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New Zealand - tour operators to recommend?

Although I usually plan trips for my husband and myself, I am looking into packaged tours for 14-17 day trip to New Zealand in January 2025 for us. we'd like to get to both the North and South Islands. The country is too vast and our time too short for me to attempt for us to see a lot on our own. Does anyone have experience with small group travel in NZ? There are many outfits and some variety in their trips. We are fit 70 year olds who want some activity but are not out for the some of the drama offered - no sheer Cliff hiking, no bungee jumping etc. National Geo tours ( which we used in Patagonia) look good, but I wondered if any of you have any recommendations or advice? One had sounded particularly good- MoaTrek--but it's already booked up for the weeks that work for us in January 2025
thanks in advance!
imgwiz

Posted by
496 posts

I have a friend who guides for Road Scholar in Wellington, NZ and have been impressed with their itineraries in my home town

Posted by
1837 posts

I'm getting ready to do this tour with Overseas Adventure Travel.

https://www.oattravel.com/trips/land-adventures/south-pacific/pure-new-zealand/2021/itineraries

Their tours are catered to older travelers, so there is some activity but not excessive. The group size is limited to 16. This will be my fourth OAT tour. I've had nothing but excellent experiences with them.

Send me a PM if you would like more information including a voucher for $100 off per person.

Posted by
525 posts

You might also look at Mondumo Tours: https://mondumo.com/

It’s run by a Rick Steves guide who now lives in New Zealand.

I’ve also had good experiences with OAT.

Posted by
4 posts

MoaTrek is a great option for small group tours in New Zealand. However, if you are physically fit and flexible, you can also choose other touring options such as independent seat-in-coach travel.

There is a premier fleet of coaches that operate on the main tourist routes, with a seating capacity ranging from 7 to 50 passengers. The tour includes airport arrival and departure transfers, as well as hotel pick up and drop off each day.

The travel dates and activities/sightseeing are flexible according to your preferences. You can check out some of the seat-in-coach tours on this website: https://www.nz-tourism.com/new-zealand-independent-coach-tours/.

Posted by
20 posts

I did look at mondumo which ;looks good, but groups are larger than we would like.
I really liked Moatrek's itinerary even though it is for a longer time period than my husband wanted( I was planning to use my override power) but they were already full for the dates we were considering ( 2025!!) I thought that was also a sign of their popularity. I looked into National Geo / G trip which also looked good but there not reviews available to read, and although I have requested them directly, I'm waiting a week + later .

We are now considering going indepentently and having a travel agent help us arrange the details - that's the part I find daunting. Does anyone know any agency that might specialize inNZ travel who could help advise us?

The advice of the tour buses moving between major tourist spots is good to know. We will probably patch together - a car rental, some flights, the ferry cruise on Milford Sound, etc but don't want to be locked into just one option if we are going without someone who knows the ropes shepherding us around.
thanks for the various advice points! All helpful in educating me!

Posted by
20 posts

I just checked out TourLane ( I hadn't understood the reference at first) and they do NZ trip planning. Does anyone have any experience with them or their services?

thanks!

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions. We booked a trip through New Zealand Trails which has a great itinerary for the South Island. We will have a few days in Auckland on our own at the beginning ( jet lag) and maybe at the end, depending on whether we choose to stay a couple of days in Queenstown at the end before flying to Auckland for the return home, or spend the time in Auckland. With 2-3 days based in Auckland, any suggestions for doable day trips?

Posted by
960 posts

I have cut and pasted from some of my previous posts regarding day trips from Auckland. The search function is not good on this site, sadly.

Take a look at Fuller's Ferry. I did one of their routes to Rangitoto Island and hiked up the volcano. Another day I did a guided walk on Tiritiri Matangi - birding. Not anything I had ever done before, but fascinating. These may need to be booked in advance. Waiheke Island probably needs no pre-booking. Wineries, hiking, hop-on-hop-off bus that takes you around to different wineries and other stops on the island - more transport than sightseeing which is fine for that island. My journeys were on 3 separate days. https://www.fullers.co.nz/timetables-and-fares/

I did a couple day tours out of Aukland that were good. My trip was fall of 2019 before Covid disrupted the world, but I still see them posted on TripAdvisor.

One tour was to the Hobbiton movie set. I'm not really interested in The Hobbit and hadn't seen the movies, but the tour was still enjoyable. It's quite popular. There is another tour that combines that stop with the Waitomo glow worm caves in Rotorua. I visited Waitomo on my own - recommend it as an interesting stop. ( At least for me, the glow worm caves were interesting.) Another day tour I see listed includes Waitomo and a Maori area of Rotorua that I visited on my own - again, both good stops. (I stayed in Rotorua for around 4 days and Auckland about 5 days.) I also took a day tour to Coromandel from Auckland.

I booked directly with the companies offering the tours, not thru TripAdvisor. As a solo traveler, a booking for one person was not a problem direct via the company's website, but with TA, it seems they want at least 2 travelers.

Posted by
4475 posts

We recently took a tour that did the things mentioned as day trips from Auckland(but we stayed in Rotorua) and they were great. We also loved Tiritiri Matangi Nature Reserve and also went to Waiheke Island. But you must see the scenery in Queenstown-it is tied with Kauai and the SC Lowcountry as the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Posted by
56 posts

Oh my goodness. In February we did the Tauck 14 day New Zealand tour. This was our first time doing an organized tour to anywhere, though we have traveled a lot on our own throughout Europe. But, after traveling with Tauck, my husband and I are already trying to decide on another one of their tours. We are very active and fit early 70 year olds, much like the majority of the people. The trip provided for many options and level of activity. The hotels were lovely, each room always with amazing views and great amenities. All the meals that were provided, which were almost all meals, were 1st class. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and resourceful and made sure everyone was good. We loved New Zealand and loved the Tauck product.

Posted by
412 posts

Just back from 19 days self planned, self guided, self driven around the Sth Island. Absolutely spectacular countryside. We limited ourselves to predominantly the Alpine areas down to Te Anau and a couple of days on the fjords of Doubtful and Milford Sounds.
Happy to help out with anything re those areas.

Posted by
4 posts

My husband and I did a small group tour in NZ with Active Adventures and loved it. The hikes were beautiful and not too tough. Friends recommend New Zealand Trails too. For something more relaxed, check out AAT Kings or Trafalgar.

Posted by
412 posts

As a bit of a guide our total costs excluding airfares, 2 adults (59 and 64) 18 nights 19 days.
Vehicle hire, accommodations, petrol, phone/internet and 2 all day coach/cruise tours (Doubtful and Milford Sounds) = $USD 3000.
Dining out costs $USD 250, we prepared our own meals mostly but stopped for lunch at cafes quite often. Our other expenses about $USD 500 were pretty much just groceries. We probably drank more ciders and ate more chocolate than we would at home haha.

Obviously taking a tour is much, much more costly but that might give you something to measure the Tour prices against.