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Sir Edmund Hillary Explorer: Guided Coach & Rail Tour of NZ's South Island

  • history
    DURATION
    13 days, 12 nights
  • history
    DURATION DAYS
    13 days
  • history
    DURATION NIGHTS
    12 nights
  • calendar_month
  • calendar_month
    DEPARTURE MONTHS
    January 2025 - April 2026
  • Ride SIX iconic rail journeys: TranzAlpine, Kingston Flyer, Coastal Pacific Waimea Plains, Taieri Gorge, Dunedin Railways
  • Tour in a luxury coach with an experienced tour director
  • Cruise on a famous 1912 Edwardian steamboat, explore the spectacular Milford Sound, and so much more!

An epic adventure inspired by one of the greatest adventurers of our time: Sir Edmund Hillary.

Tour the diverse and stunning landscapes of New Zealand's South Island by rail and luxury coach.

Begin in Christchurch with the scenic TranzAlpine rail journey through the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps to Greymouth. Visit the Franz Josef Glacier, travel through Haast Pass to Queenstown, and board the historic TSS Earnslaw, the 1912 Edwardian steamboat, which takes you across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. Explore the Fiordland National Park, including Te Anau and Milford Sound, and take a steam train ride on the Kingston Flyer. Discover Dunedin's Taieri Gorge and travel over river gorges, weaving your way through a myriad of historic tunnels, visit Aoraki Mt Cook, and learn about Sir Edmund Hillary. Conclude with whale watching in Kaikoura, a tour of Marlborough’s winelands, and a ferry ride to Wellington.

Photos

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Tour Map

Inclusions/Exclusions

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  • 12 Nights Accommodation (4-5 Star Hotels)
  • 12 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches & 9 Dinners
  • Luxury Coach with Experienced Tour Director
  • TranzAlpine Train Journey
  • Cruise on the TSS Earnslaw to Walter Peak
  • Arrowtown Lakes District Museum
  • Kingston Flyer Historic Train Excursion
  • Milford Sound Day Trip & Cruise
  • Takahe Sanctuary
  • Croydon Aviation Museum
  • Waimea Plains Railway (Rogers K92)
  • Taieri Gorge Train Journey
  • Dunedin Railways Train Journey to Oamaru
  • Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Mt Cook
  • International Antarctic Centre OR Tram Trip
  • Coastal Pacific Train Journey (two days)
  • Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
  • Cruise on the Interislander Ferry
Your fare excludes:
  • Airfares & Travel Insurance

Itinerary

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Day 1 - Christchurch – Greymouth -Franz Josef

Your journey begins at Christchurch Railway Station, where the iconic TranzAlpine awaits. Often regarded to be one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours. You will see epic vistas, travel the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traverse the majestic Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps, and see large tracts of native beech forest. Luxury coaches await in Greymouth to transport you to your hotel in the ruggedly beautiful Franz Josef.

Day 2 - Franz Josef – Haast – Queenstown

Wake up to enjoy the option for a helicopter tour of the Franz Josef glacier. Leaving Franz Josef, we travel down the West Coast through the Haast Pass, journeying through large tracts of native rain forest and over the Southern Alps. This remote area has a ruggedly beautiful landscape of vast rainforests, gushing waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. Continuing through Makarora on the border of Mount Aspiring World Heritage Park, we pass by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Dunstan. The adventure playground of Queenstown then awaits! Cap off a special day as we take in The Remarkables Mountain Range and the view of Lake Wakatipu from the hotel.

Day 3 - Queenstown

Wake up to join a lake cruise on board the historic TSS Earnslaw, the 1912 Edwardian steamboat, which takes us across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm for a gourmet BBQ lunch. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the historic and picturesque goldmining town, Arrowtown, with a visit to the Lakes District Museum.

Day 4- Queenstown – Kingston – Te Anau

Departing Queenstown, we continue to the village of Kingston which is nestled on southernmost end of Lake Wakatipu. Here, the iconic Kingston Flyer Steam Train awaits to take you on a memorable return journey between Kingston & Fairlight. Then, we enter the Fiordland National Park district, continuing to traverse the Southern Scenic Route, our journey calls in to visit the Takahe Bird Sanctuary. Takahe are the stars of the show and meeting these prehistoric-looking characters is a ‘must do’ for Fiordland visitors. The sanctuary is a large part of the success of the Takahe Recovery Programme. We spend an extended time experiencing the wonders of Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Day 5 - Te Anau – Milford Sound – Te Anau

Traveling along the Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. A day tour to Milford Sound offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery to be viewed anywhere in the world. Board the coach and travel through stunning scenery along the Milford Road and into Fiordland, where your cruise boat awaits you. The tour includes a cruise round the fiord so you can experience its wonders up close and see landmarks like Mitre Peak and amazing wildlife, such as dolphins and seals. Cruise the inner most reaches of Milford Sound to the open Tasman Sea and back. A one-day itinerary is enough to see all the beautiful views along the way, take a scenic cruise around the fiord, and get back to Te Anau in time for dinner.

