Discover the best of New Zealand’s North & South Islands on this comprehensive tour
About the Tour
Enthralling scenery and breathtaking views are found at every turn in the 'Youngest Country on Earth'. Discover steaming geysers, picturesque mountains, bottomless fjords and lush forests on this tour showcasing the beauty of New Zealand's North and South Islands.
- 4 scenic rail journeys: Glenbrook Vintage Railroad, Northern Explorer, the Coastal Paciﬁc and the TranzAlpine
- Hotel accommodations for 18 nights
- 18 meals, including 13 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 4 dinners
- Visit the Waitangi Treaty House and Bay of Islands cruise
- Guided tour of Auckland
- Visits to Rotorua, Lady Knox Geyser and the Antarctic Center
- Visits to the Moeraki Boulders, a lake cruise and glow worm cave experience
- Cruise on Milford Sound
- Guided tours of Queenstown and Wellington
- Ferry transportation on the Interislander
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional Tour Manager
Day 1 – Auckland
Meet your group and Tour Manager in Auckland, at the Grand Millennium Hotel and enjoy the rest of the day to settle in at leisure. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together.
Day 2 - Waitangi Treaty House
Today we travel northwards through scenic farmland to Paihia, located in the truly magnificent Bay of Islands. Here we visit the Waitangi Treaty House, where in 1840 Maori and British people reached a historic agreement that effectively marked the birth of New Zealand.
Day 3 – Bay of Islands
After a leisurely morning, we enjoy a cruise around the bay, passing golden beaches. Later we continue up to the rugged Cape Brett and make a stop on Russell Island. Known in the 1800s ominously as the 'Hell Hole of the Pacific’, it was a bustling base for whalers and seamen.
Day 4 - Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’
This morning we drive south back to Auckland, the country's largest city, known as the 'City of Sails' for the number of yachts that take to the waters around it. The city dates to around 1350, when it was inhabited by the Maori people, but little recorded history survives before January 1832 when Joseph Brooks Weller bought the area that is now Auckland. Auckland is also the largest city in New Zealand, being home to around 30% of the population of the whole country. We explore Auckland on a sightseeing tour, taking in the Hauraki Gulf and the volcanic islands that are characteristic of this beautiful area. We then visit the iconic Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Day 5 – Rotorua
This morning we take a trip on the Glenbrook Vintage Railroad, which opened in 1922 and ran for 45 years before closing in 1967. Today, the line is operated by steam enthusiasts and caters to around 30,000 tourists every season. We then travel across the Bombay Hills, through Waikato Valley to Rotorua, the Maoris spiritual home. We visit the Rotorua Museum, which gives an insight into the region's history and culture. We spend two nights in Rotorua at the Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua.
Day 6 - Wai-O-Tapu
We visit Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) to see the Lady Knox Geyser volcano. Here we marvel at the rainbow-colored pools and former mud volcano, where you can hear the unique sound of erupting, boiling mud.
Day 7-8 - Northern Explorer to Wellington
Transferring to Hamilton, we take the Northern Explorer train for a journey through King Country. We view the spectacular scenery from panoramic windows including the peaks of Tongariro National Park, Mount Ruapehu, and stunning river gorges. On Day 8 we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Wellington. We drive along beautiful Oriental Bay to Mount Victoria for stunning views and see the Parliament Buildings.
Day 9 - To the South Island by ferry
Today we take the Interislander ferry across Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island. On arrival in Picton, we board the Coastal Pacific train for a scenic journey to Christchurch via Blenheim, the Marlborough wine region and down the Pacific Coast through Kaikoura.
Days 10-11 - Dunedin and the Taieri Gorge
We cross Canterbury Plains through Timaru and Oamaru, stopping at Moeraki to see the mysterious spherical boulders scattered on the beach. We check-in at the Scenic Hotel for two nights. On Day 11 your morning is free to explore Dunedin. In the afternoon we follow the trail of 19th-century gold miners to the gold fields of Central Otago on the Taieri Gorge Railroad in carriages dating back to the 1920s.
Day 12 - Te Anau
Today we travel to Te Anau, nestled by the serene waters of Lake Te Anau, the second-longest lake in New Zealand. We cruise across the lake for a guided tour of the Te Anau Caves, with their subterranean limestone caverns and magical glow worm grotto.
Day 13 - Milford Sound
We travel into the Fiordland National Park for a cruise on stunning Milford Sound. Lush rainforests cling precariously to the fiord's cliffs and the cruise takes us past magnificent waterfalls and out to the Tasman Sea. We enjoy a buffet lunch on board the ship.
Day 14 - To Queenstown
This morning we travel to Queenstown, a popular destination loved by outdoor enthusiasts thanks to the magnificent surrounding scenery. Here we enjoy a ride on the Skyline Gondola, which offers a wonderful panorama.
Days 15-16 - Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu
Today we enjoy a sightseeing tour, driving across Shotover River to historic Arrowtown, the site of a major gold rush in the 1860s and a 'Lord of the Rings' film location. We continue to Gibbston Valley Winery for a tour of the cellars and wine tasting. Day 16 is at leisure, relaxing in Queenstown overlooked by Lake Wakatipu.
Day 17 - Franz Josef Glacier
Traveling past Lake Wanaka, we descend to the Haast River. Continuing through the native rainforest by coach, we pass Fox Glacier before reaching the Franz Josef Glacier. An overnight stay and dinner at the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier or Quality Hotel Elms allows us to view the glacier or to take an optional helicopter flight to the snowfield (payable locally).
