Saturday 12 November Queenstown – Wanaka (D)
This morning meet with your tour group at Queenstown Airport. Departure time from Queenstown 12.00pm.
Set off by coach via the Crown Range Road to Wanaka, enjoying the spectacular scenery en route. The road over the range is the highest main road in New Zealand, reaching an altitude of 1121 metres.
Enjoy lunch (own expense) at the iconic Cardrona Hotel; Established in 1863 it is one of the oldest, most-photographed and legendary hotels in New Zealand. It is one of only two remaining buildings from the Cardrona Valley gold rush era. Its’ rustic charm, dramatic mountain setting and rich history make it a must-see while in Central Otago.
Travelling on, we stop at the nearby Cardrona Whisky Distillery located in the valley of picturesque snow-capped mountains. Every aspect of Cardrona’s products is of the highest quality, from the pure Cardrona Valley alpine water, the rich malted barley, the foraged ingredients to the handpicked oak casks from Spain and America. Discover the secrets to Cardrona’s artisan spirits, see where the malt is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and matured before tasting the wares with a tutored spirit tasting!
On arrival into Wanaka this afternoon, we are transferred to the Award-Winning Edgewater Resort for the next 3-nights, Wanaka’s only accommodation located directly on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Tonight, we dine together for the first time.
Sunday 13 November Wanaka (B)
After breakfast, we are met by the Ridgeline Adventures team. From the hotel, we set off on a 4WD safari, travelling high into the Buchannan Mountains for jaw-dropping scenery of Wanaka. The private back roads of West Wanaka Station, a 30,000-acre deer farm are steeped in history and bordering the majestic snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mt Aspiring National Park. Enjoy morning tea on the top of Lookout Hill and take a leisurely walk in the alpine meadow, before descending to Calhounes Beach for a fascinating history lesson. Return to Wanaka approx. 1.00pm.
Enjoy lunch at the one of the many café’s lining the shores of Lake Wanaka. Enjoy local favourites such as Alchemy, Fed Deli, Relishes, Big Fig and more!
At 3.00pm we meet again on the lake front for an afternoon cruise on Lake Wanaka. Relax in comfort as we cruise up the arm to Stevensons Island where we will make a beach landing. Our guide will take us ashore for a short hike (optional) to the summit to view the Minaret Peaks with some excellent photo opportunities. We return to Wanaka approx. 5.00pm.
The evening is at leisure.
Monday 14 November Wanaka (B, D)
This morning we drive to Wanaka’s famous Blue Pools to enjoy a short walk. Stroll through beech forest to a swing bridge that crosses the Makarora River, then cross the Blue Pools bridge for great views up the river gorge. Along the way look out for large trout feeding in the pools and listen for the threatened yellowhead which can often be heard in the canopy. Enjoy a morning tea stop in Makarora, surrounded by vast alpine scenery.
At approx. 12.00pm, we meet with Go Jets Wanaka for a thrilling jet boat ride down the mighty Clutha River. Enjoy spectacular scenery and fast flowing waters, cruising past old gold mining sites, and pass under the historic “Red Bridge” until we reach the “Devil’s Nook”. There will be numerous photo stops and storytelling along the way – you are in for one unforgettable journey. Return to Wanaka at the conclusion of the tour, with time for lunch.
The afternoon we pay a visit the Wanaka Lavender Farm, where you can experience 20 acres of beautiful lavender fields, farm animals & display gardens. Enjoy a walk through the flowers, meet the friendly resident farm animals, unwind over a cup of herbal tea & indulge in the famous lavender ice-cream or Lakes Honey, made using local ingredients.
This evening we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Tuesday 15 November Wanaka – Arrowtown (B, L, D)
Following breakfast, we depart Wanaka and travel to Cromwell, situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Dunstan. Sit back and relax as you travel past well-known New Zealand vineyards such as Akarua, Pisa Range Estate Locharburn, Ata Mara, and more.
When the Clyde dam was completed in 1990, Cromwell’s main street disappeared under Lake Dunstan. Some of the historic buildings dating back to the gold rush of the 1860’s were saved or rebuilt on higher ground, creating the Cromwell Heritage Precinct. Step back in time to the gold rush and explore heritage buildings, many with artisan businesses in them.
