Northern Choice (Christchurch to Auckland)
Arrive in Auckland & check into the Mercure Hotel Auckland from 2:00pm. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore! Meet your fellow travelers & Tour Manager this evening.
Christchurch to Wellington
Kia Ora! Meet up with your Contiki Crew this morning and head off on a jaw-dropping drive up to the top of the South Island today. The coach cuts across the Canterbury Plains to Kaikoura. This seaside settlement is known for whales, dolphins and delicious, fresh crayfish sold from roadside vans. We’ll stop at a seal colony before travelling up the wild, rugged east coast and the wine country of Marlborough. Jump on the Inter-Island ferry and leave the South Island behind. Cruise through the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds, where thick forested peaks rise straight up from the sea. It’s a camera-friendly spot with picturesque inlets, remote coves and tiny beaches that dot the islands. You’ll also see some old wooden baches (New Zealand holiday houses) and boat jetties. We dock in the capital city of Wellington – the country’s political centre and cultural core with funky shops, fringe festivals, galleries, as well as a huge amount of cool cafes and bars. The peak of Mt Victoria gives an amazing overview of the windy city. Take the time to say your farewells & and swap contact details with your new travel buddies as your tour ends this afternoon in Wellington.
You’ve got a full day to discover Wellington – its compact centre is perfect for exploring on foot. Walk alongside the harbour or visit the innovative Te Papa Museum for a look into New Zealand history and culture. You could take a walk around New Zealand’s political heart by visiting some of its government buildings. Take in the iconic ‘Beehive’ building & its distinctive shape, which was specially designed to cope in case of an earthquake. You could hang out on alternative Cuba Street, watch street performers or rummage through some of the surrounding retro stores. If you’re hungry, try out some of the great ethnic foods you can find in this multi-cultural city, like sushi, Thai, kebabs and Italian gelatos. For something different, learn about the age-old art of tattooing at the Tattoo Museum. From traditional Maori moko (face tattoos) through to colourful contemporary designs. There’s even a tattoo parlour on site if you’re game!
Wellington to Lake Taupo
Spot the dramatic volcanic landscapes today that were used as backdrops in "The Lord of the Rings", when we drive past World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park. The park is also home to the still active volcano, Mt. Ruapehu, which doubles as NZ’s biggest ski field. Continue on to the popular low-key resort town of Taupo. Here, there’s some of the best trout fishing in the country and some of the most amazing long-distance views of Tongariro National Park’s three volcanic peaks. Cap off your day with our optional dinner cruise out on New Zealand’s largest lake – Lake Taupo - where you can have a go at fishing! Later, back on land, play some pool at one of Taupo’s lakeside bars.
Lake Taupo to Rotorua
On the way out of Taupo, a visit to the raging Huka Falls will impress. Tonnes of water surge over these falls at a rate of 220,000 litres (58 000 gallons) per second. It’s a short drive to Rotorua, famous for its spurting geysers, boiling mud pools, hot springs and ‘interesting’ sulfur smell. For some crazy ‘Kiwi ingenuity’, try an optional called zorbing. It’s an activity where you get inside a huge plastic ball and roll down a 200m hill, either by yourself or with a friend. Rotorua is an important hub of Maori culture. To recognise this, we have an optional authentic cultural experience, complete with a fantastic Maori hangi and traditional dance concert. Some of the foods you can try from the h?ngi are sweet potato and chicken cooked on hot rocks in an underground pit – just as they have been for centuries. Listen to stories, songs and chants while learning about ancient Maori mythology and beliefs.
This morning, get an insider look at New Zealand’s unique Maori culture & history as we tour Rotorua’s famous Ohinemutu Village with our expert local guide. You’ll learn all about the history of the Maori people, their customs & traditions, plus have the opportunity to ask questions & learn as much as possible about this amazing spot – it’s the perfect way to get in the know. With the rest of the day free to explore the way you want, you can advantage of the city's awesome thermal environment & treat yourself to a spa treatment or massage. Our tip: With so much buzz around the amazing thermal mud treatments found here, we love picking up some products to take home as a gift (or for ourselves!). There are loads of other ways to spend your time too if adrenalin is more your thing, like getting views of the city from a gondola, then speeding down a hill on a luge, or getting a splash as you raft the Kaituna River – the options for things to keep you busy in Rotorua are endless. Or, if chilling out is more of what you’re into, then or hit up a café for a flat white coffee or make tracks to the shops for a spending spree.
