Aotearoa (Māori for New Zealand) is a diverse country with a rich blend of cultures, fascinating geological landscapes, and unique flora and fauna. The locals, known as Kiwis, enjoy a laid-back lifestyle, and you're never further than a few hours' drive from a beach, mountain, or lake. You'll discover a small paradise at the bottom of the world on this tour. You'll indulge in fine food and wine, meet indigenous Māori for in-depth cultural learning, and witness stunning scenery from extinct volcanoes to hot springs and lush green pastures.
Here's a day-by-day itinerary of the trip.
We'll meet you at Auckland Airport and take you to your hotel in the center of “the City of Sails.” Use the afternoon to shop or relax.
This evening, we'll meet for welcome cocktails at our hotel, The 5-Star Fable Hotel, built in 1928, and then walk to Kingi Restaurant to dine under shimmering chandeliers on sustainably caught local fish and other sumptuous fare.
We're off on a morning tour of the city after breakfast. We'll take in the main sights before heading across the Harbour Bridge to iconic Chelsea Sugar. You'll learn all about sugar, where it comes from, and how it’s made and processed on an informative 25-minute factory tour. Kiwis love to bake, and you'll have time to taste popular items, like lamingtons in the Chelsea café. Driving back across the bridge, we'll admire the many yachts in the Westhaven Marina, one of the largest marinas in the southern hemisphere.
You have time to freshen up at the hotel before an exciting afternoon. We'll lift off for a scenic flight over the city in a helicopter, soaring above the Harbour Bridge, Devonport, Rangitoto, and across the Hauraki Gulf to Waiheke Island. Then, we'll enjoy a tasty lunch at Batch Vineyard. It's situated on a hill with fabulous views of the surrounding lands. By ferry, Waiheke is just 40 minutes from New Zealand’s largest city, but it’s a world away in landscape and lifestyle and has a laidback vibe. Vineyards and olive groves cling to hillsides, and sandy white beaches surround you. After lunch, we'll visit another vineyard for a tasting before catching the ferry back to the city.
Tonight, we'll walk down to the viaduct. Enjoy the view of the Waitemata Harbour over dinner and a glass of wine at Bellini.
After an early breakfast, we begin our journey south to the Waikato. At the home of a local chef and interior designer, we'll enjoy a cooking demonstration with a Kiwi twist, followed by lunch served in a unique country setting.
We'll reach Cambridge by early afternoon. This charming town is known for its trees and champion stud horses. It was recently voted NZ’s Most Beautiful Town. We'll stroll past the village green and down the majestic tree-lined main street on a short orientation tour. You'll find some lovely boutique shops and great restaurants and bars.
Dinner is reserved at the popular Italian-style Alpino this evening.
Rest, at the Hidden Lake Hotel, with its views of Te Koo Lake Reserve, will come easy after a busy day.
Rural Heartland Waikato
It's time to roam through the popular Hamilton Gardens after breakfast. The themed gardens tell the story of gardening through various civilizations. These gardens are an internationally renowned treasure of which Hamilton residents are very proud.
In the quintessential little town of Otorohanga, you'll have the opportunity to get up close to the Kiwi bird, learn about the habits of the brown Kiwi, walk through New Zealand’s largest free-flight dome aviary, and see this unique flightless bird up close. You will also witness the tuatara, a native reptile that predates dinosaurs.
It's just a short drive to the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is endemic to New Zealand. As your guide takes you deep into the cave, you'll see thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their unmistakable luminescent light. Delight in the informative commentary on the caves' historical and geological significance and explore the cave on a magical boat ride. The glow will surely enlighten you!
Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. There are several eateries within a short walk of the hotel. Alternatively, you could choose to dine at the hotel restaurant.
Middle Earth and Maori Culture
Today, we'll visit two different worlds or realities. First, we travel to Middle Earth. Even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan, a visit to Hobbiton is a fascinating experience. Stroll through the lush pastures of The Shire on a guided movie-set tour, past Hobbit Holes, the Mill, and on to the world-famous Green Dragon Inn where you'll sip on a complimentary beverage.
We'll stop for lunch and enjoy free time shopping in the quirky village of Tirau where you'll come face to face with some corrugated characters.
We've set up a special visit to Ōhinemutu Village, after lunch. Here, steaming vents, boiling hot pools of mud and water, and the natural beauty of Rotorua are laid out before you. We'll walk through the village with a Māori guide and learn about the area’s cultural and historic significance, including how the people continue to use the geothermal resources for daily cooking, bathing, and heating. This tour includes entry into the magnificent St Faith’s Anglican Church.
The village is home to two traditional Māori meeting houses, and we'll be invited into one. First, we'll receive a briefing on the traditional Māori whakatau process (welcome ceremony), including the traditional call (karanga), followed by a speech (whaikorero) and chants that acknowledge the deceased, the living, and the spiritual sacredness of the occasion.
