New Zealand's Otherworldly North Island and Tropical Cook Islands
New Zealand is a country of stark contrasts: it has glaciers and volcanoes, black sand beaches and boiling mud pools, cascading waterfalls and spouting geysers. It is otherworldly and fantastical enough here that director Peter Jackson adopted New Zealand as the filming location for Middle-earth, the mythical land found in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Nearly 2,000 miles northeast in the heart of the South Pacific are the pristine Cook Islands, awash in tropical scenery. Whether you want to sightsee or go on an adventure, you're in charge of your own itinerary on this 10-day, 8-night trip through New Zealand and the Cook Islands. To find out all the destination possibilities for your itinerary, click here.
Thursday: Travelers take off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on an Air New Zealand flight. On Friday, you’ll have your passport stamped by Father Time before he permits you to cross the International Date Line.
Saturday–Thursday: Planes touch down in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday morning. After collecting baggage and going through customs, passengers board a shuttle bus that whisks them to the rental-car depot. From here, you have seven days on your own to explore New Zealand's North Island. The tour company can provide you with a self-drive itinerary based on your interests, or you can craft your own.
The spewing geysers and bubbling mud pools of Rotorua are highlights of North Island. It’s also worth it to visit Mount Tarawera volcano, the mountain-framed Lake Taupo, and Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. To pump up the adrenaline, you can skydive, bungee jump, whitewater raft, and even zorb—an extreme sport invented in New Zealand in which a person rolls down a hill inside an inflatable ball. And at the southern tip of North Island lies Wellington, the country's capital and home to Te Papa, the country's national museum.
Each night, travelers can flash the Golden Chain New Zealand motel pass to check in at one of the motel's locations for the night.
Friday: After heading back to Auckland, you’ll drop off your rental car at the airport and catch an Air New Zealand flight to Rarotonga in the evening.
Thursday–Friday: Because the plane crosses the International Date Line, travelers will gain a day back and will land on the Cook Islands for their second consecutive Thursday. This is the part of the trip to relax and unwind; you can spend the following two days snorkeling, kayaking, and exploring the tropical lagoon that surrounds the Muri Beach Club Hotel.
Saturday: Air New Zealand flights depart from Rarotonga for Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.