DAY 1 (Auckland- Rotorua)
- Travel south from Auckland to the rich farm hills of the Waikato region. Here we gain spectacular views of karst topography formed in Oligocene age Limestone outcrops that featured as Weathertop in LOTR. Many other opportunities will be available to observe parts of the Tertiary marine sedimentary sequence exposed in the area.
- Also the option to take a guided tour through Hobbiton. The Shire of Middle Earth is set in the green hills and hollows that have formed in the Quaternary alluvial gravels, sands and silts of the Hinuera Formation near Matamata.
- Finally cross into the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) and stay in Rotorua, New Zealand’s thermal playground and one of the most popular tourist attractions.
DAY 2 (Rotorua)
- Here we have the option of a day trip to White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano, to experience the power of volcanic activity up close. The island is composed mostly of airfall deposits and some andesitic lava. Sulfur was mined there in the early 20th Century. This 6-hour boat trip is weather dependent.
- Alternatively, we will tour around Rotorua’s highlights taking in plenty of boiling mud, calderas, geysers and hot pools and a view of Mt Tarawera that erupted in 1886 tearing a 8 km long chasm through the mountain and burying the famous pink and white terraces and local villages under volcanic ash.
DAY 3 (Rotorua – Chateau)
- From Rotorua we travel further south into the TVZ and see a variety of volcanic features including ignimbrites, calderas, TVZ ashfall sequences and a geothermal power station before reaching the snow capped volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park. In particular, we will visit Mt Ruapehu, an andesite volcano that last erupted in 1996. Mt Ruapehu is the highest mountain in the North Island (2797 m), and provided the stark backdrop of Mordor and Mt Doom. We will examine pyroclastic, lahar, debris avalanche and glacial deposits.
DAY 4 (Chateau – Martinborough)
- We soon leave the volcanic landscape and head into Pliocene and Quaternary marine sedimentary rocks exposed in dramatic gorges of the Rangitikei River. These gorges served as the set for the River Anduin in LOTR.
- Through the Manawatu gorge incised in Mesozoic greywacke (Torlesse) we cross to the Wairarapa region and drive south through a variety of Late Cenozoic marine sediments, past the Mt Bruce wildlife centre and onto the acclaimed wine producing areas around Martinborough.
DAY 5 (Martinborough – Wellington)
- From Martinborough we will travel to the Putangirua pinnacles on the Palliser coast. The pinnacles is badlands topography formed in Miocene alluvial gravels with impressive hoodoos and gullies which provided the eerie set of Dimholt Road in The Return of the King.
- Crossing the Rimutaka Range, we enter the Hutt Valley and stop at Kaitoke (Rivendell) and then examine a series of Quaternary river terraces offset by the active Wellington Fault at Harcourt Park which also served as the set for Isengard Gardens.
DAY 6 (Wellington)
- General free day to recoup and check out the sites that New Zealand’s vibrant Capital City has to offer, whether they are LOTR sites or otherwise.
DAY 7 (Wellington – Nelson)
- Fly over the Marlborough Sounds to Nelson at the top of the South Island.
- From here we can either take a helicopter ride to Mt Owen (Dimrill Dale) or drive to Takaka Hill past the golden sand beaches of Kaiteretere to explore the striking karst topography and furrowed surfaces of the Ordovician age marble rocks that served as Chetwood Forest in LOTR.
- If time permits we can tour through the Ngarua caves and see remains of the extinct moa (large flightless bird similar to an emu).
DAY 8 (Nelson –Punakaiki)
- Drive south via St. Arnaud and cross one of the major splays of the Alpine Fault System and view the distinctive Permian ultramafic belt and beautiful glacially formed lakes of Nelson Lakes National Park.
- Drive southeast through the rugged Buller Gorge to the West Coast stopping to examine the Early Cretaceous Hawks Crag Breccia.
- Further south along the wild coastline we pass some of New Zealand’s oldest rocks including gneiss, granite and sediments of the Tuhua sequence, capped by Cenozoic coal measures, limestone and mudstone.
- Finally on to Punakaiki in the Paparoa National Park with its distinctive Pancake rocks and famous blowholes (Oligocene limestone).
DAY 9 (Punakaiki – Franz Josef)
- Heading further south we pass through historic West coast towns and impressive stands of rainforest and drive parallel to the Alpine Fault and Southern Alps (Misty Mountains) to the township of Franz Josef in Westland National Park.
- Here we can observe rapidly fluctuating glaciers that cascade from the ice fields around Aoraki/Mt Cook (NZ highest mountain 3754 m) down into lowland rainforest. Abundant evidence of the dramatic glacial history is seen as we drive over numerous moraines and outwash surfaces.
- Either partake in a guided walk onto the glacier surface or try an optional scenic flight around the glacier. This area provided many of the spectacular alpine scenery for the Lighting of the Beacons scenes in LOTR.
DAY 10 (Franz Josef – Queenstown)
- We leave the West coast, cross the Alpine Fault and Southern Alps via Haast Pass and move through a sequence of low to high grade schist (Haast Schist).
- Heading down into Otago along the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea and onto Queenstown on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, we see more schist and large scale glacial sculpting of the landscape.
DAY 11 (Queenstown)
- There are many adventures to be had in this area and several LOTR sites can be reached from Queenstown. For example:
- A jetboat tour through the Kawarau Gorge (Pillars of the Kings).
- Optional Bungy jumping at the original A.J Hackett Bungy site in Skippers Canyon (the Ford of Bruinen)
- Historic gold mining town of Arrowtown (Gladden Fields) which is renowned for its autumn colours.
- Sample acclaimed wines from local Vineyards.
DAY 12 (Queenstown)
- A 45 km drive along the edge of Lake Wakatipu takes us through glacially sculpted landscapes to Glenorchy where backdrops to Isengard, Amon Hen, Lothlorien, and Ithilien are found.
- An optional day trip to the majestic Milford Sound and old crystalline rocks of Fiordland.
- Drive up the ski field road into the Remarkables (DimrillDale)
- Drive to Poolburn and the Ida Valley to see the stark schist outcrops amongst the tussock that served as Rohan.
DAY 13 (Queenstown- Mt Cook)
- Journey from Queenstown past Lake Dunstan (Hydro lake) and Tarras (the flight to the ford) and over Lindis Pass into broad tussock plains of the Mackenzie Basin which formed the backdrop for The Pelennor Fields.
- The jagged peaks of the Southern Alps and Mt Cook rise dramatically from flat bottomed valleys near the Hermitage in Mt Cook National Park (Minas Tirith). From here we will explore the impressive moraines of the Mueller and Tasman Glaciers.
DAY 14 Drive to Christchurch
- From Mt Cook we drive past Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, where impressive outcrops of Last Glacial moraines are exposed. The lakes have an unusual light blue opacity due to finally ground glacial sediment.
- Drive north across the vast alluvial plains of Canterbury which have built up by numerous braided gravel rivers to reach our final destination, the city of Christchurch.
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