Itineraries on international trips are always subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of your tour guides. Weather, road conditions, closures, or other interruptions of services might require adjustments. We will always endeavor to provide you an experience as close to this itinerary as we can, keeping in mind that safety of the group is our first concern. Included meals shown by B - breakfast, L - lunch, D - dinner.
“… every person, when he or she is young, dreams of finding some enchanted place, of beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastline and clear lakes and amazing wildlife, and most people give up on it because they never get to New Zealand.” Bill Clinton
Click on the button below for a short movie showing images from this beautiful remote country coupled with soundtrack of Kiwi ceremonial song.
Day 1 Thursday, January 26, 2023: Arrive Auckland
Arrive by this afternoon in Auckland, the modern, thriving capital of New Zealand. Our downtown hotel is close to many attractions for you to enjoy in the afternoon. We'll meet in the early evening for introductions and an orientation, then enjoy our first dinner together.
Night Auckland D
Day 2 Friday, January 27, 2023: Tiritiri Matangi
We’ll take a ferry from the Auckland docks to one of the most sensational conservation areas in the country, the island nature sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi. On the way, we’ll be looking out for Australasian gannets, fluttering shearwaters and blue penguins. Tiritiri Matangi is a predator-free island in Hauraki Gulf. Here, several species of endangered birds have been successfully reintroduced. We'll walk along well-maintained trails for 2 miles, fringed with trees and shrubs in full-bloom, and be on the lookout for such birds as the tui, red-crowned parakeet, and the North Island saddleback. Our path takes us along a magnificent boardwalk that winds through different woodland habitats. We'll hear the remarkable songs of bellbirds, fantails, and stitchbirds as we stroll along.
Night Auckland B/L/D
Day 3 Saturday, January 28, 2023: Lakes Taupo and Rotorua
We’ll depart Auckland today and drive south to the spectacular geothermal region of Lake Taupo. As we continue south, we will drive onto a high volcanic plateau to explore the fascinating and volatile Waimangu Thermal Valley on a 2 mile walk. It lies across from Mt. Tarawera, whose giant eruption in 1886 formed this eerie valley of boiling cauldron lakes, steaming fumaroles and numerous steaming springs. Later this afternoon we also visit areas of boiling mud-pools. In the early evening we'll enjoy a Maori experience at a traditional village near Rotorua.
Night Rotorua. B/L/D
Day 4 Sunday, January 29, 2023: Pureora Rain-forest and Tongariro National Park
Lush rainforest surrounded the volcanic plateau until wholesale clearing began with European settlement. Now only relatively small tracts remain. We'll visit one of the finest tracts of podocarp rain forest left in the country, the predominant forest type in New Zealand. These are the so-called 'dinosaur forests' that have changed little in 100 million years and are typical of the forest cover of ancient Gondwanaland. The rimu dominated forest here is perhaps the finest in the country. We'll study the podocarp forest communities, with morning and afternoon walks through northern Pureora. Later our day winds up in Tongariro National Park. On the rivers running off the volcanoes a small number of the endangered Whio, or Blue Duck survive.
Night Whakapapa B/L/D
Day 5 Monday, January 30, 2023: Mt. Ruapehu and South Island Ferry
This morning we'll walk for 3 miles through sub-alpine forest and tussock-lands on the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu, North Island’s highest peak. Then we start our long day of travel to South Island. First we'll have a four hour drive to Wellington. En route we'll stop at Foxton Estuary to stretch our legs and look for Pacific Golden Plover, and Royal Spoonbill. Our journey continues southwards through to Wellington, where we'll board the ferry for the three hour crossing to South Island. On the cruise through Marlborough Sounds one can often see Little Blue Penguins, Spotted Shags, and occasionally dolphins.
Night Picton. B/L/D
Day 6 Tuesday, January 31, 2023: St. Arnaud
We'll drive through different terrain today on South Island as we head to St Arnaud. The beautiful Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa are nestled between the northern peaks of the Southern Alps and St Arnaud is on the shore of Rotoiti. We'll settle into our hotel and then enjoy short walks in the enchanting forest surrounding the lakes, or take a half-day hike onto Mt Robert for stunning vistas overlooking the lakes and through sub-alpine flora.
Night St Arnaud B/L/D
Day 7 Wednesday, February 1, 2023: Mt. Arthur
We'll take an excursion to nearby Mount Arthur, a marble region with a wide diversity of upland and sub-alpine species. The Graham Valley provides the easiest access to the newly formed Kahurangi National Park. Here we'll enjoy a full day walk admiring the Mount Arthur region and surrounding tablelands before returning to our hotel.