Lunch today will be at the world class Mt. Difficulty restaurant and Cellar Door, where you can enjoy spectacular panorama views of Bannockburn and the Cromwell Basin while enjoying a delicious meal.
We continue through the Gibbston Valley, also known as the ‘Valley of the Vines’ and of the most scenic wine growing areas you’ll ever encounter, on our way to our accommodation for the next 2-nights, Millbrook Resort.
Wednesday 16 November Queenstown (B, L)
Departing Millbrook this morning, we make a visit to the Chantecler Gardens, a 40-acre property that includes 12 acres of mature gardens and nestled in the heart of the Wakitipu Basin.
At midday today, we set off on a cruise aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw across to Walter Peak High Country Farm (approx. 45-minutes) for lunch. Once at the lakeside Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, savour the delicious aromas as the chef has the best of local produce sizzling away on the grill.
Overlooking Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown’s alpine scenery, the Colonel’s Homestead at Walter Peak High Country Farm is the perfect place to spend a few hours. Its colonial architecture and sweeping grounds evoke the elegance of a bygone era. An entertaining farm demonstration is also included, or you can explore the beautiful lakeside gardens.
Before returning to our accommodation, we make a brief stop in Arrowtown (time permitting), a historic New Zealand treasure. Quaint and charming, the town gained a name for itself in the 1860s following the discovery of gold in the Arrow River. The heart of its history is Buckingham Street, a succession of more than 60 small-town heritage buildings and miners’ cottages stretching across the tree lined avenue.
Remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.
Thursday 17 November Arrowtown – Manapouri (B, D)
We depart Millbrook Resort at approx. 8.30am, and head towards Lake Manapouri. Originally called Roto-au (the rainy lake) by early Maori and then Moturau (many islands), this lake is the second deepest in New Zealand with a circumference of 170kms and deepest point of 444 metres.
At midday we board the Real Journeys Doubtful Sound overnight cruise. As you cruise through some of New Zealand’s most stunning scenery, knowledgeable nature guides will provide commentary ensuring you miss nothing, be it the pod of resident dolphins, fur seals or rare penguins you might encounter. An unforgettable experience.
After dropping anchor in a sheltered cove, you can choose to explore the shoreline by kayak or tender boat – or to simply relax on board. For the adventurous (or very brave), there’s even a chance to go swimming.
Friday 18 November Manapouri – Invercargill (B, D)
After a hearty cooked breakfast, spend the morning exploring other parts of the fiord, before returning to Manapouri and disembarking. We rejoin the coach in Manapouri and continue our drive along the Southern Scenic Route. Enjoy stops at Riverton Paua shop, Tuatapere and more.
We arrive in Invercargill mid-afternoon and are transferred to our accommodation for the next 3-nights.
Tonight, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
Saturday 19 November Invercargill (B, D)
No visit to Invercargill is complete without visiting the Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca, a wheeled collection that has taken nearly 50 years to amass. Starting out as one man’s passion and further developed by his family, it now includes two world class automotive museums which house hundreds of classic cars, vintage trucks and motorcycles.
Other highlights today include Queenspark and the Tuatarium, one of the world’s best enclosures, where you can see 100+ live tuatara thriving in an environment that mimics their natural habitat (viewable from outside).
The afternoon is at leisure before dining together at a local restaurant.
Sunday 20 November Stewart Island (B, L)
This morning we travel approx. 30mins to Bluff, where we join the 9.45am ferry to Stewart Island – New Zealand’s third largest island! Over 85% of the island is National Park and it is a prime destination for birdwatchers and those wishing to catch a glimpse of the famous Aurora Australis which often appears in these southern skies.
On arrival, we join a coach tour and gain an entertaining insight into New Zealand’s southernmost community and learn about the history and environment of Stewart Island. Unspoiled, incredibly beautiful, and steeped in stories, Stewart Island (known as Rakiura – glowing skies – by Maori) is well worth this informative introduction. Our local guides enjoy sharing their knowledge of the area on this mini-bus tour of the Island. You will have plenty of time to get off the bus for photo stops and short walks. Highlights include a visit to the gateway to Rakiura National Park at Lee Bay and Observation Rock with its stunning views of Paterson Inlet.
