tongariro
Distance: 205km – 2 hours and 35 minutes
Today, travel to Tongariro National Park. This is New Zealand’s first national park and has three active volcanoes. The three peaks were gifted by a local chief to the people of New Zealand in 1887. Today Tongariro National Park also has international recognition with natural and cultural World Heritage Status.
Lava rocks, active craters, “tapu” (sacred) hot springs, lakes, forest and tussock make up many of the scenic attractions to the park.
Accommodation: Nightysky Cottage – 2 nights
Day 8 – Tongariro National Park
Today choose one the following optional activities.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing (small group or private)
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known as one of the best 1-day walks in the world.
The track ventures between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro National Park. These volcanos are still active and the hike is a view into their growth and destruction.
Mt Tongariro last erupted from Te Maari Crater in 2012 and Mt Ngauruhoe’s last was in 1975. The landscape on Mt Tongariro is peppered with craters that have been active at different periods. The track leads through the perfectly flat moonscape of South Crater; climbs to the edge of Red Crater; skirts around Central Crater; and then leads down past the steaming Te Maari Crater. There are scoured volcanic rocks, lava flows frozen in time, mountain springs and brightly coloured emerald lakes. No matter what the weather, this is a hike of a lifetime!
OR Old Coach Road Half Day Guided Mountain Bike (small group or private)
Journey back in time, riding along the historic cobblestone Coach Road through a bush corridor on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu. On this exciting adventure track, you will see magnificent native Rimu trees, native falcons screaming through the air, pigeons flying between the tree tops, the curved steel lattice of the Hapuawhenua Viaduct and the old railway tunnel.
This grade 2 cycleway is appropriate for all, including family groups with young children and those a little older with limited fitness.
Day 9 – Tongariro National Park – Kapiti Island
Distance: 245km / 3 hours
Today leave the central North Island and head down to the coast.
In the early afternoon, catch the ferry from the mainland to the small Kapiti Island. The first day of your visit will start with a tour of the island.
Kapiti Island is an internationally renowned sanctuary for New Zealand native birds, native forest and New Zealand wildlife and marine reserve. The island lies 5km off the coast, just one hour’s drive north of Wellington. It is 10km long and around 2km wide and it covers 1,965 hectares.
The Island is a nature reserve – an area set aside for the protection of native plants and native birds, and where human influence is monitored and kept to a bare minimum.
Kapiti Island is blessed with an abundance of native and endangered species like Little Spotted Kiwi, Takahe, and the cheeky Kaka who have not survived so well on the mainland. Kapiti is one of the oldest and most secure publicly accessible nature reserves in the world. Free of all introduced pests and predators, visitors can expect to see many endemic bird species that are already extinct on the mainland.
After the tour, you will be transferred to your accommodation by ferry.
Settle and enjoy your cooked dinner before setting off on a night-time guided Kiwi spotting walk with an experienced and knowledgeable guide.
Overnight kiwi spotting
Enjoy an introductory talk and welcome from one of our experienced nature guides. Seeing Kiwi in their natural habitat is an experience not to be missed. Kapiti Island is home to over 1,200 Little Spotted Kiwi, making it the most prolific population to be found, and one of the most reliable opportunities to see them in the wild.
Accommodation: Kapiti Island Tour Camp – 1 nights
Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner (you will need a packed lunch for day one)
Day 10 – Kapiti – Wellington – Motueka
Distance: 255km / 3 hours 30 minutes of driving + 3.5 hour ferry crossing
Early this morning, you will ferry back to the mainland.
Drive to Wellington and board your ferry for your journey across the Cook Straight.
This is a 3-hour crossing between Wellington and Picton. The 92km voyage has been described as “one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world”.
Upon arrival in Picton, drive to the artistic seaside city of Nelson and to your hotel in the Riwaka Valley.
Accommodation: Resurgence – 3 nights
Includes breakfast and dinner
Day 11 – Motueka – Abel Tasman National Park – Motueka
Distance: 15km / 20 minutes (each way)
Abel Tasman sailing (full day – small group)
Treat yourself to a Full Day sailing tour in New Zealand’s coastal paradise – the Abel Tasman National Park! Either chill out and relax, get involved in the sailing or learn as you go – you decide!
Experience some great sailing, enjoy some stunning beaches and islands, with a full hour to enjoy your lunch and relax on Anchorage Beach. A great opportunity to go swimming or take a short walk and explore the caves.
Visit the Fur Seal Colony, Split Apple Rock, and much more on your return to Kaiteriteri Beach – see all the Abel Tasman National Park highlights on this tour!
