Flying Kiwi: Ultimate Explorer

Group Tours
Duration (in days): 28

From: Auckland

To: Auckland



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The Ultimate Explorer trip is the best way to experience the outdoor beauty and excitement of New Zealand.  These unique trips give you the flexibility to combine optional hiking and cycling with once in a lifetime activities such as dolphin swimming, glacier hiking and more.

Accommodation is in stunning location by lakes, mountains and oceans – away from the beaten track with small groups of like-minded travellers.  With options to stay in tents or upgrade to cabins it’s the no surprise these trips are top rated in National Geographic’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”.

The tour is carefully designed to combine adventure with relaxation.  Rather than driving everyday the carefully planned itinerary includes 2 night/3 day stops in 4 of the country’s best locations.

Taking in both the North and South Island you will visit the spectacular National Parks of Tongariro, Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and the Abel Tasman. You will stay in a carefully chosen combination of campsites (with cabin upgrades), department of conservation sites and personal hostels (in the main centres). 

Hikers will get the chance to experience the best one day walk in the World and one of New Zealand’s finest great walks – The Routeburn Track.  Optional cycling provides the chance to get further off the beaten track with a variety of on and off-road rides for all fitness levels.

Mix in a huge section of optional adventure activities such as whale watching, dolphin swimming, skydiving, canyoning, white water rafting and you are guaranteed the experience of a lifetime. 

Flying Kiwi New Zealand Tour Video

This trip includes

  • Tented accommodation as per itinerary
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland
  • Queenstown Gondola
  • Wine Tasting Marlborough:
  • Cook Strait Ferry Crossing
  • Use of Sports Equipment on Board (exc. Bikes)


  • Try everything from dolphin swimming to skydiving
  • Explore more of NZ’s best National Parks
  • Learn about Maori culture
  • Ride bikes along amazing landscapes
  • Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing & Routeburn Track
  • Visit NZ’s World Heritage sites
  • Free wine tasting & gondola ride

Day 1: Auckland to Hot Water Beach

Leaving Auckland at 10am you travel to the Coromandel, renowned for its natural beauty, misty rainforests and pristine white, sandy beaches. Marvel at the views on a beautiful coastal walk or take in the coastline from the water by kayak. Visit the unique and famous Hot Water Beach to dig, then relax, in your own thermal pool!  Soak up the breath-taking scenery and cameras ready for spectacular sunsets at the beachside camp.  (D)

Day 2: Hot Water Beach to Rotorua

The morning is filled with activity as you make your way south into the thermal wonderland of Rotorua. On the way, those visiting Hobbiton leave the group in Matamata as you continue to the cultural and geological heart of the North Island and the perfect place to experience and learn about Maori culture and the dramatic natural thermals, Rotorua. There is plenty of action to choose from such as Zip Lining, OGO and the Luge or go biking in the Whakarewarewa forest. We recommend finishing your day with a Maori cultural experience at the Tamaki Maori Village.(B,L)

Day 3: Rotorua to Turangi

Enjoy a relaxed start to the day before checking out the geysers & mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. First, visit the Lady Knox Geyser before exploring one of New Zealand’s most extensive geothermal networks, a unique landscape with colourful sulphur lakes and diverse volcanic vistas. Then take time to explore the impressive Huka Falls before arriving into Taupo, considered the North Island's adrenalin capital. Test your fear of heights on the giant swing, bungy or go skydiving, the scenery is well worth it! Finish the day with a beautiful drive around the edge of Lake Taupo on the way into camp at Turangi. (B,D)

Day 4: Turangi to Paekakariki

Today you have the chance to experience the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - considered NZ's best day hike, offering a remarkable journey across volcanic landscapes. Lava flows, emerald-coloured lakes, magnificent views and steaming vents combine to make this an unforgettable hike. For those who aren't keen on hiking you can enjoy short local walks or cycle the Tongariro river track. After the hike, you will make your way south and stay on the Kapiti coast in a quiet little place called Paekakariki.(B,L,D)

