Day 1 - Welcome to Queenstown
Upon arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the 5-star St. Moritz Hotel. This evening, join your guide and fellow guests for a welcome drink and dinner at the hotel. Meals D
Day 2 - Discover Middle Earth
This morning’s excursion to Glenorchy finds you on the northern end of Lake Wakatipu in a region of towering mountain ranges and old beech forests. Setting out in comfortable and maneuverable 4WD vehicles with skilled professional drivers, you’ll have ample time to take in these magnificent landscapes, including several sites that were featured in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Next up is historic Arrowtown. Founded in the heady days of the Gold Rush, this charming leafy town is nestled below the beautiful peaks that surround the sparkling Arrow River. Take some time to stroll along Buckingham Street with its heritage buildings and old miners’ cottages – many of them now home to inviting galleries, shops and cafes. Before returning to Queenstown, a thrilling jetboat ride through the picturesque canyons of the Shotover River promises an unforgettable afternoon adventure. Meals B
Day 3 - Queenstown
After breakfast, you’ll spend this day exploring Queenstown and its surrounding countryside. At the Kiwi Bird Park, you’ll have a chance to observe and learn about some of New Zealand’s indigenous wildlife including the Brown Kiwi, Tuatara Lizard, and the colorfully plumed Rainbow Lorikeet.
Then learn about the winemaking traditions of the South Island at a local boutique winery and sample some of their fine vintages. From the heart of town, the Skyline Gondola will take you to the top of Bob’s Peak, nearly 1,500 feet above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. This is the steepest cable car ascent in the Southern Hemisphere and offers breathtaking views of Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Walter and Cecil Peaks and, of course, Queenstown.
Later this afternoon, you’ll board the TSS Earnslaw, a turn-of-the-century steamer, for a cruise across beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Step off at a working high-country homestead where you’ll see highly trained sheep dogs in action and enjoy a delightful lakeside dinner with fine New Zealand wine. Meals B+L+D
Day 4 – Cruise through Milford Sound
This morning’s drive begins along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and takes you through the amazing Homer Tunnel that opened in 1953. Continue through the spectacular glacier-carved Eglington Valley into Fiordland National Park to embark your overnight cruise aboard the comfortable Milford Mariner.
Settle in to your private outside cabin and get set for the adventure of a lifetime! As you journey the full length of Milford Sound, our ship’s expert naturalists are on hand to explain the history and geology of the region and to answer your questions. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the fjord’s pristine waterfalls, rainforests and soaring mountain peaks - and with sharp eyes, you might observe seals and possibly even dolphins and penguins. Anchoring in a sheltered cover, you’ll be able to join our naturalist guides to explore in the Mariner’s tender or by kayak. This evening after a delicious carvery buffet, you can relax in the company of your fellow passengers or hit the deck to observe the constellations of the Southern Sky. Meals B+D
Day 5 - Te Anau to Clyde
After breakfast onboard the Mariner, we’ll step off ship and travel to the Punanga Manu o Te Anau Bird Sanctuary. Set on the shores of Lake Te Anau, this is a terrific place to observe an abundant variety of indigenous birds that are otherwise difficult to see in their native wilderness habitats. In addition to colorful forest parrots, warblers, paradise shelducks, fantails and bellbirds, the star of the sanctuary is the rare, flightless Takahe - once thought to be extinct here on the South Island. We’ll tour the Sanctuary and learn about their captive breeding and rehabilitation programs that aim to reintroduce healthy birds into the wilderness. Then we’ll enjoy a hearty lunch downtown at the Fat Duck Café, loved by locals and visitors alike for its modern New Zealand cuisine prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
In the afternoon, continue into the spectacular Kawarau Valley, home to the famous Bungy Bridge where two daring adventurers launched the worldwide bungee jumping craze in 1988. The day’s journey ends at Oliver’s Hotel, set on an authentic 19th-century homestead in historic Clyde. Meals B+L
Day 6 - Exploring Central Otago
With fruit orchards, waterways and rolling hills, Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s loveliest and most bountiful agricultural areas. After breakfast, you’ll begin your exploration at a lively farmers market in Cromwell, a charming and historic town founded during the Gold Rush days of the 1800’s. At one of the area’s local orchards, you’ll have a chance to sample some of the region’s bounty. Then enjoy a guided tour, wine tasting and lunch at a nearby vineyard estate.
In the mid 1800’s, this region also witnessed New Zealand’s first major gold rush and fortune seekers and adventurers poured into the region to dig for gold. This afternoon’s tour at the Goldfields Mining Center immerses you in this colorful chapter of the island’s history. You can follow paths along the Kawarau Gorge to the mine shafts that were excavated more than a century ago and see the land laid bare by ground sluicing. Gold nuggets can still be found in the soil and you might even try our luck as you try your hand at gold panning! Enjoy a congenial dinner and another tranquil night in Clyde. Meals B+L+D
Day 7 - Onward to Mt. Cook
Leaving behind Clyde and Central Otago, this morning’s scenic journey takes you through the dramatic Lindis Pass at an altitude of 3,800. Traveling through the Mackenzie Basin that lies roughly in the center of the South Island, you’ll discover a picturesque region of powder blue lakes and wide-open grasslands set against an impressive backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Arriving in the beautiful Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park, you’ll check in to the comfortable Hermitage Hotel in time for dinner. Tonight, the absence of ambient light makes the Aoraki MacKenzie International Dark Sky Reserve one of the best places to view the Southern Constellations. Meals B+D
Day 8 - Canterbury Plains to the Garden City
Embark on an available flightseeing adventure over Mt. Cook or take this morning to relax. A pleasant stroll on the landscaped grounds of the hotel or through the surrounding alpine meadows would offer a chance to take in the fresh mountain air and marvelous views of the soaring terrain. Later, you’ll depart the National Park to journey over the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch.
With its lovely parks and handsome Gothic buildings, theres a delightful, very English ambience to Christchurch. In contrast, the Cardboard Cathedral designed by Shigeru Ban in 2011 is a marvel of 21st-century architectural design and ingenuity, constructed of paper tubes, re-purposed shipping containers and a lightweight outer skin. Upon arrival, youll set out to see the towns architectural landmarks and the Botanic Gardens - founded in 1863 with the planting of a single English oak tree. From this humble beginning, the garden has grown to encompass mature trees, expansive lawns and 10 different gardens set within a loop of the gently flowing Avon River. This evening, you’ll be the guests of a Christchurch family in their lovely home. Congenial conversation with your hosts and perhaps a few of their friends will accompany a wonderful home-cooked meal of traditional New Zealand fare.
Overnight at The George, a luxury boutique hotel on the Avon River. Meals B+D
Day 9 - Depart Christchurch
Transfer to the airport for your homeward flight. Or continue your adventure with our 12-day Small Group Journey to Australia. Meals B