Day 12 – Motueka – Kahurangi National Park – Motueka
Alpine Splendour – guided walk (small group– full day)
The access road to Mount Arthur – the second highest mountain in Kahurangi National Park – climbs to almost 1,000 metres and is an awesome activity on its own, affording marvellous views and hinting at what is to follow.
The walk starts with a moderate tramp through towering beech forest to reach the alpine region. During the morning an ever improving and diverse birdlife becomes apparent with Kea, Weka often as low as the carpark then bellbird, the tiny rifleman, tomtit and the fearless bush robin entertain all thanks to the volunteer group Friends of Flora and their trapping programme.
Mid-way up the forest dramatically changes perhaps due to a mineral belt, into predominantly dragon trees or mountain neinei. This is a hugely interesting forest and quite from another world, before returning to beech forest prior to emerging into the alpine region.
Weather conditions and or fitness may determine how far we proceed but within minutes giant granite slabs are reached offering spectacular 360 degree views and hidden amongst these and in crevices is the biggest selection of alpine plants to be found in one area in New Zealand.
This part of Kahurangi National Park is one of New Zealand’s most interesting for visitors, with its impressive mountain and bush scenery, remarkable botany and geology and interesting human stories.
Day 13 – Motueka – Kaikoura
Distance: 290km / 4 hours
Kaikoura received its name from an early Maori explorer and translates as kai (to eat) and koura (crayfish). Today Kaikoura is mostly famous as one of the best places in the world to sight sperm whales and dolphins in huge numbers, thanks to a deep underwater canyon just 500 metres off the coastline and plunging to depths of more than two kilometres at the edge of the continental shelf.
Kaikoura is a stunning destination with contrasting black sand beach and the mountain backdrop.
Accommodation: Manakau PurePod– 2 nights
Includes full breakfast and dinner provisions
Sustainability: The PurePods are solar powered, operating fully off the grid and are deliberately free of a wi-fi connection. Guests can be assured of tranquillity, and a minimal carbon footprint.
Day 14 – Kaikoura
Guided seal kayaking (half-day – small group)
Experience the excitement of watching Fur Seals ducking, weaving and diving around your kayak.
Paddle gently along with them as they swim around the Kaikoura Peninsula hunting for their favourite feed of Octopus. But be sure to keep your distance as they devour their delicious dinner in front of you, then watch in amazement as hundreds of Pelagic (ocean going) birds swoop in to clean up the tasty left-overs.This adventure around the beautiful coastal waters takes in the breathtaking views of sheer cliff faces, craggy rocks and mountain ranges while searching for chance encounters with Dusky Dolphins and Blue Penguins.
This fun tour is suitable for all ages and abilities while operating year-round and doesn’t require any previous kayaking experience.
Day 15 – Kaikoura – Christchurch
Distance: 190km / 2 hours and 35 minutes
Whale watch cruise (shared)
Kaikōura is one of the few places in the world where Sperm Whales can be seen year-round and close to shore. They congregate here because the 3km deep Kaikōura Canyon runs right up against the coast creating a rare system of sea currents that sustain an incredibly rich marine food chain. Sperm Whales are at the top of this food chain and the abundance of fish ensures they make the waters of Kaikōura their home. A Whale Watch® Kaikōura is New Zealand’s ultimate all year-round nature experience offering visitors exciting close encounters with Giant Sperm Whales at an impressive 95% success rate.
Duration: 3 hours
Environment policy: as a Māori-owned company, Whale Watch cherishes the twin values of hospitality to visitors and reverence for the natural world. All Whale Watch vessels are specially designed for whale watching. The modern catamarans are powered by inboard engines and equipped with propulsion units that minimise underwater noise. All on-board toilets are self-contained and never allowed to pollute the sea. Detailed records are kept for each trip, covering personalised identification of every whale seen, its location and any unusual whale behaviour. This information is part of the on-going contribution to scientific research by Whale Watch.
Following your cruise, travel along the East Coast to Christchurch.
New Zealand second biggest city, Christchurch, became infamous in 2011 following several deadly earthquakes which destroyed most of the city stone heritage buildings and deeply affected the soul of its people. Today, visitors can witness a virtual rebirth of the city as demolitions, repairs and rebuilding occur to shape the new and vibrant face of Christchurch.
Accommodation: Eco Villa – 2 nights
Day 16 – Christchurch – Akaroa – Christchurch
Distance: 80km / 1 hour 20 minutes (each way)
Akaroa was established by the French in 1840 and today retains much of its colonial charm and French character.
