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Lord of The Rings Explorer 14-Day Self-Drive Tour
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On arrival, you will be met by one of our team and driven to your Auckland accommodation. We will discuss your itinerary and provide you with maps and detailed information to help you. Today Cruise the sparkling waters of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour. You'll learn about the most well-known city landmarks, including a stopover on dormant volcano Rangitoto. You'll see spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and Devonport's historic naval base as well as enjoying the Bean Rock Lighthouse with a complimentary hot drink and sandwich. Each tour includes a complimentary return ticket to Devonport, that can be used on a day and time convenient to you. The harbour cruise lasts one and half hours and departs daily from the Downtown Ferry Terminal at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm
Explore Auckland City
Perched on the edge of a large natural harbour, New Zealand's ‘City of Sails’ offers the best of both worlds. Sandy beaches, native bush and lush rainforests give way to a vibrant urban culture, humming with life. Spend time in the Viaduct Harbour - try your hand at sailing an America’s Cup yacht - or take the ferry to nearby Waiheke Island for a gourmet food and wine experience.
Walk (if you're that way inclined) to the top of Auckland's highest volcano, Mt Eden, and take in soaring views of the gulf. Pack a picnic lunch and lose yourself in one of the 800 regional national parks on offer or grab a book and relax on a deserted beach. Head up the Sky Tower, standing at just over 300m tall (about 1,000 feet) and have a meal in the 360 degrees revolving restaurant. Scale the outermost perimeter of the Harbour Bridge - or test your stomach and bungy off both. To end your day, catch a cab to Ponsonby Road and sample some upmarket culinary delights. Standing at 328 metres - just over 1000 feet - the Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers panoramic views of the Auckland landscape. Travel in the glass-fronted lift to one of three spectacular viewing platforms, or for a little more excitement do a SkyWalk - an outside loop around the pergola 192 metres - just over 600 feet - above ground. If you're really bold, take the quick way down and SkyJump off the tower - a controlled free fall to the base. Inside, the Sky Lounge offers coffee and light meals while the iconic Orbit Restaurant is Auckland's only 360-degree revolving dining experience
Auckland to Matamata and Hobbiton
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 263 km / 164 miles: 3.2 hours
We head southbound on State Highway one through the lush farmland and dairy pastures of the Waikato region. The Bombay Hills mark the outer boundary of the greater Auckland area and it's here we turn inland towards Matamata. This is the real Middle Earth, and you'll see many locations used in the filming of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit as well as visiting the actual set of Hobbiton. Choose to wander The Shire yourselves, or take an escorted tour. For the truly fanatical, sample some traditional hobbit fare and take the evening banquet experience - which includes a hearty hobbit dinner and an evening tour through The Shire by lamplight. Become immersed in The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films when you visit the actual Hobbiton movie set. Located just outside of Matamata - in the heart of the lush Waikato farming region, your two-hour tour will begin with a drive through a picturesque sheep farm. You'll then be taken through Hobbit Holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill and the Party Tree while your guide shares behind-the-scenes tales and fascinating insight into the making of the films. Later we will head towards the coast to arrive in Waitomo. Stop in historic Cambridge, home to a host of cafes, antique stores and a large village green. Cambridge has the feel of a traditional English country town and noteworthy buildings include St. Andrew's church, the old water tower and original courthouse. Cambridge is also the centre of New Zealand’s equine industry, and an impressive bronze horse sculpture pays tribute to its history. Continue on to Otorohanga - renowned for its celebration of New Zealand's popular culture 'Kiwiana.' Stop for a visit to the ‘Kiwi House’ a native bird park owned and operated by the Otorohanga Zoological Society, Inc. Dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand's native wildlife. Within the park, you will find nocturnal kiwi houses, Tuataras and many native and endangered birds. From Otorohanga it is only a short drive to the limestone hills that mark the Waitomo region and its famous cave complex
Waitomo to Whakapapa Village
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 151 km / 94 miles: 1.8 hours
