It’s no secret New Zealand is a country of contrasts, a place uniting the world’s greatest natural assets with its most cosmopolitan cities. Experience both islands on this epic Christchurch to Auckland tour. Whether cruising Milford Sound, landing in a chopper on Franz Josef Glacier, feeling dwarfed by The Remarkables or being misted at Huka Falls. Then refuel in Wellington’s trendy restaurants or Otago’s leading wineries every day of this guided holiday offers something new and exciting.
Day 1 - Welcome to Christchurch
Welcome to Christchurch, New Zealand’s Garden City. Flights can arrive any time prior to 4.00pm. Take some time to relax or explore independently. You may like to step back in time to a grand era of transport and relax on the Christchurch Tram as it takes you around the 'must-see' central attractions. The tram drivers provide a live commentary throughout the loop, identifying points of interest, historic architecture and the changes the city is under-going since the 2011 earthquake. This evening, meet your fellow travelling companions and Travel Director for a welcome reception at your hotel.
Day 2 - Christchurch - Franz Josef
First up this morning you will board the TranzAlpine train and head out through the majestic Canturbury Plains towards the Southern Alps onto Arthurs Pass. This spectacular train journey dates back to 1914 and is rated as one of the world’s most scenic train trips. The train forges through tunnels and over viaducts with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, icy rivers, beech forests, gorges and river valleys. From Aurthurs Pass we head off to the drift-wood strewn beaches of Hokitika. As well as being one of the few West Coast communities to embrace its coastal landscape, Hokitika struck it rich in the resource's stakes. Here you will visit a pounamu factory (native greenstone or jade), for the chance to see master carvers at work creating intricate pieces of jewellery and art. Maori tradition says it is bad luck to buy pounamu for yourself, so if you fancy a trinket of your own, make sure you have someone there to purchase it for you. Your final destination today is the extraordinary rivers of ice that make up Franz Josef Glacier. You may want to get up close and personal with the glaciers on a helicopter flight. Your flight will hover over the snow face and may land high up in the valley so that you can walk across the ice fall – subject to weather conditions (Optional Experience – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Day 3 - Franz Josef - Queenstown
If weather conditions are unfavourable on Day 2, you may get another chance to fly up to the glaciers this morning. If you aren’t flying, you might want to take a stroll through the small but lively Franz Josef village before we head out of Franz Josef following an ancient greenstone trail. View the sheer drop of Thunder Creek Falls and the grand sight of Mt Hooker, flanked on three sides by extensive glaciers. Travel over Haast Pass, marking a change from the rainforest marvel of the wild West Coast to the alpine scenery of the Southern Lakes. From here you will travel further into Central Otago. View Lake Wanaka, where the shoreline is charmingly lined by poplars and willows, followed by the vivid blue waters of Lake Hawea. It is a day of gorgeous lakes, as after Hawea you will travel over to Cromwell, situated next to the sparkling pristine waters of Lake Dunstan. Stop in at a local orchard for a taste of some of the town’s delicious stone fruit. Later, you will stop and visit the faithfully restored gold mining settlement of Arrowtown. As you amble down the beautiful tree-lined avenues, past the 19th century wooden buildings, you will feel like you have stepped into a movie set. Then it’s on to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand!
Day 4 - Queenstown Free Time
Explore Queenstown your way! Take the opportunity to encounter a Queenstown legend and ride the Shotover Jet or venture out on a Skippers Canyon Scenic Tour. If laid-back and relaxed is more your idea of fun then join a Wine Tour and sample some of Central Otago’s award-winning wines. Your AAT Kings Travel Director will assist you in booking all of your chosen optional experiences. After a day of activity, sit back and enjoy a peaceful evening cruise across Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand’s oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station. Launched in 1912, the TSS Earnslaw is the largest and grandest vessel ever to ply Lake Wakatipu. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is believed to be the only coal-fired passenger carrying vessel still operating in the southern hemisphere. Partake in a gourmet BBQ Highlight Dinner at Walter Peaks’ Colonel’s Homestead and then enjoy an entertaining after-dinner farm show providing a glimpse into high-country farm life. On the cruise back to Queenstown, join in a vintage sing-along or grab your partner for a dance across the polished wooden floors of the Earnslaw.