Akaroa is also one of the rare places where you can watch the critically endangered Hector dolphins, the rarest dolphins with a population estimated at less than 10,000 individuals.
BlackCat Wildlife cruise (shared)
The cruise is fully narrated by your skipper who has extensive knowledge of the nature, wildlife and history of the harbour. The highlight of this trip is undoubtedly the sighting of one of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector’s or New Zealand Dolphin. Also on the trip you will catch glimpses of the White Flippered Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world. You’ll also see the New Zealand Fur Seal sunning themselves on the harbour’s rocks near the entrance at Seal Bay.
Duration: 2 hours
Day 17 – Christchurch – Otiake
Distance: 290km / 3 hours 30 minutes
Oamaru is the largest town of the Waitaki District and has one of the country’s oldest public gardens, a wonderful renowned Victorian architecture and two penguin colonies. This rich heritage town is a great overnight stop on your way to the southern end of the island.
Blue penguin colony – evening viewing (premium viewing)
The penguins return home from their day’s fishing, make their way onto the beach, up a stony ramp, and cross into the Colony. Learn about the lives of the penguins during a commentary delivered by one of your guides. You will then enter into the breeding colony on a boardwalk and walk among their nesting burrows. In the Premium Viewing, you view the penguins from only a few metres away.
Note: participants in this tour need to remain still and quiet because the penguins are so close and are frightened by sudden movement.
Accommodation: Valley View Glamping – 1 night
Includes breakfast provisions
Sustainability: Valley View Glamping is an eco-friendly ‘glampsite’. The site is off-grid and Solar energy powers the purpose-built lodge which has kitchen, dining and bathroom facilities.
Your hosts, Amber and Patrick, have endeavoured to make as little impact on the environment as possible by choosing sustainable materials and eco-products wherever they can. Just one of the ways they show their dedication to the environment is by turning the septic tank into a worm farm and recycle all that can be recycled.
Day 18 – Otiake – Otago Peninsula
Distance: 190km – 2 hour and 30 minutes
Dunedin city has a rich and diverse history of Maori explorers, whalers, Scottish immigrants and gold miners. The city features grand Edwardian and Victorian architecture, as well as New Zealand’s first university. The city is also a gateway to Otago Peninsula, whose rugged rocks and sandy beaches are home to a wide range of rare wildlife.
Accommodation: Hereweka Garden Retreat – 2 nights
Includes Organic Breakfast provisions
Sustainability: Hereweka Garden Retreat is an architecturally-eco designed boutique accommodation built with sustainable materials and looks out over some of the last remaining valleys of native forest on the Otago Peninsula.
Day 19 – Otago Peninsula
Elm Wildlife –Peninsula Encounter Tour (small group)
The tour provides a glimpse into the world of tourism and conservation working in a symbiotic relationship for the benefit of the wildlife providing absolutely unrivalled viewing of estuarine and marine wildlife. Visit isolated places inaccessible to others providing the best possible viewing of unique peninsula wildlife. Our private conservation area ensures exclusivity with brilliant opportunities to photograph Hooker’s Sea lions, Yellow-eyed Penguins, Blue Penguins, a breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and other sea bird colonies. At Taiaroa head, from a cliff face, watch and observe Royal Albatross flying about the headland to and from the ocean. A further 25-30 other estuarine and marine bird species are seen during the experience around the bays and lagoons.
Duration: 6.5 hours – the tour returns after dark
Day 20 – Dunedin – Catlins
Distance: 125km / 1 hour and 40 minutes
The Catlins has a variety of features which make it unique to the eastern coast of the South Island. It is rugged, remote and endowed with native rainforest. It has abundant wildlife and because it is so sparsely populated remains mostly unspoilt.
River valleys, hills, farmland, and forests which reach to the sea dominate the landscape. Coastal cliffs, estuaries, beaches, sea caves, rock stacks and a petrified forest add to the seascape.
Accommodation: Mohua Park – 1 night
Includes breakfast and dinner
Day 21 – Catlins – Stewart Island
Distance: 160km / 2 hours
Drive to the bottom of the South Island to board your ferry to Stewart island.
Off the coast, Stewart Island, New Zealand third island, is 85% National Park. The island offers a glimpse into a simpler, slower lifestyle, in rhythm with the sea and the tides and is a great spot for bird watching, bush walking, fishing or just relaxing.
