16 Day Wilderness Adventure

New Zealand relaxing journeys

This 16 day itinerary offers a slightly “off the beaten track” look at New Zealand.  Although you may be away from the main stream, we don’t compromise on those creature comforts, giving you the opportunity to explore a natural luxury that is the New Zealand’s wilderness.  While some may be seen as a little eccentric,  this will give the opportunity to meet local people or ‘kiwi’s’ as they are known and experience their down to earth hospitality. Staying in a variety of accommodations, including a bush camp, eco-lodges, and even remote beach cottage, we give you a ‘real’ experience of this land.

Day 1 – Welcome to the Black Sand Beach’s of Waitakere National Park

Bethells Beach wilderness

Thick rainforest, towering cliff headlands, huge volcanic black sand dunes and thundering surf make’s Auckland’s west coast beaches unforgettable and in total contrast to the cities mild East coast beaches. Made famous as the backdrop for films such as the Oscar winning 'The Piano', and TV series such as the record breaking Xena and Hercules, Waitakere National Park is also known for its wildlife, art districts, secluded cafes and its wineries.

A realitivly short, but windy drive to Bethells Beach Cottages after your flight, will be well worth it as you relax and enjoy a home cooked dinner and a soak in the hot tub under the stars.

Two Nights Accommodation at Bethells Beach Cottages in Waitakere National Park. The cottages are beautifully crafted and provide a high standard of natural luxury. In the evening the Scandinavian hot tub is the perfect place to soak and take in the beautiful vista while you enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down.

Day 2 – ½ Day Wilderness Tour

Be met by a guide and taken to some spectacular spots in the Waitakere ranges where you will walk through bush amongst New Zealand’s famous kauri trees and giant tree ferns, unwind by spectacular cascading waterfalls and take a swim beneath them. Learn about traditional Maori carvings and local stories about the area before watching the infamous West Coast sunset.

Enjoy your afternoon and evening dining at a local restaurant or at the Cottages.

Day 3 – Waitomo Caves & Cottage

Waitomo scenery

Today head south to the green rolling landscapes of the Waikato,  yet this is one region in particular holds more than just surface appeal… literally. For Waikato also boasts an extensive labyrinth of underground caverns that formed over millions of years.

The caves at Waitomo are one of New Zealand's most commanding wonders – a celebration of nature's work over the last one hundred thousand years. There are hundreds of miles of labyrinthine caves, glow-worms, under ground lakes, stalactites and stalagmites, and all manner of limestone crustaceans - a lost world waiting to be discovered. Today you will be visiting one of Waitomo's most beautiful caves, The Aranui Cave

One Nights Accommodation at the at the Wilderness Cottages in Waitomo. located on a family farm these cottages were built to capture the unique beauty of its surroundings. The farm is a fantastic example of what Waitomo is renowned for; caves glowworms, rough limestone out-crops, lush green fields and friendly people. These cottages are basic comfortable and beautifully located.

Day 4 – Glowworms & National Parks

Waitomo Glowworm caves

This morning become ‘Spellbound’, this tour is one of the most unhurried glow worm tours in New Zealand. Time (up to 20 minutes is needed) is allowed for your eyes to adjust to darkness, then raft on an underground stream and be amazed at the effect of thousands of softly shining glow worms. Walk along a gorge path which will bring you to the Cave of the Spirit, Te Ana o Te Atua, quiet and contemplative, soft light reveals a time vault preserving evidence of past explorers, extinct animals, and abandoned stream passages. This is a really memorable cave experience.

Or choose a caving experience that suites you:

When ready, drive south until you reach the central volcanic plateau, and the stunning Tongariro National Park. View the triplet volcanoes of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe; whilst Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are dormant, Ruapehu is known to belch smoke from time to time, last erupting in 1996.

Two Nights Accommodation at River Birches in National Park. One of the best kept secrets in the central North Island, only footsteps away from the world famous fly fishing on the Tongariro River. This luxury accommodation will provide a quiet seclusion during your stay.

