From geysers to glowworm caves, snowcapped peaks to serene fjords, New Zealand’s otherworldly landscapes delight with their incredible natural diversity. Get an intimate look at the country’s many treasures as you enjoy close encounters with rare wildlife; taste world-famous food and wine straight from the source; and plunge below the Earth’s surface to discover geothermal pools and the fascinating underwater world of Milford Sound.
Cruise the dramatic fjords of the South Island, including stunning Milford Sound; and float through the Te Anau caves, lit by thousands of tiny glowworms.
Explore the bucolic sheep farm transformed into the Shire for The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
Go behind the scenes at a kiwi hatchery and learn how conservationists prepare these endangered birds for reintroduction to the wild.
On a private food and wine tour of Waiheke Island, taste award-winning olive oil, pluck oysters straight from the sea, and sip wines at coastal vineyards.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Auckland, New Zealand
Land in Auckland and transfer to your waterfront hotel. Spend the afternoon exploring the city at leisure. For an additional cost, you can opt to sail the harbor in an America’s Cup racing yacht. Learn about the world’s oldest sporting trophy, try your hand at trimming the sails, and take a turn at the helm.
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbor (B)
Day 2 — Waiheke Island
Board a ferry to the picturesque isle of Waiheke, where you’ll join a private guide for a food and wine tour. Taste olive oil at an award-winning mill; enjoy fresh oysters straight from Matuku Cove (seasonal); and sample green herb spread, an island specialty. Sip wine at some of the island’s more intimate vineyards, and enjoy lunch amid the vines before returning to Auckland for an evening at leisure.
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbor (B)
Day 3 — Matamata/Lake Taupo
Drive across the Waikato Plains to Matamata, made famous as a filming site in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Go behind the scenes at Hobbiton—a sheep farm that served as the setting for the Shire—and learn about the design and creation of the movie set. Continue to the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave to explore its gushing geysers, steaming hot springs, and silica terraces on a guided walk. Descend into volcanic Ruatapu Cave, which plunges to depths of more than 100 feet and harbors the crystalline Waiwhakaata, or “Pool of Mirrors.” Transfer to your hotel overlooking scenic Lake Taupo.
Hilton Lake Taupo (B, L)
Day 4 — Lake Taupo/Tongriro National Park
Visit the small town of Turangi—known as the “Trout Fishing Capital of the World”—and tour the National Trout Centre, where you can feed wild trout. Travel to Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and visit the historic Chateau Tongariro Hotel. Back in Taupo, join a high-speed jet boat excursion to Huka Falls, taking in views of sheer cliffs and natural hot springs as you whiz along the Waikato River.
Hilton Lake Taupo (B)
Day 5 — Rotorua/Dunedin
Travel to the city of Rotorua, a geothermal hot spot. Go behind-the-scenes at Rainbow Springs, a nature park that has nurtured more than a thousand kiwi chicks since 1995. On a guided tour of the kiwi hatchery, learn how park conservationists prepare these endangered birds for reintroduction into the wild. Next visit the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, which brings ancient Maori culture to life with traditional songs, stories, and legends. Experience a geothermal hangi lunch, cooked in naturally hot steam vents. Transfer to the airport in Rotorua for your flight to Dunedin on the South Island.
Hotel St. Clair (B, L)
Day 6 — Otago Peninsula
Set out on a scenic drive along the Otago Peninsula. Enjoy a private tour of the Larnach Castle—New Zealand’s only castle, built in 1872 for a local businessman. Continue to the Royal Albatross Centre and encounter wild colonies of royal albatrosses and little blue penguins, the world’s smallest species of penguin. Stop for lunch at the Maori settlement of Otakou Marae, one of the places where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, establishing British sovereignty over New Zealand. Visit a local craft shop before returning to your hotel in Dunedin.
Hotel St. Clair (B)
Day 7 — Te Anau
Soak in the passing scenery of Milton, Balclutha, and Gore on a private driving tour of southern New Zealand. Take a private tour of a working farm that raises sheep, deer, and cattle; and spend time with the owners. Transfer to Te Anau, the gateway to rugged Fiordland National Park and stunning Milford Sound. This evening, join a cruise along the limestone channels of the Te Anau caves—a twisting labyrinth of roaring whirlpools and rushing waterfalls lit by a glittering display of tiny glowworms. Settle into your hotel on the shores of serene Lake Te Anau.
Distinction Te Anau Hotel (B, L)
Day 8 — Milford Sound
Spend the day exploring the world-famous Milford Sound. During the scenic drive to this stunning fjord, learn about the region’s flora and fauna. Join a boat cruise through the fjords, and enjoy a picnic lunch on the tranquil waters. Then visit the floating Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory and descend underwater in a viewing chamber that offers 360-degree views of the marine life, including colorful sea creatures and rare black coral.
Distinction Te Anau Hotel (B, L)
Day 9 — Queenstown
Visit a winery on Lake Hayes, at the base of the snowcapped Southern Alps. Taste pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and riesling made from grapes grown in the surrounding glacial soils. Sit down to a lunch of local specialties, complete with wine pairings. Transfer to Queenstown and settle into your hotel overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
Hotel St. Moritz (B, L)
Day 10 — Queenstown
Join a guide for a nature walk to discover the area’s native birds and distinctive flora, and learn about the array of edible and medicinal plants used by the area’s early settlers. This afternoon, set out on your own in Queenstown, known as the “adventure capital of the world.” Go on a hike, try water sports, or simply relax amid the dramatic scenery of the Southern Alps.
Hotel St. Moritz (B)
Day 11 — Queenstown/Depart
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request. For 2019 price inquires please call our reservations specialists.
Internal flight from Rotorua to Dunedin is an additional $300 per person (subject to change). International airfare to Auckland and from Queenstown is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.