Travel south into the heart of the Central Volcanic Plateau, Tongariro National Park. Leaving the limestone hills of Waitomo, follow the road through lush King Country pastures, named after the Maori King Tawhiao who lived here in exile during the mid-1800's. Continue on to arrive in this World Heritage Park, home to three active volcanoes - Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) - as well as many walking tracks, adventure activities and the renowned Tongariro Crossing. Visit the stunning farm location at Mangaotaki Rocks Piopio - near Waitomo - where the troll and campfire scenes in 'The Hobbit' were filmed. You'll see the towering limestone cliffs, massive rock formations and primaeval forest that make up the location for Staddle Farm and Trollshaws. You can also have your photo taken in the exact spot where Bilbo received his magical sword 'Sting' from Gandalf. You'll join a personally guided tour of several key filming locations including the site where the Orcs and Wargs began attacking and the 'exit from the cave' containing the troll hoar
Ohakune to Wellington
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 283 km / 176 miles: 3.5 hours
Leaving Ohakune we will first reach the military town of Waiouru - home to the National Army Museum - an incredible collection of New Zealand’s military history and a memorial to its servicemen. Heading south we pass through the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving on the Kapiti Coast. The coastal seaside towns of Paraparaumu, Paekakariki and Plimmerton are worth a short detour before arriving into the capital city of Wellington. Visit The Weta Cave, a mini-museum filled with props, characters and displays from well-known movies including Avatar, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Hear stories of how these figures were brought to life and learn about the artists who created them. Watch behind-the-scenes interviews from Weta co-founders Sir Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk - and gain insight into the creativity and imagination that comes with crafting the art of Weta.
You'll also take a guided tour through the inner workings of Weta Workshop and learn about its processes and design elements. Please keep in mind that many of the projects Weta Workshop has been involved in contain graphic scenes and special effects that may not be suitable for everyone. A guided 60-minute tour of Te Papa's highlights, Maori treasures, and New Zealand history. Ideal for visitors with limited time or wanting an introduction for an extended visit. New Zealand's national museum tells the great stories of New Zealand's past, present and future. Over 20 galleries house imaginative exhibitions and interactive experiences that explore New Zealand's unique natural environment, the triumphs and tragedies of colonial history, and the warmth and vitality of the Maori people
New Zealand's Capital City - Wellington
Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self-described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner-city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel. Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber. In a small group, you will head out to the Valley to explore the filming locations for Rivendell where Frodo recovered from his knife attack
the River Anduin where the Fellowship voyaged to Amon Hen
the Gardens of Isengard, where Gandalf rode to see Saruman and the site of the orcs felling the trees
see the quarry used for the filming of Helms Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. Then back to the City to visit the Mount Victoria lookout and Buckland Forest where you can take a "shortcut to mushrooms", "get off the road" and hide where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders before taking a run to the Buckleberry Ferry and discovering Dunharrow Rohirrim encampment along the way
The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you pass many interesting points such as Pencarrow Head on top of which is New Zealand's oldest lighthouse (1859). Red Rocks is home to a seal colony and Oterangi Bay is the site which recorded the country's highest ever wind speed of 268 km (167 mph). From the Cook Strait, spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island can be enjoyed and dolphins and many seabirds are often seen. Around one hour of the cruise takes you through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds and this region of bush covered mountains, small islands, crystal clear waters and secluded bays offer remarkable photographic opportunities. The final leg of your cruise travels through Queen Charlotte Sound before coming to an end in the picturesque town of Picton. Immerse yourself in Sir Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit' when you take this Hobbit Barrel Run River Kayaking trip. Journeying down the Beautiful Pelorus River you'll see actual filming locations including the rocks where Bilbo Baggins stood, the place where the dwarfs exited the barrels and the exact location where Kili was shot. Not just for Lord of the Rings fans, this spectacular kayaking trip will enthral anyone wanting to experience the beauty of New Zealand's rivers
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 326 km / 202 miles: 4.0 hours
Picton to Christchurch