Have an early night as you will be woken at 1.30am for your Pre-Dawn Tongariro Crossing!

Day 5 - Breakfast on a Volcano

Up at 1.30am with the Milky Way at your fingertips and shooting stars screaming in the clarity that only the pre-dawn can achieve, witness the sunrise at the Red Crater Summit at 5:00am, then it is breakfast at Ketetahi Hut, Mt Tongariro. The route is the same as followed during the day with one exception….no crowds! The 12-mile Tongariro Crossing is considered the best hike in New Zealand. This untouched volcanic terrain offers a fascinating look at a very alien environment, complete with twisted lava formations, volcanic steam vents and other diverse scenery. (Summer Only – 1 November to 31 May)

Spend the rest of the day relaxing in the library reading a book or snug with open fire in the drawing room. If you after some more adventure how about The Ohakune Mountain Ride, drive up to 1620m (5315 ft) then ride down at your own pace back to town.

Day 6 – A Retreat on the Banks of the Sacred Whanganui River

Wilderness Adventure on the Whanganui River

The Whanganui River rises on the northern slopes of Mount Tongariro and flowsws to the north-west. The river is of special and spiritual importance for Māori, who also refer to it as Te awa tupua - it was the home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times. As such, it is regarded as taonga, a special treasure.

There is a moodiness about the Whanganui River that has inspired generations of New Zealand artists and storytellers. Just 20 minutes up the river is the small town of Jerusalem, where writer James K Baxter New Zealand’s most famous writer saw out his days and was buried on Maori tribal land. This middle section of the river was where Vincent Ward filmed the River Queen (a story in itself, so the locals will tell you), a tale of the gruelling and often violent Pakeha settlement of these parts. It’s a region steeped in history but clearly not one for the faint-hearted.

A very scenic, four hour journey will get you to the The Flying Fox Retreat. Described as a home-built retreat, halfway up the mystic Whanganui River, so remote the only access is only by flying fox canoe or water taxi.  Today, The Flying Fox is a stylish, eco-minded holiday location, rather than a hang-out for aging hippies.

One Nights Accommodation at the Flying Fox Retreat up the Whanganui River.

Explore the river by canoe or kayak on a 3 hour expedition; this gives the opportunity to travel ancient paths and to imagine those who have traveled before.

Day 7 – Kapiti Island Reserve - Staying with the Traditional Owners

Spend the morning enjoying a leisurely breakfast and exploring the organic certified property, with lush vegetable gardens and heritage fruit trees. Continue on your journey south to Waikanae where at 3pm travel by ferry to Kapiti Island.

Step back a few hundred years into the New Zealand of yesterday. Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s most valuable nature reserves and has been a protected since 1897. This predator free sanctuary is home for A great diversity of birds, some of them among the worlds rarest. Access to the island is regulated to a few people a day to protect it for future generations.  The island has a classic New Zealand feel, dense green foliage and steep terrain all shrouded in mist. Kapiti Island is truly rich in history from whaling to farming, but more importantly Many Maori tribal groups have left their marks on Kapiti Island during its long and colourful history. For instance, from here the famous chief Te Rauparaha controlled his middle New Zealand empire between 1830's - 60's.

This evening you will take a walk, with one of the local hosts and seek out one of the rare nocturnal Little Spotted Kiwi.

Two Nights Accommodation in the Nature Lodge on Kapiti Island. The lodge is operated by Maori iwi ("tribe" or "clan"), who have been living on the island since the 1820s and have a vast knowledge of the island, which has been past down through the generations.  Simple, clean and functional, the accommodation is provided in cabins. Eating at the lodge is a family affair, so be prepared to be joined by extended family at meal times.