Rotorua to Waitomo
This morning, we stop at the Agrodome farm show for an interactive introduction into farming and agriculture, which is New Zealand’s main industry. You’ll see sheep-shearing and watch an impressive sheepdog demo. These dogs are highly-trained and skilled at controlling livestock. We'll stop off for an included visit at Otorohanga's Kiwi House to check out New Zealand's national bird. This shy creature only comes out at night - the nocturnal enclosures at the Kiwi House mean you're guaranteed to see one. If you're lucky you'll also get to spot a tuatara - a true 'living fossil' reptile that pre-dates the dinosaurs! Next up is Waitomo and the Waitomo Caves. Famous for their incredible limestone formations and glowworms, the caves are a stunning subterranean world. You’ll see the Glowworm Grotto, where the cave roof is covered with twinkling insects. For adventure, you can head deeper into the caves in an optional activity and see them either on foot or by tubing down an underground river. Tonight, it’s traditional Kiwi BBQ dinner and a visit to a typical country pub. Kick back with your new friends and some of the locals. Maybe try out the local beer – it’s good!
Waitomo to Auckland
Today we drive through the lush farmlands of Waikato – an area that produces many of New Zealand’s best rugby players for the All Blacks - before arriving in Auckland. As New Zealand’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Auckland is surrounded by volcanoes, islands and a stunning harbour. You’ll soon understand why this is the "City of Sails" and was once home to the America’s Cup. Here we'll show you the city spots on an included sightseeing tour before heading up the iconic Sky Tower. A VIP pass at one of our favourite nightspots awaits tonight.
Auckland to Paihia
This morning we’ll cross the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge. There are full-blown vistas of the harbour, Rangitoto, and other neighbouring volcanic islands on the way. With a stop at Parry Kauri Park, there’s time to walk through this famous reserve and see many of New Zealand’s ancient Kauri (a native tree). Some of the Kauri are 50m high and over 1000 years old. The final stop today is the small coastal town of Paihia. It’s the gateway to the Bay of Islands, one of New Zealand’s photogenic natural playgrounds. Your Tour Manager will point out the colonial style Treaty House at Waitangi. This is where modern-era New Zealand was born when the British Crown and Maori signed a treaty in 1840. You’ll also find out about local Maori culture as you check out the Nga Puhi tribal lands. Tonight you'll get to experience a typical ‘Kiwi’ dinner – fish 'n' chips – where you can eat outdoors under the night sky if the weather is good. After dinner, head out to a local music venue in Paihia with the group.
With a full free day here, you’ll really get to enjoy the laid-back, natural beauty of the Bay of Islands. Chill out, or choose from loads of activities on offer here. There’s a catamaran cruise where you can stop off at remote islands, swim and feast on a tasty BBQ lunch. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot some dolphins. Or you could use your free time to head off with some friends to learn about New Zealand’s settler history. Jump on a ferry out to New Zealand’s former capital, the pretty township of Russell. Grab an ice-cream, relax in its cute cafés and walk past some of the town’s historic cottages. We also offer you the option of a day trip to Cape Reinga, New Zealand’s most northern point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean merge. Our Local Guide can tell you all about the Maori beliefs associated with this site. Then it’s off to the sand dunes of Ninety Mile beach and a drive through the Northland Region. Lastly, for the adrenaline-junkies, there’s a chance to go parasailing – perfect for getting views of the awesome surrounding bay scenery. It's your final night together on tour, so make it an evening to remember!
Paihia to Auckland
Head back south to Auckland today, where your tour winds up in the city centre mid-afternoon.
Say a final farewell to your new friends as your trip ends this morning after breakfast.