2023 February 28 to March 11
Prices listed are per person:
Shared Room: $8298
Private Room: $10,198
Cruise the peaceful waters of the Marlborough Sounds and the majestic fjord Milford Sound
Savoir the delicious offerings of wine and artist platters throughout New Zealand.
Taste our way through Wellington’s unique gourmet shops and craft eateries
Spot for dolphins, fur seals, and whales
Punt along the Avon River
Visit huge sheep stations with panoramic views
Ply the mighty glacial lakes in Te Anau and in Queenstown.
Explore small boutique towns full of rich culture.
Venture into vast gardens and take in the sights, aroma, and creativity.
We start our journey in the largest city, Auckland, and jump right into the delectable world of New Zealand wine tastings on charming Waiheke Island. Then, in Wellington, our harborfront hotel gives us quick access to an immersive, behind-the-scenes tour into the culture and treasures of the native Māori. We will also explore hidden culinary treasures and artistic personalities on a walking tour of the city center. After crossing by ferry through the Marlborough Sounds to the South Island, we stay in a serene oceanside hamlet, hoping to view seals, dolphins, and maybe even whales, if not from shore, then by flight. Our third city, Christchurch, has rebounded from the earthquakes a decade ago, now a new dynamo that retains much of its English charm. After flying across the Southern Alps, we find ourselves on an immense glacial lake surrounded by Lord of the Rings landscapes. Delving deeper, we cut a steep path to the coast, and enjoy a cruise through Milford Sound. The unrivaled landscapes of this region, and in Queenstown, are ever-present as we explore both areas by boat on two glacially formed lakes, visit gardens, have small nature hikes, and enjoy yet more wine, all while soaking up some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world!
Day 1: Auckland
After the long flight, we will take it easy until this evening, when we walk to our waterside restaurant to enjoy our Welcome Dinner.
Day 2: Waiheke Island
Today we head to the Downtown Auckland Ferry Terminal to go on a lovely 40-minute cruise to Waiheke Island through the picturesque Hauraki Gulf. Waiheke Island has over 92 square kilometers of beautiful beaches, vineyards, olive groves, native bush, and relaxing seaside villages. Upon arrival, we will be met by a local island tour guide who will reveal the island to us throughout our stay.
We will have tastings at least two vineyards, including a nice lunch at one of the vineyards, celebrating the fresh produce, lovely herbs, and excellent meats all grown here in New Zealand. If time allows, we will also wander through the local sculpture garden.
Day 3: On to the Capital, Wellington
This morning we fly to the southern tip of the North Island, to the country’s capital, Wellington. Situated on a beautiful harbor, the city is known for its boutique café and gourmet restaurant culture, its vibrant arts scene, and an outdoor lifestyle. Packed onto the waterfront, the city is surrounded by mountains. Homes perch precariously as they climb ever higher on the hillsides. But the central core of the city is easily walkable. While there is a strong Victorian influence in architecture, giving truth to it long being the center of political life, remarkable older buildings abound, include the Government Building that was built in 1876, perhaps the second largest timber building in the world. Modern architecture also makes its mark, especially in the Civic Center and in New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, located across from our hotel, which we visit tomorrow.
We may make a sightseeing stop overlooking the city if time allows as we drive from Wellington Airport to our hotel located near the waterfront. This afternoon, we discover fresh tastes in New Zealand’s café capital as our local guide and gourmet guru introduces us to the city, its local tastes, products, and people. Stroll behind the scenes at some favorite Wellington food places, taste hidden culinary treasures, and meet some of the people behind a selection of the city’s best food.
Wellington has a small gay scene, so this evening a few of us may go out and visit with the locals.
Day 4: Wellington, Taonga Māori Tour
Relax until late morning when we will make our way to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, for a unique hosted cultural tour that will tell us the story of the Māori people through the public exhibits. And then we go behind the scenes, where museum specialists will share remarkable Māori taonga (historical treasures) and impart their deep spiritual significance. This tour, not open to the public, gives us a unique opportunity to engage directly with museum staff. Afterward, we have light refreshments while reflecting on the collection with our generous hosts. The afternoon is free for you to continue your visit to the museum, to enjoy the waterfront, or, perhaps take the tram up to the botanical gardens.
This evening we gather for dinner at one of Wellington’s best restaurants.
Day 5: Across the Cook Strait & Through the Marlborough Sounds to the South Island
After an early breakfast, we catch the morning ferry for a three-hour crossing to the top of the South Island. Enjoy the view from your superior club lounge access with complimentary food and beverages. About the last hour of the crossing finds the ship cruising through various channels between the forested hills of the Marlborough Sounds. On arrival in Picton, our driver escorts us southward, through the largest wine region in New Zealand, traditionally known for sauvignon blanc, and we will stop for a tasting.
