25 September 2016
If you want to experience the very best that New Zealand has to offer, and happen to be a Lord of the Rings fan, this wonderful 24 day tour of the North and South Islands will take some beating. The self drive Middle Earth Experience would make any Hobbit more than happy as you will be visiting so many of the sites made famous by the film trilogy. But its not just movie addicts who will enjoy this comprehensive tour because along the way you will visit all the famous places in this beautiful country and get the chance to appreciate all its breathtaking scenery.
Your tour begins in the lively city of Auckland, on New Zealand's North Island. After arrival at the airport you will be taken to your hotel to relax after the long journey and study your maps to plan the journey ahead. In the evening you may want to go out and dine at one of the many fine restaurants on the buzzing waterfront area of the city.
This morning after breakfast you make your way to the Avis City Depot where you will collect your rental vehicle. Then you drive north to the beautiful Bay of Islands. We recommend that you travel via the picturesque Waipoua Kauri Forest.
There is no better place in New Zealand to relax and unwind than the beautiful sub-tropical Bay of Islands. And today you have all the time you need to get to know this stunning area. You can go swimming with the dolphins, golfing at scenic Waitangi, go exploring in this historic area, or simply chill out on one of the many uncrowded beaches and soak up the sun.
Today you say goodbye to this sub tropical paradise and head south to Hamilton, New Zealand's biggest inland city. Hamilton boasts stunning parks, gardens and river walks. The Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest, winds its way through the city and there is plenty of top class accommodation and a popular nightlife and restaurant scene. Hamilton also provides the perfect base for exploring the wider region and you will have the whole afternoon there.
Today the Lord of the Rings aspect of the tour begins when you visit Matamata on the way to Rotorua. Stop at the Hobbiton Movie Set, the village specially created for the movies. If surfing is more your style, then Raglan is the perfect spot with one of the longest left hand breaks in the world. For a different underground experience, drive south to the Waitomo Caves where the natural beauty of stalactites and stalagmites lit by the blue light of glowworms will take your breath away.
A full day today to experience the thermal wonderland that is Rotorua. This is one place where the turbulent forces that formed New Zealand are most evident. This city, on the Volcanic Plateau, has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity. Skyrocketing geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools all tell you that this place sits squarely on the Pacific Rim of Fire. Rotorua is also the ancestral home of the Te Arawa people who settled here more than 600 years ago and their presence offers the visitor numerous cultural experiences. We recommend that you try a traditional Maori hangi feast and concert while here.
Today you leave the bubbling mud pools behind and travel to the Tongariri National Park stopping at Lake Taupo on route. Taupo is more than a lake, it is a volcano with no top – a top that was blown off in one of the largest and most devastating eruptions ever seen on the planet. Visit the Craters of the Moon and you will see evidence of its fiery birth in the geysers, steaming craters and boiling mud pools. Other scenic highlights here include the magnificent Huka Falls, where more than 220,000 litres of water thunder over the cliff face every second.
After spending some time in this lovely national park you drive on to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. There is so much to see and in Wellington, which is one of the most picturesque cities in the country and is known as New Zealand’s arts and cultural capital. Visit the galleries, go and see the world-class New Zealand Symphony Orchestra or the Royal New Zealand Ballet and keep and eye out for the public sculpture - there are many interesting and contemporary pieces around the city.
Enjoy a half day tour of the locations from the Lord of the Rings movie . . . the Gardens of Isengard, the felling of the Orc Tree, Anduin River, Helms Deep and Minas Tirith, the Fords of Isen, Dunharrow and Rivendell. Go to the Mount Victoria lookout and Hobbiton Woods where you can race to the ferry and get off the road. Amazing photo opportunities in a private tour before having the rest of the day at your leisure to explore more of the city.
Today you return your rental car to the Interisland Ferry depot and board your ferry to cruise the Cook Strait to Picton. This is a wonderful journey and before arriving at Picton, gateway to New Zealand's South Island, you will pass fantastic coastal scenery. Once in Picton pick up your rental car and make your way to Nelson.
A free day to explore Nelson. You can drive to Takaka Hill, which is around 100 miles away, where a number of rocky marble outcrops can be seen. Take a journey through ghostly trees to the general location of filming of Lord of the Rings. Or you might like to visit Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith in Nelson - designers of the One Ring. One of the original rings is on display here.
A long day behind the wheel today as you drive more than 300 miles from Nelson to Hokitika. On the way stopping at Motueka. You can travel either via Westport, which is the longer distance, or Reefton. If you choose the Westport route you can stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and blowhole. Overnight at Hokitika.