Day 5: Paekakariki - Wellington - Picton

Heading south to "the coolest little capital in the World" (as recently named by Lonely Planet), an early arrival by 9am gives you time to experience some of Wellington’s attractions or simply soak up the culture and buzz of our capital city. There are plenty for all tastes including the highly recommend Te Papa museum. Check out some of New Zealand’s rare birds at Zealandia or take a walk-up Mt Victoria for great views across the city and harbour.  Later that day, it’s time to say goodbye to the North Island as the South Island welcomes you with picturesque scenery of the Marlborough sounds as you cross the Cook Strait by ferry. Camping isn’t feasible tonight so you will stay at a great friendly hostel where  dorm beds are reserved for everyone on board. (B,D)

Day 6: Picton to Kaikoura

After the adventure of day five you have a relaxing start to the morning at the lakeside camp before heading towards Lake Taupo. First stop for the morning is the Wai-o-Tapu thermal resort and mud pools and the impressive Huka Falls. After your relaxation you may choose to walk or cycle to one of the largest crater lakes in the world, Lake Taupo, try a skydive, bungy or kayak to Maori rock carvings. Spend the evening relaxing your muscles in the thermal pools near camp for the night. (B,D)

Day 7: Kaikoura - Christchurch - Rangitata

Today you will travel the scenic Pacific coast to Kaikoura where close encounters with seals and sea birds are common. Kaikoura translates to 'meal of crayfish' (Kai - food, koura - crayfish) a reference to the abundance of seafood and sea life in the area. The town has transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a hot spot for whale watching, dolphin swimming and seal spotting and sits right on the ocean at the foot of the mountains – a spectacular spot.  Stretch your legs with a recommended afternoon peninsula walk and build up an appetite for a tasty feast of locally caught fresh seafood.  (B,D)

Day 8: Rangitata to Lake Pukaki

Wake up to mountain views and refresh yourself with even more white water rafting on the mighty Rangitata River! If rafting isn’t for you then no problem - soak it all in with a morning cycle or walk through the Peel Forest. Continue through more jaw dropping landscapes (they don’t stop in the South Island) to the picture postcard, Lake Tekapo.  Here you will view the most spectacular turquoise waters which get their colour from the glacial flour brought down from the rivers flowing from glaciers high up in the mountains. Leaving Tekapo we head to one of our best wilderness camps – sitting on the shores of Lake Pukaki you can set up your tent and take in the views of the lake with New Zealand’s highest peak Aoraki/Mt Cook visible in the distance. (B,L,D)

Day 9: Lake Pukaki to Moeraki

Immerse yourself in the snow-capped mountain scenery that New Zealand is famous for and explore Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Hike to the base of NZ’s highest mountain following a trail up the Hooker valley where you’ll cross swing bridges and get stunning views of the mountains before finishing up at a glacial lake with views of the Hooker Valley glacier. We then travel back towards the Pacific coast for a quick stop in the historic town of Oamaru before continuing onwards to the small village of Moeraki. Walk to a great view point offering expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and try to spot a little Blue Penguin along the shore. If you have a bike it’s possible to visit a colony of extremely rare Yellow-eyed Penguins near to camp. 


Day 10: Moeraki to Dunedin

Before travelling south, we make a stop at the nearby Moeraki Boulders and then it’s onto the historic Scottish city of Dunedin, the South Island's second-largest city. This southern city is home to the world’s steepest residential street and the coastline is home to some fantastic and rare wildlife. It’s possible to take a tour onto the Otago Peninsula to view some of this diverse wildlife which includes Albatross and Fur Seals. For the adventurous why not try surfing at one of Dunedin’s best breaks! The camp is a short distance from the beach with a variety of restaurants close by to choose from. (B)

Day 11: Dunedin to Hollyford

Today is one of the longer travel days as you are driven through some of New Zealand’s most dramatic natural scenery on our way to Fiordland. Large parts of the landscape have been carved out over thousands of years to leave stunning paths that weave through snow-capped mountains. You stop briefly in Te Anau, the hub and gateway town for Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound and your last chance to get supplies for those doing the Routeburn Track tomorrow.