Accommodation: Church Hill Boutique B&B
Day 22 – Stewart Island
Ulva Island Guided Walk (half day – small group)
It’s all about discovering the unique, rare and endangered birds and plants at close quarters. Exquisite seasonal orchids, very friendly birdlife that will come too close for your camera lens… This is a gentle walking tour amongst a beautiful botanical forested garden alive with birdsong.
There is plenty of opportunity to stop for photographs. We guarantee that you will love our Ulva Island – the southern-most bird sanctuary in the world!
Day 23 – Stewart Island – Te Anau
Distance: 190km / 2 hours and 15 minutes
Te Anau is the gateway to the UNESCO world heritage site of Fiordland or Te Wahi Pounamu. The site is listed for its dramatic untouched landscapes, deep fiords, wild rivers, snow-capped mountains, mountains that flow into the sea, tussock grasslands, forests but also is considered to be the best modern example in the world of the ancient continent of Gondwanaland’s primitive taxa.
Accommodation: Radfords on the Lake – 2 nights
Day 24 – Te Anau – Milford Sound – Te Anau
Kayak Milford Sound (small group)
Experience Milford Sound from sea level with an experienced guide and a small group of kayakers. Join your group for a fun, relaxed and intimate experience of this majestic fiord.
You’ll enjoy 4 – 5 hours on the water with the freedom to explore the fiord, see the wildlife (seals and occasionally penguins and dolphins) and marvel at the natural wonders of Mitre Peak, Pembroke Glacier and thundering waterfalls. Weather permitting, you’ll stop for lunch on a secluded beach.
If an afternoon breeze comes up, you’ll raft the kayaks together and sail home.
You can join the tour in Te Anau. Travelling along the Milford Road is definitely part of the experience – you will hear stories, have afternoon tea and stop at your guide’s favourite places.
Small groups – maximum of 8 people per guide
Day 25 – Te Anau – Queenstown – Glenorchy
Distance: 215km / 3 hours
Today, drive to Queenstown, the “adventure” capital, a sought-after destination for its picturesque lake, scenic snow-capped mountains and great dining scene. Spend the morning volunteering at the local tree nursery.
Volunteering day – Whakatipu Reforestation Trust
Whakatipu Reforestation Trust protect and restore the native biodiversity of the Wakatipu Basin through revegetation projects, collaboration, education and advocacy. The trust works with the community to grow and plant out native plants, including threatened species. This will create wildlife corridors that will, in turn, attract native birds and insects back into the basin, significantly enhancing the biodiversity of the area.
Depending on the season, come and help out growing seedlings in the nursery or join the team on one of their planting days!
Just 45 minutes from Queenstown, Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu and is the gateway to famous hiking trails. This rustic town is a true outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Set against a background of native beech forest and towering mountain ranges, Glenorchy’s surrounds are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Lake Wakatipu and the Dart River offer opportunities for kayaking and some of New Zealand’s best hiking trails can be accessed from here. Horse trekking in the area is also highly recommended.
Afternoon at leisure to enjoy your surroundings.
Accommodation: Camp Glenorchy – 3 nights
Environment: Camp Glenorchy is has been designed, built and operated in line with the philosophy and principles of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), recognised as the most stringent environmental building design certification in the world. The complex benefit the Glenorchy Community Trust, directed by local community members. The mission and vision of the community trust is to increase the vibrancy and resilience of the community of Glenorchy. Camp Glenorchy is registered under the Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification™ pathway.
Day 26 – Glenorchy
Guided Nature walk / Routeburn track day walk (small group)
Make your way on this great walk in Mount Aspiring National Park with a gradual ascent through a magical world of ancient ferns, mosses, lichens and beech forest. Explore forgotten paths of the Maori, as we travel along their old greenstone trails, finding enchantment around each corner.
Just 2.5 hours down the track, the woodland parts to reveal the rich grassland of Routeburn Flats, overlooked on all sides by cloud-scraping mountains, some so high they have permafrost.
The Flats is a pristine site to stop for lunch.
After a delicious Kiwi style picnic lunch, we turn and enjoy the valley in reverse. Exploring the old paths of the Maori travellers as we travel along their old ‘Greenstone’ trails, finding new enjoyment around each corner.
Native and migratory birds welcome your return to the forest, and a plentiful array of species will accompany your journey back to civilization.
Day 27 – Glenorchy
Today is a leisure to relax and reflect on your adventure in New Zealand.
Day 28 – Glenorchy – Queenstown – Departure
Distance: 55km / 1 hour
Today you farewell this corner of paradise as you head back to Queenstown and drop your car off on time for your homebound flight.
Thank you for choosing to travel Greenz!