New Zealand: The Grand Tour
This three week journey will take you on an adventure like no other. Experience the breath taking scenery of snow-capped Alps, wander through lush tropical rainforests and relax on wide sandy beaches. Explore some of the most iconic places in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. You will discover fantastic coastlines and immerse yourself in Maori culture and history along the way.
The tour starts in Auckland, the biggest city on the North Island. Departing Auckland, the journey continues to Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands, where you’ll take a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty House where New Zealand’s history began. The Bay of Islands has so many options for you to discover, so a day of leisure seems only fair to explore this diverse environment. Upon return to Auckland, you will visit the Auckland Sky Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.
Before you depart Napier you take a city sights tour, through the Art Deco capital of the world. Heading further south, you reach Wellington. After a sightseeing tour through Wellington, you go on a cruise travelling through the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound. The tour continues to Nelson, the first city of New Zealand. Departing Nelson, the tour continues through the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch where you enjoy the sights of ‘Garden City’ also known as “the most English city outside of England”. From Christchurch you traverse the Southern Alps aboard the famous Tranz-Alpine rail journey to Arthurs Pass. Further south you tour the Westland National Park, the home of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. On arrival, time is available for optional scenic flights.
Driving towards the southern end of the South Island’s West Coast Road, there is a strong sense of entering a primeval land, and a feeling of total isolation. Arriving in Queenstown, you have a day of leisure to experience the city and its surroundings the way that suits you best. Travelling via Te Anau you reach the beautiful Eglinton Valley climbing to Homer Tunnel before descending through the spectacular Cleddau Canyon to reach Milford Sound. Departing Te Anau you travel to Dunedin – “the Edinburgh of the South”. Travelling on to Oamaru, you will explore the ‘White Stone City’ where the old buildings have been constructed with local limestone. The tour includes a trip to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, before passing the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo.
Dates available throughout the year
Suggested itinerary by Air
Arrive in Auckland
Travel from London Heathrow or your regional airport to Auckland. You are met on arrival at the Auckland International Airport before being transferred to your hotel.
Auckland – Bay of Islands
Departing Auckland you travel north over the Auckland Harbor Bridge to first visit the Parry Kauri Park. Here you will view some fine examples of Giant Kauri Trees. Continuing you then visit the Matakohe Kauri Museum, at Otamatea. Here you gain an insight to the early New Zealand pioneer history, which helped form the New Zealand that you see today. Continuing our journey you reach Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands, where you’ll take a guided tour of the Waitangi Treaty House where New Zealand’s history began.
Bay of Islands
Today is a day of leisure. The Bay of Islands has so many options for you to discover – perhaps a day trip to the light house at Cape Reinga the most northern tip of New Zealand, followed by a safari along 90 Mile Beach on the way home. Maybe try your luck at deep-sea fishing, or take the plunge swimming with the dolphins or just take time to relax within Paihia or Russell – New Zealand’s first capital.
Bay of Islands – Auckland
This morning board a luxury catamaran to cruise the Bay of Islands to Cape Brett before making a passage through the Hole in the Rock. After your cruise you travel south following the Twin Coast Discovery Highway to arrive in Auckland, where on arrival you experience a highlights tour of Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’, exploring the lively waterfront area and the base of New Zealand’s America’s Cup Challenge. Enjoy the relaxing views along Tamaki Drive, which runs east past peaceful sheltered bays to Auckland’s most expensive real estate.
Auckland – Waitomo – Rotorua
This morning you visit the Auckland Sky Tower – at 328m tall it is one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere offering you outstanding views of the Auckland CBD and the surrounding region. Departing Auckland you travel south crossing the Bombay Hills through the dairy rich Waikato countryside you arrive at the famous Waitomo Caves. Here a guide will take you underground to view the amazing limestone caves featuring stalagmites and stalactites, which have taken centuries to form. Continue to walk down to an underground stream to board a small boat to view the glow-worm grotto – an underground cavern featuring millions of glow-worms. From Waitomo you travel to the thermal wonderland Rotorua, the Sulphur City. Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country with bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers, beautiful coloured hot springs and terrace formations created by mineral water. Rotorua also has a large Maori population whose cultural activities are interesting and accessible as will be witnessed tomorrow evening. This afternoon you enjoy a relaxing guided walk through Rainbow Springs, a specialist garden featuring spring fed pools full of Rainbow & Brown Trout and New Zealand native flora and fauna including the iconic New Zealand Native Kiwi Bird.
Today is at your leisure. In the evening you will be treated to a traditional Hangi (feast) and Maori Concert. You are transferred from our hotel to visit Tamaki Maori Village for a Cultural Experience and Hangi Dinner. Experience the warmth of the Maori people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling & hangi feasting. Enter the pre-European Maori village, witness the earth being scraped carefully away from the Hangi pit and enter their ancestral Meeting House to relax as their family entertain you with a powerful cultural performance before dining on the traditional Hangi buffet dinner (Maori feast) cooked the traditional Maori way in an earth oven.