Day 6 - Te Anau – Mandeville – Dunedin

Departing Te Anau for Dunedin, via Mandeville a special journey is made to Waimea Plains Railway, which is home of the historic Rogers K92 Steam Locomotive (the original Kingston Flyer) and we also explore the Croydon Aviation Museum.

Day 7 - Dunedin

In the morning, we explore the remote Taieri Gorge by Dunedin Rail over river gorges, weaving our way through a myriad of historic tunnels and guide you to the historic Wingatui Viaduct, a marvel of 1880s construction that remains the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand. An afternoon at leisure is planned or there are the optional excursions visit to Larnach Castle for a high tea & garden tour or explore the ‘hidden’ underground Fort Taiaroa, located underneath the local Albatross colony.

Day 8 - Dunedin – Oamaru – Aoraki Mt Cook

Departing from Dunedin by rail, we continue to hug the coast towards Oamaru. We then detour inland via Waitaki Valley & Omarama by coach and onwards towards the spectacular Aoraki Mt Cook. Here, we find the home of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, which helped Sir Edmund Hillary to develop his climbing skills in preparation for the conquest of Mt Everest. Recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area, the National Park is a breath-taking environment of glaciers, terminal lakes, turbulent rivers and Australasia’s tallest peak, the mighty Aoraki Mt Cook soaring above at 3,724 metres.

Day 9 - Aoraki Mt Cook

Enjoy a leisurely morning and then a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which is a tribute to New Zealand’s global icon as well as discovering New Zealand’s colourful transport, climbing and hotel history. Followed by an afternoon scenic drive through the National Park surrounded by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps. Guest speaker is a Hillary family representative in the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Theatre before dinner.

Day 10 - Aoraki Mt Cook – Geraldine – Christchurch

A morning departure from the hotel leaving Aoraki Mt Cook by coach, we journey back to the coast via Tekapo, Geraldine and Rakaia on the way to Christchurch. On arrival in Christchurch, enjoy either a privately chartered Tram for a historic tram journey around the city or explore modern day Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre and experience a taste of this unique and breathtaking continent – just like the explorers before you.

Day 11 - Christchurch – Kaikoura “Where the mountains meet the sea”

Departing Christchurch on the Coastal Pacific Scenic Train, our destination is Kaikoura, home of resident whales, where the guardians of the seas – the mountains of the Southern Alps – rise majestically from the deep trenches of the Pacific Ocean. Several different species of whale can be seen off the coast of Kaikoura at different times of the year, and most of the time, the huge resident Sperm Whales can be sighted. The ocean trench just off the coast means sperm whales are often seen close to shore.

Day 12 - Kaikoura – Marlborough

This morning, we board the Coastal Pacific train again, departing Kaikoura’s dramatic mountain backdrops onwards to the Marlborough winelands region. The coastal route heads inland, crossing the historic railroad bridge at Seddon and bursting out to the Awatere Valley, then through the Dashwood Pass to Blenheim. Explore the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre on arrival, which features a worldclass exhibition of WW1 & WW2 aircraft.

Day 13 - Marlborough – Wellington

On the final day of the tour, one of the most picturesque ferry crossings in the world awaits. We weave our way through the Queen Charlotte Sound and cruise across the Cook Strait to the harbour city of Wellington. Tour ends in Wellington.

P​lease note itinerary is subject to change without prior notice*

Dates and Prices

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Jan – Apr 2025 Departures

  • Twin share from $7,995 per person*
  • Sole use from $9,490 per person*

Sep 2025 – Apr 2026 Departures

  • Twin share from $8,495 per person*
  • Sole use from $9,990 per person*

Please note that prices are subject to availability at time of booking and may change without notice.

Accommodation

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A​ selection of hand-picked 4 and 5-star hotels throughout.

T&Cs

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Travel at 60 and supplier booking conditions apply.

Tour price is based on 2 people twin share and is priced in Australian Dollars. Pricing is correct at the time of submission but is subject to change without notice. Valid for travel from January 2025 - April 2026. A 20% deposit is required at time of booking. An additional 40% due six months prior to the tour departure, and final balance due the month before your tour departs. Flights not included. Blackout periods may apply. Inclusions are subject to change based on supplier operational capabilities.

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Prices per person from

A$7,995

A$9,490