From Picton, we cross the dry hills of the Marlborough ranges as you head towards one of the most spectacular coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometres and offers many chances to view native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the turquoise waters of the South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is a bustling place with many cafes, restaurants and shops - but the main reason for visiting here is the wildlife. Whale Watch Kaikoura is New Zealand's only marine-based whale watching company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch continues to follow the spectacular coastline before heading inland and through North Canterbury's major wine region, the Waipara Valley to arrive into Christchurch City. In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch city, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometre to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano - which exploded six million years ago. Take in the panoramic 360-degree views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex and choose one of many nature walks or visit the Time Tunnel - a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch. Welcome to Ko Tane Living Maori Village at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, where Maori culture and conservation meet to give you a unique glimpse into the way of life of the South Island Ngai Tahu Maori people before the arrival of the Europeans. Experience the thrill of the wero, the traditional challenge to visitors, as you are brought into the sacred precinct of Tane, Maori God of the Forests. Hear the haunting traditional call, the Karanga, performed by a wahine (woman) as the powhiri (ritual of arrival) begins, allowing you to enter our hidden enclave. You will be invited to take part in a performance of the haka (men) or the poi dance (women) and be entertained by the songs and games performed by the kapa haka (Maori cultural performance) group. You will dine and enjoy our four-course hangi cooked dinner (earth oven), experiencing a hangi is another great way to interact with our culture and the Ko Tane performers, dining with family and new found friends
Lord of the Rings Edoras Tour
Journey to the remote and beautiful Mt Potts high country station, home of Mt Sunday. See how this spectacular mountain was transformed into Edoras - the capital city of the Rohan people from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Marvel at its rugged unspoilt beauty and breathe in the clear mountain air, while you indulge in a gourmet sparkling wine picnic. This amazing day out includes four-wheel drive access onto Mt Sunday/Edoras itself, a gourmet champagne picnic lunch, full running commentary from the friendly and knowledgeable Kiwi tour guides and spectacular scenery you will never forget. You don't have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to enjoy this day out!
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 350 km / 217 miles: 4.1 hours
Christchurch to Mt. Cook National Park
Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury Plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing into through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is New Zealand's highest lake and it's turquoise colour astounds visitors. The unusual colour of the water comes from fine rock particles suspended in the glacier-fed waters reflecting the light. One of the most popular - and most photographed - landmarks in the region is the Church of the Good Shepherd. This iconic stone building was dedicated in 1935 and utilises part of the wood from the demolished Tekapo bridge. Nearby a statue of a Bronze Sheepdog pays tribute to the strong contribution these animals have made to the farming community. West of Lake Tekapo is Mt John, and it's here you will find the Canterbury University Observatory. Driving to the summit of this mountain is well worth the soaring views you'll get from the top. Drive a little further towards Lake Alexandrina, a wildlife reserve home to many birds. No motorised craft are allowed on the water, making for a very peaceful visit. Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier-fed turquoise blue colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village. Choose to view the Mt Cook National Park by a ski plane, or land on one of the glaciers in a helicopter. Find your sense of adventure and Kayak on a glacial lake or test your legs on one of the many walking tracks in and around the village. Before leaving, a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre is a must do. For a different view of this stunning landscape, catch a scenic flight over Mt Cook National Park and the West Coast Glaciers - Fox and Franz Josef. Just a 1-1.5 hour drive from Tekapo, Mt. Cook National Park is a rugged and beautiful environment encompassing 19 peaks, the tallest of them being Aoraki Mt Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain. Standing 3754 metres tall the Mt Cook can be seen from the southern end of Lake Pukaki. For those wanting a unique experience, catch a ski plane over the park, and land on the 15-kilometre long Tasman glacier. Stretch your legs on one of the many short walks around the area, and relax over dinner in the Mt Cook Village. Be sure to stop in at the new Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, showcasing the region's contribution to pioneering the sport of mountain climbing.
Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook - suggested activity
Experience 500-year-old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand - and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier - The Tasman.