Rotorua – Napier
This morning visit Te Puia – The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley featuring the famous Pohutu Geyser. Departing Rotorua you travel via New Zealand’s largest pine tree forest to Taupo. En-route, you make a visit to the Wairakei Geothermal Steam Field. This was a world-first, generating electricity by tapping a natural steam field then channeling the steam to a nearby power generation plant. Continuing you view the mighty Huka Falls. Huka in Maori translates to “snow” as the water here has the appearance of snow falling as it is forced along from Lake Taupo through the falls on its journey along the Waikato River. This afternoon you continue to the ‘Fruit Bowl’ of New Zealand, Hawkes Bay – Napier.
Napier – Wellington
Before you depart Napier you take a city sights tour, featuring beautiful Art Deco buildings to give us an insight of why Napier is known as the Art Deco capital of the world. This afternoon you continue south to Wellington where you spend the rest of the day enjoying an informative sightseeing tour, including a visit to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum.
Wellington – Nelson
Today begins as you cruise the Wellington Harbor out onto the Cook Strait on the Interislander and through New Zealand’s only true sounds, the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound into Picton. The bustling port of Picton is the terminal for inter-island ferries, and gateway to the ‘Mainland’, the South Island’s self-proclaimed nickname. Reboarding your coach you continue to tour through to Pelorous Bridge. Here you can walk through the Beech and Podocarp Forest as well as view the many sculptured boulders in the Pelorous River. Continuing on for a tour of Nelson – this being the first city of New Zealand.
Nelson – Christchurch
Passing Brightwater, the birth place of Lord Rutherford, the New Zealand science pioneer who split the atom, you travel through the Golden Downs Forest to Murchison through the Maruia Forest over the Lewis Pass then into Hanmer Springs. Time out here to lunch in the lovely alpine village (at own expense) before joining the upper reaches of the Canterbury Plains to Christchurch where you enjoy the sights of ‘Garden City’ also known as “the most English city outside of England”.
Christchurch – Franz Josef
From Christchurch you traverse the Southern Alps aboard the famous Tranz-Alpine rail journey to Arthurs Pass. From your carriage you will see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps. Once you have crossed into the Southern Alps you are met at the village of Arthurs Pass by your coach to continue your journey to the West Coast – or the Coast as locals call it, stopping in Hokitika where a visit is made to the Greenstone and Glass Blowing factories. Further south you tour the Westland National Park, the home of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. On arrival, time is available for optional scenic flights.
Franz Josef – Queenstown
Driving towards the southern end of the South Island’s West Coast Road, there is a strong sense of entering a primeval land, and a feeling of total isolation. Arriving at Haast, you are surrounded by a landscape of rainforest, wetlands, sand dunes and surf-pounded shingle beaches. This wilderness forms part of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, so designated because South Westland and Fiordland have some of the most dramatic forest resources in the world. From the Westland National Park you travel through the Haast River valleys and over the Haast Pass to Makaroa and onto the upper reaches of Lake Wanaka. Traveling past Lake Hawea you reach the popular Lake Wanaka, the starting point of the mighty Clutha River. This afternoon you travel via Cromwell following the Kawarau Gorge Road into Queenstown. Tonight is free for you to explore the local restaurants, cafes and bars.
Today is at leisure. Visit the Remarkable’s or Coronet Pea. Experience the thrill of a jet-boat ride along the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers. Perhaps a scenic 4 wheel drive excursion through Skippers Canyon, it’s up to you. This evening you take a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the steamer TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station to dine at the Colonel’s Homestead.
Queenstown – Te Anau
Leaving Queenstown you skirt the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third largest lake. Traveling via Te Anau you reach the beautiful Eglinton Valley climbing to Homer Tunnel before descending through the spectacular Cleddau Canyon to reach Milford Sound where you enjoy a cruise of the Sound. The Sound is dominated by the grandeur of Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls. From Milford Sound you return to Te Anau reaching our overnight accommodation.
Te Anau – Dunedin
Departing Te Anau you travel through some of New Zealand’s most populated sheep country through to Lumsden and onto Gore before arriving in Dunedin – “the Edinburgh of the South”. Upon our arrival into Dunedin, you have the opportunity to board an optional train ride – the Taieri Gorge Train Excursion from the historic Dunedin Railway Station for a scenic train ride into the spectacular Taieri Gorge to Pukerangi and return.
Dunedin – Omarama
This morning you visit Olveston House – an impressive turn-of-the-century house that is still to all the lavish furnishings and art collections that have been collected from all corners of the world. You continue to then take in the sights of this old Scottish City before traveling onto Oamaru where you have time to look at the ‘White Stone City’ where the old buildings have been constructed with local limestone. It was from Oamaru that New Zealand’s first frozen meat was shipped in 1882 taking over three months to reach England, and thus began New Zealand’s most important export industry. Traveling inland through Benmore and Otematata, through Sailors Cutting you arrive at Omarama.
Omarama – Christchurch
A day for spectacular sights. You head north to skirt the shore of Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Time is available to enjoy an optional scenic flight over the ancient rivers of ice and the West Coast Glaciers (weather permitting – a highly recommended option). Traveling to Tekapo you witness the magnificent blue waters of Lake Tekapo. Here you visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and the statue of the Collie dog, before traveling the vast Mackenzie Basin, over Burke’s Pass though Fairlie, Geraldine, Ashburton and across the Canterbury Plains into Christchurch.
Farewell from New Zealand
After breakfast you will be transferred from the hotel to Christchurch International Airport for your flight back to London Heathrow or your regional airport.
The summer months in New Zealand are from November to April, peak season is December, February and March.