Day 18 - The TranzAlpine
We visit Hokitika, the center for New Zealand jade, before boarding the TranzAlpine train for Christchurch at the township of Arthur's Pass. On our last night we stay at the Sudima Hotel and enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Day 19 - The Journey Home
On our final day in New Zealand we visit the International Antarctic Center, before transferring to the airport where you are free to catch your flight home.
Grand Millennium Auckland
With an excellent location near the center of Auckland, minutes away from the harbor and Queen Street, there are few better places for exploring this fine city than the 4-Star Grand Millennium Auckland. This charming hotel offers two restaurants and a modern lounge-bar. The well-designed rooms provide complimentary WiFi, a television and tea & coffee making facilities.
Quality Hotel Elms
Our visit to the excellent city of Christchurch sees us stay at the 4-Star Quality Hotel Elms. A stone's throw away from the charming attractions of Christchurch, this hotel is perfect for heading out to explore. Sit back and enjoy a superb range of amenities which include an international restaurant and complimentary WiFi. The rooms all boast a television, tea & coffee making facilities, ensuite bathrooms, and a hairdryer.
Scenic Hotel Dunedin City
The 4-Star Scenic Hotel Dunedin City is centrally located, close to shops, parks, and other attractions. The hotel's facilities include a restaurant and bar and gym. All rooms include television, minibar, tea, and coffee making facilities and hairdryer.
Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge
The Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge in Paihia enjoys a wonderful location in the Bay of Islands, with stunning views over the ocean. The hotel benefits from a restaurant, cocktail bar, outdoor swimming pool, indoor hot tub, a fully equipped gym, games room, and complimentary bicycles. All rooms are air-conditioned and come with a telephone, satellite television, refrigerator and tea and coffee making facilities.
The 3-Star Heartland Hotel offers modern and stylish accommodation in a pretty Swiss style. Near the center of Queenstown, this hotel is well-equipped for you to make the most of your time in this thriving city. The facilities on offer here include a luxury spa with a swimming pool, a classic lobby bar and a superb brasserie with breakfast and dinner. Rooms here include complimentary WiFi, a television and a hairdryer.
Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua
Beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua is within walking distance of the city center and attractions such as the Rotorua Museum and Government Garden. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, and a gift shop. Leisure facilities include a geothermally heated open-air swimming pool, three spa pools plus a selection of massages and therapies are available (payable locally). The comfortable rooms feature a telephone, television, tea, and coffee making facilities and a hairdryer.
The Novotel Wellington enjoys a superb location on The Terrace, within easy reach of Wellington's many attractions - including the Parliament and the city's waterfront. The hotel has a restaurant, a bar serving a selection of drinks and light snacks, and a fitness room. The spacious, comfortable rooms are air-conditioned come with a telephone, satellite television, safe, minibar, hairdryer and tea and coffee making facilities.
The Coastal Pacific (formerly TranzCoastal) train operates between Picton on the northeastern tip of New Zealand's South Island and the city of Christchurch, approximately 340km (211 miles) to the south. The line follows the rugged Pacific Island coast against a backdrop of two mountain ranges; namely, the Seaward and Inland Kaikoura Ranges. Along the way, passengers can take advantage of the Coastal Pacific's open viewing carriage and single-class carriages with large windows.
South of Picton, the route passes through Marlborough, arguably New Zealand's best wine growing area, before stretching ahead between the mountains and the sea to Christchurch, known as the most 'English' of New Zealand's cities. The Coastal Pacific train is equipped with a buffet car for the convenience of passengers.
Glenbrook Vintage Railroad
A steam railroad built by mostly volunteer labor; the Glenbrook Vintage Railroad is an ongoing project staffed by members of the Railroad Enthusiasts Society. We take a return trip in wood-paneled carriages from Glenbrook Station, nearby Auckland.
Almost spanning New Zealand's North Island in its entirety from the city of Auckland in the north to Wellington in the south, the scenic Northern Explorer train service travels the 681- kilometer North Island Main Trunk Line which passes through five distinct geographical regions. En route, Great Rail Journeys' guests will be treated to spectacular landscapes ranging from rugged coastline to mist-shrouded volcanoes and from dense bush to open farmland.
In its current incarnation, the Northern Explorer has only been in operation since 2012 when it replaced the slower Overlander train. Fully refurbished for passenger comfort and making fewer intermediate stops than its predecessor, the Northern Explorer completes its inter-city journey from north to south in a time of between eleven and twelve hours
Taieri Gorge Railroad
Dunedin's Taieri Gorge Railroad follows the trail of 19th-century gold miners to the gold fields of Central Otago. We spend a fully commentated journey crossing wrought iron viaducts and passing through hand-carved tunnels in carriages dating back to the 1920s. Refreshments are provided on the train and there are opportunities for photographic stops.
Running once a day, the TranzAlpine is arguably the most scenic railroad journey in New Zealand. The route crosses the width of the South Island from Arthur's Pass on the west coast to Christchurch on the east. The journey takes us across the rich grazing farmland of the Canterbury Plain, through the Waimakiriri River Gorge, and over the spectacular mountains of the Southern Alps. On-board, passengers can take advantage of a buffet car, an open viewing carriage, and single-class carriages with large windows.
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A New Zealand airport departure tax of $25 is mandatory and payable locally