Tonight, we have the pleasure of dining on a hangi meal cooked in natural steam. Our Maori hosts will share experiences about their lives, during meal preparation and dining. Feel free to ask questions and gain insight into the local way of life.
After your dinner, we'll meet and experience kapahaka (Māori performing arts action songs and their performers) for an intimate cultural experience that is engaging, educational, and interactive. Learn to use the poi in a rhythmical and geometric pattern. It's mesmerizing when performed by the experts.
After a joyous day, we'll rest our heads at the Pullman Hotel.
Wairakei and Lake Taupo
We’ll set off for Wairakei after breakfast, arriving at the Aratiatia Dam on time to see the gates open and release thousands of liters of water, creating a spectacular flow through a narrow gorge.
Sit back and relax as we cruise upstream to the Huka Falls and discover local history, fauna, and flora. The boat gets close enough to the falls to feel the spray on your face as you take epic photos.
Lunch is at the Lava Glass Café, followed by a glass-blowing demonstration - a fascinating process. Visit the garden afterward and marvel at the glass sculptures that brighten the landscape.
We'll take an easy scenic walk along a geothermal walkway at the Wairakei Terraces and discover hot bubbling water and geysers gushing over silica terraces amongst the bush. Get into your swimsuit and enjoy a hot soak in the healing, therapeutic pools.
On our return to Rotorua, we'll drive via Lake Taupo for a brief stop. On a clear day, the view across the lake and its mountainous backdrop is breathtaking.
Back in Rotorua, you're free to dine at your leisure. Eat Street is just around the corner. It offers plenty of choices, or you may prefer to dine at the hotel.
Soak at the geothermal pools
Arriving at Tikitere, you will walk through clouds of geothermic steam and discover New Zealand’s most active geothermal reserve and mud spa, more commonly known as Hell's Gate. Māori warriors used to heal their battle-scarred bodies here. For the last hundred years, it has been a mecca for visitors who find the nutrient-rich waters and mud excellent for rejuvenating skin and easing inflammation. Spend the morning soaking in the healing sulfur pool, exfoliate in the mud, and stroll through the geothermal bushland. You'll come away feeling refreshed.
The afternoon is free for optional activities. Rotorua has plenty of choices, from zip lining, walking or cycling in the forest, riding on a WWII amphibious craft, visiting a museum, exploring a 3D Trick Art Gallery, and more.
After dinner at Atticus Finch, we'll visit the Redwood Forest for a night walk in the treetops on eco-suspended bridges and platforms. Here, stupendous David Trubridge designed lanterns to light up the massive trees. It's a magical experience to celebrate the end of our amazing trip.
Hell's Garden Geothermal Pools
Redwood Forest Nightlights
Optional afternoon activity
After breakfast, check out and depart for Auckland arriving by midday. If you are flying out today, please ensure your flight departs after 3 p.m.
Wes Bently said "Everywhere you turn in New Zealand, there’s something exciting to do. It’s the gem of the world. It’s so far away from the madness....It was just stunning."
Situated in "The City of Sails", The Fable Hotel will be your home while you are in Auckland. The luxurious hotel is close to quaint boutiques for unique souvenirs.
Hidden Lake Hotel has been designed for comfort and built to take advantage of its country setting. Sitting on the banks of Hidden Lake, enjoy a cup of coffee from your balcony.
Marie grew up in a small farming community in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. Being a free-spirited, adventurous type, it wasn’t long before she spread her wings and started roaming around her country, exploring “nooks & crannies,” meeting amazing people, and forming life-long friendships. After many years working in the travel and tourism industry, Marie founded her own company, Roam Travel Adventures, specializing in women-only tours. She has carefully crafted this unique itinerary, especially for GG2TW – a bespoke tour you will not find anywhere else.
It's the most beautiful country in the world, according to almost anyone who’s ever been there.
New Zealand has it all! Big cities, beaches, geothermal pools, mountains, lakes, ancient indigenous culture and so much more!
A small group experience
Local New Zealand driver/guide – Marie Coles
Transportation in private air-conditioned 12-seater vehicle
Sightseeing entry and local guides as specified above
Accommodations at unique, 4-star or better hotels
All meals (except where indicated), including beer & wine with dinner.
Airport transfers on Day 1 and 8
A helicopter flight and a ferry ride
International airfare to Aukland
Additional wine, beer, and/or spirits beyond what’s offered at meals
All personal souvenirs
Travel Insurance (required)
The tour starts and ends in Auckland. You will find that most clients can arrive from the US or further afield on Air New Zealand with flights direct to Auckland.
The trip officially starts on the afternoon of March 18th, but if you are traveling across an ocean to get to New Zealand, consider arriving a day early so you have time to relax and adjust to the local time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, please let us know and we will book your room for you and make sure that you stay in the same room as when the trip starts.
We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.