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Grand Tour of New Zealand

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Discover the best of New Zealand on a culture-rich adventure

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20222023
From £4,995 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2023 Tour code: NZS23

About the tour

Enthralling scenery and breathtaking views are found at every turn in the 'Youngest Country on Earth'. Discover steaming geysers, mountains, fjords, and forests on this holiday showcasing the beauty of both New Zealand's North and South Islands.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London to Auckland

We meet at London Heathrow and begin our flight to New Zealand, flying overnight to Singapore.

Day 2 - To Auckland

Arriving in Singapore, we join our connecting flight to Auckland.

Day 3 - Arrive in Auckland

We arrive in Auckland in the morning and check into our hotel. You're free for the rest of the day to settle in. You could relax at the hotel, or head out into the city for your first taste of life in New Zealand. A great option is to visit a local café or restaurant to sample quintessential 'Kiwi' cuisine, like delicious seafood. With over 9,000 miles of coastline, it's no surprise that it's some of the best and freshest seafood in the world. Traditional Māori cuisine is a must-try too, like hāngī - meat and vegetables, slow-cooked in an underground oven.

Day 4 - Waitangi Treaty House

We travel north today, journeying through scenic farmland on our way to Paihia. On the way, we stop at the Kawiti Glow Worm Caves, a series of underground caverns illuminated by these mysterious creatures to a magical effect. We stay in Paihia for two nights. Next, we continue to the Waitangi Treaty House, where, in 1840, the Māori and the British came to a historic agreement that effectively marked the birth of New Zealand as we know it today. Our guided tour here gives us an insight into this fascinating piece of history.

Day 5 - Bay of Islands

We take to the waters, enjoying a cruise around the spectacular Bay of Islands to rugged Cape Brett. Relax and take in the sights en route, including Cape Brett Lighthouse, Motukokako Island, and the famous Hole in the Rock. We drop anchor on Russell Island, which was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand and today offers a rich blend of European and indigenous history. We have a little free time here before catching the local ferry back to Paihia.

Day 6- Auckland

This morning we drive back to Auckland. Auckland is the country's largest city and dates back to around 1350 when the Māori people inhabited it. Today it's a bustling metropolis, known for its excellent arts and culture. We head out on a sightseeing tour, taking in the incredible coastal views from Bastion Point, before stopping off at quaint Parnell Village, Auckland's oldest suburb. We continue to the vibrant Viaduct Harbour area, before some free time to explore at your own pace. You could visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which tells the story of New Zealand's heritage through engrossing collections.

Day 7 - Glenbrook Vintage Railway

We take a nostalgic ride on the Glenbrook Vintage Railway today. Originally opened in 1922, the line transports us through the lush Bombay Hills at the boundary of the Auckland and Waikato regions. We wind through the Waikato Valley in nostalgic, wood-panelled carriages before arriving in Rotorua. Set on a lake of the same name, Rotorua is the spiritual home of the Māori and bursts with unique culture. We check into our hotel here, our base for the next two nights.

Day 8 - Tamaki Maori Village

Our day showcases Rotorua, a place famous for its rich Māori culture. We begin with a guided tour that includes the area's incredible natural sights; the towering trees of the redwood forest, the vast waters of Lake Tarawera, and the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, an active geothermal area filled with steaming pools and geysers. We also spend time at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. In the evening, we visit the Tamaki Māori Village. We're welcomed in true Māori style, enjoying the chance to see, and participate in, a haka performance - a traditional ancestral war cry.

Day 9 - The Northern Explorer

Transferring to Hamilton across the Mamaku Mountain Ranges, we board the Northern Explorer for a rail journey through King Country. As we relax in our seats, we soak up spectacular scenery from the train's panoramic windows, including the peaks of Tongariro National Park, the famous Raurimu Spiral - a railway spiral that allows the train to overcome a height of 139 metres - and the scenic Kapiti Coast. We arrive in Wellington and check into our hotel.

Day 10 - Wellington

We get to know Wellington. The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, is a stunning and cosmopolitan harbour city that sits at the southernmost point of the North Island. We visit the city's chocolate factory, where chocolate is produced 'from bean to bar' in an ethically sourced and organic way. We find out about the delicious artisanal chocolate and indulge in a tasting here before we continue to Wellington Botanical Gardens. Perched on the side of a hill, this is a lush oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and you have some free time to enjoy the surroundings before using your included cable car ticket to make the return journey to our hotel.

Day 11 - Blenheim and Marlborough wines

We take the Interislander ferry across Cook Strait, a stretch of ocean that serves as a passageway between New Zealand's North and South Islands. We arrive in Picton where we have a little free time to explore and grab lunch in one of the many waterfront cafés. We continue to Blenheim, where we spend the night. Blenheim is nestled in the verdant Marlborough wine-growing region, and is known as one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand. We're introduced to the region's most famous export this afternoon as we visit one of the excellent local wine estates for a wine tasting and a tour.

Day 12 - Blenheim and Christchurch

Enjoy a free morning in pretty Blenheim before we join the Coastal Pacific Train for a journey to Christchurch. Our rail journey affords us incredible views of the Marlborough region and the farmlands of the North Canterbury Plains, as we travel along a stretch of track where the ocean stretches out on one side and mountains rise towards the sky on the other. We arrive in Christchurch, where we spend the night. Christchurch is known as the newest city in the world, and there's a distinctly English atmosphere here.

