Enjoy activities that encompass surfing from premier beaches; hiking along a once-in-a-lifetime trail into a dramatic mountain range; and exploring Golden Bay region featuring some of the world’s clearest waters and a fascinating cave system. Walk the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail, featuring contemporary sculpture by established and emerging artists. Explore the rugged coastline during a day cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park as well as Fisherman’s Islands and the Tonga Island seal colony. Take in the vineyards of the Marlborough wine-growing region. Take in New Zealand’s distinctive cities such as Nelson with its artisans and boutique shops, and Kaikoura, the first local authority in the world to become a Green Globe certified community. Discover New Zealand’s unique personality.
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Day1: Auckland, New Zealand / Mangawhai
Welcome to New Zealand! On arrival at Auckland International Airport you are met by your Big Five representative and transferred by private vehicle to your accommodation near Mangawhai. About one hour and 45 minutes by road. Mangawhai sits on the East Coast of the North Island, nestled between the Pacific Coast and rolling farmland. To the north are Ruakaka and Whangarei and to the south, Matakana and Warkworth. The area has a diversity of elements including a naturally occurring harbor, sand spit and ocean frontage. The sand spit of dramatic dunes forms a protected channel.
Your eco-friendly lodge offers luxury surrounded by some 20 acres of ancient podocarp forest and native bush. The owners oversaw every aspect of the project from design to build and personally planted more than 4,000 trees, shrubs and plants. It sits on an elevated ridge with panoramic views across the rolling hills of the Brynderwyn Ranges out to the stunning beaches and surrounding islands of the Mangawhai coast. The “garden-to-table” cuisine of the lodge uses organic produce grown on the estate complemented with fresh local produce, line-caught fish, organic free-range chicken and grass fed-beef. You can opt to source produce from the gardens with the chef, assist in adding the finishing touches or to simply relax by the open fire on the terrace. You can also choose a “private dining” experience with courses served in a location of your choice around the property. Te Arai Lodge (D)
Day 2: Mangawhai
Today you are met by your private guide to explore Mangawhai and Matakana and take a stroll around the scenic coastline. Discover why the beaches are known as a surfers paradise. Visit the small Managwhai village and the Mangawhai Museum to learn about the first Maori settlements and the early English settlers with their gum digging, shipping and kauri milling in the late 1800s. Continue to Bennet’s Chocolate Shop to savor artisan chocolates made in the store. Their French-inspired style of making chocolates involves making a slab of ganache, which is then cut into small pieces and “enrobed” with a thin layer of chocolate and decorated by hand.
This afternoon, take in Matakana, New Zealand’s first ‘slow town’. The slow town movement or Cittàslow aims to improve the quality of towns by slowing down their overall pace. In Matakana, the goal is to make life better in the urban environment and promote the cultural diversity and uniqueness of the town. The Brick Bay Sculpture Trail near Matakana showcases contemporary sculpture by established and emerging artists. This offers a remarkable landscape framed by towering native trees and majestic palms, abundant birdlife, and green pastures all overlooking the celebrated Brick Bay Vineyard. It is a unique outdoor gallery, where an ever-changing display of works set out along a trail that is an easy one-hour walk suitable for most visitors.
The Glass House at Brick Bay acts as a gateway to the sculpture tail with a resource center where visitors can browse publications to learn more. The center also has Brick Bay wines, and seasonal platters. The trail is manageable with off-road push chairs, although backpacks are recommended. Surfaces on the trail are grass, bark mulch, pebbles and wooden boardwalks. The trail is along undulating terrain that winds through a valley with several sets of easily negotiated stairs and viewing benches at regular intervals. About half the trail is sheltered from the sun by the bush canopy. Later this afternoon, return to your lodge. Te Arai Lodge (B,D)
Day 3: Mangawhai
Today is at leisure to relax or enjoy optional experiences offered by the lodge such as spa treatments, massage and yoga at onsite facilities; or set out to do some bird watching in the bush surrounding the lodge. Explore the stunning nearby beaches on a stroll, ride ‘fat tyre’ bikes from the lodge, practice yoga, swim, surf or kayak. Hikers and walkers can discover the estuary or the more challenging cliff and bush walks. Golfers can play a round at Mangawhai and Waipu clubs or take a sports fishing charter. Te Arai Lodge (B,D)
Day 4: Mangawhai / Auckland / Nelson
You are met at your accommodation by your private driver and vehicle for a scenic transfer to Auckland Domestic Airport for your onward flight, about one hour and 45 minutes, to Nelson. Collect your mid-size 4WD automatic rental vehicle, which includes daily insurance, unlimited kilometres, accident excess reduction and GPS. Enjoy an hour drive to your accommodation. Nelson is nicknamed the city of sunshine, and a popular haven for artisans seeking a beautiful landscape of mountains, valleys, unspoiled shores and national parks. The ideal climate has enabled a winery and orchard trail along the by-roads and valleys of the region.
Check into your lodge, which has been recognized for excellence in its environmental sensitive development and environmental sustainability. The total complex is powered by alternative energy sources built on-site to reduce the project’s environmental footprint. Stonefly Lodge (B,D)
Day 5: Nelson
This morning drive to Stephens Bay for your private day cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park, exploring along the coastline, past Split Apple Rock, Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Adele and Fisherman’s Islands and on to Tonga Island seal colony. Here you may see several shags drying their wings above the warm rocks after their early morning fishing expeditions. The cruise itinerary is flexible allowing for sightings of dolphins riding the bow wave, New Zealand fur seals fishing, or to see a particular bay you want to visit or park feature you want to see.