From Te Anau you make our way into the gigantic Fiordland National Park, encompassing some 12,500km2 it is New Zealand’s largest National Park. Tonight’s camp is a pretty special place in the heart of the Hollyford Valley, established in the 1930s. You can learn more about the history of the camp at the onsite museum. Cyclists have the chance to cycle to camp through some great native bush and walkers can do some nice short walks from camp (ask your guide about the secret glow worm trails). (B,D)

Day 12: Hollyford to Te Anau

Travel one of the world’s most scenic routes into Milford Sound. Described as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. We highly recommend taking in the boat trip on Milford Sound with dramatic waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and possible wildlife spotting of dolphins, penguins and seals! As it’s just the one road in and out, you head back along the same breath-taking route to the lakeside camp in Te Anau. Along the way, you will drop off those doing the 3-day Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. This 3-day hike passes through two National Parks and is a haven for native birdlife. Charge up your camera as this hike offers everything from mountainous peaks and sheer rock faces to pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense, luxuriant forest. (B,L)

Day 13: Te Anau to Queenstown

Today you journey to Queenstown along the shores of the photogenic Lake Wakatipu.  Once you arrive at the adventure capital of New Zealand you can enjoy spectacular views, a free Gondola ride and a huge selection of activities to choose from.  There is everything here, from adrenalin pumping bungy, canyon swing and skydiving to a relaxing horse trek or boat cruise – this place has it all. There are great tracks around the lake ideal for bikers and hikers and all with wonderful views of this alpine region. (B)

Day 14: Queenstown

With so much to do you will spend the full day in fantastic Queenstown with the opportunity to enjoy those once in a lifetime experiences (don’t forget to try the legendary and very tasty Fergburger!).  Routeburn Track walkers re-join the group here at midday with time to try some of the many exciting activities this vibrant city has to offer. Tonight, we dine out at one of Queenstown’s many delicious eateries - a great chance for your group to enjoy a true kiwi feast (own cost).  (B)

Day 15: Queenstown to Makarora

Your final morning in Queenstown and your last chance to indulge in the Queenstown’s action before you farewell those finishing their tour and welcome new travellers joining the group here. Leaving at 2:30pm, after the thrills and spills of Queenstown you will travel through more mountains and on towards more stunning glacial lakes. On the final stretch to camp you will start getting views of Mt Aspiring National Park in the distance. Lake Wanaka is just over the next ridge and it’s on the edge of this glacial lake that you find the next wilderness camp. Enjoy great views of Lake Wanaka and the mountains beyond as you absorb the beauty of the area.  (B,D)

Day 16: Makaroa to Fox Glacier

Enjoy a relaxed morning at the lakeside camp then it's northward bound through Mt Aspiring National Park. Just before you reach the West Coast you stop for a walk to the amazing Blue Pools, and then head over the dramatic Haast Pass. As you travel towards the wild West Coast, the road follows braided rivers and huge glacier carved valleys. There are two more great walk options along the way, one through lush and ancient forests and the other through swampy vegetation, ending on the beach where it is possible to spot Hector dolphins. Tonight, you will be staying in glacier country at the picturesque village of Fox Glacier. (B,L,D)

Day 17: Fox Glacier to Okarito

Today is your chance to explore one of NZ’s most unique and spectacular natural wonders - Fox Glacier.  This staggering beautiful work of nature is over 13 kilometres in length and plummets 2,600 metres from its peak in the Southern Alps. To get on the ice you must go up by helicopter but it’s possible to view the glacier with a stunning walk through the main valley up to the terminal face. A walk around Lake Matheson is highly recommended where crystal clear reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman make the perfect photo opportunity. In the afternoon, you have a short drive up the coast to the beautiful beachside campsite next to the Okarito lagoon – one of the very few places where there are still rare sightings of the native kiwi bird and the home to NZ’s only colony of the White Heron (kotuku). Enjoy a fire down on the beach taking in the rugged coast and epic mountain views. (B,L,D)

