22 Day Essential New Zealand Private Tour

Bay of Many Coves
Geothermal Rotorua

22 Day Essential New Zealand Private Tour

From North to South and East to West, New Zealand has a reputation for being a country with exceptional geographical contrasts within comparatively short distances. Scenic highlights include snow-capped mountains, idyllic islands, fiords, glaciers, rainforests, and golden sand beaches. Each day will be a visual feast, with your driver providing just the right amount of background information.

Duration: 22 Days

Starts: Auckland

Finishes: Christchurch

+ Absolute Chauffer Inclusions:
  • Professional Driver/Guide
  • All airport transfers
  • Dedicated Travel designer
  • Full In-Country Support
Your Experiences:
  1. Exclusive Wine Tour Waiheke Island
  2. Tū Te Rā – Maori Summer Harvest Feast
  3. Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary
  4. Cruise & Walk Abel Tasman
  5. Tasman Glacier Boat Trip
  6. Fly & Cruise Milford Sound
  7. Tranz Alpine Rail Journey
Your Locations:
  1. Auckland
  2. Waiheke Island
  3. Rotorua
  4. Taupo
  5. 22 Day Essential New Zealand Private Tour
  6. Wellington
  7. The Marlborough Sounds
  8. Nelson
  9. Christchurch
  10. Mount Cook National Park
  11. Queenstown
  12. Milford Sound
  13. Franz Josef
  14. Greymouth

Day by day tour itinerary

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Arrive in Auckland - The City of Sails

Ease into the timezone with an easy "When in Auckland" Private Walking Tour

As the name belies, ‘The City of Sails’ – as Auckland is fondly known – is a stunning sea side city. The city centre surrounds a large harbour that bustles with life, both on water and on land. In the Auckland region, the North Island is geographically narrow and the city straddles a slim piece of land with coastline facing both the Pacific Ocean, and, on the wild West Coast, the Tasman Sea. Boutique shopping, pulsing, Pacific-inspired markets and a passionate cafe culture make this city a charming place to visit.

Explore the city on foot from downtown Auckland with a personal guide. The exact route of the tour will be tailored accordingly to your interests. Whether it be Maori culture, boutiques, local arts and crafts, food or heritage architecture – everything can be covered on this tour. You will walk at a pace to suit and always allow time for photo stops.

Auckland Waterfront at Dusk
Ferry to Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island Wine & Arts (private tour)

Join one of the local wine aficionado’s for an exclusive behind-the-scenes wine producers tour. You can choose from premium vineyards like Mudbrick, Obsidian, Te Whau, Jurassic , Destiny Bay…and potentially Man o War. At each vineyard taste a selection of wines and enjoy an in-depth discussion with the winemaker. Barrel tastings at one vineyard can also be arranged depending on seasonal availability.

If you fancy something a little tactile, it is also possible to visit a bronze crafting studio, a cobbler who makes individual pairs of shoes from scratch, a ceramic artist or a visit to the spectacular sculpture park. Those who wish to break up the day may enjoy a brisk walk on one of the many beautiful beaches Waiheke is famous for. (varying degrees of difficulty).

wine tour Waiheke Island

Rotorua is the heartland of Maori culture surrounded by geothermal wonders

Rotorua is surrounded by steaming lakes, bubbling hot pools and bursting geysers, host to some of the world’s most incredible natural forces. A heartland of Maori culture, the local people have embraced this turbulent land. For the traveller there is a breadth of attractions – families will enjoy viewing farm attractions and native wildlife, adventure seekers can experience world class white water rafting or mountain biking, while culture enthusiasts can experience indepth vibrant Maori traditions.

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    2 nights at Koura Lodge

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    Approximate Distance: 227 km

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    Total Driving Time: 3 hours

Let your guide lead the way

Rotorua is like no other place on earth. Bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers and a stunning geothermal landscape - adventure abounds.

Visitors can explore active volcanoes, test their limits with adventure activities and enjoy the unspoiled native forests that cloak the land. Rotorua also offers adventurous horse treks, scenic walks and hikes, and some of the best mountain biking in the world. Rotorua’s rich Maori heritage gives an added cultural dimension to your holiday. Visit a Maori village, learn about the famous haka. There are various awe-inspiring and authentic, Māori cultural tours and performances that provide a special view into the history of these proud people.

This evening experience Tū Te Rā Summer Harvest Celebration


Tū Te Rā is a summer celebration, aligned with the maramataka – the Māori lunar calendar. This is a time when the sun expresses optimal energy, the days are longer, and light nourishes the natural world. Tū Te Rā celebrates the abundant harvest of this season, and explores concepts, rituals, and stories of ancient Māori warfare and peace in a feast of culture and cuisine.

