Pohutukawa – 20 Day North and South Island

This Boutique Journey takes you through some of our favourite places and spaces in the North and South Islands, discovering fantastic coastlines and immersing you in Maori culture and history. Explore the geothermal wonders of the bubbling mud pools and ferocious geysers of Rotorua and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Abel Tasman National Park with opportunities to swim in its dazzling turquoise lagoons..

Featured Experiences

  • A scenic cruise from Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula, stopping at Waiheke Island
  • Narrow-gauge railway journey through native Coromandel bush
  • Visit Hot Water Beach and photogenic Cathedral Cove
  • A private guide around a geothermal valley with geysers, mud pools and hot springs
  • Visit Waimangu Volcanic Valley – or – experience Hobbiton Movie Set
  • Delve into Maori life and enjoy a powerful cultural performance and feast
  • Enjoy a wine tasting and evening meal at Mission Estate in Napier
  • Travel on Wellington’s famous Cable Car and visit Te Papa museum
  • Scenic Interislander Ferry journey across the Cook Strait
  • Wine tasting at one of Marlborough’s premier wineries
  • Cruise the turquoise waters of Abel Tasman National Park
  • Visit world-famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki
  • Explore the historic gold rush village of Arrowtown
  • Cruise, with a picnic lunch, on the breath-taking Milford Sound
  • Enjoy true kiwi hospitality with morning tea at a local home on the shores of Lake Tekapo
  • Relax as you’re guided along Christchurch’s Avon River on an authentic Edwardian punt


Day 1   Auckland  Haere mai – welcome!  Arrive into Auckland where you will be met and transferred to you accommodation.  Spend the afternoon and evening at your leisure exploring the ‘City of Sails’.  MSocial, Auckland

Day 2   Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula   (B)  Take to the water for a scenic cruise across the Hauraki Gulf passing many volcanic islands to the Coromandel Peninsula. Visit the nearby Driving Creek Railway climbing 120m on a narrow-gauge line to the ‘Eyefull’ Tower for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and back over the Hauraki Gulf. Drive east across the Peninsula through beautiful scenery to reach the resort of Whitianga on Mercury Bay.  Oceans Resort, Whitianga – 2 nights

Day 3   Coromandel Peninsula   (B)  White cliffs, golden beaches, inviting turquoise waters and green forests are the colours of the Coromandel, with scarlet highlights courtesy of the flowers of Pohutukawa trees in summer, making this one of our favourite regions.  Rightly famous is Hot Water Beach, where warm springs bubble up through the sand, and when the tide is right you can dig out your very own ‘spa’ pool for a wallow in the warm waters.  Walk down into Cathedral Cove – your efforts are rewarded with one of the most photogenic beaches in New Zealand.  Depart by water taxi back to Hahei where your driver will be waiting to take you to Cooks Beach – named after Captain James Cook who sailed on the HMS Endeavour into Mercury Bay in 1769 – famous for its long golden sandy beach which is now a popular retreat for Kiwis during summer months.  From Cooks Beach you can choose to catch the short ferry ride back to Whitianga and walk to your accommodation or travel back with your driver.

Day 4  Coromandel Peninsula – Rotorua   (B)  Taking the Pacific Coast Highway through the beachside towns of Whangamata and Tauranga in the beautiful Bay of Plenty before turning inland to visit a well-formed bushwalk with scenic lookouts over Okere River and its spectacular waterfalls.  Rotorua is the epicentre not only of New Zealand’s geothermal activity but of Maori heritage, and no visit to Rotorua would be complete without including Te Puia, not only an active geothermal site, but the nation’s centre for indigenous arts and crafts and a Kiwi conservation project.  At Te Puia it’s part of their culture to welcome, guide, entertain, and treat you like part of the family and you are treated to a private guide throughout your time here.  Prince’s Gate Hotel, Rotorua – 2 nights

 Day 5   Rotorua (B,D) Today you have the choice of two excursions:

  • a) Visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley – site of the eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886 the devasting eruption buried local Maori villages and destroyed the world-famous ‘Pink and White’ silica terraces, once considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. This catastrophic event changed the landscape forever and created the valley you can now walk through, past boiling craters and jewel-coloured steaming lakes. Take a cruise across Lake Rotomahana to the site of the old silica terraces, hear the story of Guide Sophia and see the new terraces of silica slowly forming.
  • b) Experience the real Middle-earth with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set, the delightful setting for The Shire that featured in Peter Jackson’s films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit film series. Your Hobbiton guide will escort you through the ten-acre site recounting fascinating details of how the movie set was created.  The Hobbit holes, Green Dragon Inn, Mill and other structures created for the films can be viewed, and you will see how this beautiful piece of Waikato farmland was transformed into The Shire from Middle-earth.

This evening travel to a Marae (Maori Village).  Experience a formal welcome (powhiri) including the hongi – that is sharing breath.  Delve into Maori life, both past and contemporary. Listen to their fascinating reality – how things are and what is important to their family, their connection to their land, the importance of whakapapa (lineage) and life amongst their people.  Finally, this evening enjoy a powerful cultural performance, storytelling and Hangi (feasting).

