New Zealand, called Aotearoa (translated as “land of the long white cloud”) by the Maori, the country’s early Polynesian settlers, is awash in biodiversity—80 percent of which is found here and nowhere else. Awash is an appropriate word, because in New Zealand you are never more than 80 miles from the ocean. Eighty million years ago, this land of thick forests and glacier-dotted fjords sheared off from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. It has been adrift ever since.
Adrift is another fitting term when talking about New Zealand adventure travel, for on your Custom Journey here—free from restraints—you can take advantage of all the points of interest that interest you.
If peddling is your passion, the Otago Central Rail Trail in the South Island’s Central Otago region will have you biking through unusual tunnels and abandoned gold diggings and rail stations; past loads of museums and historic buildings; and over scenic bridges. Or, on the boundary with the Otago region in the southeastern corner of the South Island, The Catlins provides a place for wandering in podocarp and beech forests, around hidden lakes, along rugged coastlines and to stunning waterfalls. The endemic yellow-eyed penguins nest on these shards of land, and the area’s tuatara—an ancient reptile—reminisce about dinosaurs only on this New Zealand soil.
On the West Coast of the South Island, between Westport and Greymouth, lies the small community of Punakaiki, famous for its Pancake Rocks. Here, you can ride horses over sandy beaches—splashing through the surf—to these limestone formations, which look oddly like flapjacks stacked hundreds high. Just beyond this rocky garden stretches the oh-so-blue Tasman Sea. You may even opt for a surreal float on an underground river, glowworms lighting your way. If you like, we can connect you with a private, naturalist guide for a hike up the face of Fox Glacier, the West Coast’s longest.
If you’re a whale-watcher, add the town of Kaikoua, an easy, two-hour drive north of Christchurch, to your New Zealand adventure tour. It’s a hub for marine mammal encounters and one of the best locations in the world for spotting gigantic sperm whales. After visiting with the entertaining local seal colony, drive to Queenstown, and you’ll find that rare and matchless place where mountains meet sea and where rain forests casually run into glaciers.
In Queenstown, renowned for adventure sports, take a three-day hike on the Hollyford Track in Fiordland National Park and retrace the footsteps of the original Maori. You’ll step into a world of sheer rock walls, blue lakes that mirror snowcapped mountain peaks and unending views that look the same as they did thousands of years ago.
For a New Zealand adventure vacation that’s truly extraordinary, we’ll help you hail a helicopter to the South Island’s luxury, alpine lodge of Minaret Station, set at the head of a picturesque glacial valley within the Southern Alps. We can arrange a guided fishing or guided heli-skiing excursion that leaves right from your accommodations. You’ll soon understand why Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings director, decided to film the epic trilogy here. The backdrop for all of your activities won’t only include the rugged mountains but green valleys; dramatic, rocky cliffs; and meditative, deep-blue lakes that flow over the rims of ancient volcanic craters.
If you’re a fly-fisher—expert or newbie—Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island will be your promised land. It’s hard to find wild rainbow trout anywhere in the world that are larger than those that swim in these waters. We’ll craft an itinerary that will keep you knee-deep in famous trout streams and yet provide the logistics for exploring Auckland, Wellington, several national parks, golden-sand beaches and native bushlands. Then, toast your private custom tour in New Zealand with vintages from several of the area’s award-winning wineries.
The best way to experience biodiverse and energetic New Zealand is to go adrift in this land awash. You’re sure to get all agog in Aotearoa.