Day 8 – Paua, Seals and Crystal Clear waters

Enjoy the spectacular sunrise and dawn chorus of early morning bird song, before a leisurely breakfast. Join one of the island family members and gather Paua (Abalone) from rocky shores; they are considered a delicacy in Māori cuisine. Visit the local seal colony as they cavorting in crystal clear marine sanctuary waters.

Spend the day exploring the islands; there is a range of walks; including coast walks, bushwalks, or the Okupe Loop walk which offers a great lookout spot across Cook Strait. The Kapiti Marine Reserve, immediately adjacent to the lodge offers fabulous swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving. Rest in a salt water hot tub and reflect on life on Kapiti Island.

Day 9 – Farewell North Island and Hello South Island

The Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park at 225sq km. Small in size but big on beauty! Golden beaches border the translucent turquoise sea, and sandy estuaries fringed by natural forests. The walking tracks here, both in land and costal are world famous for there out standing beauty. You can walk the coastal track from top to bottom in 3 - 4 days total. Or enjoy one of the many shorter, day walk options using a cruise boat, sailing catamaran, water taxi or sea kayak to enter into the Abel Tasman. If that all sounds just a little energetic just kick back on one of the many unspoilt beaches you will discover along the way. Plus you have the added bonus of face-to-face encounters with marine wildlife and birds. Tonga Island is located in the Marine Reserve or the Abel Tasman National Park and is home to the ever-entertaining seal colony. And who knows you may be lucky enough to spot visiting dolphins and Orcas playing in the Abel Tasman National Park waters. 

Two Nights Accommodation at Awaroa Eco Lodge in the Abel Tasman National Park. Nestled in a National Park in the northern tip of the South Island, This 5 Star lodge is 100 meters from one of the most pristine white beaches in the country.

Day 10 – Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park at 225sq km, small in size but big on beauty; golden beaches border the turquoise sea fringed by natural forests. Take an exclusively guided walking adventure where you cruise to and walk through lush native forest with views over estuaries and bays. Before crossing the swing bridge and not missing a visit to Cleopatra's Pool before heading back to the lodge.

Sightseeing and activity options include:

Day 11 – Punakaiki & Thermal Bush Camp

This is an outstanding drive through forested mountain scenery and the rugged Buller Gorge to the west coast and Punakaiki. Here; remarkable pieces of natural sculpture, a series of stratified limestone stacks which, over many thousands of years, have been eroded to give the effect of giant piles of neatly stacked pancakes. Another prominent feature to watch is the blowholes that regularly throw up columns of dazzling spray.

Continue onto Greymouth, it is here that you will join a small group to begin your wilderness camping experience. Start with a two hour walk to the hidden wilderness campsite, the only way in is by walking (or helicopter) and all gear is supplied and carried for you. On arrival everyone helps to set up camp. The camps hot pools are natural rock spas with hot water bubbling up from underground, Imagine relaxing with a glass of wine in one hand and some of NZ’s excellent BBQ food in the other as you soak up the heat while gazing at the beautiful scenery.

Day 12 - Greymouth to Akaroa

At the end of your camping experience, meet the famous Tranz Alpine train; it is rated as one of the top six scenic train journeys in the world. This coast to coast journey takes you through some of the world’s most extreme and beautiful scenery. It stops in the heart of the Southern Alps at Arthur’s Pass before descending to the Canterbury Plains and on to Christchurch and finally Akaroa

Collect a rental vehicle and drive to Akaroa. In 1840, French settlers arrived at Akaroa and to this day, Akaroa remains unique as the site of the only attempted settlement by the French in New Zealand. Many streets have French names, and there are descendants of the original French families still living in Akaroa. Take a scenic cruise exploring the beautiful, sheltered harbours. You'll experience a rich variety of marine life including the unique and playful Hector's Dolphin and the rare Little Blue Penguin. The seascape is dominated by towering volcanic cliffs teeming with marine birdlife. If you wish, you have the opportunity to swim with these tiny rare dolphins. This Riviera-style village has some wonderful colonial architecture, creative craft shops, intriguing galleries, delightful gardens, and excellent cafés, bars and restaurants.