Day 6  Rotorua to Napier   (B,D)  Visit the powerful Huka Falls then view the vast Lake Taupo – more inland sea than lake, though its fresh waters teem with trout.  Across the lake stands the mighty volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro within the Tongariro National Park.  Onto Napier to view one of the world’s most complete examples of Art Deco architecture, second (arguably) only to Miami Beach.  This joyful seaside town had a tragic birth, being virtually levelled by fierce fires that followed the devastating 1931 earthquake.  Napier was rebuilt in the most up-to-date style of the time, which today is referred to as Art Deco.  This afternoon your local guide brings history and architecture alive with entertaining stories as you discover Napier on foot.  Today’s journey has brought us to the North Island’s wine country, so this evening’s treat is dinner at New Zealand’s oldest winery, Mission Estate, where you enjoy dinner in the restored seminary buildings with sweeping views of Napier.  Scenic Hotel Te Pania, Napier

Day 7   Napier to Wellington   (B)  Travel through the vineyards and orchards of Hawke’s Bay and the bush-clad ranges of the Wairarapa into New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.  On arrival view New Zealand’s magnificent Parliament Buildings including the iconic ‘Beehive’ building.   From the Kelburn lookout take the Wellington Cable Car down into the central city precinct before visiting Te Papa – one of the most exciting museums in the world, featuring New Zealand insights; the shaping of its land, the spirit of its diverse peoples, its unique wildlife, landscapes and its distinctive popular culture.  James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington 

Day 8   Wellington to Nelson (B)  Your day commences with one of the most beautiful ferry journeys in the world. Travelling through the waters of Cook Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound the ferry is often accompanied by dolphins riding the bow waves. Disembarking in Picton travel the short distance to Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine country.  What better way to enjoy this region famous for its Sauvignon Blanc than with wine tasting at one of Marlborough’s premier wineries?   From Marlborough cross to the Nelson district a corner of the South Island blessed with a sunny microclimate  and your base for the next two nights.   Heritage Rutherford Hotel – 2 nights

Day 9  Abel Tasman National Park  (B) Paradise found!  Abel Tasman National Park is a mosaic of golden coves and turquoise lagoons sheltered by forested ranges to the south.  With few roads in this pristine wilderness, most journeys are made by boat. This morning from Kaiteriteri, your tour includes a choice of one activity from these three options:

  • a) Non – Walking Option: Full Park Scenic Cruise (3-4 hour cruise)  Enjoy a morning cruise exploration of New Zealand’s smallest National Park.  View world-famous Split Apple Rock, New Zealand Fur Seals, golden sands and the turquoise waters of Anchorage, Bark Bay, Tonga Quarry, Awaroa and Totaranui Beach. Return to Nelson city for some time this afternoon at leisure.
  • b) Walking Option 1: Astrolabe Beaches and Bays (7km, 2.5 hour walk)  After the Full Park Scenic Cruise, disembark at Apple Tree Bay for a self-guided walk to fabulous Anchorage Beach.  Late afternoon shuttle transfer back to Nelson.
  • c) Walking Option 2: Forest and Swing-Bridge (10.5km, 4 hour walk)  After the Full Park Scenic Cruise, disembark at Medlands Beach for a rewarding and varied self-guided walk to Anchorage Beach including the scenic highlights of the South Head lookout, the famous Falls River swing-bridge and Cleopatra’s Pool.  Late afternoon shuttle transfer back to Nelson.

Day 10   Nelson to Punakaiki   (B)  Driving via the Nelson Lakes National Park – an enchanting alpine landscape of rugged peaks, forests, stunning glacial lakes and the beginning of the awe-inspiring Southern Alps make a stop at the quaint village of Saint Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.  Turn inland to follow the Buller River Gorge – one of the world’s best but least-known scenic drives, carved out of the forest by 19th century prospectors, it follows the deep river gorge, often crossing it on single-track bridges.  Emerging from the forest the road hugs the coastline south to the small settlement of Punakaiki – renowned for its wild, rugged coastline and the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ – these stratified limestone stacks are an extraordinary monument of nature.   Punakaiki Resort, Punakaiki

Day 11   Punakaiki to Fox Glacier   (B)  Journey south along the Great Coast Road which was recently voted one of the top ten coastal drives in the world by Lonely Planet.  Pass through historic towns reaching Hokitika and its galleries specialising in pounamu (greenstone) jewellery and art works.   Stretch your legs at the dramatic Hokitika Gorge where the blue/green waters pass through the rugged rocks.  Continue south through forests and farmland, with views of the Alps to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west, to Franz Josef then on to the small remote village of Fox.  The huge rivers of snow and ice of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers flow from vast snowfields high in the Southern Alps, down almost to sea level.  Weather permitting, an optional helicopter ride with a snow landing is a terrific way to experience the sheer grandeur of these West Coast glaciers (extra cost).   Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier

Day 12   Fox Glacier to Wanaka  (B)  Have your camera ready for your visit to nearby Lake Matheson for a morning stroll – when conditions are right the lake perfectly mirrors beautiful Mount Cook in its still waters. Head over the Haast Pass along the river road beside the icy river and deep into Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The atmosphere lightens as we reach lovely Lake Wanaka, reflecting the mountain peaks that in winter offer superb skiing, and the pretty resort town of Wanaka.  Edgewater Resort, Wanaka – 2 nights

Day 13  Wanaka at Leisure   (B)  Today is at leisure to relax or enjoy your own choice of activities (additional cost).   There are trips across the lake to visit a predator-free island with native birds, 4WD adventures over authentic New Zealand High Country farm overlooking sparkling Lake Wanaka, or perhaps visit the vintage aircraft at the Warbirds Museum.

Day 14  Wanaka to Te Anau  (B)  Depart Wanaka with your first stop at the much photographed Cardrona Pub before traversing the Crown Range road to visit historic Arrowtown – a delightful gold rush village nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River.  Continue your journey via the road pinned between the base of the Remarkables mountain range and spectacular Lake Wakatipu. Journey through a glacial formed valley that is now farmland, to reach Lake Te Anau, the largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the South Island and gateway to Fiordland National Park. Distinction Hotel Luxmore, Te Anau

Day 15  Te Anau to Milford Sound to Queenstown  (B,L)  The journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic experiences you can have on four wheels.   Fiordland National Park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area is one of the great wilderness areas of the Southern Hemisphere.  The scenery is spectacular with lofty mountains and deep valleys carved out by Ice Age glaciers.  Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound is breath-taking in any weather.  Board a comfortable vessel for a cruise past towering Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea.  Keep an eye peeled for seals and dolphins which are often seen in the waters of the fiord.  Following the cruise, retrace your journey back to Te Anau travelling via the Cleddeau Gorge, Homer Tunnel and the lovely Eglinton Valley then across the Southland farmlands and around spectacular Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown. Scenic Suites Queenstown – 2 nights

Day 16  Queenstown  (B)  Surrounded by majestic mountains and set on the shores of crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu, the natural beauty and the unique energy of Queenstown create the perfect backdrop for a visit full of adventure, exploration or relaxation. Today is free for you to do your own thing: thrill-seekers may choose to zip-line at Bob’s Peak, get drenched on a Shotover jet-boat ride or go white-water rafting.  Other enjoyable but less hair-raising activities include the gondola ride up to Bob’s Peak, or a 4WD safari to Skippers Canyon.  Boutique wineries and local gardens welcome visitors and the classic steamship TSS Earnslaw is an elegant way to discover Lake Wakatipu during a cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm.

Day 17  Queenstown to Mt. Cook to Twizel  (B)  Continue north through the rugged Kawarau Gorge, past pretty Lake Dunstan and across the distinctive Central Otago countryside to the Lindis Pass.  Descend into the unique Mackenzie Basin where the Southern Alps dominate the horizon.  Take a beautiful drive along Lake Pukaki to Mt. Cook Village, home to New Zealand’s tallest peak, Aoraki/Mt. Cook. Mackenzie Country Hotel, Twizel

Day 18  Twizel to Rural Canterbury   (B,D)  Visit a local home set on the shores of Lake Tekapo and learn the secrets of making a Pavlova – a truly Kiwi dessert!  Enjoy morning tea the taste your pavlova as you drink in the views of this beautiful lake.   View the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of New Zealand’s most-photographed spots: a tiny church set against a majestic backdrop of the Southern Alps.  Pass across the high country’s tussock plains, through the small rural towns of Fairlie and Geraldine and onto Ashburton.  Accommodation: a) Rural homestay: Here you are met in small groups by your hosts who will extend their hospitality to you to with a tour of their property, perhaps a visit with the animals, and a delicious home-cooked dinner before a cosy night’s stay in a local home.  b) Local hotel: spend the night in a local hotel enjoying dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Day 19  Ashburton to Christchurch  (B,D)  After breakfast re-assemble to travel across the fertile Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.  This most English of New Zealand cities suffered a succession of terrible earthquakes in 2010/11.  The city is now reinventing itself with exciting new sights including the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ and various pop-up bars and restaurants.  Upon arrival in central Christchurch punting boatmen, resplendent with straw boaters and traditional Edwardian dress take you for a relaxing cruise in flat-bottomed punts along the River Avon through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.   Enjoy a journey in style onboard a beautifully restored heritage tram through the changing face of Christchurch’s city centre.  This is the final part of our journey together so tonight we enjoy a relaxed farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Distinction Hotel, Christchurch

Day 20  Depart Christchurch  (B)  Haere ra – farewell from New Zealand.  After breakfast you are transferred to the Christchurch Airport for your return home taking with you fond memories of your time in New Zealand.  Alternatively, should you wish to extend your stay, we can assist you with additional travel arrangements.

Culinary Inclusions: 24 meals included: 19 breakfasts (B) 1 lunch (L) 4 dinners (D)
*Itinerary and Accommodation subject to change.