18 Day Essence of New Zealand

18 Day Essence of New Zealand

Discover New Zealand's essence on an 18 day AAT Kings Best Buys guided expedition. Experience the wonders of Queenstown, Milford Sound, Nelson, Napier, Rotorua, Auckland, and more.

Please Note: - For all departures from April 2020 onwards, there are some minor changes to the tour itinerary. Your Relaxing Journeys consultant will advise of changes at time of booking.

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Tour Info

Tour Type: Low Cost Coach Tour
From: Christchurch to Auckland
Departures: Oct 2019 to Mar 2021
Price: From (NZD) $5460 per person
Tour Operator: AAT Kings Tours
Duration: 18 Days
Tour Code: lcqa


16 nights accommodation in superior hotels and 1 night on an overnight cruise
17 fully cooked breakfasts (B) and 9 dinners (D)
See mighty Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain
Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo
Tour the sights of Dunedin
Explore New Zealand's only castle – Larnach Castle
Overnight cruise on the Milford Mariner
Explore the Te Anau Glowworm Caves
Two days at leisure in Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital
Gondola ride and dinner at Stratosfare Restaurant on Bob's Peak, with spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu
Visit historic Arrowtown
Stay at spectacular Franz Josef Glacier
View the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki
Watch artisans carving pounamu (jade) in Hokitika
Free time in Nelson and Abel Tasman National Park
Cruise through Queen Charlotte Sound from Picton to Wellington
Visit Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand
Enjoy a city walking tour in Napier
Immerse yourself in Māori culture at a hāngī feast and concert
Enjoy the Agrodome Farm Show
Explore the geothermal valley at Te Puia in Rotorua

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Day by Day Tour Itinerary

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Day 1
Arrive Christchurch

On arrival at Christchurch Airport you’ll be transferred to your hotel. This evening meet your Tour Director and fellow travellers for a welcome reception and dinner.

Stay: Ibis Hotel, Christchurch

Day 2
Christchurch - Ōmarama

Board your coach to see the extensive work carried out to rebuild Christchurch after the devastating earthquake of February 2011. Later, see Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki and visit the Church of the Good Shepherd before soaking up the sensational alpine landscape of Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.

Stay: Heritage Gateway Hotel, Ōmarama (B, D)

Day 3
Ōmarama - Dunedin

Your day starts along the Waitaki River with the Waitaki hydro scheme and Benmore Dam. Travel through Ōamaru with its famous white limestone buildings to Dunedin, where you’ll tour the city. Then visit New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle, and its stunning gardens.

Stay: Kingsgate Hotel, Dunedin (B)

Day 4
Dunedin - Overnight Cruise on Milford Sound

Today is a feast for the senses. Travel along the Devil’s Staircase and the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau. You’ll be awestruck by the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest. See rainforest, ancient glaciers and mountain ranges, and drive through the Homer Tunnel. Pass Lake Matheson, Pop’s View Lookout, Cleddau Valley and the Chasm, before arriving in Milford Sound for your overnight cruise on the Milford Mariner.

Overnight Cruise: Milford Mariner, Milford Sound (B, D)

Note: Milford Mariner does not operate 21 May – 15 September. During this period there will be a day cruise on Milford Sound and accommodation in Queenstown.

Day 5
Milford Sound - Queenstown

This morning depart for Te Anau, on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. Explore the Te Anau Glowworm Caves before travelling to the adventure capital of Queenstown.

Stay: Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Queenstown (3 nights) (B, D)

Day 6
Queenstown (Free Time)

Explore exciting Queenstown your way, all day. Take it easy with wine and garden tours or walk on the wild side with jet boat rides and white water rafting. Whatever you choose, Queenstown will surprise and exhilarate. (B)

Day 7
Queenstown (Free Time)

Another action-packed day or time to relax – tailor your own agenda to suit! (B)

Day 8
Queenstown - Franz Josef Glacier

First stop today is the gold mining village of Arrowtown, a colourful township steeped in local history. Next is Cromwell and its sensational stone fruit. Then it’s a trio of lakes – Lake Dunstan, Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. Travel through Haast Pass which winds its way through Mount Aspiring National Park and dramatic mountain and forest scenery. View the amazing Thunder Creek Falls and continue north along the coastal road to Franz Josef Glacier – a rare, still advancing glacier.

