Among companies that sell tours to New Zealand, the following are nationally known organizations with a proven reputation. The key difference between the categories listed here is usually in the accommodations, which run best to better-yet, and better to budget.
Abercrombie & Kent, otherwise known as A&K, is the benchmark for pairing deluxe accommodations with soft adventure. Its itineraries can be combined with a visit to Australia or focus solely on New Zealand. Sometimes better deals can be landed by booking a flight package with their affiliate airlines, Qantas.
The "Connoisseur Collection" tour series with Luxury Vacations New Zealand takes small groups of just eight people to both the North and South islands.
Abercrombie & Kent (1520 Kensington Rd., Oak Brook, IL, 60523. 800/554–7016. www.abercrombiekent.com.)
Antipodes Tours (5777 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90045. 800/354–7471. www.antipodestours.com.)
Luxury Vacations New Zealand (1/333 Remuera Rd., Remuera, Auckland, 1050. 09/520–4963. www.luxuryvacationsnz.com.)
Scenic Pacific Tours promote North and South Island coach tours. These depart daily from Auckland, Wellington, Picton, Christchurch, and Queenstown. You can mix and match your tours and choose your level of accommodations to fit your budget. Travel2 and Australian Pacific Touring (APT) both specialize in South Pacific vacations and can arrange everything from self-drive to fully escorted tours.
Australian Pacific Touring (APT) (2 Augustus Terr., Parnell, Auckland, 1052. 0800/278–687 toll-free in New Zealand; 800/290–8687 in U.S. www.aptouring.co.nz.)
Scenic Pacific Tours (03/359–3999; 0800/500–388 toll-free in New Zealand. www.scenicpacific.co.nz.)
Travel2 (300 Continental Blvd., Suite 350, El segundo, CA, 90245. 888/282–4346. travel2-us.com.)
Thrifty Tours New Zealand packaged holidays are flexible, combining regular bus, train, and ferry services with prebooked accommodation. Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours helps tie up loose ends for those on a shoestring budget. It's geared to camping rather than hotels and sometimes the major means of transit are your two feet, but this tour company has been a longtime Kiwi favorite.
Flying Kiwi Wilderness Expeditions Ltd. (4B Forests Rd., Nelson, 7011. 03/547–0171; 0800/693–296 toll-free in New Zealand. www.flyingkiwi.com.)
Thrifty Tours New Zealand (5/18 Martins Lane, Grafton, Auckland, 1010. 09/359–8380. www.thriftytours.co.nz.)
Several companies, for example New Zealand Sports Tours and Grape Escape Food and Wine Tours, share astute insights on New Zealand’s wine regions and top wines, the former with some time on top championship courses as well. The New Zealand Wine Tourism Network website is a useful directory for everything you want to know about wine regions, wines, and wine festivals. Birding New Zealand is a network of tours and accommodation that will bring you not only in touch with some of the world’s rarest species, but also a diversity of great landscapes.
Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans will find there are numerous companies giving tours of Middle Earth by helicopter, four-wheel drive, and bus. One of the most stunning trips is a horseback tour around Glenorchy—contact Dart Stables about the "Ride of the Rings."
Serious outdoor enthusiasts can take a walk on the wild side, or bike, kayak, or bungy jump with Active Adventures New Zealand.
Active Adventures New Zealand (03/450–0414; 800/661–9073 in U.S. www.activeadventures.com.)
Birding New Zealand (www.birding.co.nz.)
Dart Stables (Box 47, Glenorchy. 03/442–5688; 0800/474–3464 toll-free in New Zealand. www.dartstables.com.)
Grape Escape (0800/100–489 / toll-free in New Zealand. www.grapeescapenz.co.nz.)
New Zealand Wine Tourism Network (www.wtn.co.nz.)