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Best of Both Islands & The Cook Islands
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From the tranquil waters of the Bay of Islands and the geothermal Maori heartland of the north to the awe-inspiring glaciers and adrenaline-inducing activities of the south, this self-drive holiday is full of spectacular discoveries. Enjoy the best of both islands as you immerse yourself in New Zealand’s breath-taking scenery, then discover the palm-lined beaches of the Cook Islands.
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Your Example Itinerary
Fly from the UK to Auckland
Take in the sights of Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city. Numerous museums and galleries sit side by side with imaginative restaurants and plenty of malls and markets. If you have a head for heights, admire the views from the iconic Sky Tower. Take a boat ride around the harbour, or catch the ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island. From shopping and dining in the city centre to exploring the diverse landscapes in the surrounding area, explore all there is to offer in this diverse city.
Bay of Islands
Drive to the spectacular Bay of Islands, known for its stunning natural beauty and history. The Bay’s 144 islands were the setting for the establishment of some of the first Maori communities as well as New Zealand’s first permanent European settlement. Set off on a memorable Hole in the Rock Cruise where you’ll cruise the turquoise waters in search of marine life, including common and bottlenose dolphins, and stop off at Motukokako Island to see the famous Hole in the Rock.
Return to Auckland for a one-night stop. Enjoy a chilled-out evening soaking up the city’s attractions before your drive south tomorrow.
Head for other-worldly Rotorua, the heartland of Maori culture. This unique spa city will captivate you with its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs. You will have plenty of opportunity to explore the geothermal valley, bathe in soothing spa's or see an authentic Maori dance.
Continue on to adrenaline-fuelled Lake Taupo with its numerous adventurous activities such as skydiving and bungee jumping. For something more sedate World heritage Listed Tongariro National Park’s three towering peaks offer mixed level walking trails and numerous photo opportunities.
Continue the picturesque drive south to Wellington, your last stop on the North Island. Don’t miss national museum Te Papa in a striking location on Wellington’s waterfront – it’s a great place to learn a little more about New Zealand’s history and Maori culture. Afterwards, wander along the picturesque harbour and soak up the café culture. There’s also plenty to captivate nature lovers, with a seal colony close by and the Botanic Gardens, which can be reached by cable car.
Hop aboard the ferry and sail to South Island - your first stop will be the peaceful town of Kaikoura. It’s all about the sea life here – embark on a whale watching trip (seasonal) to see the giant sperm whales that inhabit these waters or swim among the many pods of dolphins.
Spend a day in this vibrant city where a great selection of bars and restaurants await. Witness the city’s encouraging restoration and reinvention following the devastating earthquake in 2011, or relax in one of the city’s many beautiful parks.
Drive to Lake Tekapo, which owes its striking landscape to the turquoise waters of the lake set against the mountainous backdrop of the Southern Alps. A leisurely stroll along the lake shore to the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd promises a picture-perfect moment – bring your camera.
Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, next stop Queenstown boasts some breath-taking views – best admired from the gondola cable car ride. Alternative ways to take in the epic landscape include the highest bungee jump in the country, canyon swings and skydiving. Those who prefer to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground can choose from walks through national parks, pamper experiences or local wine tasting. And don’t forget your unforgettable Milford Sound Cruise through spectacular fjords and forested mountains.
Welcome to glacier country. Franz Josef and neighbouring Fox glacier are unique in that they descend from the lofty Southern Alps to terminate less than 300m above sea level amid lush tracts of rainforest. See the icy formations of the Franz Josef on foot, or even a heli-hike, which starts with an eagle’s eye view from your helicopter flight, delivering you straight to the ice for a guided hike across the pristine icy terrain. Reward yourself with a well-earned meal in the cosy village of Franz Josef where there are plenty of dining options to choose from.
Once you’ve had your fill of ice and snow, continue to the scene of the Booker Prize winning novel, The Luminaries, in Hokitika, a charming sea-side town where you’ll spend the night and get ready for your railway adventure.
From Hokitika head to Greymouth and travel on the famous TranzAlpine Railway through native beech forest, across the legendary Arthur's Pass, traversing the Southern Alps, through the gorges that line the Waimakariri River, and across the Canterbury Plains before arriving in to Christchurch, your final stop. Take some time to plunder the numerous quirky shops and boutiques for last minute souvenirs and gifts, but head out of the city too to explore the lovely coastline. Take some time to reflect at the Cardboard Cathedral - an icon of Kiwi resilience after the earthquake.
Depart Christchurch and fly to Rarotonga. Embrace island life, recline in the sunshine, snorkel among colourful shoals of tropical fish and soak up the gorgeous beaches in this little slice of paradise. This really is a place to relax and get away from it all against a beautiful backdrop of turquoise seas and rocky coves. Perhaps pamper yourself in your hotel’s beauty salon, or set sail in the resort’s very own glass-bottomed cruiser the Moana Roa. Be careful, you might never want to leave.
Depart Rarotonga and return to the UK.
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