Day 18: Okarito to Punakaiki

Enjoy an early morning walk, with a view of the sunrise over the Southern Alps as a reward. You then continue up this spectacular coastal road to the quirky town of Hokitika, home to the Greenstone factories and a great place to pick up a traditional souvenir of your visit. Passing through Greymouth you will keep following the coast to Punakaiki where you’ll notice a change in the landscape and vegetation with huge limestone cliffs appearing and Nikau Palm trees become abundant. The beach camp has great sunsets, a beautiful river and incredible views of Paparoa National Park. The pancake rocks and blowholes are the main attraction in Punakaiki where limestones rocks are stacked on top of each other and ocean swells are forced through gaps in the rock creating a whale’s blowhole effect. In the evening, explore a cavern with some glow worms hanging out in the dark then relax at the local tavern. (B,D)

Day 19: Punakaiki to Marahau

Before leaving Punakaiki you have time to explore part of the Paparoa National Park with a walk along the Porarari river or cycle up Bullock creek road to visit a cave resurgence. Leaving mid-morning you will travel inland through the majestic Buller gorge and onto our favourite National Park, Abel Tasman. In one of the sunniest areas of the country you will discover beautiful secluded bays and stunning golden sand beaches. On arrival, you have the option to skydive or hang glide and then we look forward to spending 3 nights at our perfectly located campground, close to the park entrance which makes it the idea place to explore all corners of the park. Tonight, you’ll be eating at a local hang out, The Fat Tui (own cost) (B)

Day 20: Marahau

Taking time to explore arguably the best beaches and clearest waters in New Zealand - there are excellent options for everyone here. You can walk, sail or kayak around the numerous golden bays and dive into the crystal-clear waters along the way. There will be plenty of chances for wildlife spotting (dolphins, seals and even Orcas!) Explore the heart of the park on one of the most highly rated optional activities - canyoning high flow waterfalls and rapids!  (B,L,D)

Day 21: Marahau

you will spend another full day at the doorstep to New Zealand’s smallest but most visited national park and our personal favourite, the Abel Tasman.  (B,D)

Day 22: Marahau to Wellington

Leaving early, you make your way towards Wellington stopping for a brief visit in sunny Nelson, the home of Flying Kiwi. Before leaving Nelson be sure to farewell your Tour Assistant as a new Tour Assistant will join you here for the remainder of your tour. Your Tour Leader will say farewell in Picton. On route to Picton you’ll make a stop at Pelorus bridge, a Hobbit film location and great place for a quick dip on a warm day.  Finish this fantastic day with a scenic ferry (cost included) through the picturesque Marlborough sounds to Wellington - your base for the evening.  Camping isn’t feasible in the heart of the nation’s capital so you will be staying at a great hostel giving you the best access to explore the city.  (B)

Day 23: Wellington to New Plymouth

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast (own cost) before checking out the sights of New Zealand’s beautiful capital before you hit the road for your 11am departure. You will travel up the scenic Kapiti Coast towards the Taranaki region – home to wonderful beaches, crashing waves and the spectacular Mount Taranaki, one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. The campsite is beside the Taranaki coastline offering a short scenic walk or cycle to camp at the end of the day. (D)

Day 24: New Plymouth to Auckland

Depart early towards the limestone wonderland of Waitomo Caves, home to an endemic species of glow-worms that inhabit the vast cave systems. Black water rafting (optional) is a unique way to experience the caves as you float through the underground maze with the radiant light of the glow-worms to lead the way. Take time to enjoy a picnic lunch before heading to “the city of sails”, New Zealand’s largest city for a taste of big city life “kiwi style” and a great chance to join your group for a taste of the harbour bars and restaurants. Camping isn’t feasible in the heart of the country’s largest city so we will be staying in a great hostel giving you the best access to explore the city. This is payable locally. (B,L)