Night St Arnaud B/L/D
Day 8 Thursday, February 2, 2023: Kaikoura
This morning we'll drive south down the east coast of South Island to Kaikoura, with stop offs to admire fur seals and the stunning coastal landscapes. After checking into our hotel, we'll focus for the afternoon on a delightful hike along the coast of the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Night Kaikoura B/L/D
Day 9 Friday, February 3, 2023: Whale-watching
Kaikoura is a breath-taking place where snow covered mountains reach down to a turquoise sea. The continental shelf drops abruptly very close to shore, resulting in up-wellings of nutrients from the sea’s depths, which in turn attracts rich and diverse marine life. This morning we'll join a whale watching excursion, looking for Sperm Whales and dolphin, with an excellent opportunity for bird lovers to also see albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters. The afternoon and evening are unstructured; we'll be at leisure to stroll on Kaikoura Peninsula, shop in town, or just relax. Dinner is on your own tonight.
Night Kaikoura B/L
Day 10 Saturday, February 4, 2023: Canterbury Plains to Lake Ohau
We'll depart Kaikoura and continue south, crossing the Canterbury Plains and Burkes Pass. As we wind across the foothills of the Southern Alps, with snow-capped mountains in the background, we’ll see the vivid turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and other large, glacial lakes. As we approach Lake Ohau, where we stay for two nights, there will be time for those who wish to take an optional flight (cost not included in the trip price) over Mount Cook National Park, flying over the highest peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps.
Night Lake Ohau B/L/D
Day 11 Sunday, February 5, 2023: Mt. Cook National Park
This is a day to explore the renowned Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. At the foot of Aoraki/Mt Cook, lies the spectacular Hooker Valley. The dramatic Mueller Ridge awaits us with spectacular views all the way of the southern Alps, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Sefton. Our walk along the trail enables us to study the changes in vegetation on successive moraines as the Hooker then Mueller Glaciers are reached. Giant Mt Cook buttercups, golden Spaniards and sub-alpine shrubs abound amid unforgettable landscapes.
Night Lake Ohau B/L/D
Day 12 Monday, February 6, 2023: Te Anau
This morning we'll drive to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland World Heritage Area. With scenery that is a mix of the awesome and the tranquil, this area encompasses New Zealand's largest national park. Glacially formed valleys and lakes nestled between range upon range of mountains characterize the landscape. We'll spend the afternoon walking amid the lush beech forests in the Eglinton Valley.
Night Te Anau B/L/D
Day 13 Tuesday, February 7, 2023: Milford Sound
The upper Hollyford Valley, through which the famed Milford Road passes, contains superb boulder fields and herb fields. The Gertrude Cirque has arguably the finest accessible alpine communities in the country. We'll devote this morning to discovering this botanical treasure trove in the Darran Mountains on a two mile hike into the valley. Experiencing nature in such awesome surroundings is guaranteed to put all in perspective. After lunch we'll drive down to sea level at Milford Sound, New Zealand's top tourist destination and TripAdvisor's “2008 Top Destination in the World.” There will be time for a cruise to the fjord entrance before we return in the early evening to our hotel.
Night Te Anau B/L/D
Day 14 Wednesday, February 8, 2023: Dunedin
Sadly our time is running out and we must depart this majestic, rugged corner of New Zealand to cross the southern South Island. It's a 3 ½ hour drive to Dunedin and our last hotel. We'll have some free time here before we embark on a delightful cruise on Otago Harbour to Taiaroa Head. Our drive is timed so we arrive at the harbor entrance just as the Northern Royal Albatross arrive back to their only mainland breeding ground in the world. There can be no better way to complete a New Zealand journey than enjoying the sight of these magnificent fliers circling the headland. We'll end the day with a farewell dinner.
Night Dunedin B/L/D
Day 15 Thursday, February 9, 2023: Farewell
Our trip is officially over after breakfast. We hope you've had an enjoyable and rewarding time here. May we see you on another adventure with Big Round World and have a safe journey home.
Travel Caution! Crossing the International Date Line
You are responsible for your own flight arrangements to New Zealand. We meet in Auckland at our downtown hotel late afternoon of January 26, 2023. There are now non-stop flights to Auckland from the west coast. Keep in mind however that you cross the International Date Line so you lose a day. So for example, if you leave Los Angeles at 9 PM on January 24 your overnight flight will arrive in Auckland at 5 am on January 26. Conversely, on your return, you might actually land in the US before your departure time in New Zealand. It's magic! We strongly advise you to plan on arriving at least a day or two early to help overcome jet lag so you will enjoy the trip more and even more importantly to allow for flight delays or cancellations and to allow time for any lost baggage to catch up to you. This is not, unfortunately, an uncommon problem. We will be happy to give you suggestions of things to do in the area before the trip starts.
“I still think New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Its scenery is extraordinary … Everywhere the beauty of the countryside is astonishing.” Agatha Christie
The trip leader will provide 4 trip bulletins prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your adventure.
Trip Dates: January 26 - February 9, 2023 | 15 day trip