The ultimate New Zealand luxury tour - Part 1
Imagine cradling your morning coffee, sweeping back your curtains, and revealing views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand’s most impressive mountain. Just yesterday you were cruising through the famed Milford Sound, feeling the spray of its enchanting waterfalls on your face. And in a few days time, you’ll be sipping some of New Zealand’s finest Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the golden beaches of the Abel Tasman region.
At New Zealand Trails we understand that there comes a time in our lives when we crave a little more comfort and style on our adventures. That doesn’t mean we’re willing to compromise on experience, but that we’d prefer to end the day with a delightfully smooth glass of Pinot Noir and a delicious meal in a local eatery. That’s why top-tier New Zealand travel is the absolute priority on our 14-day Grand Explorer adventure. With our expert local guides at the helm, you'll enjoy an itinerary that showcases the very best of our country, with the flexibility to take things at a pace that's right for you.
Want to find out what a luxury New Zealand adventure like this entails? Read on…
Your introductory days exploring Fiordland will have you wondering how this journey could possibly get any better. From the fairytale-esque ambience of the Kepler Track to the grandeur of the Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, the largest national park in New Zealand, is nothing short of spectacular!
While we spend time in this area, you’ll have a choice between exploring Te Anau - the gateway to Fiordland National Park - or taking a hike on the Kepler Track.
Te Anau is a mecca for hikers and holidaymakers alike. Built along the shoreline of Lake Te Anau, the town boasts an array of local bars and restaurants as well as several shops filled with Kiwi (our word for New Zealander!) curios. Be sure to stop in at Miles Better Pies for a classic meat pie - a Kiwi must-try!
If you’re interested in a small adventure, a 30-minute boat cruise can take you from town to some incredible glow worm caves - where else in the world are you going to see those? You’ll be blanketed in darkness as you’re led through by an expert guide, into the home of these intriguing little insects who will then light up like a starry night sky. Magical!
And speaking of magic, those who have opted to hike on the Kepler Track, will not be disappointed. The Kepler Track is one of the Ten Great Walks of New Zealand. It belongs to this elite collection of hikes because of its beauty, diversity and quality infrastructure.
You’ll first cross over the Waiau River by bridge, or as some of you may know it, the River Anduin from Lord of The Rings!
Leaving the bridge you’ll be absorbed into a canopy of ancient beech trees, the forest floor covered in native New Zealand ferns as far as the eye can see! Almost every rock is consumed by vibrant, spongy moss, and the sun filtering through the treetops is so beautiful, your only worry will be where to look next.
While you make your way to Moturau hut on the beautiful shores of Lake Manapouri, your expert New Zealand Trails guides will be there to chat, answer questions and draw your attention to the many wonders of the Kepler Track.
Make sure you reserve some of your wonder for your journey into Milford Sound.
You’ll be in awe before you even get there. Journeying through deep, glacially-carved valleys, with waterfalls that seem to materialise out of the sky! If you catch it at just the right time of the year, lupins will colour waterways brilliant shades of pink, purple and yellow and mountains reflect off the surfaces of glass-like lakes.
Arriving at your boat, you’ll set sail out towards the Tasman Sea, exploring this mystical fiord. Everywhere you look there’s a spot for a picture-perfect moment, and it’s not uncommon for rainbows to appear throughout the trip! If you’re really lucky you might be farewelled by dolphins riding the bow wake - or ignored by some lazy seals!
Aoraki/ Mt Cook
It’s rather special and quite rare to stay right in the heart of a national park, let alone on the footsteps of New Zealand’s highest mountain, but with us, you’ll spend two magical nights at the famous Hermitage Hotel on the doorstep of Aoraki/Mt Cook.
Aoraki/Mt Cook stands at 3724m or roughly 12,000ft and is surrounded by 19 peaks over 3000m. A clear day can’t be beaten in this alpine playground. However the mood takes you, you’ll have the choice of exploring Mt Cook village, taking a stroll along the valley floor on the Hooker Valley Track, or adding a touch of adventure with a guided heli-hike on the Tasman glacier.
A lot of our wonderful visitors do opt for a walk on the Hooker Valley track with absolutely no regrets afterwards. It’s about a 3-hour return walk on lovely flat terrain with unrivalled views. You’ll marvel at the milky-blue waters of the Hooker River and Mueller Lake and enjoy the tranquillity of Aoraki’s isolated location. If you’re there at just the right time, you’ll see the Mt Cook Lily flowering (insider info: it’s actually not a lily, but the world’s largest buttercup!).
Meandering along a boardwalk you’ll be taken over golden tussock and before long, you’ll wander up a small hill before a dramatic view of Hooker Lake reveals itself, Aoraki/Mt Cook towering above. You’ll definitely want to snap a pic in front of the lake’s icebergs and wander down to its shores to feel its icy temperatures before making your way back to the Hermitage to get cosy for the night!
Alternatively, while your other travel companions keep their feet firmly on land, why not board a chopper for stunning aerial views before touching down on the Tasman Glacier for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! You’ll look like a true mountaineer as you don your crampons and explore spectacular ice caves with your specialist guide.
From Mountains to Ocean, you’ll be amazed by how quickly the landscape changes in such a short distance.
On your way to Christchurch, the South Island’s largest and most futuristic city, you’ll have the chance to explore the historic, lakeside town of Tekapo. The town’s home to the famous Church of the Good Shepherd as well as a stunning array of lupins and some of the most brilliant shades of blue water you’ll ever see!
Carrying on through the Mackenzie Basin, you’ll take in vast grasslands that will again, look familiar to Lord of The Rings fans as the Pelennor Fields. Your expert guide will regale you with the history of the area - and one particularly controversial character, James Mackenzie, who was the infamous sheep musterer and namesake of the area.
You’ll stay right in the heart of Christchurch, giving you the opportunity to marvel at the city’s fusion of old and new architecture. Explore the inner-city sanctuary that is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and wander the Avon River, which runs through the centre of the city and makes for a great walk after dinner on a warm summer’s evening.
Working your way up the east coast, the views of dramatic cliffs, scattered rocks and crashing waves are second to none. The journey quickly becomes a game of ‘spot the seal’ as you get closer to Kaikoura and its thriving marine life makes itself known from the roadside!
Arriving in Kaikoura, you’ll prepare for your whale-watching adventure on a purpose-built catamaran. Breathe in the fresh open ocean air while your captain searches for whales using special hydrophones (underwater microphones). After the ecstasy of spotting your first whale, you’ll marvel at the majesty of these gentle giants and in the right conditions, you might be treated to some sightings of dolphins and fur seals too!
We’ll stay right on the ocean this evening, an ideal spot for post-dinner strolls or to wake up early and watch the sunrise over the ocean!
Upon waking in Kaikoura you’ll only just have reached the halfway point of your journey! In the next instalment of this epic luxury escape, we’ll explore the golden sand beaches and perfect blue water of the Abel Tasman, explore the rugged and beautiful West Coast region and experience the vibrance of Queenstown – adventure capital of the world where luxury lifestyle and outdoor adventure blend seamlessly in a melting pot of rich experiences.