Tamaki Brothers
Rotoura - Taupo - Hawkes Bay

The Mighty Huka Falls, lunch on Great Lake Taupo & Hawkes Bay

Travel for 1 hour to explore Lake Taupo –  Impressive is the word best used to describe Lake Taupo; after all, it is the biggest volcanic crater in the World! Lake Taupo is set amidst clean, green countryside, spectacular mountain scenery, beautiful native bush and some of the largest pine forests in the Southern Hemisphere.

Huka Falls is a thundering 11-metre high waterfall and the most visited and photographed natural attraction in New Zealand. Enjoy the walking tracks alongside the river and wander around the different viewing platforms, taking in the falls from all angles. You can bring a picnic and spend the day here. On a sunny day, the water is an amazing, crystal clear blue. If you want a different perspective and a taste of Taupo adventure take a boat to the base of the falls and get close enough to taste the spray!

After lunch in Taupo continue your drive approx 1.5 hours to Napier – Art Deco City set in a Coastal Wine Region The Pacific Ocean provides a stunning backdrop to the Hawke’s Bay, framed to the south by the dramatic Cape Kidnappers and the Tukituki hills.

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    2 nights at McHardy Lodge

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    Approximate Distance: 220 km

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    Total Driving Time: 3 hours

Explore Hawkes Bay today

Free Day with driver in Hawke's Bay - golf, cycle, hike, vineyard lunch or relax

There’s much more to Hawke’s Bay than wine and sunshine! From the stunning craggy slopes of Te Mata Peak and Cape Kidnappers, to the National Aquarium and the wet and wild fun of Splash Planet. From boutique shopping to wineries, luxury lodges & more. Award-Winning Food And Wine, Outstanding Architecture, And Warm Balmy Days. NZ’s art deco capital.


Lonely Planet named Wellington "the coolest little capital in the world" and fourth-best city in the world to visit.

Nestled between a dramatic harbour and bush clad hills, Wellington was recently dubbed as ‘the coolest little capital city in the world’. The city is the country’s centre for culture, politics, and home to the National Museum, Te Papa. Wellington’s thriving cafe scene is globally recognised by coffee cognoscenti, and of course is a centre for movie production with Lord or the Rings taking centre stage.

Twilight Walking Tour of ZEALANDIA Sanctuary

Experience ZEALANDIA as it transforms from daylight to twilight during this special guided experience. You will have an opportunity to experience the dusk chorus sung by a cacophony of native New Zealand birds. Experience a flurry of activity as a range of resident birds return to their nests, against the magical backdrop of the dusk sky and the calm forest environment. You may even experience the first sights and sounds of the nocturnal birds, such as kiwi and ruru (morepork/owl) as they wake. Twilight Tours are an unforgettable, immersive experience, which will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

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    2 nights at QT Wellington

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    Approximate Distance: 325 km

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    Total Driving Time: 5 hours

Wellington at Leisure

The New Zealand capital of Wellington is a centre of creative activity, inspiring architecture and refreshing natural beauty.

Wellington is also the beating heart of New Zealand’s art and culture scene, meaning it’s a hive of creativity and home to some of the best attractions in the entire country. From art galleries to the National Museum and great shopping – Wellington has a little of everything!

Bay of Many Coves Marlborough Sounds

Helicopter Transfer to the beautiful Bay of Many Coves

The Bay of Many Coves is nestled amongst native bush right down to the water’s edge. The perfect location for a pristine natural getaway. Enjoy world-class cuisine, a private and secluded five star resort with stunning scenery. Cruise amongst the wildlife such as dolphins and orca’s, try your hand at fishing, kayaking or simply walk next to the bush with your camera in hand.

View from apartment over Bay of Many Coves
DAY 10
A Free day to explore the Marlborough Sounds

The bird life here, rivals anything else you will find in New Zealand, perhaps wake to enjoy the dawn chorus

The Bay of Many Coves offers a wide variety of activities at the resort such as kayaking, swimming, spa treatments, bird watching and fishing to name a few. Visitors can also enjoy many other activities in the surrounding area, including: Yachting and Cruising, Swim with the Dolphins or walk Queen Charlotte Track.

What to do at the Bay of Many Coves: Kayaking, Dolphin Cruise, Glow Worm Tour, Spa Treatments, Motor Yacht Cruising, Queen Charlotte Track walking

Marlborough Sounds
DAY 11
Cruise to Picton, onwards to Nelson

keep an eye out for wildlife such as seabirds, dolphins, seals, whales and orca that make the sounds home. 