Then we pass along the rugged east coast beside the Pacific Ocean, enjoying a few sights. Soon, we arrive in Kaikoura, a small but beautifully sited fishing port. While a tall ridge of mountains emerges from the sea, creating a dramatic landscape, underwater we have oceanic trenches merging, one from the north with warm waters and another from the south, with cool, nutrient-rich waters. Merging just offshore, the riches from these trenches bring with them an abundance of marine life. The sights on and offshore are truly unique, with hundreds of fur seals sunbathing on the rocky shore, spectacular leaping dolphins in the bays, and the most awesome of mammals, the sperm whale. You might even catch sight of an albatross among the many sea birds here. There is evidence that the Māori settled in Kaikoura nearly a thousand years ago with historic pa sites (earthen forts) obvious on the hillsides. Our hotel is along the waterfront to allow you to wander and enjoy as you wish.
Day 6: Dolphins, Seals, and Whales, then on to Christchurch
This morning we invite you to take a flight above Kaikoura to get a bird’s eye view of the area, sighting hundreds of Dusky dolphins and hopefully a majestic whale just before he dives, usually Sperm Whales, but also occasionally Southern Right, Humpback, Fin, Pilot, and others. Flying over Kaikoura Peninsula, we can see evidence of Māori fortifications, the township of Kaikoura, and New Zealand Fur Seals relaxing on the rocks. During favorable conditions, we might enjoy a spectacular flight over the 9,000 feet high Seaward Kaikoura mountain ranges.
Afterward, we transfer about three hours south to Christchurch, the Garden City. Christchurch features majestic trees and extensive parks and gardens, the most notable of which is expansive Hagley Park in the heart of the city. Bordering the park, you will find the botanical gardens and the Gothic revival building that houses the Canterbury Museum. Visitors to Christchurch today will witness a virtual rebirth of the city rebuilding following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, with an urban city center full of new secrets to discover. There is immense street art, cocktail bars, and bustling restaurants, laneways, and green public spaces. The city’s harbor at Lyttelton is where English settlers arrived by ship in 1850 to establish New Zealand’s first city.
On arrival, we will relax in the city center on the Avon River. Do nothing but sit back in the boat and enjoy as an Edwardian-dressed punter guides us past trailing willows, woodlands, and the leafy banks of the Botanic Gardens or through the rebuilding city center of Christchurch onboard a classic Punt.
Day 7: Christchurch
Our morning is filled with sightseeing, exploring the charm, history, and culture of the Garden City, and discovering how it gained that name, experiencing many of its wonders along the way, including lunch. The afternoon is free for you to explore. And we will be happy to provide suggestions.
Day 8: Across the Southern Alps to Wanaka
From Christchurch, we fly to Queenstown and then have a charming drive to Te Anau, a small community that is our gateway to Fiordland National Park for the next two nights. The town is beautifully located on the shores of the South Island’s largest lake with a striking panorama of the Southern Alps as a backdrop, Relax and enjoy.
For those up for a bit of adventure, late this afternoon we have a short cruise across Lake Te Anau to a cavern. Hidden beneath the mountains is an underground network of caves lit by thousands of New Zealand glowworms. Below ground witness a twisting network of limestone passages and the roaring whirlpools and waterfalls of the Tunnel Burn Stream. Follow the path deep underground before transferring into small boats to drift silently along the river in the cave, watching an overhead display of glittering glowworms in this natural grotto. Retrace your steps out of the caves and return to Te Anau for dinner. (A reasonable agility level is necessary, you must be comfortable on steps and realize that there will be some bending due to low caves entrances).
Day 9: Milford Sound Cruise and Nature Walks
We promise you a remarkable day today, rain or shine!
Our Fiordland guide will inspire us with views and surprise stories as we drive to what many have called a world wonder, Milford Sound. Despite the name, it is really a fjord, one of seventeen or so here on the coast, formed by behemoth glaciers that carved deep into the bedrock, leaving almost vertical canyon sides and jagged peaks. The drive to and from the fjord is just as spectacular. We will make a few stops for a short and maybe a medium hike to experience this temperate rainforest. In the fjord, we will cruise all the out to the Tasman Sea and back, watching for dolphins and seals, and with an occasional stop to nose the small ship under tumbling waterfalls. We then return to Te Anau for dinner.
Day 10: To Queenstown & Surrounds
We have a nice drive from Te Anau back to Queenstown, known for both its alpine beauty and adrenaline adventure. Midday, we stop to learn about the area’s ideal location for winemaking, including wine tastings and a vintner’s gourmet lunch.