Find a sheltered bay for a light lunch and take a swim, go snorkeling, set out on in a sea kayak, go ashore for a bush walk, or just relax on the boat. The delicious platter style lunch is made with fresh local ingredients, with local beer and wine available. See the beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park and the Tonga Island marine reserve during a relaxed and unhurried day. Return to Stephen’s Bay. Stonefly Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6: Nelson
Today you are free to see the Nelson region and savor some of the optional experiences. Explore some of the many artisans and boutique shops in the city. Visit the fascinating World of Wearable Arts Museum for some of the strangest fashion designs on the planet. The Classic Cars Museum is nearby. Nelson is home to New Zealand’s hop-growing industry, with many breweries to tour, including one of the country’s most celebrated wineries, Neudorf Vineyards. On Saturdays, browse the Nelson markets for local produce, arts and crafts.
Explore the highlights of the Golden Bay region such as the world’s clearest water at Te Waikoropupu Springs, the extensive Ngarua Caves system, the seabird colonies on Farewell Spit, or horse riding on the dramatically beautiful Wharariki Beach. Nelson has something to offer most travelers. Stonefly Lodge (B,D)
Day 7: Nelson / Kaikoura
Today drive east around the top of the South Island from Nelson to Kaikoura. Climb over the pine covered northern vestiges of the Southern Alps and descend the other side, where you can take the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive for spectacular views of the coves and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds, or take the more direct route south. Both routes converge in the world famous Marlborough wine-growing region with its dozens of vineyards and cellars. Finally, wind your way around the rocky shoreline before arriving in Kaikoura, a seaside settlement on a peninsula on the rugged coast of New Zealand’s South Island overlooked by majestic often snowcapped mountains.
Renowned for its eco tourism, Kaikoura, as a township, became the first local authority in the world to become a Green Globe certified community. Your lodge is an eco friendly, contemporary country hotel on a deer breeding farm in the South Island of New Zealand. It sits snugly at the base of the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Range with the Kaikoura coast and famed Mangamaunu Bay to the east. The lodge’s team nutures this unique environment, restoring it through planting some 4,000 native trees, re-introducing native birds and developing sustainable operations, sourcing more than 75% of its ingredients and products from local farmers and purveyors. The kitchen garden is completely organic, growing seasonal vegetables and herbs, reducing, recycling and composting with a goal of becoming a zero-waste community. Timber used in construction and interiors are responsibly sourced, recycled and salvaged. The property’s Tree Houses have small private fireplaces that are extremely efficient, and all rooms have significant insulation and double glazing. Lodge + Tree Houses (B,D)
Day 8: Kaikoura
This morning enjoy a private dolphin swim cruise, where you have the rare opportunity to swim with dusky dolphins in their natural environment. These dolphins inhabit the coastal waters off Kaikoura all year, making the region unique because the wild dolphins can be encountered every day, weather permitting. Renowned for their acrobatic leaps and interactive behavior, the dolphins offer you a unique encounter that allows you to gain an understanding of these remarkable animals in their natural environment.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to relax or enjoy one of the optional experiences from ocean fishing to coastal walks, to sampling ‘street food’ such as Kaikoura-style crayfish from an caravan-style restaurant on the beach. Bird watching lets you see species of seabirds that include albatross, gannets, shags and penguins. Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses (B,D)
Day 9: Kaikoura / Queenstown / Wanaka
Today you drive to Christchurch Airport to return your rental vehicle prior to boarding your onward flight to Queenstown. You are welcomed by your private driver and vehicle and transferred to your accommodation situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka on the outskirts of the main township of Wanaka amid towering mountains, lush green valleys, native bush, forests and meandering rivers. This luxurious high-country homestead offers a unique lodge-style accommodation just 20 minutes drive from Wanaka or 10 minutes by helicopter from Queenstown. Mahu Whenua has five individual suites available on an exclusive-use basis for up to 12 guests.
The property consists of four adjoining high country sheep stations – Motatapu, Mt Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak, which combined stretch from Glendhu Bay in Wanaka to Arrowtown in Queenstown and host some of the most iconic and dramatic natural alpine scenery in New Zealand. From the start, the owner’s vision has been to regenerate the land by introducing sustainable farming practices and establishing a native bird breeding program. The conservation initiatives establish more than 90% of the land in protected covenants (Queen Elizabeth II National Trust), making it the largest conservation undertaking on private land in New Zealand’s history. Mahu Whenua (B,D)
Day 10: Wanaka
This morning you are met at your accommodation by your private hiking guide and vehicle for your private hiking day. You won’t find this once-in-a-lifetime hike on any map. Walk the high road into the dramatic mountain range that towers over the deep blues of Lake Wanaka. This exclusive hike, about seven hours, is suitable for most. On these wide-open private trails, the only passers-by will be of the four-legged variety. The trail is 25 kilometers/15 miles in total. Or, you can opt to explore the spectacular scenery in a four-wheel drive. Either way, your expert guide shares tales of local flora and fauna. Then, savor a gourmet local picnic lunch. You return to your accommodation later this afternoon. Mahu Whenua (B,L,D)
Day 11: Wanaka
Enjoy a day at leisure to relax or sample some of the leisure activities in the region. Cruise Lake Wanaka to Mou Waho Island, a nature reserve on the lake. Go on a 4WD adventure at a high country farm to see farm animals and take in expansive views of the region. Go fishing or set out on an excursion that combines hiking, scenic flight and jetboating. Visit the Fighter Plane and Transport museums. Visit the eccentric Puzzling World museum with its Illusion Rooms and maze. You will be returned to your accommodation later this afternoon. Mahu Whenua (B,L,D)
Day 12 Wanaka / Queenstown / Auckland / Depart
This morning your private driver and vehicle transfer you to Queenstown Airport for your onward flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$1,650 per person, per day.