In the afternoon, we discover Stewart Island from the water as we enjoy a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet viewing hidden coves and unspoilt beaches. Along the way learn about the early Maori history and European settlement including whaling. Our skipper and nature guide provide detailed commentary throughout the cruise and are happy to answer any questions. While on board, keep a lookout for fur seals, penguins and other wildlife, as sightings are common.
Then disembark at Ulva Island, a renowned wildlife sanctuary for a 45-minute guided walk with a specialist nature guide. View rare plants and rich birdlife, including the inquisitive weka, which are often seen on the beach. For the remainder of the cruise around Paterson Inlet, relax on board and enjoy the coastal scenery before heading back to base.
Mid-afternoon, we return to Invercargill via Stewart Island Flights and the rest of the evening is at leisure.
Monday 21 November Bluff – Catlins – Dunedin (B, D)
We depart Invercargill this morning and travel the route through the Catlins, and onto Dunedin. See Curio Bay, Fossilised Forest, the Lost Gypsy Caravan (if open), Purakaunui Falls, Owaka and more.
We arrive in Dunedin this afternoon and are transferred to our accommodation for the next 2-nights. We enjoy dinner at the hotel tonight.
Tuesday 22 November Dunedin (B)
Today we explore Dunedin and pay visit to some of the well-known attractions including Larnach Castle and Gardens and Olveston Historic Home. We also tour the Royal Albatross Centre, the only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross in the world. Witness the fascinating social and family life of the breeding colony, devoted parents guarding their chicks; adolescents posturing and displaying as only juveniles can, courtship proceedings, nest building and interplay. Nowhere else in the world can you enjoy the privilege of viewing these majestic seabirds in their natural environment!
Wednesday 23 November Dunedin – Mount Cook (B, L, D)
Leaving Dunedin, we take the coach through to Naseby to enjoy a game of curling at the Naseby Indoor Curling Rink!
At the end of our game, we meet with the High Country Journeys 4WD team to continue over Danseys Pass, a classic, unsealed and stunningly beautiful alpine pass. Once well used for gold mining traffic, races dug by Chinese miners into the hillsides scar the landscape and are a reminder of the intense hard work required to source water for inland and high country prospecting. Arriving at Danseys Pass you can’t help but feel a sense of achievement and freedom; it truly is, away from it all.
We rejoin our coach in Duntroon and continue on to our accommodation. Nestled in the beautiful Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, The Hermitage Hotel is the perfect base. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and of course our tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres.
Thursday 24 November Mount Cook (B, D)
There is time to wander around the Hermitage grounds, before we move on to New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier terminal lake for a fascinating glacial encounter. From here we cruise the rapidly growing terminal lake taking in spectacular mountain views and scenery. Icebergs of every shape and size periodically tear away from the glacier allowing you to touch and taste the 300-500 year old glacial crystals.
The afternoon is at leisure, until such time as we meet again for dinner.
This evening, at 10.30pm, you can opt to join the Big Sky Stargazing tour. Experienced guides will introduce you to the beautiful southern night sky using the naked eye, astro-binoculars and state of the art 14’ and 11’ astronomy telescopes. Unleash your imagination as you discover our neighbourhood in the universe including the southern cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, stunning star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and even our very own galaxy, the spectacular Milky Way.
Friday 25 November Mount Cook – Tekapo – Christchurch (B, D)
Departing Mount Cook, we enjoy a short drive through to Lake Tekapo. Enjoy free time in Tekapo and take in picturesque views of the milky-turquoise lake, the church of the Good Sheppard, and other local sights of interest.
Continue through to Christchurch and to our overnight accommodation. We enjoy one final dinner together this evening.
Saturday 26 November Christchurch – Home (B)
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Bid your fellow tour members farewell today as you transfer to Christchurch airport to join your flight home. Arrival at airport by 1.00pm.