Return via water taxi to Picton, a waterfront village snuggled between the hills and the sea at the top of the South Island New Zealand’s gateway to the glorious Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park. As you cruise the picturesque Marlborough Sounds – Enter the South Island through Picton, a picturesque harbour town located at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound.

From picton your driver will take you to the Sunshine City of Nelson. A haven for artisans seeking a lifestyle amid a landscape of mountains, valleys, unspoilt shores and National Parks, including the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park. The idyllic climate has enabled an ever-expanding winery, art, microbrewery and orchard trails on offer to explore by car or relaxing bike ride.

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    2 nights at The Sails Nelson

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    Approximate Distance: 114 km

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    Total Driving Time: 2 hours

DAY 12
Explore Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and its world-famous forested coast track.

Today you have a choice of a full Scenic Cruise or a cruise and walk from Marahau along the stunning Abel Tasman coastline. Abel Tasman National Park is our country’s smallest national park. It protects 23,000 hectares of the most natural stretch of easily accessible coastline in New Zealand. The coastline is characterised by islands just offshore, sheltered waters, estuaries and golden, sandy beaches. Lie on a beach, or even go for a swim if the weather is warm. The park is sheltered from ocean swells, and enjoys a mild climate. After your cruise or walk we return to Nelson.

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    Total Driving Time: 1 hour each way

Abel Tasman National Park
DAY 13
Christchurch 'The Garden City'

Drive via the Lewis Pass to Christchurch

Christchurch is the city of exploration, where urban regeneration and heritage thrive. The city is constantly evolving, always giving locals and visitors something new to explore. Expect street art and innovative projects, a bustling hospitality scene and established green spaces. Christchurch is the newest city in the world, and it’s time the world rediscovered its secrets.The central city is filled with cutting-edge architecture alongside some of the oldest buildings in New Zealand. The Avon River intersects the city, bringing a natural landscape to the urban environment.

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    1 night at The George

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    Approximate Distance: 415 km

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    Total Driving Time: 5 hours 30 mins

DAY 14
Journey to the Southern Alps - Lake Tekapo

Travel to the foothills of New Zealand's highest mountain, with vistas over glacier fed lakes

On the scenic drive south explore the high-country splendour of the Mackenzie Basin before reaching the majestic and peaceful setting of Lake Tekapo – a great place for a picnic lunch! Pass the turquoise lakes of Alexandrina, McGregor and experience the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps as you reach Mount Cook National Park.

Mt Cook National Park
DAY 15
Mount Cook National Park

Tasman Glacier Experience - Explore the Glacier, Terminal Lake and Icebergs

Its Maori name, ‘Aoraki’ means ‘cloud piercer’ and at 12,016ft (3,755m) it towers above the surrounding snow-covered peaks in the park. A third of the park is covered in permanent ice and snow and the mighty Tasman Glacier is the longest glacier outside of the polar regions. This is the very heart and soul of a World Heritage and National Park wilderness playground. Ice, snow, hidden valleys, lakes and glaciers offer golden opportunities for discovery, relaxation and adventure.

Experience the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake and its icebergs, in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. A unique guided experience departing Aoraki/Mount Cook village. Board your MAC boat, and explore the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, where you will discover the ever-changing ice face of the Glacier and icebergs, making each trip different from the last due to changing winds and currents. Knowledgeable guides, enhance your experience with their expertise and passion for this amazing alpine environment. Have you ever been alongside, discovered or touched an iceberg?

DAY 16
Drive from Lodge to Queenstown - sightseeing in Queenstown and Arrowtown

Your driver ill drop you off at your centrally located hotel Queenstown, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the magnificent Southern Alps,

Queenstown  is New Zealand’s most celebrated destination. Offering a wealth of accommodation to suit all travellers, there is huge diversity in the experiences to be enjoyed – from adrenaline activities such as bungee jumps and sky diving, adventurous excursions like jet-boating and hiking through to superb golf, gourmet food and wine tours or romantic hot air ballooning.

Queenstown and Steamer TSS Earnslaw
DAY 17
Milford Sound Return flights with Nature Cruise

One of New Zealand's most iconic landscapes will be revealed from overhead as you fly across Fiordland and from the water, viewing vast waterfalls and steep looking mountainsides all around

Fly from Queenstown to Milford Sound and enjoy a spectacular view of the mountains, lakes and waterfalls of Fiordland National Park. Surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, you’ll board your cruise and travel the length of the fiord out to the Tasman Sea experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest..