Day 25: Auckland to Paihia

Leaving Auckland at 10am you will head to the "winterless north" and the pristine beaches of the Bay of Islands. Stop at the incredible Uretiti beach for a swim and a walk along the sand. Grab a rugby ball and frisbee off the bus and brush up on your passing skills at this picturesque beach spot. On arrival into Paihia, the gateway town to the Bay of Islands, choose from the Mangrove walk or a beautiful cycle to the thundering Haruru waterfall. (D)

Day 26: Paihia

Experience a full day exploring the Bay of Islands and its turquoise waters. This subtropical region is the perfect playground for water lovers and a great place to soak up the sunshine. With a staggering 144 islands, the Bay of Islands offers diving, sailing, swimming and fishing along with some excellent walks in the native forests leading to quiet beaches and special views. This region is also home to some of the oldest European settlement in New Zealand and many historic buildings. (B,D

Day 27: Paihia to Orewa

There is a day full of adventure ahead as we travel to the rugged and soulful West Coast. Our first stop comes with a chance to try your skills sand boarding or if you don’t fancy heading down the sandy slopes there’s a nice coastal walk. Then it’s back on board as you head south towards the Waipoua Forest, travelling through the largest remaining tract of native kauri forests in northland. Leave the West Coast and cross back over to the East towards your final destination and camp for tonight, Orewa. Home to one of the Auckland regions longest and safest beaches it’s a great place for a stroll and a swim, or relax at the local hot pools. (B,D)

Day 28: Orewa to Auckland

Orewa is often blessed with a beautiful sunrise over the sea which is well worth the early start to check it out. Leaving early from camp you travel the short distance to Auckland arriving there by 9:30am where it’s time to say your final farewells. (B)



The Ultimate Explorer trip is a complete loop of New Zealand. These trips are also very flexible with options to hop off and take extended breaks (though don’t forget you get 2 night stops in all the best places).  This means you can actually start and finish your trip anywhere. Your trip will then finish where you started. The 3 most popular loops are:

Start in Auckland head south first – 28 days

Start in Christchurch – 28 days

Start in Auckland and head north first – 27 days

Customise your trip: It is possible to only do part of the route - maybe you want to start in Auckland and finish in Christchurch to connect your flights, or maybe you want to break your trip and spend longer in somewhere like Queenstown to do the world-renowned Milford Sound hiking trail. Talk to our crew in the office about how we can create you the perfect trip.

What's included: 

  • Tented accommodation as per the itinerary
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland
  • Queenstown Gondola
  • Wine Tasting Marlborough
  • Cook Strait Ferry Crossing
  • Use of Sports Equipment on Board
  • Hikes and Bikes

Not included: 

  • Flights
  • Accommodation in Picton, Wellington and Auckland
  • Optional hires: Bikes & Sleeping bags
  • Single occupancy upgrade
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips & gratuities

These trips are all about getting off the beaten track and staying in stunning locations.  You will be waking up to the sound of the ocean, sleeping by the mountains and camping out with crystal clear night skies.  If camping isn’t for you then cabin upgrades are available most nights + you will be staying in hostels on a couple of nights in the bigger cities (see itinerary).

Department of conservation camps: Flying Kiwi are only of very few companies allowed to take groups to these amazing camps – you will be staying in a total of 4 during your trip. Due to their beautiful remote locations there are no cabin upgrade options available but they do come with running water and toilet facilities.

Hostels: Depending where you start your trip there will either be two or three nights where camping isn’t feasible and you will stay in hostels (at your own cost).  Hostel nights are in Picton, Wellington and Auckland. Your guide takes care of booking this for you and dorm beds are reserved for everyone. If you would like a private room (subject to availability) please book this in advance. Payment is made direct to the hostels on check-in.

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