Stay: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier (Douglas Wing), Franz Josef (B, D)

Day 9
Franz Josef - Punakaiki

You can see Franz Josef Glacier from the air or take a glacier hike (both optional). Depart for Hokitika, home of pounamu (jade), for a studio visit and carving demonstration. Later travel to Punakaiki to view the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. You’ll stay in an eco-friendly resort right on the waterfront. Enjoy dinner while watching the thundering surf at your doorstep!

Stay: Punakaiki Resort (B, D)

Day 10
Punakaiki - Nelson

Soak up the scenic wilderness of the Heritage Highway through the impressive Buller Gorge and the Kahurangi National Park before arriving in Nelson. This afternoon you’ll visit the World of Wearable Arts and Collectable Cars.

Stay: Grand Mercure Monaco Resort, Nelson (2 nights) (B, D)

Day 11
Nelson (Free Time)

You’ll have the option to journey to the top of the South Island and enjoy a relaxing cruise in the Abel Tasman National Park, or perhaps take a short bush walk, relax in sunny Nelson or explore the many arts and craft shops. (B)

Day 12
Nelson - Wellington

Visit the seaside village of Picton and cruise on tranquil Queen Charlotte Sound before you head across Cook Strait to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. Enjoy a city sights tour before you visit Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand, where you’ll explore Aotearoa’s nature, art, history and cultural heritage.

Stay: Travelodge, Wellington (2 nights) (B)

Day 13
Wellington (Free Time)

Wellington is celebrated as the country’s creative and culinary capital and today is yours to explore the city at your own pace. You might like to take an optional experience tour of Parliament, or the Weta Workshop, creators of special effects for The Lord of Rings and The Hobbit films. (B,D)

Day 14
Wellington - Napier

Travel through the dairy farming land of Manawatu to Napier. Enjoy a city walking tour with a local guide and learn how Napier was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931.

Stay: Scenic Hotel Te Pania , Napier (B, D)

Day 15
Napier - Rotorua

Travel past Lake Taupō, the largest lake in New Zealand. Visit the Huka Falls and then it’s on to Rotorua, where a sightseeing tour will include views of Lake Rotorua.

Stay: Hotel Ibis Rotorua (2 nights) (B)

Day 16
Rotorua Sightseeing

Visit the Māori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia. A tour of Rotorua’s geothermal fields follows, with bubbling mud pools, spectacular geysers and crater lakes. This evening enjoy a hāngī feast and concert at Tamaki Māori Village. (B, D)

Day 17
Rotorua - Auckland

Visit the Agrodome Farm Show, the multi-award-winning stage show, to gain an insight into agriculture in New Zealand. You’ll see the art of sheep shearing, sheepdog demonstrations, cow milking, bottle feeding of lambs, and an exciting sheep auction. Visit the farming community of Matamata to experience a farming demonstration before lunch at Longlands Farm. Continue to Auckland where your city sights tour takes in Bastion Point, Viaduct Harbour and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Stay: VR Queen Street, Auckland (B)

Day 18
Depart Auckland

Your holiday concludes this morning after breakfast. You’ll be transferred to Auckland Airport for your onward flight. (B)


There are 2 reviews of this tour from past clients of Relaxing Journeys, averaging 4.5 out of 5.

Overall Tour Rating
Value For Money
Tour Pace
Relaxing Journeys Experience

Tour Reviews

Perfect holiday. Even before, excellent working with Mani. Cam (travel director) and Mark (driver) made the holiday perfect! Thank you so much!
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience
Tour content exceeded my expectation and was excellent value for money. The tour was well balanced and included the main highlights we wanted to visit. In particular Milford Sound overnight cruise-pancake rocks-Maori evening -lunch in Matamata. The coach was of high standard and the driver excellent. I did not expect top accommodation but the hotels in Dunedin and Rotorua were poor. The Tour Director whilst knowledgeable wittered most of the time and was adept at upsetting most if not all the people on the tour. Overall a thoroughly good experience. I would like to thank you for the way in which you dealt with our booking.
Overall Tour Rating

Value For Money


Tour Pace

Relaxing Journeys Experience

Enquire about our 18 Day Essence of New Zealand

18 Day Essence of New Zealand
Low Cost Coach Tour
Tour Code: lcqa
From (NZD) $5460 per person
Save (NZD) $290 per person
Enquire Now
Departures: Oct 2019 to Mar 2021
2 reviews (4.5/5)

Discover New Zealand's essence on an 18 day AAT Kings Best Buys guided expedition. Experience the wonders of Queenstown, Milford Sound, Nelson, Napier... Read More

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18 Day Essence of New Zealand
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