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Fly across the world to New Zealand. You’ll be met in Auckland and taken to your hotel.
Set out from your central hotel to explore the charming little city of Auckland and you’ll soon understand why it is known as the City of Sails. The waterfront area is alive with sailing craft – as well as chic waterfront restaurants and bars.
From here you could take a scenic mini-cruise around the harbour, or sail slightly further afield to visit the art galleries, cafés and vineyards of picturesque Waiheke Island.
Stay: Two nights in the Sofitel Auckland.
Time to explore the island. The scenic Pacific Coast Highway will whisk you into an area of beautiful coastline backed by indigenous bush.
Take the ‘Kiwi Dundee Adventure’ and you’ll walk through an ancient kauri forest, visit a well-preserved 1890s gold mining town, see glow worms and learn about the local flora and fauna. You’ll also visit Hot Water Beach’s famous thermal sand pools, and view towering cliffs and offshore islands.
Stay: Two nights in the Lonely Bay Hotel.
Today a fascinating road trip awaits. Your route to Rotorua takes you through some extremely photogenic countryside – so be prepared to stop often – before arriving at the heartland of traditional Maori culture.
You may well be welcomed with a fearsome haka and indulge in a sumptuous hangi feast, before discovering Rotorua’s bubbling thermal hot springs. Even more relaxing; there’s excellent trout fishing on the lake.
Stay: Two nights at Koura Lodge, Rotorua.
Now it’s time to take to the Thermal Explorer Highway that winds through lakes and volcanic features to the soft, picturesque valley of Omaruni, surrounded by lush vineyards and picturesque wineries.
Your lodge will be ideally placed for touring the wine estates of Hawke’s Bay, whilst Napier and Hastings are just a few minutes’ drive away. You’ll also be able to take a 4×4 safari to Cape Kidnappers to visit one of the world’s largest and most accessible gannet colonies.
Stay: Two nights in the boutique Breckenridge Lodge.
Spend your day in New Zealand’s capital city browsing through the excellent Te Papa Museum, or wandering around the interesting and stylish waterfront district.
Stay: One night in the Bolton Hotel.
Bay of Many Coves
Today you have a choice. You can drive to the ferry port and sail across the famous Cook Strait, boarding another boat to reach your hotel. Or you could fly by helicopter direct from Wellington.
Either way, at the Bay of Many Coves you’ll have a tranquil setting, glorious food, terrific views and the opportunity to walk the Queen Charlotte Track, or go sailing, fishing and kayaking. You could even charter a luxury cruiser, complete with skipper.
Stay: Two nights in the Bay of Many Coves Hotel.
You leave Bay of Many Coves by boat and sail to Picton where your car and a trip through the wineries of Marlborough await. At Kaikoura you can go whale watching, swim with dolphins, immerse yourself in Maori culture or go quad biking through the surrounding countryside.
Stay: Two nights in the lodge or a treehouse at Hapuku Lodge.
No Grand Tour of New Zealand would be complete without a stop at Christchurch. This quaint city offers you stylish shops, interesting bazaars and markets, as well as sight-seeing opportunities, restaurants and bars, beautiful parks and gardens. Plus a surprise; there are also a good number of adventure activities and adrenalin generating sports in close proximity to the city.
Stay: One night in The George, Christchurch.
Will this prove to be the ultimate highlight of your tour? You’ll board the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch and cross the fertile Canterbury Plains, following the ice-fed Waimakariri River to the mighty Southern Alps with their rock-carved vistas and dense beech forests.
From Greymouth you can drive to Franz Josef at the heart of a region of mighty glaciers, ice worlds, brilliant hiking countryside and wild rivers.
Stay: Two nights in Te Waonui Lodge.
Travel south away from the snow-capped Southern Alps and you’ll arrive at Queenstown – the adventure sports capital of New Zealand, situated on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. As well as thrilling activities like knuckle-blanching jet boat rides on the Dart River and bungee-jump watching from Kawarau Bridge, you’ll have lunch in an historic Glenorchy pub, tastings at Amisfield Winery and visit Coronet Peak and historic Arrowtown. There’s even an option to take a mini-cruise aboard the Fiordland Navigator to see bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, occasional penguins and jaw-dropping fjords.
Stay: Three nights in the Rees Queenstown.
Your Grand Tour comes to its conclusion and you board a plane at Queenstown to begin your journey back home.
Of your various competitors, Ayesha stood out a mile ahead with her advice, decisiveness and willingness to help.- RW, India