Glacier hiking on Mt. Cook in in the Southern Alps

Pop up picnic on Matukituki river outside of Queenstown

Horseback Riding through Cardrona

Heli hiking coffee break at Lake Erskin in Fiordland National Park

New Zealand

This antipodean paradise is one of the most coveted bucket-list destinations on the planet. Making smart use of helicopters, private jets, horseback, jet boats and more, Gray & Co.’s private active trips in New Zealand have travelers seamlessly exploring both the North and South islands. This is prime terrain for hiking, cycling, paddling, wilderness adventures and more.

Throughout the country, our favorite luxury lodges each offer unique, comfortable and picturesque environments. We combine these stays with Gray & Co.’s custom, one-of-a-kind off-property explorations — in-depth experiences that highlight the best of each region.

After flying into the Bay of Islands by private jet, you can’t do better than to start you journey with a stay at the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs. Perched at the very top of the North Island, with 180-degree Pacific views and untouched coastline, it’s an ideal escape, with a wide variety of water and culturally based activities. Gray & Co. producers work onsite to maximize your stay with custom enticements both invigorating and relaxing: sea kayak with dolphins and blue penguins along the coast or enjoying a locally sourced picnic on one of our favorite private beaches.

Further south but still on the North Island, the Farm at Cape Kidnappers sits on a 6,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm in Hawke’s Bay, surrounding by one of the country’s most significant wine districts. A typical day here might see you spending the morning heli-fishing on remote back country rivers followed by an afternoon with a private tasting in the cellar of Te Mata, one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries.

Another favorite, set over Palliser Bay, on the south end of the North Island, is Relais & Châteaux’s Wharekauhau Country Estate. Spend the morning at the Pūkana Nature Reserve giving back to the local community and meeting Manukura, the only white kiwi for viewing in the world. After, hop on your ATV for a beach ride to a local favorite for lunch. After lunch, choose from spa, clay shooting, a tennis lesson and more! Dinner can be set in a private dining room and be completely customized to your preferences and pace.

On the South Island, The Marlborough Lodge — located in its eponymous wine region, famous for producing 70 percent of all Kiwi wine — is our top pick for whale watching. A short heli trip to the Kaikōura coast lets you view the resident giant sperm whales year-round. Further south, Otahuna Lodge, just outside Christchurch, is surrounded by 30 acres of century-old botanic and vegetable gardens. Fly-fishing, hiking, biking and more are best explored from this 1895 Victorian mansion. The nearby town of Akaroa offers opportunities to swim with Hector’s Dolphins, the rarest and smallest of the many species of dolphin.

Queenstown, further south on the South Island, is our active-adventure home base for heli-hiking in the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park. Start your private excursion by air with a flyover of the famous Milford Sound followed by a remote hike and a private picnic lunch next to Isobel Glacier waterfalls made famous in the Lord of the Rings movies. Multiple options on offer for the afternoon including Horseback riding in Cardrona, jet boating on the dart river or relaxing with spa treatments and down time back at the lodge. One of our top home bases for a takeover is Matakauri Lodge located just outside of Queenstown, with dramatic views of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains from each of its 12 luxurious suites.