Go deeper with this ultimate New Zealand itinerary
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Māori legend tells of the Polynesian navigator Kupe’s long-ago discovery of New Zealand, the land they called Aotearoa.
Aotearoa – known as the land of the long white cloud – is a place of boundless landscapes to explore making for the perfect New Zealand tour. A place to indulge your senses, experience new places and meet new people, and to relax and recharge.
On a 19-day Long White Cloud journey with Inspiring Journeys, travellers can enjoy carefully curated experiences that take a deep dive into New Zealand culture on both the North and South Islands. With a maximum of 22 guests, there’s time to explore alone and gain exclusive access to unforgettable experiences.
Take the Tranz Alpine Railway to Franz Josef
After arriving in Christchurch on the South Island, the journey starts aboard one of the world’s great scenic railways, the Tranz Alpine, crossing the patchwork of the Canterbury Plains and through Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps to the wild West Coast.
It’s a taste of what’s to come: jaw-dropping scenery and a sense of deep relaxation.
In the picturesque coastal town of Hokitika, browse the jewellery stores that specialise in pounamu, New Zealand greenstone or jade, sourced from the nearby Arahura River, before continuing to Franz Josef.
Te Waonui Forest Retreat provides eco-friendly accommodation in a bush setting, a great base to enjoy the local geothermal hot pools before starting the next day with a guided tour of the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier.
Then thrill to the adventure of a jet-boat journey down the Haast River to the historic gold-mining village of Arrowtown before taking Inspiring Journeys’ coach to Queenstown.
Discover the best things to do in Queenstown
With two days in Queenstown, there’s plenty of time to take in local wineries, check out The Lord of the Rings film locations, wander the waterfront on Lake Wakatipu, take a cruise aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, or just gaze up at the mountains.
Marvel at Te Anau and Milford Sound
From Queenstown, the lakefront leads to Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in New Zealand, and through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park. with its glaciers, mountains and lakes.
Beyond the Homer Tunnel is the unforgettable Milford Sound, renowned for its pristine rainforests and waterfalls and the jagged face of Mitre Peak rising to 1690 metres.
At Milford Sound Lodge, eco-friendly chalets offer stunning mountain and rainforest views of the Cleddau Valley, the chance to relax and unwind and luxuries like underfloor heating and an outdoor deck.
As well as short walks around the lodge, there is a chance to experience part of the famed Milford Track on an easy half-day guided walk to discover the unique flora and fauna of this part of the world. Get out on the water for an afternoon cruise.
Spot wildlife around Dunedin
Leaving Milford Sound behind, the Ultimate New Zealand itinerary’s next stop is New Zealand’s southernmost city, Dunedin, which is steeped in Scottish heritage.
Here, there’s a chance to sample local craft beer, ride the historic Tairei Gorge Railway or take a wildlife cruise of the Otago Peninsula to spot yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, sea lions and albatrosses.
Back in Christchurch, there’s time to join a sightseeing tour that reveals the rebirth of this amazing city after the 2011 earthquake and to see the resurrection of the city centre.
Follow the east coast to Rotorua
Travelling north up the South Island’s east coast, your destination is the fishing village of Picton, where the Cook Strait ferry crosses to New Zealand’s windy but wonderful capital, Wellington.
Don’t miss the fascinating Te Papa – Museum of New Zealand, and grab the chance to visit Sir Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop, where the creative magic behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies was wrought.
The Hawkes Bay region is renowned for its fine wines and this journey offers the chance to experience one of the best. At the family-owned Craggy Range Winery, indulge in dinner with matched wines, while enjoying more of that stunning scenery, overlooking the vineyards and the impressive Te Mata Peak escarpment.
The North Island continues to reveal its stories. Napier was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1931, but from the rubble emerged one of the largest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. Today, you can relive the jazz era on a vintage car tour will carry you back in time.
In Rotorua, visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley to witness the bubbling hot springs, volcanic craters and geysers that make this such a special place.
On a boat cruise around tranquil Lake Rotomahana, you’ll hear stories of the Mt Tarawera eruption of 1886, the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces – once considered the eighth wonder of the world – and see geothermal activity only accessible by boat.
Rotorua’s Redwoods Treewalk features 28 suspension bridges on a 700-metres walk above the forest floor through 120-year-old redwoods towering up to 75-metres. From this perspective, spot New Zealand silver ferns and other plants.
Continuing the ecology theme, visit the National Kiwi Hatchery to see this New Zealand icon up close and learn about efforts to build kiwi populations.
Along with TreadRight, Inspiring Journeys supports the Kiwi Breeding Programme at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, which is the largest kiwi conservation hatchery in the world and which incubates and hatches 55 per cent of kiwi chicks across the country each year.
No visit to New Zealand would be complete without a Māori cultural experience, and Rotorua provides this in style with an evening of history, performance and kai (food) at Te Puia.
Wander through the forest village and immerse yourself in Māori art forms and culture before enjoying a traditional Hāngī meal, steamed in the earth.
Float with glow worms
En route to Auckland, there’s time to stop off for an exclusive five-star Eco Glow Worm experience at Caveworld Waitomo.
These intimate tours reveal the three-million-year-old limestone caverns including access to the incredible Footwhistle Cave, where glowworms create magnificent displays.
At journey’s end in Auckland, the Land of the Long White Cloud will have shared nature at its best, stylish and comfortable lodgings (often with their own stories), sweeping landscapes and unforgettable experiences.
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