Arrive in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and the economic anchor of the country. Travel to Rotorua, a lakeside city teeming with geothermal activity. Learn about New Zealand’s famous wine industry, with exports heading to markets the world over. Take a trip to New Zealand’s capital, then progress to Christchurch, the “Garden City.” Travel via the famous TranzAlpine train to Queenstown.
Exclusive departure: This departure is considered exclusive. The participants are U-M travelers, consisting of alumni, family, and friends.
Depart U.S. for Auckland, New Zealand
We arrive in New Zealand’s largest city early this morning and transfer to our hotel, where our rooms are ready for early check-in. After time to relax and freshen up, we take a casual walking tour of the area around our hotel. This evening we attend a briefing on the journey ahead, followed by a welcome dinner. D
This morning we tour cosmopolitan Auckland, an eminently livable city. One of only a few world cities straddling two harbors on separate bodies of water, Auckland offers an abundance of natural beauty. A highlight of our tour is the visit to the Auckland Museum, with its prized collections of Maori and Pacific Islander art and artifacts (Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world). After lunch at a local restaurant, we embark on a cruise around glittering Auckland Harbour. We return to our hotel early this afternoon; the remainder of the day is free for independent exploration. Dinner tonight is on our own. B,L
En route to Rotorua today, we stop at Ruakuri Caves to see the unique glowworms that illuminate the underground grottoes and caves. Late this afternoon we visit Te Puia Thermal Reserve and Maori Cultural Center for a traditional hangi dinner and performance. B,D
With its geysers, bubbling mud pools, and hot thermal springs, Rotorua ranks as a geothermal wonder, as well as a center of indigenous Maori culture (Maoris comprise 40% of Rotorua’s population). We encounter this intriguing town on a morning tour that includes a visit to Rainbow Springs Nature Park, a popular showcase of native New Zealand flora, fauna, and birds set amidst an expanse of forest studded with aviaries, pathways, an underwater viewing pool, and other educational exhibits. Our guided tour here includes a visit to the National Kiwi Trust, dedicated to rehabilitating injured kiwis, housed on the park’s grounds. B
Today we set out for one of New Zealand’s celebrated wine regions: Hawke’s Bay and the seaside city of Napier. We sample the local terroir at a wine tasting and lunch at Church Road Winery, one of the country’s oldest and most acclaimed. Reaching Napier after lunch, we embark on a guided walking tour of the city’s 1930s Art Deco architecture. After an earthquake leveled the city in 1931, it was rebuilt in “Deco” style; today, Napier ranks as one of the most authentically Art Deco cities in the world. Dinner tonight is on our own. B,L
We travel today to New Zealand’s capital of Wellington, stopping along the way at a private farm where we learn about the country’s vital sheep farming industry. We see the sheep dogs at work and watch a sheep-shearing demonstration then enjoy a barbecue lunch. Reaching Wellington late afternoon, we have time to refresh before tonight’s dinner at a local restaurant. B,L,D
We encounter this genial waterfront city on the southern end of the North Island on this morning’s tour featuring a ride on the historic Wellington Cable Car for panoramic views of the city and harbor. We also visit acclaimed Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum with interactive exhibits spanning art, history, native cultures, and the natural environment. Then the remainder of the day is free to explore as we wish, perhaps to stroll along Bohemian Cuba Street; visit the Wellington Zoo; or wander the lively waterfront area. Lunch and dinner are on our own in this city with a vibrant restaurant scene. B
Today we fly south to Christchurch, New Zealand’s “Garden City.” Highlights of our city tour include the Botanic Gardens, the “green heart” of Christchurch dating to 1863; and Cathedral Square, for 150 years, the beating heart of Christchurch and site of Christchurch Cathedral. This afternoon is at leisure; we dine tonight at our hotel. B,D
Early today we embark on one of the world’s great rail journeys aboard the TranzAlpine train: along the open farmland of the Canterbury Plain, through the foothills of the Southern Alps then into the snowcapped peaks themselves. We travel across steel girder bridges above deep gorges and through tunnels on our journey to Arthur’s Pass, where we board a motorcoach for the scenic drive to the village of Franz Josef, reaching our hotel this afternoon and dining there tonight. B,D
This morning, we encounter one of New Zealand’s most spectacular sights: Franz Josef Glacier, the mass of ice that descends from the frigid upper reaches of the Southern Alps to a rainforest at sea level. With a local guide we take a walk through the glacial valley, where we have spectacular views of this natural wonder. Then we visit the West Coast Wildlife Centre with its rare kiwi birds, an animal linked so closely to New Zealand that its residents are known colloquially as “Kiwis.” This afternoon is free to enjoy the splendid surroundings as we wish. B,D
Traveling to Queenstown today, we stop first in the lakeside resort of Wanaka for lunch on our own then in the Central Otago region at a local winery for a private tasting and tour of the wine cave. Late this afternoon we reach Queenstown and our hotel, where we dine tonight. B,D
More scenic overload is in store on our full-day excursion to Fiordland National Park and Doubtful Sound, one of New Zealand’s top attractions. We travel by boat across Lake Manapouri then by coach over Wilmot Pass to reach the “Sound of Silence,” as Doubtful is called for the remarkable serenity that prevails here and in the surrounding mountain peaks, rainforest, and waterfalls. This enchanting woodland may seem familiar to moviegoers: director Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of the Rings’ Fangorn Forest here. Among the wildlife we may see on our three-hour catamaran cruise: dolphins, fur seals, Fiordland crested penguins, and even whales. Surrounding us: rugged mountain peaks, rainforest, waterfalls. After this exhilarating excursion we return to Queenstown early this evening; dinner is on our own. B,L
Today is at leisure to enjoy this outdoor mecca with a spectacular setting on Lake Wakatipu as we wish. Options abound, from jet boating and fly fishing to art gallery hopping or riding the Skyline gondola for outstanding views of this unusually scenic city. Tonight we celebrate our New Zealand adventure over a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
We depart this morning for the airport and our return flights home. B
Please note: This trip involves full days of sightseeing and significant amounts of walking on stairs and uneven surfaces. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.
Upasna is the Executive Director of Marketing at the Alumni Association. Through her career, she’s donned many hats including being an engineer, a management consultant and a business owner. She believes that the future of digital data is enhancing offline experiences. She’s excited about travel having been to over 30 countries, and currently living in her fourth. Her other interests include blogs, children’s books, Arles and Van Gogh.
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You must be an Alumni Association member to travel with us. Questions? Call Michigan Alumni Travel at 855.764.0064.