Today you drive down the west coast of the South Island to Fox Glacier. While passing through the glacier towns you have the opportunity to stop and explore this stunning area or possibly take a light aircraft or helicopter trip over the glaciers for out of this world views. Overnight Fox Glacier.
Today you drive 250 miles through more stunning scenery to Wanaka. More Lord of the Rings thrills as you travel over the Haast Pass. Looking towards the Alps from the Wanaka waterfront, at the end of the lake you can see the backdrop used when Gandalf flew to Rohan with Gwaihir, after his rescue from Orthanc. Overnight at Wanaka
You have done quite a lot of driving so today may be a good time to leave the keys in your hotel and explore Wanaka on foot. It is a picture-postcard perfect town on the lake of the same name with the Southern Alps as a backdrop. There are plenty of absorbing museums, but if you feel more adventurous try one of the many water sports on offer.
Leave Wanaka today and drive via Queenstown to Te Anau. You can take the route along the Crown Range with its expansive views. To the left are the River Anduin and the Pillars of the Argonath and high in the hills is the Dimrill Dale. Once at the bottom of the Crown Range travel over the Kawarau River which doubled as the Anduin River in the film. Continue on to Te Anau and on the way you can stop at the Mavora Lakes - a special forested area containing two serene lakes. Overnight Te Anau.
Have your camera ready today as you travel from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Once at the Sound make sure you take a boat trip past the waterfalls out into the Ocean . . . one of the must-do activities of any trip to this area. After your memorable day at Milford Sound drive on to Queenstown, the adrenaline junkies' capital of the world, where you stay for the next two nights.
Today enjoy a full day four wheel drive Safari of the Rings Tour. You will be driven into the heart of New Zealand’s high country - the embodiment of the Middle Earth of Tolkien’s imagination. Enjoy a spectacular look at the diversity of the scenery in this area and see if you can spot several of the specific sites where filming took place like the Road to Mordor, Ford of Bruinen, Amon Hen summit and others.
This morning enjoy a scenic drive to the hamlet of Glenorchy where you will board the specially designed Dart River Jet. This journey into Middle Earth combines one and a half hours jetboating amid the spectacular scenery of the Southern Alps, a gentle walk in the ancient forests and a back road journey through high country farmland and forests - around Paradise - film location for Lord of the Rings. The afternoon is free for sightseeing. You can may like to drive to Arrowtown – home to the Ford of Bruinen, which is only minutes from the centre of the village on the Arrow River
Time is available for an optional “Trilogy Trail” helicopter tour. Glenorchy Air were employed by Peter Jackson’s production company to fly cast, crew, costumes and film equipment to and from various places around the South Island. By air see the lush locations for the river Anduin, the Ford of Bruinen, Lothlorien, Amon Hen, Isengard, Field of Cormallen, Lawn of Parth Galen, Lake of Nen Hithoel and Amon Lhaw. Included is at least one landing at an isolated location. Depart Queenstown and drive to the alpine village of Mount Cook.
Time today to explore Mount Cook, which at 3,764 metres is New Zealand’s highest peak and is located in the heart of the country's most spectacular mountain region, the Southern Alps. One of the most stunning features of this area is the Tasman Glacier which is 25 miles long and more than two miles across at the widest point. Also well worth seeing is the Hochstetter Ice Fall. There are a wide variety of walking trips available where mountain and glacier scenery are at their best. Depart Mount Cook and drive over the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch. Christchurch is the quintessential English city rich in parks and intricately landscaped it is called the “garden city”. The Avon River, named by homesick early settlers meanders through the city and you can hire a punt complete with boatman for a unique view of the city centre. It is a centre for the arts and the Canterbury Museum set on the edge of the Botanical Gardens and Hagley Park is well worth a visit.
Before leaving Methven make a point of touring this very Scottish of towns which lies on a plain. Methven is a ski centre in winter but is a lively place year round. Later drive on to the Kaikoura coastline which is a great place for whale, dolphin and seal watching. Here you may want to take a boat our on the ocean to get close to some of the marine creatures.
The partly coastal journey on State Highway 1 will take around three hours allowing time to explore along the way. Christchurch is the quintessential English city rich in parks and intricately landscaped. It is called the “garden city”, and the Avon River, named by homesick early settlers, meanders through it and you can hire a punt complete with boatman for a unique view of the city centre. It is a centre for the arts and the Canterbury Museum, set on the edge of the Botanical Gardens and Hagley Park, is well worth a visit.
Today your wonderful Lord of the Rings inspired tour of New Zealand comes to an end. Time for some more shopping or sightseeing in the lovely city of Christchurch before dropping off your hire car and being taken to the airport for your onward flight or journey home taking with you a lifetime of memories.
Tourist Class fr £2623pp
1st Class fr £3389pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated