Exploring New Zealand's North & South Islands

New Zealand is an exhilarating place to visit. On this expedition, explore both the North and the South Island taking in a terrific variety of experiences. Your journey is made all the richer by the expert expedition team that will accompany you, showing you New ZealandÂs many facets and bringing added meaning to the things you encounter. There are wonderful landscapes, from the fjords of the South Island to the cliffs and indented coastlines the entire length your journey. ThereÂs unique wildlife that results from New ZealandÂs long geographic isolation. And, there is an inviting blend of cultures that includes those of the indigenous Maori population and of the European settlers, underpinned by the friendly, relaxed welcome youÂll receive from ÂKiwis (New Zealanders).

Itinerary

Days 1-2: Depart USA and En Route

Fly to Auckland, New Zealand.

Day 3: Auckland

Arrive in Auckland and transfer to the Crowne Plaza, where rooms have been reserved for early arrival. In the afternoon, tour Auckland, taking in the views from the renowned Sky Tower and seeing the marvelous exhibits on Maori culture and natural history at the Auckland Museum. In the evening, gather for welcome drinks and dinner at the hotel.

Day 4: Embark Oceanic Discoverer

Embark Oceanic Discoverer this morning and sail into the Hauraki Gulf. If youÂre able, make an expedition stop in the late afternoon.

Day 5: White Island

Today visit White Island, an astonishingly active marine volcano with powerful steam vents, boiling mud pots and a highly acidic crater lake. At this unique site, clouds of steam and rivulets of hot water are everywhere, as is the roar from the vents. YouÂll also see the remains of the sulfur mining operations that were abandoned in 1933.

Day 6: Gisborne

A special treat awaits you as you visit the meeting houses of the small Maori community of Whangara, where you receive a very warm and personal welcome, learning of the residents history and traditions, with a chance to meet some of the people who live here. Much of the movie ÂWhale Rider was filmed nearby. In the afternoon, explore the marvelous Eastwoodhill arboretum, with trees and plants from all over the world, planted over a period of decades by the eccentric New Zealander Douglas Cook.

Day 7: Napier

After the devastating earthquake of 1931 leveled Napier, residents decided to rebuild it as a shining example of contemporary architecture. The result is many of the finest showpieces of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and related styles in the world. They fill the town. YouÂll have a guided exploration of the town and its history, and also visit the worldÂs largest gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers outside Napier  where 5,000 pairs of birds raise their young. YouÂll be able to get remarkably close.

Day 8: At Sea

Spend an enjoyable day at sea, with talks by your expedition staff, preparing for the days ahead.

Day 9: Wellington

Vibrant Wellington is New ZealandÂs capital and second largest city, although the town center, with a lively waterfront, is compact and readily explored. Explore Wellington, including a visit to the superb Te Papa Museum, opened in 1998 as a showplace for New ZealandÂs diverse cultures. In the afternoon, you may explore on your own or enjoy a visit to the Karori Sanctuary, where the elimination of predators has allowed native birds and plants to get reestablished.

Day 10: Kaikoura

The continental shelf drops off rapidly just off Kaikoura, producing upwelling that creates ideal conditions for marine mammals, notably enormous sperm whales, along with dolphins. On your excursion by local boat, thereÂs also a chance of seeing blue whales, humpbacks and orcas. YouÂll also visit a fur seal colony and walk along the clifftops of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, with spectacular views of mountains, cliffs and the Pacific, and visit Fyffe House, a small museum that was originally the home of whalers.

Day 11: Akaroa

Spend the day at Akaroa, near the head of the scenic Banks Peninsula. Its history is unique in New Zealand. Originally inhabited by Maori, it was settled by French immigrants in 1840, and many early houses still stand in the town. There will be a chance to explore Akaroa, and a highlight will be taking an excursion boat in the bay in search of HectorÂs dolphins, the worldÂs smallest and rarest. You have a choice of swimming with the dolphins (wet suits supplied) or just observing from the boat.

Day 12: Dunedin

Lively Dunedin combines outstanding natural history with a rich cultural heritage. YouÂll explore the town, seeing the ornate Edwardian railway station and the Octagon plaza at the center of town. You can choose to visit the Otago Peninsula, looking for fur seals, yellow-eyed and little blue penguins and royal albatross; or else you can take the Taieri Gorge Railway through tunnels and across viaducts to splendid Taieri Gorge.

Day 13: Stewart Island

Stewart, the southernmost of New ZealandÂs major islands, has a population of just 380 and the feel of a frontier outpost. A highlight is a walk on the sanctuary of Ulva Island, with outstanding birdlife that includes the weka (a flightless rail), the kaka (a forest parrot), the confiding New Zealand robin and perhaps even a brown kiwi. In the afternoon, you can choose to explore Stewart Island by road or take a walk with your naturalists. Stewart IslandÂs only town, Oban, has a relaxed waterfront atmosphere.

Day 14: Dusky & Doubtful Sounds

Dusky is among the most remote of New ZealandÂs fjords, and can be reached only on foot or by sea. It has a special place in New Zealand history, as Captain Cook stayed here for five weeks in 1773. Sail on to Doubtful Sound, which got its name because Captain Cook was uncertain whether the winds would be sufficient to allow him to exit. ItÂs the largest of New ZealandÂs fjords and a place where magnificent vistas extend in every direction. Plan to land on one of the beaches to explore, seeing the native plants up close and looking for unique birdlife including the Fiordland crested penguin, the worldÂs rarest penguin. A cruise in the Xplorer shows you some of the landscapes for which the fjords are famous.

Day 15: Doubtful & Milford Sounds

Spend the early morning in Doubtful Sound, then sail into incomparable Milford Sound, the best known and perhaps the most spectacular of all New ZealandÂs fjords. You are surrounded by sheer peaks, of which the tallest and best known is Mitre Peak. Look for dolphins and New Zealand fur seals and see the cascades of Stirling Falls.

Day 16: Milford Sound / Disembark / Queenstown

Disembark for the exceptional drive to Queenstown, stopping along the way at Lake Te Anau. Check into the Crowne Plaza, and in the afternoon walk through the town and take the gondola for a panoramic view over the city, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks.

Day 17: Queenstown / U.S.

Transfer to Queenstown Airport for connecting flights home.

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