DAY 18
A day of Leisure in Queenstown

Queenstown has a plethora of activities awaiting from burning adrenaline to sipping wine.

Adrenalin junkies, we can arrange virtually any activity you can think of from a bungy jump into Kawarau Gorge, a swing across Shotover Canyon, or a skydive into Paradise.

For a more peaceful day, there are beautiful drives in the local area. Head to historic Arrowtown for quaint streetscapes and leafy views. Or drive to Glenorchy for a horseback ride through Lord of The Rings country. You could explore local wineries, cheese-eries, and orchards by car or by bike.

Dart River adventure
DAY 19
Franz Josef Glacier via Lake Wanaka

As you travel over the Haast Pass you'll meet the coast as you journey north to Glacier Country.

The scenery is ‘hand-on-heart’ the very best –  let’s make that the epitome of what makes New Zealand make your heart sing. Think emerald green lakes, aqua marine crystal clear rivers and craggy mountains that dissolve into lush verdant rain forest. But before we get totally carried away – a short drive away is Wanaka Town is located on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka, embraced by the Southern Alps, Wanaka is Otago’s second resort town after Queenstown.

Franz Josef village is small (only 500 locals) and is located only ten minutes from the Glacier. The Franz Josef is a glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south it is a unique in the fact that it descends from the Southern Alps to just 200 metres above sea level amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest. The glacier is currently 12 kilometres long and terminates 19 km from the Tasman Sea. The glacier exhibits a cyclic pattern of advance and retreat, driven by differences between the volume of meltwater at the foot of the glacier and volume of snowfall feeding the neve.

Blue Pools Mount Aspiring National Park
DAY 20
Explore Glacier Country

Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier are among the most accessible glaciers in the world

Take a guided tour with one of the many glacier guiding companies that operate in Glacier Country, you can hike up them or helicopter over them – so many options. But there are plenty of other exciting experiences to be had. Visit Lake Matheson and see the perfect reflection of the Southern Alps in the lake. Take one of the many ancient forest hikes. Visit the amazing Okarito lagoon and see over 70species of native bird. Visit historic gold mining settlement of Gillespies Beach, there are several walks to enjoy there, the most popular being a four hour return trip to a colony of fur seals. Try bike or horse riding.

Franz Josef Glacier
DAY 21
Hokitika Gorge Walk & TranzAlpine Train to Christchurch

An incredible day of contrasts from the Hokitika Gorge to the TranzAlpine rail journey

If you think you have time for only one activity in Hokitika, then our advice would be to include a visit to the cerulean blue waters of the Hokitika Gorge. From the initial view of the swing bridge you will be entranced. The suspension bridge offers a gentle bounce that kids seem to enjoy more than adults. It’s a short walk from the car park to the first surreal view, but you will want to go farther, cross the bridge, and enter the forest. The Hokitika Gorge walk is an easy upgraded 2km loop trail. It takes you first through dense rimu and podocarp forest to a viewing platform that will take your breath away. 

TranzAlpine – Greymouth to Christchurch

Rated as one of the top six scenic train journeys in the world, the famous Tranz Alpine train will take you deep into the heartland of the South Island… a coast to coast journey through some of the world’s most extreme and beautiful scenery. The Tranz Alpine winds its way over massive viaducts and through spectacular gorges and river valleys, tracking slowly across the country’s greatest mountain range, the Southern Alps. It stops in the heart of the Southern Alps at Arthur’s Pass before descending to the Canterbury Plains and on to Christchurch. 

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    1 night at The George

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    Approximate Distance: 2 hours 30 mins

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    Total Driving Time: 170 km

TranzAlpine Train
DAY 22
Depart Christchurch Airport

haere rā - farewell

Say farewell to Christchurch today as you board your onward flight, taking with you the magical memories of a truly exceptional New Zealand trip.

If you still want more – perhaps a stop off in Fiji or Australia on the way home – just ask!

Mikaela Pole - Travel Designer
Mikaela Pole, OUR ABSOLUTE NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL DESIGNER SAYS: “Having three weeks in New Zealand is ideal as we don't have to compromise on which locations to see and which to miss - but yet the pace of travel is relaxing. There is so much to love in this trip but for me a real highlight is the 2-day stay at the Bay of Many Coves in the Marlborough Sounds.”

Ready to find out more? Talk to one of our friendly travel designers about his tour. We guarantee you it will be the experience of a lifetime!


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