Afterward, we will stop for an award-winning garden visit. Nested in the heart of the Wakitipu basin & surrounded by majestic snow-covered mountains lies a 40-acre property that includes 12 acres of mature gardens, that has been curated to ensure visitors have a special experience. Including, among many others, a large native garden, a Mediterranean garden, a meadow of wildflowers, sculptures, and perennial beds. Our guide will share some favorite sights and stories, and will then give us time to wander and enjoy.
Later this afternoon, we arrive at our hotel in central Queenstown. Wander through the town, along the boardwalk, visit the artist market, and watch the historic Earnslaw steamship arrive and depart several times each day. Gaze across this glacial lake, that has a mysterious phenomenon causing the lake level to vary several inches in depth every few minutes, giving credence to a Maori legend of an ancient Taniwha heart(demon) still beating beneath the surface.
Sometime during your stay, be sure to take advantage of a gondola ride, providing a view high above the town. We include a ticket for you to enjoy the Skyline Gondola, which will smoothly whisk you up 450 meters to Bob’s Peak. From the top, enjoy breath-taking views that extend almost 360 degrees from Coronet Peak around to the Remarkables and on to Cecil and Walter Peaks on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.
In the evening, enjoy the hospitality and fine service, provided by our designer, boutique lodge.
Day 11: Lake Wakatipu and Remarkable Vistas
Once again, we find ourselves enjoying the peacefulness of morning as we cruise across a huge glacial lake. Disembark at a high country farm on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu and soak in panoramic views from one of New Zealand’s largest high country farms. Join the farm guide and follow the journey of merino wool in a fun and interactive environment – from mustering sheep to the creation of Icebreaker clothing. Watch sheep being moved by the farmer’s dog and meet and feed working animals used on the farm while learning about daily farming life. Then journey deep into the heart of New Zealand’s high country in a 4WD vehicle. Sit back as the landscape unfolds. We get off the beaten track to spectacular vantage points. Return to the woolshed and enjoy a freshly prepared Farmers Platter Lunch served with tea and coffee before the return cruise to Queenstown.
This evening we celebrate our Kiwi adventure together at our farewell dinner in Queenstown.
Day 12: Farewell Queenstown
Today is the day we say goodbye to this beautiful country. We’ll be collected from our hotel and transferred to Queenstown Airport.
Price includes: Airport transfers on arrival and departure days; Airfare during the tour from Auckland to Wellington and Christchurch to Queenstown; Ferry to/from Waiheke Island and from Wellington to Picton; 11 nights lodging in deluxe accommodation in double occupancy, with private bath; including hotel service charges, and government taxes; All breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners; limited wine with a few meals; All activities & tours mentioned in the itinerary; Group group transportation; Gratuities for porterage and included meals. Services of knowledgeable, local guides and the services of a knowledgeable HE Travel tour host (with a minimum number of participants); HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Not included: Airfare to and from starting and ending points; Meals beyond those mentioned above, baggage fee for domestic flights beyond one checked and one carry on within usual limits (22 kg and 6 kg respectively); Gratuities for local guides and our HET host; Personal items including alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls. Expenses relating to mandated covid requirements for travel to/from/within New Zealand. At this time(Aug 2022), proof of double vaccination is generally required to get into indoor spaces and on all public transportation. However, requirements change rapidly, so be sure to check online for current requirements.
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When you travel “Back-to-Back” on two or more of our tours, you are eligible for a discount! Contact Us for pricing if you are interested in both tours.
Arrive Early and join the Australia Dreamtime Tour!
Beginning in Melbourne and ending in Sydney, on this Gay journey enjoy Australia’s two largest cities and experience the culture and wonder of the great Red Center! We will spend three glorious nights in luxurious accommodations in central Melbourne. From Melbourne, we drive into the hills to explore the Yarra wine region and taste the delights it has to offer.
Our next two nights are in the Outback, marveling at sunrise and sunset on iconic Ayers Rock while learning about local Aboriginal legends and their way of life.
We conclude our journey with four nights in Sydney. While there we will sip, stroll, prance, shop, savor, shine, and sail our way through seductive Sydney during the weekend of Gay Mardi Gras, immersed in one of the biggest GAY Parties in the world!
- What if I am traveling alone?
- Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
- What is the physical activity level of this tour?
Physical Activity Level
To fully enjoy this tour you need to be able to walk around unevenly paved and unpaved paths, sometimes dirt or rock tracks, for 1-3 hours each day; be comfortable on a ferry for a few hours; enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Where does the tour start and end?
- This tour starts in Auckland and ends in Queenstown.
- What will the hotels be like?
- We will be staying at a variety of hotels along the way. We have selected luxurious boutique hotels when possible, which have great locations in each city.
- Additional Questions
- For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174