One Nights Accommodation at Oinako Lodge in Akaroa. Delight in premier Bed and Breakfast accommodation in one of Akaroa's most significant historic homes, circa 1865. Features include a sweeping French staircase, marble fireplaces, ornate plaster ceilings, Akaroa Harbour views and a private tranquil garden.

Day 13 – Hector Dolphin and Blue Penguin

Dolphin swimming on New Zealand wilderness tour

Today swim with the tiny, rare Hector Dolphin. This is the only place in the world that you can get so close to these mammals. Whilst on the water be sure to take in the seascape which is dominated by towering volcanic cliffs teeming with marine birdlife. Leaving the sparkling waters of Akaroa Harbour, travel across the wide Canterbury Plains, down the east coast passing numerous rural towns, you’ll cross several large braided rivers brimming with trout and salmon - you will soon arrive in the pretty little town of Oamaru.

One Nights Accommodation at Pen-Y-Bryn Lodge in Oamaru. The Lodge offers unrivalled visitor accommodation, fine dining and the warmth and humour of famed Kiwi hospitality. Guests gather in the evenings, warmed by blazing log fires to savour first class table d'hôte cuisine.

This evening experience the march of the little blue penguin. Watch as up to 180 penguin return from a busy day at sea, climb the steep rocks and make their way inland to their burrows. It is quite a sight.

Day 14 – Moeraki Boulders and Royal Albatross

Moeraki Boulders, South Island Wilderness tour

Follow the scenic coastline to Moeraki and stop to observe an ancient geological phenomenon, large stone spheres embedded in the beach known as Moeraki Boulders.  Continue your journey to Otago Peninsula; haven to the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world, special nesting area of the yellow-eyed penguin (Hoiho), the world’s rarest, and home to colonies of New Zealand sea lions and fur seals.

Continue driving South to Bluff; a small town located at the bottom of the South Island and ‘Gateway to Stewart Island’ - famous for its oysters. Board a helicopter and fly to Stewart Island; the Island’s special qualities are its clear, clean waters, the lush rainforest, sweeping sands, and the unspoilt natural beauty.  The wildlife, bird life and rare plant life is some of New Zealand's best, where else will you see seals, penguins and dolphins all from the roads. New Zealand's national bird, the kiwi is found all round the Island.

Two Nights Accommodation at Port of Call B & B in Stewart Island. A relaxed home situated on 20 acres of native bush overlooking Halfmoon Bay and Foveaux Strait. Being a 6th generation Stewart Island family, they are keen to show you the sights and sounds of Stewart Island.

Day 15 – Sea kayaking & Picnic Lunch

Wake in the morning with the aroma of fresh coffee and a hearty and generous breakfast to get you off to a great start.  Take a sea kayaking tour along the Inlet’s shoreline, view sea-life in crystal clear water and the native bird songs that will accompany you. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Millars Beach, and then walk to the site of the old whaling base. Spend the late afternoon exploring the island before dining at a local restaurant.

Day 16 – End of your adventure

Either ferry or fly from Stewart Island to Bluff… this is where this adventure itinerary ends.

From here you could extend your holiday and drive 3 hours to Fiordland and experience Milford and Doubtful Sounds before continuing onto the Adventure Capital of NZ; Queenstown…. the choice is yours… after all it is your holiday.

Use this sample itinerary as a starting point. Then pick and choose to suit you; add or take out activities or add days to spend more time in an interesting spot. Choose your preferred level of accommodation; from 5-star resorts to camping. We can even arrange your own private guide.


Please take the time to view our “Virtual Tour” for the 16 Day Wilderness or download/print the detailed “Tour Dossier”. Both can be found on the right hand column of this page. Alternatively you can simply contact us. For a comprehensive list of all activities available in each location featured in this tour, please refer to the "Destination Guide" found at the top of this page.

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