Departing from Mount Cook Village outside The Hermitage Hotel you'll travel to the Tasman Valley, then embark on an easy 30-minute stroll through the National Park before heading out on to the lake. The 2.5-hour trip (45 min to 1 hour on the lake) enjoys a commentary throughout by an experienced guide
Mt. Cook National Park to Queenstown
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 257 km / 159 miles: 3.0 hours
Explore Queenstown and surrounds
Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast-paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Follow a trail of vines through Gibbston Valley as you sample the region’s best wine. We recommend stopping at the Chard Farm cellar door, visiting the architecturally award-winning Peregrine vineyard or taking a cellar cave tour at Gibbston Valley Winery. Cruise to Walter Peak station for dinner on board a 100-year-old steamship - the TSS Earnslaw. While you're there, a farm tour is a must do for those not familiar with rural living. Take some time to wander the waterfront, and grab lunch at one of the many amazing cafes and restaurants on offer. Try Vudu’s Pantry and larder or for a holiday treat go to Michelin star chef Josh Emmett's ‘Rata. Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown - a disused gold mining settlement built in the 1800’s. Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Venture further afield into the Fiordland National Park or head over the Crown Range to Wanaka. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. After all of that - if you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Nevis Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or White Water Rafting. Today you'll take a flight with the crew who were exclusively contracted for the filming of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Trilogies. Learn intimate knowledge about the area from your pilot and take in some of the most memorable sights of Middle-earth on this spectacular 75-minute flight.
Leaving Queenstown you'll climb over the Misty Mountains to Dimrill Dale and the great Gates of Khazad-Dum. See Mirrormere, the source of the River Silverlode then cross Lake Wakatipu towards Amon Hen, where the Breaking of the Fellowship scene was filmed. You can also see the forest where Lurtz fought his final battle as well as the site of the Illithien camp where Frodo and Sam hid from the battle.
You will then continue west for a landing atop Dol Baran, then fly over the outskirts of Lothlorien and again the Misty Mountains. We know travel east towards Skippers Canyon, scene of the desperate encounter between Arwen and the Black Riders, before heading back to land at Queenstown Airport
Nomad Safaris 'Safari of the Scenes' Wakatipu Basin tour
For those keen on the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings films, come with us for an unexpectedly delightful journey. In safari-equipped 4WD vehicles, you will be taken on a true off-road adventure. Experienced guides will take you on a breathtaking excursion through diverse scenery around the Wakatipu Basin. See historic Arrowtown and go over the Arrow River, as well as experiencing the truly remarkable views of the lake and mountain surround from the Skippers Canyon Saddle. Although no sets remain intact, the landscapes are instantly recognisable. Some of the sites you will visit during this tour include the Misty Mountains, Pillars of Kings and the Ford of Bruinen
Dart River Wilderness Safaris
Take a one and a half hour jet boat safari through the remote wilderness of Mt Aspiring National Park. Home to towering mountains, alpine bush, glacial lakes and icy rivers, this spectacular trip is considered one of the most scenic in the world. Following your boat journey, take a 40-minute walk through ancient beech forests over 80 million years old. Learn about the area and its history before taking a four-wheel drive coach on a 50-minute journey to the isolated hamlet of Paradise - home to many Lord of the Rings filming locations.
Total trip time is around 6 hours from Queenstown or 4 hours from Glenorchy. Onsen Hot Pools is located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, providing views over the breathtaking alpine scenery and the perfect vantage point to watch the Shotover Jet jetboats on the river below. The experience is all about unwinding and soaking-up Queenstown's spectacular scenery, enjoying the pure waters and the fresh mountain air as your mind and body surrender to the deep penetrating warmth and gentle massage of the private pools. At the touch of a button, you can have complete privacy. Water temperature is set according to the day - generally between 37.8C on a hot day, to 39.8C during a snow-storm. If you have a temperature preference, tell us when you book and your pool will be just right when you arrive! If you find yourself overheating, add cold water to your pool with the push of a button. Alternatively, in the summer we keep one of our pools cold for those who relish the thought of a cold plunge! Be sure to arrive 15 minutes before your booking time to ensure you're not starting your period of blissful relaxation in a hurried stress
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg is: 8 km / 5 miles: 0.2 hours
Your final morning in Queenstown before driving to the airport and catching your next flight
Depending on when your flight departs you might have time for one last Queenstown adventure before dropping your car off at the airport and catching your flight.
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