Day 5 - Queenstown to Te Anau
Today is one of those days where you will want to have your camera battery charged, and ready to go! From the beautiful sights of Queenstown, you will travel out to the spectacular scenes of Milford Sound. You will stop at Mirror Lakes where, as the name suggests, you can see the stunning mountain scenery perfectly reflected in the waters of the lakes. Then on to the Homer Tunnel, man’s attempt to master the sheer rocky ranges, still left rough-hewn around the edges. As you emerge out the other side of the tunnel, you are presented with one of the world’s most dramatic alpine drives, down through the Cleddau Valley. Stop at the Chasm, where the roaring Cleddau River has carved its way through solid rock, and then it’s on to Milford Sound, where you will cruise the waters of this natural wonder. Your cruise meanders down the sound, taking in the Bowen and Stirling Falls as they plummet from glacial hanging valleys sharply into the sea, and the sheer pinnacle of Mitre Peak, rising from the deep waters of the fiord. After leaving Milford Sound, you will journey 119km through the Fiordland National Park and out to Te Anau on one of the most scenic roads you could hope for. Travel through native rainforests, beech forests, alluvial flats and meadows. This evening you have the opportunity to head out across the lake to the Glow Worm Caves for a tour (Optional Experience – at own expense). Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Day 6 - Te Anau - Dunedin
You may want to take an early morning walk along the shoreline of the South Island’s biggest lake, before you depart the township of Te Anau this morning. The heavily forested, rugged mountains of Fiordland National Park turn into rolling, grassy hills as you meander your way down to the city of Dunedin. Dunedin, also known as the Edinburgh of the South, has strong connections to its northern hemisphere sister city, even down to sharing many of the same street names – so take a wander down George Street, noting Dunedin’s Scottish ancestry. With the rest of your free afternoon you may wish to take part in an optional experience to see more of the region. Take a Wildlife Cruise out to Otago Peninsula, visit the Speights Brewery – a New Zealand institution or explore the city and its museums, cafés and shops.
Day 7 - Dunedin - Omarama
This morning you have some free time in Dunedin. You may want to journey out to the gorgeous Larnach Castle – New Zealand’s only castle. Or you may just wish to roam around the beautiful grounds of New Zealand’s first university, Otago University. From Dunedin you will then travel through to the township of Oamaru, with its stately tree-lined streets and its famous white limestone buildings. As well as shipping limestone to the bigger cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin for construction of their Town Halls and various churches, Oamaru locals made sure that their own town represented the best in limestone building the mid-late 1800’s had to offer. Then you will journey along the Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between the regions of Canterbury and Otago, and with its large catchment it is an ideal source of hydro-electric power. Your day finishes in the heart of the Mackenzie Country at Omarama. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Day 8 - Omarama - Christchurch
You may want to take in Mount Cook National Park from the air this morning, on a scenic flight out over New Zealand’s highest peak, the Southern Alps and on to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers (optional – at own expense). Sweeping views across the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo framed by a backdrop of rugged hills and snow-capped mountains provide stunning alpine photography opportunities. You will visit the little stone-hewn Church of the Good Shepherd and stop for a quick photo with the bronze statue of a collie dog, the touching tribute to the sheepdogs which helped develop the Mackenzie Country. This afternoon head through the South Canterbury country towns of Fairlie and Geraldine and out over the patchwork countryside of the Canterbury Plains into Christchurch. Enjoy a city sights tour and see how Christchurch is rebuilding after the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Pop into the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral. It is the world’s only cathedral made substantially of cardboard! Tonight, enjoy a dinner at your hotel.
