New Zealand's Queenstown sits on the edge of the glacial Lake Wakatipu, allowing easy access to nearby mountains, rivers, and other breathtaking sights that convinced Travel + Leisure to name it one of the World's Best Cities. You might recognize the area around Lake Wakatipu as the setting for Lothlorien, the ethereal elven realm from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's one of the highlights of the country's South Island. Contrast that with the North Island's more metropolitan Auckland—a sprawl of skyscrapers, bar-lined harbors, and outlying vineyards set atop dormant volcanoes. You can explore either of these areas or visit both the North and South Islands during an 11-day, 8-night trip from Travelscene with included roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles (LAX).
Click here for a detailed itinerary of each trip.
North Island Tour
Spend two nights in Auckland staying at Hotel Ibis Ellerslie, located just 15 minutes from the city center. On a sightseeing tour, you'll visit the historical Parnell Village, a suburb with a thriving art scene, then venture through a curved aquarium tunnel at Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World to see sharks and stingrays swimming up close.
An included Britz motor-home rental will be your accommodations for the next seven days. Feel free to hit the road and wind through the rural areas and scenic routes outside of Auckland. The North Island includes scenic beach settlements such as Whitianga and the mud baths at Rotorua, a city set squarely in the volcanic Pacific Ring of Fire.
South Island Tour
Flights from LAX arrive in Christchurch, the South Island's largest city, after which you'll be transported to Sudima Hotel for an overnight stay. You’ll spend the next two days in a Britz motor-home rental. Travelscene suggests you take the scenic route to Queenstown, and consider stopping for kayaking at Lake Tekapo and hiking through Mount Cook Village.
Take a few days for R & R in Queenstown, where golf courses, spas, and gourmet restaurants are all within easy reach. Known as the Adventure Capital of the World, Queenstown is also the place for bungee jumping to river rafting. After Queenstown, be sure to head for the surrounding vineyards of Gibbston, castles and churches in Dunedin, and the Oamaru’s penguin colony.
North and South Islands Tour
This trip combines highlights from both the North and South Island tours, starting with the guided tour of Auckland. You'll spend three nights in the city, staying at Amora Hotel. The North Island segment of the trip also includes a full-day tour of Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Rotorua, where Hobbiton was built for Lord of the Rings.
An included domestic flight on Air New Zealand will take you from Auckland to Queenstown, where you'll spend the last five nights at the lakefront Copthorne Hotel. Some suggested additions to the South Island itinerary include a skyline gondola ride and a jet-boat ride on alpine waters through narrow canyons.
Staff Q+A: New Zealand
Peter J. is an area sales manager for Groupon Getaways. He likes the outdoors and experiencing new cultures. Below, he shares his thoughts about New Zealand and its extreme sports.
What's the most authentic souvenir you could bring back from New Zealand?
Maori (New Zealand’s indigenous people) make these bone necklaces that look like fancy fish hooks; I forget what they are called. Or you could just get a tribal tat.
What tourist attraction or activity is overrated, and what should you do instead?
I didn't do anything that was overrated. Skydiving is very "rated," and New Zealand is also the birthplace of bungee jumping. The country also has this cool thing called sledging, which is like boogie boarding down whitewater rapids.
Did you pick up any bits of local slang while you were there?
“Sweet as, mate!” (the New Zealand way of saying “awesome”)
What makes New Zealand one of your favorite getaways?
The physical beauty of the place is truly breathtaking. It’s a small country, but the landscape varies so drastically. You can go from ocean to the mountains and back in a couple of hours. The people are fantastic—real friendly and laid back, not to mention a bit loco. They invented bungee jumping, remember?
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