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London – Auckland
Fly direct from London to Auckland where you’ll be met and taken to your private apartment.
Make yourself at home in your private, two bedroom apartment – then set out to see the city. You’ll find you’re staying within walking distance of the vibrant arts and restaurant district between Viaduct Harbour and Queen Street; perfect for sightseeing in this water lover’s paradise. There are two harbours to explore and a variety of tours that will take you to Mount Eden, Parnell Village, the Eastern Bays and island-hopping aboard a luxury yacht. You could even sail an original Americas Cup racing yacht, take a foodie tour or a day trip to Waiheke Island to visit over 30 boutique wineries. Auckland also has a wild and rugged coast and a rich rainforest featuring kauri trees and giant tree ferns.
Stay: Two nights in a two bedroom apartment.
On day five you collect your hire car and set off for Rotorua and some astonishing landscapes. Not to mention a world of adventure. The spiritual home of the Maori of Te Arawa Rotorua is set amongst crystal clear lakes, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers and hot sand beaches – it’s a geologist’s (and photographer’s) delight. And wonder follows natural wonder; you and the family can experience the Wai-O-Tapu thermal park, the geothermal caves of the Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako and Mount Tarawera, a volcano which erupted back in 1886. Special highlights here are a helicopter trip inside of the volcano and a visit to a village that was buried by the Tarawera eruption.
Stay: Four nights in two bedroom apartment.
Prepare to be amazed. The drive over to Nelson is jaw-droppingly beautiful – and it certainly isn’t an anti-climax when you arrive! The area is a rich mixture of wide plains, rivers, golden sandy beaches, hills and mountains. It’s also a major wine region, and home to Abel Tasman National Park – where you can take guided walks, kayak and catamaran trips or a helicopter flight over the park. If you’re a family of keen birdwatchers you can head for Golden Bay and Farewell Spit, a bird sanctuary where as many as 90 different species of birds feed and fly around the sand flats at low tide.
Stay: Three nights in a two bedroom cottage.
Your next drive takes you to Kaikoura where you’ll be staying in a luxury treehouse surrounded by olive groves and a deer farm, set against a backdrop of the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Range and Mangamaunu Bay. So you’ll be close to nature – you’ll go whale watching by boat or plane, swimming with dolphins and quad biking across the farmlands. The area is also interesting culturally; you can learn the history of South Island’s largest Maori tribe and visit their ancient spiritual sites.
Stay: Two nights in a family tree house.
Now it’s time to explore the sophisticated city of Christchurch, with its parks, natural reserves, recreation grounds, art galleries, theatres, museums and lively weekend markets. Special treats include an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over the Southern Alps, a trip over to Akaroa – an old French whaling depot set amidst spectacular bays and inlets – and a two hour cruise of Akaroa Harbour to see dolphins, penguins and seals. It’s also possible to take the TranzAlpine train to Arthurs Pass for a sheep station visit, a safari and a jet boat cruise along the Waimakariri River.
Stay: One night in a family suite.
Greymouth and Franz Josef
Today the TranzAlpine train whisks you from one coast to another, through the Canterbury Plains, the spectacular gorges of the Waimakariri River, the Southern Alps and a rich beech rainforest to Greymouth – a great base for visiting Punakaiki and nearby glaciers. The ancient Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, for example, are truly spectacular – pure, untamed, white wildernesses. You can choose to experience them on full or half day hikes, fly over them – and Mount Cook – in a plane or go heli-hiking to land on their frozen surfaces.
Stay: One night in a two bedroom villa.
Drive over to Queenstown and you’ll discover how it earned its reputation as the adventure sports capital of New Zealand. Set against the Remarkable Mountain, Queenstown does indeed offer some remarkable ways of enjoying yourself. Bungy jumping, white water rafting, jet boating down canyons and tandem hang-gliding all await. For quieter members of the family there are nature walks, four-wheel drive treks, steamboat cruises and trips to any number of local wineries. You could take a Dart River jet boat ride into the beautiful Mount Aspiring National Park to see the locations used in the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Scenery lovers should save on the driving and take a helicopter safari over the Milford Sound with its famous Mitre Peak, perhaps including a glacier landing into the bargain.
Stay: Five nights in a two bedroom apartment.
Queenstown - London
You fly out of New Zealand from Queenstown, bound for London.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India