Home to some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet, New Zealand is a destination always in our sights at Classic Journeys. Inspired by new discoveries from our on-the-ground guides and experts, and the ever-changing interests of our guests, we’re constantly tweaking, adding and perfecting our itineraries, ensuring a tailored and fresh experience each time we run a tour. So, what’s going on in the southern hemisphere?
We start our tours in Auckland, where guests have the opportunity to ride on an America’s Cup yacht through Auckland Harbour. From there, we take advantage of Auckland’s waterfront perch and head to Waiheke Island. Well known to Kiwis but less so outside of the region, New Zealand produces some of the world’s finest wines. Waiheke Island sits in Hauraki Gulf, to the east of Auckland, and boasts a unique microclimate. The island’s position grants it partial protection from the colder, wetter weather to the west, and its drier and warmer weather provides a favorable environment for grapes to grow. The real boon is its size: just 36-square kilometers with 52 miles of coastline. This allows the ocean to take over as the main driver of Waiheke’s climate, where it acts as both a fan and an insulator, ensuring a more mild climate protected from summer heat and winter cold.
During our day-long trip to Waiheke Island, guests will sample some of the island’s best reds. In particular, the three grapes to pay attention to are Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, which we’ll sample when visiting award-winning Stonyridge Vineyards. Beyond tasting, we’ll sample olive oils at a family estate, meander along headland footpaths that line the coast and take beachfront walks along the stark blue ocean.
From there, our tour heads to the South Island, visiting Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook. Chances are, you’ve seen photos of Lake Tekapo’s tranquil waters, jagged peaks and abundant wildflowers--it’s one of the country’s most iconic natural landscapes. We then hunker down in Aoraki Mount Hood National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Area. Mount Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain and the crown jewel of the Southern Alps, but the park boasts 23 other peaks that clear 9,000 feet. To explore Mount Cook, Classic Journeys selected a low-impact trail that is suitable for guests of all abilities, so everyone will get to enjoy the mountain’s splendor.
The rest of our adventure includes panning for gold, shearing sheep and more hiking with stunning vistas. It’s rounded out with a jet boat safari on Dart River, led by experienced local guides. They’ll navigate winding rivers into the heart of Mt. Aspiring National Park in Otago, which is home to 59 bird species, 400 species of moths and butterflies, countless Maori legends, tens of glaciers and a number of locations highlighted in Lord of the Rings.
All of these options are part of both our Family Journeys, as well as our Cultural + Walking tours, so no matter how or with whom you’re traveling, there are ways to enjoy this island nation that is truly unlike any other on Earth.