Day 13 - Twizel

Leaving Christchurch, we journey by coach through Fairlie, an attractive rural town, before crossing the mountainous Burkes Pass. We arrive in lakeside Tekapo, where we pause to visit the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd, set against a striking mountain backdrop on the shores of the lake. We also see Lake Pukaki, an endlessly beautiful alpine lake with icy blue waters. We arrive in Mount Cook National Park, a land of ice and rock that's home to immense glaciers and soaring mountains, including the highest alpine peak in Australasia. We spend tonight here in Twizel, a charming town nestled among the stunning surroundings.

Day 14 - Te Anau

We leave Twizel and make our way to Te Anau. Known as the gateway to New Zealand's Fiordland, Te Anau is a gorgeous destination. Home to a host of splendid natural wonders, the town is the perfect base from which to discover the atmospheric wilderness of the surrounding countryside - including unspoiled glacial lakes and fjords. Wildlife is found here in abundance too; the region is home to the endangered, flightless birds known as takahe. We check into our hotel here.

Day 15 - Milford Sound and Queenstown

Our day starts with a drive through Fiordland National Park. One of New Zealand's most dramatically beautiful areas, the wild landscapes here comprise of ancient fiords, towering forests, and craggy mountains. We make a stop at the Mirror Lakes, two deep blue lakes framed by a striking mountain backdrop, before continuing through the valleys. We arrive at Milford Sound, the most famous of the grand glacier-carved fjords. Here, rainforest valleys nestled in the mountains send waterfalls cascading over sheer granite cliffs to the sea below - an incredible sight to behold. We enjoy a cruise across the waters ahead of our journey by road to Queenstown.

Day 16 - Queenstown

After a free morning, we embark on a sightseeing tour of the area surrounding Queenstown. We visit historic Arrowtown, the site of a significant gold rush in the 1860s and a famous 'Lord of the Rings' filming location. We continue to the Gibbston Valley Winery, where we take a look around the cellars before a tasting of the local wines. Next, we board a vintage steamship, TSS Earnshaw, for a cruise across the azure waters of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand's longest lake. Mooring up at the Colonel's Homestead, we sit down to a BBQ dinner and watch a sheep shearing demonstration before our night-time return sailing.

Day 17 - Queenstown

You have a full day free to explore all that Queenstown has to offer at your own pace. Nestled on the shores of the Z-shaped Lake Wakatipu and set against the soaring Southern Alps, the town is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and is known as New Zealand's adventure capital. You could take the gondola up to the top of Bob's Peak, a towering ridge where there's panoramic views across the town and surrounding landscapes. Or, get up close and personal with nature without leaving the town with a visit to the tranquil Queenstown Gardens, a peaceful oasis away from the bustle of Queenstown.

Day 18 - The Franz Josef Glacier

We travel by coach to the Franz Josef Glacier, enjoying a scenic journey through Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell. We pause here at Jones Family Fruit Stall, a locally famous stall known for its excellent goods. There's free time here to peruse the stall; perhaps purchase some of the fresh produce, honey, preserves or gifts, or indulge in one of the delicious real fruit ice creams. You could also take the time to stroll through the orchards here, where you can admire the lovely rose and dahlia gardens. We continue, passing Lake Dunstan and Lake Wanaka before arriving in Franz Josef, home to the Franz Josef Glacier. We stay here overnight, enjoying the opportunity to admire the ancient glacier up close.

 

Day 19 - TranzAlpine

We visit Hokitika, the centre for New Zealand jade. We visit Hokitika Greenstone Factory, where the local stone is crafted into stunning jewellery and ornaments, both in modern and traditional styles. After lunch, we travel to Arthur's Pass, nestled in a mountainous National Park of the same name. From here, we board the TranzAlpine for our rail journey back to Christchurch, travelling along what is arguably the most scenic railway line in New Zealand. The route takes us through the country's Southern Alps and across the Canterbury Plains, presenting awe-inspiring views of the country's striking natural mountainous landscapes along the way.

Day 20 - Christchurch to London

On our final day in New Zealand, we enjoy a morning to relax at our hotel, or explore Christchurch independently. You could visit the International Antarctic Centre, where visitors can learn how explorers have survived in such harsh environs over the centuries, and spot some indigenous blue penguins. Later, we transfer to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow, via Singapore.

Day 21 - London

We arrive back in the UK and your holiday comes to an end.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Grand Millennium Hotel Auckland, Auckland

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Scenic Hotel Marlborough, Blenheim

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Quality Hotel Elms, Christchurch

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Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier, Franz Josef

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Kingsgate Hotel Autolodge, Paihia

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Distinction Hotel Rotorua, Rotorua

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Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Te Anau

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Mackenzie Country Inn, Twizel

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James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Wellington

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Copthorne Hotel Queenstown Lakeview, Queenstown

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Grand Tour of New Zealand

Discover the best of New Zealand on a culture-rich adventure

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Lynne Broadley
Lynne
Rhianna Coote
Rhianna
Luke Simpson
Luke