Day 9 - Christchurch - Picton
Travel along the rugged Pacific Ocean coast this morning passing through Kaikoura known for its abundant wildlife and its sperm whale population (an optional whale-watching flight is available – at own expense). Passing the pink tinged crystallisation ponds of the Lake Grassmere Salt Works, we drive on to the pretty seaside fishing village of Picton. Tonight, enjoy dinner at your hotel.
Day 10 - Picton - Wellington
Enjoy a quiet start to the day. Your AAT Kings crew and coach will join you on board the Interislander for a cruise across the Cook Strait, from the South Island to the North. Surprisingly it takes longer to cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound and up the Tory Channel than it does to cross the open ocean of Cook Strait. You will meander through a maze of arms and inlets out of Picton. Upon arrival in Wellington, embark on a city sights tour of Wellington taking in New Zealand’s parliament buildings, and a visit to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Discover New Zealand’s nature, history, art and heritage, and then enjoy some time at leisure. Indulge in Wellington’s renowned coffee culture or take a walk along Lambton Quay.
Day 11 - Wellington - Rotorua
Follow the state highway out of New Zealand’s capital city this morning and along the Kapiti Coast, the traditional summer playground of the inhabitants of Wellington city. You’ll have lunch included today provided by ‘Eat My Lunch’. ‘Eat My Lunch’ is a charity organisation which provides lunch for New Zealand school children who otherwise would be going to school without. The road ahead unfolds in a broad panorama of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. The stunningly blue fresh water of Lake Taupo is home to some of the best trout fishing in the world. On arrival in Rotorua an orientation tour takes in views of Lake Rotorua. Later, an evening of culture, history and scrumptious food awaits you at the Tamaki Maori Village. Wander through the ancient forest village and learn about Maori art forms and traditions, followed by a cultural performance. Experience an authentic Maori Hangi meal, steamed underground in the traditional way.
Day 12 - Rotorua Free Time
Today is your chance to experience the scenic wonders of the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Choose from one of the varied Optional Activities on offer. Explore Rainbow Springs Nature Park & The National Kiwi Hatchery, take a ‘behind the scenes’ tour through the working kiwi nursery and hatchery. Visit Te Puia and join a guided tour through the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, home to famous Pohutu Geyser and the bubbling beauty of the mud pools. Later, why not spend a little more time experiencing the thermal wonders, with a soak in the hot mineral waters of the Polynesian Spas. Your Travel Director will assist you in booking your chosen optional activities.
Day 13 - Rotorua - Auckland
This morning you will travel through the King Country region which was at the centre of the New Zealand Wars in the 1860s to Waitomo Caves. See the amazing underground Glow Worm Grotto by boat and walk through the limestone caverns. This afternoon you will follow the meandering trail of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, past the lush farmlands of the Waikato Region. As you journey over the Bombay Hills, the landscape changes from green, grassy meadowlands to the edges of suburbia. As you make your way into the heart of New Zealand’s largest city, you will stop at the Auckland War Memorial Museum for views across Auckland City and the Waitemata Harbour.
Day 14 - Farewell from Auckland
Your New Zealand holiday concludes this morning after breakfast. Your flights can depart any time today.
Please note: This itinerary may be subject to change.
Please note that prices are subject to availability at time of booking and may be withdrawn at any time without notice.
Twin share - $6347 per person / Single - $7682 per person
Travelling solo? Want to avoid the single supplement? You can choose to share accommodation with another solo traveller of the same gender. Enquire now to learn more.
Please call our local travel team on 1300 414 198. We can also book your flights and organize your travel insurance.
This guided holiday includes a range of quality accommodation including:
What to bring:
Authentic COVID-19 vaccination certificate (electronic or paper showing date and time of vaccination(s)) with final or booster dose given at least 15 days before departing is required for this trip. The wellbeing of our guests is our top priority. That’s why we’ve updated our vaccination policy to require all guests traveling with us through December 31, 2022 be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which may include a booster shot to keep it current and valid.
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