If you think of the north island as culture and the south island as adventure, it becomes easier to decide which one is right for you – cosmopolitan or adrenaline? Are you keen to explore Auckland, soak up Māori culture, and hang out in Hobbiton? Or are you the active type who’d rather be paragliding, hiking, or bungy-jumping?
These helpful highlights will come in handy for those who may be wavering.
Highlights of our North Island Cultural Adventure
The country’s populous capital (and the first stop on our tour) offers robust dining options, a thriving arts scene, and the iconic Sky Tower. This multi-cultural hub is the fifth largest city in Oceania and known as the “city of sails” due to being nestled between two harbours and surrounded by a plethora of islands.
The Glowworm Caves of Waitomo
We’ll explore one of the world’s most unusual creatures in its natural environment: the Glowworm. Typically found in caves, sinkholes, and underground rivers, the glowworm is a species of fungus gnat endemic to New Zealand, and a visit to their home is a top-tier tourist attraction.
Learn about the Māori people
We’ll be heartily welcomed by New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Māori, when we stay overnight at the Māori-owned and operated Kohutapu Lodge in Murupara. We’ll learn about their history and traditions, ask meaningful cultural questions, and learn a Haka, a ceremonial Māori war dance known for its intense facial expressions.
Hobbiton, the real-life movie set from The Lord of The Rings
If you geek out over Frodo, Bilbo, and the Shire, our visit to the filming location of the mythical Hobbiton will give you the ultimate nerdgasm. This quaint and picturesque destination, described by Tolkien as “a small but beautiful and fruitful land, beloved by its inhabitants.” is one of the main reasons why New Zealand as a whole is known colloquially as ‘Middle Earth.’
Rotorua, a geothermal wonderland.
The sulfur pools and bubbling mud pots of Rotorua are a sight to see and a smell that, er… may have you reaching for a nose plug. Vexatious scents aside, we’ll find top-notch relaxation at any of the numerous thermal spas located around the nearby volcanic caldera of Lake Wanaka. Any sore muscles are sure to be rejuvenated in the geothermally-heated pools and lagoons.
From chic urban hotels to rustic cabins, we’ve tracked down some excellent places to rest your weary head on this trip. So grab your togs, slip on your jandals, and check-in to our Stays That Slay: Northern New Zealand post for the lowdown on lodgings.
Highlights of our Active South Island Expedition
After a long flight, you’ll definitely want to get out and explore the largest city on the South Island. On our walking tour, we’ll take a gander at the brand new architecture of the freshly-constructed buildings, a result of the 2011 earthquake’s devastation on this beautiful city.
Take an overnight cruise to Milford Sound
The best view of the breathtaking waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife of Milford Sound can only be seen by boat. That’s why we’ve arranged an overnight mini-cruise aboard the Milford Mariner. We’ll enjoy private rooms, dinner and breakfast prepared by an onboard chef while we sail through spectacular scenery, spotting seals, and perhaps dolphins along the way.
Star gaze in the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve
Planets, galaxies, and the depths of the Milky Way await – with a professional astronomy guide – at this private observatory dome near Tekapo. If you reside in or near a city, the difference in stargazing between here and home will be akin to night and day. It should be noted that this is an optional excursion which is highly dependent on weather conditions.
Tramp (hike) in the shadow of Mount Cook
We’ll inevitably pick up some fun Kiwi slang along our tour, like tramping (hiking). Our route near the wondrous Mount Cook will feature three swing bridges, picturesque icebergs, glaciers and majestic mountains. Crikey!
Explore Fiordland National Park.
Fiordland’s striking landscape of jagged, snow-capped peaks rising from ancient rainforests may just be one of the most Instagrammable spots on the tour. After a scenic drive to Wanaka, you can visit the local bird sanctuary, stretch your legs on a leisurely forest stroll, or take an optional wildlife trip on the Mou Waho Island Cruise.
Known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is the birthplace of commercial ski resorts, jet boating, bungy jumping, and tandem paragliding.
For the ultra-daring, there’s skydiving, mountain biking, and even bubble soccer – a unique combination of soccer, zorbing, and bumper cars. Players wear an inflatable zorb-like ball as they attempt to play a game of soccer, all while bumping into and bouncing off of each other. And if the game seems too intense, stand back and enjoy the chaos as it’s certainly fun for spectators too.
For those still wavering between north island and south island, it’s worth mentioning that you can pair them back-to-back to truly make the most of summer in Middle Earth. And if you fancy an opportunity to show off your newest budgy smugglers, our Australia: Summer Down Under tour immediately follows the New Zealand Active South Island Expedition.
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